Our Birth Story
Hallelujah! We are proud parents of a healthy, beautiful baby boy!!
Three weeks in, with a slightly sounder mind, I would like to share with you the story of how we welcomed this blessing into the world, along with the incredible photos from Stephanie Shirley Photography. They so perfectly capture the magic and intensity of our delivery.
I want to preface with heartfelt recognition that everyone has a birth story, no matter how you came into this world. It isn’t guaranteed that your birth story will match your birth plan or your birth expectations and that can be upsetting. So when I talk about how strongly I fought to deliver our boy vaginally (I won’t go any further into those details, don’t worry), know that I absolutely understand that it’s not always a choice a mother gets to make, but that it in no way changes the incredible result. Birth is birth and it is beautiful and glorious in any form.
So here’s the story of how Cohen came into our arms and consumed our hearts…
Since our 20 week anatomy scan, we knew we had a big baby. Consistently measuring in the 78th percentile, by week 36 my OB was talking about inducing a week early. She later changed her mind, but suggested “stripping my membranes’ when my cervix had lowered a bit. So on Tuesday, March 12th, 5 days shy of our due date, I went into my OB and agreed to have the procedure done. It’s a slight, yet painful, manipulation of the cervix that can induce labor within 36 hours or do absolutely nothing. I was cramping all day after the procedure and real contractions started at 11:45pm. It’s true what they say, labor contractions DO NOT feel the same as Braxton Hicks. Ouch! So I paid attention to the clock and for the next thirty minutes I had similar contractions at 10 minute intervals on the dot. James and I were on the couch and I mentioned that I thought something was happening. We decided to move upstairs and get ready for bed in case this wasn’t labor. As a first time mom, now 4 days from my due date, I didn’t want to end up heading to the hospital only to be told to turn back around. Also, we’d learned in class that the first stage of labor takes HOURS and not to head in until our contractions were 5 minutes apart for an hour. So I kept track on my phone and noticed very quickly the interval times shortening. Within an hour they were 4 minutes apart and yet I was somehow still unsure this was really it. I called the OB night line and they told me to come in just in case. Honestly, I don’t know why I wasn’t positive, other than it just seemed to be happening so fast and part of me wondered if I was somehow willing the contractions to happen instead of being in true labor. Crazy, I know.
It finally hit me, at 1:30am, on the way to the hospital that this really was labor and I started to get emotional. A combination of anxious and excited with the uncertainty of how the rest of the day would unfold spinning around my head. Thankfully our hospital bags were recently packed and already in the car. By 2am we were checked in, monitors were beeping and an IV was flowing. When the on-call doc came to check on me I was only 2cm dilated. Womp, womp. I was expecting something more dramatic, but not quite as dramatic as the woman who came in shortly after us already crowning. My nurse was a doll and politely informed me that not only was one woman headed for delivery, but that 2 more women were headed into the hospital. She encouraged me to get in line for an epidural now if I planned to have one, as it could be hours later if I waited. This was the first deviation from our birth plan, as I was hoping to labor naturally for as long as I could and was still managing the contractions decently well. However, the pain was increasing and as the break between them shortened to 3 minutes, I realized I wasn’t getting as much recovery time as I’d like. Hours from now would only be more intense, so I hopped in line and received my epidural.
I really didn’t like not being able to move my legs, though the naps were divine. I ended up taking quite a few naps as my labor dragged on for a total of 20 hours. I stalled at 3cm dilated for hours, so they decided to induce labor by breaking my water and starting Pitocin. Again, not part of our plan. At this point I was on some sort of clock as they don’t want your water broken and baby exposed for too long without going into active labor. It took awhile, but I finally got to 6cm and then 7cm and then… nothing. After 4 hours at 7cm dilated the OB made her first vague reference to C-section and I started balling. She explained that it isn’t necessary just yet, but she wanted to bring it up now so I could get mentally prepared should it become our only option. As much as we prepared via birthing classes and research and as much I had tried to keep an open mind about delivery options throughout the pregnancy, I just couldn’t fathom it. The doctor and nurses promised to do all they could to hold out and help me along.
Somehow I magically progressed to 9cm… and then presented with a fever. It’s possible an infection could have been introduced from having to have my cervix checked so many times along the way. I broke out in chills and spiked at 102.6, which brought on the second talks of C-section. Again, the tears. I pleaded with the OB and nurses. Here I was. so close to fully dilated. They checked one more time, 9.5cm. That’s when my OB mentioned an idea. She’d use her hands and have me push so she could physically open my cervix that additional half centimeter. It worked! Now it was time to push.
This part was easy in that it only took about 15 minutes and I couldn’t feel a thing. Yet it was also incredibly difficult because I couldn’t feel a thing. Everyone is chanting for you to push from an area where you have zero sensation, so I had no idea of how things were going. After every set of pushes I’d look at everyone expecting to see a baby. When he finally got here, at 7:50pm March 13th my heart just about exploded. The euphoria is immeasurable, it’s just so abundant. The feeling of extreme pride and love I felt in that moment will never escape me.
Unfortunately, my fever meant I had to be put on antibiotics for 24 hours, immediately following Cohen’s birth and after our skin-to-skin time Cohen had to be placed in the NICU under observation. It gave James and I some alone time in the maternity ward to “sleep,” but my adrenaline was much too high for that. Every 3 hours, James wheeled me up to the NICU so I could feed and snuggle Cohen. Thankfully his observation went without a hitch and by noon the next day we had our baby boy in the room with us. Friday, the 15th, they sent us home and while I was so eager to leave the hospital, I also couldn’t believe I was being left in charge of this tiny human. I am so thankful we had family come home with us and stay to help for the next 10 days.
Three weeks later, days are still a blur and completely consumed by this little guy, but it’s the most beautiful chaos you could ever imagine.
We love you, Cohen James Cavanagh.