May 05, 2016

Disclaimer: I forget how desperately my mind needs to write. It's been a long time since I've posted here, and it feels good to be back. The last seven weeks have been the absolute craziest, most difficult, life changing weeks I have ever experienced. Welcoming a child into the world is a lot to grasp and an awful lot to try to put into words. I have so much I want to write and remember and share, but today I am only here to record the day we welcomed our son into the world. That day was really, really wonderful. Multiple times, looking back on it helped me to get through the insane weeks that followed. So all my raw emotions will make their way to this blog soon, but for now here is our sweet baby's birth story.

The first Friday in March, Stefan and I spent the entire day walking around downtown with friends. By the end of the day we had walked seven miles, and I'm fairly certain that's what started my first contractions. That night I woke up in an awful sweat feeling like my stomach would explode because my skin couldn't stretch enough to accommodate all the intense pressure I was feeling. I wasn't in pain, but the pressure made my stomach rock hard. For the next week and a half, my stomach would go rock hard all the time - no pain, no consistency, but we figured it meant something was up.

I would have been okay with the baby coming early, except that my incredible doctor was out of the country on a humanitarian trip! The week before our due date, I had a check up with another doctor from the practice and decided I really did not want this other doctor to deliver our baby. You click with some people and you don't click with others. I did not click with this old man, and I decided that would make things a little uncomfortable in the delivery room. Of course he was the doctor on call until my regular doctor was back! So I was thrilled to still be pregnant when my doctor sent me a text saying she was home.

Then my due date came! It came, and I was frustrated because nothing was happening. I sat around most of the day feeling sorry for myself. But by late afternoon I decided to get moving. I started by marching up and down the stairs for fifteen minutes. Then Stefan and I walked a mile or so to pick up dinner. For the rest of the night I bounced on our exercise ball while timing my rock hard "contractions." I still felt no pain, but I thought if I could prove they were getting closer together and coming more consistently I could convince myself it meant something. Yooou guessed it, nothing. Stefan and I went to bed that night feeling kind of bummed and accepting the fact that we would probably have to wait a few more days for our baby.

Then 1:30AM rolled around. I woke up a little groggy, definitely feeling some pain. I grabbed my phone and headed for the exercise ball in the living room. For about an hour and a half, I bounced and timed. The contractions became more painful, came closer and closer together, and developed some consistency. I decided to take a shower - I had heard a hot shower helps the pain, plus if I was headed to the hospital soon I didn't want to arrive already feeling gross - and by the time I was finished I thought I needed to wake up Stefan. I told him what was going on and added, "By the way, I am definitely getting an epidural."

I had been on the fence about pain medication for the entire pregnancy. I had heard a few stories about epidurals gone wrong, plus they can sometimes slow down labor. I really liked the idea of a natural birth, probably because I have pride issues.. but man, once those contractions started getting more painful I knew I needed an epidural. I knew it would help me relax and enjoy the day. Fortunately I have the world's most supportive husband who told me I was brave no matter what. So Stefan took a quick shower, we finished loading up our hospital bag, and I grabbed a snack before heading out the door. Actually right before we left Stefan stopped me and offered a prayer. You guys, I married the perfect person for me. (That would become increasingly clear throughout this entire experience. Stefan is my number one, forever.)

The roads were totally empty at 4:30AM, so of course we got stopped at multiple long red lights. Stefan did a great job helping me through contractions while we drove. All I could think about between the pain was how desperately I hoped we didn't get turned away. My biggest fear was that they would measure me and tell me we had come too soon. It's a thirty minute drive to this hospital! I did not want to go back home. Luckily, after we parked and found our way up to labor and delivery, we got a really sweet nurse who let us stay. I was only dilated about three and a half centimeters, but once she hooked me up she could tell my contractions were strong and coming really close together. She asked if I wanted an epidural, I proudly announced, "YES," and Stefan and I settled into our room to wait. 

Once I got the epidural, I went numb pretty quickly. It was honestly incredible. I didn't feel those contractions at all anymore, and I definitely did not regret my decision. We were told to try and rest, so Stefan and I both closed our eyes for an hour or so before a new nurse came back to measure me again. TEN! I was dilated to a ten! Everyone was surprised by how fast it had happened, and my nurse called for someone to come break my water. They broke my water at 9:00AM and my doctor was in by 9:30AM. By 9:55AM it was time to push.

I think I was really bad at pushing in the beginning. Maybe all the way through.. My doctor is incredibly patient and kept coaching me through it, telling me how it should feel. We also had the best nurse. She was middle aged, really experienced and calm - she kind of brought a motherly presence to the room. I loved our little team so much. Just me, Stefan, Emily (world's best OB), and our nurse. I can't remember her name anymore and feel seriously terrible for it.

The whole experience was honestly very relaxed and calm. Almost to a point that it made me a little uncomfortable. I wasn't screaming? Or even sweating very badly? There was basically no pain. I pushed every time a contraction came, Emily and the nurse gave me pointers, Stefan was there with the water, ice chips, and his unbelievable ability to always carry on an interesting conversation and make everyone laugh. At one point the room was so quiet, I requested Stefan turn on one of the playlists I had made ahead of time. A lot of people talk about having calming music in the room, but even weeks ahead of time I knew I probably wouldn't like that. I didn't need to be calmed down, I needed to be pumped up. I had a job to do here! I knew relaxing music would frustrate/annoy me. So Stefan played my pump up jams from my phone, and lucky for him I had even thrown in some of his favorites.

I pushed for just over two hours, which I guess is a long time? It honestly didn't feel long to me. We checked into the hospital at 5:00AM and the baby came at 12:05PM - that was pretty okay by me! When we checked in and I was measuring three and a half centimeters, I thought we might be in that delivery room alllll day. So I was pretty thrilled with how things went.

When I first looked down and saw our son.. well, I instantly started crying. I knew I would. All I could do was cry and say, "Oh! Oh. Oh!" I looked at Stefan who was crying, too. Stefan cut the umbilical cord, and they laid the baby on a towel on my chest for a minute. He was screaming and I wasn't even sure how to hold him. But there he was! He was here! He was ours! After a minute, the nurses took him over to the area with the warming lights and scale and everything. Stefan headed over with the camera, and I watched - seriously in awe - from my bed.

After the nurses had taken care of all they needed to, they brought the baby back over to me for some skin to skin time. Again, when they handed him to me I wasn't sure how to hold him. I was cradling him but something told me to lay him down right on my chest. The second I did he stopped screaming and became totally calm. It was incredibly reassuring to me to feel like I had done something right. 

I held him there for a while, with Stefan right beside me. This time Stefan asked me to offer a prayer. I couldn't even finish it. The moment was so sweet and I was crying and feeling so happy and blessed and tired and lucky and in love and probably two dozen other emotions. 

About an hour after he was born, my parents arrived! I was so happy to see them. I always knew I didn't want to have many people in the delivery room during the actual delivery, but as soon as everything was over I was happy to be surrounded by family. Some of Stefan's family was flying home from a vacation that day, so his mom came to the hospital straight from the airport and his dad and sister came later on that evening. I guess we didn't get any pictures with them because we were all too busy stuffing our faces with food they brought us from Portillo's.. There's one right across the street from the hospital - I could see it from the window in our room - and we may have eaten food from there three days in a row. Although I will say the hospital food was pretty good! I loved our hospital, so if anyone is looking for a place to deliver in Chicago - let me know.

I think March 16, 2016 really was the second best day of my life so far. I'm not sure anything will top the day I married Stefan, but our first son's birth day was incredible. I've said it before and I'll say it again - that epidural really allowed me to enjoy the experience. I know it's a hot topic for a lot of moms, and I would never tell anyone what to do. Everything about pregnancy, childbirth, childrearing - it is all incredibly personal. And honestly, there is no right way to do any of it. But it helped me. It also helped to work with such a great doctor, deliver in an awesome hospital, and have Stefan by my side through it all. Welcome to the world, Peter Emmett van de Graaff. Mama sure does love you.

>>> I received lots of compliments on my robe after I posted a picture from the hospital, so I figured I would pass along a good recommendation here! I ordered it from this Etsy shop, and I love it! They have an insane number of colors available and make your order so customizable. They ask for your height and size - I said I was taller than I am to make sure it would be plenty long - and you can choose to have it lined or add pockets. I added pockets and they are perfect! Sewn right into the sides of the robe - not just stuck on the front - and plenty big. The shipping time was also significantly shorter than they said it would be. My only complaint is that the fabric wrinkles easily - I don't do wrinkles, because I am my mother's daughter.


Trisha said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Congratulations! He's beautiful. I want to hear the story of how you picked the name too! :)

A and M said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I love birth stories, I could talk about them for hours!! Thank you for sharing yours. It brought back so many memories of my birth with Merrick on March 16th, 2009.

LauraP said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I'm with Melissa! I love all the details. Sounds like it was the perfect delivery. I love the picture of him all curled up on the scale! So cute.

Erin van de Graaff said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Thank you! I'll be sure to post that story soon!

Erin van de Graaff said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

@A and M
I love them too! It's so fun to hear everyone's different experiences. And I love that Peter shares a birthday with such a cool little guy!

Erin van de Graaff said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I love that picture too - he looks so sad but who wouldn't be after what he's just been through? Haha

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