I’ve grappled at length with whether or not to share Teddy’s birth story on the blog, not just because it’s extremely personal but because it isn’t exactly the story I thought I’d be writing. There are many, many happy parts and of course it ends with us meeting the absolute love of our lives, but it’s taken me a little while to come to terms with the birth experience I had and it would be dishonest to write this story without including those few less-than-perfect details. Ultimately I’ve concluded that writing has always helped me process how I feel and that if sharing my experience could help just one other mom feel a little less alone, I’ll be glad I shared it.
Teddy’s birth story began eleven days before his actual birthday, when I first started having regular contractions. Apparently there’s something called prodromal labor where your body has fairly regular contractions that don’t result in any dilation — kind of like a practice run for labor where you don’t actually labor at the end of it. I wound up going to the OB-GYN four times in those ten days, convinced I was progressing only to learn each time that I was still only 1.5 centimeters dilated. I mentioned in my third trimester recap that those last couple weeks of pregnancy seemed to drag on forever, and most of that was due to painful on-and-off contractions and constantly getting my hopes up only to hear we were still no closer to meeting our baby boy. I’d been fully mentally prepared to go 41 or 42 weeks, but feeling like I was in frequent pain for no immediate purpose was a test of my patience I hadn’t anticipated.
It’s easy to gloss over those eleven days in hindsight, but I have the utmost empathy for all moms-to-be in those final weeks of pregnancy and particularly those experiencing prodromal labor. Everything I read online basically said be patient and know your baby will be here soon enough, but eleven days of contractions definitely did not feel soon enough at the time!
I feel the need to pause already and say that my birth experience ended with a happy, healthy baby boy and Will and I will forever be grateful for that fact. I know so many women, dear friends included, who have had much more difficult experiences getting and staying pregnant as well as giving birth, and Will and I feel extremely fortunate that our problems have felt very minor by comparison. But there were several times during my pregnancy (particularly with regard to hyperemesis gravidarum) where it helped me a ton to connect with other moms-to-be who were fighting the same battles, so I share both the good and the bad here with the sole goal of making other women feel less alone, and not to complain about what was ultimately the single most rewarding process of my life.
Moving on, let’s fast forward to Teddy’s actual birthday. I started having regular contractions at 1:30 a.m., which again wasn’t anything new at that point. I bounced on my exercise ball and took a shower to ease the pain before waking Will up around 3:30 a.m. and telling him I thought this could really be it. The pain wasn’t letting up and my contractions were getting closer and closer together, but we were both a little skeptical after so many false alarms and didn’t want to race to the hospital only to be sent home. The doctor on call said I could either put my feet up, drink some water, and see if my contractions slowed down (which I definitely did not want) or head to the hospital and get checked out for peace of mind (which I definitely did). Thankfully my hospital bag was already packed and Will threw a few things in a bag (and inexplicably paused to clip his fingernails, which is funnier in retrospect than it felt at the time…) and we were on our way!
Everything that happened when we got to the hospital is a bit of a blur. I remember learning in one of our prenatal classes that labor can last well over 24 hours for first-time moms so I was certain we still had all the time in the world, but suddenly things started progressing so quickly that I didn’t have time to process everything. According to Will, the timeline looked something like this:
5:30 a.m. Arrived in labor and delivery
6:00 a.m. Hooked up to a monitor for baby’s heartbeat and my contractions
7:00 a.m. Took a walk through the maternity ward, stopping every few feet because my contractions had gotten so painful
8:00 a.m. Doctor came in to check dilation progress, we were both praying hard because at this point I would have been a #problem if they’d told us to go home
8:05 a.m. Found out I was only 2 centimeters dilated but 100% effaced and my contractions were so regular that the doctor admitted us anyway #thankgod!
At this point I was in a good deal of pain, but I decided to wait until my mom got to the hospital to have an epidural (sort of an arbitrary goal and something I will for sure do differently next time — epidural ASAP! 🙌🏼). My mom was actually in the labor and delivery room with us when I gave birth which I know will sound crazy to some people, but it turned out that my OB-GYN was out of town the nine days leading up to my due date and I was nervous about having someone we’d never met deliver our baby, so having an extra member of my support team who also happens to be a registered nurse gave both me and Will great comfort. Getting an epidural wasn’t the most comfortable thing I’ve ever done, but the relief was an absolute godsend — so much so that Will and I were both able to close our eyes and rest for an hour!
After our little cat nap, our nurse Nichole came in and announced that I was 4 centimeters dilated. It might not sound like much, but after hearing 1.5 centimeters so many times over the previous two weeks, we were over the moon! I have to pause here and sing the praises of every nurse we came across at Greenwich Hospital and Nichole in particular. At the end of the day we spent less than two hours with the doctor who delivered our son — it was Nichole who kept checking in on us, reassuring us that I was making progress, and cheering me on right up to the moment Teddy was born. Seriously I cannot imagine how different our experience might have been without her there! Her shift ended at 6:00 p.m. and we were all praying that Teddy might arrive before she had to take off for the night. By some miracle, I went from 4 to 9 centimeters over the course of the afternoon and at 3:00 p.m., it was time to start pushing!
Even with an epidural and just over an hour of pushing, it turns out giving birth is exactly as hard as everyone says it is (who would have thought?! 😂). There were moments where I thought I couldn’t possibly keep going and that’s where having Will, my mom, and an amazing nurse in the room kept me going — because the doctor on call wound up really not being my cup of tea. I so desperately wanted someone to tell me that everything was fine, that I was doing a good job, that we’d be meeting our son any minute… and instead I had a complete stranger literally shouting “COME ON, MACKENZIE” over and over and over in a manner more suited to coaching a professional athlete than encouraging a nervous and exhausted first-time mom. His tone made me feel like I was doing something wrong, and nothing anyone else said seemed to drown out his constant barking of the same words over and over.
At some point, the doctor made the decision to give me an episiotomy. It seemed to me (and to my mom) to be a pretty textbook delivery up to that point, so I was surprised to read later on that episiotomies aren’t nearly as common nowadays as they were a few decades ago and that they’re actually not recommended except in a handful of decidedly non-textbook circumstances. I didn’t know it was happening at the time and the only explanation the doctor offered after the fact was that he’d done it because I was “losing it.” I remember lying there as he stitched me up thinking I had no idea what had just happened and feeling like I must have done something wrong to warrant that outcome. I’d gotten an episiotomy because I’d “lost it,” whatever that meant — and I had no one to blame but myself.
Teddy was born at 4:18 p.m., 7 pounds 13 ounces, 20 inches, with a full head of brown hair just like Will’s. He was healthy, happy, handsome, and more perfect than I could have ever dreamed, but truth be told it took me a solid week to stop replaying the tape of his actual birth and start soaking him up in the present moment. We spent two days in the hospital bonding with him, learning to breastfeed, visiting with family, and being given painkillers every few hours. I had no idea how much pain I’d be in once we got home and I was trying to regulate the pain on my own with Advil and Tylenol, but I begged Will on more than one occasion that first week to take me back to the hospital because the episiotomy was so painful. We even visited a different OB-GYN five days after I gave birth because I was so nervous something had gone wrong (clearly I’d gotten very little idea of what to expect from the doctor who’d actually performed the episiotomy). I felt so much better after talking to a more compassionate doctor and having a chance to ask questions about the healing process — if nothing else, it was an excellent reminder for me to advocate for myself and seek out a level of care and clarity I believe all new moms deserve. (Don’t get me started on the insanity of new moms waiting until 6 weeks postpartum to see their doctors — I have so much more to say on the subject but if you think something is wrong, you have every right to seek out the answers you deserve.)
Today marks seventeen days since Teddy’s birth and I am so madly in love with him that I would relive his birth experience one million times over, but I do hope I’ll have a different experience to share when we’re ready to give him a sibling a couple years down the road. As my physical healing continues, I’ve had to do some unexpected emotional healing that I believe could have been avoided with a little more compassion and a more professional explanation from the doctor on call that day. I’ve had to remind myself that I am not to blame for a game-time medical decision, that I did not “lose it” that day but in fact gained the most beautiful and perfect new addition to our family. It was the hardest work I’ve ever done and I would do it again in a heartbeat to have Teddy here and healthy and snuggled up next to me as I try to find the words to finish this post. I’m proud of him and I’m proud of the work I did to get him here, full stop. Together he and I (and Will, and Rory) are figuring it out, one day at a time.
I hope this story resonates with any of you who had a different labor experience than you’d envisioned or at least sheds some light on what I’ve been up to these first couple weeks of Teddy’s life. I am in the happiest, sleepiest, rosiest newborn fog right now and I’m grateful to have a place to process the time it’s taken to get here. We are all slowly finding our new rhythm and while part of me wishes he could stay this little forever, I know we have so much to look forward to in the coming months and years and it will be the greatest honor of my life to watch him grow into the person he’s meant to be. I’m so thankful for your support as we embark on this new chapter and I’m excited to connect with and learn from those of you who have done this before and those who are currently navigating similar waters. I have never felt more appreciative for my real life support system and this extended online community is truly the icing on the cake!
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