The hardest part about being pregnant is not knowing when your little human is going to arrive. Will it be on their due date, in the middle of the night or on a beautiful sunny day? Will it be like in the movies where your water breaks in the grocery store and you deliver in the car while you are stuck in traffic on the highway?
Our due date was Sunday, January 20, 2019. The week leading up to this, nothing seemed to be happening. I wasn’t having any contractions or Braxton hicks and I felt pretty normal for the most part. I had been working out my entire pregnancy and feeling good. I did a lot of pre-natal yoga that I believe helped the baby to get in the head down position.
A week prior to delivery, I did start to feel the baby dropping lower in my pelvis and noticed that my mucous plug fell out over the course of a few days. Otherwise, it was just a waiting game. My husband, Sean and I were hoping to make it to our due date or even a few days after. We wanted to soak up the final days of just the two of us.
The Wednesday before our due date we went in for a routine doctors appointment at 7:30am to see how things were progressing. Based on our last appointment a week prior, I was 1 cm dilated, baby was starting to make its way lower in my pelvis but we had no signs of labor. We expected the doctor to say that we most likely had a few days to go and send us on our way. To our surprise, our doctor informed us that I was 4 cm dilated, 100% effaced, and baby was extremely low in the pelvis. (To give birth you must be 10 cm dilated, 100% effaced, and baby must be a +5 fetal station in your pelvis).
The fetal station represents the number of centimeters the baby has descended into the pelvis. Your doctor will assign a number from -5 to +5 to describe where your baby is in relation to the ischial spines known as your fetal station. The ischial spines are bony protrusions located in the narrowest part of your pelvis. During a vaginal exam, your doctor will feel for your baby’s head. If the head is high and not yet engaged in the birth canal, it may float away from their fingers. At this stage, the fetal station is -5. When your baby’s head is level with the ischial spines, the fetal station is zero. Once your baby’s head fills the vaginal opening, just before birth, the fetal station is +5. The number differences from -5 to -4, and so on, are equivalent to length in centimeters. So when your baby moves from zero station to +1 station, they have moved about 1 centimeter.
After my vaginal exam, our doctor advised that we stay and admit ourselves into the hospital and that I was already through early labor and into the beginning phases of active labor. She knew I wanted an epidural and was afraid if I waited too long, I may miss my chance. Sean and I looked at each other in shock, contemplated our options and decided that it would be best to wait it out at home as long as possible. The doctor couldn’t believe that I wasn’t feeling uncomfortable or having any pain or contractions.
That day, Sean had a big presentation at work that he couldn’t miss. I dropped him off at his office after our appointment and went home to get things ready. I had already packed my hospital bag but wanted to make sure I was stocked on healthy snacks and water. I made our oatmeals, packed some snacks, and filled up some jugs of ionized water. There I waited…and waited…and waited…and still nothing. Sean called many times that day to check in, expecting me to say, “it’s time” but all I could say is “still, nothing.” I decided it would be in our best interests to make a good meal for dinner and try and get a full night’s sleep since it could be our last one for awhile. Sean actually ended up working the entire night to wrap things up at work already preparing for the journey of Dad-hood.
The next morning I woke up and still nothing. By this point, I was starting to have some mild cramping but nothing too intense. Sean decided to work from home that day just in case we needed to make a fast trip to the hospital. We were both on egg shells waiting for our little “babby” to arrive. We decided that today (Thursday) had to be the day and that we couldn’t wait any longer. I started to google what it meant to be 4 cm dilated and was finding that some women are 4 cm dilated for weeks. I decided to call Sean’s Uncle Marc who is a OB/GYN and ask for his opinion on how long we had before baby arrived. He said it’s really hard to say for sure since everyone progresses differently. He said it could still be a few days. I couldn’t take the anticipation anymore and told Sean I was going to get this baby moving because today was the day we would finally meet our little baby.
Off to the gym I went. First the stairmaster, then yoga, and then a relaxing meditation. During yoga I was starting to get more frequent cramping but was able to breathe through it with no problem. While I was at the gym, I ran into my neighbor who had a son around this time last year. She said, make sure to eat healthy in the days leading up to your due date and that I should think of this day as a big race or performance. I thought it was great advice!
When I got back to the house around 12:00pm, I showered, got dressed and packed up a few more things. Around 1pm my cramping got a little more intense and took my breath away. I realized that this was probably the start of my contractions. As the minutes went on my contractions would stop me in my tracks and I’d have to close my eyes and breath. I realized that my contractions were about 5 minutes apart, lasting one minute, for the last hour. (5-1-1).
In our birth class, we learned that 5-1-1 is the time you should start to make your way to the hospital. At 2:00pm I let Sean know that it was probably time we make our way to Prentice Women’s Hospital. He jumped up, threw his laptop down and said “okay, what do I need to do?” I told him to pack his bag and that I would make us some green smoothies to drink on our way to the hospital. I wasn’t that hungry but knew I needed something that would be packed with superfoods for this “performance” I was about to embark on.
We called our Mom’s on the way to the hospital. Saying that we were in labor out loud for the first time made everything feel so real. We both got choked up telling our Mom’s it was time. Once we told our Moms that we were headed to the hospital, they immediately hopped in the car together (luckily they live in the same city) and made their way to the hospital. Unfortunately, my Dad was out of town that day but planned to arrive early the next morning to meet his new Grand baby.
We arrived at the hospital around 2:30pm and went directly to triage to be assessed. It’s such a crazy feeling to think that this is the day you may meet the little person you have been carrying for 9 months and that life will never be as it was. When we arrived at the triage counter, a women kindly said, “how can I help you.” “Um, we are here to have a baby?” I said.
We immediately got checked into a room where a nurse checked my cervix to see how dilated I was and whether or not I would be admitted into labor and delivery. Sure enough, I was 6 cm dilated and well into active labor. They wanted to monitor my contractions for a while so they could inform my doctor of my progression. Contractions started to get more intense but I was still able to breathe through them and carry on a conversation. While waiting in our triage room, Sean taught himself how to read my contraction graph and made friends with all the nurses. What I love about Sean is that when he’s in it, he’s all in!
About an hour later we got taken up to the labor and delivery room. It was a giant room, overlooking Lake Michigan. It was beautiful and we soon made it feel like home.The nurse told us it was one of the best rooms and since it was a quiet night in the hospital, we were lucky to get it.
During pregnancy I had listened to tons of podcasts on how to prepare for a healthy delivery. (Birthful was my favorite pregnancy podcast) I wanted to make sure that our environment was relaxing and that the space felt “homey.” I had Sean plug in our diffuser with essential oils and turn on the sound to a calming meditation tune. I also had him dim the lights to stimulate melatonin which supports oxytocin (the hormone that helps your uterus contract and brings you a sense of ease and comfort). Everyone that entered the room said, “it smells and feels so good in here.” Yeah!
The labor and delivery nurses were absolutely amazing. They taped our birth plan to the white board which included some basic things like who we wanted in the room during delivery and whether we were going to breastfeed exclusively among other things. They truly were our biggest advocates and wanted to ensure a good experience.
They kept asking if I wanted an epidural and that there was no reason to feel uncomfortable if I didn’t have to. I didn’t want to be locked to my bed and have a catheter at that point so I said I was fine waiting a little bit longer. At this point my water hadn’t broken and I wanted to see if I could get it to break on it’s own. I asked for a resistance ball to bounce on and a portable monitor to be hooked up to so that I could walk the halls.
It turned out my doctor wasn’t on call that night and that I would have another doctor from the practice who I had seen at my of my prior appointments. This doctor had been in the practice longer than any doctor and I was told I would be in good hands. She was great and pumped me up every second of the way, telling me I was a rockstar and that I was doing everything right. (I totally believe in positive reinforcement and it was exactly what I needed at the time).
Around 6:30pm, my doctor suggested that she break my water to get things moving a little faster and I agreed. She did advise me that once my water broke my contractions would be much more intense. At this point, I was still able to breathe through them. Once she broke my water I decided to request the epidural knowing that it could take 30 minutes before the anesthesiologist could get to our room. Minutes after my water broke, contractions were so intense that I couldn’t help but moan in pain. The pressure I felt with each contraction was so intense that I was glad the epidural was on its way. Sean was super sweet and massaged my legs during the intense parts while cheering me on. My hero!
30 minutes later and still no epidural I told Sean to go and find them and that I couldn’t wait any longer. Soon enough the anesthesiologist entered the room and told Sean that he needed to leave because the room needed to be sterile. The hardest part about receiving the epidural is that you have to hunch over, with your lower back rounded and be completely still while contractions hit. My anesthesiologist was super supportive and kept telling me that this would be one of my last contractions. While he was getting everything set up to administer it, my nurse was holding my hand, helping me breathe through every contraction, now just seconds apart. I think she noticed how my breathing had changed to more intense sounds and asked me if I was feeling any pressure. I said, “yes, I feel like I am going to poop.” She immediately looked at the anesthesiologist with concern and asked me if the pressure went away after a contraction. I said, “yes” and she told the anesthesiologist to get that epidural in as fast as he could. He said, “okay Kristen, this will be your very last contraction and you will start to feel a sense of euphoria.”Almost immediately, I felt zero pain and wanted to tell everyone in the room I loved them. My doctor came in to check my cervix and informed me that I was 9 1/2 cm dilated and that pushing would be happening soon and that I should rest. I seemed to get the epidural just in tine and cant imagine what I would have done without it. I felt completely relaxed and curled up on my bed to take a little snooze. (Initially, I was under the impression that epidurals slowed down labor and contractions. The anesthesiologist made it clear that research shows epidurals do not delay labor which seemed to be true in my case).
Poor Sean had been out of the room for what seemed like hours and was starting to lose his mind. He could hear my moaning through the door and all he could see were nurses and doctors running into our room. It was so great to see him when he returned to our room and let me know that our Moms had just arrived. Seeing the Mom’s was wonderful and I was happy that I could enjoy their company without pain. Since the baby was positioned facing up and head down, the doctor suggested I lay on one side to see if it would spin to a posterior position which is ideal for labor and makes the pushing process easier.
My doctor came in to check my cervix and informed us that I was 10 cm and the time had come to push. She also let us know the baby was in a posterior head down position. Luckily, I had some time to learn how to practice push before the real thing which entailed taking a big inhale and holding my breath while pushing/bearing down with my pelvic floor muscles and then letting out a big exhale. Here we go…
My doctor asked who I planned to have in the room for the birth. Prior to labor, Sean and I decided that it would just be the two of us in the room. However, when the moment arrived, I was feeling so good from the epidural, it just felt right to include the Moms. It worked out considering we could only have 3 guests in the room during delivery (including Sean). I think it was also nice for Sean to have some support during the process.
Sean was told to grab one of my legs while the nurse grabbed the other. The nurse positioned a mirror so that I could see what was happening and began monitoring my contractions to let me know when to start pushing since. (Since I couldn’t really feel anything at this point). I pushed 3 times during each contraction and immediately saw my babies head crowning in the mirror from the very first push.
Sean, the Mom’s, my doctor and the nurses were amazing. They continued to cheer me on, tell me I was a rockstar and gave me updates on “Babby.” I felt like I was participating in the greatest race of my life and it was thrilling. Plus, it was so special to have three of the most important people in my life right there by my side.
About 30 minutes later, our beautiful baby was delivered at 9:44pm. Everything happened so fast. At this point, whether it was a girl or boy, didn’t matter. We had a baby and a healthy baby. Sean announced that it was a boy and I couldn’t be happier. (I love being a boy Mom). Our guy is such a funny little dude and we are constantly making the joke that “it was you in there the whole time, Brady Blaine Brogan!”
As soon as Brady was delivered the nurses quickly weighed him, took his Apgar score and placed him on my chest. It was so surreal having this person who was in my belly for 9 months actually here .
After the initial birth cry, Brady calmed right down on my chest, took a little snooze and his body temperature immediately returned to normal. It’s truly amazing what skin to skin can do from a health to a bonding standpoint. Brady quickly exhibited the 9 steps for successful breastfeeding and began to latch and take his first feed. It was such a special bonding moment for us both and my nurse helped to me find the best position for feeding a newborn. Brady fell asleep again and was put in his bassinet. I was exhausted, hungry and in need of food and sleep. I felt like I had just had the biggest workout of my life and was desperate for food. The nurse brought me her special cocktail of lemonade and ginger-ale which was so hydrating and delicious. She also gave Sean and I a turkey sandwich that we scarfed down in seconds. It was the best turkey sandwich I have ever had and we still talk about how amazing it was.
After a couple of hours we were moved from our labor and delivery room to our recovery room where we would be for the next 48 hours. I continued to breastfeed Brady on demand to establish my milk supply. What I learned in my lactation counselor training is that the hormone prolactin, makes milk and the hormone, oxytocin moves milk–two essential hormones to ensure successful breastfeeding. The number one way to stimulate prolactin is with baby on your nipple (so nursing baby as much as possible) and the number one way to simulate oxytocin is with a good latch where baby stretches the nipple in their mouth while also massaging the breast with their touch.
Since my breasts were so large for Brady’s tiny mouth, I ended up expressing some colostrum into a cup and having Sean feed him with a syringe to make sure he was getting enough early on. Colostrum is liquid gold and helps to seal newborns porous gut. Since Brady was slightly jaundice, I continued to feed him and much as possible to flush his system of bilirubin.
The next day we had so many special people visit us in the hospital and meet Brady. Of course, the Mom’s were the first to arrive back that morning, eager to get as many Brady cuddles as they could.
My Dad was the first new guest to arrive and I was surprised with how emotional he got seeing Brady for the first time.
It melted my heart. Next to arrive was Sean’s sister, Erin who instantly bonded with Brady. We joke that she is Brady’s developmental coach, always cheering him on to make the next leap forward.
Uncle Brendan arrived next and it was so fun seeing him hold Brady–he is a natural born Dad.
My best friend, Kristin was next to arrive and held Brady for hours (she actually was Brady’s very first baby sitter and I can always trust that he’s in good hands when he’s with Aunt Krissy).
My brother and sister in law, John and Kathryn were next to arrive and we hung out until the late hours of the night talking, laughing and having fun.
After everyone left, Sean and I got ready for bed and our last night at the hospital. We would be going home tomorrow morning as a family of three.
The next morning came fast and we were able to get all checked out before 10:00am. The night before was the biggest snow storm of the year and the streets were covered in fluffy white snow. Because of the snow, my doctor checked me out over the phone since it would be several hours before she was able to make it through the snow storm. She said, we will see you in 6 weeks for your follow up appointment and I was cleared to workout as soon as I felt able considering I didn’t have any complications. It’s pretty remarkable how your body can heal itself after labor. Once we got cleared by our doctor, pediatrician, and nurse, we were free to go.
Sean pulled up the car so Brady and I didn’t have to go out in the snow and together we strapped him into the carseat for the first time. It was a little trial and error figuring out how to use all our baby contraptions but we did it! He looked so tiny in his big carseat!
We made it home through the snow and it was so exciting to walk through the door as a family of three. My parents were there to greet us and had decorated the entire house with baby boy ribbons tied in a bow on the doors, homemade signs and a bunch of balloons.
Soon after we got home, these two cuties fell asleep on the couch together. I had no idea how much it would fill my heart to see Sean as a Dad. How lucky Brady and I were to have such a loving guy in our life.
In my Mom’s normal fashion, she had bought ingredients to make us a delicious meal of filet, vegetables, and potatoes. It was the perfect dinner to welcome us home and it was so nice to eat a home cooked meal after such an exhausting time in the hospital. (Although I have to say that we loved our time at Presence Women’s Hospital. Sean and I always talk about how fun it was and how good our nurses took care of us).
The whole experience was truly magical and so peaceful. From the calming aromatherapy to the dim lighting to the amazing support of my family, I was overcome with emotions.
After family left and it was just our family of three at home, I broke down in tears. It was actually kind of hilarious because even though Sean was sitting right next to me he didn’t noticed me crying at first until I asked for a tissue five times in a row and was taken off guard when he saw my tears.
I couldn’t explain the emotions I felt but I was just so overcome with joy. Joy for my healthy baby boy, joy for my amazing husband who I loved more than life, and the joy for my supportive family especially my Mom who is the best role model I could have ever hoped for. I felt so lucky for my new life as a Mom and greatest journey of all. All I can say is that post baby hormones are NO JOKE. You have to cry it out!
The first time we left the house from getting home from the hospital was for our 3 day pediatrician appointment. Brady was weighed and measured and had lost close to 10% of his birth weight and was also a little jaundiced. The pediatrician asked if we wanted to supplement with formula and said she’d like to see us back in two days to check his status.
I was determined to breastfeed and only supply Brady with breastmilk, especially since I just took a certified lactation counselor while 8 months pregnant. I was frustrated to hear that my pediatrician was unhappy with Brady’s weight considering it was both our first times breastfeeding. I thought, can’t you just give us a few days to figure this thing out?”
I immediately called a lactation consultant that was recommend by Sean’s sister. I wanted to master this breastfeeding thing and get Brady as healthy as could be. I was told that a lactation consultant could come over to our house that same day and I said, “let’s do it.”
We ended up getting a lactation consultant named Francesca. “Frannie” forever changed our lives. She immediately took control and showed Brady and I how to breastfeed like pros. Brady quickly started gaining weight and became known as our little piglet!
Before baby, Sean and I decided we wanted the two weeks following labor to be all about figuring out our new life as a family of three and I am so glad we did. Sure, we had occasionally visitors stopping over here and there but made sure not to have anyone staying with us during this time. We wanted to figure out the new world of parenting together in our own way. It made our relationship even stronger and we wanted to shower Brady with as much love and attention as we could.
The two weeks were spent nursing (every second), eating delicious home cooked meals from our freezer, doing Brady’s laundry and folding the tinniest clothes, and spending as much time together as possible. It was such a special time that I will remember forever.
Once Sean went back to work my Mom came to stay with me for an entire week. She made her fabulous dinners, kept our house clean and changed almost every diaper. Even though I am now a Mom, I absolutely still need my Mom. She is my rock and Brady’s safe place. Brady and I both cried when she left us that week.
I don’t think I slept at all for the first week post labor. The adrenaline from having a baby is REAL! I was so amped up from delivery and the fact that I now had a healthy baby boy that had a hard time relaxing. I also couldn’t help but check on Brady all night long to make sure he was breathing or that his swaddle wasn’t over his face. Mom worry is REAL too!
Since I wasn’t getting very much sleep and felt depleted from breastfeeding every second, I wanted to make sure I was doing as much as I could to take care of myself. My staples during that first week were coconut water, lots of ionized water, Costco Sunrise Energy Bars (oat/nut/fruit mixture) that I could grab here and there to provide energy and stimulate milk production, and my superfoods (wheatgrass, spirulina/chlorella, and cod liver oil) to keep my immune system strong. I also avoided coffee for the first month since I didn’t want to jeopardize the quality of the little sleep I did get. (Plus it didn’t really even sound good since I felt so dehydrated). About a week after delivery, Sean surprised me with an in home massage. At that point I was mentally and physically exhausted and needed just an hour away to recharge. My body was so sore from being in all sorts of weird nursing positions and I needed to release some serious kinks. As soon as I got on the massage table, I was out like a light. I think it was the first moment I was actually able to sleep.
Once I got into the swing of things I found it helpful to nap between feedings around 4pm when it started to get dark (this was January so darkness set in around 4pm). The darkness allowed me to fall asleep quickly and allowed me to have a second wind to last through the late hours of the night.
The number one way to make milk is to bring baby to breast. If breastfeeding is your goal, breastfeed on demand whenever your baby wants to. I found it helpful to literally walk around shirtless for the first two weeks. You hear that breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt if you do it correctly but it does–especially in the beginning. Your nipples have never been exposed to this much action (or abuse) and it’s helpful to let your nipples air out and give them time to build a tolerance for nursing. Breastmilk actually contains oils that help your nipples heal post feed. I did sometimes use coconut oil for extra relief.
Yes, nursing can be pretty demanding but I knew that my only job was to take care of Brady. Luckily I have a total rockstar husband (also a rockstar Dad) who took care of all of the cleaning, cooking, and dishes. Check out this delicious lunch he made me almost everyday! #luckyme
During these two weeks Sean’s cousin Jack introduced us to the most amazing dish: dates and eggs. Yes, sounds weird I know, but it was delicious! Food truly is love and home cooked meals are exactly what you need during this time.
Once your milk comes in after delivery your body will naturally make enough to feed your baby (about 35 ounces per day) which is why it’s important to drink an extra 35 ounces of water to replenish. Pumping after the first morning feed can also stimulate milk production. For the first 6-7 days I recommend to feed on demand all day/night every 2-3 hours to establish a healthy milk supply. Around day 5 you may have to pump to release extra milk and keep milk production high. Here is what my nursing schedule looked like for the first few weeks.