Arthur Ernest Riley arrived unexpectedly on January 27th during winter storm Juno! I had intended to share my 37 week pregnancy photos with you, but instead I'm sharing his birth story (about a month late, sorry!).
It's difficult to believe that Arthur is 5 weeks old. During the last few weeks I have been soaking up all of the cuddles and naps that I can, and adjusting to life as a parent. I have barely left our apartment since his birth, but somehow that hasn't bothered me as much as I thought it would. There will be plenty of time for walks when the weather warms up , and as he gets older I know that I will cherish the time that we spent together in his first few weeks.
Arthur's birth story is nothing like what I had anticipated. During our 37 week appointment we were told that he would probably be on time, if not late. But the previous night I had been up all night, unable to sleep because I was itchy all over, including my legs and arms. I mentioned it to my doctor and she drew my blood but told me that we most likely had nothing to worry about. That was Thursday. On the following Monday, I received a call from my doctor at 11:30am telling me to go to the hospital to be induced because I had a condition called Cholestastis.
Cholestasis is a liver condition in which high pregnancy hormones cause a build up of bile acids in the liver. From my understanding, the condition can cause fetal distress and women with cholestastis should be induced once their baby is full term. When I received the call I had just arrived at the gym, and was still putting my belongings into my locker. There were two other women in the locker room at the time, and they must have thought that I was insane for being at the gym when I was about to deliver a baby!
I barely even understood what my doctor had told me, but I packed up my stuff, left the gym, and immediately called Brian as I walked the one block back to our apartment. I think that my exact words were "Brian, the doctor called and she wants us to go to the hospital today to get induced. We're going to have a baby"! While I waited for Brian to get back from work, I finished packing my hospital bag (which was only partially packed), took a shower (I figured I would feel better if I was clean), and made a peanut butter sandwich for Brian and packed a bag with snacks. I also ordered a box of newborn diapers and wipes on Amazon Prime because we only had a few diapers in the apartment. Lesson learned; this is why they tell you to pack a bag early and be prepared for anything.
I should mention that the Weather Channel was predicting a massive blizzard and that the snow had already started to fall as we walked to the hospital about an hour later (thankfully the hospital is only 9 blocks from our apartment). When we arrived at the hospital we were told that all of the Birthing/Delivery rooms were full and that we should have seat in the waiting area.
We ended up waiting for two and a half hours before we spoke to a nurse. While we were waiting we called both of our families and told them that we still hadn't spoken to a doctor and didn't really know what was going to happen or the timeline. We assured them that it would probably be a day or two before I delivered and not to rush up to New York. But of course both of our families were anxious to be with us and my parents and sister booked the last train out of Washington D.C. that afternoon at 4:00pm. Brian's parents also packed quickly and drove up from the Philadelphia area that evening.
During the time that we were waiting we were both nervous (I looked up Cholestasis about 25 times on google, which is probably a bad idea) but also very excited. I spent a good deal of time cancelling everything that we had scheduled for the upcoming week, including our Infant CPR class, a haircut, and dinner reservations for the weekend. I never would have guessed that I would be so level-headed going into labor, especially considering the rapid turn of events.
When we finally spoke to a nurse, she told us that a delivery room would be available within the next 2 hours and that as long as our doctor was okay with it, they would perform a non-stress test on the baby and then we could go out and get a bite to eat.
Once the non-stress test was complete, I convincing Brian that I was capable of walking in the snow and we bundled up and looked for a place to have an early dinner (at that point it was 4:45pm). As we walked down the street, we noticed that almost every restaurant and cafe was closing early because of the storm. We finally found a Patsy's Pizzeria that was open and we shared a large pizza, a pasta and salad. I knew that I should fill up because once I was induced I wasn't going to be able to eat again until after I delivered the baby.
We trudged back to the hospital after eating and waited for another 30 minutes or so until we were officially admitted. We were assigned a delivery/birthing room, and our nurse, Rhea, started setting up my catheter, IV drip, and the fetal monitors.
The plan was to administer Cervidil that evening, in hopes that it would efface and dilate my cervix, and to start me on Pitocin (which induces contractions) in the morning. Unfortunately, the plan changed quickly when 30 minutes after receiving the Cervidil, the fetal monitors lost the baby's heartbeat. Within seconds, multiple nurses, a resident, and a doctor rushed into the room. Before I even knew what was happening they had put an oxygen mask on me and had me on all fours on the bed while they poked and prodded my stomach, searching for the baby and his heartbeat. They were about to inject a massive needle into my thigh (I still don't know what the injection was specifically) when they finally found the baby's heartbeat again. Everyone immediately relaxed, but it was incredibly scary and Brian, who had been holding my hand and keeping me calm, was clearly shaken up. At the time, I don't think that I really knew what was happening, because if I had, I probably would have been hysterical.
After that, the doctor decided that we should skip the Cervidil and go straight to Pitocin (she was worried that the baby had reacted negatively to the Cervidil). They monitored the baby for a few hours before starting me on a Pitocin drip at 9:00pm. They started the Pitocin at level 7, and continued to monitor my contractions and increase my Pitocin dosage throughout the night. For the first few hours I didn't really feel too many contractions and I certainly wasn't in any pain. Brian and I both tried to sleep, but it was very difficult to rest because the nurses were constantly coming in to check on me and the monitors were very loud and constantly beeping. At one point an anesthesiologist also came in to see if we had any questions about epidurals. We did ask a number of questions, but I was adamant at the time that I didn't want an epidural unless absolutely necessary.
To my surprise, my water broke at 2:30am. To be completely honest, I thought that I had peed on myself at first, but the fluid kept coming out and the nurse assured me that I was not wetting the bed. After my water broke, I began to really feel each contraction. At first, they were merely uncomfortable, but by around 5 or 6 in the morning they were very painful and coming 2 to 3 minutes apart and lasting anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute. I tried laboring in different positions to relieve the pain, including sitting on a stool, lying down in bed, and standing but the monitors and IV tree made it difficult for me to move around and I never really felt that one position eased the pain over the others. I tried to breathe through the contractions and take deep breaths every time, but that just gave me something to focus on, it didn't really help with the pain. Contractions truly felt like the worst cramps of my life, but I'm not sure that you could even equate them to cramps because they really take over your entire body like a wave.
When the doctor on call finally came in to check on me at 9:00am, I was only 2 centimeters dilated, which wasn't shocking, but when the doctor checked me at 12:30pm I had progressed only minimally to 2.5 centimeters and at that point I was in incredible pain. The doctor explained that I seemed to be managing the pain well, but that it might be anywhere between 8 and 10 hours before I was ready to push, and that pushing might take anywhere from an hour to 3 hours. She encouraged me to think about an epidural because it was allow me to rest and reserve some of my energy for pushing. When she left they increased my Pitocin drip to level 19 and at that point I really lost it. I started shaking uncontrollably, both during and in between contractions and I also had to get up once to throw up in the toilet because I was nauseous from the pain. It was at that point that I kew I couldn't last another hour, let alone another 8 hours. I told Brian that I wanted to get an epidural and he agreed that it was the right decision.
When the anesthesiologists came into the room, they decided to give me both a spinal block and a regular epidural because I was already in so much pain and shaking. Brian was asked to leave while I received the epidural, which made me nervous, but the doctors were great and one of the nurses held me throughout the procedure and made sure that I stayed still and calm. Once the epidural was placed I felt immediate relief from the pain and could only tell that I was having contractions because my stomach/uterus would tighten. More importantly, I was finally able to relax and rest. Brian suggested that I try to sleep, but he told me that he could bring our parents into the room for a few minutes so that I could say hello to them. I was glad that I was able to see everyone because it gave me a boost of energy and it was a nice distraction.
When our families left I tried to sleep, but it was still difficult to do that because the nurses were having trouble monitoring my contractions. The fetal monitors were not picking up on my contractions even though I could feel them and so could the nurses. I think that just about every nurse on the floor tried to adjust the monitors to get them in the right place.
When the doctor eventually came back in to check me on us 2:45pm, I was 5 cm. dilated so we assumed that we had at least 4 or 5 hours until I would be at 10 cm. Brian told our families to walk back to our apartment and to eat dinner and that he would call them later.
The next two hours were relatively uneventful. I was never in any pain and Brian and I were able to talk and he continued to give me tons of water, lemon ice, and cranberry juice. But at around 5:00pm I started to feel different; all of a sudden I was feeling a lot of pressure and beginning to feel more pain. I assumed that the epidural might be wearing off, so I pressed the pump button that they had given me, but it didn't appear to be working other than to make my legs feel more numb. I explained what I was feeling to the nurses and they told me that I was probably feeling pressure because the baby was coming down the birth canal. I tried to relax but the pain was increasing and the doctor was delivering another baby at the time, so we waited for about 45 minutes until a resident finally came in to check my progress. It didn't take her long because she immediately said, "Oh! You are 10cm, I can feel the baby, it is right here!". In just over 2 hours I had gone from 5 centimeters to 10+ centimeters and the baby was at +2 station, meaning his head was almost emerging.
The nurses immediately started prepping for delivery and they set up the baby's warming unit. Brian called our families and told them to turn around and come back to the hospital. At just before 6:00pm the doctor came in and I started pushing, following their instructions. 17 minutes later, at 6:16pm on Tuesday, January 27th, our baby boy was born and he let out a short cry. My first thought was "Is it a boy or a girl?". The doctor called out that it was a boy and Brian told them that his name was Arthur Ernest Riley.
I asked the doctor to wait to cut the umbilical cord until it stopped pulsing, but she told us that it was very short and that they wouldn't be able to put him on my chest if they didn't cut it. Brian cut the cord and Arthur was immediately placed on my chest. I just kept staring at him, it was difficult to believe that he was the baby that we had been waiting for so long to meet, our little "critter" as we had affectionately referred to him for the last 9 months.
As he lay on my chest he was wiped off with a blanket and given a vitamin k shot. His nose was also suctioned, as was his mouth. It looked like he was having a bit of trouble breathing (his chest was heaving up and down with each breath) so the nurse took him to the warming unit and called in a pediatrician, but after a few minutes of suctioning he was breathing normally. They told us his Apgar Score (9.9) and weighed and measured him while the doctor was stitching me up (I had a small, 2nd degree tear) and delivering the placenta. We were told that he was 5 pounds and 6 ounces and that he was 19.5 inches long, just a tiny little guy!
For the next two hours he laid on my chest as we gazed down at him. He had little flat nose, a tiny chin that he liked to keep pursed up so that it was basically non-existent, dark grey eyes (typical of newborns) and dirty blond hair. The entire time that he was laying on my chest he quietly looked around, taking everything in. And at one point he even began sucking his thumb.
After about an hour of time spent alone, getting to know the newest member of our family, Brian finally texted our families a photo and said that he would come out to the waiting room in just a minute. The entire time they were wondering if it was a boy or girl because his newborn hat was blue and pink. When Brian announced that it was a boy and told everyone his name, everyone cheered and my dad, I was told, (father of 3 girls) jumped up in excitement.
Our families were allowed into the room to see him and eventually we were wheeled out to a recovery room.
I remember telling Brian that evening that I wanted to go home and was glad that we would only be in the hospital for a day and half. In hindsight, I wish we had more time in the hospital. The nurses, doctors and staff were all incredibly helpful and kind to us, and they taught us so much about caring for Arthur.
I'll be back to share more about our first few weeks with Arthur. But before I go, I want to thank my parents, Brian's parents, Laura, Connor and TJ for all of their help while we were in the hospital and afterwards. They spent hours washing baby clothes for us, cooking, grocery shopping, setting up our stroller and organizing the nursery for Arthur while we were in the hospital. We were completely unprepared for our little boy to arrive early and their help made our lives so much easier and less stressful when we first got home. Laura also brought her camera and was able to document Arthur's first few days and capture some amazing moments. Thank you.
And last but certainly not least, thank you Brian. You were the best doula that a girl could ask for. Arthur and I are so lucky to have you as a father and husband and I have loved watching you with Arthur during the last month.