It’s been a little bit, hasn’t it? Well as some of you know, Sterling’s 4th birthday has come and gone, and on today’s post we revisit an old memory: His birth. It’s not a bad memory, but it’s not a story I tell very often surprisingly. It’s sad (or good?) to say, but not as much happened here as when Greyson was born. And that’s not bad, I guess! But it was mostly uneventful, except for you know, the birth of my little guy. 😉
As a first time mom, I kind of just went with the flow, and listened to whatever the doctor’s orders were. I can definitely be a compliant person when I’m nervous or I’m talking to someone new, but I always had questions at the back of my mind or when the appointment was over and I lost my chance to ask them. Questions like, “hey, what exactly is the point of having my membranes ruptured?” Or even, “so how long am I “allowed” to be in labor before we are rushed in to do a Cesarean?” Appointments always felt so awkward and rushed, and I always felt so put on the spot, when in regards to “Any other questions?”
During my whole pregnancy, we were absolutely ecstatic about having Sterling. We were just really excited to become parents, honestly. Before even getting married, Clint and I discussed baby names casually, just talking about names we really liked for boys. We were both in love with the name Sterling because I used to think that the actor Sterling Knight was super cute, and Clint thought it was a pretty badass name and so naturally, when we found out we were having a boy, everything just pieced together.
For the most part, everything about the pregnancy was easy. Keep in mind, that Sterling was actually my second pregnancy because we had just experienced a miscarriage one month prior, so I especially was apprehensive about getting attached, and it actually took me a little while to really accept that I was growing a baby, and so far it was sticking. I was sleeping okay, everything in the winter made me sick, (cold air still makes me nauseous nowadays), and we took so much joy in driving all the way to Littleton to have these 10 minute OBGYN appointments just to hear a heartbeat! Everything was so good, and after my first trimester, I really enjoyed being pregnant.
Fast forward to a few of days before my due date. As first time parents, Clint and I were so excited for Sterling to make his appearance. Naturally, we started trying all sorts of safe ways of induction (We wouldn’t know until I was pregnant with Greyson, that babies just come whenever the hell they want to!). Everything from taking small bites of hot peppers, eating allllll the pineapple, and even trying what was called the coffee potty. (TMI: If you haven’t heard of it, look it up to find out more information. Even if nothing really kick started labor, it still felt soooo good on my swollen lady bits.)
It was now the 16th, and nothing was happening. Clint had an army exercise in the field coming up on the 18th where he would have to travel about an hour or two away, and it looked pretty good that he was going to have to leave when I could go into labor literally any minute. Defeated, I took a warm bath and Clint and I went to bed.
At about 3 in the morning, I woke up to the stangest tightening in my lower stomach. I went out to the living room, and started pacing back and forth because I found that if I kept myself distracted, the pain would ease up a little. For a brief second, my face lit up because I realized that these weren’t just Braxton Hicks, these were real labor contractions! I dialed up the on call nurse for my OBGYN, and per her orders – take a bath, drink lots of water, pace back and forth, and head over to the hospital if the contractions get closer together and more painful after an hour of timing them.
I’m not entirely sure why, but it didn’t really occur to me to wake Clint up at that time. I started running a bath, went and got a book and the contraction timer app on my phone handy, and started hanging out in the tub. I was way too distracted with the contractions to even read the book, so I kinda tossed it to the corner of the bathroom. Sorry, Granny Dan.
About 20 minutes into the bath, I kind of realized that my contractions were all over the freaking place. It wasn’t the “normal” contractions where they are ideally supposed be 5 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute, and then you head to the hospital after 1 hour of timing them. One would be 8 minutes apart, the next 3 or 2 minutes from the other one. They weren’t consistent at all, which was wildly confusing. After a few more minutes of not feeling comfortable in the tub anymore, I went to wake Clint up after the calling the on call nurse again.
A typical conversation in our relationship, crude language below.
“Hey babe. I’m in labor, I think we need to head to the hospital now.”
“Did you already call the doctor?”
“Yeah, and they told me to chill a bit and see if they get closer and more painful. I just called them again to let them know we’re coming.”
“What the fuck babe? Why didn’t you wake me up earlier when this started?”
*shrugs* “I dunno. Just didn’t really think of it. ” *starts laughing and wincing through a contraction*
So about 5:30 in the morning on the 17th of June, we left for the hospital. After arriving and checking in, we were taken to our room to do triage. I was under the assumption that they were going to check me in one room and move me to another room for the big show, and then transferring us to the Mother/baby unit after delivery, but I ended up being able to stay in the same room during my whole stay. After getting into the hospital gown and having all monitors attached, I was suprised to learn that I had already been 6-7 cm dilated! Which was surprising to me at the time, because at my last appointment where I had my membranes ruptured, I had only been dilated 1 cm for the last few weeks and my cervix was tight and long and didn’t want to open up. At that point, I was only about 2.5 hours into active labor, and so I knew that my contraction timer was all over the place because I had been progressing so fast.
Five minutes after getting comfy and relaxed in the hospital gown, in walks the anesthesiologist. Like I said earlier, I was already super complacent and go with the flow, that I didn’t even question having an epidural. I was like, “yeah, let’s do this!” I sat up in the bed and watched the looong needle be inserted into my spine in the mirror that was directly across my bed. For a man that’s not afraid of needles and donating blood, Clint was about to pass out watching the needle be inserted. The epidural started working pretty fast, and the nurses helped me get situated in a proper position so Sterling wouldn’t be “sunny side up.”
I was encouraged to chew on ice chips throughout labor so I wouldn’t get dehydrated, but I wasn’t allowed to drink water. I wasn’t allowed to eat food, and I was STARVING. All I was allowed to do was nap until it was “time” to push. I felt so miserable, because I had nothing to eat since the night before, which was hardly anything. The only way I was able to fulfill my desire to actually feel like I was ingesting something was to let the ice chips melt so I could actually drink the water. How sneaky of me, huh? I didn’t know this at the time, but they restrict the food and water as a just in case you have to have a Cesarean. In a country where we have a high number of unneccesary C-sections, doesn’t that just seem like that sets you up for an unintended outcome?
With nothing to do but wait and nap, that’s exactly what I did since I hardly got any sleep the previous night. I kept waking up to the quiet noise of nurses opening the door to check Sterling and I’s stats, the movie Guardians of the Galaxy playing in the background, and Clint’s quiet snoring as he sleeps upright in a chair.
At 3 PM in the afternoon and being in active labor for 12 hours now, my OBGYN comes into my room to let me know that they’ll be administering Pitocin. Pitocin, if you don’t know, is synthetic oxytocin. Oxytocin is a critical piece in birth to keep it progressing, and when some fight or flight response is inhibiting the production of oxytocin, the medical team will advise that you have it to get the ball rolling. Little ol’ me was sleepy and didn’t understand what was going on, so I nodded my head and agreed. I should add that with oxytocin, because it is a natural hormone, it administers itself in gradual waves over the natural progression of labor. Because Pitocin is being injected straight into your blood through your IV, it hits you suddenly, and it HURTS like a bitch. Sorry for the language, but damn. It makes the contractions hurt so much more because it’s so sudden and intense, and that was while I had an epidural. Okay, I will shut up the doula side of me now, haha!
Hours and countless cervical checks later, I am told that I’m finally 10 cm dilated. I watch as the medical team come in and out of the room making sure they have all the sterile medical equipment needed and then, apparently it is time to push. One nurse is holding one leg, Clint is holding the other (even though he had previously said before that he didn’t want to look), and the Obstetrician at the end of the hospital bed looking up every now and then at the monitors and coaching me when to push.
I look back on this moment as fondly as I can. Those 15 minutes of pushing was the weirdest, most awkward time of my life. All I could think about is how I’m being told to push as much as I can, even though I can’t feel the lower part of my body; how freaking out of shape I am and how I wished I had more upper body strength to keep pushing; and how “Don’t poop, don’t poop, don’t poop” is at the back of my head.
At 6:39 PM, Sterling Lee Manning had finally made his appearance. He was perfect, and healthy and everything my heart needed. We saw immediately – this little dude was my CLONE. We could already see it, thick black hair and dark eyes. He looked exactly like me, and I reveled in the golden hour just smelling him, nursing him, and giving him all the lovey dovey eyes.
We stayed like that for at least another hour, until it was time to take stats. He was 7 lbs 9 ounces, and a long little man! While Clint was watching as a nurse gave Sterling his first bath, I tried to get up to use the bathroom for the first time. After a different nurse saw how wobbly I still was, they rolled over some contraption to help me stand, and she rolled me to the bathroom. Moms, you’ve seen the way you look right after giving birth right? It feels so strange, this feeling of emptiness, yet feeling so fulfilled in another way. I am not going to lie, I was in shock. My skin was so saggy, and my stomach was also very sunken in. There were stretchmarks everywhere I could see. I thought to myself, “Wow, he literally morphed my body into some alien being. That’s so cool!”
A few days later, we were able to finally go home. It felt so freeing, finally being in the comfort of your own home and sleeping in your own bed. But would you be surprised to hear that it felt like everything had been turned upside down? First time parenting, hell- parenting in general is very hard. Breastfeeding problems were getting worse, we were getting very little sleep, and the baby blues were setting in for me. We were not having an easy time navigating this new found world of parenting, but that’s okay. You may stumble, and you may fall, but you also do the best you can with what you have. And now I know, I was doing the best I could day by day.
So yeah, that’s pretty much it. It was a very happy pregnancy, and all in all, a pretty happy birth. I’m glad there were no extra interventions needed, and I’m glad my provider was patient enough with me. It kind of scares me thinking back with “what if I didn’t progress enough in time? Would I have had a c-section? Would Sterling have ended up with some NICU time? Would I have had even a harder time with recovery? All my mortified what ifs, and my questions about birth and hospitals and doctors that don’t really take the time to walk you through everything is actually what threw me down the path of becoming a birth doula.
If you made it through the entire post, thank you so much for listening to this story! I think it was actually the first time I’ve typed the whole dang thing up, and there actually was a lot of more that happened than I realized! My sweet Sterling, I love you so.
Let me know what you think in the comments below or on my IG here!