Our sweet Chase was two weeks old as of Thursday! We are loving life with our little guy and I’m so excited to finally share our birth story—one of the most challenging and most beautiful days of my life. Reading other birth stories was so, so helpful to me in preparing for my own labor. I felt so much more confident and informed going into it having read others’ experiences and I hope our story will help you in some way if you’re expecting!
On Wednesday (six days before our due date) I woke up from the funniest dream in which Shawn came home from the grocery store with a 15 pound baby and told me “ours was taking too long to come, so I bought one”. In the dream, I was devastated and told him to return it, ha! I told him about the dream once I woke up and we both had a pretty good laugh from it. I also remember thinking I had slept so well that night and being grateful, knowing I wouldn’t have that luxury for much longer. Little did I know that was the last night! I had a feeling that he would come early but I was really hoping it was only a day or two, since we found out the previous week that our doctor was going to be out of town for a conference during my 39th week. Although that news was a bit of a bummer, I didn’t let it get to me because I knew whoever was meant to deliver our baby was the right person.
I got up, made breakfast and logged on to Style Me Pretty. I went about my day as usual, tying up loose ends with work before the Big Day. Around 2pm I took a late lunch and washed my hair. As I was drying my hair I felt a crampy feeling I hadn’t felt before and thought to myself is this the start? It felt a bit like a really bad gas and period cramp at the same time. I hopped back on my computer after lunch and felt the same crampy feeling again around 3, 4 and 5pm. Shawn arrived home shortly after 4 and I mentioned it to him but we both thought it might be false labor. But then at 5:30 I had the same feeling again, so I decided to start timing ‘the cramps’ in case they were contractions. I used the Contractions app by Design Studio which was super easy with a simple start and stop button (you have to buy it to see the duration and times). From that point on I started noticing a pattern with these crampy feelings being about 30-40 minutes apart. This lasted well into the evening and I remember Shawn not really believing me when I kept saying I think this is the real thing! At this point they were just uncomfortable but totally bearable.
We started watching the new Patriot’s Day movie around 10:30, which was super late for us—we’re usually in bed by then! During the movie, the contractions picked up to about every 20 minutes. By the end of the movie around 12:30 I was ready to go to bed in hopes that I’d be able get some sleep if this was the real thing. I dozed off but within 15 minutes I was abruptly woken by a serious contraction. I quickly realized I wasn’t going to get any sleep that night! I had three more that hour so I told Shawn he should probably try and get some rest in the guest bedroom because I was definitely keeping him awake (I think he still thought I was having false labor at that point!). I was getting up to pee with each contraction and started to use my yoga ball to help get through each one. I found it helpful to sit on the yoga ball at the edge of the bed and rest my head on the bed in between contractions. I did this for a few hours until contractions were about 5-7 minutes apart and increasingly painful. Around 4am I went to the bathroom and noticed a bit of pink after wiping and knew it was time to wake Shawn up. Within 15 minutes of waking him up, the contractions were 3-5 minutes apart and with a 25 minute drive to the hospital, I was ready to go in. We called our doctor’s office to confirm and they said we should definitely head over, seeing as it was also difficult for me to talk through each contraction.
I had the hospital bags (and toiletry bags!) ready for weeks so all Shawn had to do was zip them up and toss them in the car. I was so thankful I had prepared in advance because there was absolutely NO way I could think straight at this point. I continued timing contractions on the ride and squeezing Shawn’s hand SO hard with each one. They were about two and a half minutes apart at this point. We finally arrived to the hospital at about 5:30 and I had two more contractions in the hallway and then in the elevator to get to Labor & Delivery. They promptly checked me in (thank goodness for pre-admission paperwork!) and began the external fetal heart monitor. Shortly after, they checked me and I was five centimeters dilated. We both said, that’s great! Half way there. I gave the nurses my birth plan, or as I called them ‘birth wishes’ because we all know things hardly ever go according to plan. My birth wishes were mainly to have an induction-free, drug-free birth but I was open to changing that if needed—the number one priority was our baby’s safety and mine. The nurses were so on board with whatever it was that I wanted to do as long as myself and the baby were both doing well, which we were.
Once they completed their routine checks, I was free to labor however I wanted. I immediately asked for a yoga ball and rested my head on the bed like I was doing at home. With each contraction, Shawn put pressure with his hands on my lower back as I was having a LOT of back labor. This was something we had learned in our childbirth class and it definitely came in handy. The nurse then reminded me that I could use the jet bath tub if I wanted, so I gave that a try. It was comforting for about 45 minutes but with the small size of the tub, I couldn’t move my legs around as much as I wanted. I also threw up for the first time in the tub. Not in the tub, but in a bag, while in the tub. So, I got out of bath and started laboring sideways on the bed with a peanut ball in between my legs, where I threw up again. I had heard this was totally normal, but SO not fun when you’re having a contraction! At this point, it was NOT comfortable at all to have my legs closed together. After all, a baby’s head was pushing it’s way through there! I also wasn’t getting much relief between contractions either so one of the nurses reminded me that if I needed something to help to just let her know. I asked if they could check me before I made a decision so I knew were we were at. The midwife was busy so my nurse checked me and I was 9 centimeters! I thought, OK, I can do this—but I still have to push.
I asked what mild options I had for pain and they said if I simply wanted to take the edge off, I could use nitrous oxide. It was a non-invasive option, made of 50% oxygen and 50% nitrous oxide—not the full dose you usually get at the dentist! Still, I was a little nervous to try it because I didn’t want to feel loopy or out of it, but the nurses assured me that I could breath in however much I wanted during the contractions. And, if I wanted to stop, the effects would wear off within a few minutes. They also said it affects women differently—some love it and feel it helps, some don’t feel any affect at all. I finally said OK, let’s try it. Basically it’s a mask you hold up to your mouth and you breath in with the start of each contraction. I started using it shortly before getting the urge to push and didn’t really notice any relief at all. If I could describe my experience with it, it helped to relax my muscles about 20%. You still feel EVERYTHING—all the pain, but as the nurses said, it helps loosen you up slightly. I used it for about 30 minutes before I was fully dilated and it was time to really start pushing. At that point the nurses said I’d have to stop using it to focus on pushing and grabbing my legs.
I started pushing while on all fours, sort of leaning up on the angled edge of the bed. After an hour of that, the midwife suggested I try pushing on my back to see if that would help move things along more quickly. This is when I really started to feel the pressure! I found it SO difficult to let my body loosen up with each contraction. The nurses were telling me I was pushing with my face. So I tried to focus on letting my body work with the contractions instead of fighting them. Then, the midwife realized that my waters had not yet broken (we thought they did after the bath), so she broke the amniotic sac. Another 30 minutes of pushing and he was finally crowning. The midwife and nurses began putting their garb on so I knew we were was close. I remember asking, how much longer?! And there were definitely moments of I can’t do this anymore and It hurts SO much! but both Shawn and the hospital staff kept reassuring me that I could do it, and I was doing it.
In the last 15 minutes, they were applying vitamin E oil and warm compresses to my stretching skin and that’s when the ring of fire hit. The midwife was also trying to help stretch things out with her fingers, which was extremely painful! I kept telling her to stop but of course, she was doing the right thing and that’s what I had asked for in my birth plan, instead of resorting to an episiotomy. I remember seeing Shawn tear up when the baby’s head was crowning half way and my adrenaline soared. At that point, the midwife said give me your hand Melissa, and she had me feel his head. That gave me the extra motivation to get through the last few pushes. The nurse would say give a little extra! at the end of each contraction and I would dig deep down within myself to keep going. Like I said, one of the most challenging things—no, actually THE most challenging thing I’ve ever done in my life. At 1:09pm on March 16th, 2017, after 20 hours of labor and two hours of pushing, Chase Patrick Baran was born. His head came out and then with a little guidance from the midwife, his shoulders popped out, tearing me in the process. Ouch. Yes, it was a relief to have him out, but it hurt like hell. They placed him on top of me and even though I was still in extreme pain I was instantly filled with a kind of love that I can’t describe in words. He was our perfect, slippery little babe. He had no vernix, no cone shaped head. He was far from an alien-looking baby that we thought babies usually looked like when they come out. He was beautiful and had a full, dark head of hair. He was crying softly and sweetly and our lives changed forever in that moment.
Once the cord stopped pulsing, Shawn cut it and we had a solid hour of skin to skin. I also nursed him within 15 minutes and he instantly latched. It was such a special feeling having that bond. With all of the elation during that time, I was still in a lot of pain. I had to deliver the placenta, so was still having contractions. After the nurses massaged my belly, I gave one push and the placenta came out. However, lots of blood came with it. The nurses began massaging my belly even more because they said I had blood clots from where the placenta detached and I was hemorrhaging. I felt completely fine, but the look on Shawn’s face was full of fear. He said I was so pale at that point, but the nurses reassured us that they would put me on a few medications to help stop the bleeding. Over the course of the next couple of hours, they continuously massaged my belly to get it all out. This was JUST as painful as the contractions, something I did not expect at all. Finally the bleeding started to slow and the pain decreased with each time they massaged my belly. They had to measure the blood loss to make sure I didn’t need a transfusion. In the end, they said that I had lost the same amount of blood as someone with a c-section. I was so thankful that we were in a hospital for that reason. After a few hours, the nurses helped me clean up and we headed up to the Maternity floor. I was exhausted but on a high of love. I slept maybe three hours that night, nursing Chase in between and snuggling him. It was the best feeling in the world.
We love our little guy so much and can’t stop staring at his handsome face. It’s mind boggling that we created him, that I carried him for 9 months and that he’s here with us now. I am so very excited to see him grow and live his life, but I also want time to stand still. I’ve had a whole new outlook on what it means to be present in these last couple of weeks and now know a level of love that I didn’t know existed. When people say it feels like your heart is outside of your body, it’s true. We love you little man.