The Day Before – Magical Thinking
Beau’s birth story began on a Saturday morning. I was 40 weeks and 5 days pregnant with zero signs of impending labor and I had just published a blog post titled “The Overdue Blues”. Yep, I was pretty much over it. The day before had been my last day at work so I was officially on maternity leave…just waiting on a baby.
That morning we took our dogs on a long walk through Rasmussen Woods. Towards the end I split off from Nick to take a shortcut home (I do recall thinking that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea for an overdue woman to be alone in the woods.) A deer ran across the trail, startling me, and then it stopped and just stood there staring me down. I took a picture thinking …“Maybe it’s looking at me because it knows I’m going to go into labor today…animals have a sixth sense about things.”
You see, I’d gotten to the point of being superstitious or using “magical thinking” as I called it, to get me through those last days of pregnancy. Since I had no physical signs of labor to cling to, I had decided against all logic that science was failing me. Therefore I assigned meaning to every little thing, hoping it meant labor was just around the corner.
It is clear to me now that my son despises unfinished projects as much as his mother. I’d done some pretty serious nesting over the summer, turning our new house into a home. Even so, going into the weekend following my due date, two items still remained on my to-do list; finding chairs to go with our new farmhouse dining table and installing the car seat.
After our walk that morning I decided to go check out the Mankato Vintage Market, an occasional sale that happens the second weekend of every month. Even though I was a little bummed about the fact that I was still pregnant and thus available for the sale, it turns out to be lucky that I made it there that weekend because I finally found exactly what I was looking for and returned home with my proud purchase!! My dining room table was complete with chairs!!
That afternoon, Nick’s sister came over to enjoy the beautiful day and wait it out with us. The two of them left to go pick up some food and I went to the bathroom for the 367th time that day (one thing I so do not miss about pregnancy). That was when I noticed my first physical sign of labor!
**ATTENTION!** As far as birth stories go, this is an important detail but please only read the next paragraph if you are actually interested in how labor and birth play out. Also, make sure you’re not eating something. Okay, are we good? Great.
So I went to the bathroom and that’s when I lost my mucus plug. I know, it sounds disgusting and well, it is. But so are a lot of things about pregnancy and birth. To me, at the time, it was the most beautiful sight my eyes could behold! Finally, a sign of labor!!! Yayy! I immediately texted Nick to fill him in on this latest development. It’s funny to think that there was a time in our relationship when I wouldn’t even fart in front of him and now the words “mucus plug” have been uttered between us. How times have changed.
Shortly after they got back to the house we decided that perhaps it was a good idea to install the car seat that had been riding around in my backseat for weeks. And yes it took all three of us to do it, those things are complicated!
My to-do list was officially completed.
It seems I had finally met Beau’s list of demands because later that afternoon I started to feel “off”. It came on suddenly and felt almost flu-like. Nick was cutting up a watermelon when I mentioned that I wasn’t feeling so hot. I’d felt great my entire pregnancy, other than the typical fatigue, so between this and my little bathroom discovery we both knew that the wheels were in motion! And this wasn’t a total surprise because…
Ready for another icky birth story detail?
The day before at my weekly prenatal appointment my doctor had stripped my membranes (also known as a membrane sweep). This is a minimally invasive but not exactly pleasant procedure that the doctor can do to try to get labor going. I was really hoping to avoid scheduling a medical induction because I wanted to keep the whole “when is it going to happen?” mystery alive. So this seemed like a good way to hold off on taking drastic measures while still nudging nature along a little bit.
Sure enough, it was just over 24 hours after leaving my doctor appointment that my labor started.
The First of Many Sleepless Nights
That evening we planned to have friends over for dinner (shout out to the Mead family!) Staying busy and socializing was part of my strategy for dealing with the overdue blues so despite not feeling very well, I didn’t want to cancel. Plus, my magical thinking had me convinced that if I did cancel our plans it would all but guarantee a false alarm. We needed to carry on as normal!
They came over and we grilled up a delicious summer dinner that we enjoyed out on the deck. Not long after we finished eating I felt what I thought might be a contraction but I wasn’t sure. This tight, crampy feeling was coming every 15-20 minutes. Eventually, I filled my friend in since she’s had two kids of her own…
“It kind of feels like I have to poop, it starts down in my butt and then wraps around.” I told her.
“Yep, sounds about right!” she confirmed.
We decided to start timing the contractions with an app on my phone. Over the next few hours, as day turned into night, we sat outside on the deck talking about life while casually monitoring the progression of my early labor. Actually, it was my friend’s 11 year old daughter who was in charge of tracking the contractions. All I had to do was let her know when to press start and stop. She was also making notes in a little notebook, it was very sweet.
Eventually we headed inside to escape the bugs and I decided to take a break from timing contractions. I just wanted to “be” for a bit. While the other adults migrated to the kitchen, I went to the living room to bounce on my ball and watch TV with the kids. As my contractions became more regular I moved to the couch to lie down and started timing them again. They were about 5-6 minutes apart and I was starting to have to breathe through them.
After an hour or so, I noticed that I was getting really irritable with the kiddos as they fought over what show to watch on Netflix. Yup, it was time to officially declare that I was in labor and focus on the task at hand. I could tell that the other adults were feeling pretty good and I knew I needed Nick to sober up before it was time to go to the hospital.
So at 11:00pm I finally got up and announced that I was pretty sure I’d be having a baby soon and it was time to call it a night. Turns out that’s all you really need to say to clear out company! Our dear friends left pretty quickly, ha! I was so glad we’d had them over and I LOVE them but I’d reached the point where I could no longer be sociable and needed to focus on what was going on with my body.
I’d heard a million times that the best thing to do during early labor was to get some rest but that wasn’t happening for me. I tried to lie back down but it was too uncomfortable. Sitting was even worse than lying down. The only way I could deal at this point was by walking around. When I had a contraction I would brace myself on the dining room table or the kitchen countertop. So that’s what I did for the next couple of hours while Nick took a nap on the couch.
Non-important birth story detail: During all of this I was watching “The People vs OJ Simpson” on Netflix which was quite fascinating. I will now always associate the OJ trial with the birth of my first born.
By 1:00am my contractions were coming about every 3 minutes and they were lasting 30-45 seconds. In the birth class we took, they had stressed over and over again the “3-1-1” rule which meant we were supposed to wait until contractions were 3 minutes apart and lasting for 1 minute for at least 1 hour before heading to the hospital. My contractions were getting closer together but they weren’t lasting longer which was totally confusing me. Was I really going to let myself get hung up on this stupid rule? I mean, it was probably more of a “guideline” right? I decided to take a shower while I thought about what our next move should be.
Finally, at 3:00am, I woke Nick up and told him it was time to go. My contractions still weren’t lasting for a whole minute but they were now only a couple minutes apart. He went upstairs to pack his bag and I forced myself to have a big bowl of cereal since I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat once we got to the hospital. It was a nice summer evening so while I waited for Nick I paced our driveway. I could see lights turning on and off inside our house as Nick went from room to room. What was he DOING in there?! I knew that he was purposely taking his sweet time because he didn’t think we needed to leave yet but he was also smart enough not to argue with me about it. When he finally came outside I noticed he had changed into his “lucky outfit”. It’s nothing fancy, just his very favorite t-shirt and pair of shorts. I found this to be adorable so I forgave all of his stalling.
The ride to the hospital was not fun but luckily Mankato is a small town and there’s no traffic in the wee hours of the morning so I didn’t have to suffer for long. We arrived at the Emergency Room a little before 4:00am and got checked in. A nurse came down with a wheelchair which I really didn’t want to sit in but I guess I’d never considered that I could just say “no thanks, I’d rather walk” so I allowed myself to get wheeled up to the 5th floor.
We got into our room, I changed into a hospital gown, and they hooked me up to monitors to track the baby’s heart rate and my contractions. The nurse checked me and told me I was at 2 1/2 centimeters. I’m pretty sure she slipped the half centimeter in there just to be nice. I was a bit disheartened to hear this. The last 10 hours or so of contractions had only gotten me that far? After 20 minutes of monitoring she said she’d call the doctor, update them on my status, and let me know if I’d be staying. It hadn’t occurred to me until then that I could still be sent back home. Shit.
When the nurse returned she told us that they were going to admit me. Hallelujah! Fortunately, the labor and delivery wing was fairly quiet at the time we’d arrived so they had plenty of room for me and even though I wasn’t dilated very far, my contractions were coming fast and getting stronger so they felt confident that I’d progress quickly. Once we knew we were staying, we texted our parents and siblings to let them know we were at the hospital. Okay, I may have also taken a Snap Chat of the Emergency Room sign for 40 of my closest friends. What can I say? I’m an open book. I was just so excited that it was actually happening – it felt surreal!
The first thing I did was ask the nurse for one of the infamous slushies that I’d heard so much about. Did I need a slushie at 5:00am? No. But it felt like something I needed to do just to get the full experience. You know, sort of like getting a hot dog at the ballpark or popcorn at the movies.
Over the next couple hours the contractions started to get more intense. It felt like my hips were being pulled apart. Nick helped me get through them by applying counter pressure – just like we’d learned at birth class (and he thought the class would be a waste of time, psh!) It really did help. The nurse asked me about an epidural and I told her that I would let her know when I needed it. I wasn’t really interested in a natural birth but I did want to experience labor for a while.
At 7:00am the nurses changed shifts and my new nurse asked again about the epidural. I had her check my progress before I decided and that’s when I found out I was only dilated to three centimeters. The pain wasn’t completely unbearable yet, although it was definitely starting to suck, but I’d been up and on my feet all night long so I was simply exhausted. I just wanted to be able to lie down and rest. Bring on the drugs.
Ironically, the worst part of my whole labor experience was getting the epidural since it required me to sit still on the bed. It felt like the baby was pressing down on my tailbone so sitting down was painful enough and then when I had a contraction it was pain on top of pain. I remember the anesthesiologist was trying to get me to lean forward and round out my lower back more and I must not have been doing it right. Frustrated and in pain, I started crying and then I heard Nick sniffling (I had my eyes closed the whole time) Knowing he was crying made me cry even more! This was the only time I shed tears during our entire hospital stay but I cannot say the same for Nick aka Mr. Waterworks.
After the epidural was in I was finally able to lie down and rest. I could see on the screen that I was still having contractions but I didn’t feel a thing, it was glorious! Some of the fears I had about getting an epidural were that I wouldn’t be able to move my legs (I still could they just felt heavy), that it would only work on one side (it worked on both!), and that it would make me feel like I was “on drugs” (I felt totally normal). While I remain completely in awe of women who give birth naturally, I was immediately happy with my decision to get an epidural. I’d get another one every day of the week and twice on Sundays.
My parents stopped by our room around 8:30 that morning. The nurse told them that since I was a first time mom, it would probably be later that afternoon or early evening before baby made his arrival. So they left to go to church and I told them I’d keep them updated. Nick and I settled in for a nap while we waited to meet our son. Of course, I was too excited to actually sleep but I did get some rest. The nurse put a peanut ball between my legs and I alternated lying on one side for 45 minutes and then the other.
At around 10:00am or so, the doctor came in. It was my first time meeting this doc and I really liked her. She was spunky. Since it was a Sunday morning, I had the on-call doctor instead of my regular OB which I was totally cool with. I was never overly attached to my own doctor and trusted that I’d receive good care no matter who I ended up with on that day. It definitely helped to have a “go with the flow” approach in this area – one less thing to worry about.
She checked me and said I had progressed to a 5 and that she wanted to break my water to keep things moving along. Even with the epidural, I felt a gush of water when she did it but other than that, it was pretty uneventful. I believe Nick was asleep during all of this. After the doctor left, I went back to napping/resting. According to my calculations I was dilating a couple centimeters every few hours so I figured we still had the afternoon to get through.
The next thing I knew it was half past noon and the nurse was waking me up to check me.
She said “You’re complete”.
I said “I’m what?” because I was listening for a number like 7 or 8…I didn’t understand what she meant. And then I did.
“Oh!! It’s time?”
“Yup, you’re ready to push” she said. Then she looked over at Nick who was napping on the chair and said “Wake up Nick! Are you ready to be a dad?”
As Nick shot up, I quickly grabbed my phone to text my mom. The nurse started wheeling in trays full of equipment to prepare for delivery and that’s when things got a little scary. She looked at the monitor and said that the baby’s heart rate was dropping and she was going to get some other nurses to help. As soon as the words left her mouth, at least three nurses burst through the door. They were all acting very calm but I felt the sense of urgency and started to get really nervous as I watched my main nurse pull out a phone to call the doctor. I heard her say something about “heart tones” and I started to mentally prepare myself for a C-section.
The nurse repositioned me to my side and put an oxygen mask on my face. After a minute or so (a very long minute), his heart rate had gone back up and we were okay. I honestly don’t recall exactly how it all played out, I just remember being very afraid and then suddenly everything was back to normal. The doctor was in the room and it was time to push. I don’t know if it was the heart rate scare or adrenaline or what but I was suddenly shaking uncontrollably as we got into pushing position with my nurse holding one leg and Nick holding the other.
As I was being instructed on how to push, the door to my room opened and there was my mom. I remember seeing the surprised look on her face over my nurse’s shoulder. She definitely didn’t realize “it” was already happening. The plan was to only have Nick in the room for the delivery so she scurried off to the waiting room and we got down to business.
One of my fears about getting an epidural was that I wouldn’t be able to push correctly but I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that I could still feel what was going on down there…just without the pain. I remember asking if I was doing it right, thinking we were just getting started on what would be a long couple hours or so of pushing, when the nurse asked if I wanted to reach down to feel his head. Whoa. What? Already? And no, I did not want to, for some reason that just freaked me out.
So with that information I quickly tried to prepare myself for the fact that there was about to be an actual baby in the room. It all seemed so surreal still. Sure enough, a few pushes later I looked down and there he was…our baby. The very one we’d been anticipating for months. I learned later that I’d pushed for only 23 minutes. It all went so much faster than I had expected.
As soon as he came out the nurse exclaimed, “Thirteen Thirteen!” (1:13pm) as his time of birth. This was funny because earlier that morning I had expressed my disappointment to her that his birth date would be the thirteenth. It’s not like it really matters but for some reason I wasn’t happy about that. But hey, it’s clearly his lucky number!
They immediately set him on my chest and I tried to get a good look at his face but he was too close to really see without getting cross eyed. I figured I could look later, for now we’d just snuggle. Nick was crying. Beau was wailing. I put my finger in his little hand and soaked it all in. The nurse offered to take a few pictures and I’m so glad she was able to capture these first moments after his birth.
I was completely unaware of delivering the placenta (people always told me you don’t even notice that part but I never believed them) however I did notice, much to my dismay, that the doctor was stitching me up. She was saying something to me, I think explaining what she was doing and that I had a first degree tear (which I found out later from the nurses) but I couldn’t hear over Beau’s crying so I just nodded and smiled.
By the way, he wasn’t quite “Beau” at this point. We had two names picked out and while we were leaning strongly towards one, we wanted to wait to meet him first. I still hadn’t gotten a good look at his face but Nick was looking right at him so I asked “Is he a Beau?” Nick confirmed that he definitely was.
Time stood still for the next couple hours while we did skin to skin and got acquainted with our little man. I nursed him in a side lying position right there on the delivery bed which felt both awkward and incredibly natural at the same time. Breastfeeding proved to be more difficult over the next few days but I remember that first time seemed effortless for both of us.
At some point we realized that we hadn’t said anything to our parents yet who were all waiting down the hall. Oops! So we sent Nick to deliver the news. Our nurse was adamant that we should make them wait until we moved to our recovery room before allowing them in to visit.
“You’ll never get this time back.” she said. I liked her.
Somehow, despite our awesome bouncer of a nurse, my mom sneaked her way into the delivery room. She just couldn’t help herself! Not long after, we made our way to our recovery room (I was surprised that I was able to walk down the hall without any problem) and Beau got to meet his other three grandparents. It was a very special time! Our little boy is so very loved.
And that is how Beau Nicholas Fischer came into this world and made us parents! I’ve always questioned if I was maternal enough to have children. If I had only known!! I’m such a mama bear, a total stage 5 clinger, and I don’t apologize for it! He’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. We love him with all of our hearts.