John “Jack” Morgan Riordan was born on August 12, 2021 in Morristown, New Jersey.
I have always loved reading birth stories. “Mommy blogs” was the first genre of blogs I ever read and I have read many, many birth stories over the years. I can’t believe I’m writing my own son’s birth story now. One thing that I really appreciate about birth stories is that they are all unique and there’s no such thing as a “perfect” delivery.
I have always dreamed of becoming a mother, but as I’ve mentioned before, I hadn’t really considered the pregnancy portion of the motherhood journey… and certainly not labor either. When I found out I was pregnant, I was in for a crash course on pregnancy and had to start mentally preparing for the delivery. I was actually pretty detached to the idea of giving birth. It felt so conceptual and I think my coping mechanism for the fear around giving birth was to just deal with it “later.” As the weeks ticked by, I started to mentally come to terms with the idea that yes, I was growing a baby, but also yes, this baby was going to have to come out somehow!
I worked on this quite a bit with my therapist and took online birthing classes (through Tinyhood, which I loved and highly recommend). But even still, it didn’t feel totally real to me. I also think there’s only so much you can do to prepare– there are so many ways for a birth to happen and even with a great plan in place, life can very certainly have its own set of plans. As we got closer to my due date, I realized that I had never considered the fact that I may have a vaginal delivery. I was born two-plus weeks late via an emergency c-section. Because that was “my” birth story, I assumed (for no good reason) that I would also have the same experience as my mom. A c-section, even an emergency one, felt completely normal. A vaginal birth seemed scary and unlikely to me… but it dawned on me that I could very well have a vaginal birth.
At my 39-week appointment (the 9th), the doctor started to really prepare me for a late delivery. It didn’t seem like I was going to go into labor any time soon. We scheduled a 40-week appointment, a 40+ week ultrasound to check on the baby, and even started to get the ball rolling on an induction for 10 days after my due date (which was the 13th). With all that in motion, I was fully convinced that the baby was going to take his time and I was buckling up for a longer pregnancy.
But the next day (Tuesday the 10th), I felt off. Early in the day, I mentioned to Mike that I felt “crampy” but didn’t want him to get excited that the baby might be coming because everything on the internet said it could mean impending labor either that day or two weeks from then. I did text my friend Kelly to describe what I was feeling, and basically begged to know “IS THIS WHAT GOING INTO LABOR FEELS LIKE?” (I told her I didn’t want to be the boy who cried wolf, but ugh, I felt so off all day!) I did a super long walk with my neighbor in the morning, cranked through a bit of work I wanted to submit for approval just in case I didn’t have as much time as I believed, and then spent the afternoon at the pond with Mike and his brother. My bump felt so heavy and I was really, really hot. It was the beginning of a heat wave but this felt like I was melting from the inside out like a hot flash. I went fully under the water even though I had clean hair (which that alone should have been an indication that something was happening, ha!).
The pond closed early because a storm was coming, Mike and I had dinner at home together, and a meeting I was supposed to attend got canceled due to the rain too. We went to bed super early (about 9pm) and at 11:45 I woke up and my water dramatically broke. It was the oddest sensation and I jumped out of bed thinking I was peeing myself! I stumbled into the bathroom and it took me about five minutes to wrap my head around what was happening. I was 100% in shock. It was just the day before I was told to expect to be induced about two weeks later!
I walked back into the room and woke up Mike to tell him my water had broken! I’ve never seen someone’s eyes pop open that fast before! I called the doctor and was told to head over to the hospital and not wait until the morning. Luckily, we were fully packed and got everything into the car. I also desperately felt like I needed to take a shower before we went– so I quickly did that. We let the dogs out before we left and had planned to have someone swing by the house to take them to their boarding place as soon as they opened in the morning. Pulling out of the driveway is when it all started to hit me that this was happening.
We got to the hospital around 1am early Wednesday morning, but the hospital was packed with a bunch of women giving birth. (It was a very busy few days apparently!) Mike and I were set up in a triage room where we had to wait until a room became available. We didn’t get to sleep at all– I was on a gurney leaking amniotic fluid (which was hands down my least favorite part of the whole experience) and Mike had a plastic chair, plus it was fully lit up with lights. The nurses kept saying “about thirty more minutes” until 8am when we finally got moved into a normal delivery room.
Even though my water broke, I wasn’t having real contractions so the doctor started me on pitocin around 9am. It was a very, very boring and long day. I wasn’t making much progress all day and I was still in shock. I had texted my family around midnight to say we were heading to the hospital and got a hold of them with a phone call at 6am and they all booked flights for later that afternoon. Meanwhile, Mike and I were just in the delivery room waiting not-so-patiently. I couldn’t focus on anything. I tried to read a book but didn’t get more than four pages into the book before I gave up. Thankfully I had tested negative for COVID, which gave us a little more flexibility and less restrictions.
The day was a bit of a blur, but I think I started getting painful contractions around 2pm… but I was still only 2cm dilated! More waiting…. I got the epidural around 6pm and it kicked in shortly thereafter. I had no qualms about getting the epidural and had always planned to if I was able. Let me tell you: it is MAGIC. I was shaking so bad from anxiety when they went to put it in, but it didn’t hurt at all. Once the epidural started working, I started actively dilating, which was a relief after waiting for so long!
Around 10pm (almost 24 hours after my water broke!) my doctor suggested we try to get in as much sleep as possible as she expected I’d start pushing “early” the next morning. We slept from 10pm to about 3am. By 5am we were getting ready to push… we did a few practice rounds… and then started for real just before 5:30.
Honestly? It felt completely surreal. My vision for what birth would look and feel like was completely different from what was happening. I had pictured an emergency c-section, chaos, bright lights, lots of commotion, lots of stress. It was 100x harder than I expected it to be– the physical exertion was unreal, the pain intense even with the epidural– but it was also a very calm experience at the same time. The lights were dimmed. It was just Mike and me with one nurse and my doctor. At one point I turned to Mike and said, “Do you think it’s normal that I feel so calm?” I am unbelievably grateful for my doctor as she had such a great calming presence. She sat at the end of the bed and just coached me through different positions, always asking for my feedback on how things felt and if I wanted anything changed. I felt so in control and easily could add my input (“I think I need to sit up a little more… no, this position doesn’t feel right… can we turn down the epidural so I can feel more… etc.”) Mike was incredibly supportive and championed me throughout the entire process with direct motivation. I could not have done it without him there.
For the first hour and a half, it was pretty calm and rhythmic (but still really, really difficult). And then I started to panic. I think I started to just get really fatigued, mentally and physically. I convinced myself I wasn’t going to be able to do it. I wasn’t sure that I was actually pushing him out. And I started to get upset and highly anxious, honestly. The final twenty minutes were a BLUR– I have few memories from it. They brought out the stirrups and a tray of tools which, in my hazy mental state, I thought meant they were going to do a c-section and the panic forced me to just click into a different gear trying to avoid a c-section. (Mike said it was insane to watch, but I totally blocked it out.)
The next thing I know, I came to just as they were placing this beautiful, large, pink baby on my chest and I lost it. There aren’t words for what I felt in that moment. The closest analogy I have is when your ears pop and everything is finally loud and clear but you didn’t even know you couldn’t hear that well before. A hole I didn’t even know I had was not only filled but overflowing in that moment. The most cliched thing to say, but it was the best moment of my life.
Every concern, worry, ache, and stress floated away in that moment and it was the purest form of joy, happiness, and elation I have ever experienced.
I did end up having some sort of tear (I didn’t ask and didn’t want to know how bad it was), but it barely registered that the doctor was stitching me back up. I just was there in the bed sobbing and cradling and kissing this beautiful baby boy.
Mike got to step in and cut the cord and was there as Jack got weighed (eight pounds, thirteen ounces– thankfully he came a day early!!!), had his foot prints done, etc. Besides having Jack placed on my chest, seeing Mike hold his son was the next best moment. It was so beautiful to witness! I sat there in awe thinking how amazing it was that we walked in just the two of us and were now a family of three. There was a lot of hustle and bustle in the room, but it felt like Mike, Jack, and I were in a little cocoon. Surrounded by but protected from everything around us.
It was such a long lead up from my water breaking at 11:45pm on Tuesday and Jack entering the world just after 7am on Thursday morning… I had completely lost track of time and day. We ended up spending Thursday night in an overflow recovery room and Friday night in a regular recovery room (that would be the fourth room in as many nights, haha) and getting discharged Saturday afternoon. We had had a few issues with the hospital throughout the stay and I was ready to get home!!!
I might do a separate post about my own experience first week postpartum. It has been a rollercoaster of emotion. Jack has been amazing and as great as a newborn can possibly be (seriously, not a single issue)… but I’ve struggled a little bit emotionally and physically. Women in my life had warned me how important it was to make sure I was taking care of myself in addition to the baby, but it was even harder than I expected to come home from the hospital and step into this new chapter. But again, that’s a different story for a different day. 😉