A week has passed since giving birth to my baby boy. Axel Joseph Yax was born almost two weeks before my due date, on Friday, September 4 at 3:43pm. To say that the days since his arrival have been life changing would be an understatement. It has taken me a while to find the right words to describe what was one of the most incredible moments of my life, and the culmination of a 38+ week journey that had its fair share of ups and downs. I hope to keep this story close to my heart and share it with Axel as he grows older.
At 2am I got out of bed as I do every night to go to the bathroom and noticed a warm fluid leaking down my leg and onto the floor. Half asleep and a little in shock, I calmly yelled to my husband from the bathroom, “babe, either I just peed everywhere or my water broke.” He came in with a towel and we assessed the situation. I started shaking uncontrollably and knew something was different with my body. This is it!!! We called my doctor and were told to head to the hospital. Justin and I each took a quick shower, grabbed the hospital bag and other necessities, and off we went at 2:30am to meet our baby boy!
My first thought when getting to the hospital was whether my doctor was on call and whether he would be there for the delivery. The nurse let me know that he was there and would be at the hospital until 5pm. I always work better with a deadline, and knowing that I had until 5pm before my doctor would be taking a few days off was all the motivation I needed. My eyes literally watered with joy!!!
Before they officially admitted us into the Family Birthing Center, we were taken to an exam room where they checked my contractions and made sure that my water bag had in fact broke, two signs that I was in active labor. I changed into a hospital gown, was hooked up to the monitor, and sure enough my contractions, though still small, were coming on every 3 to 5 minutes. I was 3cm dilated and they confirmed that my water had officially broke. We would find out later that four other women had their water break around the same time that night, due to a sudden shift in the weather and barometric pressure from a storm that was coming into the region. So with my water broke, and my contractions consistent, the nurse looked at me and said with a smile, “Congratulations, you’re going to have a baby today.”
After getting admitted and settled into the room just before 4am, Justin and I called our family and let them know what was going on. Justin’s mom and sister hopped into the car to make the 7-hour drive from Seattle, and my mom and step-dad, Billy, who live in Bend, let us know that they would be there shortly. It became a waiting game, but I’m not very good at waiting and was on a mission to meet my 5pm deadline.
My contractions remained consistent and I relaxed throughout the morning, visiting with family and friends. My friend Nicole stopped by with flowers and a stuffed giraffe and kept me company for a while before heading to work. Another friend, Skip, works at the hospital and stopped by to give me a ‘good luck’ hug and wish Justin the best as my number one supporter.
During the morning hours, I also had a chance to get some work done and submit final grades. Of course I would go into labor on the last day of the summer term. At least I wasn’t in much pain and had enough time in the morning to wrap up grades and respond to a handful of emails that were waiting in my inbox.
By 11am I had progressed to 5cm and 80% effaced. I still wasn’t experiencing any pain and was wondering if there was something wrong with me. Everyone assured me that the pain would come, and to enjoy this time while I can. I spent my time talking with Justin, my mom and Billy, going on the occasional walk, and preparing myself for the excitement ahead.
By 1pm I still wasn’t feeling much pain, probably a 2 on a scale of 1-10, and that was only during my contractions. My OB, Dr. Murphy, came by my room for the first time to see how I was doing and to check on my progress. It was a relief to see him and we shared a few laughs as I told him everything was timed perfectly. Or so I thought. Remember that 5pm deadline I mentioned a few times? Well it turned out that Dr. Murphy had a surgery scheduled at 3:30pm, but that it would only take 30 minutes. What would be the chances of delivering in that 30-minute timeframe, right?
Dr. Murphy examined my cervix and told me that I was at 6cm and 90% effaced. Without warning, he did a cervical membrane sweep, which was incredibly painful, and let me know that things should be moving along quickly now and that I should be delivering before his surgery. Whoa!!
Within 15 minutes of the sweep, my contractions started getting stronger. On the monitor, they resembled a Strava elevation profile from a grueling bike ride. Up, down, up, down. Ah yes, there’s the pain. All of a sudden I didn’t want to be up and walking around anymore, and took to my hospital bed where I would spend the next few hours attached to the handles. We watched the contractions come and go on the monitor, and Justin decided it would be “fun” to start naming them. So he did, and for a while each contraction was named after a different Cascade volcano. The big ones got names like Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Jefferson, while the smaller ones were named after Broken Top, Black Butte, Mt. Bachelor, and so on. Anything to lighten the mood, I guess.
My nurse, Shanon, was absolutely amazing (as were all of the nurses we worked with during our stay) and stood by me the entire time, walking me through the contractions and reminding me that my baby was getting closer and closer to making his arrival. Justin was also there holding my hand, kissing my face, and encouraging me as only he could. I could not have done it without him.
For the next two hours my contractions grew stronger and more intense, to the point where I completely entered a zone and had no idea what was going on around me. All I knew is that I was loud and roaring my way through each painful contraction. The breathing techniques I had learned through childbirth classes were really starting to pay off – there were sounds coming out of me that I didn’t know I had the ability to make.
Around this time, Justin’s mom and sister arrived in the room following their 7-hour drive. It was such a morale boost to see them and to know that seeing the birth of their nephew and grandson was so important that they were willing to hop in the car at a moment’s notice in order to do so.
With one eye on the clock, I announced much to the amusement of everyone in the room that I had to have the baby before my doctor had to be in surgery. I was adamant and would do anything within my control to deliver with MY doctor. Dr. Murphy came back into the room at 3pm to check on my progress. I was almost 10cm and 100% effaced. He told me that I would be pushing soon and assured me he would be there to see everything through. This was incredibly relieving to me.
I soon learned that his surgery had been pushed back to 3:45pm, giving me a few more minutes to deliver before he had to rush off to the O.R. The contractions kept coming, harder and stronger than ever imaginable. I experienced pain like no other and battled my way through each 1-2 minute surge of agony. At one point I felt a deep regret for not getting the epidural, as I did not know how much longer I could withstand the torture taking over my body. It was bad! Everyone kept reminding me that I was a strong woman and that I had the power and heart to get through it.
At 3:30pm Dr. Murphy re-entered the room, having just delivered another baby directly across the hall from me, and told me it was time to push. He also assured me that this would relieve some of the pain of the contractions because I would be pushing my way through the pain. I was ready!
With the first push there was a learning curve and I was told to put all of my energy into pushing instead of yelling and making a lot of noise (which I had been doing). I pushed three times during the first big contraction, which lasted about 90 seconds. The second contraction came and once again I pushed three times, giving it my all. “We are getting closer,” everyone around me was saying. “We can see the top of his head.” The third contraction came and I once again put everything I had into pushing and hopefully getting his little head past the ring of fire. Wow, now THAT was another level of pain.
All of a sudden Dr. Murphy got really serious and you could tell there was a change in the atmosphere in the room. He looked at me and said, “we need to get this baby out. Once this next contraction starts, I need you to push with everything you have.” I trusted in what he was saying, but at the time did not know what was going on or that something may be wrong. All of the sudden the next contraction started and I took my mind and body to a place it had never been before, pushing as though my life and Axel’s life depended on it. After three huge pushes he was still not “out”, so I continued, even after the contraction had stopped, and gave it one last mega-push. At 3:43pm, after roughly 13 minutes of pushing, everyone around me lit up with joy and I heard the little noises and cries from my baby boy.
Dr. Murphy waited a minute before clamping the cord, to ensure that Axel would receive those last nutrients and oxygen levels provided by the placenta. Once the cord was clamped, Justin cut the umbilical cord and they brought Axel to my chest for some skin-to-skin bonding. He was quiet, gentle, and absolutely perfect. I couldn’t believe what Justin and I had just done – creating and bringing into the world a little miracle.
For the next hour I laid there in awe of my baby boy, kissing his head, talking to him, and looking at Justin in amazement. Next to my wedding day, it was truly the best moment of my life.
As I cuddled my son, Dr. Murphy spent some time stitching me up and talking me through what had happened. During my third round of pushing, when Axel’s head had first made an appearance, he could see that he was “on a leash” as he described it during the delivery. The umbilical cord had become wrapped around Axel’s neck, and his heart rate apparently started to drop and was getting dangerously low. Because of the sense of urgency in getting him out, Dr. Murphy had to do an episiotomy as I was pushing, so that he could access the cord and unravel it from Axel’s neck, which he did successfully. I was incredibly impressed by Dr. Murphy’s ability to stay calm and to keep everyone else (including me) calm as all of this was going on, and thankful for his ability to handle everything the right way.
After an hour of skin-to-skin, the nurses took Axel to be cleaned and weighed for the first time. He weighed in at 7lbs 5oz and was 20 ¾ in long. The perfect size! It’s a good thing I delivered two weeks early!
Justin and I spent two nights in the hospital, loving on our little boy, recovering from the labor, and learning all that we could from the nurses. As first time parents and having no experience with newborns, we were like sponges soaking it all up. Although we contemplated going home after just one night, I’m really glad that we took our time and stayed for two.
I can’t wait to share more about how Axel has already changed my heart and my life. He truly is a blessing from God and I could not imagine life without him. Our family is now complete.