It Pays to Pay Attention: BNP's Birth Story
As I write this, Baby Bianca is snoozing on my chest. What we’ve learned about her is that she’s very, very chill, and prefers mostly to be on people than on her back. It’s sweet, and can pose some challenges. Mostly it’s sweet. She’s been a lot better about sleeping in her Snoo, thankfully, but girlfriend never denies a chest nap, and I love them just as much.
We knew Baby B was chill long before we met her. In her 12 week ultrasound, she sat with her cord between her legs, revealing nothing. I had to make a separate appointment to find out what kind of parts she had, so I could prepare mentally for what was ahead. Part of me expected her to show me the goods since her brother was dancing around in my belly at 12 weeks, giving us toilet bowl shot after toilet bowl shot and making sure we KNEW what he was packing. Just like with every pregnancy, my experiences with her were completely new.
By the end of our ten months of her living in my body, I still knew Baby B was a calm little chick, but I could sense she was coming soon.
A Few Days Before:
As each date that I hoped she’d come passed (May 10 for my dad, May 12 for Mother’s Day), I’d give myself a little pep talk. You still have your ankles. She’ll come when she’s ready. There’s still time before her due date. I was feeling barfy, which Dr. Google said was a sign of things brewing, and—TMI—when ODP and I were out and about, I’d have to run to the bathroom for emergency #2s, another sign of things brewing. Neither of these symptoms had occurred in my ODP pregnancy, so my Google history was looking…interesting. If you think you know things because you’ve done it once, think again.
The Day Before:
On the morning of Monday, May 13, I had my weekly appointment. Raz was able to come with me, which was nice. I was moving pretty slowly and had recently tried to slow down a little bit, pick up ODP less, and rest more. When my midwife asked me casually when I thought the baby was coming, I said, “Soon. Things are feeling…ripe.” She offered to check how dilated I was and sweep my membranes to get things started, both of which I declined. Knowing how dilated you are doesn’t mean the baby is coming any time soon. It just means you know how dilated you are and that number is sitting in your brain, constantly tapping you on the shoulder and reminding you that you’re dilated. I would be incredibly irritated by un-actionable knowledge like that. I also didn’t want to force out my baby unless it was medically necessary, so a membrane sweep was also a no. If you don’t know what that is, it’s probably exactly what you think it is. And I hear it doesn’t feel great.
As she was checking my belly, she asked, “Did you feed that contraction?” I said I did. It was a little one that I might not have noticed, so I told myself in that moment to start paying close attention.
I dropped Raz off at work and headed home to pick up ODP from school, get some work done myself, and try to take it easy. By about 2 p.m., I was feeling really nauseated and weak. Knowing that ODP would wake up from his nap soon and that I’d have to lift him out of his crib was staring to make me nervous, so I texted Raz and asked him to come home. Since I’m pretty tough and don’t vocalize a ton when I’m in pain, he knew that if I was asking, I really needed him…even though he asked me to confirm multiple times before heading home.
I figured even if she wasn’t about to arrive, having his help with our toddler would give me peace of mind that I could focus on slowing down and taking care of myself. I felt sad about that, about not being everything I wanted to be for our son, but I knew it was the best thing I could do for both of us.
A mother’s intuition is so strong and asking Raz to come home that Monday afternoon was the beginning of the beginning of meeting Baby B. I barely remember the rest of the day aside from the fact that it was a little like Groundhog’s Day with ODP’s labor. Raz was up late on his laptop and came to bed around midnight. This woke me up and clued me in to what felt like more contractions. Around 1 a.m. I went to sit on the couch, watch The Challenge (for some reason, I always watch The Challenge when I’m in labor), and time them. By 4 a.m. I texted my mom, who was in town and on alert, that I might need her to come over to hang with ODP soon. I woke up Raz, told him it might be time soon, and got in the shower.
And I started crying. It’s such a big thing to know your life is about to change forever and I got really emotional, not about fearing birth, but about all the unknowns that were in front of us. Raz grabbed me for a hug, and then it was on.
We probably cut it a little close (thx for making us wait for you to shower too, mom ;)), but by 6:30 a.m. we were in the car and on our way to the hospital. I was a little nervous because every appointment, my team had told me that the second one comes a lot faster, so don’t delay. Raz threw me two beach towels to sit on “in case my water broke,” I mean mugged him about his caring more about his car than about me, and we were off, car seat in the back, and me with beach towels on my lap breathing through contractions. I didn’t realize there’d be moderate commute traffic at that time already, so as we merged onto the freeway, I got a little nervous about making it on time, but I’ve worked to trust in things working out as they should, so I just continued to breathe and close my eyes.
We pulled into the hospital garage just after 7 a.m. during shift change. SO many cars were pulling in all around us and at that point we didn’t know why. We decided to wait out one more contraction in the car before walking in and, WHOOSH. I yelled, “Oh shit!,” threw the towels under my butt and looked at Raz. “I think my water just broke,” I told him.
I’m no stranger to having to change clothes in the car—hello, countless weddings within a close-ish road trip—and thankfully had packed an extra pair of pants. While the nurses were all parking and heading in to work, my pregnant belly and I were putting on new pants in the front seat of the car. Good times.
We threw the wet clothes and towels in the trunk, grabbed our bags and headed to triage. Even then, I still wondered, Is this really happening?
The funny thing about triage is they see women in labor all day every day, so they have NO URGENCY. You feel like your insides are getting ripped open and they’re just over there like, “Can you please confirm your date of birth?”
I had thought to put in a pad before leaving the house and the nurse asked me if I was wearing one. I slowly said, “Yes…” and she said, “Great! Give it to me and I’ll test it for amniotic fluid to see if your water really did break.” I had so many thoughts and questions about this but I also didn’t have the time or energy for them so I just did what she said and after testing it, she said, “Yep! Your water definitely broke.”
Breathing through each contraction, I just thought, “Yeah, no shit.” Sometime within that timeframe, my midwife showed up and checked how dilated I was. Just like with ODP, I was already at nine centimeters. She asked if I wanted to go unmedicated or get the epidural.
“I told myself if I showed up at nine again, I’d go all the way,” I hesitantly replied.
“Okay! Just to warn you, you’re going to say some weird shit. It’s totally normal,” she said as she helped me get out of the triage bed and start making my way down the hall to my room. “Let’s get some aromatherapy set up.”
Raz followed with our things and a nurse popped up somewhere along the way, looking at me and nodding to my midwife, “Is this the one you were telling me about?” she asked. I looked at her, confused. “You’re a hero!” she said. I forced a smile. It was go time.
When we got to the room, the team was still setting it up, but I immediately started feeling crazy intense and consistent contractions, forcing me to lean over the bed with my forearms on it. Raz and the nurse started stripping off my clothes. I remember him getting my shirt and bra off in one motion and the nurse telling him how impressive that was. I remember thinking He does not need an ego boost right now before having THE MOST INTENSE URGE TO POOP.
“I’m going to poop on the floor. Right now,” I told them all.
“Go for it!” they said.
And so I did. I pushed for 4.5 hours with ODP. I’m pretty sure I didn’t poop. This time, I pooped half-standing up. It just is what it is, really.
After that, every time I felt a contraction, I pushed as hard as I could until it was over. I thought I made pretty primal noises. Raz said I was totally tame and at one point just said “Owie, owie, owwww” through it. I can’t describe the sensation of feeling an eight pound weight angling out of your body unless you’ve experienced it. It feels like it shouldn’t be there and the only thing you can do is push to get it out. It feels nothing like pushing with an epidural, that’s for certain. That felt like pressure. This felt like desperation.
I don’t know how many times or minutes I pushed. It was under an hour. Maybe under half. I was up on all fours on the bed and as soon as her shoulders came out, my midwife told me to stop pushing and then to push lightly to get her out. Once I felt them catch her, I felt the most insane physical relief of my entire life. They put her under me and I saw her face staring back up at me for the first time. “Oh, hi,” I said, staring at her. But then as soon as I saw her, she was taken away.
Apparently she wasn’t breathing and had inhaled fluid on the way out. The room went silent as Raz snipped her cord and she was taken across the room to be examined. It was all so fast. Someone put a hand on my shoulder and said she wasn’t breathing well and they were going to take her to the NICU to be examined. Somewhere in there, they pushed out my placenta. They asked Raz if he wanted to come with them upstairs. The room cleared out and I was left sitting in my own blood and gut juice with a thin sheet covering me and staring straight ahead. What had just happened?
The Days After:
Everything got kind of blurry after that. Eventually, my midwife came back and told me that Bianca was going to be fine but that she needed oxygen to dry out her lungs. They didn’t know exactly how long it would take, probably a few days. I didn’t do anything wrong. This is common, surprisingly, to me, in c-section babies because they don’t get a chance to travel through the birth canal and get fluids pushed out of their lungs along the way.
This is already so long and I honestly don’t want to re-live the feelings of those three days as we watched our daughter spend hooked up to a bunch of machines. We had some very interesting experiences with learning about hand expressing breast milk, going on an impromptu date to one of our favorite restaurants because we had “free” babysitting, and getting into it with a God-complexy a*hole NICU doctor. A few things I learned from it all:
NEVER be afraid to stand up for your and your family’s needs vocally and often
NICU nurses are saints
ANYTHING can happen during birth and most of it is out of your control
You’re tougher than you think you are
We reminded and cajoled and begged to get out of the hospital on Friday morning, ODP’s 2nd birthday. In my too-tight sweats and post-partum undies, I ran into the party store to get our son a balloon bouquet and bring them inside as a gift from his baby sister. The story of how that’s going is one for another day, but I’m really grateful we got to spend his birthday together as a new, bigger family. While some of it was hard and little t traumatizing, I’m so glad she’s here and—as our pediatrician told us today at her two month appointment—thriving.
I love you, Bianca Nicole. We had a uniquely sweet start and I truly believe we’re all the better for it. Please don’t scare us again, though.