Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined what 2020 would have had in store. Every human on earth probably agrees with that sentiment. As we rang in the new year at a house party last year in complete blissful ignorance of all the would transpire, all that was on my mind were the books I might read, what I should put on my vision board (joke’s on me, that thing got thrown away by mid May…), and what trips we would take.
Soon after the new year I would be thrilled to find out I was pregnant and due in October. After losing our first pregnancy a few months prior, I certainly had my fair share of anxiety to work through, but I was confident the pregnancy would be the defining challenge of my entire year. So silly to think about now.
Morning sickness made its glamorous entrance a few weeks after that positive pregnancy test. It was a welcome sign of life and necessary hormonal changes, though absolutely impossible at times to manage parenting a toddler during the long hours of extreme nausea and exhaustion. I took a weekend getaway to Portland with a friend and could barely choke down some broth at all the incredible Asian restaurants I had previously longed to eat at. It was rough times for someone who loves to eat.
Then, enter Covid.
Josh was able to attend exactly TWO of my prenatal appointments before the offices stopped allowing partners to enter the building. Each appointment was agony as I imagined the worst case scenario that could play out as I sat alone, masked, and vulnerable in those appointments month after month. My time with the doctor became shorter, with much less attention to the concerns that were building as I struggled to come to terms with what it meant to be pregnant during a worldwide pandemic. The healthcare system was stressed beyond measure, and I would eventually be asked to stop coming in for most appointments and see my physician virtually. I had no idea how much I would need to be my own advocate, and at times my own provider as I checked my own blood pressure, measured my own fundal height, and used my own doppler to check on the baby’s heart rate. It was frustrating and lonely and worrisome to lack the support I needed, but I learned a lot about the healthcare system and it’s limitations and failures. God bless all the women who carried babies during this messy time in history.
Around 13 weeks we found out the baby growing in me would be a little boy. A brother for our sweet Ezra. Swoon.
As the months passed, we sheltered in place, Ezra’s preschool closed, and I grew bigger (and hungrier. Yay). In the Summer we decided to sell our home and move to a more racially diverse area ahead of entering children into the public school system. Nothing like being stuck at home all the time to make you feel desperate for that extra bedroom. Moving at 30 weeks pregnant is not something I would ever recommend, but we found a home that is perfect for our growing family in a neighborhood we love. I switched doctors, which meant switching hospitals for the imminent delivery, and hired a doula collective to support me during labor and delivery when the time came.
At my new practice, appointments were longer and more thorough, a welcomed sense that I was in capable and compassionate hands. My uterus was measuring smaller than what’s typical, so I was referred to the Maternal Fetal Medicine practice for additional growth scans every other week. The baby was certainly small, but thankfully each ultrasound showed him just outside the range where they would recommend inducing early. Looking back now, I have to laugh thinking about my now 95th percentile infant being thought of as a potential preemie 🙂
It felt a bit ridiculous to have to get these long and tedious tests done regularly, but a bigger part of me enjoyed seeing my little guy on the screen and knowing he was okay in there.
At 39 weeks, convinced I had a rupture in my membranes (false alarm, turns out you just pee your pants sometimes when you’re full term), I saw a doctor to get checked and was thrilled to hear that I was already beginning to dilate ahead of labor. In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t known this because the following weeks would be the hardest wait of my life. The next week, I would measure 2 cm at my appointment with seemingly constant Braxton-Hicks contractions happening at home. I was huge and tired, and I watched my due date come and go with no significant progress. I had been trying absolutely everything to go into labor, but was comforted to know that if nothing happened by then, I had an appointment to be induced by my favorite doctor in the practice at 41 weeks.
A few days before my scheduled induction, my doctor swept my membranes to try to move things along, and I was dilated to 3cm. I was desperate to go into labor. I walked more miles than I can count, bounced endlessly, ate spicy food, got acupuncture, and tried every proven and unproven method of inducing labor I could find on the internet. I texted with the doulas, cried to friends, and spent day after day convinced that it was DEFINITELY the day. I packed and re-packed for the hospital, rearranged plans for where Ezra would go, cried some more, took another walk, and finally asked for help in the form of child care.
The night before my induction was schedule, I dropped Ezra off at a friend’s house in an attempt at one more day-long focused attempt to go into labor. I thought maybe having Ezra around was stalling things because it was so difficult to let myself labor while having to care for him too. Josh and I walked together, shared a couple quiet meals, and enjoyed the immense blessing of a final few hours together before we became a family of 4. Then we went to early vote. Because I sure as hell didn’t want to miss my chance to vote for a better President for the country my boys are being brought up in.
Getting induced at 41 weeks was completely optional (after another week it would have been mandatory) but when the day I came that I had previously scheduled myself to be checked into the hospital, I was just done being pregnant. I was done wondering and agonizing and waiting and living in the liminal space between being in labor and living normal life. It was way too hard. Harder than any other part of pregnancy for me. I was done.
We checked into the hospital around midnight on October 16th, and after receiving my horrendous brain swab Covid test, I was cleared to start Pitocin. The original plan was supposed to involve a gentle medication to soften my cervix and then get some sleep before starting Pitocin in the morning, but since I was already 3cm dilated the doctor on call wanted to skip the gentle stuff and get right to it. Since I planned to labor without an epidural, the thought of beginning labor in the middle of the night was awful and I begged the nurse to hold off until Josh and I could get some rest. They finally agreed to let us wait until 5 am (Eye roll). Gotta love the hospital system.
At 5am, the nurse started my IV and hooked me up to the required monitors. As I was hooked up to the many wires, it became clear to me how much an uphill battle I had to deliver this baby without help of an epidural. I was an emotional mess, sleep deprived, crying about missing Ezra, overwhelmed, and terrified of labor. I was also feeling so discouraged at how difficult it was to move around. When my new nurse showed up around 7, she gave me the pep talk I needed and assured me I had the strength to do what I planned to do.
The first 5 hours of Pitocin were a breeze. My contractions were frequent, but felt just like the ones I had been having for weeks at home. Tightness, but not necessarily painful. Oh, but around 10am, everything changed. My back started to hurt, I started vomiting, and the contractions became unbearably painful. My attempts to manage the pain by movement were made impossibly by the monitors and IVs I was attached to. I tried to get into the shower to see if the warmth would help, but because my IV arm couldn’t get wet I had to hang it outside the shower the entire time.
Finally my doula finally arrived, but between Josh’s comfort measure and hers, nothing was offering anywhere near the relief I needed to manage the contractions. They were coming every minute, stronger than I could withstand, my movement was restricted, and I was vomiting and had a severe back pain and horrendous headache. I truly felt like I might die.
After the second attempt to labor in the shower, I asked the nurse to please check my progress. I had gone from 3cm to 4 cm in those agonizing 5 hours. “EPIDURAL PLEASE NOW THANK YOU!!!!!” I was shaking and nauseous and couldn’t bear the thought of laboring like this if I wasn’t progressing.
An hour later, after the anesthesiologist was summoned and the appropriate fluids administered, I would finally be resting somewhat comfortably in bed. Oh sweet relief. I threw up one last time, then promptly passed out for 2 glorious hours. My sweet nurse helped put a peanut ball between my legs and doted on me with the care of a saint, refilling my ice chips and fetching me ginger ale. Josh was also the most incredibly labor support I could have ever asked for. I told him he should absolutely take up a side gig as a labor doula.
When I woke up, it was around 5pm and the nurse checked my cervix again, knowing her and the doctor would both be switching shifts soon. To my absolute shock, she let me know I was 10 cm dilated. I was in total disbelief that I literally progressed from a 4 to 10 in two hours…and slept through the entire transition. I waited an hour or so for the urge to push, but never felt any sign that the baby was ready to be delivered. The nurse offered to help guide me through some “practice pushes” and then when things really get going she would call in the doctor and delivery team. I have to admit, at this point I was actually doubting all the information she was giving me because of how good I was feeling. Surely she mis-measured, and I would be laboring through the night…
After pushing through one contraction, I watched the nurse immediately pick up her phone to call my doctor in. I felt a rush of joy that I really would actually indeed be meeting my son soon. My sweet amazing doctor came in and excitedly let me know that the baby was not just coming he was COMING. Like, NOW. In her encouraging and peaceful presence, surrounded by the world’s best husband and the most amazing nurse I could have asked for I pushed through maybe 10 contractions and my little guy was born into the world. Tired, masked, sweaty, covered in vomit, and in awe of him, I held him to my chest for the first time. He was nothing like what I had pictured in my head, but I loved him instantly. My little blonde haired blue eyed wonder. I will always look back on delivering him and smile. It was truly one of the most joyful experiences of my life. The tears on both mine and Josh’s faces said it all. I have never felt so proud of myself.
We gave him the name Arthur Tillman after both mine and Josh’s maternal grandfathers, and we call him Archie for short. He is cuddly and chubby and hates sleep. I still cannot believe he’s ours and that I grew a human being in my body. I don’t think I will ever get over the wonder of it all.
We spent a couple very quiet days at the hospital, grieved by the fact that no visitors would be allowed to meet our baby due to the pandemic. It was never what we pictured, but it also gave us the time and space to get to know our son. We Facetimed with Ezra and friends and family and spent the majority of the hours learning how to breastfeed. Thankfully, he is a fast learner, apparently my boobs were made for this because he has gained a pound a week since he was born.(!!) I’m convinced that my wonderful doctor and her skill at assisting my delivery helped make my recovery so much better than I could have hoped for. That, or maybe the fact that Archie apparently hung out in the birth canal for 2 hours before I pushed him out. Who knows.
I’m so thankful for the whole experience, and will never ever forget the challenges 2020 brought for the world, our country, our family, and me personally. We were stretched beyond what we thought possible, and lived through some of the darkest days. October 16th, though…that day in an otherwise shitty 2020 was a real good one.
Welcome to earth, Archie boy. You’re loved beyond measure. Even though the world you’re entering is a mess, it feels a little lighter and better now that you’re in it. My little pandemic babe. We love you.