My sweetest son,
This is the story of your birth. I’m recording it for us, so that we can always remember the miracle that happened on September 8, 2017.
Your due date had come and gone, and you were still nestled snugly inside me. Friends and family would text or email, “Is that baby here yet?” “Are you still pregnant?” “Didn’t you tell that kid it’s Labor Day?”
I would respond as cordially as I could, despite the annoyance I felt at their light-hearted jests. Believe me, you will know he’s here shortly after we will, I thought to myself. And so Daddy and I continued to wait for you. We filled our time watching movies, catching up on television shows, walking the trails at the local park. I even counted my stretch marks. 63 crimson stripes across my belly; a permanent reminder of your temporary home.
At 40 weeks and 5 days, my obstetrician offered to strip my membranes. I had been 90% effaced for about 2 weeks, and dilating a centimeter a week for 3 weeks, putting me at 5cm dilated before active labor started. Warm up contractions would come and go for hours at a time, usually between 2 and 3 o’clock in the morning. I was ready to meet you. I was ready for the anticipation to be gone, and to finally hold you in my arms.
I graciously accepted the offer from my OB, and braced for impact as she separated the bag of waters from the sides of my uterus. Daddy held my hand, and when the doctor was finished, we agreed that if labor hadn’t started by the weekend, we would induce in 3 days, on Sunday September 10, 2017.
After stopping for an early dinner, we arrived at home around 4PM. I started to feel more cramping, and the contractions began to arrive. I wonder if this is just more warm-up labor, I thought to myself, as ate my sandwich from Jimmy Johns. An Italian Night Club, with no onions; never once feeling guilty for eating lunch meat while pregnant.
Then it happened: a tightening of my belly that grew stronger as it took my breath away. And it happened again. And again. And again.
After 5 hours of deep breathing, rocking on a balance ball, and loading up on cashews, string cheese, and oven roasted turkey breast, we decided it was time to call the hospital. My contractions were consistently 3 minutes apart, lasting a little more than a minute each, and getting stronger with every wave. The nurse who answered the phone agreed that it was time to come in, and Daddy and I gathered the last of our hospital bag items and prepared to head out the door.
The books and the birthing classes all talk about the excitement and joy you feel when you go into labor. I did not feel this way. I was anxious. I felt unprepared. Despite reading dozens on pregnancy, labor and delivery, and newborn care, I felt completely unprepared. In a last ditch effort to maintain some control over the situation, I decided to brush and floss my teeth.
Your Dad walked into the bathroom and asked me what I was doing. I tearfully replied that I didn’t know when I would get another chance to floss my teeth; as if this would be the last time I would EVER have the pleasure of flossing. Daddy replied that he would bring dental floss for me, and that I would, in fact, be able to floss again after you made your grand debut.
After my dramatic farewell to floss, we departed for the hospital at 9:30PM on September 7. I began to cry out of insecurity, and also because my contractions had stopped.
“They’re going to send us home and I’m going to be embarrassed and Sarah (our doula) will have to drive all the way back to Wisconsin just to come back again another day for actual labor to start.”
“That’s not going to happen,” your father reassured me, “We’re going to get to the hospital, you’re going to be admitted, and we’re going to have a baby and everything will be perfect. Okay?”
I nodded as I held back tears and breathed through my anxiety.
We arrived at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth and parked in the Red Ramp. We walked to the skywalk, only to find that the entrance was locked. I cried again, “I forgot we have to enter through the Emergency Room after 8PM.”
Thankfully, a nurse who was entering the hospital saw my gigantic pregnant self and your father with a suitcase and a backpack, and correctly assumed that we were headed to the birth center. She let us enter with her, and wished us luck.
As we rode the elevator to the 5th floor of the hospital, I felt a small contraction. I felt somewhat more confident in being admitted after that contraction, but there was a part of me that still thought we would be sent home.
The nurses admitted us, and our first nurse Theresa brought us to our birthing room. Ironically, it was the same room we toured during the birthing class; a lakeside room with a hookup for nitrous oxide for pain management and a whirlpool tub for laboring in. Reality started to set in.
I’m going to have a baby.
Theresa took my vitals and hooked me up to a monitor to check on your heart rate and measure the frequency of my contractions. Your heart rate was beautiful, and the contractions were still happening, even though I couldn’t really feel them.
The resident on-call came in to take a quick history and to check my cervix. I was between 95-100% effaced and 6 cm dilated. He asked about my preferences for pain management. I requested that I would be able to labor in the tub and to use nitrous oxide if I needed it. I also mentioned that I’m open to an epidural if I feel it becomes necessary.
He nodded in agreement and basically said that he would be leaving me alone until I needed either the nitrous or the epidural, and that if everything was going well he would be back in a few hours to check my cervix again. He didn’t seem concerned that I wasn’t feeling the contractions anymore, since he could see them on the monitor, and they were definitely happening.
After he left, Theresa took the monitors off and suggested Daddy and I walk around the birthing center floor to help restart some stronger contractions. So we walked around the floor twice, and I had begun to feel more pressure in my pelvis. I could still walk, but it was getting harder to breath through the contractions while I was upright.
We arrived back at the room and Sarah, our doula, had arrived. My contractions were in a lull again, and so we made small talk and just hung out for about 30 minutes. It was now just before 11 PM, and our nurses were changing shifts. Theresa would be leaving for the night, and Taylor would be taking over.
Shortly after Taylor had taken another set of vitals, my contractions really picked up. The first few were so strong that I had to get down on all fours to relieve the pressure in my back and belly. Like the Jedi before me, I remembered my training: breath deeply, inhale to the count of 4, exhale to the count of 6 or 8. And groan like a freaking wildebeest. Deep, guttural moans that put to shame any sort of hoofed, quadruped animal in the throes of heat (i.e. elk, moose, yak, llama).
I requested, with my last shred of amity, that Taylor bring a birthing ball to the room. I tried to sit on the birthing ball, but you were putting so much pressure on my cervix that I couldn’t stand the weight. I tried to kneel on the ground over the birthing ball, hugging the giant purple sphere so tightly I was sure it would burst. I lamented that I did not bring my yoga mat to kneel on, as hospital floors are not known for being easy on the knees. We tried a pillow under my knees, with no relief.
Sarah used counter pressure on my hips and back to relieve some of the pressure, reminding me with every contraction to keep breathing, groaning, and remember that each contraction is temporary and productive. “He’s coming, Mama. You get to meet him soon.”
I’ll be honest. Through the hardest part of my contractions, there was a part of me that wondered what I had done to myself. Why did I do this? What kind of sick, sadistic person would intentionally put themselves through this pain?
I need a time machine, so I can go back and tell myself to not get pregnant because labor is AWFUL and it never ends.
“I need the nitrous,” I managed to say.
“Okay. I hear you. Do you want to try a warm bath first?” Sarah asked.
“Yes,” I nodded through another contraction.
We filled the tub, and I stripped down to nearly nothing. Not caring that I was naked from the chest down, I eased down into the tub. The water felt wonderful. But the tub was not nearly big enough for me to labor the way I needed to AND get the full benefit of the water. I tried to lay back and let the jets massage my back. I tried to kneel on all fours. I even tried sitting cross-legged. Nothing was helping. All the while I swayed and rocked and breathed out every wave of pain that shot through my body.
“Sarah, I need the nitrous.”
“Okay, we’ll get the nurse.”
I stood up to get out of the bath, and noticed 10 scarlet streaks gracing the bottom of the tub. Through an especially intense contraction, my Sally Hansen Cinna-Snap toenail polish tagged the tub like a juvenile delinquent with a can of Rustoleum and a pension for defacement.
This is why you put a top-coat on, Megan. Because otherwise you ruin nice things.
Daddy flagged Taylor, and she went to notify the resident on-call. He came in with some papers for me to sign, and began to go over the rules for using the nitrous for pain management. He checked my cervix again; now at 7 cm. Just as Taylor walked in with the machine for the nitrous oxide, another contraction hit me like a freight train. I knew that laughing gas wouldn’t help me at this point.
The resident began to go over the waiver with me, to which I replied, “F**k the nitrous, I need the epidural.” Your Mama was not messing around. I was almost fainting with every contraction, and I needed something stronger to get me through those last 3 cm. The resident responded with an, “Okey dokey,” and Taylor took the nitrous out of the room and went to call the anesthesiologist.
Taylor put the monitors back on my belly to monitor your heart rate and my contractions, and gave me an IV of fluids to keep me hydrated. The contractions kept growing stronger as we waited about 40 minutes for the anesthesiologist to arrive. When he did, he demonstrated the most perfect example of mansplaining I have ever seen.
This joker sits down on the bed next to me while I’m groaning like a cow, and proceeds to play Pictionary with me to explain how an epidural works.
“Hi Megan, okay, I’m going to draw you a picture here so you know what I’m doing alrighty? This is your brain. This is your spine. This is your brain stem and your spinal cord. Here is your uterus,” etc.
He proceeded to go through a freaking anatomy lesson, drawing every part on his notebook, all the while I’m thinking that I’m a married, 27-year-old, college educated woman. I’ve read the books. I took the class. I KNOW what an epidural does and how it does it. Place the GD catheter and GTFO of here.
And yes, I know that he has to explain what he’s doing for legal purposes so that I don’t sue him incase something goes wrong. His know-it-all attitude was simply not appreciated while I was hitting a 14 out of 10 on the pain scale.
The epidural took about 20 minutes to fully kick in. And even then, it barely took the edge off. I still felt every contraction, and I still needed to breath and groan through every wave that hit me. The contractions were about 2 minutes long at this point, and I thought I would be in labor for ever. I only had about 30 seconds of rest between each contraction, and I needed every single break I could get.
After you were born, Daddy told me that the monitor that was watching my contractions would sometimes go off of the scale. I couldn’t believe how much I felt them even after the epidural. Labor continued like this from 2 AM until about 6 AM on September 8. The resident checked my cervix at about 4 AM; 9 cm. Around 6 AM I entered a slight rest period. The contractions had just about stopped, and I could actually talk and communicate like a human again. The three of us, your Dad, Sarah, and I all slept until 8:30 AM.
Our daytime nurse, Debbie, came to check on me at 8:30. She noted that I had been laying on my left side for a few hours, and was worried that the epidural would have settled on that side; leaving my right side completely open to pain. I assured here that it was not the case, and that my right side was actually completely numb, and my left was the one that needed a little extra assistance.
She acknowledged what I told her, and asked me to roll over on my back so she could check my cervix to see if I had dilated any further. With Daddy and Sarah’s help, I rolled onto my back for yet another cervical exam.
“Oh! Oh, yep. I see your baby’s head. He’s got a lot of hair. Okay, it’s go time.”
“Mkay, great,” I said, trying to roll over onto my right side so I could keep sleeping.
“No, no honey, you’re having a baby now. You can’t go back to sleep.”
“Oh, okay,” as I rolled to my back.
Debbie left to grab another nurse and the daytime on-call doctor and resident. I don’t remember the name of the resident who was there, but the doctor who delivered you was Dr. Rogotzke. They entered the room all at once, decked out in scrubs and surgical gowns and masks. The doctor raised the table and removed the foot of the bed, and though I was in a daze I heard her ask, “Okay Megan, are you ready to have this baby?”
I must have said yes, because the next thing I knew Debbie was directing Sarah and Daddy how to hold my legs as I pushed. The epidural had completely numbed me, and I couldn’t feel anything as I pushed. Dr. Rogotzke coached me to curl around you as I pushed through the contractions that would bring you into your first breath of life.
Daddy and Sarah held my legs while I pulled against them, held my breath, and pushed. Debbie would count to ten, I would push, and then take a half-a-second break. I had been pushing for about 27 minutes when Dr. Rogotzke said, “Okay, ease up a little bit Megan, you’re starting to tear and we need to slow down.”
I backed off, but you were ready. As your final farewell to your uterine home, you used my ribs as a springboard to burst forth into world. Pushing off of my ribs with one last bone-breaking kick, my waters broke with a fury and you erupted out of me like a phoenix from the flames. The doctor caught you as my stomach deflated and I could hardly believe you were here as I laid my eyes on you for the first time.
“Oh my God, oh my God, you’re here,” I repeated over and over as I wept and shook with pride and love and awe.
“He’s real. Oh my God, he’s actually real,” I said to your dad.
“He is,” Daddy replied, struggling to find the words to capture his awestruck agreement.
The doctor handed you to me and I laid you on my chest and held you as hard as I dared. I looked at your father and I barely eked out, “You’re a dad, Daniel! You’re a dad!”
I will never forget the look on his face as he smiled and shed a few tears and nodded joyfully as he kissed my head and looked at you. In that moment I have never loved him more. Even though the room was full of people, it was like no one else was there. It was just the three of us. Our wait was finally over. You were finally here and you were absolutely perfect. Nothing else mattered. We were all together. Our perfect little family.
You weighed 8lbs 8oz at birth, and measured 21.5” in length. Daddy says you have my eyes, and I say you have his nose. You have the cutest little ears, and that hair! So much hair. I don’t think I will ever get tired of looking at you.
As I write this, I look down at you, sleeping on my chest, and I marvel that you lived inside of me for 10 months. You will wake up soon, and you will probably cry, but I will be here with you, and here for you. We’ll snuggle, and we’ll play, and before I know it, you’ll be walking and talking, then off to college, and you’ll be married with a family of your own.
You will never know how much I love you. How much your Father and I so deeply love you is something we can never truly convey. Just know that we will always be here for you; no matter what.
We’re so blessed that you’re here. We can’t wait to watch you grow.