Jacob Peter was born a little over 5 weeks early on August 26, 2015, at 11:28 pm. He weighed a robust (for his gestational age) 5 pounds, 15 ounces, and was 18 inches long. His early entry into the world was somewhat dramatic for us, but the moment they put him on my chest I knew our family was finally complete.
Now, approximately 28 hours prior to that…
I awoke from a nap – something I was taking more and more during my third trimester since sleeping at night became quite elusive – and was a bit wet. I wasn’t having contractions, and there was no classic rush of liquid like in the movies, so I couldn’t even be sure that my water had broke. I called the doctor, who wasn’t particularly concerned since there was no large amount of liquid, and was told to come into the office the following day.
My husband had work, so my mom accompanied me to the doctor’s office. We were scheduled for our next ultrasound the following week to check up on our little man, since he was measuring large in the head department. (Side note: my husband also had an abnormally large head at birth, so I have his genes to thank for that!) Even after being examined by the doctor, she didn’t think that my water had broken, but in order to be sure she collected a sample to review under the microscope.
Two minutes later she came back into the room, and I knew immediately from her face that something was wrong. “You’re having a baby today,” she said, and I immediately burst into tears. “Are you f*cking kidding me?” was my immediate response, followed up shortly with, “No, it’s just too early.”
My doctor assured me that at 34 weeks and 6 days our son had a really good chance of doing well after birth, but that they would alert the NICU so that all bases were covered. I called my husband and just simply said to get on a train and that our son was on his way. My husband works in New York City, and had confessed earlier that month that he had this fantasy of getting “the call” while at work and telling the guys that he had to go have a kid. B got his wish, and still somehow made it back to New Jersey in record time.
Since I wasn’t having contractions, I was immediately put on pitocin upon being admitted to the hospital. No one tells you ahead of time, but pitocin contractions suck. At first they were manageable, and I thought that I would be able to follow our original plan of a birth without drugs; but, my contractions quickly intensified, and started coming one on top of another, giving me no break in between. I was having front labor, back labor, and the entire time I was confined to the bed so that they could monitor my little one and me, i.e. I couldn’t move around for any relief. At 6 cm dilated I turned to my husband and said that it was time – I needed an epidural.
Now, I was never against having an epidural per se, I just was focused on having the ability to have skin-to-skin time with my son after his birth if at all possible. Our prenatal class stressed that the more interventions you have, the more likely you are to need a Cesarean, which would restrict you from seeing the baby for the first hour or two after birth while the doctors focused on your needs. I also knew that I wanted to breastfeed and according to statistics, skin-to-skin time immediately following birth can increase your chances of successful breastfeeding by up to 80%.
The epidural was painful in and of itself, especially when you factor in that they are sticking a long needle into your spine while you’re still having contractions. The anesthesiologist had a particularly difficult time with me because my spine is twisted from a car accident when I was younger, so it took about 20-30 minutes and more tries then I care to remember to get the epidural in. Then, once it was in, my blood pressure started to crash and they had to administer several doses of epinephrine to stabilize my vital signs.
As a side comment – Ladies, apparently they can give you a button to increase your epidural if you’re feeling pain. No one told me this. My epidural was kept very low, so I was able to feel the entire birth… Next time, I’m asking for the freaking button. (Although, a word of warning from my new mom friends, over pushing the epidural button can stall the birth, so just be careful.)
After the epidural, labor progressed quickly. I was 9 cm dilated almost immediately, and for a few harrowing moments, we thought I would have to be delivered by a resident since my doctor was still in an emergency surgery. Luckily, however, he showed up just in time for me to start pushing.
Now, they say pushing is like straining to have the biggest bowel movement of your life, but until you’re actually pushing you sort of don’t know what to really do. For example, my first push I was breathing through, but that quickly stopped after my doctor yelled at me that I couldn’t be pushing hard enough if I was breathing. No breathing meant no talking either. (What happened to all the yelling I see in the movies??) I used a mirror for several contractions to try to see how my pushing affected the head coming out – Jake was crowning at that point – but once I got the hang of what I had to do the mirror was ordered away. I give women who watch their own births tons of credit, but call me old fashioned – there was no freaking way I was watching myself rip as I pushed out my kid’s big noggin.
Jake came out after about 40 minutes of pushing and was immediately rushed to the NICU doctors in the room for evaluation. B and I were praying out loud to hear that everything was okay, and I cannot convey the sense of relief we both felt after hearing those words. After being fully evaluated he was brought over to B and I for some snuggling, and I finally got my long awaited skin-to-skin time with my son while my doctor delivered the placenta and stitched me up. (Note: as he stitched, he had the nurse push my epidural button – hello, now they push it?!)
Giving birth was the most difficult thing I have ever done in my entire life, and I would have never been able to get through it without my husband by my side. He was my strength and my inspiration. His cheering to push harder focused me when I didn’t think I could last another second. And, his quiet confidence kept me calm as I worked to deliver our little premie.
Despite being over 5 weeks early, our family was incredibly lucky that Jake did exceedingly well. We’ve battled weight and billirubin issues – in fact we’re still working on that – but he was able to come home with us, and we have finally started to fall into a bit of a routine.
Welcome, JP, to our crazy family.
xoxo – SavvySleever