This week, for my own documentation purposes, I am recounting my births on the blog. If this is your cup of tea, stick around! If births aren’t your thing.. normal posting to resume next week. :)
I haven’t ever written a detailed birth story for Harlo. Her birth was mixed with such a rhythm of highs and lows. I’ve never known how I could write about it, even though there is some negative aspects and still get the point across of just how perfectly imperfect it was to my soul. That being said, this is the story of how my little warrior of a spirit, Harlo, made her way into this world….
A cold, wintery day in December, I had just finished my doctors appointment. I was dilated to a 3, which was exciting news to us first-time parents. I kissed my new husband goodbye and headed home to the house we had moved to just two weeks before. I was due in only a couple weeks now and there was still a lot to put away and get settled before the new baby would arrive. The day strolled on and I had noticed some tightening in my belly. I’d had braxton hicks contractions and these felt similar, but definitely bigger… I was sure “real” contractions were supposed to hurt, so I didn’t think this was anything to worry about. I unpacked the rest of the boxes in the baby’s room, and folded a load of her sweet, brand new, teensy tinsy clothes and wondered seriously how an actual baby would soon be living in our house, wearing these clothes, nursing from my body. It just seemed so surreal.
After a few hours of the tightening in my belly, I began to time them. To my surprise, they were coming every 2 or 3 minutes, like clock-work. I called a sister and a handful of friends to ask if they thought I might be having contractions. I didn’t want to alarm anyone and be the cliche first-timer who thought she was in labor weeks before she was actually due. I decided to put off calling Brady to come home early from work and see how the night dragged on. By the time he walked in the door, I was almost sure this was something to be noted. “Don’t freak out,” I said, “But I think I’ve been having contractions…” Brady stared at me in a panic, “since when?” he asked “Um… since about 1:00pm?” It was now 6:30. We both had no clue what to do, but I decided I would get in a warm bath to see if that settled things down. If it didn’t, we’d head to the hospital, we both agreed.
Brady made me a delicious dinner of tuna helper (go easy on us, we were very newly-wed!) and brought it to me in the tub. He sat on the floor and ate beside me where I balanced my plate on my big, round belly. I could feel her moving around like crazy, and she nearly knocked my dinner right into the tub. It was so relaxing spending that time in the tub. I loved chatting with Brady while he sat on the floor next to me, letting our imaginations run wild of the adventure to come. As I sat in the tub, the snow began to fall. We live in the desert where snow is a special treat and we laughed about how fun it would be if our baby was born in a real live snow storm! I got out of the tub to put some sweats on and pack a few things in case we went to the hospital. The contractions were still coming, but they weren’t painful yet at all. I wasn’t sure what to do. As I packed, I realized there were a few items I hadn’t purchased yet, but would need if the baby did in fact come. We were still a couple weeks away from my due date and I had assumed I would have more time.
Around 9, left the house to go to Target. The news reported a huge storm, the biggest we’d seen in years maybe. Brady was growing concerned about the icy roads and we decided that we better make our way to the hospital sooner than later. We stopped at Target on the way to grab a robe, some nursing bras and some snacks for Brady. We had no idea what to expect, but the printed list of “what to pack when you’re expecting” felt like it was helping. During our stroll through Target we bumped into an old school friend. She asked me when I was due, “Well.. I don’t know for sure, but I think I might be in labor right now.” I said. Her eyes tripled in size and she urged me to get to the hospital! After that, I had a few contractions that made me feel like leaning over the cart. We decided it was probably time to pick up our pace.
We checked in to the hospital and since I was still more than 2 weeks from our due date, they took me to a small room to be checked and monitored. I was dilated to a 5 now and having regular tightening that they assured me were in fact, contractions. After the hour of monitoring was over, I had progressed almost to a 6 and that meant they would be keeping me. I was going to have this baby, tonight.
I slipped into my hospital gown at about midnight, my jaw trembled with nerves. We didn’t know when we should call our family, but knowing that everyone was probably in bed by now and it was still so early to know, seemed like we should wait until anything more exciting happened. We got checked into our room, signed a slew of paper work and got my IV’s hooked up. “I”m going to start pitocin to help speed things along,” the nurse said. This was something I hadn’t ever talked to my doctor about and had only read about pitocin briefly in one of my birth books. “Um… Do I have to have pitocin? I didn’t really want to be induced.” I said, sheepishly. The nurse had herself a little chuckle “If we don’t give you pitocin, you’ll be in labor FOREVER!” she warned, “This IS your first baby.” “I know, but… I was dilated to a 3 earlier today and now I’m at almost a 6, so isn’t that pretty good?” I urged. “Being a 6 doesn’t mean much. Some people stay at a 6 for days! Let’s get this pitocin started and if you don’t like it for any reason, we can always take it out later.” That seemed like a fair request, and she clearly wasn’t giving up. If a nurse was recommending it to me, I assured myself that it was fine. “Okay, do you want your epidural now?” she asked. I was surprised.. I wasn’t in any pain yet. “Um.. I think I’ll wait. I don’t feel like I’m in pain right now.” She gave me a knowing half-smile, “Well, once we start the pitocin, you’ll probably want the epidural.” she said and she turned on her heel and walked out.
It was 1:30 now and Brady was getting tired. He got himself settled on the vinyl couch across the room and tried to fall asleep with the incessant beeping and hushed hospital noise. I felt like getting any sleep would be impossible with the news of my upcoming delivery, but I knew I should probably try to get some rest – I think I had read that somewhere. I closed my eyes and tried to feel my baby girl as she wriggled inside my belly. Knowing she was doing well helped me to relax. Just then, the nurse was coming back in. “Time to check you again!” she announced as she flipped on the light. I was still at a 6. “Hmm.. I’m going to bump up your pitocin.” she mentioned, “But let me know if you have any problems!” she said as she noticed I was about to question her, and rushed out of the room. I tried again to doze off listening to the sound of the monitor on the baby’s heart beat. I loved hearing that divine swishing and beating of that little miracle inside of me. I laid there with my eyes closed trying to get lost in that miraculous sound and before I knew it (one hour to the dot later), the nurse was back to check me again…. I was still at a 6.
I waited for the clock to strike 7 before I called one of my sisters. It had been a long, sleepless night and I had been dying of anticipation to talk to one of them. Soon Brady was up after maybe two hours of very interrupted sleep and he was calling his family. I was still at a 6 as we knew well from the last 7 times I had been checked. They upped my pitocin (again) and called to have someone come and break my water around 9. I had been in labor since the afternoon before and they assured me it was time. An on-call doctor came to my bed to greet me and break my water bag. It was very strange to feel like a 100 lb barrel of water was being emptied out of me. “I’m not sure if I’m peeing my pants,” I said, concerned. “You’re not!” He chuckled and told me I’d be feeling the water drain off and on for the next little while. He motioned to the nurse to bump up my pitocin monitor yet again. “Let’s hope that gets this baby here!” He said as he left the room. I felt another tightening come on, but this time it was welcomed with a soul-clenching pain. Thirty seconds later, another, and before that one was over, there was another. I felt like my body was being crushed from the inside out. I gripped the side rail of the bed to hang on for dear life as the contractions squeezed and clenched my insides. I squeezed the rails so tight that my knuckles turned white and my arms began to shake. I tossed and turned trying to find a comfortable position, but before I could get to one, another contraction was coming and it was just as consuming as the last. I yelped in pain “The epidural!” I said through held breaths. I was stunned by how quickly the pain came once the water was no longer there to cushion each contraction.
An anesthesiologist was soon at my bedside, although I hardly remember through the wreckage that was happening inside my uterus. We tried to time the procedure between contractions, but at this point my contractions were “piggy backing” which meant one was coming on top of the other, with no break in between. “This will help with that!” the anesthesiologist said and I think I could have kissed him on the face. He left my room, Brady came back to my side. After 10 minutes, I was still in the grueling state. I felt the same, but now one of my feet was asleep and felt like it was being stabbed with a thousand needles all at once. “It needs time to kick in,” said the nurse (a new one now, my 3rd since I’d been there.) But 30 minutes after that, I felt the same. My foot was still miserably asleep and there was no numbness anywhere on my whole body. They decided to call the anesthesiologist back in, he re-did the epidural and this time added a stronger, quicker medication. “This is what we use on c-section patients,” he told me as the hot fluid spilled into my back. “You’ll be feeling better in no time!” I laid back and almost immediately felt relief from the contractions. I began to feel heavier and heavier until I could no longer move anything but my shoulders and arms. I began to panic. I was sure my back was hurting me and I needed to reposition, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t pull one shoulder off the bed, let alone move my hips. “Help me!” I begged Brady “Help me move to my side! I can’t move! Help me move to my side!” My heart rate was escalating with panic and the baby was feeling the tension. With help from the nurse, he pulled while she pushed my huge, awkward body to its side. I grabbed the railing with my arm to keep myself from tipping back over. I reached down to touch my leg and where my leg was supposed to be felt like a big, lifeless sand bag. It was a sickening sensation. “I”m going to throw up!” I announced and the nurse handed me a bag to puke in. I threw up and threw up with a room full of relatives and nurses and I didn’t even have the body strength to roll discretely to the side. I’d stop throwing up and then I’d recognize the numbness in my body and it would trigger a vomit fit all over again. I hadn’t eaten since the night before so I had almost nothing left to vomit, but over and over and over again, I continued to heave.
By lunch time, after the dozenth or so time I had been checked, they announced I was still at a 6. The sisters and in-laws and parents that had mosied in decided they were safe to take a break for lunch but made us promise we’d call if any news changed. Brady was hungry, but felt guilty to eat in front of me because he knew I must be hungry by now too. It was true, I did feel hungry, but I was too afraid to throw anything up that I swore I wouldn’t be mad if he ate in front of me. It had been a couple of hours since my epidural was placed and finally the suffocating numbing was starting to soothe. They told me I could push the button for another dose of the medication at any time, but I warned the lives of anyone who touched it. Every time I even thought of the numbness, I would be dry-heaving into my elephant bag.
At 1:00, my pitocin was bumped up yet again in hopes to progress this poor baby a little farther. A blanket of snow covered the hospital roof that we could see out our window and they had told us that the snow storm, which was the biggest in decades, brought in a slew of laboring mothers. People were delivering babies in monitoring rooms because all of the delivery rooms were full. “Be glad you got here first,” they teased. I asked where my doctor was and if he would be here soon, I still hadn’t seen him since I had checked in to the hospital more than 14 hours ago. “He’s in surgery right now but he’ll be by to see you before too long.” our newest nurse (number 4 in the rotating staff) said in a very professional tone as she checked me again. “A 6?” I asked before she told me. “Possibly a 6+.” she said as she re-positioned my covers and went to leave the room. “Can I sit up more?” I asked. “My back is still aching!” She assured me that it was probably in my head since I had had my epidural hours ago, but humored me by sitting me up-right. It felt better to be up after so many hours of laying down flat, even if it was all in my head about the aching. “Do you want me to push your epidural button? You really shouldn’t be feeling any pain.” but I insisted no one touch the epidural button. The thought of it made me nauseous and I grabbed for my elephant bag. Along with the nausea, I felt itchy all over. I kept scratching at my arms, my neck, my chest, my face. “Sometimes Pitocin makes people feel itchy,” they told me. I just felt miserable.
Our families returned and filled the room. I felt self conscious I didn’t have better news for them, but was actually feeling quite content myself to still be pregnant. I knew these were the last moments I’d have with her inside and I wanted to savor them. I had waited for this day to come, but now that it was here, I wasn’t sure I was ready.
Just before 2:00, my newest nurse came in to uncomfortably check me again for her hourly chart routine. “You’re complete.” was all she said as she pulled the stirrups from my bed and dropped the bottom off. “I’m a ten?” I said “Yep.” she answered as she opened cupboards, rolled out baby beds, and transformed my hotel-looking room into a full-blown operating room. Anxiety started creeping in. “Is the doctor coming?” I asked “He’s delivering a baby next door, and then he’ll be in here,” she said “Can you wait a minute to start pushing?” I agreed without hesitation. It was surreal to know my life would be completely changing in such a short time. I felt like I needed a minute to digest the news. She left and our family came in congratulating us and hugging Brady and chatting about, but I couldn’t hear anything. Panic hit and I burst into a fit of tears. My sister ran to my side “Cass, it’s okay. Are you scared?” I didn’t know what I was, but I nodded through sobs. “Do you want us to call the doctor?” I shook my head. I tried to calm the sobbing so I could get a word out – “Can I be alone with Brady?” I blurted. Puzzled, and I’m sure worried, everyone agreed and quickly shuffled outside my room “We’ll be right out here,” my dad said as he left and closed the door behind him. Brady held me in his arms while I sobbed and sobbed. I hadn’t slept in 31 hours and the exhaustion was catching up to me. Everything was going to change and I knew it was so happy and exciting, but the impact of it all overtook my body. I wanted to remember what our life was like with just the two of us, expecting this little miracle baby. I wanted to remember this moment right here – our last moment as a single couple before we became parents. “God, please let me remember this moment. Please help this moment last.” I prayed over and over. Soon, I felt nice and calm. Brady whispered reassuring words into my ear with his big hand over my belly and I realized that we were growing up. The kid that I fell in love with not so long ago was now a man at my side. We would be parents and I felt proud to be coming into this journey with him. Where panic once consumed me, peace had poured over.
The nurse came in and asked if I was ready to start a few “practice pushes”. I felt ready, and I felt relieved to feel ready. She directed Brady to hold onto one of my legs, and I was thrilled to be able to place it myself in his arms. 6 hours after my epidural, I had finally gained some movement and feeling back. The nurse told me what we would be doing and prompted me as we saw a contraction come up on the monitor. She began to count to 10 as I pushed, but she stopped early “Okay, whoa! No more pushing! You’re going to deliver without your doctor!” She ran to the hall and yelled “I need some back up!” and picked up the phone and started arguing with someone, “I told him I needed him in here next! We were next in line. I’ve got a mother crowning in here…. well we may have a baby without him then!” and she hung up. “He skipped your room and he’s delivering twins next door. Try not to push and he’ll be in as soon as he can.” I had to consciously tell my body to relax as I felt like I wanted to push. “She has hair, babe.” Brady whispered as more nurses came in and suited up in what looked like a hazmat suit. “You can see?! Hair? How much?!” “Lots!” he grinned. Suddenly I wasn’t even remotely nervous. My baby, MY BABY, had hair. A few minutes went by before Dr. Lunt was rushing in. We hadn’t seen him since our appointment in his office the day before. “I hear you’re trying to deliver without me!” he joked as he leapt into a yellow gown and gloves. If I wouldn’t have been so consumed with the fact that my baby had hair, I’m sure I would have thought of a quick-witted joke about how I had been lying in this bed for the last 26 hours, but I allowed the opportunity to slip by. “Okay, let’s try this again, on this next contraction…” he began and I geared myself up. I felt a slight tightening in my upper abdomen and pushed as hard as I possibly could “Okay, great Cassidy, great job.. Here she comes!” and I looked over the drape just in time to see a beautiful head of black hair with a squished little face and big, luscious lips attached. “Whoa! She’s sunny-side-up!” He exclaimed. “Okay, tiny little push to get her shoulders out.” he coached and one second later – at 2:50pm – he placed what was absolutely and undoubtedly, the most perfect human to grace the earth, right on my very chest. She wailed a perfect wail, she waved her perfectly pink arms, her eyelashes stuck to her cheeks with vernix, her pointy little nose scrunched up to pronounce a set of the most beautiful, bubbly little lips.
My body began to almost laugh out in joy. “Brade! Hahawwww! Look at her! Look at her!” I just kept saying over and over. She was so beautiful. I hadn’t expected her to be so beautiful! “She’s here! Brade, she’s hehehere!” I squealed. I kissed her tiny hands and realized my lips had been thirsting for her skin my whole entire life. I kissed her head, I kissed her hair. Her skin was soft and warm and I knew that she had just come from Heaven. The doctor shook my husband’s hand and congratulated me on a job well done before he headed out of the room. “She’s beautiful!” I heard him announce to my family just outside.
We sat there in awe, staring at the miracle that had just entered our life. It seemed that there never was a life before her, that she had been here all along, of course she had been. We hadn’t decided on a name for sure and I told Brady he could choose when we saw her, but as I looked down on her shining little face, the name Harlo nearly fell out of my lips. “She’s Harlo, babe. She’s my Harlo.” Of course she was, I thought. Of course! She’s the one I had been told about, she’s the one I had waited for. She was Harlo and she was here in my arms. I was her mother, and she was mine. My very own. The heavens shone directly down on us, I could feel it all around me.
Twenty-six hours of labor later, she was completely posterior (face up). The weight of her body had been right on my tailbone and spine the whole time, which had explained the aching in my back. After we had tried nursing which wasn’t going so well, and cleaned her up, we had our family come into meet her. It was so magical showing off our very own baby. I had dreamed of this day my whole entire life. Just then, my sandwich was being delivered and I tried unsuccessfully to bring my sandwich to my mouth. I was so exhausted that I literally didn’t have the strength to lift my arm to feed myself. I have never felt exhaustion like that in my life, but I was so consumed with happiness I barely noticed as Brady fed me bite by bite.
After the family let us settle into our recovery room, I started asking when we could go home. Another night in the hospital seemed like too much to bear, but they told me we had to stay 24 hours at least from the time the baby was born. I agreed, but as the hours dragged on I felt more and more homesick. I was relieved to not be checked for dilation every hour, but now my bleeding was being monitored by the hour as well as Harlo’s temperature, her feedings, etc. I knew it was helpful, but I just wanted a couple of hours of sleep. I was so desperate for my own bed, my own shower, my own baby in my own home. I pushed through to the next day and asked to be checked out as soon as the doctors came into our room by 8am. We got cleared, but all I had to wait for was the nurse to administer my Rhogam shot before leaving. Harlo had her daddy’s positive blood, and my blood was negative so I needed the shot. We packed our bags, asked for the shot and were basically waiting by the door by 8:30am. They told us they were waiting on the Rhogam to be delivered and it would be just an hour or so. We waited, and waited, and waited and waited. I was feeling so sore, like a train had driven directly through my body. I was swollen and sweaty and so so tired. By 1:00 the Rhogam still wasn’t there and I felt a serious meltdown about to come over me. I paged the nurse (again) and begged for the shot. We wanted to go home so badly. I asked if I could just come back when it arrived. In a moment of desperation, I called my doctors office and asked if they could give me the shot and I would stop by on my way home (it was next door afterall). After that the nurse rushed in and barked that I didn’t need to call my doctor, she was just finishing her lunch and she would be right in. We got into a little bit of a heated discussion and before I knew it (not really), I had my shot and was walking to the elevator. They asked if I wanted to wait for a wheelchair, but I couldn’t wait another second. I would have run if I had to.
We loaded up our sweet baby, I got into the car and buckled my seatbelt and the meltdown ensued. I cried and cried and sobbed and cried some more the whole way home. I was where anxiety meets exhaustion meets impatience meets pure bliss. I was feeling every single emotion possible and it just came spilling out of my eyeballs. I felt like I had just been run through a rigorous system at the hospital and sobbed to Brady that I couldn’t ever do it again. This would be our only child, I thought. I cannot have another baby. Just then, I felt a spark inside myself. I felt like I had missed something. Something very important and something I needed to do in this life. I had no idea what it was, but it was something. That spark inside me grew and grew. When we got home, before I headed for the shower, I sat down and searched “birth books” on amazon. I ordered 3 to start and immediately started feeling better. I knew an answer would be in one of them. I got Harlo out of her carseat to try to feed again.
I looked at her face and knew. This is the one that is going to change everything. I knew I was a different person than I was 2 days before. I knew I was being called to something so much higher than I felt capable of. I knew that Harlo had been sent to me specifically for a purpose and she was the perfect girl for the job. Comfort washed over me. This will be the one that will change everything, I felt again, and everything is going to be just fine.
This part of the birth story usually feels like the end, but for me, this was actually just the beginning…