Let me start off by saying that birth, in general, felt a lot like being a sweaty slug that exploded. But sure, it was a very special time…
Sad to say that Miss Gwen Emerson is almost TWO years old by the time I’m finally writing this post. In some ways that kind of explains everything about our transition into parenthood, haha!
The newborn fog and half-dressed postpartum days were VERY real for me. Gwen had colic, acid reflux, and just generally required a lot of attention from 0-5 months old. She was also not a natural-born sleeper (and still isn’t!).
Since I’m someone who didn’t have a lot of experience with babies at all before having my own, this REALLY threw me for a loop.
I had written a bit about anxiety during my third trimester of pregnancy, and I’m very thankful to have monitored it closely for post-partum baby blues because it hit me like a brick wall.
I’ll share more on that later if it’s something ya’ll are interested in reading about, but for not, I’ll start Gwen’s birth story with the tail-end of my pregnancy with her…
Partially from being excited to finally meet our little girl and partially because we thought we were going to have her early based on the fact that at my 35 week appointment I was already 3cm dilated with a softened cervix.
My OB essentially said to be ready at any time for baby girl to come along.
Needless to say, I was NOT mentally prepared that early on! I scrambled to pack a hospital bag, install her car seat, and do some extreme nesting.
As it turned out, Gwen ended up being well past her due date! I went from thinking I was going to give birth 4 weeks early to doing actual jumping jacks a week past her due date to try and induce myself.
I tried ALLLLL of the things. I’m now officially convinced that anything that “put someone into labor” was just a fluke. I went to acupuncture, met with our Doula, had weekly chiropractor appointments, ate all the spicy things, did reflexology massages, used my breast pump while still pregnant.
Seriously, you name it, and I tried it! Her original due date was January 12th and she ended up being born January 19th after being induced.
One thing we did right with our labor experience was having a doula. It brought me SO much peace of mind having a familiar face there advocating for us. We used Latina from Marley & Moo. I love her dearly if you’re in Houston and looking for a doula!
I had a scheduled induction for the evening of January 18th. I have to say, it’s a really weird feeling when you’re not actually in labor but still walking into the hospital basically signing up for pain/the unknown.
I also didn’t realize I wouldn’t have a set time to come in. They basically just give you a date for induction and then call you when they’re ready for you.
So I barely slept the night before not knowing what to expect the next day. Plus I had to fast beforehand and was insanely hangry by the time they called me at 3pm to tell me to come in by 6pm on Thursday evening.
We knew that my actual OB had to have arm surgery, so Gwen was going to be delivered by the on-call partner that we weren’t familiar with. Yet another reason I was super thankful to have Latina there with us!
I didn’t have a super-specific “birth plan”. Literally my plan was just for everyone to come out of it healthy and well!
This was my general wish-list for my experience —
- To avoid being induced, but that clearly didn’t happen, ha!
- I wanted to delay getting an epidural to make sure I was progressing in labor once things got started
- If at all possible without endangering baby girl, I wanted to avoid a c-section simply for the recovery time and the fact that we lived in a townhouse with 3 flights of stairs. Turns out I tore so badly in so many places that it was an equally elongated recovery, but more on that in a bit
- To do cord blood banking and delayed cord-cutting
- Be able to breastfeed and do skin-to-skin when she was born
So back to the actual series of birthing events…
We got to the hopsital and were all checked in and changed. Mind you I’m still 3cm dilated, had lost my mucous plug, and had a soften cervix.
The nurse wanted to do Cervadil and give me Ambien to go to sleep through the night, but I was a hard pass on that. First of all, I don’t take Ambien and I didn’t plan to start on the possible day of my daughter’s birth.
Secondly, I wanted to be totally aware of my surroundings and not drugged up to sleep.
So instead they started the Pitocin around 8:45pm. I had let Latina know everything that was going on and that I’d call her to come to the hospital once I started feeling real contractions.
Well, that was short-lived because by 9:45pm I called her to come right away. I went from having what felt like braxton hicks sensations to full-on contractions quick.
I remember just sitting in bed watching HGTV and all of the sudden thinking, “oh…oh…yeah I’m feeling this!”
Sitting on the birthing ball in the room was the first thing I did because it made me feel like I could breathe through them and relax my body easier than just laying in the bed.
I had listened to a ton of hynobirthing breathing albums in the weeks leading up to labor to try and learn better breathing and relaxation mindsets. Since I’m a notoriously “uptight” person who was legit terrified of the birthing experience, I figured this could only help. Ha!
I have to say, mentally picturing baby moving down and out really did help me to work through the contractions because I felt like they were something I was productively allowing to happen rather than just sucking up the pain.
Latina got to the hospital close to 10pm and that’s when I really started feeling things. She did several pressure points on my neck and ankles that helped tremendously!
The contractions were now happening about every 15 to 30 seconds though and I just remember shaking a ton and felt like throwing up.
Jared had to hold bags to my face because I couldn’t keep the water, jello, and popsicles down anymore. I switched from the birthing ball, back to the bed, to sitting on the toilet, to back to the bed. It was all getting just so intense and I was straight up zombied out at that point.
Latina asked the nurse why they had the Pitocin set on 9 (it only goes up to 10!) and explained that my contractions were so close together that I was shaking and vomiting. The nurse turned it down a bit, but they were still going strong.
Literally every few seconds I’d have a major contraction and finally was like “GIVE ME THE DRUGS!” by 11:45pm.
The nurse didn’t think it had been long enough to even check me again before getting the epidural to see how much more I’d dilated since I’d really only been in active labor for about an hour and a half to two hours at that point.
The anesthesiologist got there right at midnight and literally as I was sitting down on the bed, my water broke on it’s own.
I was so freaked out because the contractions were so close together that there was no way they would pause long enough to get the epidural in between them.
They just kept telling me over and over to be sure not to move even if a contraction happened at the same time as the epidural, which it did.
At this point I’m now in bed, have the epidural, and Latina and Jared are back in the room. That’s when things had calmed down enough for the nurse to check me and it turns out I was now just past 7cm.
I basically went from the 3cm and no active labor to over 7cm and my water breaking within two hours. If I had known I was that far along and basically to the point of almost pushing, I probably would’ve just let it roll to get it over with!
After getting the epidural they turned down the Pitocin more to let me rest to have a minute to regroup and breathe since it was an insane two hours of projectile vomiting, shaking, and nonstop contractions.
Again, who even knows what would’ve happened if Latina hadn’t been there with us! I had no clue that the Pitocin didn’t need to be that high and would’ve never mentioned it to the nurse otherwise.
Once we were all just resting after the epidural, Latina also noticed that my catheter wasn’t filling and it turns out the nurse hadn’t inserted it correctly so it wasn’t filling. She had her come back in and adjust it and it immediately filled, so I’m thankful she noticed that too!
Around 2:30 am I was at 8cm so they started having me do practice pushes and called the OB to come in.
As it turns out, I was totally horrible at pushing the ways that they taught me. I just couldn’t seem to figure it out and was WAY overthinking it by trying to do it “right” instead of what felt natural to me.
At this point, I had been pushing in intervals for TWO HOURS. Gwen was crowning and was right there, but I couldn’t seem to get past that.
The nurse was literally twiddling her fingers down there and goes “so much hair!” and I’m thinking “hers or mine, I need details?” haha!
I was pushing to the point of giving myself heartburn and Jared holding an oxygen mask to my face in between pushes. It just felt like a mess.
The OB comes in again and goes “we’re going to need to consider using forceps so she isn’t held in this position for too long.” That’s when I was all “HELL NO, LET ME PUSH ON MY OWN!”
Apparently all it took was for someone to use the word “forceps” and suddenly I was miraculously cured on not being able to push correctly.
I started just doing what felt like ab crunches and pooping at the same time (which I did do, let us not be fooled my glam birthing ideas).
Suddenly she just kind of shot out at 5:32 am at 7lbs 12 oz on Friday morning, January 19th.
The very first thing they said was “she has your dimple chin!”. Ha!
Honestly, I was SO exhausted, hungry, and drugged up at that point that I just felt in a complete daze. I’d basically been awake for 24 hours and felt like I’d been in a car wreck.
I feel like you can tell by my expressions in the photos that I was relieved, in shock, and having an out of body experience all at once.
I was able to immediately do skin to skin with her, but they told me not to try and breastfeed until they finished sewing me up which also took 45 minutes.
So Jared held her to do skin-to-skin while they had me tilted and told to stay still for stitching. Also hilarious — Jared actually tried to act shy about taking his shirt off in front of a room full of people to do skin-to-skin while I was sitting there literally oozing everywhere!
The tearing was pretty horrible. I had 3 different second-degree tears, one of which was on my perineum that also turned into a golf ball-sized hematoma.
They did all of her measurements and cleaning up, so I tried breastfeeding and they wheeled us down to a recovery room.
I honestly don’t remember much of anything until around noon. I think my body just kind of shut down at that point.
Jared did the first diaper change by himself and I remember waking up in a room with family and the nurse telling me that I needed to try and get up to force myself to go to the bathroom to make sure everything was working.
That’s about the time I realized I couldn’t even put my legs fully together or sit up straight without a donut pillow because of the hematoma, tears, and swelling.
Walking was almost impossible without looking like I had just gotten off of a 12-hour long donkey ride. It was kind of crazy!
Most importantly though, Gwen was totally healthy and having plenty of dirty diapers right away.
That day in the hospital just feels like a blur as well. The lactation consultant came by and I was doing my best to breastfeed. They already knew I wouldn’t get discharged right away because of the tearing and things, so family brought food and pillows from home to make things more comfortable.
We were going through the new parent motions of trying to swaddle, staring at her, saying we couldn’t believe she was ours, and all the cuddles.
We got almost no sleep again, but the next day (Saturday) felt much more normal. I no longer felt like I had a drug-induced hangover, and even though I still couldn’t walk around, I mentally felt aware.
I was still trying to breastfeed and I thought it was working until they rechecked her bilirubin levels that afternoon. The nurse essentially told me I wasn’t feeding her enough and it was causing her to be jaundice by not flushing her levels.
I felt horrible and was instantly trying to breastfeed plus pump in between. Jared even drove home to get the frozen colostrum from when I was trying to induce myself by pumping early (lol to that now) so that we could spoon feed it to Gwen.
Despite all of that, they still needed to put her under lights and this particular nurse essentially made me feel like it was my fault. It really goes to show that having great nurses makes ALL the difference. Our daytime nurse was a total dream and the evening nurse was a new mom’s worst nightmare. For those exceptional nurses, we know that a nurse gift means a lot to them as a thank you.
When I saw them strip her down and put the eyeshield on as she cried on the lights, I just lost it. That was the first moment in the hospital that I TRULY felt the momma instincts kick-in. That’s the first time I truly felt crazy-in-love attached.
She felt like ours before, but I didn’t truly feel the connection until that moment of protective instincts. It was hard to see her under there and feel like I did that to her because I wasn’t producing enough.
In hindsight, jaundice is such a small feat to overcome compared to a lot of newborn stories. At the time it felt very overwhelming to have her go from healthy, to not healthy, and back again during the whirlwind of it all.
We ended up syringe feeding her formula to help flush her system while I also kept pumping to try and produce more.
Her levels finally started to go down and we were released to go home late Sunday night.
The newborn haze of life at home was SO real after that. In some ways it felt like a perpetual living room slumber party, haha!
For the first two weeks, we were still syringe feeding her formula and whatever I could pump in between trying to breastfeed for real until I finally got the hang of it.
In the meantime, I wasn’t able to really get up or downstairs the first few days and ended up having extended healing time because of the large amount of stitches I had.
Her colic didn’t start until about 3 weeks old, and that was a whole other blur in and of itself! So maybe I should save that for another blog post? Haha!
And now we have an almost two-year-old Gwen who has the biggest personality and loves cuddles more than most things in life besides fruit snacks!
It’s crazy to think she’ll have a sibling in just a few short weeks, but there are few things more rewarding in life to me than the love of our kids. Even with all of the rollercoaster madness on the road to get here!
If you have any other questions or want to hear more on some of my postpartum experience or life with Gwen as a newborn, let me know! I’m going to try my hardest to be better about baby updates this time around!