I'm thrilled to announce the birth of my new son, Jax Sebastian, who showed up on October 14, a bit more than five weeks early (due date was November 20): 5.3 lbs / 2410 grams, healthy, just a bit small. Can't believe he's already over three weeks old. Here's the story (rambling, unedited, and kind of stream-of-consciousness-- forgive me):
Friday night, October 12, I noticed that my usual Braxton Hicks contractions felt a little different-- there was some sensation, like very mild cramping-- but they weren't very frequent. I told myself they must be normal, though I had a nagging feeling that they weren’t. Of course I went online and Googled phrases such as, “Can Braxton Hicks be painful?” and found plenty of reassurance that yes, they can, especially with subsequent pregnancies. I had walked around a fair bit that day and had been maybe a bit more active than usual, so I thought maybe that had triggered what I still thought were BHs. I went to bed and couldn’t sleep well. The contractions were of the same very mild intensity, and were irregular, but since I couldn't sleep well anyway, I decided to start timing them and realized that some were only a minute or two apart. Finally, around 5 a.m. Saturday morning, I got up, brushed my teeth, got dressed, woke DH and told him I was going to go to the hospital to get checked out just to make sure everything was fine. At the hospital ER (which was mostly empty, so I got looked at right away), the on-call OB checked my cervix and told me it was completely effaced and I was dilated 2 cm-- not officially in labor, but almost. A non-stress test showed that the baby was fine. Since I was only 34 weeks 5 days, they admitted me to the hospital and began giving me some pills to relax my uterus and try to stop labor from starting, as well as injections of corticosteroids to mature the baby's lungs faster in utero in the event he was ready to come out soon.
I spent a fairly relaxing Saturday in bed at the hospital. DH and my 4.5-year-old DD spent most of the day with me. The contractions got less frequent and didn't change in sensation-- didn't seem to be getting any worse. I did notice, however, that just standing up or even changing position in bed triggered another contraction. Around 3 a.m. Sunday morning, I woke up and realized the contractions were getting more painful to where I found it a bit uncomfortable to lie down. When I stood up and walked around they felt much better, but then started coming more frequently. At around 6:30 a.m. I decided to call the nurse and see if maybe the on-call doctor could check me. Turned out I was nearly 3 cm-- basically in labor. I called DH (who had gone home with DD to stay overnight) and said, "I think you'd better call the babysitter and come in." They transferred me to a labor and delivery room, gave me a dose of antibiotics in case I had Group B strep because we never had the chance to check me for it, and monitored the baby and my contractions for a few minutes. Everything was fine, but after awhile I was like, I can't stay in bed, have to move around to deal with the contractions, which were getting more frequent and painful. By the time DH got to the hospital a little after 8 a.m., I was definitely feeling it, but standing and leaning on the bed helped. And I felt totally fine between contractions. Around 9:30 or 9:45 a.m. or so, my doctor (the one who had done all my prenatal care) arrived to see how I was doing. I told him that the contractions were quite painful, but not that bad. He asked if I was interested in getting an epidural. I told him that if I was going to have many more hours of increasing pain, I probably would want it, but wanted to wait a bit longer. In my head I was thinking I would be laboring all day. He said, “Well, let’s check your dilation.” I was thinking I would only be at around 4 cm. He was checking me, looked surprised, and said, "You're at 8 cm. I'm going to change my clothes now and call the neonatologist." By this point the contractions were really painful and I had to really focus during them. But at least I had a minute or so between each one. DH asked the doctor how much longer he thought it would be. He said it was hard to say, but maybe 30 minutes to an hour. A few minutes later I could not believe the pain and was saying I couldn't do it. Then I felt like I had to pee or something and all this pressure down below. (Though I had been through labor and delivery before with my DD, it had been a completely different experience, as I was induced and ended up with an epidural then, and consequently never felt the urge to push.) I told DH, "I think the baby is coming-- go get the doctor." Doctor came back in, checked my dilation, said I was fully dilated. My body started pushing involuntarily-- I felt like a wild animal. It was exciting and a bit freaky at the same time. Suddenly there was a whole team of people in the room-- my doctor, the neonatologist, a few nurses, and one of the OBs who had been there earlier. They had me get on the bed on my back, which felt more comfortable than I thought it would be. During contractions I squeezed my eyes shut-- it was sensory overload to watch everything that was going on in the room, though everyone seemed relaxed and happy. I remember seeing the doctor waving his hands in the air, apparently drying antibiotic gel on them or something. At one point he looked at me and smiled and said, "This is your moment." My knees were bent and legs were shaking, and I told DH to hold them still (though he had to dash off for a second to get the camera). Though my body was pushing on its own, the doctor had me focus a few pushes. I was feeing the much-talked-about “rim of fire” and noted that that part wasn’t nearly as painful as I’d expected (it was the contractions that really hurt-- the internal squeezing). Out came Jax after maybe three or four pushes, at 10:22 a.m. Because he was premature, they had to take him to the neonatal unit for monitoring after a few minutes, so I didn't get to start breastfeeding him. I did get a good look at his face, and got to kiss him. The relief and complete cessation of pain after that last push was incredible. The placenta came out just a few minutes later. I had a very slight tear, which didn’t need stitches. They wheeled me into the recovery room, and moments later I felt great-- got up and peed, no problem-- incredible how easy recovery was compared to after the birth of DD.
We didn’t get to visit Jax in the NICU until a couple of hours later, but to be honest, I was happy to just relax, recover, and eat until then. They didn’t want me breastfeeding the first day, which bothered me, as they were giving him some kind of sugar solution, but early the next day I finally got to hold him and try nursing him, and he latched on right away. Since then he’s been on breastmilk only.
He spent three days in the NICU for monitoring, though he didn’t need supplemental oxygen or anything major. He was then transferred to my room, where we spent two more days before heading home. He’s been doing great-- eating a ton and gaining weight (up to just over 2700 grams today, around 6 lbs), the main concern. We can’t have visitors for a couple more weeks (though my mom was just here for two weeks, which helped immensely, especially with my DD), but we are finally able to take him outside, as long as we avoid crowded places for awhile longer.
A week and a half before he arrived, I got home from a 10-day trip to California (I live in South America). I had no reason to believe I would give birth prematurely, and my doctor gave me the OK to do the trip. (Also, my DD was induced two weeks post-dates, so I had no history of preterm labor.) I feel like I cut it close and am so thankful nothing happened while I was abroad.
I'm much more laid-back about all the routine baby-care stuff this time around (breastfeeding, diaper changing, etc.). DD adores her baby brother (though she acts out toward me once in awhile, resenting the attention I have to give him-- fairly normal I think, though, and overall she is handling the major change really well).
Our hearts are so full of love and gratitude.