Motherhood: My Birth Story
From the moment that Rob and I announced we were expecting, tons of love and support flowed our way, so I'd like to say a very heartfelt THANK YOU! Now that we're about 4 weeks removed, I'm ready to sit down and document our birth story. It's 2am as I type this, I haven't slept in days and baby is just about to wake up for her nightly feeding, but I'm smiling from ear to ear as I recall every moment leading up to the birth of Arya London Brann...
Basically 9 months of pregnancy = 9 months of severe illness, and it had all started to take a mental/emotional/physical toll. I felt like a shell of my former self and, toward the end, I actually really needed Rob's support 24/7 just to keep myself healthy and sane.
And February was a busy month. So much happened, all at the same time. Long story short, about 3 weeks before Arya arrived (and while heavily pregnant) I:
- Found out my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer
- Hosted my best friend's bridal shower lunch
- Threw my best friend's bachelorette party
- Helped my mom recover from a double mastectomy
- Saw specialist upon specialist to ensure baby B was healthy
- Dealt with pregnancy triggered hypoglycemia
- Attended our own lovely baby shower
- Managed severe pregnancy illness while Rob was away on business
- Was MOH at a fun wedding weekend
- Shot our last-minute maternity photos
- Attended hospital tours, baby prep classes and weekly OB appointments
- Checked off last-minute baby prep
...all while scarfing down any kind of pregnancy safe medication that would keep me from passing out or throwing up all day long!
The Eviction Notice
February 15th was the real beginning of it all though. That Monday I had my 37 week check-up and my first cervical exam. I know some mommies opt out of this, but I'm a control freak and needed to know what was happening up there. I still remember the look of sheer surprise on the doctor's face when she reached in -- only to be stopped pretty quickly by something. That something was Arya's head! She asked me again how many weeks along I was and then proceeded to reveal that I was 100% effaced, 2cm dilated, and baby's head was very low and engaged. She jokingly asked how my vagina/pelvis had been feeling as well, because she was surprised I was still able to walk around! I did not find this funny at that point because I was seriously contemplating riding an electric wheelchair around any Target, grocery store, or shopping center that we stepped foot in.
Mom! Mommy! Momma! Mum! Ma! Mommy!... Hiii!
Later that night, I remember waking at 2am with abdominal discomfort and texting my mom. That's always my go to: Something weird happens? Text mom. Something gross happens? Text mom. Further proof that as we begin to "adult", we still need our mommies! After explaining the crampy-like feeling, she assured me that I was still experiencing Braxton-Hicks. Toward the end of my pregnancy I had them everyday, but it reminded me that things were about to get moving!
Impatience set in, but I just carried on living life. I spent time at the hospital with my mom while she was recovering and we hung out at their house a bit once she came home. It was there that the first of my mucus plug began falling out. As if cancer isn't hard enough, that milestone stressed her out beyond belief because she was worried I'd go into labor before she got the all clear. I never told her this, but it stressed me out too because I wanted her at the hospital for delivery. I just kept telling myself to hold on until the following week, so that her doctor could lift her off bed rest. By Sunday it was clear that my contractions really were moving things along because that morning the rest of my mucus plug came out. YES it is gross but YES I did take a picture of it and send it to my mom for input lol I have no shame. Contractions were becoming more intense and timeable so we'd track them for a couple of hours, and report back to my mom for advice.
Longest Week of My Life
By Monday February 22nd, I'd had about a week of slow contractions and was looking forward to my 38 week check-up that day. Another cervical exam revealed that I had dilated from 2cm to 4cm. Then Rob asked aloud what I was thinking. "Do you think we're having a baby like, soon?"... The answer was "...soon-ish. Just keep me on speed dial the next few days, and don't go far!"...which is exactly what every wife wants to hear when their husband has a business trip scheduled that very Wednesday. Luckily she advised him that no, he wouldn't be going to Indianapolis for the NFL combine. Sorry Rob!
I didn't know (or maybe I didn't accept) that I was in very slow early labor for almost 5 days. That could be because they don't really prep you for slow early labor in any of the classes or books! You assume your water will break, contraction pain will punch you in the gut and then it'll be time to head to hospital. The only part of that scenario that happened for me were the gut punching contractions - still inconsistent but painful. Every hour that passed, my mom suggested I call the doctor's office but I'm a Taurus. So of course, I stubbornly did no such thing.
Get Thee to the Hospital!
By Thursday February 25th, I could barely sit still. I was up at 5am writhing in pain in the bathtub trying to get comfortable. I lit candles, used lavender bubble bath, played spa music, the works! Rob woke up at 8am and asked why I hadn't called the doctor yet -- duh! I was convinced they still weren't close enough. Instead I called my mom and relayed the past 24 hours, at which point she refused to advise anymore until I called the doctor. When mom gives an ultimatum, you pick up the phone and call!
After giving the nurses a quick run down, they asked me to come in at 11am for a check-up. When we arrived I was seen by the physician's assistant. She checked my cervix, looked at us quickly and said she'd be right back with the mid-wife. In the 3o seconds she was gone, my skin felt like it was buzzing. When the mid-wife arrived, she laughed and facetiously said "long time no see!" and then she checked my cervix too. This time it hurt so I barely heard her say: "Um, wow! Yup. Ok. What were you dilated to on Monday again? 4cm? Right, well I'd say you're about 6 cm now. Which means we are having this baby... today!"...
We had to ask her to repeat herself! Also, thank God I called! From that moment on, I blacked out lol...I don't even recall the drive home to pick up our stuff. But I do remember bolting inside without grabbing my shoes, purse or phone. I beelined to my yoga ball to work through the pain while Rob finished packing. I flip-flopped between crawling around on the living room floor during contractions to finding arbitrary items that I was convinced needed to go in the hospital bag. After an hour of this neurotic chaos, Rob put his foot down and forced me to stop crying, get dressed and get into the car. But just as we were leaving, he got a frantic call from the OB office asking where I was because I wasn't answering my phone and the hospital hadn't seen us check in yet! Uh-oh.
Remember earlier when I said I left my phone in the car? Yeah apparently they were calling because we should have quickly gone home to get bags and immediately rush to the hospital. Because I tested positive for GBS at week 36, it was critical that I receive at least 2 hours of antibiotics before I could start pushing and they had been waiting for me for over an hour. So leave it to me to piss off my doctor before I even got into the delivery room! Thankfully when I arrived at 2pm, they were just glad to see I was okay and the nurses took swift action getting our paperwork done at check-in.
Hello, Baby Delivery Oasis!
That's what I call the L&D department of our hospital. Even with unbearable contraction pain, I fully clocked that our private room was amazing and something we should be grateful for. I am now of the belief that private rooms make all the difference. Once I got settled and changed, my first shift nurse Joanie got me hooked to all the machines, as well as the IV of antibiotics going. I can still feel phantom pangs of cold medicine coursing through my veins. At that point, contractions were coming every 3-4 minutes and had worsened to the point that I could not move, talk, open my eyes or think straight. Things got fuzzy from here, but I do know that my doctor came in to check and I had already dilated to 8 cm in just under 2 hours. When he left, I threw up a few times. They also forget to tell you that labor makes some women nauseous and I was one of them. Kudos to Rob for holding the barf bucket. Then began the race against time -- I needed to finish antibiotics before pushing, but I was dilating very quickly.
The Magical Land of Epidural
At about 6pm, my new best friend the anesthesiologist walked in. I wanted to marry him and move to Epidural Land. Big up to all the moms who manage labor without the drugs -- I certainly don't care how big the needle is, I'd welcome one on a weekly basis if that wasn't completely insane. The reading of the paperwork is the only part I could do without. They kept asking me to consent, and the pain made we want to scream "Just stab me with the needle already, I want the juice!"...If that's not consent, don't know what is. From there on out, I was myself again and Rob filled me in on everything that went down since my blackout. Our families were now at the hospital so they came in to say a quick hello, and I texted a few close friends to give them an update. Epidural land is fun, but you can't stay forever so when my drugs started to run out after about an hour, the doctor came in to check things out again. It was a little after 7pm and I had just about reached 10 cm, which meant it was time to start pushing.
Go Team Brann!
I knew Rob was going to be an amazing support partner, but seeing it happen in the moment was beautiful. The second our doctor came in to get the show on the road, Rob turned into coach of the year. We started with a practice push which proved to be quite productive so we just kept on going from there. With a camera hanging around his neck, cell phone in one hand and my foot in the other, my husband was the definition of cool, calm and focused. He helped keep me on track, getting the most of each push because I still couldn't really feel anything down there from the epidural. Each push inched her head out further, but stalled once her shoulders reached my pubic bone. After an hour of intense pushing, I started to lose steam and felt extremely foggy and lethargic. But lo and behold, I managed to focus on coach Rob's voice reminding me that I was made to do this, I was the strongest woman he knew and that I just needed to buckle down with a few more really good pushes. It was the motivation I needed because in just 3 more, Arya's newborn baby cries pierced the delivery room. Rob and I immediately burst into tears of happiness, love, exhaustion and wonder. After being in early labor for almost a week, active labor/transition lasted only 6 hours and at 8:36pm on 2/25, we made a human!
...and Arya makes three!
This part is hard to put down into words so I won't get fancy. There's just nothing like meeting your child for the first time. The moment I saw her being lifted out of me, I recognized her immediately and felt like she'd always been here. I also felt so physically relieved, like tons of pressure had suddenly been lifted. After Rob cut the umbilical cord he came to my side with a face full of worry to make sure I was doing okay. I remember turning to him and saying that it really wasn't all that bad! He rolled his eyes and called me crazy, but after 9 months of scary pregnancy hell, my labor and delivery felt like a walk in the park. In reality, that was probably the epidural talking because I definitely had a 2nd almost 3rd degree tear. My doctor quickly got to work sewing me up, while Rob bounced between keeping an eye on me and Arya as nurses cleaned her up too. The moment I got to hold our daughter against my chest is probably my favorite moment of all time. She immediately stopped crying, grabbed hold of my finger and looked me right in the eye - I've never felt more complete, in love and at peace in my entire life. As everyone cleared the room and it was just us three, it was perfect. Life before her seems like a trivial distant thing of the past, and I cannot imagine her not being here with us. Transitioning into motherhood and breastfeeding is hard, but somehow, I know that I can do this. I will do this. Because she deserves nothing less than every happiness in this world, and we are so committed to giving it to her.
If you've made it to the end of this post, thank you for reading!! Overall, I'm completely in awe of women the world over. We are badass. No other way to put it!