Our sweet Brynleigh Jeanne [brin-lee jean] is finally here!! We are over the moon in love and exhausted as heck! I've had lots of people ask me about our experience, what it was like giving birth during this COVID pandemic and how everything went. Not everything went according to my birth plan...I like to think it went even better! In this post I'll answer the most commonly asked questions and tell y'all about how our sweet Bryn came into this world!
We found out in October that we were finally pregnant after trying for 3+ years! We didn't believe the first positive pregnancy test that I took so I took a few more haha! And we were definitely pregnant!! I won't go into a lot of details about the pregnancy in this post, but I'll do infertility and pregnancy posts soon!
Fast forward to the beginning of June. I was 38 weeks pregnant and not showing any signs of progression...my OB said I would most likely go to my due date or past it. At my 39 week appointment I still hadn't dilated at all so my doctor scheduled an induction for Thursday June 18th incase I didn't have baby girl before my due date (the 14th). She also scheduled my COVID test for the 15th so that the results would be back before my induction.
Honestly, Shawn and I were just praying super hard that our sweet little girl would make her appearance before I had to be induced. I was planning on having a completely natural birth and I'd heard that contractions after pitocin are awful...almost unbearable. We were trying everything we could to get labor going! I ate super spicy food at PF Changs, I bounced on an exercise ball, Shawn did reflexology and I walked with one foot on a curb haha. I'm not sure if any of those things worked...maybe it was a combination of all of them??
Something definitely worked because I woke up on Saturday June 13th and felt a contraction. I had a few more over the next couple hours, so nothing to get too worked up about at that point...but by 4:00pm they were very consistent so I started tracking them. Shawn was working that day so I let him know contractions had started that morning and intensified in the afternoon. We were all hanging out at my sister's house with my mom who was in town and Shawn finally got home from work around 5:00pm.
He and I ran to our house really quick to grab our hospital bags, the exercise ball and anything else we would need for me to labor and if we ended up heading to the hospital that night. When we got back to my sister's house we all watched a movie and I bounced on the birthing ball to distract me through the contractions. At this point they were bearable and I could still talk through them, so I knew we weren't quite ready to head in yet.
Shawn and I headed home around 10:00pm to see if we could get some sleep before labor progressed even more. Yeah...that didn't happen. My contractions got more intense and by midnight they were about 6-7 minutes apart and lasting around a minute. These contractions were definitely intense and I was having to really breathe and focus to get through them! By 1:00am they were about 5 minutes apart and lasting longer than a minute so we called my OB's office and they told us to head to Labor & Delivery.
I always imagined how the drive to the hospital would go. Would I be like the wives in movies, screaming at their husbands to get in the *bleeping* car or to drive faster? Would I be completely freaked out, legs up on the dash, bracing myself for each painful contraction? Would we get pulled over by a police officer for speeding like crazy? Well I have to say...I wasn't a complete hot mess, but a little piece of each of these scenarios may have happened!
Ok, so I didn't yell at Shawn to get in the *bleeping* car, but you better believe I told him to drive faster and just get us there! I wasn't completely freaked out, but I totally had to brace myself for contractions at this point (they were so painful)! And while we didn't get pulled over for speeding, we did fly by a police officer on the road to the hospital...thank goodness he probably knew lots of people speed right there because they're rushing to get there. A small part of me thought he was going to pull us over for sure!
We made it to the hospital at about 1:30am and Shawn dropped me off at the front door. (So I didn't get much of a pregnancy waddle so to speak, but I was definitely waddling into the hospital that morning because of the pain of my contractions). Before I could go to the front desk, I had to stop at the little kiosk in the front to be screened for COVID symptoms. Clearly seeing I was in labor, the staff member thankfully quizzed me fairly quickly and got me to the check in desk shortly after. The gentleman at the front desk could also tell I was in labor...evident by his comment, "You look like you're in labor." I wanted to ask him what gave it away, but decided even though I was in a ton of pain and having a contraction while I sat there in the wheelchair...that sarcasm probably wouldn't do any good haha. So I kept that comment to myself and waited as they checked me in and then Shawn once he was done being screened for COVID.
We made our way up to the second floor and got all set in a L&D emergency room. The on-call doctor came in and did an exam to determine if I wad dilated, effaced and if my water had broken. Apparently, I was already dilated to a 2.5/3 and 80% effaced, but they weren't sure about my water so they ran a test to see if there was amniotic fluid present. My contractions were really painful at this point and I needed Shawn to lean on (physically and mentally)! Unfortunately because of COVID, we couldn't walk the halls to help with the pain while we waited to see the results and learn if I would be admitted or not. So we had to walk circles in the small ER room which we became way too familiar with haha.
After what felt like forever, the nurse came back into our room followed by a man. She said, "Well your water has broke, do you want to stay and have a baby today?!" I was like "HECK YEAH!" She then introduced the man as her husband and told us that he's actually the one administering COVID tests. Ok, so after all the hype and discomfort people claimed came with this test...I honestly didn't think it was that bad. It just felt like I had to sneeze really bad. And it was super quick! They let us know that the results would take between 12-24 hours to get back and until they came back (and were negative), our baby would have to stay in our room with us and wouldn't be allowed in the nursery. We also had to wear masks the entire time we were at the hospital, with the exception of when we were alone in our room. It was awful and such a pain in the butt!
Once my COVID test was complete, the nurses moved us over to a L&D room to get settled. I asked if my OB would be coming in to deliver my baby, but they said she wasn't on call that weekend so it would be a different doc. I was not happy about that...I was really disappointed that my doc who I had come to know well and trust wouldn't be the one delivering baby girl.
By this point it was about 4:00am and I was still only dilated to a 3 and 80/90% effaced. My contractions were continually getting stronger, but I wasn't progressing very much. The on-call doc came in and told me that my water wasn't broken, but was only leaking. So at 7:30am the doc decided to break my water completely. This would allow baby girl to move down and put more pressure on my cervix, hopefully causing me to dilate fully. Oh my gosh you guys...having your water ruptured hurts so freaking bad! And I thought my contractions were painful before that, but they got SO. MUCH. WORSE. I started shaking from the pain and may have thrown out one (ok like three) swear words haha!
At 9:30am I was only dilated to a 5 and wasn't making much progress. Y'all, I had completely planned on having a natural birth. Initially, I was only open to an epidural if it was considered medically necessary. But there were some extenuating circumstances that I felt were out of my control: we hadn't slept in over 36 hours, we still didn't have my COVID results back so we'd have to be awake and able to take care of baby and I just wasn't dilating. So at 10:00am, after discussing all my options and thoughts with Shawn, I decided to get an epidural. I just have to say...BEST DECISION EVER. I don't regret it at all! I realized that things don't always go according to a birth plan and it's ok to make adjustments based on how you're feeling and the circumstances of your birth.
After getting the epidural I was able to relax and get a couple hours of sleep, I progressed and dilated much quicker and I felt like I could actually enjoy the process. I found myself looking forward to pushing instead of dreading it like I had been before the epidural. At 1:00pm I was dilated to a 8.5 and by 2:00 I was at a 9.5. I started pushing around 2:30pm and was even able to reach down and feel all of her hair right before she came out. (No wonder I had such bad heartburn my whole pregnancy)! One of the coolest experiences ever!
So I actually got a really big surprise at this point...my OB decided to come in and deliver my baby even though she wasn't on call that weekend! I was so thrilled!! She was amazing and helped me get exactly what I wanted during the end of pushing and delivery. At exactly 4:00pm she was born. Our sweet little angel was here and we both bawled like babies. Shawn cut her umbilical cord and then I got to do immediate skin to skin contact with her. It was easily the happiest moment of our lives!
Since we couldn't have visitors at the hospital, we had a bunch of family waiting for us when we got home. She was already so loved!
I thought it'd be fun to include this little Q&A session about our birth experience and answer some of y'alls questions!
Q: Did you have to get tested for COVID before going to labor & delivery?
A: Yes, I did. The weird thing is they didn't test Shawn. He's been living with me obviously, so it's interesting that they don't test spouses.
Q: How bad was the COVID test?
A: Honestly, not that bad! They put a large q-tip up your nose and back. I thought it would be shoved up further, but they put it back in more than up. It just makes you feel like you have to sneeze really bad!
Q: Did you have to wear a mask during labor and delivery?
A: Yes. From the moment you get to the hospital and they screen you outside the front door, you have to wear a mask. The staff are all wearing masks (some wear face shields) as well. However, the nurses did tell us that if we are in our room we can take our masks off when it's just us and no staff are in there. That was such a saving grace and y'all better believe that I ripped that thing off my face every change I got!
Q: Could your husband come to the hospital with you?
A: Yes, thank goodness! I had heard horror stories from around the country of places not allowing spouses to come in with a pregnant woman. That would have been so awful...especially with it being my first baby.
Q: Could you have visitors?
A: Unfortunately, we could not have visitors in the hospital. So none of our family members were able to come and meet her, but my mom and sister (and her family) were all at our house when we went home the next day! Then Shawn's parents and my dad came into town later that week to meet her.
Q: Were you induced or did you go into labor on your own?
A: I went into labor on my own and actually ended up having Bryn on my due date which is apparently really rare! I was scheduled to be induced at 40w 4d if I hadn't had her by my due date. I'm so glad I went into labor on my own and didn't have to get pitocin! I heard contractions on pitocin are soooo much worse.
Q: Did you labor at home?
A: Yes, I did! I knew from the beginning of my pregnancy that I wanted to labor at home as long as possible when the time came. My (consistent) contractions began at 4:00pm on Saturday afternoon and I labored at home until 1:00am Sunday morning when my contractions were about 5 minutes apart and lasting over a minute. It was so nice to be in the comfort of my own home as long as possible and to eat if I wanted to.
Q: Did your water break or did it have to be broken?
A: This is kind of a funny story! All throughout the later part of my pregnancy my OB kept telling me that I had so much amniotic fluid and that when my water broke it would most likely be a huge "Hollywood gush" like in the movies. So I was totally expecting that to happen to me and found myself wondering where I'd be and how embarrassed I'd be when it happened. I'll admit, I tiny part of me was a little disappointed that it never happened. When my contractions really picked up and I knew I'd be heading to the hospital, I started to realize that my water wasn't going to break in a big dramatic way. When I got to the hospital they tested to see if I was leaking amniotic fluid. It was leaking, but the bag hadn't broken completely so they had to manually go in and rupture it. Soooo painful!
Q: Did you have a birth plan?
A: Yes, I had a birth plan. I did a lot of research throughout the last few weeks of my pregnancy about what I wanted to include in it. I pulled from several resources and created a birth plan that was tailored to my wants and needs. Having said that, I was also completely ok with the fact that things rarely go exactly according to plan and I may have to compromise. So my advice is to be flexible with your birth plan and realize that sometimes the nurses and doctors will tell you another option may be best for you and your circumstances.
Q: What was in your hospital bag?
A: I'm going to do a whole separate post on this soon!
Q: What did you wear during labor & delivery?
A: I wore this super cute floral labor gown that I got from Baby Be Mine on Amazon. I got so many compliments on it! It was comfortable and so convenient for exams, nursing, skin to skin and epidural access.
Q: Could you eat during labor & delivery?
A: Since I labored for a long time at home, I was able to eat in the beginning. I had dinner Saturday night and then during my contractions throughout the night I ate trail mix and drank lots of water to make sure I'd have strength and be hydrated when I went into the hospital. Once I got to the hospital I could only have popsicles, ice chips and water. But they did have pretty delicious popsicles! Plus, once you get far enough into labor your body most likely won't feel like eating much...at least mine didn't.
Q: Were you planning on having an epidural or going natural?
A: My plan was to try to have a completely natural birth, but be open to an epidural and other pain management if necessary. I didn't feel like I had anything to prove and if my circumstances required it, I would be open to an epidural.
Q: Did you get an epidural?
A: Yes, after 18 hours in labor with little progression and dilation, I decided to get an epidural. I don't regret it at all! I was able to relax, get some sleep and be mentally present for my daughter's birth.
Q: What was it like getting an epidural?
A: I definitely dreaded this more than I needed to! I think women get in their heads about these because of the tiniest possibility of paralysis and other side effects. But honestly, it was a breeze and the anesthesiologist I had was amazing! She was even able to get the needle in while I was having a contraction. I also thought my legs would feel way heavier and just dead, but it wasn't bad at all. I felt like it was just the right amount to take away the pain of the contractions and still let me feel when to push and what not. Don't be scared or intimidated by epidurals...seriously the best thing ever! It made my labor and delivery actually enjoyable!
Q: Did you watch your baby come out?
A: I did not. I know some hospitals offer you a mirror to watch the birth if you'd like, but I decided against it. It was probably fairly gruesome and wasn't really something I was interested in watching. But I did reach down and feel her hair and head right before she came out. So cool!
Q: How long did you push for?
A: I began pushing at about 2:30pm and she was born at 4:00pm on the dot so about an hour and a half...granted I wasn't actually pushing that entire time.
Q: Did you do core blood banking?
A: No, we didn't. I believe it's pretty expensive to store and we didn't really see the need.
Q: Did you do immediate skin to skin contact once she was born?
A: Yes! Once Bryn was born they put her on my chest then Shawn cut the umbilical cord. Such a great moment for both of us!
Q: How big was your baby?
A: She weighed 8lbs 3oz and was 19.5" long.
Q: Did you send your baby to the nursery at all?
A: So we couldn't send her to the nursery right away because we were still waiting on our COVID tests to come back. Thankfully the results came back around 2:00am Monday morning and she was able to go to the nursery so we could get some sleep!
Q: How was your recovery?
A: I feel like I was very fortunate in terms of my recovery! Part of why I was hesitant to get an epidural in the first place was because I didn't want to be stuck in the bed for a long time after birth. But that wasn't the case at all. I got the epidural around 10:00am, baby was born at 4:00pm and it actually began to wear off around 3:30pm...which was perfect because I was able to feel when I needed to push and by the time she as born and I was all fixed up, I could get up and walk around.
Q: What did you do for pain management after delivery?
A: For pain management I chose to just do ibuprofen and tylenol instead of something stronger because I wanted Bryn to be alert and awake to nurse. I heard that the stronger pain meds tend to make babies drowsy during breastfeeding and make it harder to nurse.
Q: How long were you at the hospital before going home?
A: We were there for about 40 hours. We actually checked out early because we were ready to go, but we could have stayed longer if we wanted to.
Q: What was the most painful part of your birth experience?
A: Contractions for sure! The rupturing of my water was incredibly painful too, but the contractions that came after that were unbearable...hence why I got the epidural!
Q: What surprised you the most about your birth experience?
A: I was pleasantly surprised at how peaceful and calm my whole experience was overall. I guess I just expected a bit more chaos because of COVID, what I'd seen in movies, what friends had told me about tons of people being in and out of your room, etc. But that wasn't the case for me at all. I never really had more than one or two people in the room other than Shawn. There was one nurse that would come and check on me and bring me things...and that person actually changed four times over the course of the 48 hours we were there. It was also really early Sunday morning so the hospital overall was quiet. Shawn and I were left alone for me to labor other than when we needed something. It was really nice to have that time to ourselves. When it came time to push, it was just my awesome nurse that I loved and Shawn in the room with me. Toward the end of the pushing phase before baby girl was crowning, my doc got there and walked me through the last part. Things went smoothly and I'm so thankful for that!
Q: How did you choose your baby's name?
A: We liked the name Brinley, but wanted more of a unique spelling. Her middle name is Shawn's grandma's name. She passed away along time ago and meant a lot to Shawn's whole family. As soon as we found out we were having a girl, we knew we wanted her middle name to be Jeanne. It was so cute...when Shawn called to tell his grandpa that we had our baby and what her name was, they were both tearing up. It was such a sweet tender moment!