On Tuesday, April 4th at 2:54 AM, Emma Grace Ballard was born, and I want to write down her birth story to remember and share with you guys. With a due date of April 24th, I certainly hadn’t expected to have a baby 20 days early, but that’s how things happened!
It all started the week prior with not feeling well at all. It was STAAR testing week, and I was the bathroom monitor. Eventually, my school realized that putting a pregnant lady in an un-airconditioned hallway was not the best idea, and they were super nice to let me rest in the ‘command room’ for the day. My legs had been swelling a bit, but I thought it was just normal pregnancy swelling. I sat down and tried not to think about it. Eventually, though, something just told me to go see the school nurse. I walked in and asked if she could check my blood pressure – I was sure it was nothing but better safe than sorry.
It was 150/90 or something like that. She said, ‘That can’t be right’, and took it again after a few minutes. It was still around the same, so she advised me to go to my OBGYN’s office. I said my goodbyes to my colleagues and drove over to the OB’s office, which is about 15 minutes away from school with traffic. By the time I got there, my blood pressure had gone up a bit and I went in to see a nurse practitioner. She thought it could be pre-eclampsia, but since I was only 36 weeks and 1 day along, she didn’t want me to deliver yet. So home on bed rest, I went. I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor that Thursday when I would be 36 weeks and 3 days along, so she said to check in then.
Bedrest wasn’t so bad, but it was only two days. It was nice to sleep a bit, but I was pretty dang uncomfortable and worried sick about the baby. Thursday finally came, and I went back into my doctor’s office. She took my blood pressure and with bed rest, it went back to normal. I asked her if I was still on bedrest, and she said no and that I could return to work. So back to work it was! I was still worried and a little confused how I could go from bed rest right back into my job, but I trusted her. I had to work since I didn’t have a doctor’s note anyway, so I didn’t really have a choice.
Back to School
Friday morning was rough. I always start the day by walking up to the front office to get my mail and see if anybody needs anything. By the time I got back to my room, my BP was super high again. I sat down and tried to lower it, but with little luck. First up is Men’s Choir, which is full of sweet boys, but they need lots of attention and a high energy teacher!
I taught first period, taking my blood pressure every few minutes, and tried to take it easy. No such luck with the blood pressure though, and after trying to make it through second period, my school sent me home. I called the doctor again and they said to come in on Monday to reassess, but I was still not on bed rest. My Mom came into town that evening, so it was off to the airport to pick her up for a low-key weekend.
Monday morning came, and we were off to the doctor again. My BP was still elevated, and they sent me to the hospital for more monitoring. This time though, my doctor was at the hospital. She came into the triage room and said she was leaning towards an induction since my BP had been all over the place. That was music to my ears – I really wanted to go to term when I was healthy, but with the blood pressure issues, I wanted that baby out. I felt like a time bomb, and she agreed. She gave me the choice of either inducing right then or waiting until Wednesday (two days later). I chose to do it right then since my mom was in town and I was just going to be a nervous wreck until I had my baby in my arms.
Starting the IV
After we decided to induce right then, they moved me into a labor and delivery room. Then they tried to get my IV started. That was around noon. Aaron was still on his way – he was dropping Tabby off and grabbing the hospital bags from home. Fast forward to 2 PM and four pretty painful sticks, two in both arms, and an infiltrated IV later, I was finally hooked up. They started with a saline solution to hydrate me, and then quickly started Pitocin. I was that girl that watched the Business of Being Born, read all the granola/crunchy/hippie books, and wanted a natural birth. But sometimes, the universe has other plans. Pitocin it was, and I was okay with that. Sometimes it’s necessary, and it was necessary to get our baby here sooner rather than later.
The Pitocin wasn’t too bad in the beginning. I felt my first contraction at 4:15, and started having consistent small contractions at 5:00. The most annoying thing was that my IV was taped badly so it kept getting crimped and the meds wouldn’t flow, causing a really annoying beep that the nurses had to come in and turn off. That happened probably 15 times during the whole ordeal. My day nurse wanted me to be in pain (her way of joking that we needed to get the ball rolling), so they raised the dosage of the Pitocin pretty quickly.
I was managing without pain medication and even took a nap in the beginning. Around 6:00, they told me they were going to break my water in about an hour. At 6:50, my doctor came in and did just that. It didn’t hurt like I thought it would but actually felt kind of good. But holy moly. The contractions went from manageable to OH MY GOODNESS THAT HURTS.
I think I had two or three contractions without pain meds before I asked for the epidural around 7:10. They had warned that it would take a little while for the anesthesiologist to get to me, so I should ask for it sooner rather than later. I thought it would be about an hour before he came, but he was there about 15 minutes later. Thankfully, Aaron was allowed to stay in the room with me during the placement. What surprised me though, was that the anesthesiologist didn’t wait for me to be still in between contractions to place the needle. Everything I’d read said that’s what they usually do, so it really threw me off. It was quick though, and I was feeling a bit better. I was scared out of my mind to get an epidural, but Aaron was wonderful and so was the doctor.
My mom and Aaron did their best to keep me comfortable, but the epidural wasn’t working on one side. The nurse had me lie on the side that I was still feeling things on since the meds work with gravity, but it wasn’t doing much to help. Eventually, an hour or two later, the contractions started to feel less and less painful and the epidural worked. They give you a little button to adjust your dosage, and I was hesitant to use it since I didn’t want to be too numb. The late stages of labor really hurt because of that, even though I had the epidural. By the end, I was pressing the button as much as the machine would let me. but I wish I had started sooner. Labor hurts, ya’ll.
I usually love HGTV, and since we don’t have cable, I don’t get to watch it. Aaron mentioned that the hospital TV probably had it and I was SO excited. But it was House Hunters. I have a short temper for the silly, unrealistic people on that show when I’m not in labor. I think I told Aaron to change the channel with some choice words, and we finally landed on the Food Network. Since I labored at night, there wasn’t a great selection. I think we watched several episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives twice. Guy Fieri is not my favorite TV personality, but he was with me through the whole labor. Thanks, Guy!
A Little Rest
I was pretty hot during all of my last trimester, but during labor, it was even worse. So sweaty. I wanted the room as cold as possible, and my poor mom and Aaron were freezing. At one point, Mom went over to the baby warmer so rub her hands together – it was a wonderful lighthearted moment in a tense evening. Around 10:00, I fell asleep, and I think slept for an hour or so. Aaron was trying really hard to stay awake with me, but at one point his head slipped back and hit the wall really hard. It woke everyone up and we had a good laugh about it.
Around midnight, the nurse came in and checked me. I didn’t have as far to go as some women since I was walking around at 3 cm, 80% effaced for the last month or so, but it still felt good to hear that I was 9 cm, 90% effaced, and 0 station (I think). She said that we were close, and got the room set up. Then, she said to let her know when it was time and that I would ‘know’. I wasn’t so sure. She said that it would feel like I really needed to push, like a LOT of pressure.
I took her advice and waited. She was gone about 10 minutes and came back in to check on me. As soon as she left the room, I felt a big contraction. I thought it was time! It was not. After that, I didn’t say anything. I was too afraid of being wrong again! Aaron was so tired at this point, and I begged him to take a nap. Who knew how long we still had to go? Eventually, he laid his head back and dozed off. I was too hyped up on adrenaline to sleep, so Mom and I chatted and I halfway watched Guy Fieri talk about funnel cakes.
Eventually, around 2 AM, the nurses came back in to check me again. I was 10 cm, 100% effaced, and all she could feel was head – Emma was super engaged and ready to be born. The one main nurse helped me get into position to push, and Aaron and my mom both took a leg. I was completely dead weight from the waist down, so they had to do all the moving for me.
I would much rather have had control of my legs, but I was SO glad for the epidural while I was pushing. Really, I don’t know that I would have had the strength to do it without that pain relief. It took about an hour of pushing, and towards the end, the nurses kept saying, “This is it! This is the last one!”. It annoyed the heck out of me. I felt like if I didn’t get her out that contraction, I was a failure. That’s such a silly thing to think, but it’s how I felt in the moment.
The Final Push
I was having trouble finding the right muscles to use to push, and they kept coaching me on what to do. We started with just thinking about pushing down, but I kept scrunching up my face. I had to focus on relaxing it instead. Eventually, they got these little hand holds out from the sides of the bed and basically had me do a rowing move while I was pushing. That helped so much. I was pulling with all my might in my arms, trying to keep my face relaxed, tuck my chin in, and push the baby down. It was seriously the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my whole life.
Then at 2:54 AM, little Emma was born. She didn’t really cry at first and was gray. I couldn’t see a ton because they put her so close to my face on my chest. Eventually, she pinked up and started crying a little more, and they were happy with her. Good scores on her APGAR tests and she laid on my chest for a long while. It was really neat – they did all the exams on me and the baby with her laying right on top of me. I have no idea what they did (they must have stitched me up at some point) since I was so focused on our little girl.
Aaron and I just smiled and talked to her for a long time, and eventually, he got to hold her for a little while. It was one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever seen. I was deliriously tired at that point. I had been awake (except for a few short naps) for over 24 hours already since I didn’t sleep well the night before. After he held her for awhile, the pediatrician did her full exam on the baby warmer.
After the Birth
I remember being so tired that I could barely keep my eyes open. I didn’t want the nurse to think that I was a bad mother for falling asleep on my baby, though. They were telling Aaron all kinds of things, but he had no idea what they were talking about. I can’t remember much more than nodding my head and pretending I was listening. I think he was doing about the same.
Eventually, the nurses dwindled down and the epidural had worn off enough for me to stand up. The nurse wanted me to get up and use the restroom, but I was still pretty numb. I hobbled over and did as she asked, but was half asleep for most of it. She was so sweet to me. I really needed a lot of help in those first few hours.
Around 5, they started to move us to a recovery room. I sat down in a wheelchair big enough for three of me, and Emma was in her warmer. Aaron was carrying our things. They wheeled us around the corner to our new room, and I got to lay down. That bed was so much more comfortable than the one in L&D. Poor Aaron had a pull-out sofa, but he was so tired he didn’t care. This sweet nurse was giving us a tour of the room, which was about 5 square feet.
We were so tired. I had been awake for 27 or 28 hours and had pushed a baby out. I fell asleep while the nurse was giving us all the info on our new room, and didn’t wake up again until the next morning. Her first day was a blur. We were so sleep deprived and spent most of the day just trying to get her to eat or napping when we could. I think Aaron and I can both safely say that we’ve never been that tired in our whole lives. We wouldn’t trade it for the world, though.