Man, it’s hard to believe that it’s been a week since Zach’s entrance into the world. Here’s what happened:
My water broke at 5:45 p.m. on Thursday, June 12. To my knowledge, I had not been having real contractions beforehand. I had some Braxton Hicks contractions that began that afternoon, but they weren’t painful. I was having some pain in my upper back and ribcage, but assumed they were from the BH contractions pushing my uterus out in general. Plus, Zach was still pretty high up there. As a result of this back/ribcage discomfort, I was trying to get into a comfortable position on my bed while finishing up this post reflecting on the week that my grandfather passed away last year. I was actually just finishing re-reading the final sentence of it when I felt a warm sensation and a forthcoming gush that I had no control over. “Oh shit!” I thought to myself as I jumped up and rushed to the bathroom. I pretty much knew immediately that it had to have been my water breaking. Jay, originally scheduled for a closing shift at work that day (1-10 p.m.), had managed to switch shifts and work 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. At 5:40 p.m., he had texted me that he was out a few minutes early. This was his last scheduled shift before the baby’s arrival, since he had given June 14 as the date for his paternity leave the start. The timing was absolutely perfect.
After I took a moment to process what was happening, I called Jay. “Are you almost home? I think my water just broke…” I said incredulously. Then, I called the answering service at my ob-gyn’s office and left a message for the on-call doctor to please call me back. My next phone call was to my mom, who was spending the day with my grandma because it was the one-year anniversary of my grandpa’s death. It turns out that my mom had signs all week are so incredible that we truly believe they came from Grandpa. Actually, we each had signs, and a lot of things happened and worked out too well for us to not wholeheartedly believe that Grandpa was there with us for Zachary’s birth. More on that later.
Since contractions had not started yet, I tried to stay calm and mentally made a list of what I needed to get done before they did start. Jay drove me to my office to pick up my work laptop. At that point, it was a little before 6:30 p.m. The doctor called us back as we were on the way and said that because I suspected my water had broken, she wanted me to report to Labor & Delivery within an hour to be checked out. Jay and I made it our goal to be there by 7:30 p.m. I waddled up to my office (seriously, walking while gushing water from your ‘down there’ IS The Look), grabbed my laptop and some food I still had in our refrigerator to eat in the car and we went back home to grab the suitcase. I was starting to get cramping in my lower back. The suitcase was already mostly packed, so I used the rest of the time to finish up things I wanted done before we left. By around 7:20 p.m., the cramping had turned into contractions in my lower back. We had started timing the cramping and they varied from 8 minutes apart to 3 minutes apart. Also by that point, the baby must have started to drop because my stomach was prominently sticking out and had changed shape a bit. A few “Off to the Hospital!” pictures later, we were on the road.
We got to the hospital a little after 7:30 p.m. and got checked in. An initial exam determined that my water sac had indeed ruptured, I was having back labor, and my cervix was very posterior. The cervical check was excruciating to the point where I ended up begging the nurse, “Please stop, you’re hurting me!” She said I was only 1-2 cm dilated at that point and because of how far back my cervix was, any more exams would be just as painful, so we would wait a few hours before checking me again. I was admitted to Labor & Delivery by around 8 p.m.
Back labor SUCKS. I was doing my best, but there was no way to breathe through it because deep breaths just don’t reach your back. I found that leaning my entire body backwards in a bridge position over the bed, on my tip toes, with my pelvis tilted forward in a Pure Barre “tuck” position was the only position that I could be in that felt good. I couldn’t stand up or sit up and laying down on my back was the only other position that felt even close to relieving some of the pressure. Our awesome nurse, Linda, tried to get me into various positions, such as bouncing on an exercise ball, that would help encourage the baby to move down the birth canal, but the pressure on my spine and lower back was just too much for me.
Finally, after a 10:30 p.m. cervix check revealed that I had made no progress at all over the past 3 hours, Linda suggested that I get an epidural to help relax me. I was getting through the contractions, but doing so by tensing my entire body up, which was working counter to what we were trying to accomplish. I knew that I wanted an epidural, but I was hoping to last a little bit longer than I did, merely for my own pride. Linda was great. She told me that her job was to help me get the baby out safely and explained that an epidural to relax me combined with pitocin to strengthen the contractions was a viable option to do so. Her goal for us was for me to start pushing by 7 a.m. I think she knew this was probably unrealistic, but it helped motivate me. I knew that once your water breaks, they want to deliver within 24 hours to avoid infection, but I found out later that our hospital tries to deliver within 18 hours of a ruptured water sac. Linda’s goals really helped me focus on the prize and once I got the epidural around 11:30 p.m., I made a conscious effort to really relax.
The epidural was pretty much the most amazing thing ever, haha. I moved from 3cm to 6cm a few hours after receiving it and my cervix came forward. Our other checks throughout the evening went from 6cm to 8cm and then 8cm to 9.5cm. I was stuck at 9.5cm for two very frustrating hours. During a stretch from 11:45 p.m. when the epidural kicked in until it started to wear off a bit around 5 a.m., I tried to concentrate on relaxing and taking a nap. I started to really get hungry around midnight, but wasn’t going to be able to eat until after delivery, so I spent the next 10 hours talking about all of the food I was dreaming of eating after the baby was born. Re: my “For My Two Boys” blog post – I had written it back on June 4 with the intention of either posting it after my 40 week appointment or whenever I went into labor. I set it to go up at midnight into June 13. During my entire labor, Jay was spectacular. He was the best support system I could have asked for, even when I was just begging for no one to touch or talk to me, haha. Ladies, I got me a damn good man.
My parents arrived around 6 a.m. and my mom joined us in the delivery room. Linda the nurse switched shifts with Salome the nurse around 7:30 a.m. The ob switched at 8 a.m. At 8:30 a.m., I was ready to start pushing. Everyone in the delivery room had been telling me that the pushing was the easiest part, but honestly, I found it to be the hardest part. I was so tired and hungry that I was completely spent on energy. Right before pushing, I dry heaved several times. I would have thrown up, but there was nothing in my system to throw up. Linda had warned me all night that I’d want to nap because pushing was exhausting and I had done my best to try to sleep, but nothing prepared me for just how painful and tiring it was. I’m not very proud of the amount of times I didn’t make it to the full ten counts of pushing (we did three sets of ten for every contraction) or said that I couldn’t do it. I just had no energy left at all. Finally, after an hour, Zach’s head was in sight. Jay and my mom were able to see everything through the mirror, but I was closing my eyes to concentrate on pushing, so I only saw it at the very end and even then, I missed the entire moment when he came out.
When his head finally did emerge, Zachary was purple from not breathing. I didn’t know this, but I knew he was not crying and I heard one of the nurses go, “Call the NICU.” I immediately lost all of my concentration and started panicking, asking a few times, “Why isn’t he crying? What’s going on?” All I could think was, “Why do they need the NICU?” Finally, the doctor said to me very firmly and sternly, “I need you to SHUT UP AND PUSH!” And with that, I closed my eyes and pushed with every last once of energy I had. Apparently, she pretty much stretched my shit out as I pushed, reached in and grabbed him to pull him out at 9:53 a.m. She then quickly cut his umbilical cord and handed him off to the team of nurses who did their thang. It was a scary 30-60 seconds of silence where I kept asking, “Jay, Mommy, why isn’t he crying?” before we heard two little wimpery squeaks and then a loud cry. Turns out he had inhaled fluid in his lungs and couldn’t breathe, which I know is very common, but it was still terrifying for me. I didn’t want anything to happen to my baby.
After they cleaned him off, they measured him and weighed him. He weighed 7lbs, 14 ounces and was 21 inches long. As soon as they were able to, Jay and my mom went over and took pictures of them attending to him. I didn’t get to see him for probably another 6 or 7 minutes, until the doctor was finished delivering the placenta (which took FOREVER) and giving me a stitch. Funny story: After she was done, I reached down to try to prop myself up a little bit to get my bearings when I touched poop. “Oh my God,” I said to the nurse. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t realize that I pooped!” The nurse handed me something to clean my hands and laughed, telling me, “That’s not your poop, that’s his! He pooped when he came out.” “OH THANK GOD!” I exclaimed.
When Zachary Louis was finally placed on my chest for skin-to-skin, it was the most amazing moment of my entire life. I looked at my little baby, whose life I helped create, and was honored that he chose me to be his mommy. I have never seen anything so perfect and adorable in my entire life and I love him more than anything else in this entire world. We choose the name Zachary after going through the Social Security Administration’s Top 100 list and writing down names we liked. Zachary was the top contender from the first time we went over it, back during our drive to Long Island in early October. We then sat down and started researching the meanings of the names on our list and found that Zachary means, “God remembers.” We felt that this was perfect because we also wanted to honor Grandpa, so we loved that “God remembers” preceded Louis.
Now onto my life lesson in how things always work out and why I truly believe Grandpa was there with us.
As you may know, I was pretty much convinced that Zachary was going to arrive past his June 14 due date. My hormones were out of control with disappointment every day that passed and yet the day before my water broke, I managed to get control of myself and completely change my entire attitude about the waiting game. My emotions – not my hormones – were already out of control thanks to my memories of last year, so I knew that although I was not going to be able to control the sadness and grief I felt, I could control the crazy for the sake of my son. I decided that I was going to relax about it and accept that I may be waiting another week. So, on Wednesday afternoon (June 11), I was resolved to do one last round of the old wives’ tales to see if it inspired him and then be done with it all. I went for a hilly walk, got a pedicure, drank red raspberry leaf tea, did nipple stimulation, bounced on my exercise ball, etc. I figured if all that failed, I’d see if Mother Nature would play a part, thanks to the thunderstorms and tremendous drop in pressure on Wednesday night, as well as the full moon on Friday. I went to bed calmer on Wednesday night than I had been in weeks.
During my crazy impatient period, Jay kept telling me that he really felt that everything was happening for a reason and the timing of Zach’s birth would all make sense as soon as it happened. And it did. Not only did my water break within minutes of Jay finishing his last scheduled work shift before his paternity leave was due to start, but it also happened on the day that I finished procrastinating on some last minute work things and took care of scheduling his baptism. It also broke as I felt that final emotional release from finishing the blog post about my grandfather’s passing and happened as the day was winding down so that my mom could spend the day with my grandma. Grandma didn’t have to be alone on the one year anniversary of his death and I got my wish that the baby would come before his due date. It’s almost as though Grandpa was waiting to make sure his Rosie was taken care of before taking care of me, too. Earlier that morning, before my mom opened her eyes for the day, she had a vision of the baby with a stork next to him. She was leaving the house at 6 a.m. to attend a mass being said for Grandpa and while getting ready, she told my dad that she felt he should pack some of their stuff in the car “just in case.” This was not Mom’s first sign. I don’t know if she’d want me to share the other ones she had, but they were pretty incredible.
Jay’s sense of faith in Zach’s birth came after an experience he had when Grandpa was in the hospital last June. While driving back to NC alone, he had a weird thought pop into his head: “If I have a son, I want his middle name to be Louis.” At the time, having a baby was the last thing on our mind. As for my own experience, I have never shared it with anyone before last week, but I swear that it is the absolute, honest-to-God truth. After the doctor came into the hospital room last year and said to us, “I’m sorry, but he has passed,” I had a premonition of myself in a hospital room and the thought, “I’m going to have a baby on this day next year.” And one year later, I was admitted to L&D to have a baby.
Last Thursday, I did my usual quick trip home to take a nap during lunchtime when I had his incredibly weird urge to start singing to the baby in the car. First, I sang Adele’s “Someone Like You,” which was one of my grandpa’s favorite songs. I dismissed this as me feeling sentimental because of the date. Then, I suddenly started singing the church hymn, “Here I Am, Lord,” a song that Grandpa used to play for us on the piano at home as kids to sing along with him to. I even Googled the lyrics at a traffic light and sang the entire song, start to finish. I just felt very peaceful. I believe it was my own sign to trust that things would work out.
You could easily brush off all of those things as coincidences or as grieving family desperately looking for comfort. However, there’s one more thing that I can’t even write about without crying. At my wedding, Grandpa and I danced to Bruno Mars’ song “Just the Way You Are.” He’d always tell me that I was amazing and I have a birthday card with his handwriting in it quoting the song to me. I’ve always imagined hearing that song as I was giving birth and it being a sign that he was with me. I didn’t know until Jay told me later on, but after Zach started crying in the delivery room and the medical staff gave Jay and Mom the go ahead to take pictures of him, my mom asked Jay to hand her her iPhone. When he picked it up, “Just the Way You Are” started playing through the phone out of nowhere. My mom does not have music on her phone. The only music application she has is Pandora and it was not open. Both of them got chills when it started, but I know that the song was for me. Louie was there for the birth of his namesake and there is nothing you can say to change my mind.