Today, I wanted to share Elle’s Birth Story. I did this for both my boys and found comfort in reading other birth stories where moms had similar history as mine. This one is a little different as I gave birth during the pandemic. Enjoy or skip : )
Back story on my labor history:
I have never gone into labor naturally. My first baby, Tommy, was born 10 days late after being medically induced at MGH. He was 8 lbs 14 oz. Birth story here.
Two and a half years later, my second son, Connor, was born a week late, medically induced, weighing 8 lbs 12 oz. Birth story here.
I share this because going any later than 41 weeks with my history would likely mean a 9+ lb baby. While my pelvis has proven twice it can birth big babies, my recovery with Connor was crazy easier as I didn’t tear at all. Those 2 oz maybe weren’t a significant amount of weight and it may have just been the fact that it was my second, but not tearing made such a difference.
That being said, I did extensive research on the safety and outcomes of medical induction before 41 weeks. The arrive study had a lot of promising data that made me feel confident choosing to be induced at 40 weeks. The study focused on 39 week inductions but since that landed a day after after Tommy’s birthday, I wanted to allow time in between the two for myself as a parent if I were to have the option.
So at my 38 week appointment, we scheduled an induction for my due date. I was increasingly uncomfortable, my mom was quarantining since the New Year and asking her to continue for an extra week or two felt selfish. I also didn’t want to risk spontaneously going into labor and needing someone who wasn’t part of our “bubble” come inside the house to watch the boys while my mom drove up from the cape. Lastly, being considered high risk as a pregnant person is an added stressor. Why not reduce my high risk period by a week if possible?
I did want to experience going into labor so I did everything I could at home from eating 6 dates a day, getting acupuncture at 39 weeks, doing endless squats, drinking red raspberry leaf tea, using my breast pump, among other things… Nothing worked but since I was just 40 weeks, I didn’t want to get my hopes up of being admitted into the hospital on my due date. I knew there was a chance I could be bumped.
Inductions in the time of Covid
On Sunday, I drove to get a pre-Operation covid test which came back negative. It was the “brain tickler” but not too bad. I had zero wait time and got tested in my car at the Boston Harvard Vanguard Hospital by Fenway.
My mom came to our house on Tuesday afternoon in preparation for our appointment at the hospital the following day.
I tried calling the hospital at 6 and 7:30 am Wednesday morning to see if I could head in, but was told THEY would call me when they were ready so we waited… for 90 minutes. It was a long 90 minutes since I had been up since 5 am. I was not able to sleep in my last morning… WHY!? I used the Peloton for 20 minutes to calm myself down and get out any anxiety. People often ask me how I stay motivated and when I exercise, I just feel better so that was enough of a driving factor for me to get in 4 workouts a week throughout my pregnancy.
Just as I was about to head in to see my midwife at the Wellesley Harvard Vangaurd for a routine 40 week appointment, that I didn’t cancel in case I was bumped, I got the call to come in! If I wasn’t able to be induced on my due date, I was hoping my midwife could attempt a membrane sweep that would push me into labor soon.
Upon arrival, we parked the car and checked in by answering a variety of Covid questions.
Nick did not need to take a Covid test. Partners are not required to right now in MA. We brought in the bags that we needed for the induction/labor but not postpartum like baby’s stuff or car seat. We brought a Yeti cooler as well with some fresh fruit, seltzers, champagne (that never was opened) and a ton of snacks. We definitely were glad to have the food/snacks as hospital food is well… hospital food. Nick and I were both allowed to order whatever we wanted.
Once checked in, my cervix was checked and it was only 1 cm dilated… My doctor was on call and placed a foley bulb which is like a water balloon placed above the cervix and is meant to help you dilate. There was a bit of pressure when it was placed inside, felt almost like a long pap smear. In the past, I had been given cytotec orally or vaginally for my inductions but this time, we were just going to try a foley bulb and pitocin. Once it was placed , we sat back and watched Kamala Harris be sworn in as VP. I couldn’t help but shed a tear, it was an emotional day on many fronts.
Nick actually went home quick to grab a few things as we live just 5 minutes away. I was not allowed to leave, but I didn’t exactly want to either. During my induction with Connor, we were able to leave the hospital. I was allowed one healthy support person and whoever that was, was not able to visit the cafeteria, roam the halls to get me water or anything else for that matter. In hindsight, I probably should have just told Nick to come back at 5 pm.
I personally did not find the Foley Bulb to be very uncomfortable. I would categorize it as mild discomfort actually. My doctor taped the other end of it to my leg for tension. I also got hooked up to an IV and began pitocin. This was around 11:40 am.
In non-covid times, we would have been able to walk the halls but we had to stay in our room. Once again, I was tested for Covid-19. I needed a test every 72 hours. So even if I had waited to get my test on Monday, I would have needed a re-test on Thursday I guess.
I began to feel frustrated that I wasn’t feeling any contractions at all so I started doing some squats and stretches that are believed to help get the baby into the right position to get labor started.
I decided to do a deep squat, think goddess pose and out popped the Foley bulb. This was good news and meant I was at least 4 cm dilated at this point. This was probably around 2:30 pm.
I still had no contractions so they continued upping my Pitocin, eventually breaking my water.
Finally, the epidural!
I don’t remember the timing of everything but SLOWLY contractions started and by 7:45 pm I requested an epidural. I had such pain with Tommy before getting an epidural that it resulted in me getting an epidural very early with Connor. I had no idea what I was dilated at when I got the epidural. They try to limit the number of times they check your cervix to reduce chance of infection but if I knew I was close to a 10 cm maybe I would have waited.
I do not find the placement of an epidural to be painful. I honestly find the IV in the arm to be worse! However, I could tell it was more on my right side but didn’t say anything. This would later effect me…
Whenever there were nurses in the room, I had to wear a mask even though my Covid tests were negative and most of the staff had received one or two vaccine shots. Nick had to wear a mask as well. We were able to take them off if there were not nurses in the room.
At one point, I asked if I could sit up to try to get baby to drop but immediately felt super nauseous. During my delivery with T, I was super sick. With C, I never felt sick once. I was able to pull my mask down to use the doggy bag but really didn’t need to. As soon as I laid down, I was fine again.
We sat back, watched the Inauguration concert and by the time Katy Perry came on to sing Firework, I was sure it was time to push. We waited for the doctor to come and check me for what felt like forever. The epidural wore off on the left side by this time. I hit the button to increase the amount and sure enough, it mostly went to my right side. Eventually it did go to the left but while my right leg was 100% dead weight, my left side could tap dance albeit my contractions were much less painful.
The anesthesiologist came to see me the following day and mentioned he could have fixed it quickly so my loss is hopefully your gain, speak up!
Time to Push
When the doctor finally arrived, as I guessed, it was time to push just around 10:15 pm. I sorta regretted pushing that epidural button at this point as I couldn’t feel the contractions for help with timing when to push. I put on my Taylor Swift playlist as it was the soundtrack of quarantine life and was ready to go…
I expected Elle to pop out after a couple pushes if I’m being honest. She did not. The nurses kept saying, “Thirds are weird. They either fly out or take some time.” This was neither reassuring or comforting, lol. There was one doctor in addition to two nurses in the room with us, all wearing masks.
At one point while I was pushing, I was super out of breath. This was the first time I really wanted to remove my mask during the entire day. I didn’t ask for permission because I’m a rule follower BUT I did gently lift it away from my mouth so I could take some deep breaths. This helped.
Finally after 25 minutes of pushing, Elle’s torso popped out. The doctor asked me if I wanted to to pull her out, something I hadn’t done with the boys and YOU BET I reached down and grabbed my little girl. I asked them to double check she was a girl too, lol. Had I not known she was a girl, I would have been such a blubbery mess! I wonder if I missed out on that experience too but I love our gender reveal pictures so much, I’m at peace here, I think…
I immediately noticed her hair which I thought was blonde, not sure if it is or isn’t but hey, that was my first reaction. After a bit of skin to skin, I also cut the umbilical cord! I did pull my mask down when she came out so she could actually see me, her mom! Yes, I’m aware she can only see black and white and barely 8 inches in front of her but I had to! No one said anything and I lifted it back up shortly, but I needed to kiss my baby on the head a million times and not through paper.
One of the few requests on my birth plan was to not tear, skin to skin and delayed umbilical cord cutting. I think the doctor helped me achieve in some way with the no tearing during the pushing part. I’m not positive what she did but it worked!
Death by a thousand cuts or Cornelia Street by Taylor Swift was quietly playing when she came out which are two of my favorite tracks from Lover. I’m not going to make some connection to the song lyrics obviously but something I’d like to remember.
While Elle was on my chest, I guessed she would be about 8.5 lbs and sure enough she came in at 8 lbs 9 oz, the smallest of my children by 3 oz but had I gone an extra week, she likely would have been the largest.
I was so thankful for no tearing again. In hindsight, I wonder if I could have delivered the baby without an epidural. I ultimately opted for one as I didn’t see the downside and if I did need stitches, that sounded excruciating if I wasn’t already numb down there.
While I’m a little bummed I’ll never know what it’s like to spontaneously go into labor, I’m at peace with it as I had 3 uncomplicated deliveries.
I’ll share postpartum details next…