The day after I got home from the hospital, I typed out this entire birth story…and it was 8 pages long. Haha. Even with all of those words, I wasn’t able to fully capture all of the emotions that I felt during that life-changing day when Miles Robert Kennedy entered my life. I know that none of you want to read 8 pages of my rambling emotional journal entries, so I’ve pared it down quite a bit. Even still, this is a pretty lengthy blog entry. Grab a cup of coffee and settle in…
Milo’s Birth Story
I read dozens of birth stories as I was getting ready for Milo’s due date, and my biggest takeaway was that every birth is different and beautiful and unpredictable. No two are the same. But I gained a sense of peace knowing that one of the best things I could do to prepare was to keep an open mindset, stay flexible, and roll with the punches.
Every woman will say something different about the end of pregnancy. I heard everything from “I gained all my weight in the last month” to “I gained no weight in the last month” to “the last 4 weeks are the worst” to “the entire third trimester is miserable.” If my pregnancy discomfort was a graph, it would have looked something like this: a long, steady, gradual incline, and then a sudden spike at the very end.
It was all pretty easy and comfortable, and then BOOM! I hit 38 weeks and was just over it. I felt like I was living inside this very large, swollen suit that I just wanted to take off! 39 weeks is when most doctors consider babies to be full term and they start offering inductions if necessary. I didn’t have a good reason to induce (Milo wasn’t overly large, and my body was still doing fine), so an induction wasn’t on the table…but just knowing that 39 weeks was considered “full term” made my brain consider it some sort of a finish line, which was a mistake because it made the following weeks feel so long!
So at 40 weeks + 4 days pregnant, I woke up and I was in a mood. My sister texted to ask how I was doing, and I responded “not well.” Haha! That’s all I could articulate in the moment. My body had shown no signs of going into labor, and I was desperately ready to not be pregnant. It was a Sunday morning, and Nate and I had no plans for the day, so we enjoyed a lazy morning on the couch (he watched soccer and I read a book), and I asked him if he wanted to go on an afternoon hike with me. Daily walks were a ritual of mine at the end of pregnancy, and when the weather cooled off I was really enjoying going on some nature trails around Austin to enjoy the fall foliage.
The weather was absolutely gorgeous – 70ish and no clouds in the bright blue sky. We pulled up to Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve and enjoyed a 2 mile hike through the trails. We went very slowly with lots and lots of pauses. (My watch kept asking if I was still working out because my mile pace was super super slow.) But it felt good to move, and my mood was instantly energized by being out in nature. I loved standing by the creek and hearing the water rush over the rocks, feeling the sun on my skin, and being with Nate.
^ Looking at this photo now, 2 weeks after birth, makes me remember how uncomfortable and puffy/swollen I was on the last day of pregnancy! Oof…the end is so miserable!
Side note: that morning, I lost my mucous plug, and then later in the day I had my bloody show – two things that can often mean that labor might be near, but it could still be several days away. Just one more way that the end of pregnancy was messing with my head…urgh!
We stopped at H-E-B on the way home from the hike – Nate wanted to pick up ingredients to make a few freezer meals that we could eat after Milo was born. He was busy in the kitchen all evening making a pot roast and a big batch of chile con carne, and I camped out on the couch and watched game 5 of the World Series. At the top of the 9th inning, I started feeling some discomfort in my lower abdomen, but I didn’t think too much of it. There are so many uncomfortable sensations at the end of pregnancy, and this crampy sort of feeling didn’t seem all that special.
But the feeling kept coming back again and again. I decided to time it, just for funsies, and realized that it was lasting for about 20-30 seconds and happening every 15-30 minutes. Hmm..they seemed pretty random, and my cynical mind just wouldn’t believe this was actually the beginning of labor (I probably read too many stories of false labors and people getting sent home from the hospital), so I tried to ignore the sensation and go to bed and fall asleep. Plus, I figured that if this was the real thing, I should try to stay calm and get some rest in case labor was beginning.
Ha…telling a pregnant woman to fall asleep while she’s in the beginning stages of labor to fall asleep is like asking a 5-yr-old to fall asleep the night before her first trip to Disney World. Not gonna happen! I kept going in between timing contractions (just still curious if they were getting longer and closer together, and they seemed to be…but I still didn’t know if what I was feeling was a real contraction or not. They didn’t hurt all that much in the beginning.) And then I would try to sleep for a bit, and then feel nervous and time my contractions again. This went on until 1 am, when I decided to open my book and go ahead and finish up the last few chapters.
After I finished my book (2:30 am or so) I felt sooo so tired, so I tried to close my eyes and sleep, but every time I had a contraction the pain would wake me up. So from 3-5 am I just rested in bed, sometimes timing the contractions and sometimes just breathing through them. They were definitely starting to get painful enough that I really had to focus on them, but I was still unsure as to whether this was labor or not! And I didn’t want to call my mom, who was in Dallas, and have her come down to Austin on a false alarm, or wake up Nate and ruin his Monday morning on a false alarm. I made it my goal to wait until 5 am to talk to anyone about it, and if the pain was still increasing then, I’d call my mom.
5 am arrived and I picked up the phone to call my mom. I told her what had been happening all night (they seemed to be contractions that were happening 10-30 min apart for 30 seconds, and then increasing to 45-60 seconds every 7-10 minutes at the time I was calling her, and they hurt enough to keep me from sleeping.) She answered the phone bright and chipper because she and my dad were on their way to a Masters swim workout. After I told her about my night, she said, “Kelsey, it’s sounds like you’re having a baby today!” She said she was going to squeeze in 1000 yards at the pool and then pack up the car to drive down.
Nate was sleeping upstairs in the guest room (anyone else have to sleep in separate beds at the end of pregnancy? I was so large and uncomfortable and getting up multiple times a night, so I often told Nate to go sleep in the guest room so he could actually get some sleep.) At 5:30 am, the contractions were getting more intense and I felt like I needed some support to get through them, so I woke him up and told him, “it’s baby time!!” and told him about the progression of contractions throughout the night, then immediately got hit with a BIG contraction and had to lean over and put my head down on the bed.
At 8 am when my OB’s office opened, I called in and told them all the details: yes, I lost my mucous plug and bloody show, no, my water hadn’t broken, yes, contractions were gradually getting longer and closer together. I had a contraction while we were on the phone and I couldn’t talk through it, and the nurse told me I could go ahead and come into the hospital if I wanted to. I asked her if I could wait a bit – I’d rather labor at home – and she told me my doctor had an appointment available at 10 am and I could come in then for a cervix check. Perfect!
So for the next two hours, Nate was a champ and ran around the house packing everything on my checklist, loading the car, running errands for me, making sure I ate something, feeding the cat, putting out the trash/recycle for trash day, and getting ready for a couple days at the hospital.
The weird thing about contractions is that they really are like a wave – they start very, very mild and then build to the middle to an intensity where I couldn’t do anything else, even talk to someone, and then they would gradually taper off. So it took a while to figure out when the start of each wave was happening. At first, I didn’t really time contraction until the crest of the wave when the most intense pain was there, but then I figured out to start the timer at the beginning of the wave. Sometimes I would not realize it was happening until the pain was intense, and then all I could say was “help” to Nate instead of “can you help me get through this contraction?” He knew what I needed either way, and when I’d wimper out “help” he’d run over from packing up the car and sway with me, breathe with me, or just put a hand on my back until the pain ended.
We called in an order to Juiceland (Nate said I needed to eat something else before we went in – he was right!) and I got a percolator + hemp protein. I just ordered a small because I knew that’s all I’d be able to get down. Food did NOT sound appealing at this point. We got in the car (very, very slowly!) and I had a contraction right as we left. Then I had another one while he was in Juiceland picking up our order, and another one as we were driving down the 1 mile to the OB office. Contractions were happening so fast at this point!
Once we were in to the OB’s office, my doctor confirmed that I was 5.5 cm dilated. I felt soo so so much relief when she said those words! Even though the pain was clearly there and the contractions were getting closer together, I had read enough birth stories to know that there are all sorts of weird false alarms, everyone’s pain levels are different, and what I thought was labor could have been a flase alarm. I’ve also read stories of people who labor for hours and then are only 1 cm dilated. (I was 2.5 at my last appointment at 40 weeks, but I still wondered…is it possible to un-dilate? Ha)
I was also happy to hear that my doctor was on call that day, so she’d be the one delivering my baby. We drove across the street to the hospital, parked, and slowly walked in. So slow, y’all. Haha! Contractions were about 3-4 minutes apart, and every one had me pausing to hold on to Nate (or the wall) and breathe. At one point I told him, “I thought I would do a better job at staying relaxed and calm during contractions, but my body keeps clenching and shaking.” Seriously, it was SO hard for me to relax my body. The most helpful thing was when Nate would breathe with me, because he’d kind of coach me through how to exhale…something I know how to in any situation EXCEPT when I’m having a contraction! It’s like my body completely forgot how to exhale for those 60 seconds, and I needed someone to show me how to do it.
Once in the labor and delivery ward, I skipped triage and was immediately checked in to my delivery room and asked if I wanted an epidural. I responded that I did, so they were able to get the IV bag of fluids started right away so I could get my epidural asap. While I was getting checked in and answering a bunch of questions from the nurse, my sister Kylee walked in. With a box of Round Rock Donuts. Bless. Soon after that, my mom arrived and came over to give me a kiss and I just felt so, so peaceful knowing that she had made it from Dallas to be there for her first grandson’s birth. A few hours later, two more of my sisters (Cara and Kaila) showed up ready to welcome their nephew into the world.
^ So, so happy that my mama was there in the the delivery room with me! She had been “on call” from Dallas for the past few weeks, waiting for me to give her the call that I was in labor.
The epidural was administered within an hour of my arrival, at about noon. Getting it was a little more uncomfortable than I anticipated, mostly because I had to stay hunched over and still during contractions, and the little pings of feeling it hitting my nerves made me want to jump. But oooh that relief 15 minutes later? Bliss!
The next part is pretty boring…I just rested for about 3 hours! I was so comfy and sleepy. The lights were dimmed, my labor playlist was turned on softly, and my family was nearby. I took a nap, and when I woke up I honestly couldn’t remember where I was or what I was doing. The nurse would come in periodically and check on me and sometimes help me roll over, and Nate would offer me fluids (water and coconut water and gatorade – I drank a lot because I was feeling hungry and wanted some calories!) At one point my doctor came in and broke my water. A few hours later she checked me and I was 9 3/4 cm, and she said she’d be back in an hour and it would be time to push!
At about 4 pm the nurse came to prepare the room for delivery, and she said she could already see Milo’s head and his dark hair…what the what? I got so excited that he was that close! As my body was going through transition, I started shaking uncontrollably and feeling really sick to my stomach. Nate and my mom came over and provided weight on my back and shoulders to control the shaking, and my mom prayed for me. I started feeling sick to my stomach, and I asked for a barf bag just in time. After I threw up, the nurse said that Milo was about to slip out and she needed to get the doctor in the asap. I said something along the lines of, “Oh, great. Some women get to say that they ‘laughed out’ their babies, and I’m going to have to say that I vomited him out. Cute.” 😉
I asked for a mirror so I could see what was happening while I pushed (super fascinating and motivating – I highly recommend it!), and 30 minutes later (5 pushes) he was out.
Milo screamed big, hearty screams right from the moment he came out, and he didn’t stop crying for about 10 minutes. I have zero memory of birthing the placenta, getting stitches (second degree tear), or my first fundal massage. I was just 1) in awe that my son was actually real and here, 2) amazed that this big, beautiful baby had somehow squeezed out of my body (like, how??) and 3) overwhelmed by the swell of emotions pumping through my body. Truly, there is nothing in the world like that moment when he was on my chest for the first time.
I’m not sure I should even try putting this part into words. My writing isn’t nearly eloquent enough to capture what I was feeling when Milo was placed in my arms for the first time. It was one of those few moments in life when I was living in the exact moment I was in…my mind wasn’t tempted to look back or look forward. It just wanted to stay right there. Nate and I were both complete waterworks. I was later told little details about what Milo looked like right when he came out, like the shape of his head (pointy! Nate later said he was horrified at how pointy it was when Milo was pulled out of me, but within seconds it had returned to a more normal head shape) and the color of his skin (purple/blue), but in that moment I couldn’t see very well because my eyes were full of tears. Milo was crying his little eyes out, Nate was laughing/crying, and I was sobbing… It was one big family blubber fest. 😉
I felt a devastating surge of love for my family: for this tiny, beautiful, screaming babe on my chest who was currently peeing all over me, for my handsome, kind, strong husband who I had never loved more than I did right in that moment. I thought about my wonderful mom who was standing by my head, for my sweet sisters who were welcoming Milo into the world with tears in their eyes, and for the billions of women throughout history who’ve had the same feeling I was experiencing. I felt a new sort of love and appreciation for humanity that I hadn’t ever understood before. Maybe this is a tad dramatic, but I really do believe that my concept of love grew in a significant way in that moment.
And now our sweet Miles Robert Kennedy is a forever part of our family. I keep looking back at pregnancy and thinking of all the books I read, people I talked to, and classes I took about birth…and then the entire experience was over and done in one quick day! And now we get to move on to the rest of our lives with this baby boy. We came home after two nights in the hospital and started transitioning into our first few (bleary-eyed!) days at home as a family of three (+ my mom, who stayed with us for a week and completely saved us multiple times.)
A few things that surprised me about labor/delivery:
- The hours flew by! In the past when I’ve read other birth stories, I would think “18 hours of labor? That’s insane!” But the hours from 11 pm on Sunday night to 5 pm on Monday evening honestly felt like 4 hours, not 18.
- Contractions didn’t feel the way I thought they would. I thought I’d feel them more like muscles tightening in my back and throughout my entire abdomen, but I mostly felt them in my lower/front abdomen. And to be honest, they just felt like really really bad diarrhea cramps.
- It really was very hard to eat once the contractions got going. My stomach just didn’t want anything! But I got super hungry just before it was time to start pushing, so I’m thankful for that small Juiceland smoothie I drank at 9:30 am. I just wish I had gotten up and eaten something more substantial around 3 am when I realized that this was, in fact, the real beginning of labor.
- The entire day was calm and peaceful! I’m so thankful for a skilled nursing staff, an incredible doctor, and the ultimate support team of my husband, mom, and sisters. I didn’t write a birth plan, but I had imagined the day in my head dozens of times, and I’m thankful that the reality of this childbirth was very similar to my dream expectations.
- Milo looked so beautiful right away! The blue/purple color faded in a few minutes, and Nate and I kept looking at each other and saying, “can you believe how real he looks?” Haha. But really, it was the strangest feeling to hold this very real human being who had been a mystery to me for the previous 9 months.
One more thing before I sign off: I am so, so thankful for Nate, my partner through this journey. Like me, this was his first time going through pregnancy, labor, and delivery, and he was so sturdy, calm, comforting, and sincere throughout it all. My journey since that day back in February when we found out we were pregnant has been a incredible one, and I owe much of that to the positive energy that he puts out in our relationship.
Looking for more pregnancy posts? See my adorable gender reveal cake, my letter to the first trimester, my second or third trimester updates, and my babymoon beach trip recap. Oh, and here’s a day-in-the-life, pregnancy edition. And if you love reading birth stories, read Jude’s birth story over on LivvyLand…love this blogger!