Monday 21 April 2014

baby coop's birth story

I sat up in bed and said, "I think that was a contraction…"

It was 11:00pm on Wednesday and we were settled in for the night. Or so we thought. I didn't bother to enter that contraction into the app on my phone because I was still convinced it wasn't real. 

Fifteen minutes later, another. It wasn't painful; just mildly annoying. Like a feeling of general malaise followed by some stomach discomfort. Oh, and my big ol' pregnant belly getting rock hard. They lasted about a minute and it wasn't long before I found myself having to take a few deep breaths to get through them. 

12:30pm, contractions were consistently anywhere from 12-15 minutes apart. We were getting really excited at this point, and I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep. Ryan asked me how I'd like to spend my evening and apparently all I wanted to do was watch Big Brother. 

That 42 minute episode lasted over an hour because Ry was pausing and unpausing through my contractions to let me concentrate and breathe. He poured me a glass of wine (my first taste of it in over 9 months) and I downed it like it was water. It took the edge off just nicely :) 

At this point the contractions were about 6 or 7 minutes apart (and we were waiting for them to be 5 minutes apart before going to the hospital). Once Big Brother was over we put our game faces on -- last minute packing of the hospital bag (iPad! charge cords! toothbrush! vitamin water from the fridge!), and we both showered. 

Side note: having a contraction in the shower? Strange.

It was important for me to feel as much like my normal self as possible during this whole "labour" thing, so that meant drying and straightening my hair, and doing my makeup on the bed before we left. I switched into an outfit suitable for a yoga class, and we took off for the hospital. My mom met us there and did some magic stuff behind the scenes that ensured I had an excellent nurse (perks of having a mom with 30 years experience as a labour & delivery nurse). 

I'll never forget the morning of Thursday, April 10th, 2014… that gorgeous sunrise on a Spring day.  

At 5:00am I sat down in the assessment room. I hated the "pregnant lady" chair that was offered to me, so I traded with Ry and sat in a folding office chair with my legs crossed. In my pregnancy I was never fond of leaning back and pushing out my stomach… 

The assessment went great -- I was checked in at 5cm dilated and when they asked where I fell on the pain scale I said "5." 

I was promptly told that unless I needed pain medication to cope with my contractions, that I could not be a "5." I switched my answer to "4." They seemed content with that. 

A lady checked in shortly after I did, but was making sounds like she was dying… My mom said that's what someone at 10cm sounds like. Five minutes later, she was wheeled out of assessment and into a labour room. Five minutes after that… we heard the baby cry. Exciting stuff!! (I was not jealous…she didn't make it seem like fun to have a baby within minutes of arriving at the hospital.)

By 6:30am, we were in our beautiful labour room. Again, I wasn't into sitting on the hospital bed, so I traded with Ry and got comfy sitting cross legged on the couch. For the next couple hours that's where I'd be. Hanging out, watching the sunrise, and breathing for 1 minute every 5 minutes. Just breathing…concentrating…enjoying the moment. 

We took selfies (one to describe my feelings between contractions, and one for during). 

I was not impressed when I was told I would need to switch into a hospital gown and get an IV if I wanted to have an epidural. I fought the authority but the authority won. And most unfortunately, I apparently have bad veins which meant my IV needed to go into my hand. AKA sausage fingers and absolutely no mobility. 

My nurses used this pain scale to judge how I was feeling, but I was thrown off by the indifference of the faces and how little they changed. Ryan and I spent a few minutes trying to find the difference between "4" and "6." 

By the time the IV was in, I was about ready for the epidural (especially since I was told it could take up to an hour from the time you decide you want one until you feel any relief from it). At 8:40am, Marky Mark strolled in and I kid you not, he was taller than Ryan. The 6'11" skin-and-bones resident got set up while I got into position: hunched over in a ball with my feet on Ryan's lap, my hands squeezing his. 

He said, "Tell me the moment you start to feel any pain."

I replied with, "Ow! Oh my god, ow! Pain! Pain! Right side! Owww!"

He adjusted his tools, tried again, and I repeated the line above. Again, and again, and again. I was almost in tears from how painful the procedure turned out to be, and I remember questioning why on Earth I was doing this when my CONTRACTIONS hadn't been nearly that painful! He worked his way down my spine trying spot after spot, while my contractions started to get worse and I almost had a breakdown. Finally it was over and all we had to do was wait. 

The nurse used ice packs to figure out how much sensation I had on my hips and stomach. The right side was completely numb…the left? No dice. 

Marky Mark had botched my epidural and left me scared to try and do another one. 

At 9:30am I had a visit from my OB, the amazing Dr. Dave Millar. He did a cervical exam and reported that I was still at 5cm, but that he had seen a lot of progress since the appointment we had the day before. I was asked to lay on my left side and see if the epidural would start to head in that direction. 

For the next few hours, I laboured quietly and happily, with only a little bit of pain on the left. Pain scale "5." 

After an epidural top-up that didn't really work as we'd hoped, we started talking about epidural number two. I was super hesitant because at this point my most painful contraction didn't come close to the pain I felt from epidural number one, so how did that seem productive? 

But at this point I was 7cm dilated, which meant we were now talking about breaking my water (meaning more powerful contractions that would probably push me to a "7" or "8" on the pain scale).

This is the part where I'm going to stress just how wonderful my support system was. My nurse, Kathy, said she thought it was a good idea. My mom said she had seen plenty of examples where the second epidural was very successful. My husband said that even if the second one was worse than the first, he knew I could handle it. 

That was all I needed to hear. At 1:30pm, an angel named George arrived (head of the anesthesia department, no less), and performed the most wonderful, painless epidural. 

I couldn't believe it when he said "Done!"

George's epidural worked like a dream. My left side started losing sensation within minutes and my contractions became truly painless.

So I slept. 

A 30-minute nap felt like a lifetime and I woke up feeling nothing but hunger (did I mention at this point I realized I should have had breakfast before my epidural?). 

The next few hours were a blur. They broke my water (painless), and watched my contractions regress instead of accelerate (not good), and my nurse started me on oxytocin. We started with a minimal dose and increased it as much as possible every half hour…hoping that I would be more than 7cm dilated every time. 

5:00pm marked the first bit of back labour (basically a really painful pressure that makes lying/sitting down extremely uncomfortable). My nurse suggested I flip over onto my hands and knees. I almost laughed at her because I was so numb and felt like I had no control over my limbs. I remembered back to our prenatal classes where the instructor told us that sometimes a change in position, no matter how difficult to orchestrate, could solve everything.

Side note: while on my hands and knees, an anesthesiologist came in to check on me. His voice was different than Marky Mark's or George's, so I turned around to look at him. 

"You look like a soap-opera doctor," I said, smoothly. 

But he did! He was too good looking to be smart, and I swear he looked like a model slash actor in scrubs, auditioning for a part in General Hospital. Anyway, he was friendly and this is all completely unrelated to the story of Cooper's birth, but it was funny and I don't want to forget about it :)

So as it turns out, my hands-and-knees position was just what the doctor ordered and by the time I flipped back over, so had the baby. Back labour, GONE! Unfortunately, I was still 7cm and I started to notice my Mom's expression changing. She had the word "C-section" sprawled across her forehead, but no one was saying anything. 

There was talk that Dr. Millar would be coming by around 8:00pm to do another cervical exam, and I got the idea that if I was still 7cm, it'll be time to talk surgery. But Ryan kept me zen by telling me "there are still so many steps before we even think about that."

I started to feel a little bit of pain around 6:30pm; like a stretching sensation in my pelvic muscles. Not that bad, but my nurse recommended another epidural top-up. The pro: no more pain. The con: I could lose all sensation below my ribs and when the time comes to push, I might not feel like I'm able to do it. 

Something told me I was going to need to be completely pain free for the contractions and the pushing, so I was promptly topped-up. Just as we discussed, Dr. Millar arrived at 8:00pm and I practically held my breath while he did the cervical exam.

"Well, you're definitely fully!"

Fully…definitely fully…fully effaced? Fully dilated? Ryan and I just looked at each other and kind of had this moment of is-this-really-happening? Could we be pushing this baby out today for real?

Millar ducked out and said he'd be back for some of the action later on. My mom came in and was insanely excited that we had reached the finish line and there was no need for a C-section!! That oxytocin really did some amazing work to get me all the way from 7cm to 10cm. And because of the top-up, I still wasn't in any pain!

The nurse told me I could start pushing whenever I wanted to. I looked to my mom for advice and she said that most people push for 2 hours with their first-born, and that if I started now that's probably how it would go. If I opted to rest and just breathe through my contractions for an hour, I could spend only about an hour pushing. I liked the latter option. 

Just after 9:15pm, I said that classic line:

"I feel like I want to push!"

And this is where it got fun. Pushing was one of my favourite parts of the whole experience. The minutes FLEW by as I pushed for 60 seconds, recovered for 60 seconds, and repeated. Ryan stood by my side through each contraction and told me I was doing great. He said he could see the head and that I was making progress with each push! 

Dr. Millar arrived near the bitter end of my 40 minutes of pushing. One big push later and bam…Coop was out.

Millar put the baby on my abdomen while the nurse wiped him off and Ryan cut the cord. It felt like time slowed down for awhile, and Ryan and I just kept switching between looking at the baby and looking at each other. We couldn't believe he was here…it was just surreal. 

Baby Coop weighed 9 pounds 7 ounces, and measured 21 inches long. He had surprisingly big hands and feet (wonder where he gets that from) and his dad's butt-chin. 

My parents were in the waiting room and came in right after Coop was weighed, blanketed, and back on my chest. My mom couldn't wait to get her hands on him :)

The baby's nurse came over and noticed that he was making a grunting sound, and she thought it might have been from some leftover fluid in his lungs. She took him over to his little bed station and called the paediatrician to take a look. He told us that he was a little bit concerned about the grunting noise and would like to take him into the Special Care Unit for observation overnight. 

He explained that the best case scenario was some fluid in the lungs, the worst case scenario was a rupture. Unfortunately for our little guy, they discovered it was closer to the second. A tiny air leak in his lung was forcing him to take really shallow breaths. At this point, my parents had left for the night, Ryan had followed the baby to Special Care, Dr. Millar had gone home, and I was left in the big room by myself to shower (heavenly), change into my regular clothes (even more heavenly), and devour a turkey sandwich that my Mom found in the fridge. 

Right before leaving the labour room and heading to the mother/baby room, I remember looking at the clock and thinking, "We did it. We had this baby "today." April 10th…what a perfect day for a baby to be born." 

I settled into my new room right at midnight, and Ryan came to take me to see the baby in Special Care. He looked so little in his baby-incubator…but compared to the preemies beside him, he looked so giant and healthy! 

My visit was quick due to exhaustion, so Ryan tucked me into bed and spent the rest of the night beside little Coop. You really couldn't tear him away from the incubator…it was so sweet. I trusted Ryan to make all of the decisions that needed to be made, and he did an amazing job of filling me in on what happened in the night. He kept me up to date with conversations from nurses, doctors, and specialists. 

The air leak in his lung would heal on its own, but the staff wanted to keep monitoring his breathing and heart rate for a while, just in case. He had an IV, multiple x-rays, bloodwork, and spent 6 hours under 100% oxygen. He was put through the wringer, this babe…and he did so good :)

We spent the next day going back and forth between our room and Special Care. When we were away from him, we missed him terribly. 

Breastfeeding was causing him too much stress and aggravating his little lung problem so I was pumping and Ryan was bottle feeding. This would later cause us much difficulty in the breastfeeding department… 

Kim & Brittany had the most beautiful flowers delivered to my hospital room :)

By that evening we finally had some down-time, just the two of us. We checked our texts, announced Cooper's birth on Facebook, and found a few minutes to have the "can you believe we have a baby?" conversation. 

Saturday morning was when we probably would have been able to go home, had Coop been released. He was still in an incubator, but there was talk of him moving into a regular bed and joining us in our room. Trust me when I say that nothing would have made us happier… 

Hospital food was DELICIOUS (actually!), and I was so hungry after the whole giving birth ordeal that I would eat anything. 

By Saturday night we knew that Cooper would be sleeping in our room, and he arrived around 9:00pm. Just as we were feeling pretty cramped (our semi-private room didn't have a roommate until the night before), the nurse came in and said that we had been upgraded to a private room. I heard angels singing, I swear. 

We packed everything up, and settled into our new room as a family of three. It was wonderful. We had space to move around and soothe Coop when he got fussy between feedings. 

Come Sunday morning the word "discharge" was on everyone's mind. We filled out our paperwork, got clearance from Coop's doctor that he was doing great, and packed our bags. 


The next day we had a visit from Kim & Brittany, and my heart melted when I saw them holding him… 

And they brought the most adorable gift basket… 

We also had both sets of parents, Shaun, Sherry, Nathan, Loraleah and Luca over for visits :) Keeping the visits small and low key was wonderful advice that we took to heart. Having someone over even for 2 hours is exhausting between pumping, feeding, changing, soothing, and sleeping…

Our first family outing on Monday!! Cooper's first doctor's appointment went great, and we considered it a parenting WIN to get out the door only 3 minutes behind schedule :)

Having the baby 6 days early was awesome. It was so strange when my due date came, to think that he could still have been in my belly!

Breastfeeding was made difficult because Coop was bottle feeding in the hospital. The transition from bottle to breast wasn't really working out like we'd hoped, and we were struggling with everything from latching, to keeping him awake while he fed. 

We arranged for a lactation consultant to come to the house on Thursday night. Little did I know that would be one of the best decisions we made. The lovely Jo-Ann managed to find a comfortable position that worked for both Coop and I, and gave us some tricks to get him to feed normally. By Saturday evening, he was successfully breastfeeding 100% of the time. And that has made ALL the difference :)

Everyone was coming over with arms of food… My mom stopped by with spaghetti and caesar salad one day, and Cinnabon the next. SO GOOD. 

And we really enjoyed this edible arrangement from Scott, Rebecca, and the girls :)

Thankfully we didn't have to wait too long to see them because Easter weekend was right around the corner! I love this photo of Ivy & Coop! She's such a doll, she kept coming up to me and asking "Auntie Laura, can I hold baby Cooper's hand?" 

Everyone is dying to know how Weezydog is getting along with our newest addition, and I'm happy to say that they're quickly becoming great friends. Weeze is a fan of sniffing Coop's face, and trying to share a pillow with him. 

I've still only been taking iPhone photos so far, but I'm hoping to do our first family photoshoot very soon…

Ahh, life is so good, friends :)


  1. Congratulations! Your birthing story melted my heart and brought tears in my eyes. It reminded me so much of my three pregnancies. Coopers is super cute! Cheers from The Chatterley Family... you photographed us at Christmas time a few years back. :O)

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, your blog followers. He's absolutely adorable! All the best to the three of you, it seems like you are settling in quite well. :)