We welcomed our beautiful boy on Sunday, April 24th at 12:07 am. He weighed 7.4 ounces and measured at 21 inches long. But let me rewind…
On that previous Friday, already at 41 weeks and 1 day, I had a sonogram appointment to make sure there was enough fluid in my body to keep him in there a few days longer. Although I was already scheduled to get induced on the following Tuesday, we prayed he would naturally arrive before then. After Keith and I left the sonogram appointment, he went off to work and I started walking around the Union Square Market picking up dried flowers, a bag of produce and some other odds and ends. I walked around the city for a couple of hours, got some lunch, even shopped a little (typical – ha!) and then hopped on the train to make my way home. At around 6PM, I started to feel some intense pressure on my pelvis, which I’ve felt before, but it felt a lot stronger than I’ve felt in the past. Honestly, even up until that day, I barely felt anything major throughout my entire pregnancy, didn’t get any Braxton Hicks and slept reasonably well with the exception of being woken up by some killer Charlie Horse cramps in my calf a few times, something I would occasionally get, even before getting pregnant. So when I started feeling the cramping, I was on high alert.
I should also add a major factor to this story. A few weeks before I was due, Keith and I decided to get a doula. For those of you who don’t know what a doula is, you’re not alone. I first learned about Liz, and in general, what a doula was, through a conversation with my best friend. She told me about one of her friends at work, who used Liz and sang her praises. In general, her role is to help educate the couple with everything leading up to the labor, everything in between and then, to be there for the entire labor itself. Interestingly enough, I wasn’t afraid of the labor itself, but more afraid of what happens before: how will I know it’s time? when do we go to the hospital? will my water break? do I get an epidural? etc. So for those reasons alone (and so many others), after getting Liz, we felt so much more at ease going into the experience. Initially, Keith was for me getting a doula more than I was, but in the end, I’m so happy we did.
Okay, so back to the story. So yes, it was Friday evening, around 6PM and I started feeling light cramping. I knew that at this point in my pregnancy, cramping was normal, so I didn’t jump to any conclusions. The cramping sort of continued for the next hour or two, but it was pretty tolerable and I still wasn’t convinced that I was in labor. I text messaged Liz (our doula) and updated her with what was happening and that I’d keep her in the loop if the cramping intensified. It was around 9PM that I knew I was definitely in labor. What started out as what felt like period cramps, progressed into the type of cramps I read about. The “you will most certainly know when you’re in labor” type of cramps. I knew that our plan was that we’d wait it out at home for as long as we can and once the contractions got to be 3 minutes apart, we’d make our way to the hospital. The contractions, while spaced out, started getting so intense and the only place I felt even remotely comfortable was in the bathroom. Keith tried to be there for me, talk to me, rub my back, but at that point, I just wanted to be left alone while I tried to loudly breathe through each contraction. Luckily, our neighbors knew I was in labor and due any day because I HAD to have woken them up. I was that loud and when it’s happening, you don’t care about anything except just getting through it. Finally, around 1AM, I gave Liz the green light to make her way over. Once she arrived, she helped track the timing of my contractions (how many minutes apart and how long they were lasting) and informed me that if I wanted, we could still hang out in the house before rushing to the hospital. To be quite honest, at that point, the pain was so extreme, I made up my mind that I wanted an epidural and I the sooner I got it, the better.
Keith loaded all of our things into the car and we made our way from Brooklyn to Manhattan, with me moaning in the back. We also knew that once I was admitted, I wouldn’t be able to eat (a HUGE concern of mine) so on the car ride over, between each contraction, I forced down a peanut butter and banana sandwich.
Once we got to the hospital, the nurse informed me that I was 6 centimeters dilated! You have to be 10 centimeters to deliver a baby so I was considered to be pretty far along! Based on that and the intensity of my contractions, everyone thought that it was going to be a relatively quick labor. Even knowing that, the pain was so extreme, I turned to Keith and Liz and told them that I really needed an epidural to make it through the rest of the labor. To be honest, for some reason, I thought they’d be disappointed at me for not being able to do it naturally, but in hindsight, what a ridiculously stupid thought. I wasn’t trying to prove anything and Keith was 100% supportive in whatever I needed to do to get through it. Once the epidural kicked in, I felt a million times better and felt like I could actually enjoy what was happening! I made a couple of calls to my parents, text messaged my closest friends and was actually able to sleep.
Around 9AM, a new nurse came in to check on me and to see how far along I was and informed me that I was 3.5 centimeters dilated.
“WHAT? What do you mean I’m 3.5 centimeters dilated?! We were told that I was 6!!!”
Apparently, the previous nurse messed up and this entire time, I was only 3.5. You cannot even imagine how frustrating that was to hear. I felt like I took 15 steps backwards.
Over the course of the day, I gradually made my way from 3.5 centimeters to 8 centimeters and through it all, I still felt okay. We were in constant communication with our friends and family who were anxiously waiting for the green light to come to the hospital. We decided that we’d have everyone come once I was fully dilated and ready to start pushing since we didn’t want them to just be hanging out in the waiting room. We were all 100% positive that it would happen soon and that Nate would be born that Saturday, April 23rd.
Around 9PM on Saturday night, already going through this process for more than 24 hours, the doctor came in to check on me and informed us that I wasn’t opening up any further and in order to help the process along, she’d have to break my water and get me on pitocin. At this point, I started feeling the contractions again and the pain started becoming unbearable. I remember crying and telling Keith and Liz that I was so exhausted and I couldn’t do it anymore.
Two hours later, the doctor came back in to check on me and unfortunately, I wasn’t where I needed to be. She informed us that my cervix just wasn’t opening up and that we would try another round of pitocin, but if things didn’t get moving in the next two hours, I would have to get a c-section. After 28 hours, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It’s somewhat of a blur, but I’m pretty sure that I started crying at that news.
Around 11:30 PM, I was laying on my side, in agonizing pain, and started feeling the most intense pressure to go to the bathroom. I remember being so afraid/embarrassed that I was actually going to go! The doctor came in to the room and I informed her that “I really needed to go!”
“This is a very good sign! that means you’re closer to delivering the baby!”
She checked on me and all of a sudden, we all heard music to our ears!
“Helena! We’re having a baby!”
All of a sudden, I felt like I was watching a scene out of Grey’s Anatomy. It’s a moment that both Keith and I vividly remember. In the blink of an eye, the bright room lights came on, tables were pulled out, all of the delivery tools came out, the scrubs quickly went on and before I knew it, Keith was grabbing a leg and I was told to start pushing!
It was intense and I remember thinking I was going to pop numerous blood vessels on my face from pushing so hard. Twenty minutes in, I was ready to throw in the towel as I thought to myself “I’m done. I can’t do this anymore. I’m just SO d*** tired” Fortunately, I had an amazing doctor who was the perfect mix of enthusiastic but stern. Exactly the combination I needed. Finally, thirty minutes later, the doctor screamed out
“We have the head!! Now we just have to push the shoulders out!”
A few crazy pushes later, he slithered out of my body and I remember it feeling SO crazy.
Thirty hours later, on Sunday at 12:07 AM, he was finally in my arms! Hands down, it was equally the most intense, beautiful and surreal experience I’ve ever gone through, especially getting to experience it with Keith. It’s so hard to put into words, but it’s an experience I will never forget and one that could NEVER be topped. Later on, Keith said to me: “I’ve never had as much respect for you as I do right now. I don’t know how you just did that.”
Side note: some of you remember me mentioning one of my pregnancy side effects: little brown spots on my nose and cheeks (also known as Chloasma aka the Mask of Pregnancy). Totally visible in the above photo. As I got further into my pregnancy, the spots got darker and darker. Hopefully, they fade soon!
It’s crazy because people tell you “don’t worry! your motherly instincts just kick in!”and it’s so true. Sure, it’s scary and emotional and your baby feels so fragile with their floppy little head, but still, it’s YOURS and that alone makes it feel so natural. And it’s so true what they say: “It’s different when it’s your own.”
We were told that we’d have to stay in that room for two hours in order to begin the recovery process. Two hours turned into five due to zero feeling in my left leg from the epidural. The nurses wouldn’t let me get up until I had full control over it. At that point, I just wanted to get into our room and I felt so bad that Keith was still sitting in a chair, almost 35 hours later. FINALLY, at 6AM, I had feeling in my leg and we were given the okay to go into our room. We stayed in the hospital for two nights and on Monday night, we were released to go home.
Using a Bagaboo Chameleon 3 Stroller
It’s been a little over two weeks since he came into our world and while we’re both adjusting to everything, it’s all so worth it. Yes, I’m definitely a bit exhausted, breastfeeding is pretty challenging with how demanding it is and not being able to just pick up and go has taken some time getting used to. Even getting this post up has taken longer than I planned. As soon as I’d get into a writing groove, he’d start crying, but I know that soon enough, we’ll get into a smoother routine. The love you’re able to feel for another little human being is almost overwhelming and I’m so excited for this crazy new chapter.
Thank you all *so* much for following along on this journey!