I am writing this blog for anyone who is curious, but mostly so I have it down in writing before I forget all of the great details surrounding JJ's birth. It's amazing how quickly you manage to forget the details surrounding such an enormous event...
One week ago yesterday, Chris and I welcomed the most amazing new little person into our lives. John James Plesko was born on August 26, 2010 (nine days early) weighing in at a hefty 8 lbs and even more surprisingly, a whopping 22 inches long! I have a hard time pinpointing a number of hours that I was in "labor", which is kind of a bummer because numbers are always fun! Let's just say, six days of fairly regular contractions led up to the actual event...
The kids returned to school on Friday the 20th. Being nine months pregnant and working with 25 brand new Kindergarteners was rough. Friday was only a half day for students, with the other half as testing, and it was still excruciatingly exhausting. Chris was up climbing the Diamond on Longs Peak that day, so I was under strict orders not to go into labor, since he'd be without cell reception or any good contact for nearly 24 hours. Even still, the consistent contractions started on Friday (I have to chalk it up to the stress), and honestly if he would've been around, I would've maybe considered visiting the doctor. Luckily for both of us, after work they calmed down a bit, and I went to see a movie with Heather and relaxing helped a lot.
Over the weekend, I continued to have contractions, although they had slowed to around 10-15 minutes each, sometimes more, sometimes less. I have had Braxton Hicks ("practice") contractions since 26 weeks, and these were certainly different. Chris and I mostly sat around all weekend, trying to relax and not worry too much about the contractions or how soon little JJ might be making his appearance. It seemed that every time they would speed up and become more regular and we would start to consider heading to the hospital, they'd slow down again and we'd be left a little disappointed on the couch.
Starting on Monday, the kids were with me full day. Chris came with me to work "just in case", and his help and presence made the day actually go okay. Tuesday, I convinced him to stay home and relax -- after all he was still pretty tired from his epic day on Longs, and I told him I needed him to be on full alert whenever things started to move along. Both Monday and Tuesday I came home from work with enormously swollen ankles and exhausted beyond belief. When Wednesday rolled around, I really was starting to feel miserable. I had a girl throw a fit when her mom left which required me to try to wrangle her to keep her from running out either door. The stress of the situation left me with some crazy contractions for a few hours, but I managed to keep chugging through the day. Walking back up from dropping the kids at lunch, I had an inner-dialogue with Mr. JJ telling him that he better come soon, because Mommy was about to give up. I was so tired, swollen, and uncomfortable that I couldn't imagine working another week and a half until my maternity leave was set to kick in. I would learn later that most of the teachers that saw me that day could tell that I was about ready to go. Something must've seemed *off* which I guess I could tell on some level.
Wednesday evening I got home from work to Chris just waking up from a nap (Chris NEVER takes naps...) and plopped onto the couch as usual with my feet up. Contractions kept coming and were anywhere from 5-10 minutes apart all evening long. Chris and I were both convinced they'd die off as usual, so we didn't really get our hopes up too much that anything would be happening. As the evening wore on, the contractions continued and actually managed to get more painful. While not as painful as they would eventually get, they did stop me in my tracks and Chris could always tell when one was coming just by my sudden shift in personality.
We went to bed early, knowing that if I were to survive the next day at work, I needed to relax as much as possible. We watched some Office episodes on the laptop and the contractions kept coming and coming. Around midnight, we decided to go for a walk. Neither one of us had any hope of sleeping, there was a big bright just-past-full moon out, the weather was perfect, and we wanted to see if we could get things moving along. This walk was one of the best we've ever taken. The world was so peaceful outside at midnight and the moon lit up the dirt path enough that no headlamps were necessary. We would have to stop about every three to five minutes to get through a contraction, which Turbo loved because it gave him extra exploring time. It has never taken us that long to walk the 2.5 mile loop before!
We were pretty encouraged that the contractions had not only not gone away, but they had increased in frequency and painfulness. Still, we knew that it was probably still too soon to go to the hospital, since they have always slowed down. We got into bed and both slept pretty fitfully for a few hours before finally getting up at 6:00. The question of whether to go to work or not wasn't even there, we both knew that this was when we would head to the hospital. I emailed work and told them I wouldn't be in (it just so happened that my long term sub was scheduled to visit that day and observe anyway, so that worked out perfectly with no stress). We got in the shower and I had my "bloody show" which kinda freaked both Chris and I out. We've been praying this whole pregnancy for NO BLOOD and now finally we saw some and could start to get excited. Chris offered to make breakfast, but I told him we should just get the rest of the stuff in the car (he'd packed almost everything into the car when we got back from our midnight walk) and hit up the starbucks on the way to the hospital.
When we went into starbucks, I had another painful contraction and did my best to hide it from everyone else in line. Chris and I both laughed afterwords, since labor contractions in line at starbucks are, well, pretty funny. I ordered a water and a huge cinnamon roll (YUM!!!!!!), knowing that our starbucks usually doesn't carry cinnamon rolls and if I went into labor and puked it all up, I didn't want to ruin a food that I usually eat. I had a few more contractions while we were sitting there, and Chris and I tried to make small talk to calm our nerves. Eventually we got back out into the car and drove the last five minutes to the hospital.
When we got to the hospital, they put us in a room in labor and delivery and they hooked me up to the contraction monitor and baby heartrate monitor. Everything looked fine, and when she checked to see my progress, I was still only 1 cm dialted, although more thinned out. I had been at 1 cm since our last dr appointment a week and a half prior. She told us to go walk the halls for an hour and come back and she'd check me again. I was really frustrated walking the halls -- not only had I essentially been up since Wednesday morning, had a craptastic day at work, a night full of painful contractions, but now I was finding out I wasn't even making any good progress through all of that. Chris had to deal with a very cranky Marni for that hour, I didn't even want to talk or hold his hand or listen to his encouraging words. Especially as the contractions started to slow down, I got more and more frustrated.
Chris, knowing me better than anyone ever could, suggested that since it was Thursday, if we got sent home, at least we'd have a nice day together and then we could get some tasty Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner (Thursday night is 50 cent boneless night). That perked me up a little, knowing that at least I'd be getting some yummy wings for dinner. We went back to the room and she hooked me back up to the monitors and checked me again. "Still 1 cm" was all she said. I could've sobbed right there, except I always have to put on some sort of "brave" face in front of strangers for whatever reason. She was clearly going to be sending us home, since no progress was made and the contraction monitor wasn't really picking anything up. I knew I was contracting, but the monitor wasn't picking them up, so I of course started to doubt myself that I was making it all up in my head. Chris could tell, however, that the contractions were coming a lot more frequently than the monitor let on, so when the nurse returned, he told her it wasn't working and she needed to figure it out. She seemed a little annoyed that we wanted her to fix the monitor when we were going to be going home, but she humored us and left to get some blood results back (my blood pressure was a little high when we went in so they wanted to check out my blood).
After the nurse fixed the monitor and left the room, we could see the contractions on the monitor finally. Suddenly I got one really really painful contraction and my water exploded everywhere. I told Chris "uhhh, honey, I'm pretty sure my water just broke" and he paged the nurse who came back, still looking doubtful. When she looked down, she said "oh yeah, looks like you're not going home, you're staying here to have a baby!" I think Chris and I were both a little shocked after thinking we'd be heading home, but we were also excited to be staying. I honestly thought for a second "oh wait, this means I won't get wings tonight" -- haha.
They kept me on the monitors for just a few more minutes, then said I was free to move around and use any of the birth balls, birthing tubs, chairs, or anything to help me through the process. We went into labor thinking we'd try to do it naturally, but still left the epidural option open in case something didn't really go as planned. As I got out of bed, my water continued to gush everywhere, and I of course felt horrible that someone else would be cleaning that mess up. As they cleaned up my bed, they noticed meconium in my water (baby pooped in the womb and was breathing it in) so they were clearly concerned. I continued to gush and gush everywhere and the nurses all commented on how I had A LOT of fluid.
I tried the birthing ball, but that was not helping. I noticed I was having a lot of back labor pains, so we tried to the tricks we had learned in our birthing class to help that. I found one semi-decent position to stand in, but quickly realized that wasn't going to work either. Rather than the typical contractions that would be about 3-5 minutes apart lasting for a minute, mine were lasting 1.5 minutes and only 2 minutes apart, meaning I was getting about thirty seconds of "rest" in between. Essentially they were stacked right on top of each other and extremely painful both in my back and in the front (I'm now chalking that up to his 22 inch height, although dr's and nurses debated the rest of the labor what position he was in). I told Chris there wasn't any chance I could handle the constant pain, and he was supportive. I still tried to fight it and wanted to go without the epidural, but when a nurse came in and said "well, because of the meconium, we're going to need to put you under constant monitoring in the bed". At that point, I said "f___ it" (maybe in my head, maybe out loud?) and we decided to see how far along I was before ordering the epidural. We knew that it if it was given too soon, it could slow down labor and lead to all sorts of other interventions.
So, about a half hour after my water broke (and broke, and broke, and broke), the nurse checked me and I was already 4 cm dialated! We ordred the epidural and waiting for him to come in seemed to take forever. He was in another room and we were next on the list, but I thought I was going to pass out from the pain waiting for him (especially now that I was strapped to be bed with monitors in a pretty uncomfortable position). Throughout this, Chris was very encouraging and helpful in keeping me calm and focused. When the anesthesiologist came in to give the epidural, I was ready to be done. Thank goodness for that guy!
He got the epidural in and told me that slowly, one by one, the contractions should become less painful. We waited a few contractions and it was slowly taking the edge off of them enough that they could check me again. After the epidural, and about an hour after my water broke, I was already 8 cm dilated! No wonder those contractions hurt like heck, I was speeding through labor like a freight train. In the middle of all of this, there had been a shift change and we got a nurse who I liked better than the first who thought we were crazy. When she decided I was already up to 9 cm a little while later, she explained to us that the two doctors on call were both performing emergency c-sections, but that they could call someone over in no time if we needed it (which I thought was funny, because I really had no choice in how long or short this was going to last).
By now, the epidural had taken full effect, and Chris and I were able to enjoy the labor for a little while. Chris called our family, friends, and work to let them know what was going on. He would feed me ice chips, got me a grape popsicle, and even had time to eat a few crackers himself. I was exhausted from the last 29 hours, but had somehow convinced myself in my head that if I let myself fall asleep, I would die. I'm not sure if that was the epidural talking, or a bit of anxiety over the situation, but every time my eyes would close, I would force them open to stay awake. Very bizarre.When I got the epidural, life became a lot easier. I could still definitely feel the contractions for a while, but after upping my dosage now and then, I finally got the "numb" feeling everyone talks about. When I reached a 9 a little while later, we expected to get a baby soon! Unfortunately, my body stalled at a 9 with a tiny lip of cervix left for about five hours. I was grateful for the epidural at this point and stopped feeling guilty about getting it. Being strapped to a bed at 9 cm for five hours being monitored would've been awful. JJ wasn't handling the contractions well (his heartbeat was dropping a little lower than the nurses liked during and shortly after a contraction), so they put me in various positions on the bed to find him a happy spot. One inch to the left this way, this arm slightly that way, and on and on and on for five hours. Honestly, this was all okay, but wherever they'd get me, that JJ supposedly liked, was usually the least comfortable for me. My tailbone was killing me despite the medicine and trying to stay still in one particular position or another wasn't helping at all.
Finally, around 5 pm, they called me fully dialated (after starting pitocin to get my body to progress)), and I got to start pushing. This was exhausting. I had to dig deep and use any of what I've learned in biking and hiking to get me through it. Over the last few years I have learned that despite my body telling me I'm exhausted and done, there is always something left in reserves to get me through. I have watched Chris battle through some exhausting adventures, and I knew that tiredness could not be what stopped me.
As Chris shoved my knees to my face, at least I was able to impress the doctors with my mad flexibility skillz. Chris was doing a fantastic job of keeping track of how I was doing, adjusting his rate of counting or depth of leg shoving to leave me feeling motivated and not discouraged. I tried to focus on his voice and try my best, although I surely had doubts that he and the nurses were trying to lie to me by telling me I'd made progress. At some point the doctor had come in to discuss what he could foresee happening (episiotomy, and using a vacuum to help JJ along). He said it in such a way that I took it personally to mean that I wasn't doing a good enough job and wouldn't be able to do it on my own. It felt like I had made it through a long bike race, only to get about a mile from the finish and need someone to tow me the rest of the way. I nearly broke down and cried, and when he left the room, the nurse asked what was wrong and I managed to tell her that now I felt like I wasn't doing anything well. She and Chris helped me feel better, and rather than getting frustrated I tried to use it as motivation. In the end, I needed the episiotomy, but am very pleased to say that I never needed the vacuum.
While I didn't realize this at the time, but now realize as I write this, I think the epidural made me extremely paranoid. When the nurse tried to tell me that she could see his head and that it was going to be soon, I asked her if by "soon", she meant another hour. She laughed and said "definitely no". I only believed the head was actually coming, when Chris said "I can see his head!" and he sounded like he was getting choked up. This gave me any last motivation I needed to get JJ out into the world.
Despite the epidural (which I'm not sure hadn't gotten turned down in the process of pushing), getting a baby out of me was extremely painful and exhausting. However, there is nothing in this world like accomplishing that. When he started to come out, they told me to stop pushing for a second. Later I learned this was because the doctor needed to unwind the cord from around my sweety's neck. He came fully out and they put him on my stomach for a very brief moment. Chris quickly cut the cord and before I could even open my eyes and focus on his little body, they whisked him away to the warmer in the room. I told Chris to go over with him.
All I noticed was that he wasn't crying.
I gave him a few seconds before I freaked out.
When he still hadn't cried after what seemed like an eternity, I looked over at the warmer and saw the nurses pumping him full of oxygen.
Then I freaked out.
I kept yelling over to Chris and the nurses about whether he was okay or not. Chris said "he's moving", but I still hadn't heard him cry. In the end, this time was only a minute and a half, but looking back on how it felt, it took forever.
What I didn't like about the doctor over the last few months of my pregnancy and during the labor, ended up being exactly what I liked about him in this minute and a half. We have never been big fans of how slowly he explains every minute detail of everything, but in my freaking out about my un-crying baby, he was able to calm me down and explain what was going on. His one minute apgar score (out of 10) was 1. Poor little guy :(
When they got him breathing and moving and happy, they brought him back to me and I got to finally to meet my little man. He was (and is) absolutely perfect.
I asked the nurse if I could finally drink any water, and she was happy to inform me that not only could I drink water, my ice chips had melted into the perfect cold watery goodness. Drinking that was sooooooooo nice!
Over the next hour or so, Chris and I got to bond with our little boy, try to nurse, and get cleaned up. Soon my wonderful family started trickling in. JJ was visited by his Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Colleen, Uncle Scott, Uncle Jim, Aunt Jenn, and finally his cousins Kylie and Trevor. Aunt Betsy came to visit the next day. My dad went and got Chris and I some subway sandwiches, and we enjoyed eating for the first time since starbucks early that morning.
The only other noteworthy happening of the evening was the nurse taking me to clean up in the bathroom and while she was talking to me, I interrupted asking her if it was normal that I couldn't hear her voice. I heard her talking, then it started to get really funky, and then no hearing at all. I noticed her call in Chris and they dragged me over to the wheelchair to bring me back from starting to black out. That was a bizarre experience.
The first night in the hospital went really well. Chris and I were exhausted and so was little JJ. We got some decent stretches of sleep and he ate like a champ. Chris and I couldn't wipe the smiles off our faces that night, and they still haven't gone away.
After several years of trying to get pregnant, fertility treatments, and a miscarriage, it was all worth the wait. I am desperately in love with my little boy and falling more and more in love with my husband every day.
Life is good.