Strangely, and perhaps somewhat morbidly, this story starts with a death.
Last Monday morning around 8am, our family’s cat died. We’ve had her for 15+ years since she was a kitten. It had already turned into a stressful morning–my mom’s assistant called out sick and I rushed around getting ready to unexpectedly go to work with her. While I was throwing on clothes, my mom ran into the bathroom and told me Artemis had fallen off the ottoman she always sleeps on and began wheezing and twitching. We rushed over to her, stroking her fur and watching as over the course of a minute or so, she stopped breathing.
We wrapped her in an old scarf and placed her in a shoebox, but we had to rush to work shortly after. My mom was sad and crying all day, and the only thing that kept me from doing the same was trying to remain calm for her. During the past month, there have been so many times when I’ve missed her, but we’ve all felt like she seemed to have timed her departure perfectly to make room for the new addition to our family.
That day I also had an ultrasound and another OB appointment, which were respectively alarming and disappointing. The former estimated baby was 8 pounds and the latter showed I wasn’t much changed from my last appointment–2cm dilated, 60% effaced, -2 station–not favorable enough for the hospital to allow my doctor to induce labor at 39 weeks, despite recent evidence suggesting it would likely lead to a better outcome. So much to my frustration, she sent me home to do more exercising, waiting, etc.
And on my end, that’s what I kept doing. That night after dinner I headed to the gym as I had every other day for the past month.
As I started walking to the locker room though, something felt a little different. By now I’d had Braxton-Hicks contractions for a while, but something about them felt a little stronger and a bit more frequent. I wasn’t sure what it was, but it felt mild enough that I was still able to swim for 30 minutes. By the time I was showering at home, however, I noticed both a “bloody show” and that when I began to count, each tightening was coming at a regular interval and lasting the same amount of time.
I didn’t tell anyone, just texted a friend who’s in OB residency and whom I knew was working nights. The contractions were mild at that point, and I would need Bill and my mom to be rested for tomorrow, when the real craziness would begin, so I let everyone go to bed like normal. Taking a breather for a brief contraction every eight minutes or so, I prepped snacks and packed for the next day.
Around midnight, I called my OB and told her my frequency, duration, and length and said I was going to try to rest overnight. She suggested taking a Benadryl to help me sleep while I waited, so I did. As I headed to bed, I think I actually did catch 6- or 7-minute snatches of sleep thanks in part to the drug.
Around 4am, I was starting to have more trouble holding up. I woke Bill and my mom up and began to get up and walk around, and found that doing so made the contractions come every 3 minutes instead of every 6. By now, it was hard to get through one without someone or something to hold onto, although the time in between contractions was now foggy because of the Benadryl. Finally at 5 with most things ready, we called the OB at 5 and she said we could head into the hospital.
Once I got in, they hooked me up to fetal and uterine monitors, but upon checking my cervix found that I was only 1 more centimeter dilated than I had been at my appointment the day before. Normally, this meant I could go home, but the fetal monitor showed less movement than they wanted to see, so they admitted me instead. I wasn’t allowed to walk because of the monitors, and before long because my contractions had backed down to once every 6 minutes again, they wanted to give me pitocin.
And so even though I’d originally wanted to hold off on an epidural until I was more dilated, I went ahead and requested it before they could start the pitocin drip since I’d heard it could severely increase the pain, and I was already struggling through the contractions that did come.
Y’all, let me tell you. Epidurals are magical. After it took effect, my mom commented on how I went from being irritable and on edge to joking around and even falling asleep. Each contraction now just felt like a light amount of pressure even though the uterine monitor showed them rapidly increasing in both force and frequency.
At my next check in a few hours, I’d dilated to 8cm, was fully effaced, and was told I’d soon be ready to start pushing. The only minor wrinkles were that (1) my blood pressure, which has always run low, was running especially low because of the epidural and (2) I had started to run a mild fever, which at first alarmed me, but I was told it was quite common during labor. They started me on ephedrine and a few antibiotics, which helped return things to normal.
Finally at around 4:30pm, the OB arrived and they got out the stirrups. I had a feeling I’d be a fairly good pusher–I’ve always had a pretty strong core, even though it was stretched out and fairly underused for the last eight or so months–and true to form, ten minutes later Zoe (in the OB’s words) “shot out like a torpedo.” Despite the epidural, I felt all her limbs one by one flailing out like an octopus–not painful, just weird–and after what felt like an eternity of blood tests and screenings, I finally got to hold her in my arms.
She looks exactly like Bill, and after looking her over head to toe the only things I could find which seem to be from me are her hands and her elbows. Now as I write this, it’s funny to share that even her Circadian rhythms– when she’s most awake and when she can’t stay awake– are exactly like her dad’s. Sadly, I’m outnumbered by night owls in our family now, and will forever be struggling to get them out of bed in the mornings.
And… that was just the beginning of becoming a mom. Here’s one more picture from today, now more than a pound heavier (look at that double chin!).
Anyway, she’s about to wake up from her nap and from what it sounds like, she’s pooping up a storm, so that’s all for now. Hopefully will get to write about the rollercoaster that has been my postpartum experience in the near future as well. Until then, thanks for reading. It’s been great connecting with so many other parents and reading their stories and experiences; would love to hear yours!