One week after my due date, at exactly 41 weeks pregnant, our little one was finally born! I’m posting this quite a bit later, because as you can imagine I was a tad busy that day and the days after. Actually, I still am and I’m sure he’ll keep me busy forever. As a proud mama, I want to share my beautiful baby with the world, so I have been posting lots of updates and photos on Instagram and Facebook with my iPhone. I don’t really have time to respond to everyone’s individual congratulatory messages and questions yet, so thank goodness for social media keeping everyone up-to-date at once. Baby’s out for a walk in the park now with his oma [Dutch for grandma], oom [Dutch for uncle] Djamo and tante [Dutch for aunt] Yasmin, so I quickly jumped behind my computer to write this last post in the Little One Loading series.
I started feeling my first contractions and back pains late Wednesday night, just after my mom arrived in Buxton, when I was 40 weeks and 4 days pregnant. I didn’t know then that baby was back to back, despite weeks of sitting forward on a birth ball to get him in the optimal back to belly position, and that’s why my back was killing me. I assumed the back pains were just a new wonderful addition to my already existing weeks of pelvic girdle pain, and hoped it meant baby was on his way.
Through the night and Thursday morning I was feeling contractions (what I would now call mild ones, but I wasn’t calling them that then…). We were really excited and I used my hypnobirthing techniques to get through all of them. Then around noon everything suddenly stopped. Later that evening, they were back! And they were much stronger. I was lucky to have Yasu and my mom around to help me through them, I breathed and vocalized and they massaged, especially my back. Looking back, I am happy I didn’t know baby was back to back then, because that was actually one of my only fears during pregnancy. I had read about how badly that hurts, especially when birthing naturally and I wanted to avoid that. At every visit to the midwife and during every scan I check his position and to my relief he was never back to back, then apparently in the end he decided to turn around.
So I was under the impression that baby was in a much more optimal position, when I was trying to breathe through hours of excruciating contractions. A midwife came to assess me at home and unfortunately dilation and effacement were hardly progressing. Yet, after her her second examination my waters broke and contractions were taking off like nobody’s business. They were one minute or less apart and there was no time for me to rest in between anymore. Yasu and I ended up going to the hospital by ambulance, after getting high and sick on entonox (my first concession to my birth plan) somewhere on the way down from our apartment. As the ambulance rushed off in a very bumpy and painful fashion, my mom (a last-minute birth partner addition) was brought to the hospital by Yasmin in her Mini Cooper (which was going to be our ride, but that would have been impossible in the condition I was in at that time).
We arrived at the hospital very late Friday night, it took a few rides in the elevator for the paramedics to find the right floor to the delivery suite. I was still trying to cope with breathing, vocalizing, entonox, and two sweet birth partners. I met the anesthesiast and the midwife, who were trying to put me on a monitor and tell me about more pain relief and initially I tried to fight it all. Especially, my mom was a true defender of my birth plan, as I had asked her to be. But I was exhausted after two days of slow progressing labor, and in the middle of contractions with no break and only 3 cm dilation and no effacement, and excruciating back pains that were no longer relieved through massage, I was done. I couldn’t take it anymore, I wanted to cancel the whole thing. I could feel Yasu was hoping I would accept some kind of pain relief, and I so needed it. I gave in, and asked for an epidural, no matter how scared I am of needles, especially in my spine.
The epidural did wonders to my body, it quickly took away the pain, and gave me the rest I needed to last another day during my marathon of labor. But it also put me on my back in a bed, hooked up to an IV, a monitor and much more. All things I didn’t really want. I felt like such a loser for giving in, and profusely apologized for giving up and not being strong enough to last. But of course, I was my own biggest critic, my sweet birth partners were just so happy to see me get some rest and a clear mind again. It had been quite torturous for them to see me go through that and after the epidural we were all hoping for a more calm and expedient progress of labor.
But it was not to be. Baby’s heart rate monitors, attached to my belly and to his head were faulty and kept reporting bad news, so the doctors had to keep taking samples of tissue of his poor little unborn head to make sure he was still happy in there. And he was. Yet, the faulty machines kept the doctors worried all throughout and the word C-section had already been brought up and thrown me into a panic. I had gotten stuck in a cascade of interventions all the way to C-section, and I was scared. He’d been happy and healthily growing in there for 9 months, but he wasn’t ready to come out. Dilation was coming along slowly but effacement was just not happening.
I was given a few more hours to see if baby was coming out on his own, which gave me time to calm down and get used to the idea of a C-section. When it was time for me to go to the operating room, another lady’s situation became an emergency and she went in for a C-section first, which gave me one more hour to try to deliver baby naturally by pushing. It didn’t work but I did learn how to push in that hour, which was mostly a mental exercise since you don’t really feel a thing with an epidural. Which was really helpful when we were in the operating room, where they gave me a last chance trial at vaginal delivery with the help of a forceps. I was allowed to push three times and luckily that was enough. I felt him come through the birth canal, and remember thinking he felt so much smaller than expected. It was probably the epidural working, but I also heard the doctor say that the baby was a small baby when he pulled him out.
Unfortunately, Babel’s transition from my womb to the outside world was quite traumatic. I had no idea anything was wrong at first, my eyes were covered with a blue sheet when they held him over me, and once I peeked over it they took him away because he was not breathing. Yasu could see what was going on, but did not react to my questions because he did not want to worry me. Baby didn’t breathe for 5 minutes, and needed resuscitation. He was administered oxygen and given chest compressions with thumbs to get his heart going. Activities in the operating room got quite panicky and scary, and when I heard a doctor sternly ask about the whereabouts of the incubator, I got worried.
Then suddenly the midwife came over to tell me baby was okay and that I was allowed 1 minute of cuddle time. I was confused why I could only hold him for a minute, but it was a sweet minute. They gave him to me and I said his name and his left mouth corner curled up into a smile (I know he can’t really smile yet, but still). Then I gave him a kiss and his skin felt so soft under my lips, I said his name again and he smile again. He even seems to be smiling in this picture we took in the operating room:
Then the minute was up, Yasu did not even get to hold the baby before he was whisked away in an incubator to the neonatal care unit. I thought Yasu would follow him there, but he wasn’t allowed yet. My own condition quickly became unstable after they stitched me back up, my blood pressure became twice as high as normal, I was shaking all over, had a fever, and some kind of an infection. I was stuck in recovery for hours, I had no idea why. All I knew was that I was separated from my newborn and I was getting more and more stressed about it. They finally brought in Yasu and later my mother to help calm me down and then finally six hours after he was born I was finally stable enough to go see my little one in the neonatal care unit. All in all it was not quite the start I envisioned for motherhood.
He was hooked up to all kinds of machines and in an incubator. Somehow I never expected my baby, 1 week past his due date, to end up in an incubator. That was quite surreal and it was tough to have to touch him through holes, but I was so happy to finally see him. I cried so hard, it was a good thing I was in a wheel chair, I was on the verge of collapse. He seemed to recognize my voice and I was happy to finally introduce my mom to her first grandson, unfortunately she was not allowed to touch him. Only parents can touch newborns in neonatal, and apparently it was finally time for my skin-to-skin with baby. Since baby can only have two visitors at the time, my mom quickly left to let Yasu have a chance to hold his son for the very first time. Holding our little boy like that finally, pfff it still brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.
Baby was doing fine that first night, and we were told he would be able to join me in the maternity ward the next day. But to my huge disappointment, it was not yet to be. The next morning, I tried breastfeeding him and he was coughing up mucus, which was probably because he had swallowed some meconium while still inside my belly. So his stomach had to be emptied and he needed to be observed a little longer. I spent most of my day and night going down to neonatal. At one point, while breastfeeding him with my mom there, he turbo pooped all over my arm and pillow, and my mom just had to take him off me and help clean him up. Which she did not mind at all, because she finally got to touch her grandson, covered in poop or not, it was a pretty special moment for her.
On Monday, baby was discharged from neonatal and finally brought up to me in the maternity ward! It was just in time for Dutch King’s Day, so we got to dress him in special clothes my mom brought for the occasion. He was wearing an orange shirt with “little prince” and shoes in the colors of the Dutch flag. Daddy Yasu made sure to match baby with his orange shirt.
King’s Day or not, what we were really celebrating wasn’t the King’s birthday, it was the fact that we could finally cuddle baby without any wires or tubes attached to him. That we no longer had to ask for permission to hold our baby, and that everyone was allowed to give baby cuddles, not just mommy and daddy. He’s still so young and tiny and still he’s already received thousands of kisses and cuddles from his grandma, his uncle Djamo (who just got back from Japan), and his sweet auntie Yasmin (who drove everyone to and from the hospital the whole time we were in hospital).
This was my first time staying at a hospital. I had always wondered what it was like. I thought I would deliver the baby naturally, learn how to breastfeed, spend one night with baby next to me in his cot, and Yasu in the recliner on the other side, on the maternity ward, and then that would be it. It didn’t quite turn out that way, I was there for 7 days and 6 nights, and even though the hospital and staff were great, I was getting really fed up with being there.
It was an extremely busy and exhausting 7 days, with quite a bunch of emotional highs and lows. We had hundreds of tests performed on me and baby, loads of needles stuck into us, both our bodies bruised. I was trying to take care of baby, and still trying to heal myself. Everyday something seemed to be wrong, with either his feeding, his temperature, or my health or mental state. I didn’t get much sleep, and I felt completely insecure and out of control about everything. Of course, there were many experts around to help me and answer all my questions, but somehow it did not really put my mind at ease. I felt much better the nights that Yasu also stayed over and was there to help me with things.
And I was overjoyed when we were finally allowed to leave the hospital and take our baby home! Does it show?
April 30th is our anniversary as a couple. In 2004 we shared our first kiss, and 11 years later we got to bring home our first child from the hospital on that day. We came home as a new family of three and it was emotional and wonderful.
My mom and brother had decorated the whole apartment with blue baby boy decorations and served us beschuit met muisjes, something typically Dutch to eat when a baby is born and having a baby doesn’t feel official to a Dutchie without some ‘little mice on rusk’.
Baby is really ours now. We don’t need anyone’s permission anymore and we get to make our own decisions. Of course, with expert help and advice when necessary. I feel so much better now that we are out of hospital and Yasu and my mom are here at home to help with baby. I’m getting rest and I’m slowly healing. I knew labor was going to hurt, but I did not know that even more than a week after birth your body would still be this sore… Why didn’t anybody warn me? I’m feeling more and more comfortable in my ability to take care of baby, and I’m feeling much more of a bond with baby too. His little trip to the park today without me makes me a little sad because I actually miss him. Silly mommy.
Sadly, my mom is going home at the end of this week, but we already booked her a flight back for the beginning of June! Which is great for us and her, since she’s completely in love with our little one. And of course, so are we.