After the epidural was in, the nurses wanted me to get some sleep and allow my body to help CJ turn over and get into position for delivery. They had me use this thing called a peanut ball; basically it is like a pillow you put between your knees thats shaped like (you guessed it) a peanut. It helps keep your hips open and in optimal position for the baby to turn. Every hour or so, the nurse would come in and wake me up to turn me on my opposite side and I would fall back asleep. Everyone else tried to get some sleep as well but it was very hard for them since there was only a small couch and 2 chairs. During this time, my blood pressure would often spike and CJ’s heart rate would drop. They kept a close eye on me and thankfully it never posed any danger. Turning me over each time was a bit of a challenge since I couldn’t feel my legs, so Mom and Joe would help me out. Thanks to the epidural, I was able to get some good rest and gain energy before it was time to push.
Around 3am, the nurse came in and decided it was time to check my dilation. By that point, CJ had turned over into position and I had dilated far enough…it was time to start pushing! The nurse said to me “I’ll be honest with you right now; so far you’ve done really well, but if you’re not one hell of a pusher you’re gonna end up with a C-Section. So, give me some good pushes.” I was determined not to end up in surgery after all my hard work. If I recall correctly, I began pushing close to 3:30am. I remember telling myself don’t push with your face…breathe into the push…bear down. Grabbing behind my thighs didn’t seem to be the best position for me, so I switched it up a little bit half way through and just applied pressure with my hands on my inner thighs while doing a sort of ab crunch motion. Mom was down at my right leg, helping me keep my knees (practically) to my ears. Joe was to my left holding my hand, placing his palm on my back while pushing, and giving me the oxygen mask between pushes. We had both agreed ahead of time that it was best he not be down where the action was because, well, there are some things you can’t un-see. Elissa was in the corner of the room over my right shoulder, taking video and photos. She got yelled at by the nurse that video taping wasn’t allowed. She wasn’t going to let that stop her, so she pretended to be taking photos the whole time and snuck in video, too. That’s our Elissa!
Pushing didn’t hurt initially, it just felt like a lot of pressure when I would bear down. The nurse would use her hands to gently massage the perineum to make room for Clark to come through. When I thought I was pushing my hardest, she would say “harder, harder!” I thought there’s no way I can push harder! But I did it anyway because I was NOT gonna have a C-Section! At one point, I told my mom “I’m pushing with my face, I can tell. I’m pushing harder when she says harder, but I know it’s in my face. I can feel it.” She told me to relax and do the best I can. Prior to going into labor, I had done a lot of research and watched a lot of YouTube videos on how to handle an unmedicated natural birth. A lot of the tips shared were super helpful when the time came, but I think the one that helped most of all was this technique of “breathing” the baby out. Basically, it states that most babies can be born without any serious pushing. This allows your uterine muscles to do most of the work, even in between contractions, and helps you save a lot of energy. They say it’s also easier on the baby versus forcefully pushing. The key steps for breathing out the baby are relaxing your jaw and exhaling downward. They also say to visualize the baby descending. These techniques were listed by the people who invented the Squatty Potty and they recommend trying out these steps while using the restroom prior to labor so you can see how effective it really is. Trust me, I’m not one for doing weird stuff in the bathroom, but I figured if this was gonna save me in my time of need and pain, I’d try anything! I practiced when using the restroom almost every time starting at week 37 and it actually worked! When I put it to use during labor, I would wait until a contraction/pushing session was over. Then, simultaneously while resting, I would release all tension in my muscles, visualize CJ moving downward in my pelvic region, and exhale with an “ahh” like I was lightly pushing out my breath. I would let my uterine muscles openly relax and inch CJ along. It didn’t take any extra effort to do this. When I realized it was working and helping tremendously, I was so glad to have spent the time reading, watching, and doing the weird stuff. This info can be found on Pinterest and YouTube, so if you’re expecting to deliver sometime in the near future, I’d highly recommend looking into it.
My nurse and Mom both kept telling me how amazing I was doing while pushing. I could hear the surprise in my mom’s voice when she said it, so I knew I was doing a good job. Less than half way through pushing, Mom said “I see the top of his head! He has SO much hair! He’s coming, Kath!” Hearing those words gave me all the energy I needed in every push. The nurse would have me rest between each contraction until I could feel the next contraction coming on. I could feel the waves of pressure and that’s when I knew it was time to push again. It was a natural instinct; you just know when to push. Actively pushing was exhausting. It took every last bit of air in my lungs each pushing session that came. When it was time to rest, I used the breathing out techniques and Joe would put the oxygen over my nose and mouth. He spoke some coaching words softly into my ear. He stayed with my mind the entire time which was really important for me. He said all the loving things a husband would say like “our boy is coming, our baby is almost here!” But more importantly he said the things I needed him to say to get me through the next session. “Keep breathing. You’re doing amazing. Rest your body, relax your shoulders, don’t clench your fists…this next one, I want you to give me a really good push.” He stayed focused on my body when I couldn’t because I was too busy doing all the work. The oxygen mask almost seemed to limit my ability to breathe which was a strange experience since it’s supposed to provide you with better oxygen. Sometimes I would ask Joe to pull the oxygen mask off so I could just focus and breathe in the air around me; perhaps that was my slight claustrophobia getting in the way. I asked them to reposition my left leg in the stirrup as it was beginning to feel a little strange. The epidural, though it was wearing off enough that I could feel practically everything in my nether-region, was still strong enough to keep my legs pretty numb. However, I could tell something was wrong with the direction my knee was pointed with my foot in the stirrup. They changed my leg position, it felt a little better, and I thought nothing more of it. [I will discuss my knee in a later blog about post-Delivery recovery as this posed issues for me later on.]
An hour later, about 4:30am, the nurse was halfway in the room coaching me and halfway in the hall calling the OB, Dr. Lin, into the room. She said “Dr. Lin, she’s ready” and came back into the room, telling me to stop pushing and just hold it as long as I could. At this point, the pressure was so great that everything felt like one single continuous contraction. I was definitely trying not to push while I was also completely aware there was no stopping it. The nurse flipped on this theatrical set of lighting in the ceiling of the room and dropped half of the table out from under me, leaving my feet in the stirrups and my butt at the end of the table. Dr. Lin entered the room with a large team of other doctors and nurses, both for CJ and myself. When she walked in, she said “I’m Dr. Lin”, snapped on some blue gloves to her elbows, and scooted her little stool up to my pelvis. I’m pretty sure those are the only words she said the entire time she was in the room. With Dr. Lin all up in my girly bits, the nurse once again told me to push and push HARD. I listened. After my first set of 3 push-breathe-push sessions, I could definitely tell that CJ’s head was crowning and I was tearing. I just kept saying “ow! Ow! Ow!” and they had me go right back into pushing again. Mom said “his head is out! He has so much hair!” Dr. Lin turned CJ to face upright so his shoulders could slide out. Mom said “his eyes are open! He’s looking right at me!” I could hear his tiny cry and in a split second, I could feel the rest of his little body slide out. It was a tremendous relief of that constant hard pressure. They placed him on my chest and he stared into my eyes. Elissa and Joe both said “you did it!”. At 4:59am on June 2nd, Clark Joseph Flores entered this world.
We knew we wanted to delay cord clamping as long as possible to allow the blood from the placenta to go into Clarks body before cutting the cord. This has been studied and shown to improve on post-birth health issues such as jaundice and allergies. While CJ was on my chest, Joe mentioned to the doctors that we wanted to wait. In the midst of all the chaos around me, the only thing I really gathered from what the doctors told Joe was that the longest they could wait (for whatever reason) was 2 minutes and it had already been a minute and a half so they needed to clamp. He asked me what I wanted to do and I just said “whatever they have to do.” Joe cut the cord. CJ stayed on my chest while I delivered the placenta and was stitched up by Dr. Lin. I had a 2nd degree perineal tear which means it tore through skin and the first layer of muscle. Glancing between my knees every so often, all I could see was Dr. Lin’s hand rise into my line of sight with a massive needle the shape of a fishing hook and some thick, long white thread on the end of it. I definitely could feel everything while I was being stitched up and seeing that needle at any other time in my life would probably have put me on the floor; but it didn’t matter much because my baby was finally in my arms. Elissa couldn’t quite stand it at that point (she’s terribly squeamish) so she left the room to catch some air in the hallway. A few nurses saw her and thought she was going to pass out, so they sat her down and gave her juice and crackers.
Once my stitches were finished, Dr. Lin left the room and my nurse walked past the end of my bed, took a look at my new set of stitches and said (verbatim) “damn, she stitched you up good!”. I felt a little proud in that moment, like okay awesome, maybe I won’t be damaged goods after all this. Mom and Elissa left the room for our baby bonding hour, a period after delivery where the new mom and dad can bond with their baby and have some quiet time. Mom and Elissa headed home really quick to take a short nap since they were so exhausted. The doctor responsible for Clark took him to a tiny baby station across from my bed. Joe went with him and spoke to him while the doctor did her thing. He was weighed at 7 lbs 6 oz and measured at 19 1/4 inches long. He received an Apgar score of 9 and only missed receiving a 10 because his head was a little misshapen from the birth canal, which is very common. He received his first bath, which is really just a light wipe down, and was dressed in a little diaper, shirt, and hat. Then the nurse handed him back to Joe and left the room so we could spend some time together, for the very first time, just the three of us.
About an hour later, our recovery room (where we would spend the next day) was ready. Our nurse came back in to help us downstairs. Joe gathered up all of our belongings and the catheter I was given because of the epidural was removed. Since the epidural was completely worn off by that time, the nurse helped me walk to the restroom and told me I had to go pee. That was seriously the longest pee of my life, I swear it lasted about 2 whole minutes. They wheeled us down and we got settled in. I was pretty sure we would only be staying through the night, heading home on Saturday afternoon. We knew lots of family would want to come down to the hospital to visit, so Joe and I arranged time slots for each set of family to come in, giving us a break in between visits to rest so it wasn’t so overwhelming which worked out great. Everyone was so excited to meet Clark and loved getting to hold him. Our nurses were SO awesome, they became like close friends to all of us while we were there. Anything we needed, anything at all, we got. All we had to do was ask. Ordering food for each meal was kind of fun, too. It was like having your own personal chef. We could order whatever we wanted off of the menu and we could have however much we wanted of it. If Mom or Elissa was spending a lot of time there and got hungry, they could order something in addition to the meals Joe and I got. I wouldn’t say the food was 5 star, but it was pretty decent. I was happy to say the least.
Our main nurse while we were there was Amina. She was so great. We were about the same age and she was very kind and had a new baby herself, which was nice for us to bond over. Her assistant was Beyonce. Yep, you read that right. Beyonce. Who else can say they had a nurse named BEYONCE?! Well, I can, and she was bad ass. Beyonce taught us one very important thing: girl, you sleep when the baby sleeps! Between the two of them, we were all cared for tremendously. My blood pressure was checked frequently and I was closely monitored for bleeding. They taught me how to care for my stitches with the little squirt bottle thingy (interesting tool) and cheered along with us every time we wrote down one of Clark’s pees or poops. Anytime we needed help with CJ, we asked Amina as she knew a lot of tricks. She was there in the middle of the night when Mom couldn’t be and we were just two nervous, scared, inexperienced parents. We learned swaddling from the her. She showed us how to soothe him. We learned he was having a difficult time latching properly because he didn’t know how to suck right, and she showed us how to train his mouth with the tip of our pinkies. One time I was walking through the hallway with Clark and she saw me and stopped everything she was doing and walked with me, talking about work and CJ and our lives. She asked me that first night about how long we were planning to stay. When I told her I thought we might leave the next morning, she suggested we stay longer and get as much time with her and all of the other nurses as possible. She spoke to me not only as my nurse but as a fellow mom. She knew we would get a lot of good help if we stayed the maximum amount of time, so we changed our minds and decided to stay through Sunday afternoon. I’m really glad we did. She was so awesome and I feel really lucky to have had her.
Unfortunately, CJ ended up with some mild jaundice. It didn’t pose any health risk to him and the nurses were pretty sure that after a day or so of breastfeeding, it would probably begin to clear up on its own. Clark’s blood type was tested the first day to see if he and I had the same blood type. This would determine whether or not I would need the Rhogam shot again during recovery. If CJ had my blood type, O-, I would not require the shot as our blood mixing would be safe since it was the same. If he was any other blood type than my own, I would require the shot to prevent my body from developing antibodies which could cause every future pregnancy to end in miscarriage. When his blood type came back the same as Joe’s, O+, I received the Rhogam shot and we were good to go.
Every morning, a lactation consultant would hold a breastfeeding course right across the hall from my room. Breastfeeding was an incredibly important topic to me. I always knew I would breastfeed for as long as possible so I could give CJ the very best nutrition available from the moment he was born. Joe and I thought it would be wise to go to the class. It came highly recommended by Amina as CJ was initially latching wrong and she felt we would benefit from the class. The first part of the course was for both moms and dads and then halfway through, the dads would leave and the moms would get hands-on breastfeeding guidance while you fed the baby. On Saturday morning when we arrived at the class, the lactation consultant was in the room and by the time the class started, we were the only two people there with our babies. We basically ended up getting a private consultation and Joe got to stay through the whole thing. It was awesome because we got one-on-one attention and could ask anything we wanted! Joe was great about asking meaningful questions that I couldn’t think of at the time. I think Joe asked every single member of the hospital staff we came in contact with “How do you like to swaddle?” and then learned it their way. He was hands on with breastfeeding, positioning my arms and shoulders, helping CJ latch correctly, and keeping an ear out for his swallows (if you’ve ever breastfed, you’d know what I mean). It was awesome to see how much he was dedicated to ensuring Clark and I had all the help and knowledge we could get before we went home and were on our own. He was such a great dad right out the gate. The lactation consultant taught us a lot and she felt we were doing an awesome job, saying we should be on the cover of a breastfeeding magazine. At a time when I was feeling beat up and unattractive, I felt like I was at least doing right by my baby and we were both on the road to success.
Mom was at the hospital all the time which was super nice. I swear she couldn’t have slept more than a few hours that entire weekend which I felt awful about, but I am so thankful she was there the way she was. She was there to help us with CJ and allowed Joe and I to get some much needed rest. She also stayed with me anytime Joe had to leave to go home and shower, feed Rowdy, or take a nap in our own comfy bed. I didn’t like being alone in case something happened and I didn’t know what to do. The nurses were always there, but you never feel 100% comfortable with a new baby unless your mom is around. Another time in a girls life when she just wants her mom! The bond CJ had with my mom from the moment he came out was evident every time she was around. He was so comfortable with her. Every time they were together, just like when he was still half way inside me, he couldn’t take his eyes off her. It was weird but it was amazing, and witnessing that bond between them was really special.
On Sunday morning before we were discharged, Joe and I decided we would go to the lactation class one last time before heading home to get any additional information and freshen up on our skills. It really is a learning experience not just for the parents but also for the baby. I always assumed it was such a natural behavior instilled in all of us at birth as mammals to feed from our mothers. I never figured it would be such work. I had to remind myself often that we were all learning and I shouldn’t get frustrated or judge myself in how I was learning. On our way out of the room to the class, I saw Dr. Grey standing in the hallway right outside my door. I said “Hey! Look what I made!” and showed off CJ. Dr. Grey walked over, gave me a hug and congratulated me, commenting on how cute Clark is and asking all about labor, delivery, and how I was feeling. He said “see, didn’t I tell you the next time I’d see you would be in the hospital? I was right!”. He wished me luck and said he would see me soon. When we got to the class, there were a couple of other mothers in there but Joe was the only dad. The other girls had either their mom or a friend with them. I felt really lucky in that moment to have CJ’s dad by my side. This time, the class was held by the lead lactation specialist at the hospital. When she came by to check on how CJ was doing, she asked me questions. One thing she asked about was his jaundice and his weight. After a brief discussion, she said she wanted to visit with Joe and I in our room privately before we were discharged.
After the class, we headed back to our room to pack up our things, finalize our paperwork, and get ready to be discharged while waiting on the lactation specialist. A woman came around offering to do newborn hospital photos. A few packages were offered, some which you paid for and another which was free. We weren’t super sure if we needed the photos so we agreed to do the free one. The photographer rolled in a little cart that had a black drape and a Boppy underneath it. She placed Clark in the Boppy and snapped away. He was awake the whole time and did really good. When she left to go process the photos, the lactation specialist came in. She said she was concerned with CJ’s jaundice and weight. She mentioned that it would probably be fine, but when we got home she wanted to be sure we knew exactly what we were looking out for in case it got worse rather than better. She sent us home with a lot of paperwork about jaundice, breastfeeding, the baby’s weight, and when to be concerned. We ended up needing this information in the end (something I’ll discuss in a future blog) so I’m grateful she took the time to sit down with us about it. After the specialist left, the photographer came back in with a computer monitor to show us the photos she had taken as a slideshow. As she pressed play and the photos began to scroll across the screen, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole played in the background. I instantly burst into tears. Yes, I had raging hormones I’m sure; but if any of you know me, you know how incredibly important and absolutely perfect that moment was for me. Not only was it the song Joe and I walked down the aisle to, but it also played a large role in my life when I found out I was pregnant the first time and again when healing from the miscarriage. Then she said “that’ll be $149.” Neither Joe or I said a word…although we had only agreed on the free package (figures, right?), behind my quiet sobbing, Joe handed her the credit card. We couldn’t pass this up. As the tears rolled down my cheeks and we saw these amazing photos scroll through, Joe placed his arm around my shoulder. In that moment, it hit me: WE DID IT. Joe and I, together. Here we were, with our little boy, and the dream that we dared to dream really had come true.
After being discharged, Joe got the car packed up and ready and the nurse wheeled me down to the lobby entrance with CJ in my arms. Joe pulled up to the front of the hospital, we got CJ in his carseat, and for the first time as a family we drove home. Everything I had ever wanted, everything I had ever imagined for myself (and more), was sitting with me in the car. In that moment I was the luckiest girl in the world.
Thank you so much for reading about my labor and delivery! Please feel free to post any questions or comments in the section below. Stayed tuned for other stories relating to baby such as my journey with breastfeeding, my new mommy must-haves and much, much more! xo