I feel like I should start this story by giving you a little insight into the birth of our first baby, Felix. Since my husband is military, deployment is just an unavoidable part of our lives. We got pregnant for the first time about 6 months before Levi was set to leave for a 7-month deployment. That meant he was gone for all of my third trimester, the birth of our son, and he didn’t come home and meet Felix until he was 4 months old. Giving birth and entering parenthood without my husband around may have been the hardest thing I have ever done, but we survived. Though I did tell him, “Let’s, please, not ever do that again,” which is why I am so grateful he was here for the birth of our second, Ryker. Here is his story.
Apparently I just have a thing for giving birth early. Felix came 4 days before his due date, and I honestly thought Ryker would come around the same time. My parents live in Virginia, and my mom had plans to fly down to Florida a week before my due date so she could stay with Felix while the rest of us were at the hospital. But as we all know, babies tend to have plans of their own. On Friday, Feb. 8 (the day before my mom was flying in), Ryker would decide to make his grand entrance.
That day, Felix and I got up and had breakfast like we always do, and played and watched movies through the morning. I have no idea what time anything started happening, but sometime mid- to late morning I started having what I could best describe as mild period cramps. They felt nothing like contractions, so I didn’t think much of it. But they kept coming. So I thought maybe I actually was in the very early stages of labor. I never experienced that with Felix, so it was really hard for me to tell. They weren’t coming at a steady pace like my contractions had with my first labor. I would have a few over an hour or so and then they would disappear for while, never really hurting more than just a mild annoyance.
I spent the rest of the morning going about my normal business and cleaning the house to prepare for my mom to come. The cramping kept coming, though, so after I put Felix down for his nap around noon, I sat in the bathtub for a bit hoping they would ease up or go away. That worked for a little while, but soon enough they came back. Still irregular and not strong enough for me to think I was really in labor, but there were a few times I would have to stop what I was doing, which made me start feeling suspicious. Around 3 p.m., I texted my midwife, Jenny, and told her what had been going on, and she just thanked me for the heads up.
Over the next 30 minutes things really took a turn. I started having what were definitely contractions every 5-6 minutes. I texted Levi and told him he should probably come home. I told Jenny, and she said we should start looking to head to the hospital. I messaged my mom (who was supposed to be staying with Felix when this all went down), and luckily my dad was able to get her on a flight that evening. We still needed a backup plan for Felix and fortunately one of Levi’s friends from work was able to come stay with him until my mom got there. That hour or so of trying to find childcare and throwing last minute things in my birth bag before heading to the hospital was beyond stressful. But everything worked out, and sometime before 5 p.m. we were off.
We arrived around 5:15, and at that point I was FOR SURE in labor. They got us up to the delivery room and asked me to get my gown on and leave a urine sample, and when I did, there was my bloody show. I got set up on the monitors for little man, and when the nurse checked my progression I was totally not expecting the numbers that came out of her mouth: 7-8 cm dilated, 100 percent effaced, and -1 station. This boy was coming!
Jenny showed up shortly after that and got me a birthing ball to sit on while I labored and they monitored Ryker’s heart rate. Levi put on some Jack Johnson so we could have mellow music in the background. Jenny told me to let her know when I felt the urge to push, which I honestly never really felt like I expected to. With Felix’s birth, I could feel every muscle in my body ready to push him out when it was time, but this time, all I felt was pressure with my contractions. It’s crazy how different your births can be! At that time, she had me get back on the bed to check my cervix again and sure enough, I was ready to go. Again, I never felt that insane urge to push, so I was almost a little nervous to go ahead and start. But Jenny assured me I was there, so with my next contractions I started trying to get our baby out.
At first I tried squatting at the end of the bed with the squat bar, but that position didn’t feel quite right, and seemed like it was counterproductive and making my contractions feel less intense. She had me try laying on my side since that’s how I delivered Felix, and as soon as a turned I could feel the intensity of my contractions come back. I pushed with every one but still didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere. Jenny advised me to turn on my back with my arms hooked under my legs, and with that we were finally making some progress. Let me tell you: Pushing this kid out was the most intense experience of my life. It was freaking HARD. I just remember him being so close, and I wanted nothing more than to just muscle through and keep pushing him out. I was so focused on pushing that I was numb to anything else happening in the room, but I do remember the feeling of Levi holding my hand through it all, which was so empowering and comforting since he wasn’t present for Felix’s birth. It gave me all the motivation I needed to (literally) push through the hard. That final stage of pushing is always the most difficult and most painful for me, but once Jenny started coaching me to push hard and then slow down, I knew our baby boy was coming. After what felt like an eternity (but according to Jenny was only a little more than 10 minutes) our baby was finally here! At 6:48 p.m. Ryker Thorsten made his grand entrance into the world.
Everything that happened after they placed Ryker on my chest is a bit of a blur, but I will try to piece it together the best I can since this is where our story took a bit of a turn. We did get to have our golden hour during which Levi and I got to bond with and marvel at our new baby boy. After Ryker’s cord stopped pulsating and Levi cut it, the nurse took Ryker to weigh and measure him (8 lb. 14 oz, and 20.5 inches long—over a pound bigger than his brother!) When they handed him back, he latched on almost right away to breastfeed. After he was done, the nurse took him again to get his little footprints, then swaddled him up and Levi got to hold his brand new son for the very first time—a sight which just completely melted my heart. While Levi was snuggling with Ryker, I started to fill out his birth certificate form. But pretty soon things would not feel right. All of a sudden I got very dizzy and my vision became blurry, and the machine taking my blood pressure started signaling the alarm that my BP had dropped too low. One of the nurses came over and laid me all the way back and got me hooked up to IV fluids. As it turns out, I was experiencing postpartum hemorrhaging due to my uterus not contracting. I was given IV pitocin, a shot of pitocin in my thigh, and a cytotec suppository to help with the bleeding. Between being freezing cold and shaking uncontrollably from the fluids, the nurses pushing down on my uterus to help expel the bleeding, and the intense pain of pitocin after-birth contractions, I was miserable. The nurses kept covering me with warm blankets to help warm me up but I can only describe that time as an hour of hell. Even Levi said watching me go through that was harder than seeing me labor. It really was so much more painful than any other part of my birth experience, and something I never expected to happen. Eventually, my little scare passed, my bleeding was under control, and my blood pressure was back in the normal range. I was able to sit up, and the three of us were soon moved to our recovery room and finally settling in to our new life as a family of four.
Nothing about Ryker’s birth was anything I ever expected. He came so early and so fast that everything still seems like a whirlwind. I also never thought postpartum hemorrhage would be part of my story since I had a relatively easy recovery the first time around, but it really is true just how different each of your births can be. Overall, my birthing experience was wonderful, and one I wouldn’t trade for anything. I am just so incredibly thankful that we are all healthy and safe, and Ryker was definitely the missing piece to our family. I knew I was in for a wild ride with two boys under 2, but who knew it would start from the moment I went into labor!
Written by Megan Drake