It’s been 10 weeks since our second baby was born, and I finally made time to share his birth story! His birth was just as miraculous as his conception was, and I’m really excited to share this story.
Photo by Pittsburgh Born Photography
This experience was very different from my experience with Isla’s birth. I never shared Isla’s birth story here on the blog. I have talked about it a lot on Instagram, but not here. I think the only reason is because I started sharing about our IVF experience in February of 2020, and then got caught up in the start of the pandemic with a 4 month old baby. I only just realized that I never even shared our transfer story, which I had planned to. I didn’t even type it up.
With Isla I was induced at 40 weeks due to mild hypertension. I had been normotensive in office at 39 weeks, but I had become increasingly concerned about my swelling, and started taking my blood pressure at home. Around 11pm the day before my due date, I got a reading of 112/91, and paged the midwife. She had me come in to triage for monitoring, and we ended up deciding to start an induction at 5 am on my due date, October 31. It was a very long induction. My cervix was completely closed when induction started. I had two doses of misoprostol to get to 1 centimeter, then had a foley balloon catheter for several hours which got me to 4 centimeters. Then my midwife broke my water and started pitocin. At that point I got an epidural, and I ended up having the epidural for around 12 hours, maybe longer. I pushed for 2.5 hours, needed oxygen while I pushed, and ended up with a 2nd degree tear. I could barely lift myself up to get in the wheelchair to go up to the postpartum unit, and I was in a lot of pain while I recovered. It was really hard, and traumatic because the induction was needed due to high blood pressure, and then I went on to develop pre-eclampsia, which sent me back to the ER at 3 days postpartum. I took my blood pressure at home, because my swelling had become even worse, and my blood pressure was extremely high. When I got to the ER it was stroke levels. It was terrifying. I’m so grateful I knew the warning signs of pre-eclampsia and didn’t trust the swelling I had. Having the intuition to take my blood pressure at home may have saved my life.
My entire pregnancy this time went really well. I was able to keep working out until the very end. I actually did my last Peloton ride while pregnant the day before I was induced. Again, I was negative for gestational diabetes and GBS, and thankfully I had amazing blood pressures up until the very end! Emotionally, I felt good until the last 6 weeks or so. I experienced anxiety at the end with Isla, but the fear of pre-eclampsia was too much for me to handle this time. I really struggled, particularly after I had an unexpected trip to the cardiologist. I had mentioned to my midwife at my 31 week appointment that I would feel my heart racing sometimes, but thought it was just due to eating chocolate or normal heart palpitations in pregnancy from all the extra blood. After asking me some questions, she said nothing sounded concerning, but she wanted me to check in with cardiology to be super safe. My appointment with cardiology rocked me. It was extremely hard, and I cried while I was there. It triggered me really badly from my pre-eclampsia experience. The cardiologist said nothing sounded concerning, but he put me in a holter monitor for two weeks to confirm all was well, and that put a cloud of anxiety over the rest of my pregnancy. It was rocky for me until the end, and took a lot of work for me to get through.
I checked in with Maternal Fetal Medicine in the third trimester due to my history of pre-eclampsia, and I really cannot say enough good things about the MFM doctors at Magee Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh. They are so validating, and really prioritize maternal mental health. I asked about the benefit of a 39 week induction to the MFM I spoke with, and he said with my history of pre-eclampsia, it would be a good thing to consider doing, and he said especially if staying pregnant longer made me more anxious. After talking it through with my midwives, I decided to go through with a 39 week induction. It’s what felt right to me, and made me feel safer since my blood pressures were great with Isla up until the end of week 39.
Beyond the fears of pre-eclampsia, I struggled at the end with leaving Isla, and the changes that would happen. I had the common fear of “what if I don’t love this baby as much as my first baby?” It was going to be the first time I had ever left Isla, and the first time I hadn’t snuggled and nursed her to sleep since she was born. I was worried she wouldn’t be okay without me. To ease my fears about Isla, Bill and I decided he would stay with her when my induction started, my sister would be with me, and he would come when I was in active labor. Isla hadn’t had much care with other family members because of the pandemic, so I was really concerned with her not having mom or dad at bedtime. This plan helped ease my worries, except the induction scheduling really stressed me out. They told me my window for coming in would be between midnight and noon the next day, and there was no way they could give me any idea of when that would be, because it just came down to bed availability. I was worried about planning for arrival at the hospital if they called me in between midnight and 6 am, and didn’t know what to do to make sure Isla’s needs were met, and other adults involved got appropriate rest. I even considered driving myself if they called in the middle of the night, because I didn’t want multiple people missing a whole night of sleep.
I did opt for in-office cervical checks from 36 weeks on, because I like knowing what is happening in my body, even though I know it doesn’t mean too much before labor starts. I found it exciting to find out what my body was doing, especially since it was baby #2. I seemed to be progressing nicely each week, and at my 38 week appointment I was a good 1 cm dilated all the way through, 50% effaced, with a super soft cervix. My midwife called it “buttery” (insert laughing crying emoji). My midwife said if his head were a little lower I would easily be 2 centimeters. I had fantasies of being 4 cm dilated before labor even started (haha), but that didn’t happen for me.
Four days before my induction, I ended up in triage because I thought I might be in labor. I was having some regular contractions, but they weren’t painful, and when we got to the hospital I thought my water was leaking. When they got me on the monitor contractions were 2 minutes apart. The nurse said it looked like a great labor pattern, and she said they wouldn’t be sending me home with a labor pattern like that. Well, the contractions stopped for 10 minutes, and became irregular. The OB on call checked me and my cervix was unchanged since my last in office appointment, and my water had not broken (they said the fluid was just regular cervical fluids in pregnancy-cool), so they sent me home.
Sunday, February 27th rolled around, and the 28th was my induction day. I was a MESS. I was just trying to take it hour by hour, and accept the uncomfortable emotions, but I spent the entire day anxious wondering when they would call me to tell me when I could come in. The anticipation was torture, and I felt really angry with myself that I couldn’t be that person who is just so excited to meet their baby. I just wanted to be on the other side of this hard thing I had to do, because the fears I had were robbing me of the excitement of our baby coming.
I got a call from the hospital mid-day to go over the admission process, and asked if there was any way they could tell me when I would be called in. They said no, because it depended on bed availability, but said I could call back around dinner time and see if they had any other information they could give me. Around 5 pm, I ended up paging the midwife on call, and broke down in tears because I couldn’t handle waiting, and not knowing what to do for Isla to make sure her needs were met. The unknown of this big life change was really hard. The midwife on call was validating, and kind, and did her best to make me feel better, but acknowledged that I just had to wait, and accept the uncertainty. I ended up calling the hospital back around 5:30 pm, and when I asked if they could give me any more information on when I would be called in, I was asked if this was my first baby, “it’s my second”, and when I was 39 weeks. I said I was 39 weeks that day, and I was scheduled for 39+1 for my induction. The woman I spoke with said they actually had a bed opening up, and she could hold it for two hours, and asked if I could come in if my midwife agreed to it. I said “yes!” The midwife on call said that was fine, so I choked down a smoothie, and Bill packed up the car, and we headed down to the hospital. Yay for being the squeaky wheel!
When I got to the hospital, Bill hugged and kissed me goodbye, and wished me good luck. I kissed Isla goodbye, and broke down in tears leaving her. It was sad, weird, and lonely walking into the hospital to have our baby alone. My mom met Bill at home, and spent the night in case he had to come back to the hospital before morning. I got up to the birth center, and checked in, and while I was waiting to be taken to my room, my sister arrived. I was so incredibly anxious, and was really triggered by my birth experience with Isla.
Once we were in the birth suite, and I was changed and ready, the midwife on rotation (one of my favorites!) came in to check my cervix and talk to me about a plan for the induction. My cervix was unchanged since my appointment the Monday prior, so the midwife said she thought we should start with a dose of misoprostol, and then move on to a foley balloon, and then start pitocin. I agreed to that protocol, because that is what I had for my induction with Isla, and I know it worked for my body. When she left, I broke down in tears. I tried to send my sister home, and texted the photographer I hired, and told her not to come either. I felt so defeated, because this was the exact protocol I had with Isla, and although it was gentle and successful, it was so long, and I didn’t want to face that all over again. I told my sister to go home, because it would be so long, and she should get real rest. I cried because I wished Bill could be with me, and felt like I really needed him. I texted a close friend and messaged my therapist and said I couldn’t relive this experience all over again. My friend reassured me that things can change quickly, and my body had done this before. My therapist called me and left me a supportive voicemail. The photographer is also a doula, and was supportive as well, and she told me to let her know how I felt in a little bit, and we could decide in a few hours if she should still plan to come. My sister refused to leave me, and I ended up wanting to have the photographer there, too. I’m really glad nobody listened to me, haha.
I knew I wouldn’t sleep a wink overnight, and decided to take my power back, and not let this discourage me. We had twinkle lights up in the room just like we did for Isla’s birth, and I put on The Holiday on Netflix, and my sister tried to sleep while I started laboring. It felt cozy and calm in the room, and I decided I would just act as if things were moving along nicely. Just like with Isla, I didn’t feel much of anything while on miso, but I could see the contractions on the monitor. I used the birth ball most of the time and tried to visualize my cervix dilating. After 4 hours on miso, my midwife came to check me, and I had dilated to 2 cm. I was thrilled! With Isla it took 8 hours of miso to get to 1 centimeter. My midwife said I was ready for the foley balloon, and asked me if I was comfortable getting a second dose of miso along with the foley. I said yes. Let’s get this party started.
Unfortunately she was unable to insert the foley successfully, and decided to try the cook’s catheter which is another type of balloon catheter used for labor induction. It has two balloons on it, but she said she would only be filling up one of the balloons, and she went on to explain to me exactly what that would entail. It turns out you can’t use a cervical ripening medication with the cook’s catheter, so I wasn’t getting another dose of miso. I was a bit disappointed about that, but it was okay. I felt really anxious for the balloon catheter because with Isla it was incredibly painful, and I couldn’t sit down for an entire hour. This time it was really no big deal! I was so relieved. I could now feel the contractions, but they weren’t bad at all, and I could work through them just fine. I got the balloon catheter around midnight, and I had it in until the new midwife came on at 7-ish in the morning. During that time I used the birth ball, I stood up and swayed through contractions, and I also laid down and rested with the peanut ball between my legs and watched movies.
When the midwives changed shifts, my new midwife was able to easily remove the balloon catheter, and to my relief, I was 4-5 centimeters! I was so thrilled that I was already 4-5 cm, and really wasn’t feeling pain that I couldn’t handle, it was pretty mild in my opinion. In fact, I didn’t think it was that painful at all. At that point we decided to move on to pitocin. I was anxious again to switch up the protocol, and nervous to feel more pain. They started pitocin at a 2, and contractions continued, and became a bit more intense, but again, nothing I couldn’t handle. I did have to focus a bit more, and just relaxed my body, closed my eyes, and breathed, but I felt good and strong. I was able to stay really calm through each contraction, and told myself that every contraction was getting me closer to meeting my baby, and being on the other side of this. I felt really proud of myself. I did deep squats, more swaying, and more birth ball. My sister rubbed my head and shoulders, which was so nice, and we listened to soothing music.
Once Bill woke up with Isla (she did amazing without me, by the way!), he did the normal morning breakfast routine, and then headed into the hospital to be with me since I was around 5 centimeters, and things would likely progress quickly soon. He got to the hospital around 8:30 am, and I was so excited to see him, and so proud of myself that I was doing this hard work on my own, and feeling so good. We all hung out, and talked, and laughed while I labored. I was doing great, and felt good. I got checked during one of my contractions, and my midwife said my bag of water was “bulging”, and she wanted to let it break on its own, because his head wasn’t down enough yet, and she didn’t want to throw me into really rapid labor.
Around 11 am my mood shifted. I was feeling tired, and started feeling a bit down. My midwife came in and checked me, and I was still around 5-6 cm. She talked me through all my options of things we could change. She said I could keep doing what I’ve been doing and just continue to slowly progress, I could get in the shower, I could get some other pain management so I could rest, and we could increase the pitocin so that his head would come down more and help me dilate. I was scared to feel really intense pain, but I also wanted to put off the epidural for as long as possible because I didn’t feel good on it with Isla, and I was doing so well on my own. After talking through all my options, I decided to get the epidural, but start with a half dose since I was managing really well at a 2, and I thought bumping the pitocin up to a 4 would be fine for me with some pain relief.
The nurse I had for the daytime was amazing. She was so encouraging, and really advocated for me when anesthesia came in. She said “mama is doing great through this labor, and just wants a half dose of the epidural, she also has expressed that she has a fear of throwing up, and we’d like to know if you agree with her taking zofran prophylactically to avoid nausea if her blood pressure drops from the epidural.” She was really amazing, and so on top of things. I felt really safe with her, and felt like she was really focused on my care.
I got the epidural, and the anesthesiologist administered half the dose of the medicine, and the nurse increased the pitocin to 4. The epidural actually numbed me better than I remembered with Isla, everywhere except my right hip flexor. I didn’t get any pain relief in my right hip flexor, and contractions got intense as soon as the pitocin increased to 4. Bill got ready to leave the hospital to go get lunch, and my sister laid down to take a nap. Everyone thought I would also take a nap (I did not nap- nobody napped). I didn’t tell Bill or my sister about the pain, because I thought maybe the meds just hadn’t fully kicked in yet, but I had to really focus and breathe to get through it.
Bill left, and I finally told my sister that I was in a lot of pain. Then I felt a really intense contraction, and felt like I had a balloon in my cervix. I could literally feel the contraction pushing the bag of water through my cervix like a water balloon, and I just knew it was going to burst. It was wild. I felt an intense pop and a gush of water, and was like “umm…my water just broke.” I told the nurse, and I said “can this really happen this fast?! You only just increased the pitocin.” She smiled and said “oh yes!” We tried rolling me to my other side thinking maybe the medicine had settled on my left side. That didn’t help. Then I pushed the button to give myself a little more meds. That didn’t help either. My sister called Bill as he was walking back into the hospital and said, “Her water broke, you better come back.” And then she updated the photographer, who was now on her way.
When Bill walked in, all I said was “do not come in here with food!” I did not want any food smells, and didn’t want him eating while I was in this much pain. The contractions were extremely intense at this point, and I had to grip the hospital bed and couldn’t talk during them. I am not someone who makes sounds in labor, but I definitely yelled during one of the contractions. Bill and my sister were speaking so softly to me, and telling me to just breathe, and I was doing great, and rubbing my arm. If I had been able to speak, I would have told them to shut up, stop touching me, go away, and that I hated everyone. My midwife came in to check me after my water had broken, because I kept saying I needed to push. I was feeling the most intense pressure and like my body wanted to bear down, and I kept trying to stay relaxed because I didn’t know if I was dilated enough. My midwife told me I was 6 centimeters and I was pissed, and confused why I thought I needed to push. Bill told me I was almost done, and I said back to him “NO I’M NOT, I’M ONLY 6 CENTIMETERS”.
Anesthesia came back in and gave me the remainder of the dose of the medicine in my epidural, and thankfully that took away the rest of the pain, and I was finally able to rest. PHEW, that was intense.
Photo by Pittsburgh Born Photography
When the photographer arrived I was shivering really intensely from the epidural. That was the worst part when I had it with Isla also. The nurse thought I might be in transition, and part of me wonders if I was, because the shivering went away before I found out I could push. It was really painful shivering. My shoulders and jaw were so tense, and I also felt foggy, and like my eyelids were really heavy. It made me wish I hadn’t gotten the epidural and this is why I tried to put it off for as long as possible.
Photos by Pittsburgh Born Photography
Thankfully it didn’t last too long, and I was grateful to be able to rest. Once the shivering subsided, I also started feeling less foggy from the epidural meds, and more like myself again. I expressed feeling a lot of pressure during contractions, and said I wanted to be checked. My midwife came back in to check me, and she said “You are complete, would you like to push?” with a big smile on her face. I excitedly said “YES!” and I couldn’t stop smiling after that. Bill started crying, because he knew our baby was coming soon. This had all happened so much faster than Isla’s birth, and this time I still felt strong for pushing.
Photos by Pittsburgh Born Photography
My midwife asked me what position I would like to try to push in, and I said side-lying. I had tried that with Isla, but felt too weak. I always visualized myself birthing in that position, so I wanted to try again. She said she would put the peanut ball between my legs, and pass Luke through my legs to Bill. I didn’t hear the part where she said she would pass him to Bill, and he told me afterward that he felt super nervous to grab a limp slippery newborn, but he agreed to do it anyway. Once my midwife helped me get into position, she advised me on how to push, and I pushed once, and she said “Oh I better put on my gloves, I can see his head.” I started laughing, because once she told me I could push, I had this overwhelming intuition that he would come out really fast, and it would feel really easy.
With Isla I was sweating, my heart rate got really high, and I needed oxygen. It was miserable. This time I felt like I was barely pushing. It was really calm and gentle. Thanks to the epidural, I was able to hangout with him crowning, and feel comfortable and calm while my midwife got her gloves on and sat back down. I pushed gently just 3-4 more times, and he was out. She passed him through my legs, and I grabbed him and put him on my chest, and he immediately let out a cry. I told my midwife at my 6 week appointment that I had forgotten to tell her I wanted to help catch him if I could, because that had always been a vision I had for myself, but I love that it just happened that way, without me telling her it was something I wanted to do. It felt so empowering.
Photos by Pittsburgh Born Photography
Luke’s birth was so fast, so easy, so gentle, and so wonderful. The nurse told us it was one of her favorite births. Once the cord stopped pulsing, my midwife suggested we cut it, and Bill got to do that. He didn’t get to cut Isla’s cord because pediatrics was in the room and wanted to see her immediately. I birthed the placenta, and my midwife checked to see if I tore. She told me that I had a little scratch, but no tears! I didn’t need stitches, and I was thrilled. They didn’t move Luke from my chest for about an hour before a nurse came in to take his measurements, and he nursed right away. It was so quiet and calm after his birth. It was like a dream. My midwife then asked me if she could go get me a drink. She mixed up a ginger ale and cranberry juice for me, and brought it back in for me to sip while I recovered.
Photos by Pittsburgh Born Photography
Once the nurse was helping me get ready to head up to the postpartum unit, Bill got ready to leave to go back home to Isla. I was able to easily stand up, and walk to the bathroom this time. I didn’t feel weak like after Isla was born. I felt pretty good, actually! My sister headed home for a little rest, and then came back later that night to spend the night with me, and help out since Bill went back home.
Photo by Pittsburgh Born Photography
I still can’t believe how wonderful Luke’s birth was. I never thought I would be able to experience a birth like that, because my anxiety robs me of so many experiences that I wish I could enjoy. Although I had a lot of anxiety I had to work through before labor and during labor, I was able to get my power back, and enjoy the experience, even though I also had moments of anxiety. His birth felt so healing, and so magical, even though it was an induction. I was involved in every step of the process, and no decisions were made without my consent. I felt fully cared for, and supported. It was truly wonderful, and I wish I could relive the moments of pushing him out over again. It was really one of the best moments of my entire life, and one I will cherish forever. Isla’s birth was magical, because we were meeting our IVF baby that we worked so hard for, and never thought we would get. Luke’s birth gifted me with the birth experience I always hoped I would get.
Photo by Pittsburgh Born Photography
A birth can be healing and magical, even if it’s medicated, even if there are interventions present, even if it’s in a hospital. For a long time, I was made to believe that for birth to be powerful and magical, it had to be super natural. It had to be in a birth center, or at home, in a tub without medication. Super natural birth can be all of those things, but so can a hospital birth. I will say, the right care team is key. I am terrified of surgery, medical interventions and medications, and I still chose the hospital setting, because it felt right for me. When I became pregnant, I also knew that I wanted to be somewhere with a nicu. That became important to me as well. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe birth out of the hospital isn’t safe. I do. I think it’s wonderful, and I think people who birth unmedicated at home or in birth centers are amazing. But I also think people who birth in hospitals are amazing, and strong, and can have an empowering and healing birth as well. I did, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
We named our baby boy Luke Haim. Luke is a name we decided on about 4-5 years ago, that we both loved. We chose Haim for Bill’s Papa, Hiram. He was his mom’s dad who sadly passed away unexpectedly in his early 70’s from a blood clot after a surgery. From what I have been told, he was a really amazing man. He was a Jewish man, born in Romania, and he fled the Holocaust with his family through Paris. He was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. We have been told that he spoke 7 languages (fluently), but we know for sure that he spoke Romanian, Yiddish, Hebrew, English, Chinese, and French. Bill’s Aunt told him a great story about his Papa living in China when he was working for UNRRA in the 1940’s. “He walked into a fast casual restaurant and ordered food. The guys behind him started laughing because his Chinese was so perfect, and his accent was so perfect. They were shocked. He was quite brilliant.” She also told Bill that his family only spoke Yiddish at home, and that they were very poor. He got a full scholarship to Pitt, and got himself out of poverty. Bill’s mom always tells us that she wishes he were here to see what we have done with Primal Palate, and the business we’ve grown because of his entrepreneurial spirit.
Years ago, Bill’s mom shared with me that her dad told her once that nobody would ever name a child for him because his name was “too weird”, and it was very sad for him. That story sat heavy with me, and really stuck with me. He was born Hyman, but later changed his name to Hiram. My family is Jewish, and my great-grandfather was also Hyman, and my mom was given the middle name Haya for him. So that is a family name on my side as well. Haim is a version of Hyman. It means life (think L’Chaim- to life!), and I always thought Haim was a cool name for a guy. Bill’s Papa didn’t know his first grandchild would marry a Jewish woman, and his great-grandson would be named for him, but I hope he is looking down on Bill, and baby Luke, and smiling knowing that a part of him lives on.
Photo by Hot Metal Studio
Big sister is doing so great. Luke and I got a 24 hour discharge from the hospital, but Isla did amazing without me the entire time. She really didn’t seem to miss me, haha. Isla loves her little brother so much. When she first saw him, she lost her mind with excitement. She kept saying “CUTE. BABY” and cupping her cheeks with her hands.
Photo by Hot Metal Studio
It’s been a bit chaotic going from one child to two, and having a 2.5 year old and a newborn is definitely a lot of work, but we are doing it, and we are so happy. Very tired, but very happy. Baby Luke is a dream. He is so sweet, and thankfully letting me get decent sleep. I still can’t believe he is here, but I also can’t believe that there was a time when he wasn’t here with us. We all love him so much, and are so grateful we have been given the gift of becoming parents for a second time.