It feels surreal that we’re still 12 days away from Olivia’s due date but we’ve gotten to spend the last almost 3 weeks with her. Time really needs to slow down! Today, I wanted to share our birth story. Fair warning, I get reallllllly personal with all the details, so if you aren’t into that, then go ahead and skip this post!
I personally love reading other Mama’s birth stories and it helped me feel more prepared for labor and birth. Olivia’s birth definitely kept us on our toes and was nothing like I had imagined… which is why I am SO glad I didn’t have much of a “birth plan” other than making sure my baby got here safely! It was a wild ride that ended in the best gift in the entire world- our happy and healthy baby girl!
Before getting into the day she was actually born, let’s back up to my third trimester to set the scene. I was very blessed to have a pretty easy pregnancy overall. I never had morning sickness, I didn’t have any complications, and it was generally a pretty “textbook” easy pregnancy. It is not lost on me how lucky I am for this! But fast forward to the 33rd week in my third trimester and after feeling amazing throughout my entire pregnancy, things started to get a bit more difficult. Up until this point I had been pretty active, done a decent amount of traveling, and was keeping up with my old pace of life for the most part but when the 33rd week hit my body started telling me to majorlyyyy slow down. The first sign was how easily I’d get out of breath from doing just about anything. I started to need help getting off the couch because my belly felt huge, and the hardest symptom was the swelling. My fingers looked like sausages (my wedding/engagement ring couldn’t even come close to fitting) and my feet grew 3 shoe sizes and were so full of fluid it became uncomfortable to stand for more than a few minutes. All of the sudden this picture perfect pregnancy started to feel HARD.
My family had planned a vacation to Folly Beach/Charleston, SC while I was 34-35 weeks pregnant and even though my doctor had cleared me for travel up until I hit week 36, I started to feel nervous about it. Two days before we were scheduled to leave I had an OB appointment and he assured me that everything I was feeling was 100% normal and there were zero signs of me delivering early. He encouraged me to enjoy the last vacation before baby and just advised me to stay hydrated. So that weekend we headed to Charleston and enjoyed the week at the beach with my family. I was able to stay off my feet for the most part (shoutout to my parents for renting me a golf cart so I wouldn’t have to walk anywhere) and we laid on the beach for hours a day. When the ocean was calm enough I even floated in the water and oh man the salt water felt good and gave me temporary swelling relief. By the end of the week I was still feeling ok (very large and swollen but “ok”) and we drove home. On the 5.5 hour drive home I started having some braxton hicks contractions but didn’t think much of it. When we arrived home we dropped our bags, quickly changed, and headed out for a friend’s engagement party that evening.
The next day (Sunday, August 1st) I woke up and felt this urge to get the house cleaned and get everything organized after getting home from our trip. Patrick spent the day doing yard work while I cleaned the inside of the house (laundry, dishes, changed sheets, putting away vacation stuff, etc.). I kept losing my breath and needing to sit down and my feet were killing me, but something told me that I NEEDED to get everything done that day. I thought it was because I had a busy work week ahead of me (I wasn’t scheduled to start maternity leave until August 20th ahead of Baby’s due date on September 2nd) but looking back I know now that this was nesting kicking in HARD.
That night on August 1st, we went to bed super early because we were both exhausted and stressed about the amount of work we had on our plates that upcoming week. Little did we know just a few hours later our lives were about to be changed forever.
In the early morning of Monday, August 2nd (exactly 1 month before my due date) at around 3:30am, I woke up from a super deep sleep and was convinced I had accidentally wet the bed. At that point in pregnancy I was going to the bathroom at least once an hour and I had been dead asleep for almost 6 hours and thought I had just lost control of my bladder. I was SO embarrassed. I got up and quietly cleaned it up and was trying not to wake Patrick up because I did not want him to know that I wet the bed. I climbed back into bed and tried to go back to sleep but all of the sudden I felt like I was wetting the bed again! And I couldn’t stop or control it. I stood up and liquid continued to pour out and I started to think this may not be me wetting the bed (thank goodness) but it might be my water breaking. In our birthing class they assured us that less than 10% of women have their water break on its own, so in that moment, I was not convinced this was my water actually breaking. I went to the bathroom and after 15 minutes the liquid didn’t stop coming, so at that point I woke up Patrick (it was about 4:00am by now) and said “Hey… Patrick… either I officially have zero control over my bladder or my water just broke… and I think my water just broke.” He leaped out of bed and kept asking “Are you sure?”… “Is this really happening?”… “Are you feeling any contractions?!” (I wasn’t) so we decided to call my doctor and ask what we should do.
Once I got hold of the doctor on-call, they said because I was only 35.5 weeks pregnant (anything before 37 weeks is considered a premature birth) and because it definitely sounded like my water had broken, I was advised to get to the hospital ASAP. The doctor told us that once your water breaks your risk for infection greatly increases and the baby must be delivered within 24 hours.
Thankfully I’m a little Type-A, so my hospital bags had been packed since 32 weeks and were ready to go. Patrick quickly loaded them into the car, sent a text to Tucker’s dog sitter to come pick him up later that morning, and off we went. We arrived at the hospital at 4:45am where I was quickly given a wheel chair with a pee pad on it to sit on because I was leaking amniotic fluid all over the floor at this point. (Side note: Birth is a very humbling experience… I think after that experience very few things will ever embarrass me!) Because I wasn’t having contractions (or so I thought) they weren’t in a huge rush to get me admitted so after about an hour or so of waiting we were brought to the intake room.
At 6am we were in the intake room and met with our first set of nurses. It was confirmed that my water definitely had broken (at this point that was fairly obvious haha) and that I was having very light contractions and was 1cm dilated. I still couldn’t really “feel” any contractions, but I did feel like I had some very light period cramps so I guess that’s what early contractions feel like! However, the nurse confirmed that because my water had broken that we had bought ourselves a one-way ticket to having the baby that day. That was the moment everything felt real. I called my parents to let them know I was in labor and Patrick started a text chain with our families to keep everyone updated. The nurse warned us that as soon as I was moved to labor and delivery I wouldn’t be able to eat anymore, so Patrick ran to the hospital lobby to grab us McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches to to hold us over. So we ate our McDonald’s as I got hooked up to IVs and they began to prep me to get things moving.
By 9am I still wasn’t feeling much, but they officially moved us into our labor and delivery room. I was frantically making last minute calls and emails to let work know that this was happening and that starting immediately I was officially out on maternity leave (3 weeks earlier than expected). At 11:00am the nurses checked me again and I was only 2cm dilated and I still wasn’t feeling much although I could tell from the monitoring screen that I was having very light contractions. At this point they told us they needed to start me on Pitocin (the drug that intensifies contractions to make labor move faster) because I had until 3:30am the next day (24 hours after my water broke) to deliver the baby and they didn’t want things to end in a c-section unnecessarily if I didn’t progress. I reluctantly agreed (Pitocin was one of the labor interventions I didn’t really want but I also trusted my doctor and nurses) and they hooked up the Pitocin to my IV.
About an hour later, the Pitocin really kicked in and contractions began to intensify quickly. I finally felt like I was truly “laboring” from noon-3pm as things got increasingly more intense. We tried a few different laboring positions and I found that the one that worked best for me was to sit on the end of the hospital bed and as a contraction began I would stand up and lean into Patrick as he swayed me through them. Patrick was an AMAZING labor partner and seriously is the reason I got through each and every contraction. As we approached 3pm, I asked him to go to the car and get my birthing ball to see if sitting on that would help the contractions be easier. In the 10 minutes he was gone I had 2 of the hardest contractions yet and by the time he got back I was yelling for him to not leave my side again until this baby was here. (A little dramatic, but his support was so needed!) I never even got to try the birthing ball because the nurse had come in, checked me again, and confirmed I was around 4cm and I could get the epidural if I wanted. I couldn’t say “YES” to the epidural fast enough.
The anesthesiologist arrived around 3:30pm and by 4pm the epidural had been placed and was kicking in. A lot of people had scared me about the epidural saying it was the worst part of labor and to be honest I didn’t think it was bad at ALL (and I’m very scared of needles). The hardest part was handling the contractions while the anesthesiologist was placing the epidural and having to hold as still as possible. But as soon as it started working it felt like MAGIC. The bottom half of my body went numb and I was finally able to relax. Unfortunately… the relief did not last long.
Only 30 minutes after receiving the epidural, I started vomiting. The anesthesiologist had warned that was a common side effect, but I had about 15-20minutes of extreme nausea and vomiting until it passed. Again, Patrick was the best support system by holding my puke bag and rubbing my back through the entire thing. Then once the nausea subsided, I started to feel intense pressure in my pelvis. By 5pm Patrick ran to get a nurse because we were convinced the epidural was wearing off because the contractions were back and more intense than ever. The nurse tried to readjust me in the hospital bed, then quickly checked my cervix again. The look on her face was priceless when she said, “I don’t think you need to see the anesthesiologist… you need a doctor! I see the head and you’re full dilated… this baby is coming NOW.”
The next 29 minutes felt like a blur. At 5:15pm the doctor ran into the room with my nurse, an additional labor and delivery nurse, and a full NICU team (because 35.5 weeks is considered a preemie, they wanted to be ready in case there were any issues with the baby after birth). The doctor threw my legs up in the stirrups, a nurse grabbed my left leg and the doctor instructed Patrick to grab my right, and he quickly explained how I needed to push. He said that during my next contraction I needed to use my core muscles to lift my upper body up close to my knees and push through my core as much as possible. After 5-6 minutes (3 contractions worth) of pushing, Olivia Rose Marlow was born at 5:29pm weighing 5lbs 13oz and 18.5 inches long.
Seeing her arrive into the world I immediately burst into tears and just uncontrollably sobbed. The NICU team took over to give her a quick evaluation and Patrick was by her side the entire time. I kept asking from across the room “is she ok?”, “is everything ok?” and Patrick kept assuring me that she was healthy and perfect. The biggest relief.
The doctor then delivered my placenta (honestly that was way more uncomfortable than delivering the baby as he pushed down hard on my stomach while asking me to push again) and spent some time stitching me up. I had a 2nd degree tear which the doctor said was probably due to how fast she came. The nurse even joked in retrospect I almost didn’t get the epidural in time as I went from 4cm to 10cm dilated in less than 2 hours. The NICU team handed Olivia to Patrick after they confirmed she was perfectly healthy while the doctor finished with me and I just couldn’t stop crying watching Patrick hold our baby girl. She was so tiny in his arms but so beyond perfect. After the doctor finished my stitches, Patrick placed Olivia on my chest for our golden hour skin to skin. I couldn’t stop staring at her. She was just so perfect and beautiful to me in every single way. Patrick stood by my side and we kept repeating how perfect she was and how we couldn’t believe she was ours!
Birth is such a profound experience that I can confidently say I’d go through 1000x over to have our baby girl here with us. I’ve never felt more extreme emotions all at once. Seeing her face for the first time is a moment I’ll never forget. Experiencing labor with Patrick as the best partner and support system and then watching him hold our daughter for the first time makes my heart explode just thinking about it. I think I fell deeper in love with him that day than I ever thought possible. The moment they placed her on my chest… the moment Patrick told me she was healthy and perfect… the moment that it sunk in that she is ours forever and the perfect addition to our family… it was all just so overwhelming in the best possible way.
I remember when we were 16 and first dating and Patrick and I talked about how we both had a deep desire to have children and be parents one day. At the time I probably didn’t realistically think Patrick would be the one I would have those babies with, but I think a part of me really hoped that he would be. I’d love to go back and tell my 16 year old self that the boy she was falling for would end up being her husband one day and we would make our biggest dream come true together- by becoming parents to the most perfect little baby girl.
Olivia Rose Marlow, your parents love you so much. Thank you for making us Mom and Dad.