I shared this story on my Instagram weeks ago but I wanted to put it into writing so I can save it and remember it in detail forever. Let me preface this by saying, giving birth wasn't something I was 'afraid' of during my pregnancy. I was more afraid losing feeling in my body because of the epidural and what the room I was staying in was going to look like. Sounds funny, but it's true. In a weird way, I was lucky that TJD came 3 and a half weeks early because it didn't leave me time to anticipate his arrival or wait around and guess what day may be the day. He was just suddenly here and while that came with its own challenges, in a way, being unprepared made me face the labor & delivery process head on and it turned out to be a great experience. Anyways, on to the birth story...

At around 2:30am on Thursday, 1/21/21, I woke up with what felt like strong stomach cramps. I got up, walked around a bit and tried to stretch to see if they would go away. I assumed the baby had shifted positions or I was having Braxton Hicks contractions and thought they would go away shortly. I tried to go back to sleep but couldn't because I was so uncomfortable so I woke up Jody and he immediately wanted to go to the hospital. I said no way; it was too early for me to be going into labor & they would send us home. For the rest of the very early morning, I paced around, took a shower and tossed and turned waiting for the contractions to go away but they didn't. We started timing them and they were coming about every 5-8 minutes for 30-40 seconds at a time. At 8am when my OB's office opened, I gave them a call, still not convinced that I was having actual contractions. I had luckily had such a textbook, low risk pregnancy that I had convinced myself the baby was going to make us wait and come after his due date. They told me a doctor wouldn't be in until around 11am and to come in then to be checked out, just in case.

Side Note: Jody had knee surgery the week before Christmas and was supposed to heal for about 8 weeks. At this point, it had been 4 weeks since his surgery so he was still using crutches and unable to drive. 

My dad came and picked us up for the doctor and the 30 minute drive to the office was uncomfortable. I rolled around the back seat trying to find a comfortable position. (STILL wasn't convinced this was labor!) I went right in to see a doctor who checked me and told me I was 3cm dilated. I was shocked! I had been sure that they were going to tell me that the baby had shifted and go to home and put my feet up and try to relax. The doctor warned me it could still be days or weeks before I went into active labor and to go to the hospital when the contractions got too intense for me to handle or if my water broke. I made an appointment for the coming Monday and I would be checked again. 

On the car ride home, things really intensified. I had to ask my dad to pull over at one point so I could get out of the car and walk around. We got home and only spent about a half hour at home before we decided we should head to the hospital. I was struggling to walk or talk through the contractions at that point. Because I am so Type A, I had started packing our hospital bags but hadn't finished so we threw some snacks, toiletries and outfits into our bags and made another 30 minute car ride to the hospital. 

When we arrived around 1-2pm, they registered me right away and took me to a small exam room to get checked out. The nurses were so friendly and professional that it put me at ease immediately. After getting my COVID test (it was negative!), they checked me and told me I was 5cm! I couldn't believe I had progressed that much in only a few hours. One of the doctors told me 'You're having a baby tonight!' I couldn't believe it!

No visitors or support people were allowed except for Jody, but I was glad that he was able to stay with me during the whole process. We got moved into a private labor & delivery room where my contractions & the baby's heart rate were monitored & they hooked me up to an IV (honestly, the IV was the worst part of the whole thing). Once my negative COVID test came back, I was able to remove my mask which was a relief while pushing.  They asked me if I wanted an epidural and like I mentioned above, that was the part of the process that I had been most nervous about. I was scared to be completely numb below the waist and not be able to move around at all. I told the nurse I wanted to wait and see how things went.

My water still had not broken so around 3p, my doctor came in to break my water. I thought it was going to be some big moment like it is in the movies but truly it just felt like I was peeing my pants and couldn't stop, no matter how hard I tried hah -- it was the weirdest sensation. After my water broke, the contractions got even more intense and I decided to get the epidural. Jody had to leave the room for the procedure but it was really quick. The hardest part was staying completely still so they could insert the needle and the catheter. Once that was done, it took about 10 minutes to feel relief. I was thrilled to find that while I couldn't walk around, I could still feel the lower half of my body, including when I was contracting and controlling my legs, but the intensity of the contractions was gone and I was sooo much more comfortable. The only side effect I had was that my body got super itchy all over. It was hard to keep myself from scratching.

We waited for a couple more hours and then around 5:30pm the nurse mentioned to me that if the contractions started to get strong again, they could up the dosage of the epidural for some additional relief. I thought that sounded like a good idea but when she went to get the doctor for him to check me and OK the higher dosage, he said I was 10cm and to get ready to start pushing in about a half hour!

Second side note: Because of COVID & because I thought I had 3ish more weeks before delivery, we did not take any labor & delivery courses. I had watched one Zoom session about labor, delivery & mindset and had also followed and saved a lot of IG posts from The Positive Birth Company. I love their account since it's all about framing the labor & birthing process in a positive way, ie. contractions mean one step closer to meeting my baby. The main mantra that I learned from them was 'your body knows what to do and was made to do this.' I repeated that to myself a lot and it truly helped me stay in a positive & calm mindset through the entire process.

Around 6pm, my doctor came in and said it was time to start pushing. For the next 4 HOURS, every time I felt a contraction coming on I would push for 10, breath, push for 10, breath, push for 10 and relax. Honestly, it was really hard work and keeping my stamina up was tough for that long. Jody was fantastic through all of it (remember he is working with a recovering knee during this whole thing). He gave me water, held a fan on me and supported my head & neck while I was pushing. To give you a sense of 4 hours, there was a TV in the room and we watched all of Moana plus episodes of Celebrity Wheel of Fortune, The Chase & Family Feud. 

The doctors & nurses switched shifts and all the while, I was still there trying to push this baby out. Every 2-3 minutes....push for 10, breath, push for 10, breath, push for 10, relax. I remember saying a few times during the whole process, "I can't believe this is happening." I had no signs that I can think of that I was going to go into labor early. As mentioned, my pregnancy was low risk & pretty textbook. I had appts lined up with my doctor going up to week 40. I had spoken to my boss days earlier and told her I planned to work until February 5th & had spoken to a friend only the night before and said I was feeling fine & wanted to get my hair done before the baby came!!

At around 9:30, my doctor came in and told me that they usually start looking into other options after 3 hours of pushing. He explained that they could use a vacuum to suction the baby out but it was up to me since my vitals were still strong as were the baby's. I was exhausted but also felt so discouraged at the idea of using a vacuum. I teared up a little as I told Jody I felt like we had come so far and were so close. Part of me also just wanted the baby out already. I decided to keep pushing on my own for a little while longer. For the next half hour, I really focused & pushed as hard as I could for as long as I could. Finally around 10pm, we were getting somewhere. The nurse pushed a button and an army of doctors & nurses showed up within seconds. There were about 4 doctors & nurses standing over me, 2-3 more over by the baby's station and the lights got turned wayyyy up. There was so much energy and with my next push came the most bizarre sensation as the baby's head came out. It took 2 more pushes to get his body out and then he was here at 10:10pm.

Because he was in the birth canal for so long they rushed him over to his station to check his vitals. I delivered the placenta which felt like the biggest sigh of relief as it came out and then needed some stitches as I had some second degree tears. All the while, I watched our baby from across the room and except for a floppy little ear that had gotten squished while he was being born, he was strong & healthy & perfect at 6 lbs, 3 oz & 20 inches long.

As quickly as everyone entered the room, they all left and let us be alone for the first time as a family of 3. We got moved to a recovery room overnight where they monitored both of us every couple of hours. The next morning, we were told since the baby was born before 37 weeks, he was considered late pre term and would be kept an extra day for monitoring. In addition to the standard hearing tests & newborn screening, nurses checked Tanner's blood sugar levels & did an EKG to make sure he was thriving. We got moved into a private recovery room to stay for another night and were sooo looking forward to getting home the next morning. That morning we found out his bilirubin levels were high and he would need to be placed under the blue lights for about 24 hours to treat jaundice. At the time, it felt devastating to me, to be honest. I just wanted to be home & had been told over & over & over again by my doctors that they had expected me to be in and out in 24 hours so I had really only packed for a one night stay. The other part that really upset me was that I got discharged, so Tanner had to be moved to the pediatrics floor and only one parent was allowed to stay with him. Only 2 nights in and I was going to be alone with him. Add in hormones, a body that was freshly healing & lack of sleep and as you might guess, there were a lot of tears as Jody had to leave that night. Looking back, we are grateful that all of these tests were done & the jaundice was taken care of while we were still in the hospital. Going home only to have to go back to the hospital because something was wrong would have been even more devastating. His levels went down after about 18 hours under the blue light and after one last check up, we were cleared to go home on day 3! 

The last 4 months have been the most challenging and unsure of my whole life but also the most fulfilling and happiest. If you made it to the end, congrats; I love our story and want to remember every detail forever. 

XO, Michelle