I was induced on Monday morning, December 11. I didn’t give birth until 12:42 PM on December 12, 2017. If you’re keeping track that’s approximately 28 hours in labor with approximately three and a half hours of pushing.
I suppose that’s probably where the story begins: with the birth of the most perfect little baby boy.
It was decided that I would be induced during a conversation at our last prenatal doctor’s appointment. We hadn’t talked a ton about it before then – and on that day, it was just a question: “what happens if he’s not here by the 9th?” Dr. Fisher suggested that we consider induction and we said rather quickly: “Monday?!” I was so ready for my maternity leave to begin and to have some semblance of a schedule (which is pretty hilarious in hindsight as I wrote most of this during middle of the night feedings and haven’t had an actual full night’s sleep since October!). We then had the weekend to finalize arrangements and pack our things (and repack and recheck!) before our appointment in Labor and Delivery.
December 11: Things were pretty easy at first – just blood work, blood pressure, etc., as I was hooked up to machines and had an IV inserted in preparation for my Pitocin drip. It didn’t go as easily as all that though because my blood pressure was unstable. The drugs began around then to regulate my BP but the drug that worked the best was crazy – it dropped my pressures in about five seconds and gave me a scary feeling in my brain – like I had cold rain spreading across it. I was glad the meds worked to lower the pressure but did not enjoy the scary drop. Anyway, because the pressures were not easily controlled, I was diagnosed with preeclampsia. So much for being the anomaly.
When you’re diagnosed with preeclampsia, you take magnesium to prevent seizures. Magnesium has a very strange effect on the body…making you SO hot, disoriented, and, in my case, desperate for ice chips. The fabulous Nurse Melissa told me – and was right on – that the first thirty minutes on it are the worst and they were. It also causes nausea so I had to take it easy on anything going in…which was awful because I hadn’t eaten anything since 7:00 on Sunday night and all I wanted to do was guzzle a big huge glass of water. When I did finally get some water in the form of melted ice chips, we had to find the vomit bag and peppermint oil in a hurry. Thankfully, the oil did its job (many times that day)!
In the meantime, we had a cheering section waiting for us in the waiting room all day and all night. Our sisters took the day off of work, Shane’s mom and grandparents made the trek from Madison, his stepdad Hank Ubered in from the airport (talk about timing), and Dave and Kathy joined us after work. We definitely felt the love!
While the cheering section settled in, my job was just to hang out and get dilated! I progressed fairly slowly, but I did progress, which was great – the alternative is a c-section! (Speaking of, I was certain I would have a c-section, pretty much all through my pregnancy, and especially when the pressures were so irregular. On this end of a vaginal delivery though, I am so thankful that my recovery didn’t also include major surgery!) The doctors checked me every four hours or so, which was NOT ok with Shane, who wanted to know on a constant basis how things were moving along. Even when I got to 9.5 centimeters, they still didn’t return to check for another four hours. (Shane was freaking out at this point…pacing…sweating…you’d have thought he was in labor!)
Somewhere in the middle of all that, I also got my epidural. I told my nurse really early on that I wanted one and she suggested another IV drug that just took the edge off and would allow me to make a decision about when I actually wanted the epidural, if at all. That sounded pretty great but apparently the drug conflicted with my allergies so I went right for the good stuff. Maybe I had the nurse of the century and a rockin anesthesiologist but the epidural procedure was not a big deal at all. Hardly any discomfort! My only complaint was that Shane had to step out – through every other procedure – except my surgery – I was able to convince the doctors and nurses that I needed him but this was a “hard no” from the team. I’m sure ultimately it was good for him to get a break – and some food without torturing me with it!
The night went on like that: me dilating, attempting sleep, Shane in and out, the cheering section in and out and attempting sleep in the waiting room. Our overnight nurse, Karen, was also wonderful. These Labor and Delivery teams are amazing. We were nothing short of impressed with each of them.
December 12: That brings us to 9:00am on Tuesday, December 12, when I was told that it was finally time to push! Sometime between the waiting around through contractions and go time, Emily went home to shower, change, etc., Grandma and Grandad and Hank went to their hotel rooms, and everyone (except Shane and me!) became a bit more human. Emily arrived back at the hospital just in time for the pushing to begin and our Dream Team of Shane and me, Emily, and Grammy Ronda got busy preparing to welcome the baby. We did some practice pushes with our nurses (whatever that means…) and then the doctors came in and confirmed that I was pushing correctly. The OB resident on my case explained the process of pushing the baby under the pelvic bone, which sounded nearly freakin impossible, and I spent the next nearly three and a half hours pushing with (nearly) every contraction attempting to accomplish that task. (Full disclosure: I definitely skipped a couple!) The nurses, physicians, Coach Emily, and Coach Daddy were fantastic: we’ve seen enough movies to know that Daddy would likely hold one of my legs but Auntie Emmy made up her own job of holding up my head for the pushes – who knew that was just as important?! When we got closer and closer to delivery, all of the coaching and all of the voices became more and more important and more and more essential to my success! (Corny…and true!!)
I was hoping he would be born at 12:12 on 12/12 but with each contraction, I watched the clock and I knew there was no way I’d have him out by then. I did, however, know that it would be soon when the room began to fill up with medical professionals. I focused on the visual of rocking him under my pelvic bone until they announced that his head was RIGHT THERE.
Until that point, I had been pushing three times through (most of) the contractions… when they told me he was RIGHT THERE and I could feel him RIGHT THERE, I gave up on the conservative three pushes and went for it. Two contractions and eight pushes later it was 12:42 and I was holding my baby boy! What a feeling! For me it was the biggest relief – physically and emotionally – combined with the strongest emotions all at once. The first thought I had clearly was that he looked exactly like my mom – and that he definitely has his daddy’s lips. 🙂 My other “first thought” that I immediately shared with Shane was that it was all worth it. Our fertility journey flashed before my eyes, including the money it took to get there, and when I held Liam, held Shane, and cried, my heart felt so complete and so assured that everything that happened along the way, though so difficult, was exactly as it should be.
Right after delivery, Daddy cut the cord and Liam was with me for just a moment as they needed to take him for some assessments and to clean him up. Auntie Emmy and Grammy Ronda stayed with him and took lots of pictures while Daddy went to the waiting room to announce the baby’s birth to our cheering section. The placenta delivery process was more involved than I was expecting…because they took Liam away, I could concentrate on what was happening, which I hear is not normal – usually people don’t even remember delivering the placenta. They had me push a few times and it wasn’t budging…in my post-delivery, magnesium induced haze, I was very concerned that I had “what Kim Kardashian had” – the doctors and midwife assured me that I was not headed for stardom with my placental complications…and that I didn’t even have any – just a stubborn placenta! I told them…again, in a haze…that I felt it when it implanted – it only made sense that I would feel it detach! (Insert facepalm/oversharing Alison emoji here…)
Meanwhile, Auntie Emmy and Grammy Ronda worked on welcoming the baby to the world. I asked Emily to be in charge of the essential oil diffuser and taking pictures and she did both beautifully. I have so many pictures of the birth event and I’m so thankful for that. They stayed with us and soaked up as much Liam Love as possible. While they were with us, we got to reveal the name (FINALLY). We loved calling him Eugene throughout the pregnancy, but it never did feel right once he was with us – he is definitely Liam!
The rest of the day is a bit of a blur for me, unfortunately. We were able to introduce him to everyone who came to see us, which was completely magical. Seeing our family members meet the newest member was, simply, life changing. He met grandparents, great-grandparents, his aunt, his great uncle (who is certain to become his best friend), and, of course, Mom and Dad. I was still very unsteady through the afternoon from the magnesium so he spent much of the afternoon in his family members’ arms. Because I was admitted as a high risk patient, I had a one-on-one nurse for the entire labor and delivery process, which was AWESOME. Generally, pre-eclampsia patients who require magnesium need extra monitoring, so they stay in their labor room for more one-on-one care. (Our delivery nurses were amazing. One even came to find me the next day when she came back to work – and came in early for it! – to give me a hug and tell me she was proud of me. Talk about care!) I was taken off of the magnesium earlier than usual because it was having an adverse effect on my kidney levels. They usually keep people who are on magnesium in the delivery room for another 24 hours, but because I came off sooner than normal, they weren’t sure where to put me after delivery. Shane advocated hard for me to stay with extra monitoring, so they compromised and moved me to an antepartum room (for the moms who need special care before delivery) for more specialized care than could be provided in the postpartum rooms. The good news about the move is that we could have as many guests as we wanted at any given time, instead of the two we were allowed in Labor and Delivery. The better news is that I also FINALLY got a shower and FINALLY got some real food.
One of the more hilarious things that happened was Shane’s adventure with the reclining chair. After spending months in hospitals with Dad, we became very familiar with hospital furniture, so when we were getting settled in our Labor and Delivery room, Shane asked for a recliner. We were told that there was one for the ward (which, if that’s true, is absolutely ridiculous) and was being used. We went along with that for a while, until it was truly time for us to get some sleep, and Shane decided to push it a little. A chair materialized and then, for the next four days, it became his. We commandeered the chair and used it to move our things from L&D, then later to another room in postpartum, and certainly for sleeping when the couch/bed thing wasn’t cutting it.
December 13: On Day 2, December 13, we started with a pretty crazy diagnosis from one of the doctors on my case: I experienced fairly significant blood loss…enough so that I needed a transfusion of two units of blood. The irony of that, of course, is that I’m the blood drive coordinator at school, so I spend a lot of time trying to convince teenagers to donate blood…I’m thinking the conversation will be much easier now that I have my own personal story to share.
Anyway, there was lots of conversation about how to tackle my dropping red blood cell levels, including just iron supplements, but as a team, we decided that our best bet was the transfusion. It was as easy as any other IV drip but it took forever. Our nurse changed the settings so that it would go faster, however it still took most of the day to get both units of blood. I didn’t realize how crappy I was feeling until after I got the first bag and got up to use the restroom. I felt like a completely different person. Shane remarked that I still looked yellow…yellow?! Apparently my coloring was off and had been since delivery day. I didn’t notice, but who can really get a good gauge of their looks in a hospital bathroom? In the end, the transfusion helped to bring my blood levels back up, and, at least from my perspective, helped to counteract the negative effects of the magnesium, and I was back to feeling somewhat human again.
Good thing, because that afternoon, they let us know that Liam was jaundiced. It’s super common, something like 60% of babies are jaundiced at birth and need special treatment (at least according to Dr. Google!) but it is still a bit disarming when your new baby needs special attention and can’t be held as readily. Once he was under the portable bili light it was far easier, but until then, we had to suffer through his need to be comforted and our inability to do so. In fact, we sent him to the nursery at one point, simply because there was nothing we could do for him and we were destroyed. Speaking of, when we toured Hillcrest, the guide made it very clear that the hospital’s preference is that parents don’t use the nursery. In fact, that’s spelled out on the intake paperwork with registration. Thank GOD for mommy friends who said SCREW THAT and SEND HIM TO THE NURSERY!!! The first time we felt SO guilty – and then we got over that and learned to ignore any judge-y looks from nurses and sent him straight there. Bring him back for food, we said, and we got some sleep. We didn’t know it then, but thus began our three to four hour sleep stretches that would become our new normal.
That night, we moved to a postpartum room, which we were glad of, but we also had more to tackle. Because Liam was jaundiced, we had to supplement his feedings with formula – via tube and finger. The lactation consultant who told me this (Shane had stepped out) talked so fast and shared so much information that I was completely overwhelmed and had no idea what was happening. Thankfully Aunt Tonia was there with me and caught a lot of it. Once we figured things out, finger feeding was super easy and we were super thankful to be able to get him the nutrition he needed while I was healing and he was under the lights.
Also that night, the head of our pediatrician’s practice called us to explain the jaundice and the office’s plan for us. We chose Senders’ Pediatrics because one of my oldest friends is a nurse practitioner there. I don’t know any other pediatricians and it seemed foolish to look for recommendations when I knew I had one that I trust wholeheartedly. She is a brilliant mind and I would never wonder if Liam was getting the best care. Easy decision! The best part though is that, turns out, the practice is amazing. We were impressed that Dr. Senders called us at night (around 9:00pm) to explain to two scared new parents about what this jaundice is all about – and have continued to be completely impressed with the practice ever since.
On Thursday the 14th, we met another pediatrician from Senders. She was amazing. My doctors were ready to discharge me but Liam wasn’t quite ready. As we were getting that news – and thinking OMG what does THAT look like?! – she told us that her plan was to keep me on as a boarding mother/the food source.
Backing up, one of the frustrating things about that day was that the doctors in charge of my care decided to discharge me despite my low red blood count and unstable blood pressure. I’m hyper aware of the potential for error in care because of what we’ve experienced with our parents and other family members, so when the same team that wanted to take me off of my blood pressure meds (the meds I’ve been on since I was in my early twenties) wanted to send me home still anemic and with irregular pressures, I was not happy. When the pediatrician recommended that we stay another night to get our bearings (and inadvertently get a little extra monitoring for me) we were SO happy.
Per the doctor’s advice, we spent the day trying to get our bearings with Liam. Easier said than done of course! We also had even more visitors that night, some of the most special in the world, my Uncle Dave and Aunt Kathy, and my Grandma Cox and my Grandma Elaine. Sharing in our joy (and terror!) was one of the greatest blessings of our hospital stay – and in our lives in general! Despite what we’ve lost and what we don’t have, we do have tremendous joy in the people who surround us.
On Friday the 15th, we were discharged – finally! A third pediatrician saw us that day and reported that Liam’s levels looked great and we were good to go!
The funniest thing about the discharge process was that a nurse came in to go over our instructions, paperwork, etc., and then asked if we were ready to go. We said yep, just need to finish packing and get the baby dressed (it was 12 degrees outside – he needed bundled!), so she said she would call transport. Well, apparently transport is overstaffed or just really really efficient because they arrived really fast – long before we were ready. No big deal at all – except the transport told on us! We were laughing at ourselves as we tried to dress this baby in a ton of layers – especially when he peed through his first layer – and the transport decided that we didn’t know what we were doing and needed the nurse to assist. Insert eyeroll here. We sent him away as we finished up getting Liam together, and another transport arrived (who happened to be one of my former students) and we were on our way! The drive home was uneventful, thank God. When we arrived, we found a house decorated in welcome home banners and signs (thanks Aunt Tonia) and attempted to become parents (and are still trying to do so!).
Overall, we really did love Liam’s birth experience. It was stressful and beautiful and scary and exciting and overwhelming and the most amazing undertaking of our lives. It was – and is – the most incredible juxtaposition. Away we go…