Monday, October 19, 2015

The Story of Elias's Birth

I am so thankful that I was blessed with an exceptionally easy pregnancy. I loved being pregnant and my excitement grew right along with the size of my belly. I really only started feeling uncomfortable once I hit week 37, but that was probably of my own doing. I wanted to be mentally prepared for our son to arrive late, but I instead allowed myself to become convinced by my OB (my family, friends, the neighbors, the random lady in the grocery store...) that he was going to come early. He was low. Really, uncomfortably low. So naturally, as the days ticked by and hours of false labor would come and go, I became increasingly impatient.

One day I decided to go on a walk until contractions started up... 8 miles later... all I had to show for it was a slew of new stretch marks and sore feet. My stubbornness was outdone by my exhaustion. Our son was decidedly not coming early.

My mom flew into town late on the evening Tue. May 26, (3 days before my due date). We spent Wednesday and Thursday touring Memphis and relaxing. It was so nice to have some slow and peaceful time with her before the baby came. On Thursday evening, we went out to dinner at Babalu, one of our favorite restaurants. As we were finishing our meal around 8pm, I began to feel some strong contractions. They came fairly consistently about 5 mins apart and were never further apart than 8 minutes. We went home and I tried to rest. Jon and I went to bed, but I was unable to sleep because of the intensity.

Around midnight, I noticed some blood while going to the bathroom and an increase in intensity of the contractions. They were lasting longer and were harder to relax through. At 2am I woke Jon up and we got everything ready to go to the hospital. Of course, the car was out of gas. I was. not. happy. All the planning and reminding to keep the tank full over the last month had seemed to have lapsed when the moment finally arrived. Yikes.

We arrived at the hospital around 4am on Thursday, May 29th. We were super excited about the possibility of our son arriving on his due date! While getting checked in, the contractions slowed down drastically. I was initially pleased by the brief rest. But by the time I was in a triage room, they had stopped altogether. I knew what this meant. I would not be admitted and would need to leave. To make matters worse, I learned that I was still only 3 cm and in "early labor". Confused and frustrated, we returned home. Of course, contractions started up again while in the car.

We got home around 6am and felt entirely exhausted. I had not slept since the night before and had not been able to eat anything since dinner. Jon got me to drink a smoothie at one point, but I could not stomach much else. Throughout the day, my contractions barreled on with intensity every 3-5 mins with no real change. Jon diligently helped me by rubbing my back and coaching me to relax all day. Yet I could tell that nothing was progressing. I tried resting, walking, showering, sitting on a birthing ball, plus all kinds of lunges and tricks to get things moving. Nothing seemed to work. All I wanted to do was sleep but this was impossible with contractions coming so close together.

Jon's mom arrived from Virginia that afternoon and encouraged me to try and take another walk around the block. I only made it half way around the corner before the contractions finally started getting more intense. They began coming in waves of 3 without breaks and I no longer felt like I could relax well through them. I felt like I needed to get ready to return to the hospital, confident that I had progressed.

Before leaving, I hit the wall of "I can't do this anymore" and Jon stepped it up and gave me a serious pep talk. He somehow convinced me to eat some peanut butter and apples so I would have energy to press on. I seriously don't know how I would have survived without him coaching me!

We arrived back at the hospital around 8pm (a full 24 hours after contractions started) and I was unable to even walk on my own to the hospital room. My plan was to only have Jon in the room with me, but both my mom and Jon's mom ended up joining us. Initially I was frustrated, but in the end was glad for their company and extra help. It was a special time for them, too.

It took everything in me to focus on relaxing. Surely I was in transition and the end was near?! They got me a room and checked me... and I was only at 4.5cm. I was SO disheartened that I had only progressed 1.5cm in 24 hours of labor, but yet still glad that it was a little progress. They admitted me and we were paired with the most WONDERFUL nurse named Chelsea. She was so kind and supportive and really was pulling for us the whole time. I held out hope that perhaps our little guy could still arrive on his due-date!

Not a flattering photo, but the one photo I have of me in labor.
About 3 hours later, I started to experience a continual string of contractions with really high peaks. They were coming on so strong that the nurses were beginning to get concerned when they checked the monitors. I lost control at this point and definitely dropped an f-bomb or two. Surely this was transition?! They checked me again... still only 4.5 cm!

I was faced with a difficult decision: allow them to intervene in some way, or have to return home yet again. Jon and I deliberated for a long time over what to do. I surely did not want to leave the hospital again without a baby! We had taken Bradley Method classes to prepare for a natural and intervention-free birth, but I knew that without sleep or food, I would not have the strength to make it through without higher risks in the end. But with an epidural comes the risk of labor stalling and further interventions. 

Despite our initial plans, I insisted on getting an epidural. Around 1:30am on May 30, I had an epidural placed and was finally able to rest. I could still feel the pressure of contractions and move my legs but was not in any pain. I was able to drift into sleep after being awake for about 45 hours straight. The nurse checked in on me a while later and found that I had progressed to 8cm and had been sleeping through transition! The absurdity of it was enough to make me laugh, but I felt so calm and joyful. I was able to be excited about the birth instead of focusing on the agony. I guess once my body was really able to relax, I was finally able to progress.

I reached 10cm shortly after. All that seemed to be holding him in was my bag of waters, which refused to break. When it would not break on its own, my OB had to break it. Somehow, both moms ended up helping hold my legs (ahhh!) while Jon coached me, and I calmly pushed him out in about 30 minutes. I had always envisioned the pushing stage to be this intense and crazy ordeal, but with the epidural, it was probably the easiest part. We were all laughing and joking, calm and happy. It was in such stark contrast to the rest of my labor. I was glad that I was able to really focus on the process and enjoy the moment. It made me so thankful for our decision and made it all worth it.

After 37 hours of labor, I finally got to hold my little love. He was born at 9:14am on Saturday, May 30. Even though little went as I had hoped and planned, I have no regrets and have a healthy little boy. I am so thankful for my family, my OB, and the hospital staff for being so patient and supportive.

The first few precious moments after Elias was born

After holding him for a little while, they took him to go clean him up. He began wailing and sounded very unhappy about this new environment. Jon went over to him and bent low next to him. He began saying "it's okay, you are safe, you are loved" and Elias quieted down, reached up and grabbed Jon's finger, and pulled it close to his face. It was so incredibly precious that he knew his Daddy's voice so well already.

Meeting Daddy for the first time

I spent the next day in the hospital recuperating before returning home to a new life as a mommy to little baby Elias. We were exhausted, excited, overwhelmed, and full of so much joy.

Resting after it all and getting better acquainted with one another.
New parents!

March and April

The end of March through the end of April was likely one of the busiest times of my life. Going through it 8 months pregnant made it all the more exhausting and only now am I able to catch my breath and reflect.

At the end of March, I travelled back to Virginia for a baby shower thrown by some of my closest friends. A dear friend here in Memphis gifted me flight miles so that I could go and it was the biggest blessing. Seeing my parents and friends while this far along was so special and I really cherished the time. I've pilfered some photos from friends blogs of the beautiful event for your viewing pleasure:

Dearest friends from morning prayer group

Baby bumps!

Then in April, I had another baby shower here in Memphis! It was so awesome to see all the love for our son. While never an easy journey, we have made many friends here that have helped us call Memphis home. To see so many of them present at my shower filled my heart with such joy.

So many dear friends and one super large belly 
Delicious food and beautiful flowers

Shortly after, we settled into a new house and began furiously setting up our home. We wanted to have everything as settled as possible before our son arrived. It was a dizzying process, but we took great pleasure in setting up the nursery. We would often find ourselves drifting in there to sit and daydream about the day when a tiny Tobin would inhabit the space.

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