as you might remember, i was way overdue (at least it felt) with lobo and feeling incredibly antsy and impatient. i went to my 41 week appointment on thursday, november 21 and was told to schedule an induction within the next few days. it ended up being scheduled for 4:30am the following monday morning. i was so discouraged. i really wanted for lobo to make his way out into the world on his own. my ob swept my membranes (basically used her finger to separate my amniotic sac from my cervix which stimulates contraction-prompting hormones), set an appointment for induction acupuncture that same evening, and i crossed my fingers extra hard that the combination of the two would do the trick.
the next evening, my family and matt and i were at dinner at silver cloud and i started feeling a different kind of contraction. i’d been having contractions for weeks but these started way down in my pelvis and made my whole stomach really hard. i tried to not get my hopes up and smiled through them. we finished dinner and even managed to get through dessert (their campfire cookie which i absolutely adore) with only matt and my brother knowing what was going on (i didn’t want my parents to get their hopes up in case they weren’t the real thing). we dropped off my parents at their bed and breakfast, hung out for awhile at home on the couch with the contractions coming and going, and finally went to bed. at 2:30am i woke up with terrible contraction pain. it came and went and i started timing them from 2:30 until about 7:30am. they were getting more painful and coming closer apart and i got so excited that labor might actually be happening. i fell asleep for about an hour and a half and by the time i woke up, they were less painful and further apart.
i called my ob to see what he thought he told me i was indeed in early labor and to keep on timing the contractions and get in touch when they were 5 minutes apart for 1 minute each for 1 hour. i obliged and around 3pm, the contractions starting becoming closer together more regular, and steadily more painful. i had sent matt to the gym thinking nothing was going to happen, so it was just my brother and me at home. my brother kept timing them and when i was at 5/1/1, i called the ob who told me to come into the hospital and called matt to hurry and come home. matt rushed back, my brother and i rushed around the house trying to make sure everything was in order and i had everything i needed in my hospital bag, matt burst through the door, we ran out as fast as we could.
we hopped into the car to get to prentice in a surge of excitement. it was finally happening! the surge ended quickly as we got off the freeway and were stuck in bumper to bumper traffic for over an hour. turns out the holiday lights parade had just ended (with an attendance of over one million people) and downtown was a huge shit show because of it. also turns out my contractions were way way more painful when i was sitting or lying down. we finally got to state street only to find out from a traffic cop that michigan avenue was completely shut down. michigan avenue stands between state street and prentice. matt flagged down a traffic cop and yelled that his wife was in labor. i was starting to cringe and basically scream/loudly moan through each contraction. the traffic cop ran over, took one look at me, and told us to pull over and call 911 for a police escort through michigan. it was straight out of a movie. so we obliged. it was at this point that i decided i should cry for awhile. the pain, the waiting, the panic, the stress, and more of the pain really made for a dramatic moment.
my brother called 911 and rather than sending a police car, they sent an ambulance. they pulled up to the car, i yelled at them about the illogical blocking off of michigan avenue, they grabbed me and put me on a stretcher, my brother hopped in, and they rushed us off while yelling at matt to take the one street that went under the parade. i was having contractions about every four minutes at this point and let me tell you…being strapped down on a stretcher speeding over bumpy roads while an emt drills you with questions might be one of the worst scenarios for this point of labor. another bad scenario? arriving at prentice’s er, bursting through the doors on the stretcher (i think they must treat every er patient the same, regardless of the severity of the situation), being drilled with more questions, being transferred to a bed, being bum rushed by five different doctors all asking questions also sucks. at one point, i remember i was having an especially bad contraction (i’m convinced that the high stress nature of everything made the contractions more painful) as they were jostling me from the ambulance stretcher to the er bed. one person was undressing me, another person was digging around in my arm to find a vein to take blood, another person was digging around in my hand to stick an iv needle in, i was screaming in pain while clutching on to the bed as hard as i could, my brother was standing there completely stunned. i did not have a set birth plan but i can tell you with confidence that this would not have been part of it if i had one.
it all finally calmed down, i got transferred to triage about an hour later and labored in there for awhile before matt finally got to the hospital about 2.5 hours after we left the house. at this point, i was “well into” active labor which is “well past” the point that i ever planned to go without an epidural. the second we got sent up to the delivery room, i basically begged for an epidural and cried and moaned through my contractions until i got one. pre-epidural, i was in a weird zone where i hardly heard or understood anything that was going on around me and was just focusing on breathing through each contraction. post-epidural, i was high fiveing everyone and cracking jokes. epidurals are my new best friend.
it was about 9pm on the 23rd at this point. matt hung out with me in the delivery room and we came in and out of weird sleep the whole night. all night, i was fully effaced and dilating at a very slow rate (need to be 100% effaced and 10 cm dilated to birth a baby vaginally). i was also teetering on having a fever the whole night so we kept trying different methods to keep the fever down. it was a very long, uncomfortable night. the ob put me on pitocin which makes contractions more powerful in hopes that i would begin to dilate more quickly. it worked a bit. but i kept dilating a teeny bit, then stalling, then dilating a teeny bit, then stalling. this went on all night. allll niiiggghhhhhhttt.
33 hours into labor, my ob came back. he told me that lobo had turned his head and was facing up rather than down and that i had been stuck at 9.5 centimeters dilated for the past four hours. i could still have the baby vaginally with his head like that, it just makes it more difficult. but trying to do that without being fully dilated would very likely not work. he recommended i have a c-section. i believe this is what some narrative psychologists would call the “low point.” after all that time and work, i felt so disappointed and discouraged for it all to end in a c-section. i asked the ob and the nurses what my options were. they said i could try to turn his head by putting my body in different directions, but if i didn’t dilate more, it would basically be impossible to not have a c-section.
so i pleaded with the ob to give me about an hour to see what i could do. he said yes and good luck. i told the nurses to kick up the pitocin and got in the positions they recommended. it’s not easy to be on your hands and knees when your bottom half is completely numb from 12+ hours of epidural dosage, but i did my very best. i also went back and forth between just getting a c-section because i was so exhausted and ready for it to be over or trekking on to what was beginning to seem impossible. but guess what. it worked. when the ob came back, lobo had turned into the proper position and i was almost fully dilated. there was still some cervix to get past but he said i could try to push for about 20 minutes. if i could get past that little bit, we could try to go all the way.
i had matt throw on a playlist i had made for a friend’s wedding limo bus after party, the nurses/ob/cool medical student (who basically danced his way through my delivery - evidently we have the same taste in music)/matt all got in position and i pushed with everything i had. 20 minutes later, i’d gotten past what i needed to get past. 2 hours after that, at 2:44pm on 11/24, 36 hours of labor later, emmett was born. all 9 pounds and 7 ounces of him. we thought he’d be born to new order’s ceremony but he decided to come out to kanye west instead. seems appropriate for our chicago baby.
and with that, our adventure began.
i can safely say that the first week of little emmett’s life has contained the absolute best and worst moments of my own life.
sunday: at 2:44pm, emmett joined us after a 36 hour labor (that birth story is to come. it’s a bit of a doozy and i want to record it before i forget). needless to say, we were completely overjoyed. i worried throughout the pregnancy. i never felt particularly “bonded” to lobo and wondered how i’d feel when he came. but the moment the doctors put him on my chest, it felt like the most natural thing in the world. matt and i fell in love with him so hard and so fast. the rest of the day was spent on the postpartum floor with my family (who fell equally hard and fast) trying to recover and get a little bit of rest.
monday: still in the hospital with visitors streaming in. friends brought carne asada burritos from my favorite taqueria, the stinkiest cheese they could find, spongione pizza, flowers, and tons of love. my parents and brother hung out for awhile and we just stared and stared at and cuddled and cuddled emmett. i worked with the nurses on the postpartum floor with breastfeeding and it was proving to be difficult. we kept trying but the number of “attempts” rather than successes that were being logged started to look imbalanced.
tuesday: after three sleepless nights (including my labor night) and more struggles with breastfeeding, our family of three got sent home. my brother came to pick us up. we were so incredibly excited to load emmett up in his carseat and talked to him about velocity and inertia on the way home. my folks had cleaned the house and made a bunch of food for us and we spent the rest of the day passing emmett around for hugs and kisses and such. i was still trying to breastfeed and it was becoming a struggle every single time. he’d latch sometimes and i thought he was feeding, get super pissed at other times and not eat at all. he started getting fussier and that night we got about 1.5 total hours of sleep.
wednesday: much of the same. family coming to see him, struggling with breastfeeding, my mom cooking, etc. my brother is so so in love with emmett, it’s really neat to see. i’ve never seen him so happy about something or excited to be around one thing in my whole life. breastfeeding struggles continue and emmett continues to get fussier. at this point, my family is beginning to worry, and i find myself returning to what i’d heard in breastfeeding class - keep trying to breastfeed, keep him off formula, feed and feed some more and we’ll both get the hang of it, etc. etc. another difficult sleepless night of emmett crying and me trying to feed him. about 2 hours of sleep logged.
thursday: thanksgiving and matt’s birthday! like a champ, on about 10 hours of sleep total in the past four nights, matt made a big thanksgiving dinner. turkey, sweet potato casserole, cornbread dressing, etc. i attempted a coconut cream pie for matt’s birthday dessert but screwed it up. everyone graciously ate it anyway. that thanksgiving dinner will go down in history as one of the happiest ever. emmett was sleeping near the table while we all cheersed and said what we are thankful for to the point that my dad joked we’d never eat any food if it continued on. i was so happy it’s hard to describe in words. we skyped with matt’s family and everyone crowded around (and took pictures of their computer screen) to lay eyes on emmett for the first time. we went to bed hoping for some sleep but emmett cried and fussed and tried to feed all night. i was still stubbornly trying to breastfeed hoping to turn a corner sometime soon.
friday: my dad and brother left that morning. they came to say bye to emmett which of course ran late and matt and i had to rush him out of the house to go to his first pediatrician checkup. at this point, we’d probably had about 12-14 hours of sleep since the previous saturday night and i was feeling extremely frustrated and discouraged with his feedings. we were all a bit worried about his eating and fussiness too. we got to the doctor and they put him on the scale. he had dropped from 9 pounds 7 ounces to 7 pounds 13 ounces. right when i saw that number, i knew something was wrong and started sobbing. the pediatrician came in, introduced herself quickly, and got right down to business on emmett. she asked me to try to feed him, we tried and went through the usual battle, she asked me a few questions, and very quickly recommended we go back to prentice. babies shouldn’t lose more than 10% of their body weight by the first checkup and emmett had lost 17%. we rushed to the nicu. i don’t know how to describe how terrible it is to check back into the hospital with your 5 day old baby. and i definitely don’t know how to describe the level of incredible guilt i feel. my heart broke so many times that day/night. watching emmett get hooked up to an iv (so many baby sized things are cute. baby sized needles are definitely not one of them), having tests run on him, being in the nicu in general (the nicu has to be one of the more depressing places in the world), knowing/feeling deep down that it was my and my own stubborness’ fault that he was there in the first place. matt and i stayed until about midnight and headed home completely and totally emotionally and physically drained. i was put on a pumping schedule of waking up to pump every three hours which meant about 2 hours of sleep, then pump. wash rinse repeat.
saturday: my mom and i woke up early to get to the hospital to be with emmett. he was gaining weight, doing well on his iv (he was really dehydrated when he came in which is very dangerous for little babies), and eating really well from a bottle of either my pumped milk or formula. i worked with the nurses on breastfeeding, we continued to struggle and struggle and struggle. i took my mom home and brought matt with me to the hospital midday so we could work on breastfeeding together. a nurse figured out by the end of the day that my milk was really clogged and i was in danger of getting mastitis (an infection caused from clogged milk ducts). so our schedule of nursing, bottle feeding, pumping every three hours got even tighter. i got sent home with orders to put hot wet moisture on my breasts for a few minutes, pump while massaging my milk ducts the whole time, then ice my breasts every two hours. as in wake up at midnight and do it, then two, then four, etc. which means about 1.25 - 1.5 hours of sleep in between. i broke down on the way home. the total sleep deprivation, emotional toll of watching our little baby in his hospital bed, stressing about numbers, stressing about feeding, the physical pain of recovering from the delivery, and everything from the past few weeks hit me like a truck. i tried to sleep that night but tossed and turned through each 2 hour cycle and pumped and massaged like a zombie.
sunday: emmett’s one week birthday. matt and i go to the hospital all day. we hear the good news that he was finally taken off his iv that morning, is maintaining his electrolyte levels, has been eating and sleeping like a little champ (one nurse said he was bouncing back so fast that she almost wouldn’t believe it if she hadn’t seen the numbers herself), and is looking great. one of the nurses on staff is also a lactation consultant and we work all day on trying to breastfeed, pumping, and unclogging my ducts. matt makes us go home early so i can get some rest since there are surely long days and nights ahead. i keep up the 2 hour heat/pump & massage/ice schedule all night.
monday: we’ve been here all day and got the good news that he is going to be discharged this afternoon! we have specific instructions on feeding, more training from the nurses here, and a follow up appointment scheduled for tomorrow morning. also, i am totally open to any form of feeding (despite the push for solely breastfeeding we’ve been getting in the nicu. of course, we will continue to try but not to a point that doesn’t make sense) to keep emmett’s cheeks chubby and delicious.
it is insane how quickly life changes. it is even more insane how much you can feel for a little person you’ve only known for a few days. i’m definitely still in a daze from this week. there was so little time to process - process the birth, the shift in our lives, his quick check in into the nicu, and the decisions i made along the way. i will say this. i’ve never felt more terrible and guilty and emotionally heavy. i had this view of breastfeeding in my mind - that it was the best thing for him, that if we kept at it we would eventually get it, that it would give him important nutrients for the present and for the future. i listened to but didn’t heed the advice from friends and family members. and through that stubborn viewpoint, i put him in the hospital. my little emmett.
i know there are many life lessons to learn from this and there will be plenty of life lessons coming. i really really wish with all my heart that this one hadn’t come at this type of cost and that he had spent the first week of his life with us at home rather than in a tiny little hospital room hooked up to a bunch of machines. my heart feels totally broken open and my stomach feels sick when i think about it (which is often). a big part of me is nervous to take him home. i hope and pray that we will never see this part of prentice again and that we will keep him healthy and well-fed and happy. it is painfully obvious to me now that my decisions no longer affect only me or other grown people who are capable of pushing back. they affect this little beautiful baby who depends on his parents’ instincts and nurturing to keep him safe. so please cross your fingers for us.