"First we had each other.
Then we had you.
Now we have everything."
Over a week later and I can still hardly believe he’s mine… the birth didn’t go quite like I expected, but the baby boy they placed in my arms is better than anything I ever could have imagined.
Here is Liam’s birth story. (Just a warning, it's long.)
At my 40 week appointment, with no sign of labor coming, we scheduled our induction for Sept 21st. My doctor prefers to schedule all of her inductions on Tuesdays and Thursdays, because she’s at the hospital all day. I was really disappointed to be put on the schedule, but I was so hopeful that I might go into labor before that day. Well, Liam was hesitant about being conceived and even more hesitant about being born—I think we probably have a stubborn little boy on our hands. (Wonder where he gets that from?)
At 6am on Sept 21st, we arrived at the hospital, only to find that we weren’t actually on the schedule. It wasn’t a big deal and they got us a room right away, but it wasn’t set up for us, so we spent some time nervously waiting for things to get started. Around 7am, our nurse Pam came in to put in my IV—we were thrilled to see her, as she was our instructor at our childbirth classes! It was nice to see a familiar face.
My doctor’s child had an accident that morning and she was running late, so we had some more time to wait before things got started. At 8am, she arrived and when she checked me, I was still at 1cm & 75% effaced. She went ahead and started the pitocin and broke my water. She had a very hard time breaking my water because the baby was still up so high—it didn’t really hurt, but it was extremely uncomfortable.
Within a half an hour, the contractions started—they were mild for about 20 minutes, then intensified. I went from being able to talk through them (with a little labored breathing) to clenching my eyes shut, my body stiffening in pain. At 10am, I was checked and I had only progressed to 2cm and I was 100% effaced. Pam asked if I was ready for my epidural. I considered it, but declined, because I knew that I wanted to be further along in my labor. Fast forward an hour later to my next internal—contractions were intense at 2 min apart, lasting at least a minute each. I could barely catch my breath before one ended and the next one began. When my doctor announced that I was still only 2cm, I was so disappointed that all of the pain I had been in didn’t seem to be doing any good.
Pam asked again about getting the epidural, and again, I declined. At 11:30 she came back and let me know that not only was I still only 2cm, but also that the anesthesiologist was going in for a scheduled c-section at noon, and I needed to make a decision about whether I wanted the epidural now, or if I wanted to wait until he was out of surgery. We talked about it, letting her know that this wasn’t our plan…that I had hoped to be 4-5cm dilated before getting the epidural, but the fact of the matter was that I simply wasn’t progressing quickly. In three and a half hours of extremely intense, regular contractions, I had only dilated one centimeter and it was impossible to tell how long it might be before I hit that magic number of 4-5cm. Pam assured me that my active labor pattern wouldn’t be slowed by the epidural and feeling extremely defeated, I agreed to get it immediately. (I was afraid if I let him go, it could be hours before I saw him again.)
The epidural was a piece of cake. The hardest part was sitting still through the contractions. The needle used to numb my back was painful, but it was nothing compared to the pain I’d felt over the past few hours. I could feel the catheter as it slid into my back, but it wasn’t painful, just a strange sensation. Within ten minutes, the pain was gone, but the shaking began. I shook uncontrollably for the rest of my labor and for a few hours afterwards—like I was shivering, only I wasn’t cold.
At 12:30pm I was 2.5 centimeters.
At 1:30pm I was 3 centimeters.
At 2:30pm I was 4 centimeters and 0 station.
I started to worry. I knew that all labors progress differently, but the fact that I had only gone 3 centimeters in the span of 5 ½ hours while being pumped full of pitocin that increased every 15 minutes didn’t sound good to me. I could tell my doctor seemed to be concerned. Watching the monitors, I could see that the contractions were about as intense and close together as they could get—out of 100, they were regularly measuring between 75-95, but still, I wasn’t making much progress.
I started asking a lot of questions about how things should be going and what would happen if I didn’t start progressing in the next few hours. I didn’t get a lot of answers. Later on, Rob told me that it was around this time that Pam pulled him out into the hallway and told him that he should prepare himself for this to turn into a c-section. She told him not to let on to me that this might be the case because it would discourage me, but that she wanted him to be prepared so that he could comfort me when the time came. (She knew that I adamantly did not want a c-section or an episiotomy.)
There was a shift change and Pam promised me that she’d find a great nurse to take care of us—and she really did. Sharon, who was with us until 11pm was an angel.
At 4:30pm, I was checked again and I was 8cm and +1 station. I had jumped 4cm in an hour! Hallelujah!! Finally, some clear progress! My spirits lifted a little bit and I started to gain confidence that things were going to be ok.
Not long after that, I started to have some pretty intense back pain. I mentioned to Sharon that I didn’t feel like my epidural was working properly. She explained that it works with gravity and that if I spent too long laying on one side (which they encouraged me to do to attempt to coax the baby down) the medicine would go towards that side of my body. So, I rolled over to the other side, but the pain didn’t go away. I tried laying on my back, but it still didn’t go away.
Sharon brought me a pump with a button that I could squeeze every 20 minutes to increase the epidural, but it didn’t seem to make a difference.
At 5pm, my doctor came in to check me herself and announced that if I was ready to push, she was ready to deliver me. Otherwise, she’d be going home and turning me over to the doctor on call. I still had a tiny lip of my cervix left on the right side and was still at +1, so I wasn’t ready. She announced that she’d update the on call doctor on my status and with that, she was gone. I was livid. My blood pressure sky-rocketed and I started crying. I always knew there would be a chance that my doctor wouldn’t be there to deliver me, but the whole reason we scheduled the induction for this day was that this was her scheduled induction day. And when I had asked Pam about the timing of things, she had told me that her shift would end at 3pm, but that my doctor would be there with me until the end. Now I was faced with having a doctor that I’d never even met deliver me, and from the sound of it, he wasn’t Sharon’s favorite to work with. If I had known that my doctor had a time limit on attending my birth (deliver by 5pm or you’re out of luck) I would have induced on Monday, my birthday.
At 6pm, I spiked a fever and they worried about the stress that this, plus the high blood pressure would put on the baby. I was still at +1. I didn’t want to push— I could feel that my body just wasn’t ready. I wanted to wait and take the time to let gravity move him down, not fight against the progress that my body was obviously not ready to make. My doctor knew this and had been willing to wait as long as we needed to, provided that the baby looked good on the monitors. The new doctor did not have the same patience. He ordered the nurse (over the phone, he wasn’t even there yet) to have me start pushing now. Sharon held off as long as she could but then told me it was time.
At 6:30, she got out the stirrups, and put my legs into them. Rob stood on one side and my mom was on the other (with my dad in the corner of the room, near my head), and with the next contraction, I started pushing. I made it through two pushes, then announced that I needed to throw up. I was so nauseated that I couldn’t concentrate on pushing. I got sick, then went back to pushing, only I felt like I wasn’t doing it right. I didn’t feel anything, not even pressure. The only thing I could feel was that it wasn’t working. Sharon announced that Liam wasn’t tolerating the pushing very well—his heart rate had dropped, so they put an oxygen mask on me and had me rest. My back still really hurt and I couldn’t get any relief from the pain.
At 7pm, the doctor swooped in, introducing himself to everyone but me as I lay there exposed with my legs in the stirrups. He sat down at the foot of the bed and said “Are we ready to have a baby?” before ordering me to start pushing. I pushed a few times, then he announced that the baby was turned sunny side up. (How he knew this so quickly and no one else seemed to, I have no idea) This is why Liam was not coming down and why I had such horrible back pain. (When he was born, the top of his head had a large bruise on it where it had been butting up against my pelvic bone all day.) I watched the horror on my mom and Rob’s face as the doctor stuck his hand in me (practically up the elbow), reached into my uterus and turned the baby. The doctor had me push a few more times, then left, telling us to continue pushing.
Yes, I said the doctor left!!
Later, one of the nurses said that she thinks that he went to check on a gynecology patient on another floor. All I know is that he was nowhere to be found.
After a few more pushes, we took a break for a few minutes. It was around 7:15pm, and I suddenly felt this intense pressure that went from uncomfortable to unbearable. Panicked, I said, “I think the baby’s coming!!” and Sharon said, “Don’t push!!” I told her that I wasn’t pushing but that it felt like he was coming anyway. She grabbed two other nurses and told me to push slightly, then immediately told me to stop—the baby was crowning. The next few minutes were a blur as nurses rushed in and out of the room, up and down the halls, looking for the doctor, preparing the tools needed for delivery. Sharon looked at me and told me that it looked like she’d be delivering this baby, that they couldn’t find the doctor. She told me not to worry—that everything was going to be ok. And I believed her. In fact, I trusted her more than I trusted the doctor—she was my advocate from the beginning.
But make no mistake, I was terrified. I was scared of the pain that I felt in my back. Scared that something bad would happen to Liam when his cord was compressed as I pushed. Scared that something would go wrong that the nurses were not prepared to handle. Scared that I’d need an episiotomy, or worse, the c-section that I dreaded. Instead of feeling like I was in a calm environment where everything was taken care of and truly would be ok, I felt like things were in complete chaos and were out of control. I looked at Rob helplessly and he wiped tears off of my face as they ran off of the oxygen mask. He looked me in the eye and told me that I could do this-- and although I really felt like I couldn’t, I knew I didn’t have a choice.
So, I started gently pushing again as Sharon instructed me to and as I pushed, the doctor wandered back in. I pushed twice and Rob told me that he could see the baby’s head and that he had dark hair! I couldn’t believe we were so close. The doctor asked me if I wanted a mirror and one appeared as soon as I said yes. As I started to push again, Rob, my mom, and the doctor all said, “Open your eyes! Open your eyes, Stef!” and when I did, I saw my son’s face as it entered the world. (And yes, I’m crying as I type this as I look at that same face which has already changed so much in a week, swinging beside me.) The doctor told me that he needed one last push, which he instructed me to start and stop several times and at 7:31pm Liam tumbled out into his arms.
The doctor placed him on my chest as Rob and I touched him, held each other and cried. It felt so unreal that he was finally here, that he’s perfect and healthy and that the worst part was over. They carried him over to the warmer where he was checked out and received a fantastic 9/9 on his apgar. He was 7lbs 5oz and 21 ½ inches long. Immediately, we recognized my nose and Rob’s toes among his features.
Rob, my mom and my dad followed him to the warmer where he stayed for some time with everyone fawning over him while I was repaired. No episiotomy, just a 2nd degree tear when his shoulders were delivered. The only problem was that I was losing a lot of blood. The pitocin was turned up and a second bag was added while the doctor massaged my uterus. After a few minutes, the bleeding slowed and the doctor was able to stitch me up. The only difficult part was that due to the extra pitocin, I had intense contractions for hours after the birth and my epidural had worn off. I couldn’t take any Percocet until I had eaten, but who wants to eat while they’re having contractions?! I managed to eat a little, just so they’d give me the meds.
We spent some time with family, then everyone cleared out so that Rob and I could have some time alone with Liam. The three of us climbed into the hospital bed together as I breastfed Liam for the first time and we both stared at him in awe.
I haven’t talked yet about how amazing Rob was throughout the whole birth. He never left my side from the very first contraction until after our son was born. He watched the monitors to tell me when contractions would subside, he held my hand, he rubbed my belly, he got me ice chips, he counted when I pushed, he pulled my hair back when I got sick and he watched every moment as our son entered the world. I couldn’t have asked for anything more from him—he made a terrifying and exciting day a little less scary and a lot more exhilarating. I was so lucky to have him.
That night, when they took Liam to the nursery for a few hours for his bath, checkup and midnight weigh-in, we tried to get some sleep. Every time there was more than a minute or two of silence, one of us would say, “Can you believe it? We have a son!” and we’d spend another half hour exclaiming over each of his features. Sometime around 2am, I dozed off and woke up startled—Rob was leaning over my bed, kissing me on the cheek. When I opened my eyes, he looked at me and simply said, “I was thinking about the baby.”
So that’s his story—I (narrowly) escaped the c-section and episiotomy and had a little bit of drama, but in the end, got exactly what we wanted: our beautiful son.
Here are some more pictures from his birthday: