Kristen's Birth Story
All I ever knew I wanted to be when I grew up was a mother. I wasn't sure about the career...I figured that would all fall into place somehow, but I felt certain that motherhood was going to be my number one "thing." My husband and I decided to wait 2 years to start trying after we were married, and you can bet on the 364th day of the second year, I was ready. I had been charting my cycles and temperature for MONTHS and been off birth control for long enough...I had my cycle timed down to the minute. We happened to be in Europe, backpacking together as one last pre-kid "hurrah" and I came home with a little souvenir I wouldn't get to meet until 9 months later.
Everything was going just as we had planned. I had a super easy pregnancy, all things considered. I was working up until the 38th week at which point I planned to stay home indefinitely as a stay-at-home parent. I went to my final doctors appointment and was eager to hear how many centimeters I was at...but I was at zero. "That's OK," my doctor reassured me, "These things can happen overnight and you can be in labor tomorrow morning!" I am a petite woman with narrow hips (and hip dysplasia to boot!). This belly was like a torpedo sticking straight out. I was worried my baby wouldn't find a way to escape, but my doctor reassured me. She said she'd seen even more petite women than me push out 10-pound babies, and women with hips twice my size have trouble with the birth canal. There's no way of predicting, and she wanted to let things play out.
I took lots of walks. I atethe spicy food. I had all the sex. I tried it all. But at my 40-week check-in...still zero. Still not to worry! We'll take it day-by-day. Next check-in...ZERO! Ok, let's try a stress test: Nothing's wrong. Let's give it another day...another day...OK OK...if you STILL haven't gotten a centimeter by January 24th, we'll admit you that evening for an overnight dose of Cervidil to get things softened and ready for Pitocin on the morning of the 25th. You'll be a mother SOON!
Of course, nothing happened, and I was admitted to the hospital the evening of the 24th. The next morning, guess what? I was still at zero. But they started administering the Pitocin and slowly but surely, things started to progress. At noon, my water broke and I started having irregular but pretty decent contractions. I was still only at about 5cm. I asked if this was a problem, if things were moving too slowly, and my doctor said if we didn't see better progress soon, we'd go for a C-Section. But little by little, I'd hit the milestones, and we continued to let my labor play out.
Later in the afternoon, we started the epidural. At first, it felt so good I fell right asleep and napped through an hour of labor. As the contractions continued, I realized only half of my body was numb - the right side was numb - the left side? I could've hopped up and down on one leg. I was starting to get nervous about this situation, and the anesthesiologist came back with a second epidural. My right side now felt completely dead as if it wasn't there...the left side was perfectly fine. They explained that these things happen sometimes, and we could try to add more or just leave it. I decided to just leave it. Childbirth is supposed to be unpleasant, right? My left side - especially my sore, sad hip - was definitely feeling it, but at least it wasn't on both sides!
It was around 11pm on the 25th when we finally hit 10cm. My doctor came in and said it's time to push and I was SO EXCITED! I was imagining that vision of the baby's head crowning at ANY moment and with each push, that image was front and center. But after each push, I could see the look in everyone's faces: There was nothing. I remember asking, "Can you see the baby?" and they just said, "Keep pushing - we'll get there!" Then the full body shakes started...all the adrenaline, all the stress...my whole body was shaking. While my nurses told me it was normal, I was still shocked to be feeling it!
At one point, the baby's oxygen levels started to dip, so they put me on oxygen to pump everything up. I remember the sound of the oxygen was kind of loud and my husband, God bless him, was trying to encourage me by YELLING EVERYTHING HE SAID with this half-crazed smile and positive tone. At one point, I looked at him and yelled back, with a less than positive tone, "YOU KNOW...YOU DON'T NEED TO YELL EVERYTHING! I CAN HEAR YOU JUST FINE!"
After several hours of pushing, I can still remember my tiny 4'11" doctor patting me on my not-numb thigh, saying, "We've got to get this baby out, Kristen - it's showing signs of distress. It's time. We're heading into the OR now."
Shaking, half numb/half in pain, and alone (Husband can't come in right away), I remember the coldness and brightness of the Operating Room strike through me. Though I also remember the kindness of the medical staff, the warm blankets they wrapped me in, and I remember the anesthesiologist (a different one from before) reassure me that even though I was only half numb, there was no way I would feel a thing during the C-Section. I just remember feeling so utterly powerless, with no choice but to trust the strangers in the room around me. When my doctor came in, it was so reassuring to hear her voice telling me not to worry about a single thing - she was in charge and she'd done this a thousand times.
I could tell my husband was absolutely freaking out, but he was being so strong for us. I was so exhausted and terrified that I was barely aware of the fact that my child was about to be born. There was a bit of pushing and shoving that went on down there, but it felt like they pulled that baby out in about 30 seconds.
I remember asking, "Is he OK?" There was a pause...and then I heard that cry and the flood of emotion that took over me was indescribable - I still can't put it into words. I was sobbing, exuberant, exhausted, relieved, and utterly stunned by the events that had just taken place. He was beautiful and perfect and healthy. We hadn't found out if it was a boy or a girl, so finding out it was a "he" I asked, "Is it Boden Thomas, then?" and my husband agreed - we named our son.
I was not allowed to hold Boden until we were in the recovery room. They weighed him, checked him out, and wheeled him off to monitor him while I was put back together. My husband went with the baby and waited for me. I was on so many drugs at this point - I don't know what they gave me for pain, and at some point during the surgery, I asked the anesthesiologist if there was anything he could do about the shaking. He gave me something and I immediately felt relaxed. In fact, at some point, I fell asleep and woke up in my regular hospital room. That was when I finally held my son and tried to nurse him. It was beautiful - I had been reading NONSTOP about breastfeeding and felt determined to get it. He seemed to latch right on and I felt so happy - there really is nothing more beautiful than watching your baby nurse for the first time. My sister-in-law was knocking on the door with Starbucks in hand - she had waited all night to meet her new nephew, and my poor husband had to tell her to come back later as I was just finally holding my son for the first time.
The next day was busy with visitors, both family and nurses, and doctors and lactation consultants. I learned my lesson the hard way that for future children, NO VISITORS ALLOWED on the first day. But we were just so excited for everyone to meet our first child that we welcomed everyone and anyone who wanted to come. My dizziness subsided, but now I was itching nonstop. Twenty four hours in, I mentioned this and the medical staff realized I must have been having a reaction to the morphine. I didn't even know I was on morphine. They stopped that, and FINALLY, I felt back to normal. The pain from the C-Section was totally tolerable without all those meds. I wish I had known to advocate for that in advance. (Lots of lessons being learned, right?)
We were sent home on a snowy afternoon, and I sat next to my son in the car, staring at him and watching the snowflakes swirl around us - I couldn't wait to get home to see our dog and introduce them. Upon entering our home, little Boden got things off to a roaring start by blowing through his diaper and carefully selected "coming home onesie" with one giant load. My brother-in-law got this on video and when I watch this video now, I laugh at our unskilled parenting and complete inability to get all the poop off - now THAT is a video I'm grateful to have!
I know this is supposed to be a birth story, but I wanted to touch back to my first statement about feeling I was "born to be a mother." Unfortunately, my experience of motherhood in those early days was not at all that I had imagined. I suffered through the baby blues day in and day out...perplexed, guilty and utterly disappointed with myself for not "feeling the joy" that everyone told me about. And my nursing story? The short version of that goes like this: "It didn't work out." All I felt was anxiety and worry and exhaustion...and love - of course, I felt so much insanely intense love. But I cried every day for 6 weeks, and I don't hide this part of my story (or the next two stories that followed...that were far less dramatic but included the same 6-week blues). My birth stories include those days that followed, and if I can be a voice for anyone else living through them, to reassure them it DOES get better, to put their anxiety at bay for a moment to say, "you're not alone" then my own dark days were not in vain.
Even with the ups and downs, looking back, I love my first birth story - because it's the story of when my transformation began and I continue to transform every day, through the love and labor of raising my three children. And I'm grateful beyond measure for this journey of motherhood and all that it has brought me so far. Oh, and tiny baby Boden started Middle School this fall!