Ever since before my oldest was born, I’ve meant to write each of my birth stories…but then I had a newborn, and then a newborn and a toddler, and for the past 364 days a preschooler/kindergartener, a preschooler and a baby. Today marks the last day of our final “baby year”. Harrison is our last baby and tomorrow he turns one. And with all of the big feelings that come with his birthday, one is nostalgia and wanting to hold onto the details that are already blurry. So I decided to finally sit down and write one of my babies’ birth stories.
A year ago today, I was six days overdue with our third baby. I had had my membranes stripped the day before because my doctor was a little worried about low fluid, as I’d had low fluid at the end of both of my previous two pregnancies, I had been suffering from PUPPS for the last few weeks and my maternity leave had already started and really, it was baby #3 and I was a week overdue. We were ready. But stripping my membranes had been anti-climactic and 24 hours later, nothing had happened.
Our two older kiddos were with my in-laws for the afternoon, so Chris and I ran some errands. We walked the aisles of BJs first and I had to stop a few times for some cramps. I wondered out loud if they were contractions and so we kept walking. After BJs, we figured if the walking was helping we might as well head across the street to Walmart and what maybe were contractions continued…coming sometimes every fifteen minutes, sometimes closer to twenty-five minutes apart. So nothing consistent but it definitely felt like maybe it could be something…and I wasn’t sure I’d know since my first pregnancy ended in a planned cesarean and my second was an induction in the hospital. And I didn’t want to get my hopes up and feel frustrated when and if they fizzled out. Which is exactly what happened while we were out eating dinner later that evening. So we chalked it up to an afternoon of my body getting a little closer and enjoyed what would most likely be our last date night for awhile. We got home around 8:30 and as we’re talking to my mother in law, I had another cramping episode and I had to hold onto the edge of the couch. I didn’t say anything though because again I didn’t want anyone to start thinking “this is it”, including myself.
As the night went on, the contractions seemed more regular, 15 mins apart, 10 mins apart…I tried using a heating pad and laying down in bed to see if I could get some sleep, but every time I started to doze off, another contraction would start and I was just too uncomfortable. I moved down to the couch and alternated between sitting on my exercise ball and laying down with the heating pad. I think I finally fell asleep around 4 am for about 45 minutes.
The next morning, as I filled my mother in over coffee, I asked her to get Henning, who was two and a half, from his crib when he woke up. I knew I wouldn’t be able to carry him since, at that point, I was way too uncomfortable. I had an appointment that morning for an NST and ultrasound at 9:30 and we were planning on dropping Louisa off at nursery school at 9:00 on our way. I figured I could make it until then, but by 7:45, I had to wake up Chris. I couldn’t make it. I couldn’t stay standing up through the contractions and it was hard to be in front of the two kids while I was in pain because they were getting worried and also still wanted me to help them with breakfast, snuggle and I couldn’t. So, Chris and I got in the car and headed over to the hospital and I called and left a message for my doctor.
We arrived on the maternity floor and we were shown to a room. The nurses hooked me up to the monitor and then a few minutes later the resident came in to check me. My contractions were still 5 to 7 minutes apart and discouragingly, I was only a little over 2 cm dilated. The resident said I should stay to get the ultrasound, but then we could either stay and see what happens, but that it might make more sense to go home until “active labor” really started. We were really frustrated–I had been so uncomfortable all morning and to only be 2 cm.
I was wheeled down to get the ultrasound to check my fluid levels and while the tech was taking the measurements, I had two more contractions. I remember her saying, “I know, lying flat can be really uncomfortable.” And I replied, sort of annoyed, “No, I’m having pretty strong contractions actually.”
Since the tech didn’t give us any information about the baby’s fluid levels, we had to wait upstairs in the room for news from the resident. While waiting, my contractions continued and I decided it might help to go for a walk. As we walked down one of the halls, I had to stop, bend over and hold onto the wall. I started crying and told Chris, “I’m not going to be able to do this, if it’s this bad already and I’m only at 2. I can’t do this.” He convinced me to walk back to the room and when I got there, the pain was starting to be consuming and I was literally climbing up the chair and then the bed, putting my forehead to the mattress and just rocking side to side. At this point, the resident returned and squatted down next to me. “This sounds like active labor.”
“No shit,” I thought to myself, nodding to her. She then asked if I wanted to get in the tub and I agreed, and then she suggested maybe to start in the shower since that would be faster. I needed to be put on a fetal monitor because I was attempting a VBAC, so she had the nurse go get it while she and Chris helped me into the shower. As soon as I was in the shower, the pain got even worse. The guttural moaning felt like it took over and I had a moment of thinking, “I think I’m at 8 cm now…this is what it felt like at 8cm with Henning, this point where I feel like my body is tearing apart and I can’t go on.” I dropped to my knees and the nurse came in and started trying to find the baby’s heartbeat. She was right in that tiny shower stall with me, partly holding me up and also urgently, repeatedly trying to get his heartbeat on the monitor. The resident came back in and asked if I was pushing and I wasn’t sure (Chris laughs now as he remembers this part because during both boys’ births, when asked if I was pushing, I said, “I don’t know”)…she told Chris to get me out of the shower and he looped my arms around his neck and half carried me to the bed. At this point, more people were coming into the room, there was a gurney by the door I remember noticing in my peripheral view and thinking, “No, I don’t want a c-section, oh no, what is happening.” They were having trouble keeping track of his heartbeat and were using wire leads to find it on his head instead of with the monitor. I could tell they were worried. Chris says they were whispering about prepping the OR. And then, my doctor came running in and jumped over the gurney that was blocking the doorway and over to me. He had me roll onto my side, had Chris hold one of my legs and told me we needed to have this baby now. He told me to take a deep breath and push. I was still screaming and trying to push, and at one point he said, “Okay, Kirsten, we need this baby out, so less screaming, more pushing.” And so I focused in and started pushing more. But the baby was having a hard time. The doctor had to give me an episiotomy and the baby was still not coming, so they got the vacuum. The details are blurry now, but on the second or third attempt, his head was finally out and the doctor pulled him out and onto my chest.
Harrison was born at 12:06 pm on March 23, 2017, just over 3 hours after we arrived at the hospital. Happy Birthday, Harrison.