Maddux Brigham Richins
He's here. The love of my life. The person I would go to the end of the world for. The most significant and important thing I have ever done.
My whole life I feared child birth. I am terrified of hospitals, I hate needles, and the very thought of having an IV run in my hand makes me want to cry real tears. I never really feared motherhood, but I was terrified of giving birth. I have heard so many stories of women who were much stronger than me. Women who went all natural (both planned and unplanned), women who were in labor for days before ending their pregnancy with an emergency cesarean, women who nearly lost their life or lost their child due to medical complications. The unknown of it all frankly paralyzed me. I joked for months that I wanted the doctors to put me to sleep and wake me up when the whole thing was over.
Now, here I am, writing this post and watching my beautiful boy sleep peacefully in his rock n' play. How is it all in the past? How have I survived pregnancy (my least favorite of all the things I've done), overcome my fear by giving birth to my child, and gotten to this place where I am brought to tears sometimes simply by looking at the amazing human I am blessed enough to be able to raise? I'm not the person I used to be. I'm not the girl who feared childbirth any more; I am now the mother who would do it all again for the simple joy of meeting my tiny human. Funny how things change.
On August 31st, I was 39 weeks and two days pregnant. I woke up that morning, walked two miles with my husband, drank my usual small amount of (doctor approved) caffeine, and got ready for another marathon day of being within a week of my due date (those last days drag on and on). I left my house to go to my 39 week appointment with my OB with the odd feeling that it would be a while before I came back. I knew the universe would teach me a lesson, however, about being thankful for the opportunity to carry my child by keeping me pregnant well passed my 40 week mark so I didn't think I would be having my son any time soon. I wore a dress and some flip flops because I was trying to wear as little weight as possible. They weigh you at every appointment and my pregnancy emotions typically got the best of me if I had a particularly heavy weight gain week. They also take your blood pressure at every appointment. Today it was high. It had been high before, which I always accredited to the stress of almost being late to my appointments. Usually my OB would simply have the nurse check again before I left, making sure it was trending downward before sending me home. Today she was very distracted through my whole appointment. She checked my cervix for dilation, stripped my membranes (which I was completely terrified of until she did it while checking my cervix and I didn't even recognize the difference), and asked what questions I had. I told her I was curious about how things would play out if I were to be overdue. Would they induce? How many days after 40 weeks would I stay pregnant? Things of that nature. She couldn't really answer the questions, as she was still distracted by my blood pressure. She had the nurse check it again. She came back shortly afterward and told me to go to labor & delivery at the hospital for monitoring. I joked, "maybe I'll see you in the hospital with a baby in a couple of days," as I left. I thought I would be back next week for my 40 week appointment.
I had a feeling I would be at the hospital for a couple of hours, so instead of driving straight there I stopped at Taco Bell. I didn't want to be hangry at the L&D nurses, as they held my fate in their hands. I called my husband and told him to pack everything I had ready for the hospital in his car before he left for work just IN CASE they ended up keeping me for some reason. At the hospital, they hooked me up to machines that monitored the baby's heartbeat and checked my blood pressure every couple of minutes. After about 3 or 4 checks like this, my blood pressure was still high. A doctor on my OB's team came by my little room in the triage center and said a few words I'll never forget. "Because you're full term and blood pressure typically doesn't go down at the end of pregnancy, we are going to induce you. I wouldn't plan on leaving tonight." I didn't know what to do first. My mind was racing through the stories I'd heard of women being induced using pitocin, and some of them were horror stories. I needed to let my husband and my family know what was happening. Oddly, the first thing I ended up doing was looking up a scripture about motherhood; somehow it comforted me to read a few versus that reflected how important motherhood was as I was about to go through the roughest night of my life in order to become a mother. I let everyone know what was happening, then sat in the triage room alone watching Castle and seeing different women come and go for several hours (cue flashbacks of Rachel Green sitting and waiting for her turn to deliver as woman after woman came in and out of her room having babies before her). I was in that room for hours, literally. I was becoming impatient. I knew what the night might entail and I wanted to get the process started before I completely freaked out and ran down the hall and out the hospital doors with my rear end hanging out.
They eventually moved me to a private room and introduced me to the nicest woman I have ever met. A saint and an angel, my dear nurse Paula. Paula, if you ever read this, I will never forget you and the love you showed me on the scariest night of my life. She asked me questions and apologized as she tried to run an IV (unsuccessfully) and I teared up telling her that part was one of the things I feared most. She was able to run the IV with the second try, and shortly afterward my husband made it to the delivery room. It was growing late at this point, nearing 8 PM. Paula told us many times, "don't get too excited, it will likely be a quiet night," and, "there won't be much action around here tonight, try to sleep," and the scariest of all, "most inductions take anywhere from 24 to 40 hours, especially for first time moms."
I tried to mentally prepare for the long haul. Around 8:30, the doctor on call came in and told me the plan was to insert a pill (that was meant to soften my cervix) to get the ball rolling. She said this pill is often used several times to accomplish the task at hand. Eventually (after two or three tries with the pill), I would be put on pitocin to induce labor. At this point, I was dilated to 1 cm and 80% or so effaced. They inserted the pill, and Paula told me to get some rest. She shut off the lights and worked quietly in the corner. Seth tried to sleep on the tiny couch they called a bed. I tried to sleep, but I had been having mild contractions (this was true of the whole week or so before this day, so I didn't think they meant my body was doing much on it's own). The contractions were slowly intensifying. The doctor was planning on coming back 4 hours after the pill was inserted to insert another one. However, after only a couple of hours with the pill, I got up to use the restroom and my water broke. What a strange feeling.
Soon after this, my contractions grew more intense. It was insane to me how much more painful everything was now that I didn't have the water bubble to protect my hips. I felt like there was a baby digging straight in to them. The contractions became so intense so quickly that when the doctor came back to insert the second pill, I couldn't talk or breathe through them. She checked my cervix and said I was dilated to an "optimistic 2 cm". My husband, being the sweet man he is and my advocate when I don't have the guts to speak up, asked about an epidural. I had been under the impression that they wouldn't do one until I was dilated beyond that, so I felt like a pansy for wishing to have one so quickly. My doctor, however, said, "this is a laboring cervix, everything is so low, I would get it now if you are going to get it." More beautiful words had never been spoken. Her blessing for my pain relief this early in the game really took a lot of my fear away.
Waiting for the anasthesiologist to come by meant some of the longest minutes of my life. I was having contractions about a minute apart, and still couldn't talk through them. Being that I hated needles so much, I thought the epidural would be horrible. Ironically, when a baby is trying to make it's way through your birth canal the last thing you think about is the needle. You are just thinking, "HELP. HURRY. PLEASE. NOW." I remember Seth trying to make light of the situation and sarcastically saying, "wow, that's a small needle." Pretty sure I responded with, "SHUT UP, SETH." That was the only time (that I can recall) through this process that I wanted to punch him in the face. Not by any fault of his own, simply because the misery was enough to turn me in to a mad woman. My dear sweet Paula the nurse stood in front of me, held my hands, pet my hair, and told me it was okay. She told me I was strong and that I could do it. She kept saying, "relax, breathe." So I did. The relief wasn't instant, but it was noticeable. I could still move my legs, something they said was for "my benefit". So I could "help push". I don't think they understood that I didn't care about any of that. I didn't want to feel anything!
Once again, Paula told me to get some rest. Sleep. HAHA. About an hour later, several nurses and doctors came rushing in to my room. My monitors were beeping and things were going a little haywire. Apparently my contractions had become so intense and were so close together that it was distressing the baby. They said I had 7 contractions in 9 minutes, or something like that. They thought they might need to stop my labor if the baby's heart rate didn't normalize. Thankfully, it did. They checked my cervix again and I was sitting at a 5 at this point. I was so glad I had gotten the epidural as early as I did. Just thinking about enduring that crazy round of contractions without pain medication made me want to crawl in a hole somewhere and cry.
About an hour after the crazy contraction incident, I could feel the intensity of the contractions even with the pain medication. I wouldn't say it was painful, but I wouldn't describe it as simply "pressure". It was more intense than that. I felt my body pushing without my assistance. I felt like I was having to actively stop a baby from falling out of me (sorry if that's too descriptive, but this a birth story after all). I told Seth to get the nurse because I couldn't reach my call button. He responded with silence. He was passed out, HARD. About 10 more times I had to yell out to him until l felt like I was screaming his name. Finally after the 11th, "SETH!" he jumped up so fast looking like a deer staring down an oncoming car. I'll never forget the wide-eyed, confused, 'why are you yelling at me' face he was making. I'm pretty sure I even laughed at it (or maybe not, I was struggling pretty bad to keep a baby inside me at this point). I told him to get the nurse because I felt like I needed to push.
He ran in to the hall and was gone for likely only a minute, but what felt like an eternity. Paula came in and said she would fetch the doctor to check my cervix again. She was also gone for 47 years I'm pretty sure (probably only two minutes realistically) before she returned and said the doctor was busy. She would check me herself. She did so, and then said more words I'll never forget, "I'm never telling another woman to plan on an uneventful night!" I was dilated to 10 cm and my baby was on his way.
Now, here I must pause the story and admit something. I never IN MY LIFE thought I would have a vaginal delivery. My mom had cesareans, my aunt had cesareans, my sister had a cesarean. I just knew I was destined to have one as well. To be honest, I had hoped many times the doctor would throw protocol out the window and just let me schedule one in advance so I never had to endure any type of labor (since I was convinced it would end in a cesarean anyway!). I was not mentally prepared for pushing. I never took a birthing class. I never thought my body would be able to allow a child to come out of my.... nether regions.
Suddenly Paula is by my bed giving me quick pushing instructions. 1- push through the contractions. 2- rest in between them. 3- push like you would if you were going to the bathroom. 4- repeat steps 1-3. My head is spinning. The doctor comes in and casually says, "I guess we're having a baby tonight!" as I'm convinced the baby might have delivered himself and was laying under all the sheets because my body was working so hard to forcibly remove him at this point. 10 hours later (realistically, probably only two minutes later), a gang of other doctors entered the room. The woman who had been checking me all night was a resident (young, asian, beautiful, totally hip and someone I would like to be like someday) so the doctor overseeing her came in, another younger guy who was on rotations in medical school, and another 10 nurses or so (at least that's how it felt, I'm not sure how many of them were actually in there). I had Paula on my left, and Seth on my right. The doctors put on their boots and gloves, then turned on the awkward ceiling headlights that spotlighted my lady parts. That was the only time during the whole stay that I felt pretty violated and uncomfortable.
Seth & Paula each grabbed a knee and I told the doctor I needed to push. I felt the contractions with extreme intensity at this point (still not quite "painful", but so intense that it hurt if that makes any sense at all). She told me to start pushing through the contractions as they came in rounds of 10 seconds that she would count out for me. She kept saying she could feel the head before I was pushing, I thought this part would be a breeze and he would be here instantly. I pushed through three contractions or so before I heard them mention the vacuum.
I freaked out a little. I had heard horror stories of the vacuum. They had tried to use it to get my nephew, and he ended up coming via emergency cesarean when it didn't work. I didn't really understand what was happening. Why the vacuum? I could feel the baby getting closer and closer to the exit, why did he need any help? Especially the kind I had heard so many bad things about. Paula, my angel, got very close to my face after I had yelled out, "I DON'T WANT TO USE THE VACUUM" and told me that the baby's heart rate was dropping. "He needs to get here, NOW." I could feel the seriousness in her voice. The pretty asian doctor asked if I REALLY didn't want to use the vacuum. I looked at Seth, then told them to go ahead with it.
Once they stuck that thing on my baby's head, I could see the doctor pulling so hard to help pull him out as I pushed. It hurt my heart to think about what that could do to his tiny, fragile frame. Seth was somewhere between watching what was going on, and putting his head next to mine in a quiet, emotional reverence as I was pushing my brains out. They coached me through the pushes. "Yes, that's a good push." Or, "try doing it this way" when I wasn't pushing quite right (odd that there is a right and wrong way to push). I always thought it would be more of a push from my abs, but they continually reminded me to push like I was using the restroom. I remember wondering if I was going to the bathroom all over the delivery table before I was snapped back to reality with the PRESSURE. Oh my word, the pressure. After a few more pushes (and even more hard pulls from the resident doctor), they were finally yelling, "YES! That's it! He's coming!" I was suddenly quite motivated. In this moment I realized that I actually WOULD be having a vaginal birth. I pushed twice more while letting out some embarrassing screams (at the time it simply felt like I was Anna Kournikova letting out some aggressive-tennis player-like grunts to help give me that extra "umph", but looking back I was probably one of those women who sound like a crying banshee while giving birth. Oops.).
It was apparently 30 minutes of pushing, but it was the only thing that felt like it flew by much quicker than that during this whole process. My final push, I felt a slight release in the pressure and then a strange rush of water and emotion as I felt him leave my body and enter this world.
Baby is crying. Husband is crying. I am crying. Baby is placed on my chest. I am holding him to me and I am crying. I feel the IV needle in my hand and I'm bugged that it's distracting me from this moment. I stare at my baby's face. I'm crying some more. I get distracted by the doctors. They are pushing my belly to help me deliver the placenta. I am so bothered that they are doing this while I am trying to meet my child for the first time. I focus on his little face. His little nose. I cry some more. They ask Seth if he wants to cut the cord. He declines. He isn't about that. I don't mind. I am wanting a peaceful minute with my child. I am wanting to focus on the fact that I did it! I am a mom! I gave birth! I'm no longer pregnant! Instead, I'm distracted by the doctors now stitching me up. Paula the angel can see all the feelings in my face. She suggests they take the baby to weigh him so when they are done with the stitching I can enjoy meeting him. I agree to that idea.
8lbs 14oz. 22 1/2in. He is truly a giant! We knew he would be big (his daddy was a big baby and is a big guy). It's 3:30 in the morning. The doctors are stitching and it's so awful. I couldn't feel it, but I could feel the tugs. I could see the thread. The kept telling me, "relax your legs." I couldn't relax. I was shaking uncontrollably. My body had just been through so much, so fast. My nerves weren't helping me relax, and it didn't help that I was feeling the tugging! It took forever (for real this time, it was a while) before they finished the stitching. FINALLY I held my baby in my arms, undistracted. I held his little hand, touched his little face. He is a dream come true. I had pictured this moment so many times, and it was better than I could have ever dreamed it up to be.
So many awkward things happen in the hospital that nobody warns you about. Seth thought things were gross and weird after I lost my mucus plug (once again, I apologize if that's graphic but this is a birth story). He said, "girls are gross." The angel Paula helped me get up and get to the restroom. She helped me with the mesh hospital undies and diaper they give you. I'm telling you, nurses are angels. PAULA- YOU ARE AN ANGEL. Seth went in to the restroom after this and said it looked like someone was murdered in there. Nobody warns you about that.
They moved us to a different room where the bed was even smaller for Seth, and there were no blinds on the windows. We spent three days (yes, THREE DAYS, ridiculous) in the hospital. I was admitted Wednesday, and we left Saturday afternoon. There was little sleep, as they come in every hour or so to check on either you or the baby. There was so much love, though. So many moments with my new son that can't be compared to any other feeling. I told Seth just today that I'm already ready to have another one because I miss those first few days in the hospital where everything is so fresh and new.
I know this story is already excruciatingly long, but there are a few more notes I want to make about my stay in the hospital.
First, the way my husband was my advocate. I already mentioned it once that he was the one who helped me have the epidural when I did. Had it not been done when it was, who knows if I would have gotten it at all. Things escalated so quickly, and I know there are times when they won't administer it after a certain point. I had zero intention of having my baby al natural, so that truly was a blessing to me. He also asked my new nurse (the woman who replaced Paula once her shift was over, but could never replace Paula in my heart and mind) about 50 times to take the IV out of my hand. Feeling the needle in there every time I tried to move or pick up my new baby was driving me crazy. He bugged her until she finally removed it. He also asked every person who came in the room if they would discharge us early. Nobody wants to be in the hospital three days unless it is medically necessary. Nobody gave in to that request, but I loved that he helped me ask the things I was too afraid to ask myself.
Second, my mother dropped everything when she heard they were going to induce me and headed out to Massachusetts. We thought she might make it on time for the birth, but since it moved so quickly that didn't happen. She did, however, arrive Thursday afternoon. Knowing she was on her way was so comforting to me. Being a new mom is hard and scary and I was tired from lack of sleep and terrified that I didn't know what I was doing. My mom came and eased my fears. She stayed for two weeks. She did laundry, took us to dinner, went on walks, purchased items I never knew I would need, and gave me advice. I couldn't have done this without her.
Third, there was a moment on the first night after everyone left (in between nurse checks) when the reality of it all hit me. My new baby was laying next to me in his little cubby/bassinet thing. He was so peaceful, so beautiful, so perfect. I just laid there staring at him and cried. I cried and I prayed and I thanked my Heavenly Father for blessing me with this miracle. I thanked Him for trusting me to raise this child. I cried, and I held my baby's tiny hand, and I knew this was the best thing that had every happened to me. It still brings tears to my eyes to look back on that moment.
Last, I asked Seth to give me a priesthood blessing before everything became really intense. I was afraid of labor and childbirth. I asked him to give me a blessing of comfort and strength. He did, and as I stood up from that blessing my water broke. Everything happened like a whirlwind from there. I like to think it was an answered prayer for a terrified mama who feared a 40 hour induction.
Looking back, I can't believe that I was never technically induced. We thought it would take 24 hours and pitocin to get things where they needed to be. Instead, I had the pill inserted and a few hours later I had a baby. I can't believe it's over. I can't believe that something I feared my whole life is now in my past. I complained every day about pregnancy, and now it's over and I'm a mother to an angel. His perfect little eyes, nose, cheeks, lips. I love my boy. I love my little family. I am so thankful to be a mother.