The Big Day…
January 6th started out like any other day late in my pregnancy. We woke up really early to a snowy morning, the first real snow in Pittsburgh that winter. I took Scotty to work and we had time to nap in the car in his company’s parking lot. Sleep was hard for me to come by because I had terrible sciatic nerve pain the whole last few weeks of my pregnancy. Scotty finally went in to work and I headed to my office about twenty minutes away.
When I was getting off the exit, I started to fish tail and managed to get the car under control and back into my own lane. I made it to work safely without any other near-accidents.
I spent the morning working and thinking of New Year’s resolutions (nothing like procrastinating!) because I’d decided it wasn’t too late to make a list to try to stick to, even though it was already 2015.
Around 9:30, I went to the bathroom for the 3rd or 4th time that morning. My back and leg pain was awful and it took a long time to even be able to sit down to go to the bathroom. I remember washing my hands and then holding onto the sink and rocking my hips back and forth to try to ease some of the pain I was experiencing.
Yep, even now, I didn’t realize I was in labor.
Finally I walked back to my office and just as I walked in, I felt a small gush.
I figured I was wetting myself so I closed the door and walked over to my desk to get a tissue (I still have no idea what I thought I was going to do with a tissue if I was peeing my pants…) when all of the sudden there was a huge gush of clear fluid. I knew immediately that my water had broken.
I called Scott and he answered the phone so sweetly. I didn’t even say hello I just blurted out “my water broke!” He said “are you serious?” To which I responded “my water broke, get here!”
He asked me where to go but I honestly had no idea. We had just switched from our doctor to the local midwife center in downtown Pittsburgh. I knew that at just 34 weeks 6 days, I probably wouldn’t be allowed to deliver at the birth center. We hung up deciding I would call around and see where to go.
I walked over to my office door, opened it, and yelled for my co-worker whose office was right next door. I said “can you come here?” She walked over and I said “can you get me some paper towels? My water broke.” She rushed to get me paper towels and came back and sat in my office with me. At some point, my other co-worker and dear friend came and knocked on my door to give me my mail.
We quickly ushered her in and got her up to speed. The rest of my time at the office was a blur. I remember calling the midwife center and waiting for a call back, calling my PCP’s office and learning that they couldn’t help because I was already transferred to the midwife center as a patient, and then hearing back from my midwife that we would have to go to UPMC Mercy, a hospital in downtown Pittsburgh.
The midwife did tell me that we would probably have a baby today, to take our time, but get to the hospital as soon as we could safely do so since I was so early. She asked me if I’d felt the baby move yet today, and I honestly hadn’t. At least not that I could recall. That’s when I started to get really nervous. My mind was flooded with a million thoughts and I just kept telling my coworkers “I’m not ready, I’m not ready, I’m not ready…Oh my God this is going to hurt!”
One coworker kept going to the kitchen to get me crackers and they watched as I chugged as much water as I could. I learned that dehydration only makes your contractions hurt worse, so loads of water could be just the ticket to help keep me comfortable.
Finally, two hours after my water broke, Scott got to my office and one of my coworkers let him in. It was then that the receptionist (another great friend of mine), found out what was going on. She came up to me teary eyed and gave me a big hug as I was walking up front to leave. One of my coworkers pulled our car up front and everyone wished us well.
As you can tell, I was truly so spoiled with amazing coworkers. I couldn’t have been more lucky.
On the way to the hospital, Scotty said he really had to pee but would hold it or pee his pants if I didn’t want to stop. This is still hilarious to me. I can just picture us both pulling up to the hospital with soaked pants!
I told him I wasn’t in any pain so to stop at the rest area that was on our way. I also asked if he would stop at a Rite Aid and buy me nail polish so I could paint my toes. Like any reasonable spouse in this situation, he said “would you please just check your make up bag to see if you have some?” I actually did have a bottle with me and painted my toes at the rest area while I waited for him to go to the bathroom.
I realize how ridiculous this sounds now, but I was so afraid the doctor was going to see my chipped up toe nail polish and judge me. I guess I assumed that good first time moms have perfectly pedicured feet? My poor husband… He encouraged me to tilt my seat back and try to nap. It wasn’t until we were almost downtown that I realized I should be on my hands and knees to try to prevent back labor. I switched positions and held onto the back of the passenger seat as a migraine set in.
When we finally arrived at UPMC Mercy, we parked the car right out front and made our way to the elevators. I had no idea where I was going and was mainly concerned with the trail of liquid I was leaving everywhere I went. I didn’t realize that your body can actually continue to make amniotic fluid, so all of the water I drank was helping me to leave quite an admirable trail throughout the hospital.
Finally, we made it to our floor and began to get checked in. We were shown to a small room and answered some of the nurse’s questions. I got into a hospital gown and waited for our midwife to come back into the room.
I decided to wait on my hands and knees as my “back pain” was pretty intense at this point. The nurse came back into the room and asked if I was having contractions. I said “no, just back pain.” She said “honey if you’re not having contractions, you’re havin’ somethin’.”
Finally our midwife came into the room to examine me. I had only had one appointment at the midwife center, and luckily, the only midwife I had met with was the one who was on call at the hospital that day.
The second she checked me she said “well, I see hair.”
I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that that meant I was pretty far along. She said “you’re 7 centimeters, we’re probably going to have a baby pretty soon.”
She and the nurse left and Scott and I looked at each other and he just started crying. I immediately started crying and reached out for him. He started to reach for my hand but then said “no, I have to get it together” and walked to the other side of our small room to compose himself.
When the nurse came back into the room, she said people would be there soon to wheel my bed down to the delivery room. I was pretty uncomfortable at this point and didn’t want to be stuck in bed. I asked if I could just walk if it wasn’t too far. She seemed surprised that I wanted to walk across the hospital floor to get all the way to our room, but I told her I figured it could only help.
I don’t remember much of the walk, but I remember getting to the delivery room and just standing there shifting my weight from foot to foot. The nurse encouraged me to get into the bed, but I truly felt fine standing. I finally got into the bed and contracted for a little while longer. By the time the OB came to examine me, she checked and I was 10 cm dialated. She asked if I was feeling an urge to push and I told her that I wasn’t, I just had back pain.
Against my wishes, they insisted that I have an IV because my rapid strep test wasn’t going to get back in time and we should have some antibiotics on board. The nurse tried twice to get an IV into my left hand. I’ll always remember how vocal she was about digging around in my arm trying to find a vein. I HATE needles, IVs, anything sharp, so I was in my own personal hell.
Finally she said that she “only tries twice” and was going to get another nurse to put an IV in my right arm. That time, the IV went smoothly. I looked to my left and saw a fair amount of blood on the floor from the first nurse’s failed attempts. I obviously was not happy with her by this point.
At some point, I was on my knees hugging the back of the hospital bed while my midwife rubbed my back. My midwife Amanda had been suggesting new positions for me to try. While I was in this position, I heard my doula Sara come into the room and the midwife quickly got her up to speed on how I was progressing. I remember just trying to focus and I didn’t acknowledge her arrival.
Finally, my midwife suggested I wait for 2 more contractions and then she would teach me how to do some practice pushes. They kept telling me to push like I was having a bowel movement, but this tactic didn’t work for me.
My midwife, Amanda, put her hand where I needed to push and told me to push against her hand. That helped me significantly. They asked me to try a few different positions. They asked me to stand on my feet on the bed, bend my legs into a squatting position and lean over a bar they attached to the bed. This felt ridiculously uncomfortable and I only pushed once or twice this way.
As I was pushing, I could feel liquid continuing to gush. I asked if I was peeing and they told me yes a little, but not to worry about it. I guess at some point they decided I was peeing too much and they had me go to the bathroom to try to pee.
It was the pushing that was causing me to pee all over the place, not the actual urge to pee, so I couldn’t go when I was in the bathroom. The back pain made it too difficult to even sit down to try.
Finally, back in the bed, Scotty held my right leg while Sara held my left and I continued to push. I remember feeling cold when I first got into the room, but I decided against asking them to turn the heat up, even when the nurse asked. As I was pushing I remember feeling incredibly grateful that I didn’t ask for it to be any hotter in the room. I was sweating and felt very hot.
I kept telling everyone that I was sorry that I was so bad at this because I could tell my pushes weren’t making much progress. I finally asked Amanda the midwife if she was annoyed with me and she responded that she was annoyed I wasn’t believing in myself. I told myself okay, that’s it, you’re a bad ass. You can do this.
I kept thinking that I needed to keep my hands loose and not tense. I also remembered that I’d heard I could be in a coma and my body would deliver the baby for me. For some reason, those two thoughts brought me so much comfort in labor. I kept thinking, even if I completely suck at pushing, this baby is going to come out on its own.
During my frustration with myself, Amanda said “Jamie look at me. Every time you push, I see this much of the head” and she held up her thumb and forefinger about two inches apart. I responded “that’s it??”
I honestly thought she was referring to the baby’s head descending out of my cervix. I had no concept that my cervix was completely gone and that she meant she could actually see that much of Nugget’s head coming out. They kept encouraging me to give three pushes with every contraction. My first push was always okay, my second was very weak, and my third was always my best performance.
During one contraction, I started to push and said “oh, that was a dud” and laid back and waited for the contraction to pass. I was like “I’ll try harder with the next one.” Everyone chuckled. Scotty still talks about that to this day.
Finally, I could feel the head. This made all the difference with my pushes. I could feel what I needed to push out and I felt like all of my pushes were amazing after that. They asked me to reach down to feel the head coming out and I reached down quickly with my right hand, but my IV caught and I quickly switched and reached down with my left.
I could feel the Nugget’s slimy, wet head. FINALLY, we were getting somewhere.
During one of my contractions, the OB came into the room and yelled for me to stop.
Suddenly, the room flooded with people.
To my left, I could see lots of people in hospital robes and face masks waiting. The OB quickly got her hospital robe and gloves on and all of the lights in the room came on. I was handling the pain really well, but the sudden realization that “this is it” was making me really nervous.
I started rolling my head around on the bed and said “I can’t do it.” I think I had a quick case of performance anxiety. It was then that I learned what tactic really works for me when I’m not believing in myself…
The OB looked at me and sternly said “look at me.” I looked and she said, “here’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to give me two more good pushes, and you’re going to deliver the baby’s head. Then we’re going to have you stop for a second, then you’re going to give me another good push and we’re going to deliver the shoulders and then you’ll have your baby. Okay?”
That was all I needed. I did exactly as they said. I felt the “ring of fire” as I delivered his head. Then they told me to give them another good push and suddenly, there he was!
We decided to not find out the baby’s sex, so I had no idea if I had a son or daughter. They asked me what the baby was and Scotty and I tried to get our bearings enough to look. Finally, I looked down and saw that he was a boy and looked at Scott and said “I told you so!”
Scotty started crying as soon as he saw him. He cut the umbilical cord right away. He didn’t wait for the cord to stop pulsing. I heard our doula start to say something about it, but she quickly stopped. This was another thing in my unwritten birth plan that wasn’t followed.
In my mind, I knew they were wanting to get the baby to the NICU specialists to be looked over and I felt like waiting for the cord to stop pulsing was time they weren’t going to be willing to give me. I was fine with it in the moment and looking back, I still think we did the right thing getting Nugget to the specialists as quickly as possible.
They whisked the baby off to the other side of the room and I could hear him crying. I looked over and saw them weighing him. They took his temperature and he let out this loud “weeeeee!” sound. Scotty and I looked at each other and Scotty chuckled and said “he didn’t like that!”
While they were taking care of the baby, I started to shake pretty violently. Scotty got nervous and said “you’re shaking” and looked very concerned. I told him this is normal, it’s okay. I remembered reading that some of the baby’s blood enters the mother’s bloodstream during delivery causing a lot of shaking, but that it’s completely harmless. I think that, combined with the crazy adrenaline I was feeling, just made me shake like crazy. I remember it not lasting long, but that the midwife or doula confirmed that this was completely normal.
Amanda said I needed one stitch. I tensed up as she gave me a shot of numbing medication, but I didn’t feel any more discomfort from that.
Then, the nurse who couldn’t do my IV came over and without telling me anything, gave me a catheter. I yelled “what the hell?” And Sara held my hand until it was over. The nurse said she needed to get a clean catch.
This is a big part of the reason that I want to deliver my future babies in a birth center. I don’t want to be poked and prodded. I felt very disrespected in that moment. I have the utmost respect for nurses and all that they go through, but this particular nurse just does not have the best memory in my mind.
Just then, someone yelled out the Apgar scores…9 and 9. We were elated!
Nugget was given back to us and everyone started to funnel out of the room. I think that’s when I realized that Nugget was going to be okay. No one seemed concerned anymore. I tried to nurse him right away, but I had no idea what I was doing and his instincts weren’t kicking in either. He was exhausted and wanted nothing to do with nursing.
Our doula Sara left eventually leaving Scotty and I to marvel at our new little family.
The phone rang a little while later, it was my best friend. She was supposed to be there for the birth, but was at work and with the crazy weather plus how excited our baby was to make his appearance, she just couldn’t make it.
Scotty handed me the phone and she yelled “do you have a baby on your chest right now?!” She couldn’t believe I had him already – I couldn’t either!
She came straight to the hospital and was the first to hold him. We called two of our closest friends who happen to be married to each other, and told them we had the baby. They asked if they could come visit.
Scotty and I kind of looked at each other debating what to say. We had agreed no visitors at the hospital, but then we said yes absolutely. Please come. We never turn down an opportunity to hang out with these two.
They showed up in record time. They even brought me pasta with red sauce because she over heard me telling Scotty that they had brought me meat for dinner. I thanked her a million times. I was so grateful to have a warm meal.
Our friend said that Nugget looked like a little glow worm. She was amazing with him. Her husband refused to hold him, which was so cute in its own way. He’s apparently terrified of holding babies until he feels like they aren’t breakable anymore. I loved the first time he held Nugget after this because I knew he was finally getting big enough to not be seen as breakable!
Breastfeeding and Post-Partum Care
Every 2 hours, someone was coming into the hospital room to wake me up. They kept waking Nugget to check his glucose levels and kept doing heel sticks that really upset him.
A nurse came in the second night we were there and said we were going to have to supplement Nugget with formula. She said that his glucose levels were dropping and that they were going to continue to drop because he wasn’t nursing well yet and that they would have to take him to the NICU and I wouldn’t see him.
I quickly agreed because I didn’t want them to take my baby away. Nugget nursed on the bottle for a long time, but when the nurse stood the bottle upright to see how much he’d consumed – it was barely any. She commented that he had done a lot of work to get almost no formula. She eventually gave up with him not eating very much of it at all.
I’m so thankful he barely had any formula. This was the only time my child has ever even tasted formula.
The next day, two women came into our room, at least one of them was wearing a suit. They apologized that Nugget had been supplemented and said that the nurse was being handled. I told them that I had agreed to it because I didn’t want them to take Nugget away and I told them what the woman had said about his glucose levels. They said no, if his levels would drop to a certain number, at that point they would discuss supplementing, but that he wouldn’t have been taken from me.
They seemed very frustrated that Nugget had been given formula. I think it must have been the fact that I was a midwife center patient. Most midwife mommies are diehard breastfeeders, which is exactly what I wanted.
We had a wonderful lactation consultant. She was an older lady with such a great charisma and I called her the baby whisperer. I would try for hours to get Nugget to nurse. She would come in the room and basically just tell him what to do and by some miracle it worked.
The baby whisperer told Scotty that his job are the diaper changes, the nail clippings, basically everything and that mom’s job is to be the 24 hour deli. She put a pillow on my lap and said “okay Mr. Nugget, dinner is served.” She was such a warm lady and I love her to this day for how easy she made breastfeeding seem.
She gave me a nursing shield which is what saved our breastfeeding relationship.
Nugget was too small to really latch on by himself. The nipple shield really helped him to latch on and the milk that I could see inside of it after our nursing sessions reassured me that he was actually getting milk.
We finally weaned off of the nipple shield around month 3, but I would absolutely use one again if I had another tiny baby.
When we were discharged on January 8th.
Looking back, even though my birth plan went completely off the rails, I’m still so grateful for the entire experience. I ended up having my natural birth, even if it wasn’t in a birth center like I’d hoped. I had an IV which I didn’t want, but none of that really mattered in the moment.
I delivered a beautiful, healthy, baby boy and that makes this experience a complete success to me. I do have lofty goals for my second delivery, but I’m comforted by the fact that even if literally everything goes completely different that I hope, I can take it in stride and still have a beautiful delivery.
Did you have a natural labor and delivery? What methods got you through the hardest part of labor? What advice would you give to other first-time moms? Let me know in the comments!