I’ve been wanting to share Quinn’s birth story with you all for awhile! I know that I love reading all about pregnancy and birth (if you do too, you can also find my first trimester recap here). I find it so interesting how incredibly different everyone’s story can be while we all share one thing in common- we gave birth to a real, amazing, tiny person. It seems on par that it’s taken me over two months and I’m currently writing it out while wearing her. I am mostly writing it so that I have a place to come back to and read it as she grows up and details get fuzzy. But it’s certainly an added bonus that you guys are interested in hearing it!
Quinn was born on May 8th, 2022 which was a Sunday and just happened to be Mother’s Day. I joke that Tyler asked me what I wanted and I told him I was just hoping for a relaxing day of reading on the couch and a nice home cooked dinner. Clearly our child had other plans! Her middle name, Lorraine, comes from my Aunt Lorraine who passed away in 2015 after a fast and furious battle with cancer. My uncle wrote this about her:
“Above all, Lorraine loved to be among her family and friends. Any extended conversation with her was sure to include laughter, much of which was initiated by her and all of which she enjoyed. She was a person of grace, integrity and unbounded generosity. Among her cardinal beliefs was the following: if a person is treated with the fundamental dignity and respect owed to any human being, then that person will respond by opening a door that shows all the potential goodness within them.”
She is one of many women in my life I hope my little girl grows up to emulate.
how it started
Labor really started the day before- on Saturday I was having contractions that ranged anywhere from ten to forty minutes apart and I pretty much just laid on the couch all day. I was texting with my sister (who has had three kids) about it, and we both thought the contractions were prodromal labor. I suppose technically they could have been based on the definition of prodromal labor- labor that starts and stops before fully active labor begins and may not progress. However my sister told me of a friend who was in prodromal labor for over a week, and since I was only thirty eight weeks and five days AND this was my first baby, I assumed this would end up being my situation. I timed them for most of the day but didn’t worry about it overnight. They were strong enough that they would wake me up and I would simply glance at my phone as they happened, pretty infrequently but picking up to twenty to thirty minutes apart in the early morning on Sunday.
When I woke up on Sunday morning the contractions were starting to get slightly closer together- more like twelve to fifteen minutes between them. My sister had also said not to worry about them until they got more intense, and they didn’t feel awful at that point. But then Tyler and I took Phoebe on a walk and I had one that was painful enough that I had to stop in the middle of the road while it passed. At that point I started to think that it might be time- around 11:20 I decided to start the hour clock and decided that if they were all 5 minutes apart for the next hour I’d call the midwives. I folded laundry and watched Grey’s Anatomy in our room and every four to eight minutes one would come. They were getting painful enough that I had to get on my hands and knees and rock back and forth to breathe through them.
Finally around 12:30 I decided to call my doctor’s office. I got a call back right away and the midwife on call told me I should plan to arrive in in the next thirty to forty-five minutes. So I tried to eat something (a burger- what a mistake) and I messaged Tyler (who was upstairs) that we were going to leave soon. He messaged back “LABOR???” and came running down the stairs two minutes later with our bags and my pregnancy pillow. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that image (nor do I want to)! I told him to get some snacks together, and that I had to take my bag back upstairs because it wasn’t fully packed. When we got to the hospital around 1:45 they examined me- I was five centimeters dilated, 80% effaced and negative two station, so they admitted me to labor and delivery.
I’ll stop here and tell you: pretty much nothing about my labor followed my birth plan. I was supposed to be laboring at the natural birth center (which is IN our hospital just below the L&D floor) but a water heater had exploded and it was closed. Ultimately I think that was a blessing for me- the Natural Birthing Center is wonderful in that it’s set up to really facilitate an unmedicated birth, but if you choose to get an epidural when you’re laboring there you have to get transferred out. I truly believe I would have struggled a lot more with my choice to get an epidural if I was there and that my labor would not have progressed so quickly because I would have remained so tense and miserable.
at the hospital
I labored unmedicated for about two hours and could NOT find a comfortable position. I tried the tub, all fours on the bed (at which point I puked up that burger) and finally settled on sitting backwards on the toilet. I swear it was the only spot that felt somewhat okay. I have never felt pain like that and every time a contraction came I tensed up so much. My shoulders were up at my ears and Tyler kept trying to get me to relax- he played hypnobirthing meditations (hated them) and then music, which helped a bit. But it just wasn’t enough to get me to unclench through the pain. I finally decided to get the epidural after getting checked and finding out I was just six centimeters. Although that is a decent progression for two hours, I just could not imagine surviving four more centimeters without help. And although it wasn’t part of my plan I don’t regret this decision at all! As I mentioned, I think if I had continued unmedicated my labor wouldn’t have progressed as quickly and I probably would have had more issues during transition, labor, and recovery.
Once the epidural kicked in it was like night and day for me. I went from agonizing pain and barely being able to speak to sitting on the edge of my bed eating a popsicle and talking to my midwife about my business! Everything just got so much more manageable and I couldn’t even feel the contractions. The nurses who took care of me were so great- because I had been very adamant about not pushing on my back they set me up on my side with a peanut ball. I laid there and talked to Tyler for awhile and the new nurse (shift change happened at seven) let me know he would turn me from my left side to my right when it hit eight o’ clock. At that point I had been feeling some pressure, but my midwife advised me not to try to push until that feeling was constant.
At eight o’ clock my nurse began to turn me from my left to right side. As soon as I hit my back it was as though Quinn got the memo and was like “NOW? OKAY COOL MOM”. I went from comfy and happy to getting the shakes- and I don’t mean mild shivers I mean whole body tremors, especially in my jaw. I told the nurse I felt like I should push and he quickly got my midwife. Things are a little blurry for me between eight and eight thirty, when Q was born. But I remember my midwife telling me I really needed to try hard to push because the baby’s heart rate had dropped. I remember someone telling me to bear down (which was the opposite way I had learned to push since I was planning to go unmedicated). Turns out it was the OBGYN they brought in, in the case that they were going to have to use the forceps. I told her no, I didn’t want to push that way! But my midwife made eye contact with me and said that the OBGYN was correct, that’s what I needed to do. I trusted my midwife, so I pushed.
It took Q seven minutes of pushing to come out, six of which she was in distress. Once she was out they had to cut the cord and take her right away to check her heart rate and breathing. She didn’t make noise for what felt like forever as they checked her. I remember being worried but I also remember being terrified that my jaw was breaking- the shaking was that strong and intense. After some time, she finally made noise and they had Tyler take her photo next to her weight. In that time I think they put her on my chest really quickly and took her away again- but it’s all so hazy it’s hard to remember. Finally, they brought her to me to do skin to skin and the golden hour, and everyone pretty much left us alone as a family. That hour felt magical and peaceful and happy and I’m glad we had that before a rough couple of days.
Our first twenty four hours in the hospital were HARD. If you’ve ever delivered in a traditional hospital you know- people come in pretty much every hour to check your vitals, baby’s vitals, talk to you about your bill, discuss breastfeeding, take out your trash- you name it. During our first night we were just so exhausted and breastfeeding was hurting me so much. I was struggling so much and just so tired and scared I was doing permanent damage to my body. The nurse ended up taking Quinn to the nursery at 4:30am and giving her donor milk just to give me a break.
When you’re in the hospital, I think everything just feels so monumental and scary, especially with your first baby. There are all sorts of emotions and hormones running through you, your partner is also exhausted, it’s just so hard. Add to that a raging headache I was experiencing and tons of anxiety around making breastfeeding work for us, it was not fun.
On Monday I had a chance to speak with the lactation consultant and talk to her about the pain I was experiencing. She helped me pump for the first time and suggested using the donor milk for a bit longer if my boobs were too sore and I couldn’t bring myself to feed again. I kept trying that day, but by Tuesday I was in such pain that I took a full twenty-four hours off from breastfeeding. I would pump, use a syringe to give Q any colostrum I made, and then we supplemented with donor milk. There were a lot of factors that went into this decision and there is a lot I could talk about around our breastfeeding experience- I’m happy to share that in another post if it would help!
getting ready to go home
By Tuesday at lunchtime, Quinn and I were both cleared for discharge. However anesthesia determined I had a spinal headache and discussed doing a blood patch with me to clear it up. A spinal headache occurs when cerebrospinal fluid (spinal fluid that surrounds and cushions the brain) leaks out of the meninges (tissue that surrounds the brain and spinal cord). This leakage reduces the amount of fluid around the brain and results in a very intense headache. It will go away on its own in about two weeks, or you can get the patch to cover the hole and provide somewhat immediate relief. There was a lot of discussion around getting the blood patch, as they are putting another large needle in your spine. Initially I really did not want to do it, and thought I just had a headache because no one would leave me ALONE. Eventually, I opted to get the patch done because going home with a newborn and an extremely intense headache didn’t sound fun. Here’s the fun part: when the team came in to perform the patch, they were different people from anesthesia than the woman who diagnosed my headache. Because I was standing and moving around, they questioned whether I really needed it and told me it was “not a minor procedure.” So fun.
In the end, I ended up getting the patch, we were discharged, and went home. That moment when they wheel you out of the hospital to your car and expect you to just…leave with your baby, just you and your partner…that’s nuts. We were so nervous about not having supervision! It felt so strange. My sister ended up coming over that night and bringing us food- it was nice to have her there when we got home and sort of ease into caring for this tiny human unsupervised!
Now that I look back on it, there is so much I wish I could have told myself. Specifically- your breastfeeding journey will be really hard, but in the end you’ll both be okay. There are also some things I wish I would have known to bring to the hospital, lots I feel I didn’t need, and some baby items I wish I had when we got home! If you’re at all interested in that info, or a breastfeeding post, let me know in the comments or on instagram and I’ll put some info together!