I want to start by saying I had grand romanticized notions of childbirth, and this overachieving idea that I would write my birth story while in labor and keep a journal for my son to read one day as a way to give him insight into his arrival and birth into existence. I would journal the days leading up to his birth and during the time spent waiting in the hospital for his emergence, chronicling his first few hours of breathing in his own oxygen, as if I was some kind of Nat Geo journalist. Well, it turns out I was a bit more preoccupied than I had anticipated.
There’s a lot they don’t tell you about giving birth … a lot. We are now approaching three months postpartum, or as the mama boards say, 12 weeks, and I have barley scratched the surface of my Nat Geo journalism experience. I will say, however, after my flower rupturing experience, I think they should start sex ed at two days postpartum and go backward.
My life partner and I are both in the horse world and have participated in more than a few horse births, so this being our first child, our experience with giving birth to a human was native at best. Lets put it this way, when horses give birth, there’s not a whole lot of screaming, cursing, or threats of physical harm.
I use the term “life partner” rather than “husband,” “partner,” “baby daddy,” or “sperm donor,” because after the last 14 months, you better believe, for better or worse, he’s in this for 18 to life.
Throughout my pregnancy, I was under a great deal of stress. I am a self-proclaimed workaholic, go-big-or-go-home kind of person. Yes I was pregnant, yes I was growing a life, but I also had deadlines. I waddled from business meeting to business meeting, took care of horses, lifted bails of hay six days a week, and became frustrated with the increase in my yoga pants size. (Side note: I don’t do yoga. I just like being able to go through my day knowing if I choose the big mac and milkshake for lunch, my yoga pants will accept me and adjust instead of constricting with judgement like my jeans.)
I went through my pregnancy not giving much thought to the big day. I mean women have been doing this for quite a long time, since the beginning of time in fact. I had this idea that I would be in and out. Baby knocks, door opens, baby comes out. We all celebrate, back to work.
This … was .. not … what … happened.
Callahan Alexander’s eviction notice was sent on July 1, 2018, two weeks earlier then our 40-week due date. (By the way, 40 weeks is much, much longer then nine months.) It took him almost 52 hours to concede to the demands. It was much like a hostage negotiation.
On the morning of July 1, I wasn’t feeling myself. I had experienced high blood pressure since the 20th week, and was being closely monitored by my doctors. I had my OBGYN, and two specialists on our team, all three of whom warned us to be prepared for a preterm delivery, and advised us to get a blood-pressure machine and test at home on top of the four times a week they had us in the office for testing. We got the BP machine, but did we pack our hospital bag? Nope. Denial is a powerful thing.
On July 1, I went through my workday but came home early and decided to check my blood pressure: 190/87. Well, that could not be right, I mean anything over 150 was not good, there must have been a glitch, so I took it again: 192/97. Hmm, OK, well the anxiety of the first read must have made it go up. Wait, that means the first read was accurate, I thought. I called my LP (life partner) into the living room and showed him the reading. I’ve never seen his face go so white. We began the mad dash of waddling to the car and off to the hospital we went.
I was admitted into the ER and my BP was taken again: 187/92. Oh good! Improvement! I wish I could have freeze framed the look on that ER nurse’s face. An EKG was ordered and the staff started moving very quickly around me. The decision was made to move me out of the ER and up into labor and delivery. I wasn’t having contractions, our baby’s tests had always come back normal, including the ones they just took, so I figured it was just going to be another baby welfare check and we would be good to go home in an hour or so.
Spoiler alert: This is not what happened.
It turns out my BP levels were that of someone likely to have a stroke or heart attack in the near future, and my body’s decision to totally overreact like a Kardashian who lost a shoe, was endangering my life and thus our unborn baby. The only way to eliminate that threat and get my BP under control, was to change my baby’s title from unborn to born. The attending OB on the floor that night looked at my chart and introduced himself. Our exchange went as follows:
Doctor: “Hello, Mrs. Michelle We’re going to have a baby!
Me: Hello! You are not my doctor.
Doctor: I am tonight
Touché, doc … touché.
I was then hooked up to all kinds of monitors. I was given medication to lower my BP out of the red zone, and medication that notified my son of his impending eviction. I was put on bed rest and my LP was told it was safe to go home and pack the hospital bag we should have packed weeks ago. I imagine the scene at our house was much like the scene in the movie Blow with Johnny Depp, as he frantically packed his wife’s hospital bag—only without the drugs. We were not ready mentally or physically. We had both been living in this world of denial and now that D day had arrived, we were both terrified and feeling very unprepared. We kept saying “we’re not ready” to anyone within ear shot—nurses, cafe delivery employees, people who mistook our room for a loved one’s—pretty much anyone we came into contact with. Their hellos were greeted with “we’re not ready.” I was in the midst of a huge negotiation with millions of dollars on the line. I needed to close this deal before I locked myself away with my new baby. I definitely wasn’t ready!
I called my best friend, took a deep breath, and started in on my laptop. I had some pressing business emails that needed to be sent, and then, all of a sudden, I too received the eviction notice. That hurt!
Three hours later, my laptop had been closed and flung across the room, I had sent numerous texts to my sister demanding she put her Starbucks down and get to the hospital, and more than a couple threatening texts to my LP.
One of our nurses came in to check my cervix. My LP reached our room just in time to see the look on my face when my dilation was checked. Ummm. WOW. I was not expecting that. It turned out that after three hours of minute-long contractions, one minute apart, I was barley 2 centimeters dilated. This is right about when the realization and gravity of our situation started to sink in. This was going to take more than just a knock on the door—more like a sledgehammer. We were going to be here for a while, and my schedule no longer mattered.
Thirty-six hours in with no sleep, and still 2 centimeters dilated, they upped my pitocin … again. This time, however, I insisted the nurse who had the smallest hands check my dilation. No joke, I made my attending nurses line up and show me their hand sizes. I wasn’t messing around with that again.
My water broke around the 28th hour, but still lots of contractions and not a lot of progress. I asked Nurse Thorn (yes, her name was Nurse Thorn) why I wasn’t progressing? Apparently the drugs they had me on to keep me from stroking out, counteracted the induction drugs I was on. They were slowly increasing the induction drugs hoping they would overpower the drugs working to keep my BP regulated. With 20 being the highest level they could go, we were at level 18 of pitocin.
On the morning of July 4, 38 hours in, I had had enough. One way or another, this baby was coming out today! After threatening to find a scalpel to cut him out myself (that seemed to get the nurse’s attention), Nurse Thorn came into our room and announced she had given away her patients for the day. She then told me to get up because we were going to have a baby today! Damn right! It’s the Fourth of July, I’m not missing out on giving my son free birthday fireworks for life! Besides no one wants to party on the fifth.
She gave my LP and I the opportunity to take a warm shower together … it was the best shower. Ever. As I was getting dried off, I realized my water had broke again, this time for really reals. Apparently, it can kinda break and then REALLY break. Another one of the many things they do not tell you.
Things began to happen very quickly after that. I was put into another room with a fake blue sky on the ceiling. By the way, the fake blue sky doesn’t help, not one bit. I was feeling OK, and then they put my pitocin up to 20. Everything seemed OK until it was NOT. All of a sudden, I had a contraction come through that made me freeze. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t breathe. After it passed, I look at my sister and said, “What in the hell was that?!” It was such an intense pain, something I had never felt before in my life. And I’ve been thrown off a lot of horses! As the next one rolled in and the one after that, and the one after that, I remember asking the nurses, “Is this what dying is like?”
Having an epidural was always in our birth plan. My feeling is to each their own, but if you slice your arm open let’s say as big as 10 centimeters, for me, I’m not going to look at the ER doc and say, “Nah, no numbing drugs, just go ahead and stitch it up like they did in the Civil War days.” Nope, not me. Give me the drugs! Then I got hit with the big kahuna contraction. My sister looked at me and said, “Do you want me to ask them to call for the epidural?” I said, “No, let’s see how the next one goes.” My sister, who has four kids, looked at me and said, “You know they are not going to be getting any better, right?” The next one hit 68 seconds later. As I watched the monitor climb to the highest level, that was it. In between the swearing, I started screaming for the drugs! The anesthesiologist came pretty quickly and during his list of possible side effects, when he mentioned paralysis, I screamed, “I hope so!”
In a matter of four hours we had gone from 4 centimeters to 8 centimeters, to “Dear, God, where are the drugs?!” During transition, as the tears streamed down my face and the nausea that I hadn’t experienced since my sophomore year in college kicked in, the epidural started to waiver a bit, and I started to feel the “feels.” Every time a contraction would build, I felt like I was having PTSD symptoms. At one point, one of the nurses started to roll out a mirror. I quickly told her to, “Put that away! The only one of us who needed to see that is the guy who caused it!”
My LP was given the opportunity to catch our son and hand him to me. I hadn’t slept in three days and all I could think was, “Dear, Lord, please don’t let me drop my child.”
On July 4, at 4:44 p.m., after 10 pushes, Callahan Alexander Bruner took his first breath. The doctor commented that I only had a minor tear and that I only required three stitches. Ummm … her idea of a “minor tear” was MUCH different than mine. After the nurses weighed Cal and handed him back to me, I looked at my son for the first time, really looked at him, and said out loud, “Oh thank God we didn’t have an ugly baby.” The nursing staff once again held back there laughter from my ridiculousness. At 7 lb., 13 oz., Callahan Alexander had sky blue eyes, wisps of platinum blonde hair and lungs like his mama.
Cheers to the nurses at Twin Cities Hospital. You put up with me for over a week. Without their help, expertise, and sense of humor, my birth story would have been much different, with potentially a much unhappier ending.
Callahan is now a happy bouncing blue-eyed baby boy who loves ceiling fans, his daddy and early morning snuggles with mommy and daddy. And dear, God, this kid can eat! I am extremely grateful I get to forever be his mommy. He is our whole world and the only deadline now is story time.
P.S. No, he is not sleeping through the night. I’m going to get a T-shirt that says that so the next person who feels the need to ask me won’t.
Written by Laura Michelle