I really enjoyed being pregnant. I loved feeling the baby move, seeing my body transform kind of amazed me, and I thought it was fun how nice everyone is to pregnant women. By the end, I was having trouble getting comfortable at night (or anywhere), needed help getting up off our big sectional couch, and sometimes had to give myself pep talks to stand back up after squatting down to get something from a low shelf of the pantry. I had a crazy last few weeks before baby with flying out to Vegas at 35 weeks for work due to a co-worker's family emergency. I realllly tested those Travel Director uniforms' stretchiness. I had some major foot and calf swelling from about 24 weeks onward....it would come and go (especially when I traveled), but HOLY COW. After getting checked out by a few doctors and getting an ultrasound on one leg to check for clots, they determined it was just how the baby was situated. He must have been blocking a vein/artery, so blood was pooling in my lower extremities.
Last picture before baby - taken 6 days before he was born:
On to the birth story:
I had been steadily progressing towards go time since they starting checking 'down there' at 36 weeks. I had one false alarm where I thought I was in labor. Early on Friday July 3 I woke up in the night with contractions. I ended up being awake for around 4 hours before they got painful and long enough for me to actually get up to call the dr. As soon as I called the dr, contractions stopped (SERIOUSLY?). With that in the back of my mind, I was skeptical when only 3 day later I woke up at 11pm on Monday night (July 6) with mild contractions. I'd had my 39 week appt that morning and was dilated to 3cm (no change from the week prior). I starting timing the contractions around midnight--They were about a minute long and varying in time between from 4.5-8 minutes.
I got up out of bed and walked/paced to make sure the contractions continued to intensify since the last time they had stopped when I got up. They did keep coming and started getting a little bit more intense. Between pacing, sitting on the edge of the leather recliner, and grabbing the edge of our bathroom counter- I waited them out for about 3 hours. My goal was to let Joel sleep as long as possible to make sure this was really it (and in case it wasn't, so he could get a pretty normal night of sleep if he ended up having to go to work!). I took a hot shower then woke Joel at 3 to tell him I thought this was it - he could shower and not be in a huge hurry, but then we needed to go. Our bags had all been packed for a week or two, so once he showered - we were off!
We got to the hospital around 345am (after getting detoured by brand new road construction on the way to the hospital!) and got checked in. I was still able to talk/answer questions at this point and was curious if I was having a fake out again, especially as a first time mom. I was kind of anxious at this point. Nurse checked my cervix and said I was at 7cm (holy crap!). This was really it!! I got to skip most of the vitals and normal process so they could get me into a room on the delivery wing in a hurry. Was admitted officially at 445AM. I was really excited that I had been able to get through that much of labor at home with walking/moving prior to wanting the epidural. They hooked me up to IVs since I had tested positive for something requiring 4 hours of antibiotics before delivery.
Contractions got worse fast-- I asked for the epidural around 5:30 (thank goodness). The anesthesiologist had just started surgery, so it took about an hour for them to get to me. I got my epidural around 630AM. They had the nurse on one side of me and Joel on the other to kind of "hold me steady" while they put the epidural in. Joel got a little pale/clammy during that part-- the nurse had him to go lay down and brought him juice. I think he just had trouble seeing me in that much pain since the biggest contraction yet hit while they administered the epidural and I was squeezing the HECK out of his hand. I got a bolster of lidocaine after my epidural because I could feel contractions just as bad as pre epidural on one side of my lower abdomen. The epidural helped the pain be much more manageable and get through the strongest contractions (I could barely feel anything!). Right after the put in the epidural, they said I was at 9cm (SO CLOSE!).
So excited to have the epidural!
My doctor came in to check on me around 8AM. She broke my water and put me on pitocin to help move the baby down since baby hadn't progressed down at all. Ends up my water was all that was keeping him up! She said that she guessed I'd have a baby at 1130 that morning. She was going to finish rounds at the hospital and run over to the clinic next door then she would head back to deliver the baby. I started pushing around 9:25AM with just the nurse and Joel in the room. Yes, I had an epidural - but my experience was still feeling PLENTY down there (I don't want to think about the pain level with no epidural during the pushing!!). After a few minutes of pushing, the nurse called my dr back in to check me again. She took one look at me at and said - it's time to have a baby now! The quiet, intimate scene quickly changed to lights on, Dr suited up in a full gown, hustle and bustle of nurses. A short time later - Baby Harrison was born at 9:56 AM. It was a pretty special moment when Joel told me we had a little boy (we had waited to find out his gender!).
We had a scare during those first few minutes when Harrison wasn't breathing at all. He was bagged for about 5 min as they tried to get him to respond. He finally perked up then stopped breathing again for another few minutes. Fear turned to happy tears when I finally heard him start crying and they put him on my chest for skin to skin. We didn't get much time together as he was whisked away to the specialty care nursery for chest X-rays and tests. Joel went with Harrison for the first few hours while I waited for the epidural to wear off enough to be able to go see him. Both of our parents were able to get to the hospital and be in the waiting room by the time he was born. Joel got to go out and tell them they had a new Grandson!
Those first few nights were kind of a blur - with me in the L&D wing and Harrison on another floor in the Specialty Care nursery, we had a lot of going back and forth between floors. I was in a lot of pain, so the process wasn't as simple as "just walk down there". I wanted to breastfeed him as much as possible (he had to supplement some since he was in the specialty care unit and they had different rules as to how much weight he could lose/gain before they would allow him to leave the hospital), so that meant going down there about every 2-3 hours.
After 2 days in the specialty care unit, he was released so we could all go home!
Overall - I had a great experience. The nurses and doctors at the Mother Baby Center were fantastic. The nurse shift change at 7AM gave me the exact personality of nurse I needed for each phase of labor (the nice encouraging one for pre epidural and getting the epidural, the more direct and less touchy/nice one for pushing). The only part that I was not a fan was how fast the epidural meds stop once the baby is out. I mean - they still have things to do down there that HURT. Luckily, I had a cute baby to look at for the majority of that time. Joel was a fantastic partner during the whole experience. I didn't say much/yell at all during labor - he could tell I was having a contraction every time my feet curled/tensed. He would rub my feet, or just be there. His quiet presence was perfect.
My birth experience confirmed that our doctor, hospital, and plan were just right.
Our plan? Have a baby. No - really. This is what I told my doctor my birth plan was.
Our labor classes? None. Neither of us were really wanting to take any classes and my OB said she didn't really think they were necessary if I was willing to take instructions and not necessarily "run the charge" in the room. Why would I want to run the birth? I'm not a doctor. I told her I was perfectly okay with her being in charge.
Our doctor? Super low key and relaxed. She was calm, so I was calm. My whole pregnancy she allayed me fears and told me all was well. Even in the midst of Harrison not breathing and me starting to panic a little bit, she calmed me down and told me his heart was strong, they were just having to work a little harder to get him going. She assured me that this was pretty normal for a baby born at 38.5 weeks.
We decided to savor that first week at home with just us as a family of three. Joel and I wanted to figure out feeding, sleeping, and Harrison as much as we could together.We had a few adventures out and about together before Joel had to go back to work-- home depot, the mall, out for margaritas and nachos. Mostly though, we spent the time rocking Harrison, watching him sleep, and just being together.
One week after we got home, my sister Ellen came to help/visit. Immediately after Ellen left, my mom came, then the next week Joel's mom came. They all helped us with food, cleaning, laundry, and helped my sanity once Joel went back to work, and just loved us so well.
Breastfeeding was definitely a bit of a challenge at the beginning. Little man had some trouble getting enough initially, so I was sent to see a lactation consultant. I saw two different ladies at my two different appointments -the first time was a great experience, second one was horrible. After the horrid appointment (which led to being told to use a supplemental feeding device for a week, and based on his poop color he wasn't getting the right nutrients AND that he might need his lip clipped etc), I decided that MANY women have done this whole breastfeeding thing without tubes and extra nonsense. So, I canceled my third appointment, threw away the supplemental device and went back to basics. I fed him when he seemed hungry. If he didn't seem to be getting enough from me - I gave him formula. Ya know what? A few days into that - we were both thriving. He was gaining weight just fine, I was less stressed out, and we were able to ditch formula altogether. Plus I was getting probably twice as much sleep since I no longer had to pump, breastfeed with the device, then bottle feed the remainder.
I loved my time on maternity leave. The first 6 or 7 weeks, I really was just healing. Everyday tasks like going to the grocery store were fine, but by the end of it - I was pretty tired or sore. I wanted to get out and go for walks etc, but the reality was - my body needed more time to heal. At about 7 or 8 weeks, I was finally able to get out and about like I had envisioned in all my sparkly pregnancy visions of me with baby. I started putting Harrison in one of his carriers and we'd go on adventures. Most mornings, we'd walk around the Lake for at least an hour. I wasn't walking fast, but it was good. We sent a lot of selfies to Joel at work, wishing he could be home with us too.
I had some really late nights and some days with tears. I had one night in particular that I remember - I was SO tired and Harrison kept crying and wouldn't go to sleep. 3 hours in to what turned out to be a 4 hour crying/freak out phase, I had tears running down my face rocking him and just started praying for him. This tiny, crying and writhing baby - praying for the man he would become. I was realizing in that moment, that as tired as I was - he would never be this tiny again. One day, the cries would turn into words. Those words could build others up or tear them down. That moment - me rocking that baby was an answered prayer. I can distinctly remember the night when I lived in Austin, Texas when I felt God start putting it on my heart to pray for my future children. I hoped and prayed that one day, I would indeed get married and have kids. This boy - this baby - HE was who I had been praying over for all of those years. That's amazing. God is faithful.
The transition to daycare and official end of maternity leave (this week) has been challenging. The at home daycare provider that I found suggested I drop him off for a few hours the Friday before my leave ended for a test run. I'm so glad I took her up on that offer. I went into it all happy and fine, dropped him at the door with his gear and instructions, got to my car to turn the key and the tears started flowing.
I didn't expect that. I thought I was fine - rational and knowing this time had to come. Well. feelings trumped rationality. I cried hard. Then went to the grocery and cried there while walking down the aisles. Then got myself together then got all teary in the parking lot again. I didn't want someone else to get to spend so much time with Harrison. I didn't want to miss his smiles or his milestones. I didn't want him to get attached to someone other than me. Monday went significantly better- no tears. He has been a happy, smiley baby and gets all great reports from daycare.
We've been soaking up the after work snuggles and loving the time we have.
So. I love being a mom. Being back at work is hard, but good. I'm ready for Joel to be done on nights. The transition back has been doubly strange with just Harrison and I in the evenings. Harrison overall is a pretty relaxed/chill little baby - but he can get kind of cranky at night! Joel is so good at taking over when he can tell I'm getting stressed out, so I really miss that. November can't come soon enough!