This post is long and may be TMI for some. Just a heads up before proceeding. I don’t usually get this personal publicly, but I wanted to keep a record of the past year-plus for myself and my loved ones.
Trying to Conceive
Andrew and I first started trying to get pregnant in Summer of 2016. On average for a healthy couple, it takes 6-9 months to conceive so I knew it could take time even without any issues. I stopped using birth control in February so my body could adjust to my cycles naturally. By October though, I hadn’t had my period for much longer gap than the months before that but had several negative pregnancy tests in that time, so I knew there was a problem.
I went to my doctor in November and she determined that my PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) was hindering my natural ovulation cycles. PCOS essentially leads to a hormone imbalance where more testosterone is produced than the hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle. Symptoms include cysts on the ovaries (hence the name), excess body hair, oily skin, and sometimes infertility due to the irregular cycles, among other symptoms. The symptoms can sometimes worsen with excess weight gain (or it’s more difficult to lose weight)…I had gained about 10 pounds in the previous year which apparently was enough to affect my cycles once I got off birth control.
The course of action after this appointment was to take low levels of hormones so my cycle would start – progesterone was needed to start my period and then Clomid to induce ovulation. I had to take these drugs on certain days and then come back for an ultrasound to determine whether any eggs will be ready for ovulation. At the same time my goal was to lose 5-10 pounds just to see if that was enough to help balance out my hormones (this was also November-December…very difficult to try to lose weight during the Holidays). I was able to lose about 5 pounds during this time which I think helped the effort in the end.
The first cycle of Clomid was unsuccessful. The dosage was increased for round 2 in December. When I went for my follow-up ultrasound in early January, my Doctor said there was a chance of a good egg being released for ovulation but she couldn’t promise it. So we went for it anyway and guess what…we did it! I know many people have much tougher fertility journeys, but it is still a difficult situation to go through and one that isn’t talked enough about.
Since I’d been going through this process, I was hyper-aware of my body and the potential early pregnancy symptoms. I’d been tracking my Basal Body Temperature (BBT) which indicates ovulation when tracked effectively, and noticed on a certain day that my temperature rose and stayed higher, instead of coming back down like it would in a regular cycle. I also had mild cramps for a couple of days – some women feel cramps when the newly fertilized egg implants in the wall of the uterus. I had a few days of extreme fatigue, which is another early pregnancy sign. This was all in the weeks before a pregnancy test would indicate a positive result.
When I did take a test a few weeks later, it was negative. I was pretty disappointed and let it ruin my day, but thought it was possibly just too early to show up on a home test. I took another test a few days later and it was positive! Woo hoo! I was so excited that I scheduled a doctor’s appointment as soon as possible to verify the result! Lesson learned…wait a little time before heading to your doctor as you’ll see. Some people even say to wait until about 8 weeks before heading to the doctor (I was about 4 at this point).
I go to my doctor appointment and get a little shock. My doctor does an ultrasound (as felt routine to me by that point) but could not see the sac as she would expect by the estimated point in the pregnancy. She is concerned that it could be an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is where the embryo develops in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus. It is not viable and can lead to hemorrhage and infertility as the fallopian tube could burst once the embryo grows too big. These must be treated with urgency. My doctor’s other alternative was that the pregnancy was just early on based on the HCG levels and the ultrasound result. She advised I go to the ER that day where they could take blood tests (this would be more precise on the HCG levels than the urine sample taken at the doctor’s office) and a more detailed ultrasound that day and we could respond with more urgency based on the results. Well, that was not a fun day! Going to the ER, waiting, more waiting, and then in the end the doctor on staff determined that the pregnancy was just in the early stages based on the HCG results and ultrasound images. This was a huge relief! We called our parents on the way home to tell them they would be grandparents!
I went back to my doctor later that week and she confirmed what the ER doctor had said – it was a viable pregnancy! Unfortunately, due to this initial scare I was pretty anxious about the pregnancy for most of the first trimester, thinking it was too good to be true. Each ultrasound or heartbeat scan eased my anxiety a little more. By this point, it was mid-February. We were preparing to move from Houston to DFW. I found my new doctor in DFW and transitioned to her care, having my first appointment around week 10. We didn’t share the news outside of our immediate family until about week 12.
The rest of the pregnancy was fairly uneventful! If you had followed this blog and my weekly updates, I didn’t have too many extreme symptoms – pregnancy agreed with me fairly well! The only minor things were Vitamin D and Iron deficiency, but these are not uncommon. We moved into our house in July (around the start of the 3rd trimester) and I probably over worked myself in those first few weeks. I also had an unpleasant stomach bug in the last month…thankfully not too serious, but definitely not fun when most medicines are off-limits and I get dehydrated. I will put together a post on here with all my favorite resources from pregnancy, so stay tuned for that!
Labor and Birth
Fast-forward to September. Most of the preparations for the baby were completed. I was convinced I would go past my due date as that is more common than coming early for a first baby. My doctor checked my cervix at my week 38 appointment – I was about 2cm dilated and 75% effaced. Great! If only the rest of labor were that easy. The next day, I was having brownish/pinkish discharge which I thought was just a response to the cervical check the day before.
The next day (Saturday), was week 39 according to my due date. I woke with what felt like menstrual cramps. It was different from the Braxton Hicks contractions I had been having during the previous weeks. We had a community garage sale that morning, so I continued with my day since we’d already made preparations for the sale. As we sat waiting for shoppers, I would have more intense cramps, some radiating to my lower back or even my upper thighs. They would last for what felt like a minute, but they were randomly spaced throughout the morning. I proceed to Google “what do contractions feel like”…and some women reported that is what their contractions felt like during labor (everyone has a different experience, just like pregnancy in general). I told Andrew we should finish packing our bags for the hospital “just in case”.
After the sale, we went to lunch and then had our car seat class at the hospital, including an installation safety check. I told myself, even if something further happened, at least we were already at the hospital! During the class, I had a few contractions, but nothing so extreme that I couldn’t concentrate on the class itself. We successfully finished and had our seat installed, then went home for the evening. I decided to relax on the couch and watch some TV while Andrew took a nap. At this point, I started timing the contractions. They were less than 10 minutes apart each, but at random intervals so I wasn’t too worried yet. I ate dinner a little later, and then around 9pm I felt a gush of warm fluid! Whoa – that was my water and the baby is coming! I woke Andrew up, he grabbed a quick freezer meal since he hadn’t eaten dinner yet. My contractions subsided a little in the excitement. We loaded up the car, including towels for me to sit on (did you know, when your water breaks, it pretty much keeps gushing throughout labor!) The 10 minute car ride felt longer than normal and my contractions returned, this time closer together and more intense.
We arrived at the hospital around 10:15pm on Saturday, checked in, then were quickly moved to the L&D room. By the time I changed into a robe and the nurse took my baseline stats, it felt like the contractions were a minute apart and there was no break (they weren’t that close, but time is warped in that situation). I was 3cm dilated at that point. My waters had a greenish tinge which indicates meconium staining (the baby has their first bowel movement before being born and then can inhale that fluid). Because of this, the doctor wanted a monitor on the baby throughout, not just intermittent checks. Fortunately, the hospital had wireless monitors so I was still able to move around the room and not be tethered to the bed. Unfortunately, the monitor wouldn’t stay in place, so it felt like the nurse was constantly adjusting it on my belly. The staff was also a little concerned the baby had cord issues (it ended up being wrapped around her neck and hinders her breathing, although that’s not uncommon). I was most comfortable standing up and walking around and leaning on Andrew through each contraction and because I did not have an epidural, I was able to try several different positions throughout the time. The most miserable position were if I was laying on my side – the contractions were so much more intense and I would almost hyperventilate. They put an oxygen mask on me which gave some relief, but then I was more tied to the bed. The bed was then adjusted so I was basically sitting up and the foot of the bed dropped down, so I was able to relax my legs below me – this was most comfortable position towards the end.
The nurse asked to check my cervix and I was 5cm. I remember saying “Only 5!!!” Holy cow, I don’t think I could have taken much more. Things kept progressing quickly though. Soon I was 7, then 9 with only a little lip left. She had me lay on my side again with the birthing peanut between my legs which was to help move that last lip of cervix. I don’t generally swear but wanted to in that position. That was the most intense! My body shook which each contraction and I couldn’t help but almost bear down. Now, the doctor came in and they set up the squat bar on the end of the bed. At this point, it felt like there were 100 people in the room – the NICU was there because of the issues with the Meconium and the cord plus all the other support staff. With each contraction, I would move from my sitting position (with assistance), grab the squat bar, and push. After each one, my whole body was shaking and Andrew and the nurse helped me move back to sitting. It felt like taking a giant poop as the baby was coming out. After a couple of pushes, it felt like a huge poop was hanging out – I asked if that was poop or the baby because it’s hard to tell, but it was the baby’s head!!! They asked if I wanted to look in the mirror – NOPE! Don’t need to see that. They had me carefully lean back, put my feet up on the supports, and then push on the next contraction. The baby pretty much slid out at that point. The doctor had apparently been telling me to slow down to avoid tearing and because of the cord, but in that moment I did not hear him nor could my body stop! It’s truly amazing what our bodies can do. I think most doctors are used to women having an epidural, so they are better able to “direct” that last stage of labor. Unmedicated women really only have their instincts to listen to in that moment. In all, I only pushed for 4 or 5 contractions which felt only about 10 minutes. It felt like the end happened so fast – maybe because it did! Baby Ginny was born at 2:38am. She weighed 7lb 6oz and was 19″ long.
They put Ginny on my chest immediately. She was a little bruised in the face because she had moved down the birth canal so quickly. She was also a little purple due to the cord around her neck and loss of oxygen. I only got to hold her for a minute before they took her to the table on the side where the NICU team worked on her. My job now was to deliver the placenta. The doctor told me to keep pushing, but it felt like I was just peeing everywhere. Apparently the cord wasn’t centered, so the placenta did not come out in one piece which means he had to scrape to get it all (not getting all of the placenta can lead to hemorrhage and infection). They had also given me a shot of Pitocin to ease any bleeding and keep the contractions going so the placenta could be delivered. After that, the doctor had to sew me up as I had torn during delivery, mostly because it all happened so quickly so my Perineum did not stretch as it could have. The stitching was the most painful part of the whole experience (well, mostly the shots to numb first and when the numbing had worn off in areas and he was still stitching)! I had a partial 3rd degree tear. All this time, the room is still bustling with staff. They took Ginny to the NICU; Andrew went with her and I was left to simply hang out while getting stitched up.
After all of this, I had a couple of hours before they’d move me to the recovery room (they do this so they can monitor any immediate post-birth complications). All of a sudden, the excitement of the evening started to wear off. My in-laws had been waiting all evening to see their first grandchild, so they came in to visit after I was bandaged up and comfortable in the bed, which was around 4am by now. Around 5, they moved me to our home for the next 2 days (our recovery room) in a wheelchair. It was crazy how shaky my legs still were despite no pain medication! That first bathroom trip took some time and nurse’s help. Ginny was only in the NICU for a couple of hours so she was brought to our room a little after 5am. It was only then that I got to hold her for a good while. I’m still in shock that I made and grew this tiny human! The 3 of us bonded for the next few hours, then we ordered a much-deserved breakfast when the cafeteria opened at 7am. After breakfast, we finally slept for the first time.
The 2 days in the hospital were truly wonderful. It is so refreshing to have around the clock care for myself and my little one. It helped us ease into our new reality. I’ll put together a postpartum post and go into a little more detail on our journey so far with nursing and life in general, so stay tuned for that!