Daniel and I are so happy to welcome James Mitchell Woolson to our family. He was born on September 9, 2018 at 4:35pm, weighing in at 8 pounds 10 ounces and measuring 21.5 inches long. He is the sweetest little guy in the world, a complete clone of his dad, and he smells like heaven. Here is his birth story.
I was 41 weeks and six days and had an induction scheduled for Sunday at 41 +8. I wanted to see a movie to take my mind off of everything because I was getting so impatient. That Friday afternoon, we had planned to go see Blackkklansman but for some reason (I think it had a long runtime and I wasn’t sure my 10-month pregnant self would be comfortable in the theater) I told Daniel I wanted to see The Nun instead. Turns out, The Nun is one of the worst movies of all time. I like The Conjuring movies but The Nun had such a limited story and the scares were all silly jump scares. After, we went on a hunt to find the pumpkin pie blizzard. I saw a Dairy Queen commercial the day before and I had a craving. The first DQ we went to didn’t have it but we found it, a few towns away from where we live, and I’d say it was good but not as great as I’d hoped. All throughout that afternoon, I had been feeling contractions. I wasn’t timing them, but from 12 noon to 4pm, I was cramping and contracting. By 4:30 they were fairly painful. And then all of a sudden they stopped. I kept that crampy feeling for the rest of the night, eventually figuring he wasn’t coming anytime soon.
We went to sleep at 10pm and at 11:30 I woke up to my water breaking in the bed. Daniel was having trouble falling asleep so he took a Unisom at 11:00 and had just fallen asleep. So when I woke him up and told him my water broke he responded with a confused “OK.” and turned over and went back to sleep. I told him, “My water broke!” and he said, “it’s OK don’t worry about it” and then sat up and said, “wait what? OK!” and jumped out of bed. I showered and we packed last minute things in the bag, then drove to the hospital in Boston. The benefit of going late at night was absolutely no traffic. We got there a little before 1:30am.
Once we arrived and checked in, they hooked me and baby up to the monitors to check heart rates and blood pressure, both of which were normal. Since I wasn’t constantly leaking amniotic fluid (something I guess you usually do once your water breaks), they performed two tests (one with a swab and one with a speculum) to make sure it was indeed amniotic fluid I had released. One test came back inconclusive and the other one was positive so they decided to trust the declare my water “ruptured.”
Despite my water having broken and the mild contractions, my cervix was still closed and not effaced at all, so we decided to proceed with the original induction plan at that time. They began giving me oral doses of cytotec every two hours in an effort to ripen my cervix (soften it). I took the first dose at 4:15am and within 45 minutes I was feeling uncomfortable cramping and contractions radiating from my lower abdomen to my lower back. Unfortunately, there was meconium in the amniotic fluid, which meant I’d have to spend the whole cytotec induction hooked up to monitors. It made it tough to move around, made going to the bathroom more of a chore than I would have hoped, and didn’t allow me to feel like I could switch positions all that often (without disturbing the heart rate monitor and contraction monitor and needing the nurse to reposition them).
From the hours of 4:30am to 6:30pm, I took 6 oral doses of cytotec. I experienced contractions all the while, though they did pick up in intensity toward the end. I wasn’t able to sleep much during this time because of the monitors and frequent interruptions to take the medicine. I was already quite exhausted and still had a long way to go.
By 7:30pm we were moved into a delivery room and by 9pm, I started an IV of pitocin. Daniel and I were talking about how the contractions weren’t too bad and maybe I’d be one of those women you hear about that barely feel contractions (how naive we were!). My contractions intensified ten-fold within 15 minutes. By the 90-minute mark, they were unspeakably painful. I waited four hours and then had to get an epidural. I really regret waiting so long. I wanted to wait as long as possible but I had no idea how quickly the intensity of the pain would ramp up. I assumed it would be gradual and somewhat linear but it just went from “difficult but manageable” to “excruciating.” By the time I got it, I was in the worst pain of my life, unable to speak at all, throwing up, and having diarrhea. It’s hard for me to even think about that pain nowit was terrifying. Luckily, the epidural went in smoothly and within minutes the pain was dulled. It allowed me to drift in and out of sleep for a couple of hours.
At 7:30 that morning, I had a cervical check and was 5 or 6 centimeters and 80% effaced. They estimated I’d be fully dilated and effaced by noon. I was ready to start pushing at 1:00.
The next three and a half hours were incredibly difficult. With each contraction, I pushed with every single ounce of energy I had. The first hour wasn’t too bad. I was getting the hang of pushing and felt like I was making progress. Two hours in, I was vomiting, feeling unbelievably intense waves of spasms throughout my back, and nearly passing out between pushes. The doctor told me that my baby’s head was “right there,” just behind/under my pubic bone, and all I had to do was get his head to dip under it with some more pushing to get him out. I had to push through the pain and felt like the finish line was near. I tried and tried. And tried and tried and tried, pushing so hard all the capillaries in my face broke. I was in intense pain, nauseous, and completely exhausted. When we reached the end of hour 3 of pushing, it was clear we needed to get the baby out. I wondered if my epidural was working at all (and had wondered that for the previous three hours, too) because I felt everything. Wanting to avoid a C-section, the doctor gave us the option of using a vacuum assist. It’s a suction cup they attach to the baby’s head to try to guide him out as I push. At this point there were two doctors, six or seven nurses, and Daniel in the room. I started to get worried when the suction cup popped off on the first two pushes. I was told we had three pushes to get him out. By the third push, he was out. There was blood everywhere, the doctor’s face masks were covered in blood, my wonderful nurse’s glasses were probably ruined and there was even blood dripping from the ceiling. Brian De Palma would have said it was overkill.
All the pain I had been feeling instantly vanished. I burst into tears when they placed him on my chest, I was so incredibly happy to meet him and to know that he was alive, safe, and sound. “I love you so much!!” I told him over and over. I turned to Daniel, who had tears in his eyes. “Look at our beautiful boy,” I said. I loved him more than anything. I couldn’t believe he was here. I remember he was crying but not hysterical, and within a few seconds calmed down as I held him. I held him for a few minutes and then the NICU team that had been present for my labor took him for about 15 minutes to check him out beside my bed while Daniel stood with them and cut the umbilical cord. Luckily, he was completely healthy other than a slight abrasion on his head.
What I found out after he came out was that he had been in the occiput posterior position, or “sunny-side-up,” meaning that the baby was head-down but facing my abdomen (instead of facing my back). This positioning of the baby can trigger what they call “back labor” in women which I had and which would explain why I felt such intense pain, like my epidural had stopped working for most of the pushing. It is really, really difficult to push the baby out when he or she is in that position and I think in most cases I would have been advised to have a C-section if the doctors had realized the situation sooner.
The entire ordeal was painful, physically and emotionally. We had some wonderful labor and delivery nurses who I’m so grateful for, but overall, I found the four days we spent in the hospital to be really, really hard—and I’m sure some of that can be attributed to the fact that I only slept for 5 hours between Friday night and Tuesday night. By the time we were released, Daniel and I were so excited to finally go home with our little guy. Even after reading everything during pregnancy—books, forums, blogs—about labor and newborns, I realized that the experience is just truly impossible to understand until you go through it. It’s easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but when I see James, I’m so happy. He makes labor and every hard minute worth it. There is a reason women voluntarily go through this multiple times—the gift at the end makes everything else seem irrelevant.
Since we arrived home, things have gotten better every day. Daniel and I are so deeply in love with our son and so excited for the future!