If Porter’s birth was like a long track roller coaster, Cole’s was a slingshot bungee ride. I had sporadic hours of contractions for days giving me this false start sense of labor, so honestly I wasn’t concerned when they started during Super Bowl LIV halftime show (maybe it all the buffalo chicken dip I ate). I had just bathed Porter, put him down to bed, and let our dogs out so I was thinking maybe I had maybe overdone things a little and just needed to just sit for a bit. So I parked my butt on the couch and watched The Weeknd do his thing. Then after about an hour of non stop contractions I felt a strong urge to go lay down and relax hoping that would put them at bay. So I went to bed and got ready to settle in for the evening… except they didn’t stop, they just got more painful.
Hmm… could this be it?
I downloaded a contraction app to start timing contractions and they seemed to be coming about every 15 minutes and lasting a minute each- and they were really rocking me. I was feeling pain radiating down into my hips and upper legs. I started to use my breathing techniques and was audibly moaning a bit to get my hips and body to relax through them. This is also when I got really pissed off at Chris who was still in the living room enjoying a beer and watching the game- how unfair! Although to be fair, we had a lot of these false labor moments in the past week and I don’t think he heard me moaning through the contractions. But boy was I in pain, and I was diverting all of my mental and physical energy into relaxing through the contractions, so I tucked that away for later.
Chris came in to check on me and get ready for bed and I think that’s when he realized this was not a drill. He took over timing the contractions which had moved to 5 minutes apart and lasting for one minute. I looked at him once a contraction passed and I could see the concern in his face.
“Babe, I need you to start packing your hospital bag and get your mom over here now”
I have no idea what we even packed or what I told him to pack but we tried to stretch the time to 2 full hours of 5 minute apart contractions in effort to not get turned away from the hospital like we did when I was in labor with Porter. So I kept thinking of random things to throw into the bag to occupy the time until we left for the hospital. For the record I used literally none of it, I think I had three different sweatshirts and was already wearing one, but he did pack all of my toiletries for me!
I vividly remember looking at the clock thinking we still had about a half hour to go to make it to the full ‘2 hours’ but I fervently knew we weren’t going to be sent home. I also knew I was going to need something to help me get through these contractions sooner than later. So even through he wanted to wait in caution, I told Chris to get the car packed and ready because we were leaving – right now.
We got to the hospital in great time since there was literally no one on the road (I guess that is a perk of being in labor in the middle of the night)! During intake I forgot they hook you up on a monitor for 20 minutes before they decide to admit you and I remember thinking shit I should have factored this into timing but I was in good spirits and making jokes with the nurses that I was happy I fortuitously decided to shower and shave earlier in the day. When the doctor came to check me I was expecting to be at least 4 cm dilated but she called out that I was 7 cm, 80% effaced and he was in the -2 position. I gawked, “Did she say I was 7 cm?”, and suddenly everyone seemed to pick up the pace a little. The rush was on to get my COVID test so anesthesiology could get an epidural in me, which by now I was asking for – repeatedly.
We were now in the birthing room but I was beyond agitated; first because my nose was bleeding into my mask from the test and second I was literally exhausted. Plus it felt like it had been (or felt like) an eternity since I asked for the epidural. Luckily the anesthesiologists came in soon afterward and started prepping for the procedure. The epidural I got with Porter was the easiest thing in the world but this time a resident was performing the procedure, which I totally don’t mind and know I was in a teaching hospital, but he missed the mark and had to attempt twice which about turned me into a feral animal. When the needle hit my nerve I jumped off the table started crying, not out of pain but out of sheer exhaustion and frustration. I just wanted this part to be over, I needed to get in some sleep, any amount of sleep, before this baby came.
Now that the spinal block was working giving me coverage before the epidural took hold, I was feeling a more relaxed. The doctor came in to see how things were progressing. I had advanced to 8 cm and she asked if we wanted to break my water and get the show on the road or if we wanted to let things develop and get some rest. I gladly opted to rest and agreed that if things didn’t get going soon we could break my water. For some reason this time around I felt really frightened about labor. I was so anxious about the epidural working correctly and my entire body was so damn itchy to the point I couldn’t get to sleep. Even when I felt like I was nodding off, it felt like my chest was collapsing and I had these wild thoughts that the epidural was going to spread too far up my body and I was going to be paralyzed and suffocate in my sleep. Yeah – what?! I have no idea why I was experiencing such extreme anxiety but I was also really nauseated. None of this happened with Porter which I think was causing my mind to race and process things irrationally. I didn’t recall there being fentanyl in the epidural for Porter but my body always has a hard time metabolizing it, which I know from my spine and hip surgeries, so when they told me that there was fentanyl in the epidural it helped me rationalize some of the symptoms I was having.
Even without sleeping, we had given my body enough time to progress so it was time to see if my water broke and reevaluate. I was still 8 cm and while the bag of water was literally right there, it still hadn’t broken yet. Time to get things rolling. We broke my water at 5:45 am, which was announced out loud for the record. Baby wasn’t in distress, my contractions were about every one to two minutes apart per the monitor, so we prepared to wait again.
I told the nurse that I was feeling a lot more pressure all of a sudden and I hit the epidural button again. She assured me she would go get the doctor but I don’t think she thought there was any rush. We had just broken my water after all, it couldn’t really be time already.
The doctor came in to see how I was and to confirm that I was feeling more pressure. She confirmed I was fully dilated and ready to go – it was baby time! Throughout the morning the nurses and doctors kept asking me about the baby’s size and Porter’s size and if there was a prediction about how large he was going to be – I guess they noted that he was a linebacker somewhere in my chart. As they were preparing they had to get some stools in place for some shoulder protocol in case he got stuck. Honestly, I didn’t take this to heart as I wasn’t concerned. Last ultrasound the tech and i came up with our educated guess so I was convinced my baby was going to be 8 and a half pounds and everything was going to be fine! The midwife came in, we got situated, and we started pushing.
6:44 AM, Cole Jordan Renus was born into the world with two pushes, weighing 8 pounds 7 ounces, measuring 20.75 inches, and with an incredible full head of dark brown hair.
This time around I felt ready to be a mom, I took him into my arms and started to comfort him. He layed on my chest and we talked to him and welcomed him into the family. After it had been a few minutes (we did delayed cord clamping) I was able to cut the cord myself! I got him settled onto my chest and was just happy it was all over. Now it was time to deliver my placenta. I pushed a few times, longer and harder than I did for Cole, but nothing was happening.
Then I noticed a bit of worry coming from the doctor and midwife.
Apparently, I have what the midwife dubbed a “super cervix” which I guess means it’s very efficient and responsive. So basically it did its job getting Cole out but once they started pitocin (which they do as a hemorrhaging protocol it) it immediately shut back up to 3 cm and went hard. Which would normally be great except for the fact that my placenta was left behind. Anesthesia was called back in to push nitroglycerine to help my cervix relax. I received 200 micrograms and there was still no change. Then came a fetal medicine specialist who used ultrasound checked to see if my placenta was somehow affixed to my uterine wall. Luckily it was not, so she told me I have two options. One, she was going to try to take it out herself or two, I would need to go into surgery. She really wanted to keep me and Cole together so she said she was going to do everything in her power to make that happen.
I will spare you most of the details but let’s just say I am pretty sure that doctor felt more like a veterinarian because I sure as hell felt more like a farm animal. Every single person in that room kept saying they were incredibly happy that my epidural was working, and I am pretty sure Chris will be a little bit scarred from seeing this whole procedure unfold.
All in all I can’t complain because she got my placenta out and kept me out of surgery. She did apologize that I will be incredibly sore but it definitely beats the alternative. The midwife complimented me on my placenta saying I must have eaten well all pregnancy, I love labor and delivery people, and then it was wheeled away and we could finally all breathe a little easier. Cole and I stayed skin to skin while practicing his latch for a while longer and then they came to measure him and take his prints. Finally, he was here, he was healthy and so began our life as a family of four.
From start to finish his birth was a whirlwind of emotions which honestly I didn’t expect as a second time mama. You think, I’ve done this all before. But as I have been saying this entire pregnancy, he keeps teaching me to be open to new experiences and to stay flexible for when life throws changes your way.
Part II… our hospital stay, meeting Porter and our first days home… to be continued.