I cannot believe I am finally sitting down over a month later to share with you the birth story of Connor James Ligos. If I’m being completely honest I never thought I’d be one to share something like this. I am usually pretty private as far as my personal life goes but something changed in me last year when I experienced a miscarriage. I realized how hush-hush the pregnancy and postpartum world is AND how shameful and judgmental it all can be. I want to help change that because pregnancy and birth really are amazing and not something we should have to hide from others.
As a gentle reminder, this is my story and journey and no two stories are the same. My story is not meant to provide any medical advice just some insight into what birth and postpartum are like from my perspective. I also ask that you try not to pass any judgment, I find that judgment and unsolicited advice runs rampant in the pregnancy and postpartum world. It’s okay to just listen and not offer input sometimes J
That being said, let’s back up for a second and see how my pregnancy unraveled in the third trimester.
My Third Trimester
Being pregnant after a loss is nothing I’d wish upon anyone. Of course, I don’t really know any different BUT the anxiety that went with being pregnant was tough. I had experienced anxiety back when I worked as a dietitian in a hospital (some 7 years ago) but had managed it and had it under control. Pregnancy made it rear its ugly head. So, what did I do? I tried my best to focus on what I could control (my naps, my attitude and my support crew) and let go of what I could not. It was hard hearing others talk about how nervous they were for a miscarriage when they had never experienced such a thing and yet I had and had to just wish for the best. I was lucky that this story had a happy ending.
I was doing pretty well, but the last few weeks of pregnancy really were tough. I don’t like being surprised, just ask my husband. I prefer to know what’s happening and when so when I knew this was a viable pregnancy I had the due date of February 3rd in my head daily. I know due dates are arbitrary, my rational brain knows that. However, my irrational anxiety brain told me that I only had to make it to February 3rd and then everything would be fine. Well, my kid had other plans for me.
Let’s take a step back and look at what led up to my son’s birth story.
In the third trimester, you usually go from seeing your OB/Midwife once a month to seeing them every other week to then every week. Because of COVID I ended up having to space out my appointments and even had to have a few telehealth appointments. While this was all fine because I technically had a low risk and unremarkable pregnancy, my mental health started to waver. I started worrying about everything that could go wrong.
Luckily I love the midwives at the OB practice I go to and every time I talked to them they calmed my nerves and told me what I was feeling was normal but that everything was checking out. I will say being pregnant in COVID times has been a real interesting experience. Once again, I don’t know any different but I sure do wish that I could’ve had all normal appointments in person and with my husband in tow. Towards the end JJ would drive me to the appointments and just wait in the parking garage for me because I just wanted to know he was close by.
Anywho, every week was fine. I was getting bigger, baby was growing, I was becoming more uncomfortable but no signs of labor at all. I made it to 40 weeks and there was no sign that I was going to be delivering this baby any time soon. Talking to my midwives they were comfortable with letting me ride it out until 42 weeks IF everything looked good at my 41-week appointment. So I went home, happy but annoyed (I was over being pregnant and could no longer tie my shoes without straining). And yes, I tried pretty much everything the powers that be recommend to start labor, and had no success.
Just a note: telling a VERY pregnant woman what she should do with her body to start labor is not okay. We need to stop thinking that we should have a say over pregnant bodies and know that giving unsolicited advice is not only annoying it can be really harmful. It makes you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing and you start to trust your body less. So, before you give advice to a pregnant person please take a breath and instead ask them what they need or how they’re feeling <end rant>.
41 Weeks Pregnant
When my 41-week appointment rolled around I was anxious and excited. I was hopeful that I would get some answers and was also glad that I got to check up on my baby to make sure everything was okay. The longer you go past your due date there is an increased risk of complications with birth and a risk of stillbirth which was in the back of my head the whole time. I was lucky that my kid was such a wiggle worm because I would constantly feel him moving or having a bout of the hiccups, which was incredibly reassuring.
The 41-week appointment was a 2 hour-long shindig. It started with a non-stress test where they hook you up to a machine to monitor fetal heart rate and contractions. Based on my test, baby’s heart rate was great and there were no significant contractions noted. From there we moved onto an ultrasound. The point of this ultrasound was to check for fluid around baby, monitor the placenta and get an estimated weight on the baby as well as check for his positioning.
The ultrasound tech said everything looked great and the only thing that was of note was that my baby was measuring at 9 to 10 lbs, YIKES! Both JJ and I were between 6-7lbs as babies and we didn’t know of any other family members that were on the bigger side. That being said, I was also late so that may have had something to do with it. The fluid, placenta and positioning (he was head down) were all fine.
I ended up meeting with an OB in the practice and after performing a cervical exam she noted that I was 80% effaced and 2 cm dilated, which could mean I could go into labor that day or in a few days/weeks. Of note, I had also lost my mucus plug 2 weeks prior so things were definitely progressing, just not all that fast.
After discussing my options she recommended that I plan to be induced within the next day or two. I had wanted to delay induction if at all possible but after finding out that my baby may be 9-10lbs and I do not have a rather large frame, it made the most sense to go through with it. I cried the whole ride home. I felt like my body had failed me because I had wanted to go into labor naturally. I could’ve told the OB that I wanted to wait but after having a miscarriage the last thing I wanted to do was put my baby or myself at any further risk so we decided that an induction made the most sense for all of us.
While at home, I waited for the call of when my induction would be scheduled for, hugged Bode (my dog) real tight and got our bags ready to go. They called us and told us my induction would be scheduled for the following day at 5pm. To say I was nervous was an understatement. Now that things were actually going to progress I wasn’t sure I was ready but figured it was in fact time. I was disappointed but also excited that we would get to meet him soon.
We got to the hospital at 5pm on 2/11/2021. It was kind of a bizarre scenario to me because I had always envisioned coming to the hospital being in active labor. However, I had only been feeling slight cramping and could easily walk to the Labor & Delivery unit and carry my own bags. Not a bad way to come into the hospital, just not how I would have envisioned it.
When I got there they had us in a triage room and they immediately hooked me up to monitor fetal heart rate and contractions. I also received a COVID test which was negative and really wasn’t as unpleasant as everyone makes it out to be. Have a cervical exam and you will find the COVID test is really a walk in the park. The nurse noticed right away that I was actually having fairly regular contractions. That part was exciting but also made me wonder why I wasn’t really feeling anything but tightness. My guess is I was probably in early labor and had we not been worried about the weight of the baby I would’ve likely been in active labor within the next couple of days, but who knows!
At this point we were just waiting for my midwife to give the nurse our next steps. Since the midwife was not in the hospital at this point and since it didn’t seem like I was going to have the baby any time soon, they sent in the OB hospitalist. He was a pleasant man and talked to me about my options. After another cervical exam and looking at my contractions he suggested we start a low dose of Pitocin and see if we could push my body into active labor. Originally they had thought I would need to have some help with cervical ripening but he said I was 80-90% effaced and that it just wasn’t necessary. So I asked if he could talk to my midwife and get back to me with what she suggested. I wasn’t happy that she wasn’t in the hospital because I would’ve preferred to talk to her in person but I also understand there was no need for her to be there yet.
When he came back he confirmed that she also wanted to start low dose Pitocin. I agreed that that would be best next steps since that’s why I was there and it was time for baby to start making his entrance into the world. So we were transferred to Labor & Delivery to get the party started.
I should make a note that many people recommend that you write a birth plan. The more I thought about it and the more I spoke to my midwives the less I thought a birth plan was necessary. To me, having a birth plan seemed far more stressful than just going in knowing my options and making game time decisions. I’m so glad I didn’t have a birth plan because I think I would’ve been very disappointed in the outcome. Instead I feel at peace with how everything played out. I made sure that I knew ALL of my options going into labor and delivery and then discussed options as they came with the nurses and my midwife.
That being said there were some wishes that I had and that I communicated with my nurses and midwives and they included:
- Not to be offered any medication unless I specifically asked for it. I wanted the medication and interventions to be on my terms unless it was an emergency.
- To be able to move around during labor. They hooked me up to wireless monitors so that I could move around the room, get into the shower, etc.
- Skin to skin immediately after birth with the attempt of breastfeeding within the first hour.
- Delayed cord clamping.
Other than that I had hoped to do most of labor unmedicated and wanted everything to be done to prevent a c-section. However, I knew that anything was possible especially with an induction so I communicated to my providers that I wanted all options presented to me as they came to light. At the end of the day I just wanted my baby and myself to be healthy at the end of it all. Never once did I feel like the team wasn’t on my side and it also helped that JJ was also aware of all the options and was there with me every step of the way to communicate when I was too tired to do so.
That all being said, we were in labor and delivery and I had been started on Pitocin & fluids. I was also started on antibiotics since I had tested positive for GBS (about 30% of women are positive for this and it’s dormant in the mom but can cause issues if not treated in the baby). I was then hooked up to wireless monitors for both contractions & fetal heart rate. We turned on the TV and thought “okay this seems easy.” The thing with Pitocin is that you go from 0 to 60 VERY fast. I was warned about this but didn’t truly understand (or appreciate it) until I was in the midst of a contraction after being completely fine.
By this time it was some time after 8pm and we were just moving around the room from one contraction to the next. I went in with the mentality that each contraction was just one more closer to meeting my baby. It really wasn’t all that bad mentally as I’m one to kind of zone out which I more or less did. I moved from the bed, to the ground to walking around the room and rinsed and repeated for awhile. This continued all through the night. If I’m being completely honest, most of it is now a blur. I almost feel like I had an out of body experience. JJ remembers it more than I do and and I think is more scarred than me because he didn’t like seeing me in so much pain.
The contractions are like a pain I have never experienced before. You go in thinking “I probably won’t scream” to being in the middle of one screaming your lungs out because it’s the only thing getting you through. I am so thankful for both JJ and my night nurse because they just kept guiding me from one contraction to the next. I tried all different kinds of positions from lying in the bed on my side with a peanut ball to standing in the shower and to leaning over the bed both on and off of it. I would try to sleep between contractions but they kept coming closer together, which made it hard.
During this labor I had a few cervical checks to see if I had any progress since my contractions were pretty close together. Every time they checked me I would maybe make progress by 1 cm so it was kind of disheartening. I tried not to focus on the number and just kept focusing on getting through one contraction at a time. After a while, my mental game started to break down. Not sleeping and having minimal time between contractions really started to get to me. I suddenly started to think I couldn’t do this anymore. So I finally asked my nurse what my pain management options were. She suggested either Nubain or Stadol. She said they’d only last for 2 hours but they could give me some relief and the opportunity to rest.
Sometime in the morning around 6am or so I decided to try Nubain and I’m very glad I did. I was exhausted and nowhere near giving birth. It also gave me the opportunity to rest and build back up some strength, which I would need later to push. Throughout all of this all I had consumed was water and a tums because my reflux was so bad. I also puked at some point during the night but like I said it’s all kind of a blur.
At this point there was a change of shift, I was sad to see my first nurse go but my next nurse was equally amazing, so I consider myself really lucky because going through childbirth the first time is so nerve-wracking and they never made me feel like I didn’t have autonomy in the whole process. The next midwife was also on shift and she came in to see me and assess the situation. I was pretty relaxed at this point as the Nubain hadn’t completely made it out of my system yet.
The plan was to keep going as is and hope that my body would continue to progress. Well, remember when my contractions went 0 to 60 the night before? Well they went from like a 40 to a 100 once the Nubain wore off. I have never screamed so hard in my life. So my nurse and midwife blew up a pool and got me in there hoping maybe being in the water would help since the shower had helped the night before. Welp, let’s just say it felt nice initially but all of a sudden the contractions were on top of one another and I have never been in so much pain in my life.
I got out of the tub and at that point they checked me. I was at 9 cm but I could not take it anymore. I asked (ok more liked scream-cried) if it was too late to get an epidural and they said it was not so I said PLEASE give me an epidural. I had wanted to see if I could do the birth without but plans change and I knew my body had done all it could do on it’s own and I was SO thankful for modern medicine at that time. Not to mention the nurse anesthetist who was on was someone that I knew, I cried tears of joy!
If I’m being honest, I have never felt so much relief in my life before. She placed the epidural and within 5 contractions I was able to speak again. It was a true life saver. I know there is a lot of shame around epidurals but if I had to do this again I probably would have gotten it earlier so I could have enjoyed my labor a bit more and not put my poor husband through such agony (ok myself too). As the nurse anesthetist, nurse and midwife said, there is no medal for doing a birth unmedicated and they are SO right.
I got situated in my bed and I passed out probably for almost 2 hours. It was so strange to not feel my legs and to know the contractions were happening but not feel the pain I had been experiencing all night/morning. Then around 2p or so I started to feel some contractions again. My nurse told me that I would eventually feel a ton of pressure and would know it was time to push. So we just kind of hung out, tried to relax and waited it out. Around 3pm I got REALLY nauseous and luckily JJ got me a puke bag because out of nowhere I puked again. My nurse said that was a good sign and that I was probably getting ready to push. She was correct because my midwife checked me and I was fully dilated at 10cm and baby was on his way out.
At 3:30pm I started to push. It felt so productive and like nothing I could have ever imagined. I know some people hate the pushing but honestly it was the best part of labor for me. As my body contracted I would push and then in between we just chatted about things like my cookbook, working out, pelvic floor PT and music. Ha! They asked if I wanted a mirror or to feel his head as we progressed but I said HELL NO! I didn’t want to get discouraged, as I had no idea how long I would push for.
Around the hour mark we were getting close and sure enough Connor joined us earth side at 4:29pm after about an hour of pushing. I had instant relief, my reflux seemed to subside and having Connor screaming on my chest was the best feeling in the world. Okay, seeing JJ crying tears of joy was also the best thing in the world, but don’t tell him I told you that.
At this point I was so focused on Connor I truly was oblivious to all that was going on. We even got Connor to latch and he had his first go at breastfeeding, which was pretty neat to witness. I was completely overtaken with emotion and frankly feel like I also blacked out a bit so I’m glad there are pictures and I’m glad JJ was there to help me remember it all.
Turns out I had a 2nd degree tear which is fairly common but I also had a mild hemorrhage. I lost about 1 L of blood/fluid whereas a normal amount is about 500mL, which is still a crazy amount to me. So they decided to keep me on Pitocin, gave me a shot in my leg to help reduce bleeding and they also pressed aggressively on my stomach for a while which hurt but also was NOTHING compared to contractions. You can really tolerate almost anything with a newborn on your chest.
They weighed and measured him and he weighed in at 9lbs 1.7oz and 22.5 inches long. At that moment I was SO happy that they induced me because I’m not sure how I would’ve delivered a larger child!
Once they got me stitched up we got to hang out and really meet Connor for the first time. We felt nervous and happy and scared and overjoyed all at once. The rest of the evening was a complete blur I felt so out of it and couldn’t focus. I had JJ text our family and friends to let them all know Connor had arrived and that we were all doing well. I tried to get some food in my system but was truly the most exhausted I’ve ever been in my life and was just focused on making sure I didn’t pass out.
They then moved us to the postpartum unit and we stayed there until Sunday morning. It is all truly insane how your body starts changing immediately but I do have to say peeing is NOT pleasant. As my friend said, it feels like you are peeing out jalapeños, that’s how much it burns. And, if you’re wondering, the first bowel movement truly wasn’t all that bad. Take the stool softeners and drink plenty of water and just know you will make it out the other side just fine.
I was mostly useless that first night so I was thankful for JJ who changed all the diapers and the nurses for helping me go to the bathroom and just tend to my needs. When I woke up the next morning I felt like a new woman. I begged for a cup of coffee since I went 10 months without it. That was the best cup of coffee (I’m sure if I had it now I’d disagree) I had ever had.
We were then lucky to have an amazing lactation consultant come and meet with us and she helped me understand different positions and things to look for when feeding a newborn. I highly recommend utilizing one if you have the opportunity. We had to supplement with some donor milk in the beginning because Connor had a high bilirubin and was slightly jaundiced. The best thing to do is get them to poop more and my milk hadn’t come in yet so it was great to have the option of donor milk. Luckily he never needed more than 2 supplemental bottles in the hospital. He got all his other tests and passed with flying colors.
Then, somehow, someway they discharged us with a beautiful baby boy. I have never been more nervous in my life. Now over a month later I’m finally starting to feel a bit more confident and am so so thankful for this little boy and cannot wait to watch him grow up. I think I’ve finally recovered from my labor and delivery too J
I will follow up with more information about postpartum as I think there is a lot more to share both about my body, my nutrition and life with a newborn. As always if you have any questions feel free to let me know in the comments. Remember everyone’s story and journey is different and this is just mine.