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*I’ve been writing this post over the last few weeks in the short segments of time I can find to slip away to my computer. It’s a LONG one, but since my time is limited right now, I wanted to post it all at once instead of in multiple parts. So here it is: our son, Raleigh’s Birth Story.*
Raleigh’s Birth Story:
It all started on Wednesday, March 30th, 2016. The day I was 41 weeks pregnant.
When I woke up for the many bathroom trips I was taking at the end of my pregnancy, I felt an achy feeling down low in my pelvis each time I went to the bathroom. Not rhythmic or anything; just achy. But I didn’t know if it was the pressure on my bladder or something more.
The last few weeks had been one solid stretch of listening to my body, watching for signs or symptoms, trying to mentally prepare to go late, and wondering “What if” whenever there was a twinge or pain.
Matt left for work that Wednesday, and went to get his TDAP booster at the clinic in the morning. He was planning to meet me at the hospital for our 41 week appointment later that morning.
I woke up and started making my breakfast. As I was making my smoothie, I started feeling cramps of some sort begin. I felt them real low in the front. But they almost felt a bit like intestinal cramps as well. When I got my colonoscopy last year, the air they pumped into me caused intestinal cramping that came and went in waves. This felt like that in some ways. After a bit, I started feeling a little soreness in my back during the cramps too.
I had downloaded a labor contraction counter app on my phone in recent days. I started to use that as I made my breakfast and ate it.
The app was telling me that I was feeling these cramps [because I wasn’t sure they were contractions yet] every 2.5-3 minutes and they were lasting 45 seconds. Fast!!
After an hour of them, I called the clinic to ask if I should come in sooner than my morning appointment, or just wait until the scheduled appointment to come in. I was told to come in sooner. I had to wait until Matt came home from work though before we could head in. I didn’t think I wanted to try to drive myself.
Part of me wondered if this was labor, so I decided to take a shower and put on my makeup in case this was the real thing.
Once Matt got home, I had the bags by the front door and we loaded up the car. The drive to the hospital was tense [nerves do that to me], and I was in pain a few times. I had told Matt ahead of time that I might not be someone who wants a lot of physical contact when I was in labor. I am a private sufferer, so I didn’t think I wanted a lot of touching. I was right. In the car, I didn’t want to be touched. I just wanted to breathe through the pain when it came, and for him to drive there as quickly as possible.
Family Birth Place
We got to the hospital, Matt parked the car, and we walked [I waddled] to the elevator and went to the Family Birthplace unit.
The nurse that originally told me to come to the clinic early had called me back after our initial talk, telling me that my doctor [who was on call that day] wanted me to go to the OB floor rather than the clinic so that I could be put on the monitor to see what was up.
A nurse met us at the front desk and walked us to a room. I changed into a hospital gown and got hooked up to the monitor. Sure enough, the nurse said, “Yeah, you are having a contraction right now.”
So they WERE contractions!!
She checked me shortly after that and told me I was dilated to a 3, and 80% effaced. After weeks of nothing happening at each of my appointments, hearing I was dilated to a 3 was strange and amazing!
I told her my plans to have an epidural and she went to process the paperwork and get the IV and fluids going. As she walked out, Matt asked about us staying at the hospital. “So we aren’t going home then?” The nurse said, “Oh no, you’re staying here. It’s Baby Day.”
Matt started texting family to keep them updated. I hadn’t told anyone about the possible contractions except Matt and my sister in the early morning, because I didn’t want to get people’s hopes up. Everyone had been on pins and needles for days, waiting to hear news of me going into labor or making changes of some kind. That’s what happens when you’re a week overdue!
The nurse tried to start my IV, and my veins gave her a bit of trouble. Two blown veins later, she called in backup and got one started right away. I had my blood drawn to check my platelet level and they started a liter of fluid in preparation for the epidural.
I sat on the peanut ball [like a yoga ball but shaped different and SO awesome for rolling on to soothe the contractions I was feeling] and worked through the contractions as the fluid ran in and we waited on the anesthesiologist.
He arrived and put in the epidural. Before doing that, the nurse checked me again and I had progressed to a 5.
I am proud of myself for getting to a 5 without any meds. I never really had major plans for a natural birth, but I wanted to see what my body could do. I was happy to work through some contractions on my own, and see that I could handle them. I know that these contractions were still part of the beginning stages of labor so the pain was less intense than it would become, but I was proud of myself for being able to work through the pain as well as I was.
The epidural procedure was much less traumatic than I thought it would be. The only pain I felt was the bee sting pinch from the numbing medicine, and after that, I just felt him touching and pressing on my back.
The medication went in just fine. There ended up being a small area on my left side that didn’t numb up right away. I was totally numb everywhere else except for that small baseball-sized spot on my front and back. The anesthesiologist told my nurse to put a pillow under my right hip so that I was tilted toward the side that needed more numbing. The hope was the meds would run down to that spot and eventually numb that up. I was skeptical that it would work, but it did! Pretty soon, I was so completely numb that I couldn’t feel a thing. I couldn’t tell when I was having a contraction, without looking at the monitor.
After having several hours of contractions and being in pain but not miserable, this was what I had hoped labor would be like with the epidural. I wanted to be pain-free and relaxed. I wanted to be as present and to enjoy the process as much as possible. I was worried about feeling nauseous from the medication, so I had some medications to prevent that. But overall, I felt really good for those few hours.
Matt continued to update family.
My doctor came in periodically to check on me and in one of the visits, he broke my water.
Another time, the nurse checked me and said I was dilated to an 8.
My parents came to chat for awhile and were amazing at how pain-free I was. I was smiling and laughing.
Then, I was checked again and pronounced to be “complete with a lip”. WHAT?! I was fully dilated!
Time to Push
So then we talked about pushing.
My parents left, and we got ready to start pushing.
Baby Boy was “sunny side up” though, which means he was face-up rather than face down, toward my back. This is how my niece was positioned and it causes painful back labor and typically tougher deliveries.
The plan was to do some different positions while pushing to see if we could turn the baby and make things progress toward delivery.
In all honesty, I hated pushing.
I couldn’t tell what I was doing. I couldn’t feel the muscles I was supposed to be controlling. I didn’t feel like I was ever doing things right, and the only thing I could tell I was doing was holding my breath and feeling like my head was going to explode.
I don’t know if this would have been different if I hadn’t been so completely numb from the epidural, but to be truthful, I didn’t want any pain during this either. I didn’t want to scream through labor, and I especially didn’t want to experience the terrible back labor pain that accompanies sunny side up babies through delivery. So while I might wonder how effective my pushing could have been if I hadn’t been so completely numb, I’m confident that I made the right choice to have the epidural.
We tried different positions, and then doctor came in and helped try to manually manipulate the way baby boy was facing. They were trying to get him to descend into my pelvis more.
I tried pushing for 1.5 hours with no luck. Every time we would stop pushing, he would pop back the way he was before.
The doctor mentioned using forceps to aid in delivery and we said sure. But once he went and got them, he said they wouldn’t be useful because the baby was still too far up. There wouldn’t be anything for the forceps to hold on to.
Then the discussion moved to a c-section.
*Everything about the entire hospital stay is blurry in my mind. I’m sure it was nerves, adrenaline, medication and then sleep deprivation that combined into a bit of a fog for me. I plan to take a look at my doctor’s notes to read his explanation about what led to the decision to have the c-section. From what I understand, it was a combination of him being sunny side up, the internal anatomy of my body, and the fact that he was big, which we didn’t know until the C-section. These factors combined to make him unable to descend into my pelvis and ultimately unable to be delivered vaginally.*
I was always of the mindset that I am ok with whatever needs to happen to have a healthy baby and a healthy me as the outcome. There were even times in the early days when I thought a scheduled c-section might not be a bad idea because then you got to avoid the pain and possibly LONG length of first time labor.
But as it got closer, I didn’t really want one. I knew the recovery would be a lot longer and harder, and I stopped thinking about having one.
So when it was given to me as my only viable option, I felt like I had kind of brought that on myself. Like I had asked for it by at one point, wishing for one. I know I didn’t, but it felt like it at the time.
The decision to have a c-section wasn’t a rushed one, or an emergency by any means.
The baby was doing fine, I was doing fine, and we had time to get to the OR for the procedure.
Matt again updated family with the new news.
They brought scrubs, a hairnet and booties in for him to put on.
Soon, we were en route to the OR.
We went into the pre op room first, and I shared my concerns about nausea with the nurses. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t sick the whole time after surgery, so that I could nurse and enjoy the first few hours with our baby.
Then, before I knew it, I was up on the OR table, with my arms stretched out to my sides, and the blue drape being set up as my numbness was checked by the medical team.
Pretty soon, Matt joined me at my head, and things began.
Everything from the surgery remains a blur to me. It’s almost like the feeling of thinking back on a night that you spent intoxicated; you remember things not very clearly. That’s how my memories of the entire experience were.
I’m not sure how long the c-section took. Matt was at my head, and I told him I didn’t want him to look over the drape. I was worried he would pass out. He listened at first but after a while, stood up to watch. I didn’t need to worry about him being woozy though because he was fine.
Pretty soon, they were pulling the baby out. They aren’t kidding when they say you’ll feel a lot of pressure, pulling and tugging.
I didn’t feel well by that point so I had my eyes closed and I was trying to envision my “safe place” that we work on in therapy. Deep breaths, picturing the beach, and working to stay calm. I had a barf bag tucked up next to my face, but I never did actually need to use it.
Then, they told us the baby was here and he had a lot of hair! And that he was BIG!
I heard him cry, and the next thing I remember, I’m being told to open my eyes and right next to my head was this huge baby with wide open eyes and dark brown hair, looking at me.
We hadn’t decided on a name for sure yet, so we were still calling him “boy.”
I couldn’t keep my eyes open very long though because of the meds and the way I was feeling, so I took a peak and went back into my mental space with closed eyes.
They put the baby on my neck so we could get some skin to skin time right away. He had already been checked over quick by the nurses because he had a meconium stool in utero, so they had to make sure he was ok because of that.
Then, they took him out to do a more extensive workup on him, and Matt went with them. I stayed in the OR to be stitched back up.
I remember laying there, feeling the pulling, pushing and pressure, and listening to the doctors and nurses talk. I can’t remember what they were saying, other than I remember them counting sponges at the end, but I knew I was listening to them.
I asked for more nausea medication because I did not feel well at all when they started really pulling/pushing on my insides. I also started feeling like I was numb all the way up to my arms. I was breathing ok, but felt tingly all over.
Soon though, I was finished and back in recovery. With the help of our nurse, baby latched on and we began nursing for the first time. I was still in my own little mental place with my eyes closed, so I wasn’t an active participant in this first nursing experience. I was listening to what was going on, and I maybe said a thing or two, but I was out of it still.
After awhile, we left the recovery room and headed back up to the OB floor and our room.
We arrived on the OB floor at about 10 pm, just as the doctor has guessed.
As we arrived back in our room, some of the medication must have started wearing off because I felt like I was able to open my eyes again. A little of the fog began to lift; enough so that I could watch what was happening around me and learn to actively nurse.
My parents and Matt’s mom came that evening, even though it was a school/work night, to meet their new grandson.
Before they arrived, Matt and I decided to officially name our son the name that had been at the top of our list for most of the pregnancy: Raleigh.
Raleigh Matthew Radniecki
The nurses came in to monitor me often that first night, and rub on my stomach [necessary but I HATED that].
I had many opportunities to learn how to nurse that first night.
And we tried to get a little sleep.
Just like that, in the course of one single day, our son, Raleigh Matthew Radniecki, was born.
What a day.
Raleigh’s First Few Days:
When I was in recovery after surgery, the doctor came and told us that things went well, but that there had been a complication during surgery.
He reiterated this when he came up to our room afterwards too.
My bladder was inadvertently punctured during surgery.
In the process of separating the bladder from the uterus in preparation to take the baby out, my bladder had been punctured and had a small hole in it.
It was repaired but needed to heal in order to prevent leaking. And in order to ensure proper healing, the urine catheter that I had in because of surgery would need to stay in.
For seven to ten days.
Yes, 7-10 DAYS.
I would go home with my catheter in.
I realize that there are many people who live their daily lives with a catheter as part of their story.
But I didn’t anticipate this, and really, didn’t even know this complication could happen.
But those were the doctor’s orders so there I was, with a catheter in for the first 9 days of Raleigh’s life.
Post Surgery Recovery
We had our c-section on Wednesday evening. Insurance gives you 3 “midnights” so that meant we would be allowed to stay Wednesday night, Thursday night and Friday night, and head home Saturday.
The next two days were filled with family visitors, figuring out breastfeeding, and for me, adjusting to life after major surgery.
I was SORE. Any need to sit up or shift around in bed was met with a lot of incision pain.
I had a bad sore throat during labor; probably from talking a lot. As that got better, I had a bit of mucous in my throat and lungs too. I could not cough to make it better though. Coughing made me feel like I was going to rip in half. I could only pitifully clear my throat. The one time I thought I might have to sneeze, I stared so hard at the light I thought my eyes would bleed.
In the afternoon on the day after surgery, I was instructed to get out of bed for the first time.
This is something I wish someone had told me about before going into surgery. That when you stand up for the first time, everything hurts. You feel like you’re 100 years old and you can’t stand up straight. And that’s totally normal.
I didn’t know to expect this, so I wasn’t prepared with how sore and more feeble I would feel.
I got up slowly, felt a little woozy, and did some routine things like washing my face and brushing my teeth.
Things HURT. I felt unsteady on my feet. I felt nauseous and woozy. I didn’t like it at all.
I received some more nausea meds in the afternoon, and immediately went to sleep. Family and friends visited on and off during the day.
The same thing happened Friday. More visitors, more getting up out of bed. I had my first shower since surgery. Plus, my nurse instructed me that I needed to get up and walk 6 laps in the hallway.
What, walk?! Me?
I HURT, people.
But I did it. I hooked my catheter bag to my gown, threw on a hospital robe, and started walking the halls ever so slowly.
Let me tell you, it’s a humbling experience to walk around hunched over, one delicate, slow step at a time, with your urine tubing visible and not be able to do anything to it to hide it.
I didn’t want to take any photos of myself during that time because I felt and looked terrible. But I’m glad we did take a few because even though it was not the glamorous post-birth glow I had thought I might experience, it was real life for us and the story of Raleigh’s birth, no matter how hard.
I thought we might not be discharged until Sunday because of the lingering nausea I was having and how unsteady I was on my feet still, but the nurses talked about insurance and leaving Saturday.
We were discharged and sent home Saturday at noon.
We left with much more than we came with; thanks to the free stuff we got at the hospital and the sweet gifts from the people who came to visit us.
Matt put the carseat in with help from a certified car seat specialize from the OB floor. We dressed Raleigh in the first outfit of his life [he had been doing skin to skin the whole time in the hospital with us, and wrapped in a blanket when he wasn’t skin to skin]. And I walked real slowly back toward the entrance, on the way home with our little man.
We were going home!
We had discharge instructions, follow up appointments the next week, and prescriptions to fill on the way home.
I was moving really slowly, we were bewildered to be taking our baby home, and we weren’t sure what we were doing, but we were happy.
Home Sweet Home:
After a stop to pick up our prescriptions, we pulled into our driveway.
The house looked the same; it had only been 3 days since we left there Wednesday morning.
But everything had changed.
Because of my incision and the incredible soreness I was feeling, I couldn’t lay flat in our bed. So we set up camp in the living room.
That’s where we would spend the first 2 weeks of Raleigh’s life; sleeping on the couches, changing his diapers on the diaper station we set up on the floor, and trying to figure out how to care for this little stranger that we were tasked with raising on our own.
I continued to have the catheter, and I was very sore.
In the hospital, Matt took on a lot of the baby care [diapers and a lot of the holding that wasn’t related to nursing] because I was in pain and needed to rest and try to recover. That continued at home as well in the early days. I didn’t anticipate trying to care for a baby when I was caring for myself too.
It was hard.
Thankfully, our families are nearby and reached out to help us a lot in those early days.
My parents had been watching Remy while we were in the hospital. They brought her over in the evening of our first night home, and we were finally reunited as a complete family.
Both of our families came by often to check on us and hold Raleigh. When Matt went back to work the following week, I had people there with me each day to lend a hand and to hold Raleigh so I could take a shower or a nap.
I’m so thankful for the support and help, because that really helped us out.
Family and friends also texted us throughout the hospital stay and our early days home, which helped us share in the joy of those early days. I might not have replied to every message, but I read them all and appreciated each one of them.
The Time Since:
As I finish this recollection of Raleigh’s birth story, he is now 3 weeks old.
We are sleeping in our bedroom once again, and we are continuing to trying to find our new normal.
I was cleared to get the catheter out 9 days after surgery and that was a glorious day. I felt free!
Raleigh and I continue to figure out breastfeeding together. We have hit a few road blocks but are working with a lactation specialist to try to solve them and continue on successfully together.
Remy is adjusting to having our attention divided between her and her new brother. I feel sad for her sometimes because she does get neglected at times right now. As Matt reminds me though, it won’t be long before they’ll start playing together.
The fluid retention I experienced in the hospital and once we got home as started to disappear. My feet and ankles are SO THANKFUL. The people who told me it would get worse before it got better were right. I still can’t wear my wedding rings and I have a little lingering fluid left in my right foot, but things are moving in the right direction.
My incision continues to heal well, and my activity level is slowly getting a little better. We took a walk around the block today and I felt good for almost the whole thing. I feel a lot of tightness and pain beneath my incision; where I imagine scar tissue is forming. I have been staying off of google and trusting that my body is healing as it needs to. I know it will take time for the pain, swelling and numbness to go away.
My postpartum hormones have been swinging wildly for the last few weeks. Those are no joke. I’ll be going along fine and something will cause me to have an instant lump in my throat. Matt can tell when my voice changes and he knows my eyes are filling with tears.
I am going to be visiting with my doctor soon because with my history of anxiety, and my personality, I’m at an increased risk of postpartum depression. Plus, the baby blues I’ve been experiencing have gone on for awhile now, so I don’t want to let the possibility of postpartum depression steal any of my joy. I’m sure there’ll be another post about that coming in the future.
Our Raleigh Boy:
Raleigh was 9 lbs 6 oz at birth.
He was a BIG boy. We had no idea he would be that big. How he fit in my belly, I have no idea.
When we went back to our weight check appointment last week, he was up to 10 lbs and climbing.
He smiles in his sleep and had the cutest little dimple in his right cheek. I wonder if it’ll be there when he starts smiling for real in a few months.
We, like all new parents, are dealing with disrupted sleep as we care for Raleigh around the clock. Some nights are better than others, and we do our best to function well during the day on whatever sleep we found the night before. Matt is back to work full time now so I do my best to allow him to get as much as he can in order to function at his best. I am working on napping during the day when Raleigh naps, although the pull to use that time to clean the house or do other things is strong.
Raleigh seems to have some gas troubles lately, and he’s started spitting up a lot. We’re working on doing what we can to help him with the gas and becoming experts at making sure we have a burp cloth with us at all times. The nights are the most challenging; the late evenings rather. He seems fussiest then and we’ve worked through a lot of short tempers and frustrated nights this last week.
But we’re managing and learning. As everyone has told us time and time again, these beginning weeks are some of the hardest. Things will get better as time passes and he grows.
For me, I’m finding it hard to acknowledge how this is really a hard phase that I wish would pass so things would get easier, but I also don’t want to wish away a day of his babyhood. I know it will pass fast on it’s own. I’m doing my best to balance the two.
Because of the c-section, I’m unable to lift much yet and haven’t been able to drive yet either. I’ve spent my time at home, except for when Matt takes us to appointments or goes on errands with me. I’m thankful for my introvert nature though, because I am not going stir crazy quite yet. I know some people would be itching to get out, but for the most part, I’m content at home. Itching for a full night’s sleep, maybe. I know that will come again someday.
I’ve got so many other things I want to share about having a c-section, the transition to motherhood, the emotions that have been a part of these last three weeks… I hope I’m able to make the time to sit down and write them out. These might not be my best or most professional blog posts, but for this season I’m in, writing them at all is a win.
Raleigh boy, we love you and we have enjoyed getting to know you these last three weeks as we have learned how to care for you. We can’t wait for all that is ahead for our family, and we pray for intentional presence in the meantime as we watch you grow each and every day.
Xo, Your mama.