It’s been 9 weeks and 5 days (while writing this post) since our baby girl Marie was born. When people describe parenthood as the longest shortest time, I now feel like it’s the most accurate description of this incredibly rewarding journey…especially during a global pandemic.
Just one month before Marie was born (almost to the day), the entire state of Indiana along with the rest of the United States entered a “safer at home” quarantine period where everyone who was not considered an essential worker was required to either work from home or close up shop for an unknown amount of time. This left Brian and I home together with our pups for a good 4 weeks with not much to do besides enjoy each other’s company. Because I love to plan, prep, and organize everything was ready for baby girl to arrive! We worked on a puzzle, cooked new recipes, took many slow walks, and attempted to stay as relaxed as possible. In the spirit of keeping things positive, we are very lucky we had this time together before becoming a party of 3 humans.
During this time, we learned that our labor doula would only be able to provide virtual support (she was originally supposed to come to our home and the hospital with us to help us through the entire process), and I even had questions just a couple weeks before Marie was born about whether or not Brian would be able to attend her birth (no worries, he was there!). I was attending all doctor appointments alone with a face mask. To maintain my calm during this uncertain storm of events, I relied heavily on my hypnobabies self-hypnosis tracks, and I am very thankful for that constant stream of positive energy. I can be a pretty anxious person and really like to be in control, and I felt like out of all the reading, planning and prepping I did having a baby during a global pandemic was the ONE thing I was unable to truly prepare for so having the tool of self-hypnosis was really helpful.
I love reading birth stories, and have read more than my fair share prior to getting pregnant. I find them comforting, educational, and there is just something about them that feels so special. Now that I’m a mom, I feel like it’s my turn to share our story in hopes of helping someone else.
Leading up to Marie’s birth, Brian and I felt as prepared as new parents could feel. We completed the hypnobabies child birth education, had our doula provide child birth and postpartum education, I read many many books (my favorites were Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy, Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide, Breastfeeding Made Simple, Bringing Up Bebe, Moms on Call, and Babywise) <–affiliate links. That being said, I still had no idea what to expect. I hoped and prayed that my water would break so that I would KNOW my birthing time was starting, and my water did break but we were still a little unsure if the time had come.
At around 1:30am on Tuesday, April 14 I woke up to go to the bathroom just as I had done many times throughout the night in the weeks of the 3rd trimester. This time, when I laid back down to go to sleep I felt more liquid between my legs and thought maybe I had accidentally continued to go to the bathroom. I went and sat on the toilet again and a little more liquid just fell out of me, it didn’t feel the same as going to the bathroom. When this happened, I had a feeling that birthing time was beginning (yay!), but wasn’t quite sure. I felt a tightening in my lower abdomen that felt like had the intense urge to use the restroom, but I couldn’t go (because I had just gone), then the tightening would go away. I had a feeling this sensation was a contraction, so I started to time the feeling. It was happening for about a minute every 10 minutes. I knew that it was important for me to stay calm and get sleep…but I was so excited (like that Christmas morning feeling) that sleep was impossible. I kindly waited until 4am before tapping Brian on the shoulder to gently wake him and tell him “I think it’s time!”
I showered and got ready and listened to my hypnobabies tracks to keep me calm and help my body prepare for what was about to happen. After getting ready, I laid on the couch and completed another hypnosis track while cuddling with the pups and Brian showered and got ready. I thought maybe we should wait to tell our parents what was happening until we were absolutely sure. As Brian came downstairs to make something to eat for both of us, he shared that he already told both of our moms (they were so excited!!) he was pretty sure this was IT. I texted our doula with updates about what was going on and she was also very sure that it was baby time.
Because I thought my water broke, I knew that if I called the doctor they were going to want me to come in and if I came in we weren’t leaving without a baby. When the bag of waters breaks, there is an increased risk of infection so people delivering the baby pay close attention to the time and how baby is doing to help make sure infection doesn’t occur. My water broke at 1:30am so by the time the day had started, several hours had past. My initial plan was to labor at home for as long as possible, but I also wanted to be sure that my water actually broke. I was feeling that tightening in my lower stomach still about every 10 minutes, but the feeling wasn’t getting longer, stronger and closer together…I just wasn’t sure what to do. Should I call the doctor and go labor in the hospital or should I stick it out at home?
At around 10am I finally decided to call the doctor to let them know what was happening and they did want me to come in. They have a very simple test that tests the fluid to see if it is amniotic fluid or not. Because I was still feeling pretty fine, Brian and I took the dogs on a walk before heading to the hospital to help labor progress. It was exciting and emotional…this was our last week as a family of two humans and two dogs!
We came back home, Brian grabbed our hospital bags to put in the car and we headed to the hospital. It was sunny but chilly that day…and we just couldn’t believe that we were going to the hospital to have a baby!
We arrived at around 11:30am (10 hours after my water broke). Because of the global pandemic, we entered the hospital with face masks on, completed hand hygiene and answered a series of screening questions before heading up to the labor and delivery floor. The hospital limited visitors and non-essential appointments and procedures so it felt as if we were the only people in the building. When we arrived to the labor and delivery floor, there was no one at the front desk and no one in the waiting room…it really felt like we were the only ones there!
The whole initial part of being triaged and even understanding the next steps was a little confusing. We were put in a tiny triage room (that we initially thought would be where the birth was taking place…thank goodness that was not the case) and a nurse tested the fluid to find that it was in fact without a doubt amniotic fluid. We were officially leaving the hospital with a baby!
We were then taken to our birthing room, which was pretty spacious and had a window. There was a birthing ball in the room, and I asked for a peanut ball for the later stages of labor as well. The nurse measured me to see how dilated and effaced I was, and my body still had a ways to go. Because of the imminent timeline we were working with due to my water breaking, I was given cytotec to help ripen my cervix. I took a small pill, and then we had to wait for 4 hours to see if the medication had helped with the labor process. This was an interesting 4 hours!
Because of heightened precautions due to the global pandemic, we were not able to leave the birthing room at all. So, I ate the lunch I had packed for myself despite not feeling hungry because I knew it may be the last thing I could eat since I was planning on having an epidural. I then walked around our hospital room, squatted, sat on the birthing ball, and listened to hypnobabies tracks for 4 hours. I was trying to do everything I could to help my body have this baby. At the time, it was the longest 4 hours of my life. I still felt very comfortable throughout this whole process. My contractions were becoming more frequent, but I could tell it was still going to be a while before baby was coming.
I was checked in the late afternoon, and my body responded to the cytotec just as the doctors and nurses wanted. We were very thankful to not have to do another round of cytotec with a 4 hour wait! The nurse working with us during the day told us her shift was over at 7pm, and we thought maybe we would have a baby by then…boy were we wrong (more on all of this as the story goes on)! At this time, I was hooked up to an IV and given Pitocin, which is a synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin. In my perfect world, I would not have needed any of these drugs to progress labor and I could have done all of this waiting at home. I knew that at the end of all of this our baby would arrive in the way that was perfect for us and had to really let go of all expectations, but throughout all of this we were communicating with our doula and asking what the risks and benefits were. We wanted to make sure we were giving informed consent to everything happening rather than just letting the medical team tell us what they were going to do.
Having an epidural was part of my plan the entire time. Brian and I completed all of the hypnobabies modules, and I practiced my self-hypnosis daily. While I am very thankful for my self-hypnosis tools, I feel like this really helped me relax throughout the entire labor process, I am also very thankful for the epidural. That being said, I wanted to maintain mobility as long as possible to help Marie get into position for birthing time, so we asked the anesthesiologist WHEN the best timing for an epidural was. The response was “when you think you want it, it’s time.”
When I heard this, I wasn’t quite sure if I would knew what that meant, but shortly after I started receiving Pitocin it felt as if everything escalated quickly. I could feel the contractions become much more intense. Prior to receiving Pitocin, I was able to breath through each contraction with ease. After receiving Pitocin, I HAD to close my eyes and really focus on my breathing with each contraction. At one point I asked Brian “should I get the epidural now?” and Brian said “you are asking for it, so it’s time, just like what the anesthesiologist said.”
Thankfully, the physician was able to come in to give me the epidural relatively quickly (I’ve heard that sometimes there can be a wait if there are many other moms giving birth at the same time). That being said, the contractions were getting very uncomfortable at this point. I wouldn’t say it was really painful, so much as it felt like a ton of pressure and it was hard to maintain focus during each contraction. I was thankful for the quick break between each one.
Once I had the epidural, I had the nurse position me with a peanut ball to help move Marie to prepare for birth and I attempted to sleep. This is where things get hazy for me. We did not have our baby by 7pm with our first nurse like we thought. The nurses changed shifts, and we worked with another amazing nurse. Because I was very tired and going through the birthing process, I don’t remember everything leading up to pushing time but around 11:30pm our nurse said it was time to push.
Almost as soon as we started, the nurse and Brian said they could SEE Marie and didn’t think it would take very long for her to enter the world. Thankfully, I met with a pelvic floor physical therapist from Vitalize Physical Therapy a few weeks before Marie was born and we discussed HOW to push a baby out. Because of this, I felt like I knew exactly what to do while pushing…but Marie was not making her appearance.
The physician and the nurses continued to encourage me throughout the pushing process. We all listed to the “pushing baby out” hypnosis track and I used the pushing technique I learned from Vitalize, but 2.5 hours later Marie was still in the same position. At this point, she was SO low in my pelvis that I felt a lot of pressure in my hips so despite having an epidural I was very uncomfortable even when I wasn’t in the middle of a contraction. I was feeling weak, and hungry and knew I needed to eat something. I tried to eat a popsicle to give me a little burst of energy but ended up vomiting almost immediately after (I had already vomited quite a few times earlier in labor). Thankfully, Marie’s blood pressure stayed healthy and her heart rate never dropped so we didn’t have a sense of panic for her health and safety. The panic we felt was because I was giving it my all and pushing for hours and I felt like nothing was happening and I was losing strength. I asked to change positions, I asked what I could do differently, and the only feedback I got was “keep doing what your doing, she is so close!”.
Brian was texting our doula, and while she did give some helpful advice my only wish for our birthing experience is that she would have been able to attend in person to help us communicate with the medical team. That being said, she was still a very helpful and instrumental part of the birthing process because around 2:00am (remember…I woke up at 1:35am the morning before feeling the first signs of labor) the physician suggested using a vacuum to help get Marie out. When we asked with the risks of this were, it sounded absolutely awful in the moment…and this is when our doula told us to use the vacuum. Because she gave us her recommendation, I felt much more comfortable making the decision to use this tool to aid in the birth of our baby.
After using the vacuum, having it pop off of Marie’s head, then pushing a few more times, Marie entered the world at 2:35am. 25 hours of labor and 3 hours of pushing…but I immediately felt the pressure from my hips disappear and I felt an amazing sense of relief.
I was very disoriented after this hard work, so much hunger, and a lack of sleep but at this point the doctor told me that I had a third degree tear out of four. She had to repair me, and this is where I am the most thankful that I had the epidural. The healing and recovery process (which I am still going through) of having this tear was honestly much worse than birthing a baby in my opinion.
Something I want to make note of is that a couple of hours after Marie was born (after lots of skin to skin and making sure Marie was healthy and doing all the things a newborn does) we actually moved rooms. This may sound obvious to some of you, but Brian and I thought we were going to stay in the birthing room the whole time so we were ready to unpack our bags. We were moved to a separate smaller room that was just for families with newborns.
After we got to this new room (at about 5am) I was still feeling the effects of the epidural when the nurses asked if I wanted to take any pain medication. I said no thank you and went to sleep for a little bit (thankfully Marie was very calm and slept, which allowed us to sleep too). As the day progressed, I found it increasingly harder to get out of my bed to use the restroom. By midday I was extremely uncomfortable and was shaking every time I attempted to stand when finally the nurses asked again if I was interested in the pain medication. I didn’t even realize that my lack of mobility and discomfort was pain, but as soon as I took the pain medication I was able to shower, sit to nurse Marie, and just feel a million times more comfortable. The moral of the story here is that it’s probably a good idea to take the pain medication offered to you.
The perk of this happening in the middle of a mandated quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic is that my mom and sister left their quarantine to live with us for a week and a half and Brian’s mom was able to do the same (she stayed with us after my family left). Because I had such a long road to recovery I really needed assistance with everything from going to the bathroom at the very beginning of recovery to doing laundry and making meals. I am so thankful for the help we had. In the first several weeks, I had to take minimal trips up and down the stairs and rest on the couch or bed for most of the day for the first several weeks. I started feeling more mobile and able to do things around the house at around 6 weeks postpartum.
The negative of this happening during a global pandemic is that none of our friends have held our baby, most of them have not met her, and we don’t do much outside of the house aside from walking the dogs around our neighborhood. At the beginning, this was really great because I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything by staying home, recovering, and learning how to be a mom. Now that it’s been a couple of months, I really wish I could have more human contact and share our baby with the world.
I am taking an extended maternity leave, and plan to come back to regular posting and other projects in the fall. I do have some new recipe posts scheduled to post this summer, and as I have some free time I plan on sharing things like my favorite newborn items and postpartum items. That being said, my number one priority right now is being the best mom I can to little Marie.