This month marks 10 years that I've been blogging. My life has changed so much over the past decade: heartbreak, love, the loss of a parent, marriage, career change, adopting a dog, leaving Manhattan and having a child. Back in the beginning of my blog I always dreamed of sharing my wedding plans, but children seemed SO far off. Here we are, ten years later... and I'm a mom.
This post was easy to write but hard to publish, because it's difficult to know where to draw the line. I've always prided myself on being an open book, but the experience of birthing a baby is so unbelievably personal. I want to be as candid as possible but I also don’t want to get TOO detailed. So I did my best, and here we go.
Wow, where to begin. My labor, delivery and hospital experience was nothing like I expected it would be. As I was going through it, I thought to myself - I’ve got to write this all down.
My whole pregnancy, I had a feeling I’d have the baby on her due date. So when it passed, I felt a little flustered and frustrated. But then I thought, “She’s fashionably late and things will be crazy enough soon.” I tried to go with the flow.
A few days past my due date, I woke up around 4am pretty disoriented. I couldn’t figure out if I’d had several contractions, or if I’d had a dream about having contractions. Typical Teddi move - I’ve always had very vivid dreams! Once I was awake for long enough, I realized it was actually happening. I told Ben and we decided that he’d sleep a bit more and I’d head downstairs to make myself breakfast (I was starving and wanted a good meal in case I really was going into labor). I made breakfast, emptied the dishwasher and headed back upstairs to time my contractions. From 6-7am they were consistently 5 minuets apart, though some were stronger than others. Ben walked Winnie while I called my doctor. She said give it another hour to see if they were consistently strong. I had Ben bring Winnie to daycare while I sat on the couch and continued timing my contractions. They were definitely getting stronger but I felt oddly calm even through the pain. One thing I really didn’t want happening was driving all the way to Manhattan only to be told, “You’re not far enough along yet,” and be sent home. But once Ben got back home, I told him to shower and get dressed so we could head to the hospital. I had a feeling it was time.
We got in the car at 9 on the dot and got to the hospital just before 10. I had some strong contractions in the car and was pretty confident we’d get admitted. We walked into an empty L&D floor (or so we thought - more on that later) and they actually said, “What brings you here today?” Um... A BABY?
After giving some info and signing some paperwork, Ben and I were admitted into a triage room. This was the worst, hardest part of my labor. I was examined around 10:30 and told, “You’re 4cm dilated - you’re staying.” Relief! The midwife asked me if I wanted my epidural yet and I was surprised; I said no because my contractions were tough but manageable. Ben and I wound up staying in that triage room for about 3 hours total and my contractions quickly got worse. It turned out the waiting room was empty when we’d arrived but there were actually quite a few women in labor and delivering. Ben and I were mostly alone from 10:30-1 and despite trying to be tough, I cried through pretty much every contraction. They were about 5 minutes apart and quite painful. Around 1, a new nurse came in during a bad contraction, locked eyes with me and helped me get through it. I told her it was time for the epidural and she assured me I’d have it soon and that a L&D room was being prepped for us.
We walked over to the room and the nurse told me my dad was downstairs and that she’d let him up to visit once my epidural was in. This was totally unexpected and such a nice surprise. The anesthesiologists were lovely and getting the epidural was fairly seamless. I got settled into bed and my dad and sister came to visit from 2-4pm! This was by far the best part of the day. The nurse said I could eat (I was starving) so I snacked while we chatted. After a frustrating, painful few hours, the epidural really calmed me down and it was so great having company.
I was examined again around 4pm and told I was 6cm dilated and 100% effaced. The doctors said they’d come back to check me again around 6pm and thought I might have my baby by midnight. Ben and I were convinced we’d have her by 7. Joke was on us...
We chatted with our nurse and watched TV and because the doctors were so busy, they didn’t check on me again until, 8, at which point I was 8cm dilated. Midnight was beginning to look more realistic. Ben went to get himself dinner as we had no real concept of when I’d actually begin to push. I also encouraged him to sleep for the same reason. The upside was that our L&D room was spacious and gorgeous and a great place to be stuck in so to speak. I watched a LOT of TV that night.
In the early evening, I started to feel a lot of sharp pain in my right hip crease every time I had a contraction. I mentioned it to the nurse and she had the anesthesiologist come to check on me. The epidural had moved 1cm, and I guess when that happens all of your pain can be localized to one spot. Luckily they were able to fix this fairly quickly without removing and reinserting the epidural needle, and for that I was grateful.
The doctors checked on me again around 10:40pm and I was 9.5cm dilated. I thought, "I may actually have this baby by midnight." However, this was also when the doctors told me that I was progressing well and they wanted me to hold off on pushing for as long as possible as they hoped it would mean less physical work for me and the baby. Spoiler alert: it didn't.
The next few hours felt like they were moving in slow-mo. Ben slept and I was starting to doze off because I was tired, but I was unable to truly relax. My nurse kept telling me a doctor was coming back to check on me... and they finally did, at 1:40am. I was 10cm and ready to go. Ben woke up and sat by my side. I texted my dad that I was getting ready to push and would text him again when the baby was here. He wrote back immediately and it warmed my heart to know he was awake and with me in spirit.
Throughout my last month of pregnancy, my doctor told me that the baby's head was “very low.” The doctors and nurses commented on this several times throughout my first 20 or so hours of labor as well. I'm no medical expert but I took this to mean that I’d have less active pushing time. The nurse warned me that most new moms push for 30 minutes to 2 hours and that while baby’s head was indeed nice and low, I had some work ahead of me. Meaning, I could very well push for up to two hours.
Ben and I had agreed ahead of time that throughout the end of labor (pushing) he’d sit next to me and that neither of us would watch the baby coming out of me. Ignorance is bliss, people. So when the nurse asked him if he was going to sit by the bottom of my bed and hold my right leg up while I pushed, I shook my head adamantly no. I immediately realized this meant more work for me (holding up my own leg rather than having him do it for me) but I didn’t care. The pushing position was almost like a horizontal squat: spine on the bed and knees over hips with my hands pressed against the back of my thighs to hold them in place. Take a big, deep breath in, chin to chest and bear down and push while exhaling for 10 seconds. Repeat 2x per contraction.
At this point I started to cry as I realized we didn’t take any childbirthing classes or anything and I had no idea what I was doing. The head doctor came in and said, “How’s my star student?” And I cried to her that I didn’t know what I was doing and I was afraid I'd be bad at pushing. I guess reaffirmations are my love language, because I REALLY just needed to hear someone say, "No, you'll be great at pushing!" We did some practice pushes and she reassured me that I was doing everything right. I looked at Ben and said, “2 hours of this? I hope not...”
The first few pushes were sort of terrifying as they felt like unknown territory. But after the third or fourth round, I gave myself a little pep talk in my head. I decided to look at pushing like a workout with an unknown amount of sets. I love a challenge. I was going to give every push my all and make it my best. Having a goal in mind always helps me. From then on, I felt strong, capable and determined rather than scared.
For some reason (TV/movies?) I expected a lot of people to be in the room but for awhile it was just the 3 of us: Ben, me, and our wonderful L&D nurse, Allison. (Also my best friend's name. Also my original middle name that my parents changed to my mom's maiden name when I was 3 years old. But my birth announcements indeed read, "Teddi Allison.") Eventually the doctor came in and measured me while I as pushing, which was encouraging, but she was also in the middle of another delivery so for awhile she was switching back and forth between rooms. She complimented me on my strength and mobility throughout the pushing process which made me feel good.
At 3:43am I looked at Ben and said, “Let’s make a goal to meet her by 5am,” and he nodded. I couldn’t believe I’d almost been pushing for two hours already. My nurse put an oxygen mask on me because the baby’s heart rate was starting to dip a bit. We were both doing a lot of work and I still can’t believe all the pushing she required for her head having been "so low..."
The closer we got to 5am, the harder things got. I started to get really emotional and kept saying, “I just want to be strong for her.” I made each push stronger than the next and realized I could actually feel her head. That was a BIZARRE couple of minutes let me tell you. By this point there were quite a few more people in the room and I heard someone say, “Let’s break the bed.”
Everyone scurried to rearrange the setup. Again, I guess I watch too much tv but I was expecting to hear, “Okay Teddi, one last push!” What I did hear was the nurse say, “You’re very close and her heart rate is a little low. We’re going to have a pediatrician come in to make sure everything’s okay." That’s when I thought, “Okay, this baby’s coming out NOW.” On their cue I pushed as hard as I could and sobbed as Ari was placed on my chest. She started crying almost immediately and I was later told that the pediatrician took a quick glance at her and deemed her totally fine. Our nurse cleaned her off as I held her and cried. It was so surreal that this little sea monkey who'd been swimming around in my tummy for the last 9+ months was now a human in the real world with the rest of us. She was born at 4:59 in the morning. We made my "meet her by 5am" goal by the skin of our (MY) teeth.
Our Ari Morgan was finally here!
After we laid skin to skin for a bit, it was time to get her APGAR score (9 and 9, whattup!) and weight. I almost rolled off of the bed when the nurse told me she was 8 pounds 10 ounces. I was confident that I was having an eight pound baby AT MOST (based on what my doctor had told me) and couldn’t believe she was almost nine pounds. I made them double and triple check that number. All of the sudden it made sense that it took 3 hours of pushing to have her and that the doctors and nurses wanted to me to wait as long as possible to start pushing. HA! Ironic that our nurse told us, "it could take up to two hours," and it was almost three. Ari has a big head (like me) and broad shoulders (like me). Our pediatrician later told me she was shocked that they never once suggested a C-Section might be a possibility, given her size.
Shortly after Ari was born, an old friend from high school reached out to me and said something along the lines of, "Doesn't this mom shit make pregnancy seem like a breeze?" In a word: YES. I was lucky to have a fairly uncomplicated pregnancy, and I think my labor and delivery would have felt like much more of a challenge if I hadn't stayed so active right up until the very end.
My whole life, I've dreamed of being a mom, and it's so bittersweet to have this experience without MY mom here. When we got home from the hospital and my dad and Perri came over, I was overcome by her absence. I sat next to Winnie and cried into her fur. I know they would've been just as close as Nana and I were. Ari was named in honor of my mom: "A" for her maiden name and "Ari" because my mom loved boy's names for girls. She and I both always said we loved the name "Morgan," so there you go.
It feels so hard not having her here with me for this. Hard, and unfair.
That being said... I know I'm still luckier than most. I had a mostly scare-free pregnancy and carried a big, healthy baby to term. I have an incredible husband, an amazing family, and really wonderful friends. It takes a village, and I'm so grateful for mine. These past ten days haven't been all roses, but it's a rollercoaster ride that I am very, very, VERY grateful to be on.
Thank you all for your love and support. I adore you all and I'm glad you're still along for the ride, ten years, many life changes and one baby later.