What’s up, followers? Once upon a time, at the beginning of the pandemic, I had a baby… Whew. Some days it feels like it’s still March 2020, and other times it feels like forever ago. Now that we’re nearly done with 2021, it’s time to share her birth story. There’s lots going on in this little lady’s life, but there’s no place else to start but the beginning!
Without further ado…
I was quite surprised by this pregnancy from the beginning, as we weren’t actively trying to conceive and so my missed menses came as a complete and utter shock. That wore off just in time for the morning sickness to begin at 6 weeks, on the dot, as with every other pregnancy.
We anticipated a girl from the beginning and that was confirmed at our anatomy ultrasound at 19 weeks. Other than an immense amount of weight gain, and the tragic cancer diagnosis and death of our dear friend in the midst of it, this pregnancy was rather unremarkable. Early on I decided another birth center delivery was a must, and even though Chapel Hill was about 40ish minutes away, I enrolled as a patient at the Women’s Birth & Wellness Center. (Next kid: home birth? Too crunchy? 😉).
I worked out weekly during the second and third trimesters. I was taking classes at the YMCA and enjoyed the 2 hour break of free childcare while I waddled on the treadmill or did squats with a group of old ladies. Around 30 weeks pregnant we enrolled our oldest in preK, and then 6 weeks later we all came down with the flu. No joke! And right before Covid was declared a global pandemic, too. Yes, it really was the flu (we couldn’t get covid tests but we COULD get influenza tests, which were confirmed positive, and while the flu pregnant is absolutely miserable, I’m glad it was not Covid). After we all recovered, I began my weekly visits to the birth center, and by 37 weeks, preschool had closed, my husband was working from home indefinitely, and we just had to wait for what I thought would surely be another 3-4 weeks of Braxton-Hicks. That I could endure, because the real struggle was waiting for my mom to come down from NY.
My mom made it to NC the day that NY state issued their stay-at-home orders, which was such a relief because by the third kid, I knew I needed her. At this point we’re all probably aware of where we were and what we were doing for March 2020, and by now I’ve got a whole series of “Postpartum / Pregnant in a Pandemic” posts saved as drafts, so I’ll spare you and get back to the good stuff. My mama arrived on my oldest daughter’s 5th birthday, and there was much rejoicing. 🥳
At 37 weeks and 5 days, I woke up feeling off, but I didn’t believe it was labor for a while. I was late with the other 2, so I figured even though I was due on April 10, I was more likely to have her on April 14 (Easter Sunday). Wednesday night I went to bed feeling crampy but I thought it was dehydration (between recovering from the flu and the start of the pollen, I was coughing a ton and just thought I needed to drink more). On Thursday morning (March 26) I got woken up by a strong contraction around 8am that hurt a lot, but was super low, almost like my bladder was trying to cut its way out of me. After that, my morning continued with what I thought were just normal BH contractions— they were regular but not painful. As the day progressed they got more uncomfortable and stayed 5-10 min apart for about 45-60 seconds. I stayed super lazy all day Thursday, trying to rest. Around noon I noticed a mucous in my panties which historically has meant birth within 24 hours. But it wasn’t the normal bloody mucous plug I was used to, and I was still only 37 weeks 6 days, so I thought it might just be that I was walking around 3cm dilated and didn’t know it. (I hadn’t had any cervical checks with this pregnancy so I didn’t know if I was dilated or effaced at all).
I hadn’t been using evening primrose oil like I did with a previous pregnancy, and we hadn’t recently had any sex so I could rule those factors out as the cause of the discharge. (Too graphic? Hey, I told you it was a birth story! You’re in for all the details fit to print.) Around 5pm I started feeling more uncomfortable, my contractions began to hurt but weren’t painful. As a measure of precaution, I had my husband put the car seat in and take my bags to the car. I kinda ran through “instructions” with my mom but I really still felt like it was false labor. We called the midwife just in case to give them a heads up and to make sure it wasn’t too early to deliver there (we just were not sure how/if things might’ve changed because of the rapidly evolving pandemic and all the changing Covid precautions being implemented). She told me it sounded like prodromal labor but because it was so early, her only recommendation was to hydrate, rest, and stay lazy! And of course, to call if anything changes.
Thursday night I went to bed around 9:30pm, not sure I would be able to sleep but definitely feeling very tired. By this point I was moaning (technically I was “ohm” breathing, but let’s be real, it definitely sounds like cattle lowing) more to deal with the discomfort of each contraction. They had spaced out to about 15-20 mins apart but were increasing in intensity. I dozed on and off between them. At 11pm I had 3 very intense contractions in rapid succession (about 3min apart for a minute each) and an urge to push! I freaked out and sat on the toilet because I didn’t know if I needed to poop or push, and didn’t wanna risk either one. That woke my husband up and we called again. The midwife could tell there was a change from my voice, so we decided to go in. We handed off adulting duties to my Mom, grabbed food and left for Chapel Hill at like 11:30pm. I had NO contractions the entire 35 min ride to the birth center, and I started to get mad/anxious because it felt like a false alarm! (If you’ve read either of my other two birth stories, then you might remember me mentioning how much I dislike riding in the car while I’m in labor!) For some reason, I was more afraid of it being false labor and being sent home than having the baby in the car or at home. My husband, on the other hand, was terrified his beautiful car would get “birth fluids” in it, so I rode to the birth center on a towel, and he packed a moving blanket in the back “just in case.” (This detail will never stop being funny to me!)
When we arrived just after midnight on Friday March 27, the midwife met us outside and led us in through a private door to the Blue Room. I was relieved because blue is my favorite color, so that felt like a gift. I still hadn’t had any contractions since we left the house, so I opted for a cervical check. There was one midwife and one nurse but at that time, there were no other patients to my knowledge. They both had hats, gloves, and masks on the entire time. Jason and I were not required to wear masks then, but we were told there was no kitchen or waiting room access to reduce Covid risk to the staff. (That was fine with us, it was just different than what we had signed up for back in September when I decided I wanted to deliver here).
I was 4cm dilated but my contractions were just starting back up again, so I was encouraged to rest. The room was dark and there was a big bed. I fell asleep in between 10/15min apart contractions for about an hour and then they picked up again. When I couldn’t rest any more, around 2am, my contractions were 4-5 mins apart, and they stayed that way for several hours. I was contracting and dilating, but the baby was not yet at zero station, so I did use a birth ball in the shower to try and swivel my hips to get her to lower. After I got tired of that, I spent several hours in the dark moving around the room/bed/birth stool in the Blue Room. (Speaking of stool, she said I needed to try to poop during my first cervical check upon arrival because I was full of it 💩). I probably pooped like 5-6x during labor which I’m mentioning here because this did not happen with my other labors! TMI? Sorry, just being real with you.
Because I was using the bathroom so often, I was able to see progress with cervical mucous and show, which for me was very helpful. I loved being able to know I was making progress. I was glad I could be up and lucid for the process to know even when the contractions felt like constant pain that wasn’t doing anything and it was taking forever, that my body was showing me signs of progress. I barfed twice, probably from all the Gatorade I drank while in labor. I was trying so hard to stay hydrated so I didn’t lose my stamina!
Eventually, I got in the large bathtub around 4am…but I soon got back out because I could not get into a position that offered me enough relief. By then my contractions were wicked, concentrated mostly in my hips and hip flexors more than anywhere else, and I felt like I was being torn apart at the hip joint! I think once I sat during a contraction squeezing my thighs and screaming that my legs were going to fall off. (I might be a little dramatic, it’s ok though, labor is called such because it is hard work.)
At that point I was still moaning and hollering each contraction. It hurt enough to barf, but I wanted to cry. Ah yes, transition! At around 5:30am I had to give myself a pep-talk: “crying helps no one. You’re not going anywhere, it’s time to breathe this baby down.” I was able to focus my breathing and became completely quiet. Not a sound, just breathing. I kept thinking to myself “breathe in strength, breathe out the pain. Down, baby, down.” Jason said it was super weird because no one was talking and he felt like the midwife should’ve been coaching me (I was in the zone—they knew it, and I’m glad they left me to it. The only thing I would’ve changed was maybe some classical music). Soon after 6, I got back in the tub of warm water, tried to get comfortable (LOL), and eventually said aloud “I can’t do this,” which is what every laboring mother always says right before it’s time to push a baby out.
Thankfully, my wonderful support team all said “yes you can” and “you already are doing this!” Around 6:30am was my last cervical check, and the midwife informed me there was no more cervix and I was fully dilated! I remember her saying she could feel the baby’s head and the bag of water was still intact. I breathed through a few more contractions while on my back in the tub of water. It was mostly dark still, with a little bit of early morning light over the trees visible through the window. My midwife then said I could continue doing what I was doing and breathe the baby down, or I had two other options: 1) she could break my water for me, or 2) I could take a huge deep breath and hold it, then start pushing during a contraction with all my might. I grunted “break my water,” and she turned to get the tool but before she took her hand away, I started pushing like my life depended on it. Holy 💩, I have done this 3 times now and that was definitely the hardest push ever. I honestly felt like I would be split open! (Was this baby a linebacker; why were her shoulders trying to break me!?)
It felt like each push was 30+ mins, but I know they were much closer to only 1 min (since I was holding my breath for most of the pushing). I did that 3-4 times while my husband was cheering me on: “I SEE HER I SEE HER! Keep going!” (I love him; he’s such a good labor coach!) As the baby was crowning, the midwife coached me through the ring of fire and told me to keep my bottom down (remember, I was on my back in the tub, so if I used my legs to help push I lifted my backside) so the baby would come out completely submerged in the tub. One more push and she came out, just like a mermaid! Her bag of waters was still fully intact! This is called being born en caul. Apparently it’s quite rare for an unassisted vaginal delivery (according to the internet). Jason said the birthing team were freaking out but he had no idea why they were so excited (other than cheering for me) so he didn’t take any pictures of it.😜 The midwife pulled the baby, bag and all, out of the bathwater and broke her sac right before they laid her on my chest (still in the tub). Jason got a video of them laying her on me as she’s making her first cries. Our sweet girl Olivia Paige, was born March 27, 7:05am, at 38 weeks on the nose. She was 7lbs 15oz, and 20 inches long. My smallest and earliest baby!
Skin to skin with a freshly born baby was something I didn’t understand until motherhood. It seemed so weird and gross considering where they came from (and all that gooey vernix!) but now I’ll tell you this: I would do it a hundred times over just for that moment. It is pure magic, and it was no different this time around. I was still in the bathtub in a nursing bra, but she latched on right away so we hung out there for several minutes. Once her umbilical cord stopped pulsing, Jason cut it (I still don’t know if this is something he likes or thinks is cool, but it’s been his rite of passage with each child).
Soon I was encouraged to get out of the tub so I could get a pitocin shot to help deliver my placenta, which took another 30 minutes. I originally didn’t want the pitocin if I didn’t need it, but they suggested it to help encourage cramping. Here’s the worst part: I had to squat, a proper up-on-my-feet-squat-over-a-bowl SQUAT (after 7h of labor!!!!!!!!) and push the darned thing into a bowl on the bed. I was just so afraid to push, but thankfully after the initial fear, it came out intact with minimal bleeding. Jason got to hold his new baby, and then she latched almost immediately after that and didn’t pop off or close her eyes til almost 4 hours after she was born. 😳
I changed into some dry clothes (well, a dry bra—when you deliver a baby, there is postpartum bleeding after the placenta detaches. Normally you get some nice mesh panties and a pad the size of an adult diaper, but 10 days into a global pandemic that shut the world down, there was a supply shortage). The midwives washed all my clothes and panties and bras up to that point (4-6 hour recovery period is great for going home with fresh clean laundry!), and they did have some chux pads for when I was laying in the bed. Thankfully, when I packed my hospital bag, I also threw in some maxipads and Depends, which was fortunate because the birth center had nothing! Postpartum recovery is an interesting thing. After pushing a baby out, you just want to rest, but my labor was pretty fast (and early), so I was well hydrated. I had to get up to poop at just a few hours postpartum, and I peed without a peri bottle (😳). A feat!
The postpartum recovery nurses checked me for bleeding and if I had any tearing, and said everything was fully intact and that I only lost 50cc of blood (apparently, up to 200cc is typical). I ate some of the food we packed and took some Motrin — holy afterbirth pains, Batman. They also gave me some of this disgusting Cramp-ease that worked like a charm. (Tastes bad, works great: go order some.) We told our families in a text message of course, and then we got to FaceTime with Jason’s mom, and then my dad, because they were out of state. Then Olivia and I laid on the bed and I passed out til like 1pm. Jason said the nurses kept coming in to check me and give me info and I was snoring like a wild boar. He even took a video. I’ve never heard such a horrible sound come out of a human 🤣. We got discharged at 1:45pm on Friday at just 6 hours postpartum and headed home!
Claire and Nora were there with my mom to greet us and we recorded them meeting her; it was so sweet.
My milk transitioned Friday during the day, and was almost fully in by Saturday night. Friday night I slept in the recliner with Olivia because she was cluster feeding. Monday was our 3-day postpartum “home visit” but because of Covid restrictions, it was held at the birth center. Jason stayed with the big kids, and my mom came with me. Olivia’s weight was down to 7lbs 9oz (less than 10%), her skin color and pulse ox and hearing were all good. They did her newborn heel prick, checked my blood pressure and vitals. For those who may not know, a typical postpartum check will verify things like intact perineum, tearing, status of bleeding, any hemorrhoids, and if the uterus hard and low, etc. This was my easiest postpartum recovery by far. At just a few days postpartum, I was feeling so normal. I was using the bathroom regularly, had no perineal pain or itching, no need for a peri bottle to help void.
Despite my milk transitioning well and Olivia’s diapers 💩 as they should be, my nipples were destroyed. I’d done this enough times to know what to ask for, so the nurse and lactation consultant confirmed she had an upper lip tie and posterior tongue tie. This was challenging because while I had no problem pumping for relief and for her to eat, I knew we needed help. The referral came in but because everything not considered an essential service was closed due to Covid, it was difficult to find a dentist or ENT who could do the frenectomies. Thankfully, we got that addressed by the time she was a week old, and the pain stopped instantly.
Since this is a birth story post, I’ll leave you here with a few pictures.
Pandemic babies are no joke. Definitely let me know in the comments who else had a pandemic baby so we can encourage each other with ALL the solidarity!