Stepping out hospital with my newborn baby, the cold air hit my face and I took a deep breath. The cool air filled my lungs, and I looked down at our son in his car-seat. As his dad buckled him into the car for the first time ever, his face scrunched against the cold.
How did I get so lucky? What could I have possibly done to deserve such a wonderful family? And all while living in a beautiful foreign country…it was amazing. I was still in shock of this crazy, exciting, wonderful life…and now we have this tiny, adorable little human.
While my boyfriend ran back into the hospital to pay our parking bill, I stared at my new baby and thought “well…that was scary, and definitely NOT the experience I wanted…but I don’t even care anymore.” Because look at him…what else could possibly matter?
MY BIRTH STORY (THE TIMELINE)
37 weeks pregnant and ready to go “any day”. That’s how I felt. Throughout my whole pregnancy, I was certain my son would be born early. I wasn’t expecting him to be a preemie, but I had calculated his arrival based on the probable conception date, and I just had my mind set on him being a week or two earlier than his due date of December 20th.
40 weeks pregnant. December 20th, 2016 – nothing. Not a damn thing. No water breaking. No bloody show. No nothing. Well – not nothing…a ton of soreness, a ton of braxton hicks contractions and a ton of anxiety.
At my 40 week check up, my gynecologist gave us the news – everything looked good, he was totally healthy – but due to the baby’s size and approximate weight, it wasn’t safe to wait much longer. As soon as the word “induction” was spoken, a small part of me shut down. I was terrified, especially because I had been convinced he would be early.
I found my voice, and asked for a few more days to wait it out. She agreed, and it was decided if nothing progressed in a few days, I would head to the hospital to be induced.
**Side note: Being able to literally count the days until you were going to give birth…that’s insane. Your mind is in overdrive and your emotions are higher than ever. You clean, you clean more, you wait, you try to rest (usually without success because the list of things to do before your baby arrives suddenly got a lot longer once you realized you were having a baby in like 72 hours…)
11:00am, Thursday, December 22nd, 2016 – I lost my mucus plug! This was a little bit of a relief to me, because I was really nervous about the induction process and I thought maybe, because I had lost my plug, that labor could still possibly start naturally. (That didn’t happen, but it was nice to think it could!)
10:00pm, Thursday, December 22nd, 2016 – Arriving at the hospital, we are set up in our labor/delivery room. Upon arrival, I was 1cm dilated (which I had been for about a week). Throughout the night, I was given pills (inserted vaginally) every few hours that would hopefully soften and ripen my cervix, readying me for labor.
3:00pm, Friday, December 23rd, 2016 – After being woken up every few hours to be given the pills, it was a long night – and I was dilated to 2cm. Because of how slow things were progressing, the midwife decided to break my water. She did this by inserting a little hook (looking like a knitting hook, called an amnio-hook) up inside me and poking. This took a few minutes, but it finally worked! (This was not at all as painful as it sounds!)
4:30pm, Friday, December 23rd, 2016 – About an hour after my water was broken, labor had still not started naturally, and I was still at 2cm dilated. Because of this, they went ahead with the actual induction. This consisted of giving me pitocin (the artificial version of the naturally occurring hormone oxytocin, which causes labor contractions to begin.) Let me tell you – I have never had labor start naturally before, but artificially starting your labor/contractions makes you go from “uncomfortable” to “holy sh*t, what the hell is this pain, I’m going to die!” in a matter of half an hour or so. It is ridiculous, how quick and hard the contractions started once I was put on the oxytocin drip!
5:50pm, Friday, December 23rd, 2016 – “Please let me have the epidural? Is it too soon? Can I have it now? When will the anesthesiologist be here!?” said me, almost 2 hours into my active labor. Going in, I was open to the epidural, but definitely was going to try and last without it. (Note: in Belgium, there are no other options for pain relief – whereas in places like the UK and Canada, you could also be offered a milder anesthetic similar to “laughing gas” that you would be given at the dentist.) So, at almost 6pm, the epidural was given to me. Honestly, I had spent the last weeks of my pregnancy absolutely terrified of getting an epidural, but honestly, it felt like a little flu shot compared to the contractions that happened before and after it. It was such a relief!
7:00pm, Friday, December 23rd, 2016 – 3cm dilated, mildy tired, still in high hopes. It’s around this time that I start listening to my natal hypnotherary meditation tracks, and I find them really relaxing and helpful.
11:00pm, Friday, December 23rd, 2016 – 5cm dilated, happy things seem to be moving along. The hypno-therapy tracks help me get some sleep on and off between contractions.
12:30am, Saturday, December 24th, 2016 – I’ve reached 8cm dilated, and the midwife explains to us that although I have dilated well, baby is not in a great position. (Baby was tilted with his back to the right side and will not move down into the birth canal.) Throughout the rest of the night, we try different positions to try to get him to move into the correct position.
7:00am, Saturday, December 24th, 2016 – 9cm dilated, absolutely exhausted and really upset that progress seems to be slowing a lot.
9:15am, Saturday, December 24th, 2016 – After hours of trying different positions, the midwife suggests delivering the baby by cesarean. This is a bit more than a suggestion, because, if baby doesn’t move into proper position, I will not be able to deliver him vaginally. This absolutely terrifies me, and I ask how much longer we can wait. The midwifes say that they will need to monitor his heart rate, but that they could allow me to wait another hour or so before needing to take me to the operating room. During this next hour, I focus only on my breathing, blocking out everything and everyone. I pray, a lot, that he will move into position and that I will reach 10cm within the next hour. One of those prayers came true, but delivering naturally was still no longer an option…
10:15am, Saturday, December 24th, 2016 – I was almost 10 cm dilated (a “big 9” they called it), which made the following news even more devastating… baby still hadn’t moved into the correct position and his heart rate was fluctuating too much for them to be comfortable giving me anymore time. It just wasn’t physically possible for me to deliver this baby vaginally anymore – a c section was the only option.
THE C SECTION
This was where I honestly hit my breaking point. I had labored for so long, seemingly made so much progress and my hopes of delivering my baby vaginally were just gone. The hopes of my sister witnessing and recording the birth of my first baby was gone. I completely broke down – tears, shaking, repeating “I can’t do this” over and over again. I’m absolutely not ashamed to admit I was scared. There is so much fear surrounding induction and c sections, and although I didn’t come into this birth with any specific birth plan, I DID have a general idea of sense of what I wanted and thought it would be like, and this was not at all it.
My boyfriend was so, so reassuring at this point, meeting every single one of my doubts with a chorus of “you’re amazing”, “you can do this” or “we’ll meet our son soon”. My sister was also there to help me accept what needed to happen but my boyfriend stunned me with his words and his confidence in me.
10:40am, Saturday, December 24th, 2016 – They had finished prepping me for my c section. They move me from one bed to another, and then wheel me down to the operating room. My boyfriend follows beside my bed until he’s told that he needs to change into his surgical scrubs so he can be in the room with me. At this point, the pain from the contractions was so bad, and I was so scared, I was in tears and cursing while they led me to the operating table.
Once on the table, I was given an oxygen mask (and told it was precautionary for the baby). I tried to find my voice to ask where my boyfriend was, but I couldn’t speak loud enough. I remember being so, so thirsty – but I wasn’t allowed to have any liquids (obviously.) My mouth was so dry, and I wanted to speak – but the words just weren’t coming out loud enough for anyone to hear.
I could feel the anesthesiologist dabbing me with something cold, and asking if I felt it. He explained that the parts of our brain that feel pain are also what feel temperature changes, and that he was testing to see if the anesthetic he had administered for the c-section was working properly.
My boyfriend must have been brought in at that point, because he eventually found my hand and took it, holding it tight and telling me we would be holding our baby within the hour. I closed my eyes.
The next thing I remember is someone telling me my son was about to be born. I could see someone standing over my head and reaching down towards my belly. There was a gentle but firm push on the top of my belly.
11:08am, Saturday, December 24th, 2016 – our son was born!
And then I heard it – his first gasp of air and that first cry. His cry. I know I will probably regret saying this at some 4am feeding when he won’t settle down and that same cry is driving me crazy – but that cry was the most beautiful, breathtaking, emotional, amazing moment in my life.
My boyfriend squeezed my hand, and then let go, and I knew he was going over to look at our son while he was being cleaned up. I heard the cry for a few more minutes, and then my boyfriend was back, with a little bundle in his arms. He held the baby next to my head and I craned my neck to see him. I moved my hand over his face as much as I could. The happiest of tears fell from my face, and my boyfriend held our son close to me for as long as he could. The amount of love I felt in that moment is unlike anything I could ever explain.
THE NEXT 12 HOURS…
Honestly, while that emotional moment in the operating room was incredible, the next 12 hours of my sons life are a complete blur to me. After an almost 20 hour labor, and an emotional/stressful c section – I was ruined. I shook uncontrollably. People (I’m assuming midwives) piled heated blankets on me. They woke me to do skin-to-skin contact with my son. There was one moment of that 12 hours that I remember, and the rest is a huge blur.
This moment…exhausted and half unconscious, I offered my little boy my finger, and he took it. I felt his little hand holding on so tight and I could feel all of my love spilling out of my heart, pouring out into this little human who had just become my entire world.
The rest of those hours are really hard for me to remember, and honestly, there was a little concern about me, from my family and boyfriend. I seemed very out of it and not at all interested in my baby (which was absolutely the opposite of how I was feeling.) I will talk about this more in a later post, but it was such a strange and absolutely terrifying feeling. My mind was so full of love, all I wanted to do was hold my son. But my body wouldn’t listen. My body had been through a huge trauma and went full-on recovery mode. From the shaking to the slipping in and out of consciousness, no matter how hard I tried, my body wouldn’t do what my mind wanted it to.
The midwives woke me every once and a while (no idea how often) to try to breastfeed him. I fell in and out of sleep while feeding him, my boyfriend did the majority of skin-to-skin contact (as I think I told them I was too scared I would drop him because I was shaking so badly). My boyfriend changed our son’s first diapers, and was there while they weighed and measured him for the first time. I missed all of that, and honestly, it breaks my heart a little bit.
THE FIRST NIGHT TOGETHER, JUST THE 3 OF US
I think, because I hadn’t totally bonded with this little human yet, I was terrified of being “alone” with him, just my boyfriend, me and this new little life. I wanted so badly for my mother and sister to spend the first night in hospital with us – but after a talk with my boyfriend (once I came out of my funk), we decided (read: he convinced me) it was best if it was just the three of us. BEST. DECISION. EVER.
That night was amazing, and I am so thankful my boyfriend convinced me to send everyone else home. I mean, I love my mom and sister, but having the first night for just the 3 of us allowed us to bond in such a special way.
I was feeling more rested, more like myself again and more in control of my body. I breastfed, cuddled, and watched him sleep. My boyfriend and I shared kisses, talked about the events of my labor and delivery (he filled me in on the parts I didn’t remember) and we felt like a family.
I finally was able to care for my baby, holding him close, kissing him, cuddling him — I finally got that incredible bonding time everyone raves about.
Spoiler alert: those moments are as incredible as everyone says they are.
***An huge thank you to my sister, who diligently took notes throughout this entire process. This is why I have such precise times and descriptions for what all happened.
A thank you to my mom, who was super supportive throughout this entire process, and re-assured me when I needed a woman’s guidance.
And lastly, thank you (and I love you) to my wonderful boyfriend. You have been so supportive, understanding and amazing throughout this whole process. Thank you for making me believe in myself when I was filled with fear and doubt. Thank you for helping in my recovery over the last few weeks. And thank you for being a wonderful father to our little baby boy.