[Warning: This will be a very long post, but I want to remember all the details of this wonderful day.]
On January 5th, after a night of very little sleep, awaiting in anxious anticipation the birth of our first child, Gary and I arrived at Baptist Health Medical Clinic's Labor and Delivery wing at 5:30am. We were admitted quickly and taken to our delivery room, where I changed into my gown and the nurse attached two monitors to my belly: one to monitor Elliott's heartbeat, and one to monitor my contractions. By 5:45am the nurses were starting the IV through which Pitocin would be administered to start my labor. At 6:00am, Dr. Chang arrived to check my progress and break my water. I was still only 50% effaced and 1 centimeter dilated. When he broke my water, to my surprise there was no pain, just a warm gush and a nervous excitement that it was finally beginning. At 6:10am the nurse started my pitocin drip, and the waiting began.
After about 30 minutes I began to feel a slight cramping, but nothing more painful than the starting of my menstrual cycle. We watched Fresh Prince re-runs and my best friend, Laura, came to visit. By 9:20am I still wasn't feeling the contractions much, so Carrie, my nurse, turned up the pitocin drip. Within 30 minutes, my contractions had noticeably increased, so Gary called Carrie in to check my progress. I was now effaced 90% and dilated 2 centimeters.
After the check, my contractions continued to increase. I began to have a significant amount of back pain, so I had Gary put a heating pad on my lower back. When that didn't seem to be cutting it, I decided to sit on the side of the bed with my feet on the floor. This seemed to help relieve some of the pressure on my back and I was able to breathe through the contractions that were now lasting about a minute each and coming every two minutes. My mom arrived to sit with us, and she and Gary encouraged me and helped take my mind off of the pain.
Carrie returned to check my progress at 11:45am and I was 90% effaced and 4 centimeters dilated. After this check, my contractions increased in strength again and the pressure on my lower back returned. I tried changing positions: standing up, sitting on the side of the bed, bouncing on a yoga ball and lying down, but nothing seemed to relieve the pain and the pressure. I had wanted to try for a natural labor, but the strength of the contractions caused by a pitocin induced labor proved to be too much. 6 hours in with 6 centimeters to go I felt frustrated and exhausted from getting no rest the night before and having nothing to eat since midnight. At 12:30pm I requested an epidural, and Carrie started the fluids in my IV while we waited for the anesthesiologist to arrive.
At 1:15pm, after receiving one full bag of fluids, the anesthesiologist arrived with my epidural. Carrie checked me one more time and I was now 5 centimeters dilated. The fluids made me freezing cold, and the contractions were making it hard to sit still, but I leaned over the side of the bed and held on to Carrie as the anesthesiologist administered the epidural. Within just a few minutes I began to feel relief. They laid me back and and covered me with a heated blanket to warm me up. My entire left side began to feel heavy, but I could still feel the contractions on my right side, so they rolled me on my right side so the medicine could spread evenly, and within a few minutes I was completely numb. What a huge relief to be able to lay back and rest a while before it would be time to push! At 1:45pm Carrie decided to check me again before she left to help another patient, I was now at 6 centimeters and 90% effaced.
Shortly after Carrie left, she returned with another nurse who had been monitoring Elliott's heartbeat at the nurse's station. They were concerned because his heart rate had dropped from the 130 range to the 80s. They shifted me around from one side to the other until his heart rate slowly started to rise again. The nurse decided that the contractions may have been getting a little too strong for Elliott, so she turned off the pitocin drip and gave me some oxygen. I instantly began to worry that I made the wrong decision in getting the epidural, that maybe the pain medicine was what had caused his heart rate to drop. I was exhausted and my body wanted nothing more than to sleep, but every time I would start to drift off, I would wake up to look at the monitor and see what his heart rate was. It jumped around from 90 to 140, and I could not rest until I knew for sure he was safe.
At 3:30pm Carrie checked me again, and to my disappointment I was still only 6 centimeters dilated. She decided to turn the pitocin drip back on and see if my body would pick up the pace again. 30 minutes later, after beginning to feel some pressure, she checked me again. This time I was at 7 centimeters. She left and I continued to drift in and out of sleep, keeping my eye on Elliott's heart rate every few minutes.
At 5:00pm, Dr. Chang entered the delivery room. He said he had just finished working and wanted to check my progress. To my surprise, when he checked me I was full dilated and effaced and he told us it was time to push. My mom called the rest of the family to tell them we were getting close, then headed to the waiting room to await the arrival of her first grandchild.
Dr. Chang and a nurse (Carrie was busy helping another patient, so a new nurse stepped in to assist Dr. Chang) helped me put my legs in the stirrups and instructed me on how to push: they would tell me when I was having a contraction and then I was to take a deep breath, bear down for 10 seconds and repeat 3 times, then I could rest until the next contraction. The nurse held my left leg and Gary held my right leg while Dr. Chang felt my belly for the contractions and massaged my perineum to make it easier for Elliott's head to come through. After about 30 minutes of pushing Dr. Chang said he could see Elliott's head and that he had a head full of dark hair. This gave me the strength I needed to keep pushing even though I was exhausted.
We continued our pushing pattern for another 30 minutes. Gary was doing a great job of encouraging me to keep going even though I was feeling exhausted between pushes. Dr. Chang told us Elliott's head was a little too big for me and that between every push it was slipping back inside instead of coming out, and asked if he could use a vacuum to help pull Elliott out. At this point I was ready to try anything if it meant getting my baby here. He attached the vacuum to Elliott's head, and I began pushing again. After just a few pushes I could feel a lot of pressure, and Gary told me his head was out. A few more pushes and his whole body emerged at 6:00pm on the dot. The nurses and Dr. Chang both commented that he looked like a big baby, bigger than they had anticipated. He wasn't crying immediately, so Dr. Chang had Gary cut the cord and he handed him off to the nurses to have him suctioned. Gary started snapping pictures, and I laid there watching the nurses, amazed that he was finally here. After what seemed like an eternity, he started to cry and when I heard his voice for the first time I did too. They cleaned him off and put him on the scale. He weighed 8 pounds, 11 ounces and measured 20 1/4 inches long.
The nurses came and laid him skin to skin on my chest. He was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen. Gary leaned over and kissed me and told me what a good job I had done, and we both just stared at him in amazement. Dr. Chang finished delivering the placenta, and sewing up the episiotomy he had to preform, and then he and the nurses left the three of us alone to bond. The first few minutes we had as a family of three are some of the best minutes of my life. What a special time to have my husband by my side and my newborn baby healthy in my arms! Within the first 30 minutes, he was ready to eat. I was amazed by how he already knew what to do. I nursed him for a few minutes, and then Gary went to call the family back to meet him.
We had a steady stream of family and friends come to visit until about 9:00 when the nursery nurse came to get Elliott for his bath and my nurse came to move us to our postpartum room. Everyone commented on how much hair he had and what a pretty baby he was. He was very alert, looking around and taking everyone in.
That evening when the nurse brought him back to our room all cleaned up in the bassinet, we both just stared at him for at least an hour while he slept, so amazed that we had made something so perfect together, and thankful that God chose us to be his parents.
The first night was a sleepless one. Elliott woke me to eat every two hours, and nurses were in and out checking on both me and him. On Friday he was circumcised, and was sleepy most of the day, making it hard for me to get him to nurse until around 7pm. Several more friends and family stopped by to meet Elliott, and we all watched the Razorbacks win the Cotton Bowl from our hospital beds that evening.
On Saturday morning Elliott's pediatrician, Dr. Davis checked on him and gave him a good report, and the on-call OBGYN checked on me and gave me a good report. We were both discharged and told to come back in the morning so Elliott could have some more blood work done since his bilirubin levels were borderline when Dr. Davis saw him. I felt a little nervous about going home, because I hadn't been able to get Elliott to nurse much since the first night, but I was excited to be back in our home as a family of three.
We arrived at home Saturday afternoon and showed Elliott his new home, introducing him to his sisters, Maggie and Lola, who were very curious about what he was. The past two and a half days were days we will never forget, days that changed our family forever.