I'm convinced that going through labor and delivery is the most intense, 'in the moment' experience of all time. You can read and plan all you want but you can never truly prepare for what will play out. I'm convinced that women are incredibly strong and heroically brave and I'm 100% convinced that every single women's experience, no matter what it is, is absolutely perfect and beautiful. What a miracle.
Having a natural, vaginal, unmedicated birth was my greatest desire from day one. I felt so confident in my body's ability to not only grow a healthy human for 9 months but to also bring that healthy human into the world free from medical intervention. I read so many books and sought support from other moms that had the experience I was aiming for. I had my birth plan written out and printed. In my mind, it wasn't going to happen any other way.
The story of Thomas George
It was 11pm on New Year's Day when we arrived at Castle.
My contractions started the day before and were finally averaging 5 minutes apart. I had tested positive for group B strep earlier that month and was told to go in a bit early so they could start me on antibiotics.
When I arrived they put me through triage and checked me for the first time. Oh. My. Goodness. That was so painful and I was only 2cm dilated! I had to be at least 5cm before they would admit me. What a bum! My doula Katie arrived and at midnight we all started walking the halls, stopping every few minutes to breathe through contractions.
Over six hours later, at 6:30am January 2nd, they finally admitted me. At this point I was in labor. My contractions were intense and consistent. Lots of deep breathing, really loud, really long groans. It was all happening, finally, and we were thinking we would be meeting baby J very soon. (Ha!)
By early morning I was getting tired but still felt determined. The pain was hardcore but I had amazing support and my body was totally doing it. Following my birth plan, Katie filled the tub with hot water and at 7:00am I took the absolute best bath of my LIFE! I soaked in the birthing tub for over an hour... breathing deeply and trying my best to relax.
It was about 8:15am when I decided to go back to bed. They installed a birthing bar and I labored in many different positions over the next few hours. Primal noises, primal movements. With every contraction I needed to hold on to something with all my might: Tom, Katie, the birthing bar or in a few instances, Tom's hair (sorry love!).
Hour after hour after hour.. chugging along anxious to get this show on the road and even more anxious to meet our baby boy.
It was 9:15am when my midwife arrived. I had been laboring at Castle for over 10 hours! She checked me and I was dilated to 7cm. That was great, except my water still hadn't broken... they talked about breaking it but wanted to give me one more round of antibiotics first. So we had to wait... power on, breathe and wait.
By 11:45am I was dilated to 8cm (almost there!) and my contractions were SO STRONG. I was in a lot of pain now that I think back but in the moment I just did my best to get through one contraction at a time. I was still so determined and at this point and I was feeling strong and capable. I just kept thinking that he had to, had to come soon.
From 12pm-3pm I labored on but stayed right there at 8cm. What? No progress... I was 16 hours in, 8cm dilated but not making progress. I was starting to lose steam. It's so hard to really describe any of these moments but if I could, in this moment, READY would be the word. I was so ready. Doing my best to breathe but in reality, at this point, I was hollering (at the top of my lungs) through contraction after contraction.
Finally at 3pm they gave me one more dose of antibiotics and my midwife popped my water bag. We waited. Nothing. Stuck. I was stuck at 8cm.. then my cervix started to swell.
My midwife came in and sat down. She said they truly wanted to honor my birth plan but she also wanted to give me her honest opinion. My cervix was swelling and I wasn't dilating past 8cm. She really wanted to give me some pitocin to move things along, but it was up to me. Pitocin, she advised, would intensify my labor so she suggested an epidural along with it so I could rest, labor down and prepare for delivery.
In all honesty, I was in some serious pain and I was beyond exhausted. I talked to Tom and Katie and it didn't take me long to decide. "I'll take the epidural along with the pitocin.", I told her with confidence.
For a brief moment I was bummed, this was not the plan. This wasn't the plan at all but that feeling was so short lived. It felt like centuries until the Dr. arrived. I truly don't think I could have made it through one more contraction. He gave me the epidural at 4:15pm, 17 hours in, and I fell to the bed in total relief. The nurses covered me in warm blankets and I closed my eyes. There is no way to truly explain what I felt in the moment and I swear if I had the energy to cry tears of joy I would have... instead I drifted off to sleep silently thanking God.
So I napped. A glorious, glorious nap as my son labored down.
At 6:00pm I finally hit 10cm. When they let me know it was almost time to push I really couldn't believe it. His head was right there, I could feel it! I was doing it, we were doing it and after all the waiting our baby was almost here.
With a cue from my midwife, at 6:45pm, I began pushing. At this point I couldn't feel anything except for a little pressure. I had my husband holding one leg and my doula holding the other... I looked around and I swear there were 20 people in the room. A contraction would begin and they would all say in unison, "PUSH!"
This part felt very easy to me, and when the time came I'd just give it all I had. Everyone in the room would shower me with encouragement and compliments (they must have known how bad I needed to hear it, lol). I'd relax and then repeat.
I had been pushing for an easy 45 minutes. I felt his head moving down, and it was nearing the end. What a trippy, trippy feeling. We were about to meet our son!
In that moment I glanced over at Tom and I knew something was wrong (the monitor lost his heartbeat). As my midwife performed a swift episiotomy, the whole room yelled, "PUSH!!!". I closed my eyes and pushed with absolutely everything I had and at 7:29pm on January 2nd, my son was born.
There he was. I watched in slow motion as they lifted his little body up and unwrapped the umbilical cord from around his neck, his arm and his leg.
The nurse placed him on my chest and I looked up at Tom. Oh. My. GOODNESS the emotion. THE EMOTION. I'm not sure how long we stayed like that. Time stopped. I was so happy and so exhausted, grateful and absolutely depleted. I did it. We did it. I followed about 30% of my birth plan but none of that mattered. In that moment I felt like the strongest woman in the world. He was here, our son was here!
When nurse came over to check him she noticed something was wrong with his breathing. There were so many people everywhere and at this point and I was so out of it, shaking uncontrollably. I must have fallen asleep as they took him because that is the last I remember from the delivery.
I woke up around 1:00am in a dark room, Tom was sleeping on the couch next to me. From chaos to complete silence. I was hurting all over but I had to see my son. "What was going on? Where was he? Is everything ok?", I played over and over in my mind.
I made my way to the door and flagged down a nurse, she got a wheelchair and without hesitation brought me to the nursery.
There he was. My little blonde boy with fluffy hair. He was all wrapped up and the only word I can think of to describe him was perfection. He was perfect and standing there in the nursery, in the middle of the night, I completely lost it. Tears of uncertainty and tears of joy.
The nurse explained that when the cord wrapped around his neck he lost oxygen causing him to poop. He then inhaled and swallowed that sticky, tar like substance, meconium. They were able to get it out of his stomach but it was still in his lungs. They put him on oxygen and told me they'd update me in the morning.
After doing his blood work they decided they wanted to keep him in the nursery for a while. It looked like he had developed an infection and needed antibiotics. It was so hard to see his little body all hooked up struggling to breathe. The hardest part was the IVs! They had to continuously start new ones because Mr. Strongbaby would knock them out. He had them in his hands, his feet, his arms and his legs. Eehk. Also, like a lot of babies, Thomas became a bit jaundice. Under the light he goes! At this point we really had to rely on faith and each other. I prayed a lot and we did our best to stay positive.
I was a patient at Castle for the first two days and began my healing process. I worked with the lactation consultants to established breastfeeding/pumping and we spent as much time with Thomas as possible.
After those two days, it was time for me to be discharged. We had to go home. We held off until late that evening and when it came time to go, I totally lost it. (I did say this was the most emotional week of my life, right?) How on earth was I supposed to go home when my baby was still there?
Fortunately, the nurse taking care of Thomas that night was absolutely fantastic. She gave me the biggest hug and told me it was an honor to care for our son. She gave me the nursery number and said to call her anytime for updates. Tom and I locked hands and headed to the car. It was so hard and I cried all the way home.
The week chugged on. Pump at night, early rise, Castle all day, home, shower, bed, repeat.
It wasn't long though, and things started looking up. Our son kept proving that he is incredibly strong. Soon he was off oxygen, out from under the jaundice light and he was breathing really well. By the end of the week he was off all monitors and the only thing keeping us there was him needing to finish the full week of antibiotics.
The morning of January 10th was one that is hard to describe. The skies were blue, the mountains were clear and the sun was shining. It was a perfect Hawaii day. We headed into Castle with our carseat in tow, our Thomas George was going home!
We made our rounds, hugging up everyone like crazy! We packed up and out to the car we went.
We did it! We made it.. and our healthy little family was finally going home.
Thank you, Tom, for being everything that a father and husband should be. You didn't miss a beat that week. Sharing every single experience and being so strong when I couldn't. The love you have for your family is undeniable. You'll always be my greatest blessing. We did it! What a miracle our son is. Grazie mille, my love.
Thank you to my doula Katie. I honestly, honestly don't know what I would have done had you not been there that day. Thank you for being there and being the sister that I needed so much. From the beginning all the way until we were holding Thomas. Thank you, Katie.
Thank you to our families and friends that were supporting and encouraging near and far. Sorry for the scare! We love you guys so much and are so lucky that you love Thomas the way you do. Thank you, thank you.
To the insanely brilliant mama tribe that continues to share their experiences with me, THANK YOU! I need you guys more than you know.
The biggest thank you to my midwife and all the nurses at Castle Medical Center. We had a phenomenal experience. So personal, professional and genuinely caring. Every single one of you are so appreciated.
Thomas George, we are so lucky that you are here and that you are healthy. We seriously love you so much. Now, let the biggest adventure of our lives begin! <3