As someone who never had a birth plan, I was obsessed (and still am) with reading birth stories. It fascinates me just how different they all are, and the one thing I tried to embrace as my third trimester came to an end was to “expect the unexpected” when it came to giving birth. Turns out, this couldn’t have been more apt for my own experience, and I’m so grateful in hindsight that I allowed myself to be open and flexible ahead of time.
The following is the full story of how our baby girl, Rosie Carole Mayer, entered the world on September 30, 2019.
In retrospect, I should have known she was coming ahead of schedule. Considering this was my first pregnancy and I had no concept of how my body would react when labor was approaching, there wasn’t actually any way I could have known. And yet, when l think back on the days leading up to Monday, September 30, it really all makes perfect sense that I was on the precipice of a three-week-early delivery.
Backing up. Until week 35 of pregnancy, I’d been feeling pretty smug and on-top of my game. I was still running, still mobile, generally in a good mood, and had plenty of time to get things done ahead of baby’s arrival.
Sometime between weeks 35 and 36, though, something began to change. Seemingly overnight, I developed back pain that was nearly incapacitating. Running was now out of the question, but walking was also no longer comfortable, I had to brace myself to roll over in bed, and I couldn’t be standing or sitting for more than 30 minutes at a time. I told myself it must just be the standard end of pregnancy; this is what everyone says happens in the third trimester, right? Yet, it sure didn’t feel right. The severity and quickness with which this pain came on felt strange, and yet I still never told myself that it could be signaling my baby dropping. We still had three weeks, and I was certain that I’d go later than that even. It was time to just suck it up and endure until October 20th (my original due date).
Saturday, September 28
Adam and I spent the day going on a nearby hike to see some of the leaves changing. I was still relatively uncomfortable from my back, but I was determined to see some foliage ahead of baby coming. I went with my family to a Brandi Carlile concert that evening, and not only was it one of the best shows I’d ever seen, I felt reasonably un-pregnant throughout. Ironically, for the months ahead of the concert, we’d joked that Brandi was going to “sing me into labor,” and I can clearly remember thinking while we were there just how far away labor felt.
Sunday, September 29
The next morning, though, I woke up very lethargic and flushed. I remember feeling angry to be so uncomfortable and so unlike myself. I took Mona for a walk, which ordinarily would really help, but I returned in an even worse mood than when I’d left. From then on, I was – to put it lightly – a complete mess the rest of the day. I was crying inconsolably off and on, canceled a phone call with my best friend for the first time ever, and at one point was on the floor in my bathrobe trying to soothe myself…somehow? It wasn’t pretty, and Adam was in the line of fire the whole time. I somewhat pulled myself together by bedtime, and I remember we went to bed in relatively good moods. Adam was starting a new job the next morning, and despite feeling so physically exhausted, I was excited to officially be “full term.”
Monday, September 30
2:00 am: I’d been waking up in the middle of the night consistently for the past six months, typically for yet another trip to the bathroom, but the sensation of waking up while apparently peeing was a new one to me. I clamored to the bathroom in the dark, guessing this was just another glamorous late-pregnancy symptom, and went back to sleep. I remember tossing and turning for the next few hours; my stomach hurt and I know I took a few Tums at one point. Then at 4:00 am, the same feeling woke me up again. At that point, I started to sense that something else might be going on. I never really thought that my water had broken, though. Instead, I Googled “Can you leak amniotic fluid?” which surprisingly takes the top three spots of “Can you leak…” in Google suggestion before “Can you leak brain fluid?”
6:15 am: I did fall back asleep at some point, but once Adam and I were both up for the day, I still had the same leaking situation going on. I mentioned it to him with, admittedly, a little hesitation. I didn’t want to over-dramatize anything, and since it was his first day of work, I didn’t want to concern him with anything ahead of time. We decided I’d call the on-call nurse, and I told him to go ahead to orientation and I’d keep him posted as needed. I was relatively casual otherwise; I took a shower, got ready for work, and assumed that either I’d get some easy answer on the phone, or my OB would ask for me to come in. Just another Monday morning.
7:30 am: I called the nurse, explained my symptoms, and she told me I needed to come to the hospital. After a bit more discussion, she finished the call saying, “I doubt they will send you home.” It became a bit more real at that point, but I still wasn’t ready to really think that I was about to have a baby. Regardless, I threw a few things in my unfinished hospital bag, tearfully told the pets I loved them, and hopped in my car to drive myself to the hospital. I talked to my mom on the way there and texted Adam that I was headed in and to stay ready by his phone.
9:00 am: Once I was in triage and gave the nurse a debrief of what was going on, she did a strip test of the fluid. It took all of five seconds for her to confirm that it was indeed amniotic fluid, my water had indeed broken, and she quickly declared, “You’re not leaving here without a baby.”
I called Adam, who was decidedly cool and calm, and we decided he’d go home and make sure our pets were tended to ahead of him coming to the hospital. Luckily, he had a hospital bag packed already himself, and our dog sitter happened to be ready to take Mona last minute for an undetermined period of time.
9:30 am: After taking my vitals, the triage nurse told me that my blood pressure was through the roof, and they’d need to recheck it again. I presumed it had to be a combination of nerves and the Nespresso shot I’d had before leaving the house; throughout every single prenatal appointment, including one just five days before, my blood pressure had always been very normal and steady. Once they checked it again though and it was still high, they had the hospital’s on-call OB come in to discuss how I needed to be treated for preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication, for which the only “cure” is delivery. Lucky for me…I was in labor! The doctor told me that it was fortunate my water had broken, because otherwise I would have started to feel sick over the next few days and would have likely needed to be induced anyway.
It was a little strange to have gone from an overall healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy to an early and compromised delivery – but here we were. The triage nurse told me that they’d need to put me on a magnesium drip because of my high blood pressure to prevent seizure, and she forewarned me that I’d likely feel flush and somewhat flu-like on it. I was honestly still so taken aback that I was in labor, I didn’t really care much about other symptoms I might feel. They also put me on Pitocin, a synthetic form of Oxytocin, to encourage contractions since my water had broken. The nurse cautioned that magnesium and Pitocin tend to counteract one another, which could prolong labor. She was nice and positive about it, but my interpretation was that I may be in for a long ride. Luckily, the hospital OB checked to see how far along in labor I was, and I was already 2 cm dilated and 90% effaced, which seemed encouraging to her.
10:30 am: Once I was on the two medications, plus a single dose of another blood pressure medicine, I was introduced to the L&D nurse who would be with me for the day, Dana. Right away I knew we would get along well, and I was so comforted since I’d already been told that the nurses are really the superstars of the whole labor process. Dana told me that since I was a “mag mom” (meaning, on magnesium) she’d secured the biggest room on the floor for me to labor in – room #9. I probably should have been concerned by this because it meant that I’d likely be there for a while and probably feel worse than anyone in “normal” labor, I was actually elated. Nine is my lifelong lucky number, and I slightly happy-cried when she told me. For someone who isn’t especially superstitious, I saw this as a great sign!
Dana wheeled my bed to my lucky L&D room, got everything set up (the room was, indeed, HUGE) and not long after – Adam arrived! Both Dana and the doctor explained my current state to him and everything they’d be monitoring for both baby and me, and they showed him how he could watch my contractions on the monitor. I hadn’t been contracting yet (probably the reason I didn’t actually believe I was in labor), but since I was on the Pitocin, it was only a matter of time until they started. This is a good place to note that there was a fetal monitor for baby’s heart rate too, and throughout all of labor and delivery – she was steady as could be, never a concern.
Once Adam and I were alone and we got to debrief together, everything actually felt very calm and exciting! We both contacted our families and some friends to let them know what was going on, and otherwise it was just a waiting game to get the laboring process underway.
I don’t really remember when I started feeling contractions, but I remember they went from seemingly nonexistent to noticeably present relatively quick. It was tolerable and nothing I would describe as painful (yet), but since I knew I’d likely be asking for an epidural at some point, I wanted to stay on-top of my perceived tolerance. Dana was regularly checking in and she was pleased that my contractions were getting longer and closer together, and each time she checked in, she increased my Pitocin a little bit more. At some point when I was still cheerful, I asked Dana if my horrible mood the day before had anything to do with the onset on labor, and she confirmed that “when your baby’s head is pressing on your cervix, you will likely lose all control of your hormonal responses.” Validated!
1:00 pm: Time seemed to be moving so, so quickly. It felt like I’d been there for 30 minutes, when in fact it had been four hours already. Between 1:00-2:00pm, my contractions were at the point that if anyone was talking to me when one started, I needed them to stop. Adam would be mid-sentence, and I’d hold my hand up to tell him politely to shhhhh. Note that I didn’t take any kind of birthing classes, so I didn’t have any practiced “skills” to help get through each contraction, but I found that breathing really deeply and occasionally squeezing Adam’s hand was helpful. I still wouldn’t have called them especially “painful” at this point but more so just very uncomfortable.
Each time Dana or other nurses came to check on me, they seemed shocked that I wasn’t feeling worse considering the magnesium. This didn’t mean much to me since I didn’t know really what I was supposed to feel like otherwise, but looking back I think I had adrenaline and ignorance on my side. Ordinarily on magnesium, laboring moms need a catheter and can’t leave their beds, but since I was steady enough and feeling okay – they let me go to the bathroom myself so long as I was helped in (along with all of my IVs).
2:30 pm: My mom arrived and hung out with us while I continued to labor. Contractions were definitely picking up more at this point, and while I was okay with everyone around me talking during them, I was NOT okay with anyone talking to me. It was very comforting to have everyone there, though, and everyone was in great moods and had fun discussing boy vs. girl guesses. All of my nurses were guessing a girl based on baby’s smooth and controlled heart rate, and while I wasn’t really participating in the conversation…I think it was around this point that I started to feel with absolute certainty that it was a girl.
3:30 pm: Things had escalated to the point where I decided I should request an epidural. I wasn’t in excruciating pain yet, but since I knew it might take a while to get the anesthesiologist in the room, I thought it best to get a move on. I didn’t know how far along I was dilation-wise, and I knew they were purposefully not checking often so as not to risk infection, but at this point I still figured I had a long way to go. I also had to pee again, which was getting inconvenient since my contractions were getting really close together.
4:00 pm: I distinctly remember being in the bathroom alone and trying to breathe through my worst contraction yet, when Dana called through the door to me and said, “Robyn, good news. Emily is on call starting at 5 pm!” Room #9 had made me cry earlier that day, and now I was crying again. Emily was my doctor all throughout my pregnancy, and due to some other on-call doctor rearrangements, she’d be the one to deliver my baby! I needed good news at that point, because the next half hour was the worst of the laboring process. As I made my way out of the bathroom, I got super dizzy. Everything was spotty and I explained it was like I’d looked into the sun. My contractions, seemingly in an instant, had become really intense, and it was a small miracle that when I got back to my bed and was getting positioned to get the epidural inserted, the anesthesiologist arrived.
He explained what he’d do and had me sign a waiver, and they had Adam face me so that I could brace myself against him. I have no memory of the epidural insertion feeling painful at all, but I remember that within a matter of minutes, my contractions seemed to go in the reverse direction as they had throughout the day. They became progressively muted, and while I never went numb altogether, by 4:45 they were merely a blip on the screen.
Now, I knew I’d be happy getting an epidural since I have no aversion to pain medication, but what I didn’t realize is that it would make me more comfortable than I’d been in weeks! I was so happy; nearly drunk-feeling with glee that I was laboring pain-free. Dana checked my progress again, for only the second time that day, and gave the best news: I was 7 cm dilated and 100% effaced! Labor was moving right along and much faster than they’d anticipated given the magnesium, and more likely than not…we’d be meeting our baby that day!
6:00 pm: The time between getting my epidural and starting to push is a little bit of a blur. My sister arrived at one point, I was eating popsicles nonstop since I hadn’t eaten anything all day, and I was, again, blown away by just how quickly the day had gone by. It was sometime around 6:30 pm that Dana came to check again, and decidedly declared, “Okay people, I’m kicking you out of the room – she’s at a 10 and is ready to push.”
6:30 pm: Despite it being “the big moment” of finally pushing, with just Dana and Adam in the room, it felt relatively chill. Dana taught me how to push in three sets of 10-second intervals during my contractions, and she taught Adam how to help hold my leg back as I pushed. After a few practices, Dana could see baby’s head and indicated she needed to get the other nurses and my doctor in the room since it wouldn’t be much longer. Dana’s shift was over at 7:00pm, and she introduced me to the night nurse who would be taking over. Had I not been hyper-focused on birthing a child, I would have been so sad that Dana wouldn’t be there for delivery, but I felt very well cared for by everyone I’d met at the hospital that day.
As others came into the room to prep for delivery, they had me try a “squat bar” to help push, which was very helpful. It’s a bar that I could brace my feet on while pulling myself up with a towel that was attached to the top during each contraction, and it made me feel much more in control of my pushing and also feel more “athletic,” as I joked to everyone.
After a few more pushes, the nurses told me frantically to slow down since my doctor wasn’t there yet. Baby was coming! A few minutes later Emily, my doctor, came dancing into the room excitedly whooping and exclaiming it was time to have a baby…it was the best! The energy in general was so bright and enthusiastic, and all of a sudden Dana was back in the room, still in scrubs, and declared, “I’m not gonna miss this baby being born!”
I remember Emily quickly getting dressed in her delivery scrubs, as the nurses had me continue to push. The pushing was aerobically tiring since I needed to hold my breath which each one, but I remember feeling very in-the-zone and focused on giving each one my all. Everyone seemed ready and braced, and I remember knowing that we were very, very close to meeting our baby.
7:34 pm: After only a few pushes with Emily there, Dana yelled for me to open my eyes, and I simultaneously felt the emergence of a tiny body while seeing it happen with my own eyes.
It was, without question, one of the most transcendent moments I’d ever experienced.
They quickly put baby on my stomach to towel her off as I fell back in exuberant exhaustion next to Adam. Dana realized before we did that we hadn’t seen her anatomy yet, and she hilariously asked, “So do you want to know what it is?” They held baby’s little booty up in the air as Adam and the nurses all exclaimed, “IT’S A GIRL!” I was so, so elated, but I also felt like it wasn’t surprising news whatsoever; from the moment I found out I was pregnant I thought it was a girl, and when they put her on my stomach ahead of letting us know, I was certain.
As soon as they moved her on my chest all wrapped in a blanket, I melted into a puddle. I wasn’t sure what that moment would feel like, but for me it was like embracing someone I knew so well and loved so much but hadn’t seen in such a long time. She was the tiniest, most perfect little being, and looking up at a teary-eyed Adam and realizing she was ours was an unbelievable moment. He was the first one to say, “It’s Rosie!” and it felt so right and so how it was always meant to be.
They took her to the warming station briefly to weigh and measure her, which confirmed she was 5 lbs, 7 ounces and 19 inches long. I knew she’d be smaller considering she was early, but luckily she was just on the border of being appropriate for gestational age, meaning we didn’t need to go into the NICU. Had she been 1 ounce smaller or arrived 1 day earlier, our hospital stay would have looked much different.
Tuesday, October 1
The next day was a literal and figurative blur. Because of the preeclampsia, I had to be kept on the magnesium for 24 hours after Rosie’s birth. This meant that I had to stay in bed and be monitored even more so than our newborn baby was. Unfortunately, while the magnesium was nearly a non-issue throughout labor, the next day I began to feel very fuzzy and lethargic. Everything was a little foggy, and while I remember all our visitors and sharing in the excitement, looking back I don’t totally remember everything as well as I wish I had. Regardless, it was very special to introduce Rosie to loved ones, and I am grateful for the enthusiasm and support we received considering her surprise arrival.
Despite feeling, frankly, like total shit for the whole first day of Rosie’s life, looking back I’m so thankful to have not felt nor been hindered by the magnesium during labor itself. I consider myself very lucky, and I truly believe that my labor progressed as well as it did because I never let myself get overwhelmed or consumed with the extraneous uncontrollables that were happening.
Around 5pm, I took a one hour, near-comatose nap, which was the best I’d slept in close to 48 hours, and by the time I woke up I was able to stop the magnesium drip. Within half an hour, I already felt better and was able to eat a real meal! I was also able to change out of my hospital gown for the first time since the morning before, and I could finally get out of bed (briefly) to move around by myself.
Wednesday, October 2 (last one, promise)
While we were originally going to be discharged midday on Wednesday, we ended up needing to stay until that evening because my blood pressure was still a bit high. It all worked out though, as I was able to see another lactation consultant who I really jived with, and we were able to continue to ask the hospital nursery all of our questions. Again, every member of the hospital staff we encountered was kind, professional and helpful – and I felt so very cared for the entire time.
Once I was able to go a few hours with a more normal blood pressure, they sent us off as a new family of three! My sister and brother-in-law came home with us along with dinner and groceries, and while I was certainly happy to be home, that was when the shock of her early arrival hit me the hardest. I felt very, very overwhelmed to be in our home which, until three days earlier, hadn’t yet been ready for a baby. Now, in a blink, we had our baby – our tiny, perfect, fragile little baby – in our home from there on out. Once I fed her, though, and we got the diaper genie and changing table set up, I began to feel a bit better.
It’s now almost six weeks later, and little by little, hour by hour, we’ve settled into our “routine.” I could write pages about what I’ve learned so far, how I’m feeling, what’s hard, what’s easy, and so on, but that’s for another day.
For now, I’ll conclude with just how fondly I look back on my birth experience. It had its tricky moments, but ultimately, I feel like it was mine, and for that I am proud and content. Again, I feel fortunate that considering circumstances, Rosie’s arrival was relatively uncomplicated and my recovery has been very smooth. I’m so glad that I was able to maintain a level of “no expectations” and was therefore able to come out of the process feeling satisfied with everything as it was.
More than anything, I’m so grateful that we have a healthy and happy baby. My immediate adoration for this little girl was striking and profound, and every day the depth of that feeling of love reaches new levels. I’m still not totally sure I feel like a mom yet, but I definitely feel like her mom.