Well, I promise I had every intention of writing a third trimester blog post, but to be completely honest the last three months of pregnancy were a bag of mixed emotions and went by in kind of a blur. The third trimester is typically the time when your baby bump is showing in full force, people chat you up at the grocery and ask you when you’re due, you have a baby shower with friends and family, you take adorable maternity photos, the nursery gets put together and you and your partner prepare yourselves by taking childbirth classes. Yet, being pregnant during a pandemic changed absolutely all of that for us. It’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy my final months of pregnancy, but I feel like a major part of this celebration of new life was taken away from us.
Thankfully I felt physically pretty great- I was all belly and at my 36 week growth scan baby girl was measuring just shy of 5 pounds and on track to be between 6 and 7 at birth. I was still going on long walks (although at a much slower pace) and doing home workouts 4-5 times per week with no complaints. It was a shame that my friends and family didn’t get to enjoy belly rubs or even see me at my most pregnant state.
My mother hosted a pretty fun Zoom shower where we played games, I showed off the wonderful gifts we received, and I got to visit with aunts and cousins that I hadn’t seen since telling them the news of our pregnancy. The screenshot of our Zoom party will hopefully be a distant memory soon enough.
The biggest transition during this time was our journey back to our home in NYC. With weekly doctor visits and needing to do a big clean out and organization of our tiny apartment (which we had hoped to be moved out of, but corona…), we moved back and stayed put in the city for the month of July. Our bedroom, which had been serving as my work from home office as well, also became baby’s room. We were packed to the gills to say the least! During these last few weeks at home I also took the time to prepare some postpartum self-care essentials, meal prep whatever food would fit in our minuscule freezer, go through a baby care and breastfeeding online course, and pack our hospital bags.
By the end of July we were as ready as we were going to be, excited to meet our sweet girl, and it soon just became a waiting game…
Let me start by saying I’ve loved reading people’s birth stories even before getting pregnant, so apologies for the saga! I had Danny keep notes during labor so I could remember everything and documenting it here feels so surreal and special.
As my due date approached, I found myself wanting time to slow down but speed up all at once. We were so excited to finally meet our sweet girl, but logistically we had reasons to want her birth to happen at a specific time, which is laughable because you really can’t plan anything about labor and delivery!
The hospital I was to give birth at was going to be closing down its L&D ward on August 1st, and a new state-of-the-art women’s hospital was opening across the street on August 2nd. It was a beautiful new facility where mothers would each get their own private postpartum room. This may be the norm where you are, but we’re in NYC where beds and space are sparse so you likely would have had a roomie during recovery, along with your partner and baby who had to room-in and stay put in the hospital due to COVID- talk about cramped! It was our hope to deliver on or after August 2nd (my due date was August 6th).
Also, I had really wanted my OB to deliver me. I absolutely loved her and seeing as I didn’t get to meet any of the other doctors in the practice I knew I would feel most comfortable with her by my side. She was going to be working on L&D on Saturday August 1st and Monday August 3rd. So basically, we were hoping for labor to happen on August 3rd to get the best of both worlds!
With all that being said, it looked like things were progressing well for me at my 38 week visit on July 29th. I was 2.5 cm dilated and 80% effaced. I could have had my membranes stripped, which gave me a 50/50 chance of going into labor within 48 hours, but I really wanted nature to take its course. So, I went home, kept eating my dates, drinking my red raspberry leaf tea, dousing meals with hot sauce, bouncing on an exercise ball, and going on long walks.
On the morning of Friday, July 31st I hopped in the shower and a minute in I thought I felt a distinct trickle or stream coming from me and not the shower. It was hard to tell if this was actually fluid leaking from me or the shower (I know, you would think it would be pretty obvious…), so I went to lay down to see if it continued. I would have laid there for a few hours to get confirmation and to see if contractions set in, but because I had tested GBS positive, getting to the hospital within two hours of my water breaking was critical to start antibiotics. So, I called the nurse on call and she advised we just head to the hospital to be sure. We thought it was really happening!
Danny grabbed our bags and we called for an Uber. At the hospital we were triaged, hooked up to a monitor, and a few different tests were performed to see if I was actually leaking fluid. Turns out I wasn’t and my amniotic sac was still fully intact- bummer! We went home, turned The Wire back on, and kept waiting…
On Saturday we spent our day at home (as if we could be doing anything else) and went for a long walk around 1 or 2pm. We were relaxing watching more of The Wire when around 4:15pm I stood up from the couch and thought I heard and felt a little “pop”. At this point my bladder retention was pretty poor, so I figured I either peed myself or I was actually leaking amniotic fluid- cute, I know. So, I went to the bathroom and tried to assess things, but the thing is when you’re staying so well hydrated it can be tough to tell if you’re urine is basically clear or it was your water breaking. Yet this time felt different. So I laid down and called my doctor’s office just to get some reassurance or advice to head in. While I was waiting for the doctor to call back I felt like my underwear was continuing to get wet- again, was this pee or amniotic fluid?! Then at 4:30pm, just as my doctor’s office was calling back to tell me they were having trouble paging my OB, I stood up from bed and had a huge gush of fluid drop all over the bedroom floor. This was it! I told the receptionist I no longer needed the reassurance- things were pretty clear now!- and we were going to head to the hospital. My OB called us as we hailed a cab and she said she would see us at L&D at the old hospital.
We arrived at the hospital around 5:30pm, I was triaged once again, but this time all the tests came back positive and all signs pointed to us having this baby soon! I received a COVID test (ouch!) and we were moved into a labor room around 6:30pm.
At this point, I was only having my usual mild Braxton Hicks contractions, which started at the top of my belly and moved down. They weren’t painful, just a tad uncomfortable, and they weren’t following any regular pattern. Since I had the GBS to worry about, my OB did not recommend we wait too long before considering starting pitocin to help speed things along and decrease my risk of infection. Again, I had wanted contractions to come on their own and feel what my body would naturally do, so I asked to give it 3 hours before we considered meds.
Well, it didn’t take me long to realize that contractions weren’t picking up, and since we were geared up and wanting to meet our girl, I decided to go ahead and get a jump on the pitocin. I already had an IV placed for the GBS antibiotics, so they just started to slowly feed in pitocin to get my contractions moving. Pitocin is the synthetic form of oxytocin, which is what your body produces during contractions, but I had read that it makes your contractions feel terrible and come on very fast. My OB assured me that they would slowly increase the dose over time to avoid this. Along with the pitocin discussion, I reviewed my preference for an epidural with my nurse. I had planned to always get one, but again, wanted to really experience what intense, painful contractions felt like (I sound like a crazy person, I know). I went ahead and gave consent with the anesthesiology team, so that when I really wanted it placed there was no delay.
Alright, business was taken care of, but nothing was happening. When my OB came to check my progress around midnight she saw that I still had a small bit of the amniotic sac intact, so she used a little hook to pop the rest of it. Boy oh boy did that kick things up a few notches! Losing that last bit of fluid, plus the pitocin really cranked up contractions and they went from feeling like a 4 out of 10 to an 8 out of 10. My whole body would get very tense during each contraction, which was happening every 2 minutes or so. Danny kept asking me if I wanted the epidural and I kept saying, “I will tell you when I want it!”. He was 100% right in reminding me that the epidural was my plan and was doing his job encouraging me to just get it placed so I could rest.
At 1:10am I said enough is enough and had the epidural placed. My anesthesiology team was AMAZING and even though Danny was in the other room and I was griping my nurse’s hand for dear life during a contraction as the lidocaine and catheter were being placed, the whole epidural process was not nearly as bad as I had anticipated. The giant needle, which I thankfully didn’t have to see, was no big deal and within minutes I had total relief throughout my lower half. My OB came to check on me and around 2:00am I was 8cm dilated, 100% effaced and +2 station. She recommended we try to get some rest for the next two hours as I made my way to 10cm and the pushing would begin.
Danny was a pacing, anxious wreck and couldn’t sleep. I was starving (we were just about to cook dinner and my last snack was around 4pm!), so nursed some apple juice and drifted in an out of sleep while belly tightening happened for the next 2 hours.
At 4:15am my OB said I was at 10cm and ready to bring this baby into the world! My nurse gave me incredible tips for pushing and I quickly got the hang of it. We would alternate from pushing on my back, to pushing on my sides, which I like more than I thought. Danny was an amazing support, literally holding my leg and head, and encouraging coach. Side note, when people say first time moms push for 2-3 hours what they don’t tell you is that you’re not pushing continuously for that entire time. You are really only pushing for 3 breaths during each contraction (at least that’s the method I used). Some people have many contractions back to back and so will be pushing more frequently, while I had contractions maybe every 2-3 minutes so got a break in between.
Honestly pushing had its moments of total clarity and times of feeling lost in my body. We had a mirror up so I could see my progress, but between having my mask pushed up to my eyes and finding that I focused better when my eyes were closed I only caught a look in between contractions. It was amazing to slowly watch your daughter be brought into the world. Around 6:10am we could tell that with one more push her head would be out. I was told I was still going to feel a lot of pressure, and dang it I did, but I was determined to keep pushing back to back as much as a could to not lose progress and get her out safely. With another contraction I was able to deliver her head, told to pause, then go with one more push that got her shoulders out followed by the rest of her little body. Everyone yelled, “open your eyes!” and when I did I just burst into tears as I saw our baby lifted up and onto my chest. She was here and she was absolutely beautiful.
The next while passed in a total blur. Danny and I were crying, holding each other, and just marveling at this tiny human who was placed on my chest. She was crying great and started to calm down as we lay skin to skin. We had delayed cord clamping, but eventually Danny reached over the cut the cord and I delivered the placenta, which was a tad uncomfortable, but it didn’t matter. They then got her wiped off, but left on most of her layer of vernix (the white magical coating that gives them that baby soft skin and extra nutrients), and took her measurements. She was a perfect 6 lbs 15 oz. and 18.5 inches long.
She was brought back to me and within that first hour our sweet Madeleine knew exactly what to do and started rooting around to breastfeed. We had our first successful feeding experience as I re-hydrated with water and cranberry juice and munched on a granola bar. While it felt like a celebration in our delivery room, everyone on the floor was also celebrating as we were the last delivery to happen in the old hospital wing- we were celebs! Soon after they transferred us to a recovery room where we waited an hour before being brought across the street to the new hospital via ambulance. We were literally getting the best deal in town having my OB with us all night and now getting to go recover in luxury by hospital standards (I even performed my own ribbon cutting ceremony with gold scissors as we were the first patients in this room!).
We spent the next 12 hours recovering, being visited by nurses and doctors non-stop, and just marveling at Maddie. Danny stayed with me the whole time and we enjoyed a surf and turf dinner (no joke) to celebrate the hospital’s opening.
Birth was nothing like I expected- honestly, it was better, and I’d do it all over again. I recognize that not everyone’s pregnancy or birth goes to plan- heck, even mine didn’t fully- but as long as you and your little one are safe and healthy that is the most important thing.
Welcome home, Madeleine Elise, we love you so much.