When Sh*t Got Real
I'm sharing my birth story, not to scare other pregnant moms, nor can I necessarily prepare any one else who is about to give birth; I'm sharing this story to potentially show other mom's that you can't really plan or prepare at all. Also, maybe something I share in here will resonate with another mom out there, when she's going in to give birth to her child, and it will make her feel a little less alone and scared if faced with a similar situation. One of my friends just had a baby and had a tough labor and said her baby, just like mine, had to go straight into the NICU. She told me that had she not known that I had just gone through the same thing, she doesn't know if she would have had the strength to get through it. Of course, she would have been ok, but I was so happy to know that part of my story helped give her strength through her own experience. So here it is....
There are times in my life that I recap and when I think of them, I get really happy. I'm extremely nostalgic, so I find myself doing this often. Something reminds me of a time, and I'll think fondly about a memory. My engagement, my wedding, my 21st birthday, that epic night in Acapulco Spring Break, you get the gist. Recapping the birth of my first child, even only three weeks after, leaves me so overwhelmed with emotion that I lose my breath and I want to cry of happiness (and I usually do.) - I think that's the emotion?! happiness? fulfillment? excitement for life? It's hard to pinpoint the emotion, but it's a beast of an emotion in the best way possible. That's the best way for me to describe it. There is absolutely nothing that can prepare you for it. Not even spending half your life working with moms and their babies, not even seeing your sister have twins that you felt like were your own children, and not even being completely Type A and doing all of the research in the world.
Part of me thinks, "is this how everyone feels about the birth of their child? or is this because I had such a hard time having a child and had to work so hard to get here?" and then I realize, that no matter how you conceive a child and give birth, every single woman out there WORKS for it. You don't work for an engagement (or maybe you do in some sense, I mean I waited 10 years to be proposed to), or a wedding (besides the planning), so maybe it's that you work really freaking hard to have a baby and then the day and moment comes and she's here and you finally realize what life is really about. It reminds me of this post I came across a few weeks before I gave birth that I think about ALL the time, you absolutely must read it when you have a few minutes. Click here.
I can ramble about this feeling and try to put it into words, but I recognize the fact that I really can't. What I can do is recap my story of childbirth, that day that marked 41 weeks of pregnancy after years of working and waiting for this child. As many of you know if you've followed Mo' Mommies on Instagram, I tried absolutely everything to go into natural labor instead of being induced. My sisters (and their respective families) flew in from Florida for Thanksgiving week when I was due, my niece and nephew, 8 years old, told their classmates how they were meeting their baby cousin, and my parents came in from NJ. Everyone was awaiting the arrival of Baby Mo and we did everything we could to make her come out on her own (See 10 Labor Inducing Commandments). Thanksgiving came and went, the theme of the week being "how to induce Jennie" but...nada. My older sister and her family had to fly back to Florida and my niece and nephew had to tell their classmates that they didn't get to meet their baby cousin :( I was an anxious wreck.
I had weekly OBGYN appointments at this point, and each appointment showed my cervix was still rock hard. "Cervix of Steel" was what I was told, when many women's cervix softens, dilates, and lowers closer to their due date, mine stayed high and dry, and was made of steel. I wasn't dilated, at all, and I tried two cervix or membrane sweepings. This is when your OBGYN sticks her fingers all the way inside your cervix and actually uses her fingers to open your cervix, she can literally touch your baby's head. It is extremely painful and uncomfortable but is supposed to start dilating you. Of course, for me, this didn't make any difference. Cervix of steel, and sealed shut, my friends joked that, just like in high school, I was still "harder to get into than a Pearl Jam concert."
So the induction date was set for the end of the 41st week. When many of my friends were giving birth at week 37, my baby was to be born a month later than that. I tried to think positively but was starting to feel like I would never get to hold this baby. It's weird because I had a really great pregnancy, never got antsy, but was always cautiously optimistic. Now that I was so close to meeting her and insanely nesting, I felt like I was getting further away. So the induction date could not come sooner.
My husband and I were told to make sure I eat well before checking into the hospital for 6pm Thursday, November 29th. It would potentially be my "last meal" until after the baby was born and that wasn't going to be for at least 12+ hours. So we went to Hillstones at 4pm, where we were told we had to "wait to be seated" even though I told them that I was giving birth in hours. Long story short, we showed up at the hospital around 6:15 p.m. I ran to Labor & Delivery while my husband, Matt, parked the car, and I checked in and said "I think I'm late for my baby's birth, but I'm here!" They laughed and told me to fill out some paperwork. Matt came a few minutes later with about 4 bags (see Hospital Bag on Fleek). We waited about an hour and then we were brought into a huge spacious room with a hospital bed for me and a reclining chair for Matt. They showed us where to get drinks (I would be on all clear liquids from here on out) and all the amenities.
We unpacked our things as if we were checking into a hotel, we we're enthralled with the joint room where our baby would be weighed and washed, and we made ourselves comfortable. We brought a bunch of snacks that Matt was already tearing through and discussed what movie we were going to watch. The nurse came in and explained to me that we were going to start the Cervidil process. Cervidil is a hormone that is meant to soften/ripen the cervix (my doctor used the analogy of a banana, that cervidil ripens the cervix the way a green banana ripens from hard to soft and ready). The Cervidil is a vaginal insert attached to a string that is placed all the way up into your cervix and the string hangs out. Ideally, it needs to stay inside for close to 12 hours to really do what it should. They were inserting it at 9pm and wanted it there until about 9 a.m. They said I was able to go to the bathroom (although attached to an IV). They emphasized that I need to check the toilet each time to make sure that the Cervidil doesn't fall out. I could potentially feel cramping and contractions while the Cervidil was working it's magic.
Disclaimer: Please make sure no one shares this post with their husbands, this is for MOMMIES ONLY :)
Before this, I was told horror stories about bowel movements during childbirth. I know that every girl reading this has been told the same thing. Not only do you run the risk of pooping on the delivery table, but you'll be constipated for DAYS from medications and the pooping will be so painful due to the vaginal tearing/recovery. So safe to say, I was literally freaking out about pooping and wanted to make sure I was completely "cleared out" before delivery. I was also told that some hospitals give you an enema before. So, the first thing I asked for before the cervidil was an enema, to which the nurse kindly said "we don't do that here." From that moment on, I was consumed with this poop dilemma. I don't want to fixate on the poop topic but what happened was that I was so consumed by it, that I confused the cramping/contractions from the Cervidil with the sensation that I had to poop and I barely slept. I just took constant unnecessary trips to the bathroom. The nurses probably wanted to kill me because I needed them to help with my IV every time I went. Finally at 6 am, of course, as I peed and looked down, I see the Cervidil had fallen out. Three hours short of when it was to be removed!
Instead of re-inserting the Cervidil, they said they'd check my cervix first to see if we could start the next medication which would bring on contractions and soon enough, childbirth! Of course, when they checked my cervix, I wasn't dilated, BUT it had softened and lowered and so the doctor say we could start the next steps. I was in pain from slight contractions and cramping but was ready to roll.
Pitocin was the next step, it's another hormone that helps your uterus contract to bring on labor. So the Cervidil softens the cervix, and the Pitocin then brings on uterine contractions. Together, they help your baby come out.....most of the time. So we started the IV of Pitocin. After a few minutes, I started to feel extremely painful stomach aches, cramps and what I knew had to be contractions. I've been told by doctors, friends, and family, my entire life, that I'm physically tough with a high tolerance for pain. Doctor's have told me that I can tolerate pain in a way that most other patients can't. Although I faint at the sight of a paper cut, I can withstand a high level of pain. So when my doctor came in and asked me what my level of pain was on a scale of 1-10, I stupidly said "it's about a 5." So she said we should wait on an epidural and that I should feel some pain for labor. She said she was going to break my water. I don't wish this process on anyone. When someone breaks your water manually, it's worse than any cervix sweeping or pain you could ever feel. A tool was inserted up into my cervix and water started coming out and it's excruciating. I'm not a screamer so I just said "oh my god" quietly as I winced in pain. Matt was turning pale at this point. Of course, my doctor said "wow, you can really tolerate pain, most women are screaming and begging me to stop when I break their water." Great, thanks.
The 45 minutes after my doctor left were filled with the most horrific pain I had ever felt in my life. I don't know why I waited to ask for the epidural, I guess I thought that I was supposed to wait until I was further along? Instead, I asked for a bedpan to vomit from pain and groaned until Matt secretly went and got the anesthesiology team for my epidural. They came in, and I just went with it. The anesthesiologist who was administering my epidural told me I was crazy to wait any longer, I was shaking and white as a ghost. I leaned over as she put the injection in my spine (to which she said "wow, you can really tolerate pain, most women yell at me when I do this"), she taped up my back to keep it in place, and handed me a button that would administer more medication on top of the automatic replenishment that would come every 30 minutes. That very moment, of relief after what seemed like a century of pain, my mom and younger sister walked in. My older sister, who I had thought was still in Florida, was trailing behind them. I burst into tears of happiness and foggy epidural heaven.
This is when I whipped out my make up, travel mirror and ordered my dad to start taking photos (he's a self proclaimed photographer and brings this HUGE camera with him everywhere!). We were all hanging out, enjoying my epidural haze with visits from amazing nurses checking on me. At about noon, 6 hours after we started Pitocin, contractions getting stronger, cervix dilating now, we suddenly see that the baby's heart rate was dropping. 6-8 nurses rush in as they discuss that the Pitocin is causing the heart rate to drop. They had to immediately stop the Pitocin and locate the heart rate which took an excruciating 5 minutes. Seriously, there needs to be a better system of those monitors attached to belly bands to track the heart rates of moms and their unborn baby's. They slide all over the place! The heart rate was located, Pitocin was stopped, and things went back to normal. Shaken up at this point, my sisters decide to put on Curb Your Enthusiasm as we waited a little to restart the Pitocin.
We restarted the Pitocin and then around 4pm (about 22 hours since check in!) the same thing happened, except this time, the heart rate almost completely disappeared and they had to inject an emergency dose of a medication to counteract the Pitocin. My baby was not responding well to the contractions brought on by Pitocin which was obviously counterproductive. They placed a heart monitor directly inside me onto the baby's head to ensure that we had an accurate reading. I had also developed a fever most likely due to my water being broken for so many hours and being so exposed to bacteria. An IV of antibiotics began and at this point my doctor mentioned a potential C section but said that we should try one more time. Me, my mom, my husband and sisters were all crying from what just happened. I literally watched on a monitor as my unborn baby almost slipped away. The thought "will I ever get to hold this baby?" permeated through my head from that point forward. I was shaking but didn't say the word C-Section without my doctor's blessing which she had yet to give. Her shift had ended and so did the nurses I had had that day. I cried saying bye to them all, and we gave it one more shot as a new team of nurses came in for their shifts.
Fast forward to 9 p.m., now 27 hours since I checked in, a new doctor came in to check my progress and when she saw that I was still only 6 cm dilated she said "it's time for a C-section." It was the words I had waited for but was too scared to say myself especially because this meant surgery and I can't even survive getting blood drawn without fainting (recipe for disaster during fertility injections but you do what you have to do!). However, this was the moment when I no longer put myself first; it was now all about my daughter and it was showtime. I didn't miss a beat before saying "let's do this." I was that much closer to meeting my baby who I was beginning to feel like I'd never meet. They dressed Matt in scrubs, booties and a blue surgical cap and, of course, my dad snapped some photos. Shaking from my fever, I looked over at my mom and we both knew what this meant, she wouldn't be able to be in the room after all. When you have a c-section, you're only allowed one person in the room with you. It was a heavy moment, that suddenly, the entire birthplan changed, and I was being whisked into the operating room and pumped with hardcore medication all in the matter of minutes. I said bye to my family and Matt walked beside me as I was rolled into the operating room.
The medication for a c-section is no joke. Suddenly I couldn't feel a thing from my chest down. I remember when they transferred me to the surgical bed, I brushed the side of my leg and felt like I had the body of the Nutty Professor. I felt huge, like I had sausages as legs, but that they didn't belong to me. It was insanely trippy. Not only that, but I developed Horner's Syndrome, where one of your eyes droops from the medication. The worst part was that some people convulse and shake from the meds, I was one of those people and on top of the chills from my fever, it was not a good mix.
Arms spread out, blue sheet in front of me, and Matt by my side, the doctor and nurses started the surgery. The doctor said "well someone is well groomed!" which, of course, I was, expecting my vaginal delivery lol. It's all really casual, yet not, from that point on. The doctor's have done this thousands and thousands of times and exude an air of "just another day at the office" which should have relaxed me. Matt was calm, cool and collected, and I just needed him to hold my face so that I would stop shaking. Suddenly after some feeling of pressure, I hear the doctor exclaim "WELL HELL-O!" It was 10:37 p.m. Apparently they knew right when they saw her that she was a lot bigger than anyone expected. Matt looked at me and said "she's here!" to which I answered "why don't I hear her crying?!" and right then, I heard Tess Alexandra Monness scream at the top of her lungs. The tears that streamed down my face at that moment represented the world crashing down around me and all that mattered was Tess, Matt and the family we became in that moment. Someone told me that she was 8lbs and 7oz and asked if I'd like to hold her. I was still shaking so much that I couldn't, so Matt held her and I stared in utter awe. This child, who came out looking like a baby dinosaur because her face was so scrunched in distress, became my world. Matt cut her umbilical chord as they explained to me that she'd have to go directly to the NICU for an IV of antibiotics, due to my fever. Surprisingly, I replied "what about breastfeeding?" (who knew I cared so much about breastfeeding?! more about this here) and they said not to worry. They then placed Tess on my chest for skin to skin and I was mesmerized, in love and the world was perfect.
Could I have taken a class for this childbirth? Read up on The Bump for this? Asked a friend what to do in this situation? Absolutely not, nor would I have wanted to. This was my own path to meeting Tess and it was perfect. Maybe I didn't plan on a 30 hour birth, a fever, a c section and a baby who had to be taken to the NICU, but it all was Tess's birth story and I would replay each moment a million times over the next few weeks (and I still do.)
I'll end this post by saying that just yesterday, I went to visit one of my close friends in the exact hospital where I was just two weeks prior. I arrived on that floor where I had spent the 3 days of recovery, visits to the NICU, hormones out of control, emotions high, visitors, residual drug haze and completely overwhelming happiness all at the same time. It was the place where I became a mom and 1 Mo' Mommy joined the most amazing society of all time - Mothers. I looked around and felt so grateful to be walking back into that hospital as a Mom, a title I once thought I'd never have.