This is a long one, if not the longest post (or moreso, collection of memories I never want to forget) I’ve written. I feel more than blessed to be able to celebrate Mother’s Day 365 days before I believed I would. Please forgive any editing quirks. I had just enough time to write this up, and editing will come when I get the chance. So, here we go.
I’m sitting here writing this story up quite a few weeks earlier than I anticipated. I always love reading birth stories and knew I wanted to record every detail I could remember as we welcomed our son into the world. Forewarning, this goes into all the details I can recall, so, keep that in mind. Silas Maxwell is nine days old and we’re falling into a groove at home. We’ve been blessed with so many friends and family that have gone above and beyond for us, day after day, and made the challenges during this time much easier. Baby boy is currently sound asleep, with his guard puppy snoozing close by.
Having had an very uneventful pregnancy, I was nearly positive our baby would make a late arrival. So much so, that I made numerous plans up until the weekend after his due date, sure that he’d come at 41 weeks. On Wednesday, May 1st, I actively noticed Silas kicking up a storm. I work late on Wednesdays and figured it was due to me being up and about for so many hours. I came home later that evening, had a quick dinner with Dan, and got in a kettlebell workout at home. I had some slight discomfort, but nothing I hadn’t experienced before. I actually felt pretty good having consistently been working out since the second trimester, maintaining spin, strength and yoga in rotation. After a quick shower, Dan and I stayed up a little later than usual, hello 10pm, watching TV and chatting about our days. Dan had his last work trip scheduled for the following day. We agreed that this was in the ‘safe zone’, and after 36 weeks he would cut out all travel.
My sleep has been disastrous, to say the least, since 33 weeks. I’m nearly positive I was experience pregnancy rhinitis and had difficulty breathing anywhere if I wasn’t standing up and close to the outdoors. Physically, I was feeling okay but could certainly tell I was carrying around an extra 22 pounds.
After a relatively restful few hours, I woke up suddenly at 1:30am with what felt like menstrual cramping. I also noticed my pajama shorts were completely soaked, but I naively cracked it up to be sweat. I tried to get back to sleep, but the cramping continued on and off consistently. I got up and walked around the house to help it subside. As usual, I am in a constant state of needing to pee. I went to use the bathroom and lost my mucus plug over the toilet. Even at this point, I was in denial. Every article I’ve read flashed through my mind, how women’s water can break and they can lose their mucus plug weeks before going into labor. Which turns out to not exactly be true. After that, the cramps reved up. I was beginning to feel uncomfortable and decided to wake Dan up to let him know I was going to take the morning off of work and check in with my midwife. I tapped him on the shoulder and told him it was probably nothing, and I’m sure he could still go on his trip (hahahaha).
I sent a quick text to my doula at 1:50am to let her know I was going to the doctor the next day while Dan called the midwife on call. The midwife on call asked how often my contractions were occurring, and I corrected her and said they were not contractions, I was simply having menstrual cramps every 5-10 minutes. (Turns out, they pretty feel like the exact same thing). I left Dan on the phone while I went to take a shower and put in a load of wash. While showering, I could no longer feel Silas’ bum that had been firmly sitting under my ribs for the past three weeks. I became suddenly fearful that he had flipped and would be breached. I put it out of my mind and tried to stay focus.
We hadn’t packed any hospital bags at this point and I didn’t have Silas’ coming home outfit clean yet. Plus. I was determined to spend nearly all of my labor at home (which, turned out to be true) and thought I had at least a couple hours. I downloaded a contraction counting app and officially saw that my contractions were 3 minutes and 30 seconds apart by 2:15am. Dan shared this with the midwife on call and began to feel a was feeling sense of urgency (to say the least). The midwife told us to come in, and then followed up by asking exactly how far away we were from the hospital. This shifted Dan into overdrive. He quickly threw together a hospital bag while I moseyed about trying to find pants that were comfortable. He urged me along, and eventually I had the bare minimum to get to the hospital, where I was sure we’d have a false alarm and I’d be sent back home.
With little traffic at 3am, we made it to the hospital in about 13 minutes. My contractions were getting closer and closer together and the pain was getting increasingly more difficult to work through. We checked in at triage and they took me back to get my vitals. Of our entire experience, this was the worst part, and not just because I was in pain. The triage nurse came in and failed to give me much info about what was going on. I was planning for an unmedicated birth and questioned everything they stuck in me. A missed vein gave me a horrific bruise on the inside of my arm and the nurse asked me no less than six times if I smoked. This is the only time I can recall getting upset and yelling at anyone. I finally shouted that I have never smoked, nor would I ever, and please stop asking me. While I had it out with the nurse, Dan called our doula to update her. She told him she was on her way (I’m so grateful she was available!) and would be there in 20.
The midwife came in to check me and immediately told me I was three centimeters dilated and fully effaced. I asked if I was going home, and she replied, yes, but not without a baby.
And then it clicked. I was absolutely in labor, and I was going to give birth. I hadn’t even begun my pre-labor plan! However, I was so off-guard that I had little time to feel fear. My doula, Nancy arrived while I was still in triage and they moved up to labor and delivery. We were blessed with an incredible nurse, Mary, who stayed in the room with us for her entire shift. At this point, the pain was in overdrive. It became unbearable, and I didn’t know how I was going to handle it at this point. It was 4am, contractions were almost every minute and a half, and the pain never went back to baseline. I thought there would be a break in-between, but it was pain shifting from a 10, to a 6, to a 9 to a 7 back to a 10. I was done. I asked for an epidural and my doula and Dan talked to me in the way we had planned (they were incredible, every single step of the way). As I hung onto the back of the bed on my knees, Nancy asked me during a lower pain level if knowing how far along I was would change me mind. I responded yes, okay, but as soon as the next contraction hit I immediately retracted that answer and asked for an epidural stat. The pain was so strong, I had no room to feel guilty for abandoning my plan.
I had imagined there was some sort of list that came up while waiting for the anesthesiologist and I’d have a decent amount of time to wait and consider my options. However, five minutes later, I was hanging off the bed and the needle was being inserted into my back.
I began to feel the pain leave and the pressure begin. Like, an insane pressure that I needed to poo, and I needed to poo now. And, much to Dan’s amusement, I told everybody who came into the room that I understood I could not walk with an epidural, but I needed them to get me to the bathroom. Now. The midwife came in a few minutes after the epidural (and my continual statements that I needed to use the bathroom), and checked me around 6am. I was now 9 centimeters. If you’re keeping track, the average first time mom spends 12 hours in labor AFTER hitting 6 centimeters. I went from 3 centimeters to 9 centimeters in two hours. (Thus, the undeniable pain. My body had no time to adjust or work up towards contractions. I went from 0 to 100 in lightning speed). Per my usual fashion, I argued slightly with the midwife that that wasn’t quite possible, because it’s supposed to take hours. She said, yes, it usually does. However, I would be having a baby in the next couple hours.
This is the point where it gets a little unclear. Because I never made it to 36 weeks to get checked for group b strep, they had to get steroids and antibiotics into my system in hopes some of it would transfer to Silas and develop his lungs. This ended up being in vain as he came too quickly for them to take effect. This is when my doula believes I was sitting at 10 centimeters for some time given my intense need to poo, and the midwife was delaying. They came in to check me again around 9am and told me it was go time. I again told them this was probably too soon (given my google medical degree), and they said, um, no. The midwife came in, as did the obgyn. The obgyn was the sweetest as can be and, oddly, looked extremely familiar. I was hopped up on drugs, so I nodded and smiled as she told me that I was on track to have a wonderfully healthy vaginal birth, but she would be here if she was needed. I would later learn after she circumcised Silas that we went to highschool together three states away, which she shared in the voicemail she left me. Small world, so they say.
After the obgyn left, I quickly asked the nurse to get a mirror. I absolutely wanted to see for myself what was going on down there. Got some serious trust issues, apparently. Turns out, this was KEY. I loved, loved, loved being able to see his head for all of the pushes and made it so much easier to know how I was doing. We got in position to push, with the midwife still in a t-shirt having not enough time to get into her gown. The NICU nurses came in, which they told me was routine for any baby under 37 weeks. There was a 50-60% chance he’d be taken to the NICU. At 9:21am, I began pushing. And ouch. That whole thing about feeling pressure? Um no, it hurt. And it hurt darn good. However, being able to see little guy’s head was so motivating. Dan repeated the mantras we had talked about: this too shall pass, you were made to do this. The midwife even told him he was better than Ina May herself! I pushed every three minutes until 9:48, when the midwife quickly grabbed a gown and told me this would be it. At 9:51am, exactly eight hours after I woke up from a twinge in my stomach, Silas quickly came out and was put onto my chest. I had requested delayed cord clamping and skin-to-skin, but honestly am unsure what happened next. He had difficulty breathing, but overall appeared okay. He was 5 pounds, 4.77 ounces and 19 inches long.
I sustained a first degree tear, or some rug burn as my midwife lovingly called it. Dan left to go up to the NICU with Silas (an incredibly emotional experience for him) and called me when he got some updates. The stitching was unpleasant, and I had difficulty being patient and not being able to see my baby. My doula stayed with me and distracted my mind. (I could not recommend a doula more. I had anticipated needing her for 24+, but even the ten hours she was with me were truly priceless during the difficult time before, during and especially after baby was born.)
Eventually Dan came back and reported that Silas was experience everything expected at 35 weeks and 2 days. He was completely stable, but needed some help with oxygen as his lungs developed, since he was born too quickly for the steroids administered to me to help. I’ll share more about our NICU stay another day, but can sum it up staying that it was the best possible scenario given our circumstances I could have hoped for. I felt so much love for every nurse we had (except one who kept dropping everything she touched and Dan had to ask the charge nurse to be in there for every feeding and diaper change), and cried when we were discharged, both of happiness and of the gratitude I felt for these incredible people. One nurse, Sandra, makes an embroidered blanket for every single NICU grad, and I lost it when she gifted us ours. There are no words for our gratitude for them and not only taking care of Silas, but talking to us for hours on how to care for our little, little boy.
I was moved into my postpartum room an hour later and was told that as soon as I could get up to pee twice, I could go upstairs. I fought tirelessly against Dan and the nurses to let me walk, but they refused for at least 24 hours. The wheelchair was uncomfortable, and I felt better standing and walking around. After completing my pee challenge, I made it to see my little boy for the first ‘real’ time. He was hooked up to numerous wires, which wasn’t so scary then, but now brings me to tears when I see the pictures. He was doing fine, his weight was higher than expected, and we only had good news. Again, the doctors spoke to us as humans, and were so kind and gentle as we learned more and more about him. One of our favorite doctors even gave us a list of every genius and athlete that was born more premature than Silas (the first example he gave was a basketball player from my hometown, Syracuse! Such a coincidence).
Dan and I spent the night in my postpartum room as I continued to recover. I felt really good, and my body felt normal. I had read so much (too much, actually) on how people felt they had a different body after pregnancy, and it just wasn’t the case for me. My body felt whole, and normal. Some stinging and discomfort here and there, but everything kinda fell back into place within five days. I’m also wholly aware that I was only 35 weeks, gained a total of 23 pounds, and was able to return to my non-maternity clothes as soon as I got home. Except maternity leggings, those things are GODSEND and I will never wear regular leggings, at least not this year anyways. I like to crack it up to maintaining my fitness throughout pregnancy, but mostly just sheer luck. I’ll get more into my postpartum recovery later, but overall shocked at how quickly I returned to my ‘normal’.
The next morning, the midwife I had seen first in triage came in to check on me. She asked how I was, and I told her I was feeling really good, and mostly just shocked at how quickly it all went. She responded that it was relatively normal for anyone with preeclampsia.
Um, what? I told her that must be someone else, as I didn’t have preeclampsia. Yet, behold, she said it was confirmed that morning when they got the results from my urine test back. (I’m so grateful no one mentioned the P word while I was in labor, as I know I would have been paralyzed by fear). My blood pressure, which had been low my entire pregnancy, spiked right before birth and there was protein in my urine. Despite having zero symptoms or preconditions of the disease, it was there. I finally had some understanding as to why Silas entered the world so quickly, and why he came early despite doing ‘everything right’, in my mind. The universe had other plans. If I think too much about it, I blame myself for that one time I accidentally ate chinese food and didn’t think of the MSG, or the hard cider I had the night before I found out I was pregnant. Mostly, I’ve accepted it, and feel so much gratitude that I could give birth vaginally, and Silas exceeded all expectations during recovery. This does mean that all of my future pregnancies will be high risk, both due to preeclampsia and having my baby prematurely. But I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.
To jump ahead, I spent two nights in the hospital going up to see Silas every three hours to breastfeed. He, again, exceeded expectations and began full breastfeedings within three days despite doctors saying he was not physically developed enough yet. We had so many family and close friends visit to bring us food, treats and gifts despite not being able to see Silas where the NICU has a strict visitor policy. My wonderful coworkers had planned a surprise baby shower for me on the day Silas was born, thus I couldn’t attend. They celebrated anyways the birth of this baby boy, sent me pictures and brought me pieces of the Costco cake I ADORE, and gifts upon gifts. Again, I don’t have words to the gratitude I have for not only their generosity, but making me laugh at a time when the world could have seemed so dark.
I cried terribly when I was discharged and sent home without him, but Dan, who is absolutely the father of the year, was my rock through it all. He took care of every.single.thing since we entered the hospital days earlier so I could focus on recovery. Making sure I ate (which I continually forgot), drank water and pumped. He called insurance, made plans for Cedric, talked to friends and family, and every doctor or nurse we passed. He even went out to buy dozens and dozens of cookies to give to the nurses we had grown to love. Again, I could write ten pages just on how I could have never done any of this without this incredible man by my side. He fell into fatherhood so quickly, and so seamlessly. And, somehow, which I will never understand how he could continually do more, managed to balance being the most loving and supportive husband that ever existed. The intense love and devotion he has for his son is beautiful to witness, and I could not be luckier.
Dan and I spent six days coming home at night, waking up every three hours to pump (which Dan insisted on waking up to talk with me at 11pm, 2am and 5am) and then spending the next 12 hours in the NICU with our boy. Everyday we would come home to another meal and boxes and boxes of gifts at our door from everyone from a best friend, to a distant neighbor, to a family member. Our life was made so simple, and it’s true what they say. I had not felt completely connected to our baby during pregnancy, but the moment I held him, my heart grew to take over my entire body. I was now carrying the best part of myself in my arms, and I can’t write about the love I have for Silas without crying and writing through the tears. So, I’m not going to try. But know that it’s as if the entire world has stopped spinning on its axis, and is now spinning around these five little pounds curled up on my chest. He is our world, and the community we didn’t realize was so large, has let us give 110% to Silas while they took the weight of everything else. Dan and I continually look at each other, tear up, and try to comprehend the generosity of others.
I’m going to leave it there. This is a story I can’t wait to look back on and share with Silas. Our sweet boy is making his little smiles now to let us know his diaper is ready for a refresh, and he’s about to screech in hunger in about two minutes. Cedric is playing in the yard and I’m about to make a second cup of coffee. And everything is perfect.
Silas, you’ve given meaning to love that goes to the moon and back.