It took me almost two years to write Charlie’s birth story and a year to write Calvin’s. But Quincy’s has been my hardest to write, partly because I wasn’t ready to relive it and partly because the year of sleep deprivation afterwards made me forget a lot. Luckily I had written down many of the details shortly after he was born so I could go back and piece those parts of the story together. It’s funny — Quincy started his arrival just like his two brothers before him: my water broke in the middle of the night while I was sleeping. The exact same with all three boys. But after that, my labor and delivery with Quincy was just as different as my first two times, as was our first year together. Just nature’s way of reminding you that every pregnancy, labor, delivery, and baby are different. (Fair warning: this is a long post…)
Quincy was due on February 2nd, but Charlie was a week early and Calvin arrived 10 days before his due date, so I expected Quincy to come a bit early too. I was a bit anxious because I wasn’t sure who would be taking care of Charlie and Calvin when I went into labor, as we have no family close by and planning a visit from my mom who has to fly in was too hard since, you know, babies come when they want to, not when you want them to. We have some friends who we put on our “labor list” but even still, it is stressful to not know exactly who will be caring for your children. Plus, Calvin had never spent a night apart from me and was only 17 months old, so he didn’t exactly understand what was happening. The mom guilt was real. But I make a “Charlie & Calvin fact sheet”, taped it up in my kitchen, and hoped for the best.
Every morning that I would wake up and hadn’t yet gone into labor I was relieved and more anxious at the same time. I had only ever gone into labor with my water breaking. I didn’t know what it felt like to go into labor any other way and wondered if I would recognize it when it happened. I was worried I would go into labor, not realize it, and that Quincy would come fast and I wouldn’t be able to find someone to watch the other kids. The stuff we moms worry about is sort of hilarious isn’t it? And the fact that we never learn that we can’t plan for or control everything when it comes to our little ones, even their births.
True to form, my water broke while I was in bed sleeping at 4:30 am on January 26th — a week early. I called my wonderful friend Kim who came over to stay with the boys. By 6 am we were at the hospital. Also true to form, I was met with some skepticism and doubt by the nurse and midwife that my water had indeed broken. Even though this was my third rodeo. And even though it was the third time around, I let them get in my head and I started to doubt myself. There wasn’t a gush of water this time, which was a bit different than my first two, but I knew in my gut I was right. I was checked for dilation and to confirm that there was presence of amniotic fluid. I hadn’t dilated much at all (I was at about 1 cm but this was also consistent with my past labors) and they couldn’t get a good read on the fluid. I was having contractions when I was up and moving around but they seemed to lessen when resting. They almost sent me home! They told me to go walk around for a couple of hours and come back and get checked again in a bit. So my husband and I went to the hospital cafeteria to have one last “date” over breakfast.
By 9 am I was back in the triage room waiting to be checked again. I really didn’t want to be checked a second time because each time you are checked (especially when your water has broken) it increases your risk for infection. It happened to me with Charlie, and I didn’t want it to happen again. (Spoiler alert: it did 🙁 ). Once they checked me a second time they did confirm that it was amniotic fluid and my water had indeed broken. Apparently it broke high on the sack rather than low, which means you only have a trickle because there is so much in the way (baby, placenta, etc.) as opposed to a gush when your water breaks low. But I still wasn’t progressing much so they wanted to start pitocin to get my labor going. I had a bad experience with pitocin during my first labor (or at least I attributed it to the pitocin) and really didn’t want it, but they said they would only start with a small amount to see if they could get my contractions going a bit more and that they felt it was the best thing since my water had broken. So I agreed.
Because I started pitocin, which can make contractions much more intense pretty quickly, and because it was my third baby which can progress quickly for that reason alone, they asked if I wanted to go ahead and get an epidural. I was planning to get one, but I waited for a while with Calvin and felt like I was being a wimp by getting one so soon and when I was only dilated about 2 cm. But my contractions had gotten pretty intense pretty quickly and were 4 minutes apart so around 11:00 am I went ahead and got more comfortable and tried to rest as much as possible. By around 1:00 they were coming around 3 minutes apart but I didn’t want to be checked again so we waited. I was starving and so ready for Quincy to come out already!
Throughout the day we were having to coordinate with sitters and friends to relieve whoever was watching our kids. It was amazing to have so many people rallying to help but so stressful as the mom trying to labor and also worrying about how her other kids were doing. One friend picked Charlie up for school, another came over to hang with Calvin, then our sitter came to relieve that friend who had to pick up her own kids, and then another friend came back because the sitter had to leave to watch other kids. I kept thinking Quincy would be here by lunch, then before school was out, then before the kids went to bed…
At some point during my transition we discovered that I had a fever and had gotten an infection after all (which I knew was going to happen after they insisted on checking me twice back to back to confirm that my water broke). I was so upset and frustrated. I was mad that they hadn’t believed me and I was mad at myself for not standing my ground. Now they would need to have the pediatric team in the room while I was pushing so they could check on Quincy right away. This happened with Charlie too and it was such a bummer. I had such an amazing birth experience with Calvin — just my husband, nurse, and OB in the delivery room and it was so peaceful — and I had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that I would be having a repeat of my first delivery instead of my second. I knew it could be so much worse but I longed for that second experience again. Quincy’s heart rate had also gone up a bit and I was having to change which side I was laying on and wear an oxygen mask off and on (also just like with Charlie). But I felt myself go into active labor — similar to the nausea and shaking I experienced with Charlie that I thought was a reaction to my pitocin, but less intense. I had come prepared with 7up in case I got nauseous and snuck a little bit. It helped a lot. The shaking is just how I do labor, but at least it wasn’t as bad as the first time and I knew how to breathe through it and calm myself down. My nurse explained not to fight it, which can sometimes make it worse, but instead to just breathe and try to relax through it. And it worked.
I finally reached 9 cm by around 6:30 pm and started pushing around 7 pm. The room was filled with staff, interns, and doctors. A group of 6 that made up the pediatric team were gathered near the warmer to the left of the room but in my eyeline. They were chatting and joking around and I wanted to scream at them. At one point I said loudly to my husband for him to move over to block my view of them because they were really distracting. And I asked for less noise in the room. I had hoped that they would get the hint and shut the eff up 🙂 I mean, I was mentally preparing for complications and my vagina was literally pointing in their direction. Have some respect people! I also wasn’t fond of my L&D nurse. The nurses who were there for my delivery were amazing the first two times. This nurse was a travel nurse and considered herself a “pushing expert,” but wouldn’t let me sit in throne position, which I had done my second time around and felt it was really helpful during my pushing. She was nice but not respectful of my wishes and how I wanted to labor. She also talked a lot, which I didn’t like in the moment.
I was a pretty efficient pusher but I was so tired. Just before he was born I remember saying (crying is probably a better description) “I can’t do this. I’m done.” Usually when you feel like you can’t go anymore, you’re almost there. My OB asked if I wanted to feel Quincy’s head and I said “I’m ok right now thank you.” Two or three good pushes later, Quincy was born at 7:37 pm. My doctor delivered him and placed him immediately on my chest, which was a concern I expressed when I knew I had gotten an infection — I was afraid they would take him before I could hold him. I could immediately tell something was not right. He wasn’t crying, his color wasn’t good. My husband looked happy and was talking to me but all I could hear was the lack of crying. I kept asking “is he ok? is he ok?” My doctor said he was fine but they needed to look him over and get him crying. I had about 10 seconds with him, but of course I wanted to make sure he was ok.
It ended up being a huge blessing that the pediatric unit was in our room, as much as I hated having them there during my pushing. It turned out that Quincy’s umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck during delivery (twice!) My doctor literally pulled it off as she delivered him (I let my husband video the birth this final time and you can see her do it in a flash!) We had no idea until the moment he was delivered. It must have happened sometime between our last ultrasound and his delivery, but likely during delivery. He wasn’t breathing and had to have a ton of fluid suctioned out of his lungs. Often when a baby is born with a cord around their neck they gasp for air as they are being born due to their inability to get oxygen from the cord being compressed. Oftentimes it leads to meconium aspiration (meconium aspiration syndrome, or MAS). The meconium can partially or completely block the baby’s ability to breathe. This only happens in 10% of babies. Quincy fell into that 10%. He apparently inhaled about 4 cc’s of meconium, which is a lot. He had to be taken to have a chest x-ray, which showed pneumonia. Although it was likely due to the meconium that was inhaled into his lungs, a bacterial infection had to be ruled out and antibiotics had to be administered as a precaution. After they suctioned him and got him crying, I was allowed to hold him for about a minute, just long enough to kiss him and get the top photo taken with him. Then they wisked him off to the NICU. I sent my husband as well, and was left alone. I was scared, sad, and had cramps that were worse than my labor contractions with a no longer working epidural. My L&D travel nurse had no idea where anything was and informed me she wanted to input everything into the system right away before she could get me anything for the pain. I sat in a bed in excruciating pain waiting to be cleaned up and wondering how my baby was doing for what felt like a lifetime. Something no one tells you: the more babies you have the more intense the cramping afterwards. I was having post-labor cramps that were so intense I was pretty sure I was delivering a second baby, but this time with no epidural. And it lasted for days. I definitely needed my prescribed painkillers (for the first time ever). Before I was even moved to my postpartum room, I was ready to get up and walk to the bathroom. Within 4 hours of delivery I was headed up to the NICU to see Quincy and get some real skin-to-skin time with him. He was all tubed up and it was a little heartbreaking, but I knew he was ok and things could have been so much worse. I was in a NICU full of babies that had it worse, so I reminded myself that even though this was not the postpartum experience I was hoping for — having him in my room, constant cuddling and newborn head sniffing, and going home together in a couple of days — I was pretty lucky.