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This cycle, DH and I decided to take it easier. I temped only until I confirmed O, then I stopped. On 3 DPO, DH and I went on a belated five-year anniversary trip to Maui. While there, I just felt like I was pregnant. I was incredibly fatigued, had a terrible acne breakout on my chest, and got really irritable from 5-7 DPO. Since I had such a strong feeling, I decided to test early on 12/6 at 9 DPO. And, lo and behold, I got a faint positive on a Wondfo and an EPT.
The next day, I tested with 3 different brands to faint positives, so I decided to call my doctor right away. She got me in to see her at just 11 DPO, and my beta and progesterone came back looking good for that stage of pregnancy: 27 beta hCG and 17.2 progesterone. I went in for my second beta at 18 DPO, and my beta hCG was 478. According to The BetaBase, I'm trending just a little ahead of average, and doubling every 40.5 hours.
Here are my BFP pics. I tested for the first time on 9 DPO, and I got faint positives on Wondfo and EPT in the morning and FRER in the evening.
On Friday, July 27 (at 36 weeks and 5 days pregnant), I had a routine ultrasound to check on Jackson's size and position. The good news was that he was perfectly positioned; however, the technician estimated that he only weighed five pounds, which was below the tenth percentile for fetuses at that gestation. So my obstetrician ordered a follow-up ultrasound for the next week.
On Friday, August 3 (at 37 weeks and 5 days pregnant), the technician estimated that Jackson still only weighed five pounds. If that measurement was true, he would only be in the fifth percentile for size. When I went over the results with my obstetrician, she wanted to admit me to the hospital's labor and delivery unit for at least a couple of hours of fetal monitoring. If they detected any distress to Jackson, she would recommend induction that night. Her fear was that the placenta was aging prematurely and not providing the sustenance that Jackson needed.
Fortunately, throughout the monitoring, which assesses contractions, maternal heart rate and blood pressure, and fetal heart rate, Jackson did great. However, I had a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions mixed in with some slightly painful contractions. They were inconsistently spaced but much more frequent than would be expected. Upon examination, it was determined that I was 80% effaced and 2cm dilated. I wasn't really in labor yet, but I was told that it could progress to full-blown labor very soon. Fearing that Jackson was so small, the on-call obstetrician ordered me onto bed rest, hoping that Jackson would make it to his due date and grow a bit more. In the meantime, though, I had to schedule fetal non-stress tests twice weekly to ensure that he was still thriving.
I had major doubts that he was that small, as I knew that guessing babies' weight during late-term ultrasounds was not very accurate. Nonetheless, I couldn't help but worry. So I followed the doctor's orders to do nothing and took maternity leave a week earlier than planned. When I would become restless and move around a little more than I should have, I would have endless Braxton Hicks contractions. So I truly just relaxed and let William do everything around the house. It was maddening because I had been so active the entire pregnancy.
On Wednesday, August 8 (at 38 weeks and 3 days pregnant), I rested on the couch all day long. However, I noticed that I just felt different. I could tell that Jackson had been dropping and engaging his head for a while, and that was confirmed at my examination on August 3. However, on this day, I felt so much pressure. I really had the urge to do pelvic floor exercises because everything felt so "loose." I also felt like I could pee myself at any moment. I was also really jittery. It's difficult to describe, but I just felt "off." If I relaxed, I didn't have any Braxton Hicks contractions. However, if I did anything as simple as standing up, I would get one.
I went to bed that night feeling a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions, but that was normal for my bedtime routine. Around midnight on Thursday, August 9, I woke up to use the bathroom. Upon getting back into bed and lying on my right side, I got severe back pain in my lower- to mid-left back. I tried to reposition and massage it myself, but it would not subside. It wasn't contracting, just constant pain. My first thought was that it could be sciatic pain, but I hadn't experienced that a single time all pregnancy. After about 15 minutes of non-stop pain, I woke up William. He has pretty regular bouts of kidney stones, and I was worried that perhaps that was my problem. He massaged my back, and it eventually felt better. I decided that if it was just sciatic pain, I would be better off sleeping on the recliner.
At 1:00 am, just as I got comfy on the recliner and closed my eyes, I got a Braxton Hicks contraction. At its peak, I suddenly "peed" myself. I thought for a moment that my bag of waters had broken, but it wasn't much fluid. Since my bladder had gotten increasingly weak during pregnancy, I thought it was more likely that the Braxton Hicks contraction had caused me to pee. I went to the bathroom to see if more fluid would come out, and then I felt the urge to actually pee. It appeared to just be urine, but I still wasn't exactly sure. After debating it for a while, I decided that I should at least take a shower and get ready in case we did need to head to the hospital.
At 1:30 am, I showered and started to get ready. I just let William keep sleeping because I didn't want to prematurely wake him up on a work night.
At 2:00 am, I had to pee again. After finishing, I felt a "pop" inside that was really unsettling. And a little bit more fluid trickled out. At that point, I was entirely certain that my bag of waters had broken. When I wiped, I also saw bloody show. So I calmly woke up William and told him that we were going to have a baby that day. I told him he could keep sleeping since real contractions hadn't started yet. I was just going to continue getting ready. I honestly thought it would be at least several hours before we needed to leave. After all, this was my first baby, and I had been told time and again that the average first-time labor is 12 hours long.
Within just a few minutes, I had my first painful contraction. It really caught me off guard. I wasn't expecting to feel one so soon. I just leaned against the wall and breathed through it. I then expected to wait at least ten minutes before I felt another one. I continued to fix my hair, and I got another contraction in just about four minutes. I didn't stress about it, though, because I figured they could be sporadic still. However, I got my next one in just about five minutes. They continued every four to six minutes while I finished getting ready. It obviously took me longer than usual. And I certainly did not take the time to apply any makeup. I'd hoped to look presentable for photos during the process, but that notion quickly became the least of my concerns. I'm so glad that William decided that he didn't want to keep sleeping and instead got our bag ready to go, snapped in the car seat, took care of our cat, etc. By the time I was finished getting ready, my contractions were mostly four minutes apart. I was really surprised at how fast they had progressed.
At 2:45 am, we left the house. The hospital is 30 miles away from our home, so it took us a little more than half an hour to get there. I'm so glad that it was the middle of the night because we were able to avoid traffic. We parked the car, and I told William that we needed to wait until the next contraction ended. We then walked inside, and I got another contraction while we were checking in at the security desk.
At 3:30 am, we headed up to the labor and delivery unit, and I got yet another contraction by the time I reached their desk. Things were pretty quiet in the unit. They walked us to our labor/delivery/recovery suite, got me changed into the hospital gown, and hooked me up to the maternal/fetal monitor. The nurse reviewed my birth plan, which stated that I wanted to labor as long as possible before getting an epidural. So she told me to just let her know if I wanted one or any other form of pain management at any time. I told her that I preferred to wait until I knew how far things had progressed. My contractions were very close together and painful, but I was managing them through breathing. I didn't want to only be in the early stages of dilatation and already asking for an epidural.
At 4:00 am, the nurse confirmed that my bag of waters had broken. I wasn't surprised at that point, but I had envisioned a much more dramatic scene. Instead, it was just a few gushes here and there while I was laboring at home. I didn't feel a big gush until I was already in very active labor. They just explained that as the baby moved, it opened the way for more fluid to come out during the major contractions. She then examined me and determined that I was already 100% effaced and 6cm dilated. At that point, I told her that I wanted to get an epidural. Things were progressing so fast, and the pain was so intense. I had a feeling that if I didn't get the ball rolling on the epidural soon that I would miss the window of opportunity.
At 4:30 am, the nurse tried to find a vein in my hands/wrists to start an IV. Unfortunately, she couldn't find a good one. She told me that rather than poking me unnecessarily, she was going to get a more experienced nurse to do the job. Unfortunately, my veins were being rather stubborn. Three different nurses tried unsuccessfully to find a vein. Finally, they called in the anesthesiologist. She couldn't get one started either and mentioned that my veins kept rolling. They blew out three of the six veins they tried to engage. Finally, the anesthesiologist decided to just put it in my arm. That is not an ideal location, since labor is a very physical experience that needs flexibility. However, it was either that location or no epidural.
At 5:30 am, the anesthesiologist placed the epidural. My contractions were so intense at that point that I honestly don't even remember feeling any pain associated with the placement of the epidural itself. I was more focused on not moving while I labored through a doozy of a contraction during the procedure. With every IV attempt, I had asked them to wait until I was between contractions. My contractions were so close together by the time the epidural was placed, though, that it wasn't really possible to do that. After two or three more contractions, the pain started easing. It was such a relief.
The nurse examined me again to find that I was 8cm dilated. She was shocked at the progression. And I was thrilled that I had made it to 8cm without any pain medication. While William and I had taken a prepared childbirth course and learned a few breathing techniques, I never really practiced them. I did breathe through some of the minor contractions that I had in the weeks leading up to labor, but they were nothing compared to what I experienced during active labor. I just focused on breathing at a steady pace and soothed myself through alternating moaning sounds that just came out naturally. Looking back, I imagine I could have gone through the whole thing without pain medication, but I don't regret the decision to get the epidural.
The nurse then told me that epidurals often slow down labor, so she would check my progression again at 6:30 am. She said that they would insert a catheter at that time as well. I thought to myself that there was no way they would have time to do all that in another hour. I just knew that Jackson was in a big hurry to be on the outside. During the next hour, the nurse continued to monitor my contractions and Jackson's heart rate. Unfortunately, his heart rate would dip during each contraction. It didn't drop incredibly low, but enough to concern them. So she gave me an oxygen mask and instructed me to just breathe really deeply during contractions.
While the epidural was such a relief, it was not entirely effective. I kept feeling each contraction in the left side of my uterus, as well as in my left hip/pelvic region. I could also move my left leg pretty easily, while my right one was too numb too move around. In order to alleviate the pain on my left side, the nurse turned me to that side in the hope that the pain medication would pool in that area. Unfortunately, Jackson became more distressed in that position. My back was the best position for him, so I was more than happy to feel the contractions in that small portion of my body.
At 6:30 am, the nurse checked my progress again. She was yet again shocked to find that I was at least 9.5cm dilated. She said that I could technically start pushing now if I wanted, but she suggested that I continue to labor for a while to keep monitoring Jackson's heart rate during contractions. He was doing a lot better, and letting him work his way down even more might be best. I wanted the least amount of stress to him, so I waited to push. She told me to just pay attention to the pressure I felt during and in between contractions. I felt pretty constant pressure at that point, so I'm sure I could have given birth to Jackson about an hour earlier than I actually did.
At 7:15 am, the nurses prepared the room for Jackson's arrival. It was right at the change of shifts, which happened at 7:30 am. Looking back on it now, I seriously doubt that I needed to wait to push at 6:30 am, as the nurse had instructed. I imagine they didn't know how long the pushing might take, so they decided to wait to get started until the shift change. My obstetrician was actually the doctor on call overnight, so she came in to say hello and wish me luck. Since I was ready to push at this point, they skipped the catheter. An amazing nurse massaged mineral oil into my perineum in hopes that I wouldn't tear. Then she and William talked me through pushing on two contractions to get Jackson to crown. It was at that point that the nurse told me he had a full head of hair.
At 7:45 am, the obstetrician entered the room, hopped on his stool, and told me that I could push on the next contraction. It seemed to take forever for the next contraction to start. They were one on top of another up until that point, and then they stalled when I really needed one. Finally, though, I felt it coming, and William, the nurse, and the obstetrician talked me through three big pushes during that contraction. I never imagined I could push that hard. All I could think about was Jackson's well-being. I was so worried that his heart was slowing with each push. And that motivated me to just push as hard as I possibly could and get him out as fast as I could.
At 7:51 am, on my third push, Jackson William was born. When I saw the doctor lift him up, I was so overwhelmed with emotion. As I write this, it's all welling up inside again. I just couldn't believe that I was finally meeting the little one that I had nurtured inside me for nine months. It was at this point that William shed some tears too. The man whom I'd only seen cry twice in our 13-year relationship was also overwhelmed with emotion. This little human that we saw for the first time on an ultrasound screen as a gummy bear when I was just eight weeks pregnant was now here on the outside with us. And he was screaming at the top of his perfect little lungs, the sweetest sound I had ever heard.
The obstetrician asked William if he wanted to cut the cord, and he did. Then the nurses placed Jackson on my chest to clean him up and perform the initial Apgar test. After our immediate skin-to-skin contact, the nurses took him to the warmer and weighed and measured him. The obstetrician focused on delivering the placenta. He told me that it was already coming. Within just a few minutes of Jackson's birth, he delivered the placenta as well. I did suffer a second-degree tear from the vigorous pushing. So he worked on stitching me up while the nurses worked away on Jackson.
Jackson weighed 6 pounds & 10 ounces and was 19.5 inches long. All that worry about him being underweight proved to be completely unnecessary. He also scored 9 on his Apgar test, and the nurse commented on how beautifully pink he was within a minute after birth. I was so relieved, since he had been somewhat distressed during labor. William observed the whole process, and the nurses encouraged him to talk to Jackson. As soon as William said something up close to our little one, Jackson opened his eyes, perked up, and looked up at his daddy. It was so precious.
After the nurses finished with warming and measuring him, they returned him to my chest so I could breastfeed. Within just 15 to 20 minutes of birth, I was breastfeeding my newborn. His eyes were wide open and so very beautiful. I became overwhelmed with emotion yet again. I just couldn't believe that I was privileged enough to be this baby's mother. That bonding time was so amazing, as we nursed skin to skin while William stood beside us, the doting husband and father. I'd never felt so close to him or as proud that he was my husband.
The epidural wore off pretty quickly, as the nurse had shut it off just prior to Jackson's birth. I guess she knew after Jackson crowned that I would be pushing him out fast. After our breastfeeding session, the nurses bathed Jackson, and then let William hold him, all clean and swaddled up and sleeping like a precious angel. In the meantime, the nurse escorted me to the bathroom to clean up and get changed into my real clothes. Since I never had a catheter inserted, my bladder had not been cleared. However, the epidural numbs that urge, so I couldn't pee right away.
It was so beautiful to walk out of the bathroom and see my husband sitting in a chair, holding Jackson, and just staring at him with adoration. We were able to bond alone as a family for another 30 minutes or so before the nurses escorted us to our room. I finally felt the urge to pee, and I do not exaggerate when I say that I went for probably two minutes straight. It just kept coming. During the final weeks of my pregnancy, I had a very difficult time ever emptying my bladder. This release felt so amazing.
Our pediatrician stopped by on Friday before we were discharged and gave Jackson a clean bill of health. He lost 3.25 ounces in his first 24 hours, well within a normal range. He has nursed incredibly well, with a strong latch most of the time.
I had such a wonderful pregnancy and such a wonderful birth experience. I feel so incredibly blessed to have this child in my life and this amazing little family.