He’s here, he’s here! We welcomed our son, Miles Atlas Fowler, on Friday, February 27, 2015 at 5:39 a.m. I can’t believe the little life that was growing and squirming inside my belly is now sleeping soundly next to me while I type. It’s surreal and more wonderful than I ever dreamed it would be. We’ve been home since Sunday, March 1 and are settling in beautifully as a family of three. (Or five if you count Remy and Pippa, which we certainly do .)
Before Miles was born, I wasn’t sure whether I’d share his birth story or not. Being on the other side of things now with a healthy baby in our lives, I want to be sure to document the experience before it fades and honor the incredible journey we went through in order to bring him into the world. So here it goes…
Miles Atlas’ Birth Story
Robert and I are some of the biggest planners you’ll ever meet, so it’s surprising that except for the fact that I knew I wanted an epidural, we adopted the no-plan plan when it came to our baby’s birth. I’m so grateful that’s what we did because it enabled us to embrace the process as it unfolded in a very unexpected way.
At my 36-week doctors appointment, my belly hadn’t grown since two weeks prior so my doctor ordered an ultrasound to check our baby’s growth. It showed that he was small, but everything appeared healthy. With a month left before my due date, he still had plenty of time to grow.
However, on Thursday, February 26 at my 38-week appointment, another ultrasound showed that our little guy hadn’t grown since the previous scan. Again, there was nothing that appeared to be impeding his growth. Just as I was contemplating whether I wanted to pick up Chipotle or Protein Bar for lunch on my way home, my doctor walked into the dimly lit ultrasound suite and informed me that I’d be having a baby that day. (Or the next morning as it turned out…)
She explained that although there was no apparent reason why he wasn’t growing, it would be safest to deliver him as soon as possible. The moment she mentioned the risk of stillbirth the longer he stayed in there without growing, I knew it was what we had to do. In fact, she strongly urged me to head to the hospital right then and there to begin an induction. I still can’t believe I was so determined, but in my state of shock I pleaded with her to let me run home, grab our bags (or, in my case, pack my bag…oops), and drop the dogs off at boarding. Robert was working at a client about an hour outside of the city that day and it was snowing pretty heavily. I feared that by the time he got home, accomplished those tasks, and arrived at the hospital, I may have already begun the induction process. I didn’t want to go through a moment of it without him so I insisted she let me go.
The drive home is still a blur. I called Robert at work and told him to head to the hospital because we were having a baby (!!!) I called my parents and my sister. I then started calling editors because I had interviews scheduled that afternoon that I needed to cancel or have them cover. I arrived home, sent e-mails to more editors letting them know what was happening and that I wouldn’t be able to finish various assignments. I blew through our house like a tornado grabbing clothes, toiletries, and snacks. I packed up the dogs and their stuff. I dropped the pups off at boarding and headed to the hospital while shoving a banana and two granola bars in my mouth. So much for that burrito bowl.
By the time I arrived at the hospital, Robert had already started checking me in. We unpacked the car, waited briefly in triage, and were then on to Labor & Delivery. There, we waited in a waiting room for an hour or more while they prepped a room for us. Robert and I discussed names some more (we hadn’t fully committed to one just yet), and I chugged as much coconut water as I could. I’m sure we said “We’re having a baby!” and “Can you believe we’re having a baby!?” a few hundred times. Finally, we were admitted to the room where our baby would enter the world early the following morning.
As far as induction goes, it’s an extremely slow process. Without going into too many details, the rough chain of events went something like this: By Thursday evening I started the CRIB procedure in which a balloon-like device begins to dilate the cervix. At first it was bearable. Robert sat at my bedside, we talked a lot, he ate the leftover quiche he’d brought to work for lunch, and I snuck some Saltines and an applesauce muffin (I was supposed to be on clear fluids only).
Then the contractions started. They offered to give me a medication through my IV to help relieve the pain. At first I declined, but eventually they became too much to bear especially since I knew that I still had hours to go with the CRIB even before moving on to the next step (pitocin). It was a great decision. The medication made me drowsy so Robert and I got an hour or more of much needed shut-eye before it wore off.
Robert made a genius move and brought a sleeping bag to the hospital. Everyone who walked into our room throughout our hospital stay was impressed–they’d never seen anyone do that before.
After six hours, if the CRIB didn’t work they were going to leave it in for another six. I was sure I’d need six more, but, fortunately, the first six did the trick. By about 10:30 or 11pm I was 4cm dilated so it was on to the pitocin. After a while a nurse came in to break my bag of waters. However, her attempts were way too painful so she suggested I get the epidural and she’d come back to do it after that was working.
As anyone who’s had an epidural knows, it can take a while from when you request it to when you receive it, which was the case for me. Thirty to 45 minutes later, through a series of painful contractions (people say they’re worse with pitocin, but I have nothing to compare it to), the anesthesiologist arrived. As far as the epidural goes, I’d say it was uncomfortable, but completely bearable and totally worth it for me. It took about 30 minutes to administer the epidural.
As we moved from one step of the induction process to another, my body shook uncontrollably. I’ve never experienced anything like that in my life. It happened even before the epidural so I can’t attribute it to that. I’m pretty sure that it was fear overtaking my body. Going through labor for the first time (or maybe every time is like this?) is terrifying. There’s no doubt about it. It’s especially so when one moment you’re contemplating what to eat for lunch and the next you’re being told that you’re about to have a baby two weeks before his due date (when you were sure you’d go past your due date). I didn’t know what anything would feel like or whether any complications would occur. And, due to how urgently my doctor wanted me to be induced, I often felt more fear about our baby’s wellbeing than about what I was experiencing. I just wanted to deliver him and find out if he was okay. While shaking, I did my absolute best to soothe myself with deep breaths. Robert was at my bedside every step of the way holding my hand, reminding me to breathe, and providing endless reassurance. I always knew he’d be amazing when this day arrived, but the reality was so much better.
Once the epidural was in and started working, the nurse came back and broke my water.
From that point, the nurse explained it could take many hours to dilate from 4cm to 10cm. Neither Robert nor I kept track of time during the labor process (we were a little preoccupied…), but I kept reaching the next step much faster than anyone anticipated.
In the early morning hours on February 27, I told the nurse that I felt like I needed to push. She couldn’t believe it, but when two different people checked they agreed it was time. The only problem? Since they figured it would take many more hours before I’d be ready, my doctor was still at home, more than 30 minutes away!!! The wait was excruciating. Not only is it the oddest feeling to want to push and not be able to, but I’d misunderstood the anesthesiologist’s instructions on how to use the bolus to administer more of the medication. For a while, the pain got away before the medication could catch up. Robert was there holding my hand as I breathed deeply through each contraction.
As a side note, ladies, if you ever plan on giving birth start taking yoga now. Seriously. I can’t tell you how helpful it was at every stage in the labor process. Being able to control your breath and use it to its full capacity is an incredible skill I’ve never been more grateful to have. I’m certain that yoga is invaluable if you choose to have a natural birth. But even if you take a medicated route like I did that doesn’t mean it’s painless or comfortable. And when you have to be confined to a bed and can’t use your body to change positions (except from side to side–and even that is limited depending on how baby’s heart rate responds) your breath is one of the only things you have that will bring you any relief. Knowing how to use it makes all the difference. Yoga also proved to be incredibly helpful when it came to pushing…
Which, thankfully, I was able to do shortly after the doctor arrived. Speaking of the doctor, I go to a medical practice that has about six OB’s on staff. Whoever is on call when you’re in labor is the one who delivers your baby. I’d met all of them prior to that day—except the one who delivered Miles. In fact, I had an appointment scheduled for the following Tuesday to finally meet her. As luck would have it, she couldn’t have been more wonderful. Now, I can’t imagine anyone else delivering our baby but her. Between contractions, one of the most helpful things I did was to ask the doctor where the baby was within the birth canal and what exactly I was trying to achieve with the next series of pushes. She explained it all so clearly so that from then on, at each contraction, I was able to visualize what was happening. Not only did this help me make the most of each contraction, it gave me something to focus on beyond the fear and immense pressure I experienced. This is again where I felt my yoga practice made a huge difference thanks to the mind-body connection I’ve developed over time. When I could visualize in my mind what I was trying to do, my body was able to carry it out.
The doctor explained that most first time moms push for two or three hours before baby is born so I braced myself for the long haul. But the contractions came fast and furious. A little more than 20 minutes after I started pushing, at 5:39 a.m.on February 27, baby Miles was born.
I think that every parent hopes they’ll hear those cries as soon as baby is born and I’m so grateful that that’s exactly what we experienced. I’ll never forget that moment for as long as I live. I immediately dissolved into a flood of tears, crying just as hard as our newborn son. I’m still weepy every time I think about the moment he was born (like right now…) It was the greatest sense of joy and relief I’ve ever experienced in my life.
While I’d hoped they’d be able to lay him on my chest right away for some skin-to-skin, the nurses had to take him to the warmer first so they could make sure he was okay, given his tiny size. And tiny he was: Miles weighed just 4 lbs 13 oz at birth. And, like most babies, he’s lost weight since then–bottoming out at 4 lbs 6 oz. He was almost back to his birthweight at our one week doctors appointment and he’ll get checked again this Friday, at two weeks old, which is also his actual due date.
Thankfully, he was completely healthy and continued to pass every test for both full-term and small for gestational age (SGA) newborns with flying colors throughout our hospital stay. Robert cut the umbilical cord, the nurses cleaned our baby off, confirmed that he was okay, and moments later they laid him on my chest for the first time. During labor, we’d settled on his name, Miles Atlas, and I’ll never forget the first time after he was born that I uttered it out loud. Miles Atlas, our son, was finally here! It’s entirely impossible to capture in words what it felt like to hold him for the first time, except to say that it was the purest sense of love I’ve ever known. We may never know what stopped him from growing during my pregnancy. It falls under the category of intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), but that may be due to countless factors or for no reason at all. The best the doctor could say is that for one reason or another, my placenta may have stopped working. They sent it to pathology, but told me the results are often inconclusive. I’m just grateful that I was able to carry Miles to full-term and he entered the world as safe and as healthy as could be. My dad has already nicknamed him TBM–Tiny but Mighty–and that’s exactly what he is.
Our hospital stay couldn’t have been more wonderful. I’m healing really well, Miles is doing great and I couldn’t dream of a better husband or father than Robert. There’s no other way to describe how I feel right now, even through the sleepless nights, new mom doubts, feeding challenges (it’s so hard, but we’re working at it) and fussy moments–than peaceful. It feels like Miles was always supposed to be ours and caring for him is already the greatest joy I’ve ever known.
Thank you so much for joining us on this incredible journey!