As I sit down to write Benny’s birth story, I continue to be in awe of all that has happened in the last four weeks. If you’ve been following along for awhile, you know that Benny comes to us after over two years of infertility and a complicated pregnancy.
My 37 Week Appointment
The thing that really shocked me about pregnancy was how great I felt physically. I felt like I was in a constant battle. I loved being pregnant, but simultaneously had to combat intense anxiety as we encountered several serious bumps along the way. Our entire pregnancy was filled with challenges; having to undergo an amniocentesis at 17 weeks, a cervical insufficiency diagnosis at 25 weeks, and preterm labor during the second and third trimesters. Both our regular OBGYN and high-risk doctor were shocked that I had made it to 37 weeks. I will never take for granted the fact that this wild pregnancy lead to Benny being here safely at term.
I started feeling pretty awful the day before I went to the doctor for our 37 week appointment. My body felt swollen, and I had a faint headache. During this appointment, the doctor did a cervical check and determined I was fully effaced (as I had been since about 27 weeks) and 1 cm dilated. She drew my blood as we had been monitoring my low platelet count. A few hours after I left the office, the doctor called to inform me that my platelets were low and additionally, my liver enzymes had elevated. She told me I would go to the high-risk doctor at the hospital the next morning for an ultrasound followed by a NST.
“I’m trying not to panic, but what could this mean?” I asked, knowing full-well as I had already Googled it.
The doctor explained to me that low platelets combined with elevated liver enzymes could mean HELLP syndrome. Also, she explained that this is why we were monitoring things so closely. My platelets were concerning, but, at over 100, we weren’t in the ‘danger zone’ yet. After I hung up the phone, I cried a lot. Before we went in for our monitoring appointment, I was terrified something would happen to Benny. I tried to be logical and find comfort in knowing that our doctors were monitoring things so closely. I also felt excited, because I knew in my gut that we would have Benny the next day.
Friday, February 4
We got to our high-risk doctor bright and early. He conducted an ultrasound and noted that my fluid levels were extremely low. I had my blood taken, and we waited for awhile for our regular OBGYN to come meet with us. Around 11am, she explained that it was medically necessary to induce me as soon as possible. My fluid levels were low, and my platelet and liver enzymes continued to be concerning. My body was done being pregnant, and we knew it was time to meet our boy.
We were permitted to leave the hospital to let George out and grab a quick lunch. Around 1:00, we arrived back at the hospital excited and slightly terrified as to how it would all go down. Labor and Delivery was very crowded. I was hooked up to the monitors, and we settled in knowing the actual induction wouldn’t begin until later in the afternoon or evening. Our doctor was scheduled to be at the hospital until 7pm on Friday night. She told us about her weekend plans to visit her daughter in college. We figured she would get our induction started and another doctor would be there for the delivery.
Around 5:00pm, our doctor came to our room and gave me a tab of Cytotec followed by a cervical check. I was still 1cm, just as I had been the day before. She explained that she would be back within the hour to insert the Cooke Catheter. At this point, I texted my cousin- fellow infertility badass mama to two girls both born via inductions. She is my go-to for medical questions as she will give me the honest truth about it all.
“Cooke Catheter? How bad is it?” I typed.
“Worst pain you’ll ever feel…” she responded.
I always like to know what I’m getting myself into, and I was glad to have her candor about it. About 45 minutes after I had taken the Cytotec, the doctor and nurse returned with all the instruments to insert the catheter. My cousin was not wrong. As they attempted to insert the catheter, I was in excruciating physical pain. It brought a lot of emotional pain, too, and I was flooded with memories of our journey over the last few years. I found myself in that dark place as I told Ben that it felt like my body was going to fail us yet again. After what seemed like a lifetime, the doctor couldn’t get the catheter in. She stopped and decided she needed to check my cervix again.
“Oh my God!” she said, chuckling. “You’re 5cm dilated!”
“Okay?” I said through tears and shaking.
“Let’s see what your body does over the next few hours. You might not even need Pitocin,” she explained.
Over the next few minutes, I started actively contracting every two minutes. True to form, I felt nothing. It just felt like Benny was moving sharply in my stomach, and I was not in any pain at all.
“You aren’t feeling those contractions?” the doctor asked.
The doctor explained that I could get an epidural whenever I wanted. Stupidly, I thought I would have to be in pain in order to get it. I quickly learned that wasn’t the case. The nurses explained I was pretty lucky to be feeling no pain, and if I wanted an epidural, it made sense to do it as soon as possible. That is exactly what we did.
The Next 8 Hours
I spent the next eight hours laying in bed trying to rest and talking to Ben. We were in disbelief that it was finally happening! The nurse came in every hour to move me into different positions to assist Benny in descending down. We used a peanut ball, and I was relatively comfortable feeling slight discomfort and mild nausea.
Around 3am, the nurse informed me that my water had broken and I was 8cm. I still couldn’t help but think something would go wrong. Over the next hour, I started shaking pretty violently and felt extremely nauseous. There is nothing I hate more than throwing up, so I pretty much refused to throw up, took a bunch of Zofran, and eventually it passed.
At 7:30am, our doctor came into our room. We were shocked to see her as she was supposed to be off as of 7pm the night before. “I want to get this baby here before I leave to visit my daughter.” she explained to us. I immediately started crying. After everything that happened during our pregnancy, we feel so grateful she was able to see us through Benny’s delivery. A few minutes later, the day-shift nurse arrived. She was a nurse we met during one of our hospital stays for preterm labor. We felt lucky to have a nurse with such an incredibly warm and energetic personality. She instantly made us feel calm.
She told us I was ready to start pushing, but we would wait until I felt the urge to do so. Even with the epidural, I still had feeling in my lower body and was able to feel the baby. I was uncomfortable at moments, but never in excruciating pain. Around 8:00, I felt like I was ready to start pushing.
The whole ‘pushing’ aspect really surprised me. It reminded me of working out and weight-lifting to be honest. I held my breath and then pushed as hard as I could for just over an hour. I used a squat bar for some of the time, and I was surprised that I was able to move myself up onto it without much help. All while I was pushing, I was in disbelief that it was really happening. I still feared something would go wrong, but I kept pushing. I was incredibly motivated to get Benny out safely.
And what was Ben doing? During one of my breaks from pushing, Ben stood next to me inhaling an egg sandwich. Part of me wanted to the laugh, because it really was hilarious that he was able to eat during this time. The other part of me wanted to punch him in the face, because, really? Wish I could be eating an egg sandwich, too.
The doctor asked us if we wanted to watch. I declined with confidence. As cool as I’m sure it was, I didn’t need to look. Ben was thrilled to have a front-row seat for his son’s entry into the world. In the final moments, Ben’s reaction was something I will always get choked up thinking about. He kept running from the doctor’s side to my side. One moment he had his hands on his head and was proudly telling me what was going on. (As if I couldn’t feel it.) In a series of minutes, he went from jumping up and down cheering to bawling his eyes out. It was pretty magical to witness.
Benny made his entrance at exactly 9:45am weighing in at 6lbs 8oz and measuring 19.5 inches. The moment they placed him on my chest, I feel like I became a different person. I have never cried so much in my life. Lying there together, and I kept crying knowing this was the moment we had been waiting for. The pain it took to get Benny into our arms will always be part of our story. I believe it will continue to shape us as individuals and parents. But, in this moment, I feel like I finally felt free from all the heartache and pain over the last two and a half years. He is finally in our arms.
And as for me and my body? For the first time in a long time, I am finally proud of everything she has done. I no longer see my body as “failing” us. Rather, I realize that my body finally pulled through for us and kept Benny safely growing despite all the odds being stacked against us.