The Life of Bon: Hugh Dennis Larsen: A Birth Story

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Hugh Dennis Larsen: A Birth Story

Hugh was due February 2, but for months I felt that he was going to come early.  Carrying him was such a different experience than carrying June.  June was nestled happily in my stomach with no signs that she had any desire to ever leave.  From the first few weeks of December I could sense that Hugh was anxious to GET OUT.  He kicked and stretched more often and the first week of January I started to feel Braxton Hicks contractions.  I was bigger and heavier and achier.  I can't exactly explain how I knew, but when I would take the time to listen to my body I could tell that this guy didn't want to stay in much longer.  I told Greg I thought he would come early.  I told some family hopes to go early, but it's very likely you'll go late"  so I kind of listened to that.  June was a C section nine days early and I never went in to labor so this would be my body's first time going into labor at all.  What did I know?  I'm mad at myself for not paying closer attention to what my body was telling me because maybe if I had listened to my body a little closer I wouldn't have been so unprepared!

My last pregnant bathroom selfie.  At church on January 22.

On  the afternoon of January 23 I had a doctor's appointment.  I had wanted Greg to come with me, but the day got away from us.  We had orders we had to get out before 5:00, June was still down for a nap, and it just made more sense for me to go alone.  I've gone to plenty of appointments alone so it shouldn't have been a big deal, but for some reason I really wanted Greg there and was disappointed that we hadn't prepared our day better for us both to make the appointment.  Again, I should have listened more carefully to what my body and mind were telling me, but I ignored all that, didn't push the issue, and went to the appointment alone.

At my appointment the doctor told me I was dilated to a 2 and then said pretty casually, "Want me to strip your membranes?"  This is when I wish Greg had been there with me.  Doc said it so casual that I assumed it was a pretty casual choice.  Also, my friend had literally told me on the phone the day before that stripping membranes does nothing and it rarely helps someone go into labor.  I was tired of being pregnant, it seemed pretty low probability anyway, and I was really hoping for a vbac and to go into labor on my own so I said, "sure.  ok."  It was awkward and uncomfortable but only lasted a few moments.  "If anything happens, it'll happen in the next 24 hours!" Doc assured me on the way out.

When I got home I told Greg that Doc had stripped my membranes and that I was feeling pretty uncomfortable.  Greg's reaction kind of surprised me, "What?!  He did?  Why didn't you call me?  That's kind of a big deal, isn't it?  So we could be having this baby tomorrow?!"  I played it cool because I really didn't think it meant anything- especially since I was still ten days from my due date.  "The chances that I go into labor are very slim."  I told Greg.  Because apparently I am the labor expert?

That night I insisted on doing really weird things.  Like you would think that since there is a chance I was going into labor that I would focus on that.  But I didn't.  I tried a new and kind of complicated recipe for dinner.  I wrote a blog post. I watched The Bachelor with Greg.  I did no plan lessons for school.  (Six weeks maternity leave requires a lot of planning.  I had been swamped in end of quarter madness and ACT prep classes so I didn't have anything ready for a sub yet.)  I did not pack a hospital bag.  I did not organize the nursery or move the crib.

I went to bed around 10:30 or 11 knowing that I had to work the next day.  I was feeling crampy but I read online that that is common after having your membranes stripped.

I woke up at 2 am to more "cramps" as I was calling them at the time.  (Hello!  First timer!  They were totally contractions!)  I felt really uncomfortable.  I had slept a solid three hours from 11- 2 and I knew in my heart that that was the best sleep I would be getting that night.

I forced myself back to sleep and dozed in and out of a light sleep until about 3:30.  I tried and tried to make myself sleep but was too uncomfortable, so finally by 4:00 am I got up.  I figured I could do some lesson plans and get a start on my school day so that I could come home early from school and just crash. I sleep like a bear, never struggle with a bit of insomnia, and I am NEVER just randomly up at 4 am so this was truly weird.

I was in enough pain that I decided to take a bath before doing any lesson plans.  I drew a hot hot bath which woke Greg up.  "What's going on?  Are you in labor?"

"No," I answered.  "I'm just cramping."  They say denial is the first step.

I got in the tub and read Slaughterhouse Five in preparation to teach my AP class that day.  If I truly was in labor I figured I would be laboring all day long.  Everyone told me that first labors take a day or two so I reasoned that I could still go to school and teach that day.  I'm not normally that crazy about making sure I get to work, but there was still so much I had to do to be prepared for my maternity leave that I really wanted to make it in.  Also, I was supposed to be meeting and training my long term sub that day and I REALLY wanted to show her the ropes so that she could put in grades, know the system, etc. while I was gone.

I soaked in the tub for a long time and finally got out a little after 5:00.  As soon as I got out I was surprised by how sharp and frequent my cramping was.  I thought to myself, "Hmmm... maybe I can just go in until noon.  Meet my sub, teach my AP classes, and then come home."

 I got dressed and started doing my makeup.  I had to pause while doing my makeup for the "cramps" which I now definitely realized had to be contractions.  This was when it finally dawned on me that there was no way I'd be able to teach through this.  I decided not to try to teach that day, but that maybe I could still go in right away to get some stuff ready for the sub and to meet her when she came in at 7:00 and show her a few things.  I could be out of there by 7:30 or 8:00.

Finally I woke up Greg and told him my plan.  "I'm just going to go in to the school for an hour or so to get everything ready."  I was saying this in between contractions.  "Bonnie, no.  You're not going to school.  There is no way I am letting you drive yourself to school and work on lesson plans.  That's just stupid."  Greg was firm.  I don't think I realized until I heard the panic in his voice that he was right- this baby wasn't going to wait for AP lesson plans.  Sorry, kiddos, you're on your own!

"Do I have time to take a shower?"  Greg asked.  Which I remember thinking was so cute that he thought the baby was going to come so quick that he couldn't even shower.  "Of course, it's fine, we're still a ways out," I said.  I really had no idea what was going on, but it just seemed absurd to me that my body would progress so quickly when every other person in the world says that you'll have plenty of time.  While Greg was in the shower I downloaded a contraction app and started timing the contractions.  They were coming every 2 1/2 minutes for 30-60 seconds.  They were also getting crazy more painful with each one.  The app started buzzing and blinking at me after I had recorded three or four contractions, "Go to hospital immediately!  Go to hospital!"  Sheesh!  Bossy app!

Suddenly I really started to panic.  What if I missed my epidural window?  This happened to my sister because she got to the hospital too late and so she delivered a nine pound baby boy compltely unmedicated.  I was terrified.  THIS COULD NOT BE ME!  WE MUST HURRY! I AM NOT THE TYPE OF WOMAN WHO CAN SURVIVE AN EPIDURAL-LESS BIRTH!

And now I was yelling at Greg in the shower, "Hurry!  Get out!  We have to go!"  I called the secretary at my school to tell her I wouldn't be coming in today and that I would send lesson plans as soon as I could.  I went downstairs to try to gather some things but the contractions were so heavy I couldn't focus on anything.  I was screaming through them at this point.  I woke June up.

Greg called his mom to come spend the day with June.  "Bonnie's in labor!"  Greg's mom lives about 45 minutes away, but it was pretty apparent we weren't going to be able to wait that long for her to get here so I called and woke up my neighbor and good friend a few houses down.  "Can you come over until Greg's mom gets here?"  She was over in less than ten minutes.  She was our life saver that morning.  Thank you Sarah!

At this point Greg was running around frantically trying to pack some kind of hospital bag.  I never in a million years imagined that I would be so rushed in labor that I wouldn't even have time to pack a hospital bag.  In fact, I always even kind of inwardly laughed at people who packed their hospital bags weeks early- like it was so ridiculous that labor would come on so suddenly and forcefully that they couldn't even gather a few things.  Well, who's laughing now, dummy!??!

I don't even know what was in that bag.  Greg threw a bunch of random stuff in it.  A camera.  A nightgown for me.  Maybe some licorice?  I think that was about it.

With Sarah over to watch cartoons with June (poor little girl awake at 5:30 am because of my screaming!) we rushed to the hospital.  Luckily, our hospital is literally a mile from our house.  We hurried in to the front desk and the lady, after hearing me yell through a contraction, said we'd do paperwork later and sent me straight up to labor and delivery.   I insisted on carrying a glass of raspberry ice crystal light everywhere with me.  I wasn't thinking clearly, obviously. Mostly I just remember the panic and the pain but I also remember Greg with a duffel bag slung over his shoulder, a baseball cap on, and a camera around his neck.  He looked like a damn tourist and I loved him for it.

6 am, ready to get the party started!  Notice my crystal lite?!

When I got upstairs they checked me and I was dilated to a four.  It was about 6 am at this time. I had been a two just 12 hours earlier so I guess that was good enough for them to admit me?  Either that or my banshee screams convinced them that this was real labor but they didn't give me any trouble about getting me into a room stat.

Somehow I totally totally lucked out and the anesthesiologist was on the floor and had a few minutes before he had to be somewhere else so he was going to be able to hit me up with that epidural immediately.  Of course, first we had to get an iv in which is always the worst part for me.  With June it took over an hour and six stabs to get an iv in.  You can imagine, I was really looking forward to it this time around!

Two nurses tried and then the anaethiosologist himself tried and couldn't get it in.  (It doesn't exactly instill confidence in a patient when the man who is administering an epidural can't do an iv!)  Finally an angel nurse came in, stuck me good, and it was all over.  She was an iv ninja, that one.

The epidural, in comaprison to the iv, was nothing.  It was instant relief and I have never been so happy in my life.

At this time it was about 7:00 am.  With the epidural pumping sweet goodness through me I could finally think clearly.  I sent an email with my lesson plans to the school, texted my mom and told her I was having a baby today, and texted my friend who I had arranged earlier to take some pictures.  Once I was settled, Greg went back home to finish a couple of orders that had to be out that day and I fell right to sleep.  Oh, sweet epidural!

I snoozed off and on most of the morning and it was glorious.  The nurse told me I was progressing nicely and that she expected I'd be ready to deliver by noon or 1:00.  YEA!

But from there everything went so slowly.  Noon came and went and the baby wasn't close.  I think I was a 6 or 7 at this point but the nurse told me that my contractions had slowed down significantly. Jordan, who would be taking pictures, came and so did my mom.  I think my mom brought Cafe Rio for Greg?  He ate some time in there.  Details are fuzzy.

I remember people telling me how hungry they were once they had their epidural and how hard it is because you can't eat.  I was feeling enough pressure and discomfort though from everything else that eating was the last thing on my mind.

The only drawback with the epidural is that it kept making my blood pressure drop which would cause me to get really nauseous.  I threw up once and then the anesthesioslogist came in and adjusted it so it would be a lower dosage.  Awesome as far as avoiding the nausea goes, but I would pay for it later!

The afternoon stretched on.  My teacher friend texted and asked if there was a baby yet.  No baby.  I started to feel anxiety about all the hours that the photographer and my mom were waiting in there with me.  At 6 am I had thought the baby would be here right away.  Now it was 2:00 and nothing to show.

At about 2:00 the nurse said I was an 8 but that I was slowing too much so they were going to give me some pitocin.  I remember panicking at this point- like my whole body was just going to decide that that was enough for today and that I actually wasn't going to have the baby.  Like do they send someone home from the hospital who is dilated to an 8?  Could it be possible that this baby wasn't actually going to come for another week after all?  Or that they were going to tell me that my body couldn't do a vaginal delivery and that I would have to go in for another C section after all of this?  I felt like my chances of a successful vbac were slipping out the window.

Luckily the pitocin did its thing and it wasn't much time before I was feeling some serious contractions.  They didn't feel like my contractions in the morning, I just felt so much pressure.  I think the epidural was taking off that original contraction sting, and just left me with unbelievable pressure every few minutes.  My contractions were still only 4 or 5 minutes apart though, which was so frustrating to me.

At around 3:30 I was dilated to a 10 and the nurse said we could start pushing soon!  But first, the doctor wanted me to wait for about 20-30 minutes and let the baby naturally push and move in to the birth canal.  So we waited.  I remember we watched Family Feud.  I gripped the side of the bed to get me through the contractions.

At 4:00 the nurse came in and said we could start pushing.  The goal was to have a baby by 4:30!  We could do this!

The pushing felt surprisingly natural to me.  Once she told me how to do it, it made perfect sense.  I didn't feel like I was doing much, but she assured me that with every push and every contraction we were making progress.  I felt frustrated that my contractions were still 3-4 minutes apart- I felt like all the work I had done pushing was being lost in that time between contractions.  At one point she offered to bring a mirror in and said that helped a lot of people.  I said ok.  It scared the Bejeesus out of me!  I couldn't concentrate at all with that mirror and it was just absolutely terrifying.  No one needs to see that!  I ordered them to get that mirror out right away!

We pushed and braked and pushed and braked and finally the nurse told me she could start to see the head!  Progress!

I love how my mom is on the phone in this picture.  Like, mom, who are you talking to?!?

The doctor came in around 4:45 or so to catch that baby.  (Our nurse was amazing and seriously did everything.  I loved her so much!)  At this point I was in a pretty significant amount of pain and I remember yelling, "More epidural!  More epidural!"  The doctor chuckled a little and said, "Well, it'll take about 20 minutes for you to get it, so it might not do you any good now."  I pushed that little button hard and fast, but I guess at this point whatever pain reliever I had was all I was going to get.

I am not a very pain resistant person.  I'm a straight up baby.  So there was a lot of crying and moaning and screaming.  It's so funny because in that moment I couldn't have cared less.  I was acting like a fool!  Screaming, yelling, cursing with not one thought of what the people around me thought.  It was almost an out of body experience where you don't even realize or care what is going on.

The doctor told me that the baby was right there and I just needed a few good pushes to get baby out.  I remember thinking there was no way I could do it.  It hurt so much.  "I can't!  I can't!"  I yelled to him.  "It hurts so much! Owie! Owie! Owie! Owie!"  Over and over again.

"This is what they call the ring of fire and they don't call it that for nothing!" he laughed.  I decided it's easy to laugh when you've never experienced what that person is going through.  Female OBGYNs from here on out! (For the record I was very happy with my doctor, just some jokes are ill timed, you know?)

Somewhere around this point doc told me that he was going to do an episiotomy because there wasn't enough room.  I started panicking because I really really didn't want an episiotomy.  He assured me he was doing it because it was absolutely necessary and that without it I was going to tear much worse.  I absolutely felt that little snip snip and screamed to let everyone in the room know that I did!

The next contraction I knew I had to get this stinking baby out of me or else I wouldn't have the strength or willpower to do it on the next ones.  So I pushed and pushed and felt that ring of fire and felt my body tear to make extra room and then "The head!  The head is out!  We see the baby's head!"

Hearing that the head was out was the adrenaline rush I needed to finish the job.  On the next contraction I pushed those shoulders out with everything in me and felt my body tear some more.  I was bawling and screaming and wanted everything to be over and to kill the person who did this to me. (GREG!)  But I was done!  The baby was out!

"It's a boy!"  I heard Greg yell.  "It's a perfect, healthy baby boy!"

It's kind of funny because I thought that finding out the gender would be a huge motivator for me when delivering, but turns out I had totally forgotten about it.  In fact, when Greg announced the gender it almost seemed irrelevant to me.  I was in such another world and so focused on ending the pain that I was in.  It seemed almost absurd that in this moment of pain and frustration and agony that Greg thought I cared at all about the gender.  I felt like screaming at him, "YOU THINK I CARE IF IT'S A BOY OR GIRL?!?  JUST GET IT OUT OF ME AND STOP THIS PAIN!

Yah, obviously that was the pain talking...

They put the baby on my chest and I smelled his newness and cuddled him so hard and we both cried and screamed because that was horrible!  Before I delivered I remember thinking that Jordan would be able to get a beautiful picture of me meeting my new baby, crying because of how much happy I was and how strong the spirit was.  Well, I'm definitely crying in the pictures, but it ain't no pretty happy cry.  That is the cry of someone who is in a lot of pain!

The doctor sewed me up and I screamed and cried some more because OWW and because next time I am full blasting my epidural because I felt entirely too much of that whole experience that's the only thing I know for sure.

They took the baby to wash him and weigh him and Greg hugged me and I cried into him and begged him to make that damn doctor stop stitching me up.

The nurses were amazing and before I even knew what had happened they had whisked away all the bloody sheets, the dirty towels and I was in a clean place with a clean baby to cuddle and love.  Doctor finished up and went on his merry way.  He was there for probably 20 minutes total.  Baby was born at 4:55 pm.

After that I really don't remember much.  Greg's mom and sister brought June over so everybody could meet the baby.  June showed negative interest.  My mom said goodbye as did our photographer, Jordan.  There were lots of cuddles.  Someone brought me something to eat.

We decided on the name Hugh pretty much as soon as we saw the baby.  Hugh was in our top three for boys names and when the little dude was born it was suddenly really the only possibility.  His middle name is Dennis after my dad.  I like to call him Den or Denny.

Giving birth to Hugh was a complete different experience than giving birth to June.  June's delivery was quick and done before I had a second to even think about it.  Hugh's was drawn out and much more painful!  Meeting both of them, though, was a profoundly spiritual experience.  When I held that little Hugh I was reminded of the same strong feeling I had the first time I held June- that it was a reunion.  Like I had been separated from him for a long long time and that I was finally being reunited with an old, dear friend.  I was so happy to see him again and I felt he was happy to see me.  We had so much to catch up on!

Carrying and birthing a baby is every miserable experience in this world- suffering, misery, discomfort, pain, agony.  But it's all the beautiful ones too.  Strength, hope, love, family, joy and so much gratitude.  I am so thrilled that this little boy has made his way safely into our home and family.  He is my everything.

(A note on having a birth photographer.  DO IT!  I didn't have one at June's birth and I regretted it after.  Once I contacted Jordan (@jordanbreephotography on instagram) about doing our birth photos I started to feel really nervous.  Maybe I would hate it?  Maybe it was too personal, too vulnerable an experience to have a photographer there?  I almost chickened out and told her not to come last minute, but I knew I would want some pictures of this day.  Most people list their wedding day and the day they had their children as the most important days of their lives.  No one would dream of a wedding without a professional photographer but we do for births all the time.  So I decided I would try it this one time and see how I felt about it.  And I LOVED it.  When Jordan sent me these pictures, I immediately started crying.  Nothing can capture the pain and the euphoria of that day as well as these pictures.  THANK YOU JORDAN!!!)

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