This is the second part of Willa Lynn's birth story. Part I is here. Starting with a disclaimer of sorts: parenthood is the most wonderful and most difficult thing I've ever done. In the past few days, I've experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows. I've felt like supermom, and I've felt completely incompetent, terrified, hormonal, and lost. I'm definitely planning to post about the first week of parenthood soon, but I just don't want to start this post without mentioning some of the very real challenges we've faced already (and she's not even a week old!) The struggle is real and so very normal. My mom friends have all reached out to me to keep a close eye on how we're doing. Without the support of our friends and family, I don't know where we'd be. It really does take a village.
Second disclaimer: I'm going into all the details here. If you don't want to read stuff about how a baby is born, feel free to skip.
When we left off, I had the epidural in, was 7 centimeters dilated, and it was 7PM. I hadn't slept well the night before, and we still had a wait ahead of us until it would be time to push.
I mentioned that resting was impossible because multiple monitors ("air in line" messages on my IV/Epidural) kept going off and having to be fixed (there was no air in the line, the machines are just extremely sensitive). A nurse came in to tell us that the reason no one could come mess with the monitors was that there were emergencies with three different deliveries on the floor at that time and all the doctors and nurses were called to help. Hearing this was alarming. I became very concerned about our delivery and also very worried about the other moms and babies. We couldn't get information about what was going on, so we just had to sit tight, hope the best for everyone, and ponder how life was about to change completely.
I was lying there with the peanut labor ball, and we were talking about how it didn't feel real that we were about to have a baby. I started shaking (from the hormones) and vomiting. So much for the ice chips and popsicles. At 9:30PM, Dr. Doke (we were so relieved and happy to have our own doctor available) announced that I was at 9.5 centimeters. Brendan told me that I looked beautiful, which made me laugh since I'd just vomited, but it's one of my favorite memories of the day: our last sweet moments as a twosome. Then, I vomited again...picture perfect.
Earlier, Dr. Doke had warned me that pushing can take up to two hours for a first time mom. "I think it will take me three pushes," I joked. "That's optimistic," he said. I'm so glad I didn't know just how optimistic.
At 10PM, I was 10 centimeters dilated, and it was time for pushing to begin. There were three nurses in the room to assist, and Dr. Doke stayed in the room to help me get started. He helped me figure out where to push from, and the nurses showed me the position and rhythm. Essentially, here's how it worked: I was lying on my back, and as the monitor showed a contraction (which I could also feel with my hand as my stomach would harden during each one), I would do a low sit up, tuck my chin to my chest, hold my breath, and push for ten seconds. As this was happening, Brendan and one of the nurses would each pull a leg back towards my chest (and I could push my feet against their hands). I would have a two second break and repeat that process three more times. So basically, every two minutes, I would need to push for about forty seconds. In between contractions, I could rest my legs in the stirrups and lie down.
The only thing I felt during pushing was the pressure of baby girl's head as it descended, but the actual process of pushing was incredibly exhausting. I was surprised that I needed to hold my breath while pushing, and by the fourth ten-second push in each contraction, I'd be very worn out, but one of the nurses would always remind me to make the last push the best one, and that always motivated me.
During this process, I continued to throw up and shake. At one point, someone helped me change my gown. Brendan says I threw up over half a dozen times and that he felt really bad and could only focus on getting me through it. I asked them to bring in a mirror, which helped me as I could get a visual on where to push and see which pushes were effective. Everyone told me I was doing great and would encourage me to push harder. It sounds like that would beannoying, but I didn't feel annoyed. I just wanted the baby there as quickly as possible.
Pushing went on...and on...and on. I looked at the clock...11PM, 11:15PM, 11:30PM. I had started at exactly 10PM. I couldn't believe I had the stamina to keep going on so little sleep and zero food or fluid in my system, and I honestly don't know how I did.
At one point, they said they could see her head, but I couldn't. I was starting to swell and almost falling asleep between contractions. The nurse called Dr. Doke and told him the baby was getting stuck on part of my pelvis. Essentially, no matter how hard I pushed, she just wasn't getting past this one area. Dr. Doke usually doesn't do vacuum extractions and generally prefers forceps, but since my baby was so close, he decided the vacuum was the way to go. I was just relieved he was there and made the decision fast. I was exhausted.
He set up everything and a team came into the room at the last minute (both to assist him and to work on the baby once she was there). This didn't bother me. People gave us space, and I was simply focused on seeing my baby. Dr. Doke set up the vacuum and told me to push one more time. The mirror was moved away. I gave it my all and felt pressure as he pulled while I pushed. Brendan said something like "oh my god," as he saw our baby come first. I asked him if she was here, but I could feel the release of pressure, and before I knew it, she was on my chest. Brendan said he was shocked and the whole experience was surreal. He cut her cord, and they placed her on my chest. I started crying so hard that I could barely even see her. Our baby girl was finally here, and for the first time since the end of July, I felt myself truly relax: she was here. She was crying, and healthy, and squirming, and from what I could tell so big. The relentless anxiety, vomiting, sleepless nights, painful contractions, food aversions, back aches...she was worth every single hardship and then some.
Brendan was called over as she was weighed, and the team worked on her to make sure her lungs were nice and clear. I kept asking him how she looked and was crying with relief and joy. They told me she weighed 7 pounds, 2 ounces and was 20 inches long. I was amazed.
I had a second degree tear, so Dr. Doke stitched the tear before having me push one more time; the placenta was delivered with ease.
They brought her to us in a diaper, and I asked Brendan if she looked like a Willa to him. Willa was our top name contender, but we had a second name in mind just in case. We decided Willa fit, and that was it: Willa Lynn. Her first name means "resolute protection," which I hope she will always have, and Brendan and I have known several wonderful Williams, and of course, we like the nod to Willa Cather. She shares a middle name with her mommy and Gigi (Brendan's mom), and Lynn is also a special name to Brendan's grandma Shirley.
We spent the first two hours of her life together as a threesome and worked on breastfeeding. Brendan was instrumental in helping Willa and I figure things out.
|With Dr. Doke|
We were moved up to recovery at about 2AM. A whole team came into the room to look at Willa and make sure we knew basics of caring for her and for me. They stayed about an hour, and the nurse told us she'd be back at 4AM to help with her next feeding. At 3AM, we finally were able to notify our parents that she'd be born! Then, we got about 40 minutes of sleep before the next wake up/feeding.
My parents came the next morning around 7:30 to meet their first grandchild. A special moment to watch indeed!
Daddy and Mommy did plenty of skin to skin time.
We had a good experience at the hospital. The nurses were really helpful, I had great pain management, and my favorite part was the menu I could order all my meals off of. Every meal tasted like "the best food of my life." I loved that my meals were huge! For example, I'd order the following for breakfast: scrambled eggs, toast with jam, bacon, fruit, a strawberry yogurt, raisin bran, milk, cranberry juice, and they would say "you're a breastfeeding mom, you need to pick out an additional snack." And they'd bring the tray, and I'd eat it all because I was ravenous!
The only downside of the hospital was that we hardly slept. Nurses and doctors were in and out to examine me and Willa or take Willa for various tests. Despite being tired, we were also so completely in love.
I'd been so worried about swaddling, but I mastered it!
On Wednesday afternoon, just a day and a half after Willa's birth, we were discharged from the hospital. We were happy to be going home.
I call this one "What, you can't let me leave with these crazies!"
Brendan got Willa situated in the carseat, and it was definitely surreal leaving the hospital. We drove slowly, and I said to Brendan "I feel like we've never been in this town before," and he said he knew what I meant. Life felt so changed that nothing was recognizable.
My dad returned to Austin, and my mom followed us home and has been here ever since. She has to leave this afternoon to go back to work on Monday, but her help with laundry, cooking, late night baby care, grocery shopping, and most importantly love and emotional support has been instrumental and essential. Brendan's parents sent us a wonderful care package of snacks from Zingerman's (it even included a bib for Willa) that we've been loving, and they will be here in just a few days. We are so so thankful for the help from our families. I truly underestimated just how hard this would be. Thank goodness for moms and dads!
Willa was excited to see her nursery...or at least, we were excited to show her! I think she is Brendan's little twin, but she also looks quite similar to some of my baby pics.
The two of them are my whole world :) My love for both of them is overwhelming.
That's the story of Willa Lynn's birth, but the rest of our story as a family is just beginning. It's going to be wonderful and impossible and a wild ride, but we're just so very glad to have each other.