Our snow baby birth story.
Dear snow baby, We were so nervous and excited before you were born. I was nervous about labor and delivery- about pain and uncertainty- and forgot to be nervous about bringing a new person home with us from the hospital.
I had gestational diabetes and with the condition, the doctors induce labor early to keep the baby healthy, so we knew the day I would be induced. It was scheduled a couple of days in advance after the doctor checked at my last appointment and saw that I was already dilated 2cm. I had been having contractions and not realizing that’s what they were. We knew it would be coming, but when they called me it was scheduled for just two days later. We hadn’t known that would be our last day at work, but it was.
There was a snow storm coming on February 20, so we were nervous about that too. Would we get to the hospital ok? Would anyone get to come to see our snow baby? We had our bags packed already, but did some last-minute nursery preparations and shopped for the first photo outfits.
We had dinner at Silver Diner with my parents and I didn’t want to eat anything heavy, because I was worried I would get sick during labor the next day. I had soup and Brussels sprouts — a weird combination. I checked my blood sugar but wasn’t sure it even mattered anymore since you would be there the next day.
We woke up early, around 5, and took showers and I ate breakfast. I knew I wouldn’t be eating again for a while, so I wanted something filling. I had oatmeal with peanut butter powder mixed in, in hopes I would stay full. We had to be at the hospital by 7, and Mama wanted a bagel sandwich from this coffee shop by the hospital, so we left around 6:15 and stopped on the way. It started snowing just as we left the house — big, slow flakes that weren’t quite sticking yet but would be soon. We would have a snow baby for sure. We checked in and went to the labor and delivery room. It was pretty huge. I got undressed in the bathroom and changed into the hospital gown. I tied it in the back before I came out, and the nurse told me I would get used to the fact that there’s no modesty in L&D. I did!
A supermoon and a snowstorm
It was quiet in the maternity ward that day. The night before had been a supermoon and a bunch of early snow babies had come, but on your birthday it had slowed down again.
Our nurse was just starting her shift when we got there. Her name was Maril, and she was queer, which was just such a relief to both of us. There wouldn’t be any weirdness! She was cool, and we chatted a lot during the less painful times of the day. She had kids and a stay-at-home partner and we all got very attached to each other throughout the day. She wasn’t good at IVs, though, and blew two veins trying to get mine going, before switching arms. The doctor came in and checked my cervix. I was 3 cm dilated and 50% effaced, and -3 station, which seemed to me like a good start. The doctor said she’d be back in 6 hours to check me again…which was a little startling to me because it seemed like such a long time!
They started my Pitocin and IV fluids, and we called our doula, Ursula, to let her know what was going on. She left home a little earlier than planned because she wanted to make sure to get to the hospital before the snow picked up too much. When she got there, she said she had had a successful birth the day before in a hospital room with the same number as ours– a good omen!
I started having some cramping as they gradually increased the Pitocin every so often, but it wasn’t too bad – just like the most intense of my usual period cramps. I was able to get a monitor that I could move around with, and even though I was pretty sure I would get an epidural eventually, I wanted to be able to move around for as long as possible and to be able to feel how intense the contractions would be – see what I could handle before deciding.
We had a friend who had passed away during my pregnancy after having very bad postpartum depression and we were pretty worried about it. When we met with Ursula the first time, she said that if I was on the fence about an epidural, it might be a good idea to get one, because it would allow me to start off parenting on a more well-rested foot.
For a long while, things just progressed like that. Mama, Ursula, Maril, and I chatted and I bounced and rolled my hips on a birthing ball, or laid in bed. You were such a squirmy baby that Ursula kept having to adjust the monitor that was keeping track of your heartbeat because they needed to make sure you were ok! I was able to take a short nap before the contractions got too bad, but they did start getting more intense as Maril increased the Pitocin levels.
We knew in the early afternoon the doctor was going to be coming back to check my progress, and Ursula told me that they would probably want to break my water, so I should consider whether I was ok with that. She also told me that’s when contractions really kick into high gear (plus the actual breaking the bag of waters isn’t a picnic either) – did I want to get an epidural before the doctor came in? I was fine with the Doctor breaking my water…I knew that would help things progress, and it had to happen at some point anyway! But I decided to wait until afterward to get an epidural. I kind of wanted to feel how bad the pain was, and was a bit scared of getting the epidural. It’s a little freaky not being able to move your lower half!
Before the check-in with the doctor, Ursula suggested I order a clear liquids tray, to get something in my stomach. It was around 2 PM at this point and I hadn’t eaten since 6 AM. I ate some broth, jello, and cherry Italian ice. The Doctor checked me again about 10 minutes after I ate, and I was 4 cm dilated, 50% effaced, and -1 station. The doctor and nurse said everything was progressing very well. It felt like so little change to me and was a little discouraging. But I knew that once she broke my water, things would start moving more quickly. She did, and let me tell you, it was pretty unpleasant! It’s also just amazing how much liquid came out – they had to replace the towels under me to catch it all. Everything was clear, so there weren’t any baby safety concerns, thankfully.
Contractions did pick up after that, and I got sick a couple of times from the pain (nice to see you again, cherry ice!). I was in the bathroom a lot, and just moving around more than I had been to try to find some position that was more comfortable. I had contractions in my back, too, so Ursula unlocked my sacrum and showed Mama how to rub my back to help me feel a bit better. I asked for an epidural, but by the time I decided I wanted one, I had to “get in line” behind a few other laboring people. So for the next hour or so, Mama and Ursula helped me manage my pain and I focused as much as I could on my breathing, to help distract from the pain.
Once the anesthesiologist was available, he came in and explained the process to me. Mama and Ursula had to leave, so Maril was my support during the procedure. You have to be super still while they set up the epidural since it’s in such a sensitive spot. I had to hunch my back and wrap my arms around this rolling headrest thing, and Maril held my elbows in place so that even when I had contractions I could stay steady. It was one of those things where as soon as someone tells you you can’t do something, it’s all you want to do! But a little scary too, so I just tried to focus on my breathing and on being as still as I possibly could. Maril was a big help too, as she helped steady and comfort me.
Once the epidural kicked in, I was able to get a little sleep- sort of drifting in and out for a bit. Throughout the day, I kept being surprised at how much time had passed. Labor went by really quickly, and I felt I was in sort of a different state of mind than I had been before, much more connected to my body. When Mama comforted me during contractions or asked if I needed anything, I had a hard time breaking out of my own brain and body to connect to anyone else.
When I was awake, Ursula and Maril helped move my body into positions that would help labor keep progressing, and by early evening, things started to move more quickly. Around 5 PM, Dr. Baras checked my progress and I was 5cm dilated, 80% effaced, and the station was 0. Another hour and a half later (which went by in a weird haze for me), I was starting to feel some pressure and they had the doctor come check me again. I was 100% effaced and flattened, 8cm dilated, and the station was a +1 (which explains the pressure).
Preparing to push out our snow baby
There had been some talk/hope that I would be able to start pushing soon, but I wasn’t since I wasn’t fully dilated yet. That was kind of disheartening. I was wondering how much longer I could hold out, with the pressure I was feeling. I guess that’s what they call the “urge to push.” I was also starting to feel pain again as the epidural medication wore off. Ursula told me that if I could manage the pain, it would make me a better pusher to be able to have some feeling, so only to give myself another dose if I really needed it. I felt I could handle it at that point, and I definitely wanted to push to be shorter and more effective, so I didn’t give myself more medication.
It’s all a blur again until time to push—just did my best the whole time to hold you in until I couldn’t anymore. All the waiting paid off, as you were pretty far down to start with. The doctor checked me and it was ‘go time’, so they got everything (including me) in place, and poured some actual olive oil on me. Everyone seemed to think it would be very fast, so the doctor stuck around, but after the first couple of pushes, I wasn’t making much progress.
She left again, which was a bit discouraging, and the nurse (a new nurse who had taken over for Maril at shift change) moved in and Ursula coached me through pushing. I was holding on to hand bars, and they were getting some of my pushing energy, so Mama suggested I hold onto the backs of my thighs, and use that energy more productively. I did a push that was “the right push” according to Ursula, so I tried to keep recreating that, which mixed success. Once you were crowning, Ursula asked me if I wanted to reach down and touch your head. I was a little grossed out at the idea (so much goo, and my body doing something intense!), but I thought I would regret not doing it, and I definitely would have. It was a very strange feeling, to touch you for the first time, and know we would be able to hold you soon.
The whole “pushing” part (which I was nervous about) really only took about five pushes and 30 minutes or so, and absolutely felt much faster than that. In tv shows, the pregnant person always has to push one last push to get the shoulders out, so I was expecting that to be a real thing, but it wasn’t (for me at least). Once I had pushed your head out, there you were. Finally, our baby.
During the last few pushes, it was decided that Mama would announce your gender, and when she saw you she said, “It’s a boy! It’s a Henry!” They put you on my chest and I was just so overwhelmed. My body was so exhausted and yet I was full of love now that you were in my arms. Our snow baby.
The birth story was written by two mamas and shared with love.