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Calm within the storm Epidural

Calm within the storm

The birth of Blaire.

At 1:30 a.m. on May 25 (my husband’s birthday!) my water broke. I was 39 weeks pregnant and ready to meet our girl, but I was also terrified of what this new life would be like and if I would be a good mom. I woke Brian up and started tracking contractions—they were intense! Each one felt like the worst period cramps imaginable. We’d fall asleep in between contractions because they never got closer than 30 minutes apart. I called my mom and Maggie (our doula) to keep them in the loop, and we eventually decided to wait it out since the contractions were irregular. It was a very new emotion to lay in bed terrified … but calm.

Making arrangements
By the next morning I was tired. I had been up most of the night in pain and in sheer terror of what was happening (and going to happen). The adrenaline started to wear off, and the contractions almost stopped, falling to two hours apart. I called Maggie who told me it sounded like Blaire was trying to work her way down the birth canal and may be crooked. She recommended I go to the chiropractor for a quick adjustment to see if that would help move things along. Thankfully I got a last-minute appointment. (It seems like people will do anything you ask when you tell them you’re going into labor!)

I emailed my boss and coworkers that I may be going into labor and put up an “out of office” notification just in case. Mom came to pick me up and drove me to the chiropractor because I was scared of the contractions and didn’t want to be alone. I didn’t experience contractions throughout my appointment or the hair blowout I booked afterward. I was getting frustrated but figured it must have been Braxton Hicks and that maybe my water didn’t actually break.

I laid around on the couch all day and had a couple of contractions. I felt terrible because it was Brian’s birthday, and I had planned an elaborate seafood dinner for him and our family. (I even made his favorite cake from scratch the night before!) We ended up canceling the birthday dinner and just sat around waiting and feeling anxious and tired. Maggie sent me stretches to do to try to get Blaire into position.

We called my OB/GYN and were told to come in, but we still decided to wait because we were always told to labor at home as long as possible. My fear was we would either be turned away for coming to the hospital too soon or I’d be in the hospital waiting for so long that they’d decide on a C-section. My doctor said we needed to come to the hospital no later than 1 a.m. since that would be the 24-hour mark from when my contractions started. They were just as intense as before and started right at 15 minutes apart. It was happening!

Guest of honor
We called my parents to give an update and asked if they could check on our fur fam in case we didn’t come home. I was power walking through the hospital as Brian was lagging behind. (He’s not a fast-paced person—even in emergency situations!) Thankfully it didn’t take long before they moved us into the room, and my first thought was: Is this the room I’m going to give birth in? It was really nice and big, so I wasn’t sure if it was temporary or where we’d bring our little babe into the world.

The nurses handed me one of the gorgeous hospital gowns (no thanks!) and checked me for progress. I was 3 centimeters dilated and everything looked good. There was no amniotic fluid on the test, so we couldn’t confirm 100 percent that my water had broken, meaning we probably had a while to go. Maggie immediately got me out of bed and into stretches and positions to try to manage the contractions and guided Brian in how to help me through the pain. I can’t tell you how amazing and helpful it was to have someone so know-ledgeable, helpful, calming and overall peaceful in the delivery room! She put up beautiful little twinkle lights around the room and brought my favorite scent (lavender) to keep me calm.

Within an hour I felt nauseous. All the nurses kept saying that was a good sign and meant I was getting close. Brian held cold compresses on my neck and lower back to help with the pain. Around 1 a.m. I was so exhausted and just wanted to sleep. Maggie and I had our plan for whether I would ask for an epidural and how I’d take my time to really decide if that’s what I wanted to do. I felt disappointed in myself that I wasn’t managing the pain as well as I thought I would. I was almost ashamed to have to look her in the face and tell her I was done.

I caved pretty early. After almost 24 hours of these on-again-off-again contractions, I yelled my safe word at the next person that walked in the door: “Pineapple!” I’m sure she thought I was crazy, but they got the point and put me next on the list. The anesthesiologist came in with her “miracle cart” as I call it and started setting up. I tried really hard not to look at anything she was prepping because I had watched enough epidural videos to know it was going to be amazing, but it was also really scary. It was time to put on the gorgeous hospital gown and get into bed because I wasn’t going to be moving again for a while.

Brian was calm the whole time, but it was a panicked calm. I sat on the edge of the bed while he sat in front of me holding my hands while they prepped my back. It hurt. I don’t know how I sat still, but I did. I immediately felt something cold move through my spine, down my back and almost all over. They taped me up, released the drugs and told me to lie back and relax.

Around 7 a.m. there was a shift change, and I met all the new ladies who would be helping me. The process was so efficient and professional and something I really appreciated but didn’t expect. It almost made me feel guilty they were all doting on me. That’s just my personality, I hate to feel like a burden. Laura was my second nurse. I’ll never forget her face or her name. She was so happy, helpful, calming, informative, and all around the most amazing stranger I’ve ever met. I had a lot of wonderful nurses over the three days we were there, but Laura was by far the best, and I’m blessed to have had her that morning. After Laura and Dr. Keng introduced themselves I got freshly checked. “Oh wow, you’re 9 centimeters! It’s almost time!” 

Meet and greet
Laura had me do some practice pushing to get a sense of what I needed to do. I couldn’t feel much, but I did feel the pressure of contractions. She told me to push when I felt one coming and to relax in between. She’d watch the monitor and I’d tell her when I thought one was coming. She would confirm and hold my leg and foot and was always smiling. She had such a positive and calming demeanor that I really needed!

After about 15 minutes Dr. Keng came in because things were getting real. I’m not sure how many pushes later, but they said it was 49 minutes before Blaire made her debut. Her head was showing and they asked if I wanted to see it with a mirror or touch her head, but I couldn’t. The idea scared me so much! I just wanted to get moving and get her out. Once her head was coming through it was almost like the rest of her just slipped right out. I never screamed (I didn’t feel pain) or got mad at anyone. It was overall a very pleasant birth experience!

She came out fast and was wiped off before being placed on my chest. Brian was too scared to cut the cord, so they left it on for a bit before cutting. I just saw this purplish baby all squished up and covered in white film and blood and thought: Oh my god, what is this? She had just been pushed through my pelvis, so I’m not sure what I thought she’d look like. Her head did the most work and got very elongated to pass through. It was kind of scary to see but thankfully, totally normal! It started going back to round almost immediately.

We did our skin-to-skin time and the doctors asked me what I thought and how I felt, and I honestly didn’t know. I was happy it was over but so overwhelmed that now it was real! Dr. Keng had to give me a lot of stitches because I had a second-degree tear. Thankfully, I barely noticed because I was still numb. There were so many things going on around us (nurses cleaning up, removing large bags of whatever came out of me, boxing up my placenta for encapsulation, Maggie taking photos, etc.), but I just kept staring at Blaire the whole time and didn’t pay anything else attention.

Laura tried to get Blaire to breastfeed (which was a whole new level of fear for me!). She didn’t really do the “breast crawl,” so we positioned her to take a breast manually. The pain! I could not believe how badly it hurt! Laura gave me a lot of instruction and explained that I was learning how to do it, but I also had to teach Blaire how to suck because she never had to before. So, it was a major learning experience for us. After our hour of skin-to-skin, they cleaned her off, got her height and weight, footprints and put her ID bracelets on. I just laid there feeling so in shock thinking: I’m a mom now. How do I do this?

We finally got around to texting our family that she was here and everything was fine. We told them we needed some downtime to nap and figure out this new stage of life before we wanted visitors, but that we’d be ready for a short visit at dinnertime (and would they bring us steaks?).

We spent the day napping, all three of us. Blaire was in a clear box on a rolling cart, and we kept her just out of arm’s reach, so we’d have to get up to help her. We had to feed her every two hours, but she mostly just slept. The nurses showed us how to hand-express the colostrum and use a syringe to feed her. Brian learned how to use his finger to teach her to suck while using the syringe in the side of her mouth to give her the milk. It was so precious! We spent the next two days in the same routine, trying to walk around the birthing ward to gain my strength, and learning how to be parents.

Motherhood has been a complete roller-coaster between the learning curve, the hormones, and being a parent for the first time. It’s a beautifully exhausting experience, and we’re so happy to be navigating this season of life with our beautiful little girl!

Meet the Fricks
Home: Madison, Virginia
Favorite activity: Touch books! Blaire loves flipping the pages and touching the buttons that play music and sounds. 
Just for fun: We make dinnertime together a priority. She has a toddler tower in the kitchen, so she can watch and “help” with meal prep. She also loves feeding our two dogs from her plate. 
Milestone memory: We had our first vacation as a family of three to Bethany Beach, Delaware. Bethany is Blaire’s middle name, and I’ve been going there since I was a baby. Introducing her to our favorite places, people, foods and activities has been so fun, rewarding and surprisingly fascinating! 

Every mama has a story to tell
Email your birth story, along with a few photos, to birthstory@pnmag.com. We’ll share it at pnmag.com/birthstories and may even print it in an upcoming issue.

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