On June 24th, 2017, at 3:19pm our lives changed forever. Our precious son, Jude Andrew, was born on a beautifully sunny summer afternoon....7lb 5oz, 20.5 inches of pure perfection, and born into so, SO much love. He's only been here a month, but we can't imagine our lives without him (as cliche as that sounds). Ever since his birth, I've been replaying the day he was born again and again in my head, and I am so excited to share his birth story here. Fair warning....this is a bit long, and there are photos of his birth below so you may wanna stop reading if that kind of stuff weirds you out ;)
My pregnancy was pretty textbook in the beginning...a bit of morning sickness, aversions to my favorite foods (I'm looking at your, Chick-fil-a), and fatigue were the major culprits during my first trimester. As I headed into the second trimester, the nausea let up, the acid reflux (unfortunately) stayed, and I was actually able to stay awake past 7pm. During the 20-week anatomy scan, however, the doctor noticed a slight abnormality with how the umbilical cord attached itself to the placenta, and requested additional ultrasounds for the remainder of my pregnancy to track Jude's growth. MFM (maternal fetal medicine) was concerned about the possibility of stunted in-utero growth, so I had anatomy scans every 6 weeks to make sure he was growing OK and that my placenta was allowing enough nutrients to travel through the umbilical cord to nourish Jude.
While it was a bit unnerving to hear that anything regarding your pregnancy and unborn child is anything less than perfect, I looked forward to these scans and the opportunity to see our sweet babe on a more regular basis. After each scan, the doctor's put our minds at ease by assuring us that everything about his growth looked great and that the marginal cord insertion didn't seem to be causing any problems. We praised God for this great news and with each passing week, we grew more and more excited to meet our sweet boy.
Since everything was still going perfectly, I had assumed I would go into labor naturally, whenever my body allowed it it happen. At my 36 week doctor's apt, however, I was given the shocking news that if Jude was not here by his due date, they would be inducing. While the marginal cord insertion did not pose a risk for Jude in-utero, it could potentially cause very serious problems for the both of us if I went past 40 weeks and the connection of the umbilical cord to the placenta started to break down. We agreed that an induction, while not ideal, was well worth it to keep us both safe.
The next few weeks slowly passed, and I tried every labor-inducing trick in the book. My husband, Matt, and I went on walks around our neighborhood every night, I bounced in a yoga ball while watching TV, I ate some "labor-inducing" foods, and yes, we even tried THAT. I still didn't feel like I was having any contractions, and I started to lose hope that I would go into labor naturally. At my 38 week visit, I was told that the induction would need to be scheduled for the end of the following week, so that he was sure to be here by his due date of June 25th. We scheduled the induction for Friday, June 23rd, and started to mentally prepare to meet our son. The nerves and excitement were SO very real!
The next week was spent cleaning the house, finishing decorating the nursery, and packing (then unpacking, and repacking) our hospital bags. On the morning of June 23rd, Matt and I checked into Women & Babies Hospital, so ready to meet our son. An initial cervix check was done to see where I was starting and to see what methods and interventions would need to be used during the induction. The midwife confirmed what I was fearing...I was less than a fingertip dilated. I felt so discouraged, but the midwife and nurses assured me that the end result of meeting our son would be so worth it, and to stay focused on the prize.
The first step in the induction process was Cytotec - a tiny pill taken to ripen the cervix. The goal of this pill was to get me to at least 1 cm dilated, so that further actions could be taken. I took my first dose at 1pm, and another dose a few hours later. While I was waiting for the Cytotec to do it's job, Matt and I watched TV, had a few visitors to keep us company, and ordered some food from a local restaurant. I was feeling mostly relaxed, but a bit anxious about what was to come. Finally, around 7:30pm, I was checked for dilation and our first nurse confirmed I was 1cm dilated - HOORAY! She then explained to me that the best next step in the process would be the insertion of the foley bulb...or as I now refer to it as, the "medieval torture device". The foley bulb's job is to mechanically dilate and open the cervix through the insertion of saline-filled balloons. The balloons are kept in for several hours (in my case, 12 hours) until the cervix is dilated enough for the balloons to just fall out.
After the foley bulbs were inserted, I quickly started to feel insane pressure and could feel the beginnings of cramping and contractions. While it was uncomfortable, it was manageable. Within a couple hours after the insertion, I was having contractions and cramping that brought me to tears. I tried getting out of my hospital bed and walking around, but that only seemed to make the contractions worse. I tried bouncing on a birthing ball, and using some of the positions we learned in birthing class, but the novelty of that quickly wore off and all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball in my hospital bed. Around midnight, I was crying out in pain and I was so uncomfortable I couldn't sit still. The foley bulb mechanically dilating my cervix was so incredibly painful, and I knew I wouldn't get one second of sleep that night with it in.
As much as I wanted my labor to progress as long as possible without the use of pain meds, I also knew I needed to have energy when it came time to push. Around 1am I made the decision to get an epidural. After the epidural was inserted, I felt immediate relief. HALLELUJAH, this stuff was like a nectar from the Lord himself. I finally fell asleep shortly before 2am, and was able to get several hours of sleep until I was awakened the next morning for another cervix check. Well, as horrible as the foley bulb was, it got me from 1cm dilated to to 6cm...WOOHOO! Things were progressing, and the next steps were to break my water and start Pitocin. Although I couldn't feel the contractions, I could see them on the monitor and I prayed that they were helping my body progress to where I needed to be to start pushing and that progress wouldn't stall.
Over the next several hours, I was shifted from laying on one side to the other, with a peanut ball between my legs. Shortly before noon I felt my epidural slowly wearing off, and started to feel a bit of the pressure of Jude descending. I requested for a "mini dose" to be administered, but that only lasted a couple hours, and by 1pm I was feeling insane pressure and the pain of every contraction. I knew Jude was moving down, and kept praying that the next time I was checked, I would be ready to push. The thoughts of possible c-section due to stalled labor scared me, and while I was willing to do whatever I needed to do to get this baby out safely, I wanted a vaginal delivery and prayed that that would be the outcome.
Around 2pm I was checked again for dilation, and our prayers were answered...I was 10cm dilated and 100% effaced. It was time to push! Before I could mentally prepare for what was about to happen, our nurse, Lindsay, told Matt to grab a heel and asked me to do a few practice pushes. For women who have never pushed out a baby before, it definitely takes a few practice times to understand just HOW to push. I was getting frustrated and felt like I was doing it "wrong", and I'm pretty sure I also snapped at Matt for holding my heel "wrong"...sorry, babe! By this time my epidural was close to being worn off, and I could feel every single contraction, along with the pressure of him moving down. After about five minutes of practice pushing, I finally got the hang of it and was guided to push through each contraction. I came close to hyperventilating due to the pain and pressure, and I remembered the statistic that most first-time moms can push for 2+ hours....I thought to myself, "There is NO WAY I can do this for another hour!" I legitimately thought I was going to pass out, throw up, or both. I asked Matt for ice chips, and he held a cold washcloth against my head. The entire time I was laboring, he was an absolutely fantastic birth coach. I truly couldn't have done it without his love and encouragement!
I was told by Lindsay and Matt that progress WAS happening, and that with each push we were getting closer to meeting our son! I asked for a mirror to be brought in so that I could actually see for myself that each push was effective, and it was the best motivator. As strange as I thought it would be to watch our child being born, I absolutely needed that motivation and am so thankful for it! After pushing for a solid 20 minutes, Lindsay paged for the midwife and doctor to be brought into the room, and I knew I was nearing the end. I was exhausted and in so much pain, but the midwife, Lindsay, and Matt coached me through the next several minutes of pushing when I felt like I couldn't keep going.
After 38 minutes of pushing, Jude was born, and the midwife told me to "reach up and grab him!" I held his slippery, beautiful little body on my chest and wept. It was OVER. The race of labor was finished, and he was my perfect prize. I looked up and Matt, as he repeated over and over, "You did it! He's here! You did it!!" and the tears wouldn't stop flowing. Matt cut the umbilical cord, and a little hat was placed on Jude's tiny conehead. I looked over every single inch of his body, and fell more in love every second. I was holding the littlest love of my life, and I was in disbelief of his perfection. Jude was so wide-eyed and alert, and stared into my soul as if to say, "Hi mama, it's so great to finally meet you, too". That first hour was spent having lots of skin-to-skin time, kissing his little forehead and his tiny fingers, and continually thanking the Lord for this blessing. Seeing Matt hold our son for the first time brought tears to my eyes, and it about made my heart burst with joy. Those first moments spent together as a family of 3 will forever be some of my absolute favorite memories...ones I will cherish forever. Our son was here, he was perfect, and our lives were wrecked in the absolute best way possible.
All photos taken by the incredibly talented and sweet Hillary of Hillary Muelleck Photography