Sunday, January 1, 2017

Henrik's Birth Story

Oh my goodness, where do I even begin? This last week has been crazy, wonderful, unpredictable, joyous, hard, and perfect all at the same time. Many of you have asked about how this all transpired so I figured I'd go ahead and share the story of Henrik's birth. My friend Victoria from Luminant Photography was at the birth (more on that later) to capture the first few moments of Henrik's life. I will share more of the photos once I have them back to me in a few weeks, but for now I included a few photos she was kind enough to quickly edit and email to me.

This post is ridiculously long and I apologize, but I don't want to forget a thing! It was one of the best experiences of my life and I wanted to do it justice.

Ok here we go!

Last Thursday before Christmas, my OB was out of town so I saw the nurse practitioner instead for my 39 week appointment. She checked me and I was still about 2 cm and 75% effaced. I was kind of disappointed since I was hoping to have made some progress, but I also was thinking that it might be good to get through Christmas weekend without having to go to the hospital to deliver a baby. She also told me that my blood pressure was still higher than they'd like it to be (it had been on the high side for the last six weeks or so). She said to not be too concerned, but to keep an eye on my swelling and monitor any headache or vision changes I have as those may indicate preeclampsia.

Christmas Day (my due date), everyone could see that my ankles were swelling and my lower calves were quite red. I knew if I called my doctor's office they would have me come in, so I decided to just try and stay hydrated with my feet up and enjoy the day. I mean I wasn't a balloon or anything, just more swollen than normal.

Monday, my swelling still hadn't gone down and I had some mild headaches, but again nothing serious. My mom advised me to go ahead and call just to be on the safe side so I did. And sure enough, they asked me to come in. They checked me into the hospital and monitored my blood pressure as well as the baby's heart rate for a while and they deemed everything to be fine. Before sending me home, the nurse said the doctor on call recommended I go ahead and schedule an induction for later in the week just so I could be on their calendar in case labor didn't start on its own in the next few days. I figured that was probably a good idea so after talking to Chris, we decided we would schedule the induction for Friday (pending availability) and prrraaaaaaaayyyyyyyy that I went into labor on my own before then (inductions never sound very fun or ideal so I wanted to avoid one if I could).

That night, I had more contractions. I timed them and could tell they were getting closer together and more intense so that night I finished packing the last minute items for my hospital bag thinking that night could be it. I tidied up the house with Chris and I went to bed feeling ready for whatever came next. Ultimately, I fell asleep and woke up the next morning with no contractions. Again, I was a bit disappointed that nothing was happening but I tried not to dwell on it too much.

I then called my doctor's office (my OB was back in town at this point) and said that the other doctor told me to call and schedule an induction. My OB requested I come into the office that day and see her first, which made sense to me since I hadn't seen her in almost two weeks. I figured I would go in, she would check me, and we would talk about my options for induction dates. They told me she was available at 2:30 that afternoon and scheduled me.

After a normal morning workout and lunch with my family, I grabbed my purse and headed to the doctor, quite nonchalantly. Shortly after I arrived, the nurse checked my blood pressure and said there was no way they would let me wait until Friday to be induced. Mildly panicked, I asked her how soon they would probably want to induce me and she said TONIGHT OR TOMORROW MORNING. Panic ensued. But I tried to remain calm since my doctor hadn't seen me or made any official decisions then.

A few agonizing minutes later, she came in and checked me. 2 cm, 75% effaced. Sigh. She suggested with my high blood pressure, we do some blood work, monitor the baby and me for a while, insert Cervidil, leave it in for 12 hours, then maybe induce me in the morning.


First, what in the world is Cervidil?! She explained that it's like a flat tampon that has a hormone in it that helps soften your cervix to get it ready for pitocin (the induction drug) so that way the induction goes a little smoother. This sounded fine enough to me since she explained it wasn't painful or anything. I asked if once it was inserted if I could go home and come back to the hospital in the morning. She said no. I then asked if I could go home now and grab my things before doing the blood work and inserting the Cervidil. She said no. I was not leaving that place until I had a baby.

I started to shake and tremble and generally freak out. I wasn't ready! I envisioned me going into labor at home and having an hour or so to get myself together, gather my things, give kisses to the pets, eat something, enjoy my last few moments at home just Chris and me, but nope.

Armed in completely the wrong outfit (I had my going to the hospital clothes all set out nicely at home) and only my purse, I checked into labor and delivery.

I called Chris and told him what was going on, but explained that he really did not need to rush over to the hospital since labor wouldn't even start until the next morning. I told him to finish up whatever he needed to at work, go home and pack our stuff, eat dinner, and come over. He was quite busy at work so it was nice that he had a few hours to finish things up there before taking the rest of the week off.

Luckily, my mom was free to hang out with me at the hospital before Chris arrived. My grandma was at home making dinner for everyone and my sister was around to help with the pets so my dad could finish a project in our garage that Chris evidently would not be able to finish that night. It was all working out so perfectly and I felt very much at peace with how things were going.

My mom and I worked on addressing thank you notes for a while before my OB came in to insert the Cervidil around 5:30 pm. It was not a pain-free process, I will tell you that much. I mean I survived, but it wasn't comfortable. After it was inserted, my OB said she would come back in the morning and we could try breaking my water first and seeing if that would send me into labor and then if that didn't work, we would use pitocin (the hard stuff that I was pretty scared of). She assured me all would be well that night, to sleep, and she would see me in the morning. Before she left, she told me I was contracting a TON and asked if I could feel any of it. I told her I could sometimes tell, but for the most part I wasn't in very much pain. Just some discomfort. She said that was too bad because it meant the contractions weren't causing me to dilate at all even though they were only about two minutes apart. I found this to be discouraging as well. I kept thinking it would be so much easier if my body would just go into labor on its own, but it just didn't appear to be anywhere near ready.

Chris and my sister arrived shortly thereafter and we all visited for a bit before my mom and sister headed home. I was feeling really good at that point. I felt comfortable with the next steps we were going to take and figured the best thing I could do at that point was to rest up since pitocin-induced labors can go on for a looooooong time.

At one point, the nurse came in and we were chatting about inductions. She explained to me that because of my high blood pressure, I would not be allowed to move around during labor. I.e., I would be confined to my bed. Sirens started going off in my head. This went against absolutely everything I had learned these past nine months! I had done so much research on natural childbirth and all the books and articles agreed that laboring on your back is like the worst position to be in. I double checked with the nurse that this meant no walking, no birth ball, no shower, etc. and she confirmed it. I didn't know what to do. I knew contractions from pitocin were often more intense and frequent and I honestly had no idea now how I would cope the next day during labor. All this research and planning I had done for my natural labor was seemingly wasted. I tried to think back to all the mental relaxation tips I had read about and decided my best option would be to use those and some deep breathing. I did my best to not fret about what my labor would be like since I didn't even know for sure how bad or frequent the contractions would be. There was no sense worrying about what I couldn't control, but of course I still worried a bit.

Around 7 that night,  I was on the phone with my brother giving him the update. But about 20 minutes in, the contractions I was having started to hurt more. And more. And more. Aaaaand more. Finally I had to tell him that I needed to hang up. Starting at 7:30, I was in a LOT of pain. I tried so hard to distract myself with TV and having Chris apply counter pressure to legs and back, but nothing was really helping. I called in the nurse and asked her to explain what the heck was going on. She said even though Cervidil isn't meant to send people into labor, it can start it for some women. She offered to check me and see if I had dilated at all and explained that if I started to dilate more, that would mean I was in real labor. I eagerly said yes and a few painful minutes later, she declared I was maaaaaaybe 2.5 cm dilated.

At this point, despair started to set in. I mean my contractions were finally hurting and yet they weren't doing anything! How could this be?? She offered me some pain medications but I declined since my family never reacts well to those. I decided I would just try to suck it up and see if things got better.

They did not. 

The next hour was one of the worst of my life, and I am being completely serious. The pain was incapacitating, it took over my whole body. Chris said I was borderline delirious from the contractions. I could barely talk or breathe or move. My contractions were only 30 seconds apart and when a contraction started, I would have three in a row lasting about 2 minutes each. So basically I was contracting more than I wasn't. Nothing I could do helped me to cope. I couldn't even think about the light at the end of the tunnel (the baby) because all I could focus on was the pain and how I'd likely be feeling like this until the morning when my doctor came back. I didn't think I'd be able to survive.

Finally, I called the nurse back in and did my best to try and articulate that I was reeeally struggling. She gathered as much and suggested she check me again. I almost said no because 1. It very much hurt last time and 2. I was not feeling optimistic that in an hour I would be dilated any more, but I was so eager for something to happen, I went ahead and said yes.

She checked me and declared that I was 4 cm dilated and officially in labor!!!!!! It was a true miracle. This meant they would move me into a labor and delivery room and I could have an epidural if I wanted.

Let me pause here for a moment. All of my mom's labors were so quick she never had time for an epidural and I was cautiously optimistic my labors would be the same way. I had decided long before my due date that I would try with all my might to not have an epidural because I didn't want to deal with the side effects. After talking with many friends who had successfully gone completely drug-free, I felt pretty confident that I would be able to cope with the pain through different techniques. I knew my body was made to do this so it seemed like I should be able to do it without an epidural if I prepared correctly.

HOWEVER, I also knew that I shouldn't entirely rule it out. I had read many stories where an epidural was necessary to progress labor so I was still open to the idea of getting one, but to me it was kind of a last resort option.

So the moment of truth. Here I was in more pain than I imagined possible, knowing that it would only get worse, and asked if I wanted an epidural. I asked Chris if he would think less of me if I got one and of course he said absolutely not. He was very much in favor of me getting one if that was what I wanted. With my contractions so close together and lasting so long, I said yes.

Around 11:30 they started getting me ready to move to the delivery room. They wheeled me down the hall into my new, spacious room and worked on inserting an IV. The nurses left for a few minutes and assured me that it was a slow night so the anesthesiologist would be there soon. While they were gone, the contractions somehow got even worse. My body started tensing up and I felt sick. I knew what was about to happen. I was going to throw up. Literally my biggest fear was about to take place. I grabbed Chris's arm and started coughing and seizing up and he immediately knew what was happening. He sat me up on the edge of my bed and held me in attempt to get my body to relax. He called the nurse and said we needed anti-nausea drugs as soon as humanly possible. And miracle of all miracles, my body relaxed and I did not throw up. Without getting too graphic, I came about as close to throwing up without actually doing so. The nurse ran in and started a dose of Zofran and that immediately helped. However I was still in the exiting stage of a panic attack meaning I was shaking and trembling and still pretty freaked out. Chris was such a comfort to have there. I wouldn't have been ok without him.

A few minutes later, the anesthesiologist came in and introduced himself. I tried so hard to be my normal, polite, personable self but that was not happening. The doctor was so nice and trying to make polite chit chat about our mutual friends and how he knows my parents, but I could barely muster out a single syllable. Chris did his best to step in and keep the conversation going and answer the doctor's questions about how our friends were doing, how we met, etc., which was nice, but I really just wanted everyone to shut up and have the doctor insert the epidural ASAP.

Within 30 minutes, the epidural was in and within another 15, I started to feel much better. Getting the epidural inserted was not traumatic at all like I feared. I barely felt a thing and I couldn't see what was going on, which helped. My left leg went numb (ish) pretty quickly, but my right was a bit slower. After a little over an hour, my legs were more or less equally numb. I could still move them around and feel touch and pressure, but they weren't entirely without feeling. They mainly just felt tingly and heavy.

Once the epidural set in around 1 am, the nurse checked me again and I was at a 6! She said this baby was close to being here and I was ecstatic. Euphoric, even. I felt so much better and relaxed. I asked the nurse when I should call my mom and birth photographer if I wanted them to be there for the delivery and she said, very definitively, NOW so we did. She also noted that my bag of waters was bulging and that if it broke, labor would move much quicker so she said to call her in if I felt like it did.

While we waited for the rest of my crew to arrive, the anesthesiologist came back in to check on me. I was feeling much better at this point so I was able to have a real conversation with him and express my sincerest thanks. A few minutes later, my birth photographer, Victoria, arrived and by 1:30, my mom and sister were there too. I told them all how much I loved epidurals and the anesthesiologist and how much better I was feeling. The atmosphere in the room was MUCH improved from that point on.

We sat and visited and chatted for a while, and Victoria took a few photos. The nurse came back around 2:45 AM and said I was dilated to 8 cm! I couldn't believe how close I was! But my water still had not broken. I told her I was feeling a fair amount of pelvic pressure and she said once I feel that pressure all the time, that meant it was time to push.

At that point, we were all pretty tired. We had Chris lay on the couch and sleep since I needed him to be well-rested and alert for the delivery. I told Victoria she could go hang out in the waiting room since we were short on chairs anyway. Brooke and Mom then shared the recliner and attempted to sleep. I was tired, but not sleepy so I just laid in bed with my headphones watching Netflix.

Around 3:40 AM, I thought my water had maybe broken (it's kind of hard to tell when you've lost most of the feeling in your lower body). The nurse came in and said that it was just discharge and that I was still at about 8 cm. She was surprised that she could feel my waters so close to breaking, and yet, they remained in tact. At this time, I was starting to feel some pain in my lower left abdomen. It felt like a really bad sideache that wouldn't go away. The nurse helped me flip over to my other side in hopes that the epidural meds would redistribute better (we had tried this once before but the baby didn't respond well to me being on my left side so they rolled me back). This time, he handled it better and the pain was slightly alleviated by the position change.

4:35 I could start to feel contractions again. Not to the extent I could before, but I was definitely in pain. The nurse came and gave me more epidural medication and about 15 minutes later, it started to kick in and I felt a bit better.

5:20 I thought FOR SURE this time my water had broken, but my new nurse, Kayla (another person I will be eternally grateful for), checked and said it was still in tact. She said I was between 8 and 9 cm and that soon, the on-call doctor would be able to come and break it for me if it still hadn't on its own.

By 5:55, everyone was awake. I told my family how sorry I was that this was taking FOREVER. All the nurses thought I was so close and would likely deliver before 5 am, but baby boy had other plans. The pain was starting to come back too so I called the nurse and asked for more epidural meds. Unbeknownst to me, the anesthesiologist walked by just as I called my nurse so he came in to administer the drugs himself in a heavier dosage and more effective manner  shortly after 6 am (not really sure on details there and I didn't ask questions at the time haha but it helped!). Again, he was so nice and helpful.

At 6:30, the on-call doctor came in to FINALLY break my water! I could barely feel it when it happened, but let's just say the doctor was a bit...wet afterwards. I felt kind of bad but everyone laughed about how impressive the break was. The doctor could also tell the baby had a bowel movement and for that reason, the NICU team would be in the delivery room in the event that it affected his breathing once he arrived. She said it was just a precaution and even if the meconium was troubling him, it would be easily fixed. She also told me that my baby was still pretty high in my pelvis, which isn't a good position for effective pushing. Kayla said we could try and do some practice pushes in the next half hour or so and hope that the baby would shimmy his way down on his own. If he didn't, then we'd just have to wait even more.

I got very shaky so the nurse piled on several blankets to help get my body to relax. The pain in my lower abdomen was still quite prominent, but I couldn't feel the contractions like I could before. I tried to relax for a while and focus on the reality of what was happening. Earlier, I was in so much pain to think about how I was actually about to have a baby but now I could focus on that and how happy I was1 I couldn't wait to meet my little boy in (hopefully) just a few hours.

Around 7:15, Kayla came back and said the baby had moved down significantly on his own (yay!!!) and that we could finally start pushing! I couldn't believe it was all happening! I sent my mom and sister to the waiting room and they each gave me a hug and a kiss on the forehead before departing. I realize the next time I saw them, it would be with a baby! I was giddy with anticipation.

Right on cue, my OB arrived! I was sooooo happy and relieved that she made it. She was not expecting me to go into labor overnight but she said when she checked her computer at 5:30 that morning and saw that I was well on my way to having a baby, she skipped the errands she had planned on running and came immediately over to the hospital. She was huffing and puffing when she got to my room haha. She is the best and I am so grateful she made it in time.

Then it was push time! Kayla was so patient with me while we pushed. I like to know how long I should expect things to last, how I'm doing, how soon I could get things done, etc. so I asked a TON of questions. Like, what's the minimum number of pushes you think I could do to get him out? Or, is he moving down at a normal pace? And she did her best to helpfully answer them all. She was encouraging and told me which pushes were more effective and what to do to make them all effective. She said to not get discouraged if this phase of pushing lasted an hour or more.

The pushing itself was not painful, just a lot of work and obviously physically exhausting. I tried to eat a lot of ice chips in between contractions, but they kept falling on me and getting me cold/wet. My lips also kept drying out so Victoria became not only my birth photographer, but designated chapstick girl as well. Which was a big job hahah I needed that chapstick.

Chris held my left leg and stared at the back wall the entire time, which was fine with me. I wanted him to not faint haha. At one point, I liked how Kayla was holding my leg better so I asked Chris to match her, but he wasn't quite getting it. Finally I told him, "just look over at her hands and how they're positioned!" and Kayla replied, "Uhhhh he probably shouldn't look right now". Thankfully, he figured it out on his own :)

The worst part about the pushing was the pain in my left abdomen that simply would not subside. Kayla said it was probably the baby's position that was causing the pain so I kept hoping that if I could push him down just a bit more, the pain would go away. It did not. But I was handling it overall ok.

Kayla looked down during one of my pushes and proclaimed the baby had no hair. This upset me in my emotionally fragile state.

"WHAT??! How could that be???? The ultrasound tech said she could see his hair! HE MUST HAVE HAIR!"

Kayla didn't really respond at that point haha.

Less than an hour of pushing later, Kayla told me to stop and that it was time to bring back my OB and the rest of the delivery team! Yaaaaaaayayayayyayayyyayyayayyayy it was finally time!

The next few moments were crazy. They set up the delivery table, turned on very bright lights, asked if I wanted to see the delivery on the tv monitor (HECK NO), and about 10 people came rushing into the room putting on gloves and getting everything ready.

Less than twenty minutes later, my Henrik was born. I felt him move, but didn't realize he was actually out until Kayla and my doctor yelled in unison, "Annie, look down!!" and there he was. Purple. Screaming. Perfect. They proclaimed he was in fact a boy and that it was 8:39 am. I could hear Chris crying next to me and looked up and saw him smile the biggest smile I had ever seen. It was beautiful. I cried a bit too and smiled and closed my eyes and sighed the biggest sigh of relief. I had actually done it! He was here! They put him on my chest and I told him how happy I was that he arrived and that we should never do that again. Everyone laughed. The NICU team heard his screaming and declared that he was just fine and left. Another sigh of relief.

 Screaming haha.

They then asked if Chris wanted to cut the umbilical cord, to which he politely declined haha and I don't blame him. I don't think I'd want to do it either.

They took Henrik over to get cleaned off and he immediately peed on Kayla. Sorry, Kayla... But again, we all laughed. My doctor then worked on stitching me up (I tore a bit), which made for reason #92837589473598 why I was glad I had the epidural. While they worked on the stitches, I looked over at Chris, Kayla, Victoria, and Henrik. I was so happy. Kayla then proclaimed that he did in fact have hair haha. Next they weighed him and said he was 8 lbs 7 oz and 21 inches long! I couldn't believe how big he was! All my mom's kids were under 7 lbs so it was mind boggling to me that I delivered a baby who was that much bigger. He was hefty, but oh so cute.

My doctor asked if we had a name picked out and I said yes and told them it was Henrik Marshall Stoker. And I teared up. Again. So much happiness all in one moment.

I can't believe he is all ours forever!

Finally, they finished stitching me up and I could relax with my legs down. I was exhausted but beyond happy with how everything had just gone. We did skin to skin for a while and I nursed him while meeting with the lactation specialist so it was a while before my mom and sister came and said hi.

Unknown to me at the time, my mom and sister were at the water station when they saw my OB go into my room and heard them say they were prepping for delivery. They decided just to hang out there and listen at the door. They said they could hear Henrik scream and it was LOUD. They teared up when they heard him and knew he was ok :)

Everything after this point is kind of a blur, which is why I am SO grateful Victoria was there to get photos. She was amazing the whole time. She saw pretty much everything and held it together and remained 100% composed. She will forever be my hero haha. It felt just so right to have her there. She was the perfect person for the job and she was a wonderful distraction for me during some of those harder moments.

I will write more about our first few days at the hospital and home later (this blog post has already gone on waaaay too long). But I am seriously so grateful for how well Henrik's birth went. I was so scared of labor and delivery and I truly felt the aid of prayers and angels (both physically and spiritually with me) helping through the tough moments. The labor went absolutely nothing like I had planned, but I would not change a thing. Every night I think about it and all the sweet and tender moments from bringing Henrik into the world and I could not be more grateful. All of my prayers were answered and so many miracles occurred. Those two days were so hard, but so worth it in every way.

As I type this, Henrik is on my chest, happily snoozing away. He brings me more joy than I thought was humanly possible and I fall more in love with him every second. Motherhood is exhausting and hard at times (just based on my few days of experience), but I can already tell that it is an adventure that I am going to love. Thank you all for your sweet words of support and congratulations as well as all the prayers and well wishes! I love you all so much.

More on our story to come! Thanks for stopping by :)

Holding: My sweet baby boy and listening to him make adorable baby sounds. 
Excited: For my body to heal so I can feel more like myself. 
About: To go have dinner with my family! It's so nice to not have to worry about cooking haha. 
Days Until Christmas: 358!!


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