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Ethan’s Birth Story—Part Two

2012 February 1
by Becky

After leaving you in suspense at the end of Birth Story—Part One, I know you can’t wait to hear what happened next! Without further ado, here is the rest of Ethan’s birth story: 

So there I was, in a hospital bed at Barnes Jewish Hospital, ready for the long haul. Ready to be there for the next two weeks waiting for Ethan to grow in utero. My water was broken, I was hooked up to monitors, and on magnesium to stop contractions, as well as other IV fluids. Stu and I were both very quiet—still very much in shock.

How in shock was I? So much so, that I called work at 7:30am to say I was “sick” and going to the doctor. I somehow believed that I was going to be able to continue working while in the hospital. (Pause for laughter) I also didn’t want to worry everyone…yet.

The next phone call was to my friend Kate. I had to do a “practice run” of our story before calling my parents. Otherwise I knew I’d be a mess. Kate was so calm and collected. She didn’t cry or freak out. She just listened, offered support, and said she would come by that night to visit me. (She then started freaking out the minute she hung up). I thought I could handle calling my parents, but when my dad answered the phone, I got as far as “Hi Dad, I wanted to call and tell you that I’m in the hospital,” and it was all tears from there. The phone was handed to Stu and he made the rest of the family calls. I did better with text messages to friends so I set my fingers ablaze on the iPhone.

Remember how I said I was on IV fluids? Yeah, well bed rest and fluids don’t mix. I learned all about bedpans that day. Someone has GOT to figure out a better option. Those things are a disaster. All morning I attempted sleep, listened to specialists and pediatricians and anesthesiologists tell me all about the possible complications of my situation, and tried to gracefully use a bedpan (not possible).

In the quiet of the morning we got to know our first L&D nurse, Nicole. She was our age, sweet as can be, and tried so hard to make us feel better about our situation by telling us about her precious son who was born at 28 weeks. She showed us pictures and told us stories. Amazingly, it helped. And soon Stu was strong enough to head home for a few minutes to let the dog out, shower, and grab some necessities.

I spent the morning on a rollercoaster of emotions. I would be talking animatedly to Stu or a nurse one minute, listening in fear to a specialist describe the risks involved with our situation the next minute, and sobbing in realization of what was happening the next minute. The hours crawled by.

At noon, I started having tiny little contractions. I could barely feel them, but the monitor picked them up. I tried not to panic and tried to think relaxing thoughts. Also around noon I caved and called work, officially freaking out the whole office. Also at noon, a new nurse popped in to say hello…it was our Childbirth Educator, Shannon! Shocked we were already there, she told us she’d be helping out with whatever happened next. It was so nice to see a familiar face.

At precisely 3:30pm my friend Liz sent a text saying she would stop by the hospital after work. I remember this specifically because I wrote her back saying she should come the next day instead due to the fact I was starting to have more contractions. I still wasn’t feeling much and was actually relaxed, watching Friends on TV, but thought visitors wouldn’t be a good idea. I guess I knew deep down that I wouldn’t be waiting for baby much longer.

All the sudden, things started going really fast.

My contractions became very noticeable, each one twice as strong as the last. At 4:20pm my contractions were back-archingly intense and someone (I’m guessing a doctor…but can’t be sure) did a speculum test to confirm I was indeed 4cm dilated—through the whole morning they were avoiding the “check” to avoid infection which is at high risk when the membrane has been broken for a long period of time. I couldn’t even move during the contractions. Since I had no idea how long this would go on (I was imaging hours), I nodded when asked if I’d be interested in an epidural. At this point I’m positive the nurses had no idea how quickly thing would progress, so they were just helping me breathe, keeping me calm (trying at least), and settling in for hours of dilation. My doctor was paged in surgery, but she anticipated plenty of time to finish and get down to deliver my baby.

At 4:30pm, the contractions became involuntary pushes—Ethan was on his way and I wasn’t even in a delivery bed! No one was prepared. I think I started blacking out because when I opened my eyes the nurse was yelling into the phone and doctors were running in room. I remember the anesthesiologist walking in, taking one look at me, and heading back out the door saying “Too late!” I had dilated to a full 10 cm in less then ten minutes. I remember the nurses helping me get ready to push and I know Stu was holding my hand. He was giving me encouragement while his hand shook.

Someone told me it was time to start pushing.

There were 2, maybe three pushes. Someone told me to look down at my baby.

Then I heard my boy let out some ferocious wails.

And then the pain was gone.

He was there. So dark red. So skinny. So much black hair on his massive cone head.

As Ethan was wisked away to the warming table, I took in my surroundings. Nurses worked busily, something was going on with my placenta (I didn’t want to know), and the doctors from St. Louis Children’s Hospital were there with huge smiles on their faces. The Children’s transport team arrived, in their Star Trek-ish jumpsuits, with an incubator while while Ethan was being thoroughly checked by at least six doctors and nurses. Stu was right in the middle of it all, yelling to me things like “He’s so cute!” and “He’s got so much hair!” and “He’s amazing!”. I was trying to peek through arms and between bodies to catch a glimpse of the flailing, now dark pink limbs.

Then, all of the sudden, I was handed a bundle and I laid eyes on the Peanut. He was so, so tiny. And so incredible. And perfect. Everything was in place, just half the size we expected. I was head-over-heels in love. I couldn’t believe he was already here.

premature birth, preemie, labor, birth story, baby, nicu

Before I knew it, he was stolen from me again. Though he was breathing well on his own, Ethan was intubated so medicine could be administered to help expand his lungs completely. I got him for 30 seconds more, time for kisses and a snuggle. He was placed in the mobile incubator for his trip down to the NICU. Stu kissed me goodbye and joined the crew for the journey through the winding maze of hallways leading to Children’s Hospital.

premature birth, preemie, labor, birth story, baby, nicu

So there I was, all alone, grinning from ear to ear, on an amazing adrenaline rush. Luckily, our two outstanding nurses, Shannon and Kristen, were there to fill me in on all the fuzzy parts of the last hour. We laughed, looked at the pictures they took (thank goodness they grabbed our cell phones!), and when Dr. Willers came in, we went through the story all over again. I called my parents and told them the whole story. I just couldn’t get over how fast it went! Yes, natural birth really hurts, but you feel like a million bucks about twenty minutes afterward!

Stu wasn’t having such a good time. The transport team and doctors were very friendly and informative on the trip down to Children’s, but upon arrival Stu was hit with paperwork, pages of rules, lectures by admitting staff, and the pain of watching his tiny baby be hooked up to every possible monitor. He came back to my room after over two hours looking like he’d been punched in the face.

My friend Kate and her sweet boyfriend Erik arrived right then to be the first to congratulate us. Thank goodness too, because Stu needed Erik for some man to man time. At the time I was too consumed to realize that while I got to have a baby, he had to watch, helpless, while everything spun out of his control. He was exhausted but was the bravest and most supportive husband I could ever have imagined.

After moving to our recovery room, we went down to visit Ethan. I couldn’t wait! Luckily, he was feeding-tube and oxygen free at this time, so there was nothing keeping us from seeing what our baby looked like. He was perfect and so incredibly small.

premature birth, preemie, labor, birth story, baby, nicu

While we were scared to even touch him, the nurses were so encouraging and helped us hold him against our bare chests—kangaroo care—so he could feel our body heat while touching and smelling us. We needed help with everything…it was a strange dynamic that we would become all too familiar with over the next 6.5 weeks. But that begins a whole other story…

At the end of the day, I wouldn’t change a thing. I love that I felt every bit of child birth. I love that we were surrounded by such capable and dedicated staff. I loved that I could share the best experience in the world with my husband.

Through all the fear and stress, everything turned out perfect in the end. That is, if they end is really the beginning…the beginning of our Little Man’s life. And the beginning of the best part of our lives.

The links to our daily posts while living in the NICU are collected here. I you are preemie parents and have questions or need support, please reach out to me via email. I hear from so many of you and am happy to provide any encouragement I can. Meeting other parents in our situation helped get me through our 6.5 week stay. 

11 Responses
  1. February 1, 2012

    Ahhhh, it is so crazy how fast that all happened! You are so sweet to care what Stu was going through, I was much more selfish with Brendan, lol. It is so amazing how scary and unknown everything was and now a year later we have these amazing little bundles of energy.

  2. Linda Johnson permalink
    February 1, 2012

    Thank you for sharing Ethan’s remarkable birth. I will never forget the call I made to stu. He had left a message and my cell phone whch I accidently left at home. When I called him back after work he told me Ethan was born. Wow, what a shock and Stu was so tired and worn out. ( I think us mom’s are on an emotioinal high when our babies arrive, tired and worn out seems to come later)

    Watching Ethan grow this last year has been such a wonderful journey thanks to you Becky. I love reading your posts on Ethan and your family. I’m also blessed to have a son that takes such good care of you and Ethan.

    love ya all!

  3. February 1, 2012

    Love the “Rest of the Story”………The Beginning.
    I know you’ve got a book in there.

  4. February 1, 2012

    Oh my gosh what an amazing story. It makes you a stronger person and you know how wonderful your little boy is. Hurrah for Stu. What an experience. GG

  5. Sandy Schon permalink
    February 1, 2012

    I thought we knew most of the details of Ethan’s birth, but there were many more details we didn’t know. Thank you for sharing Ethan’s birth story with honesty and humility. You are an amazing mother and Stu is the perfect husband for you. You’re both wonderful parents and Ethan is a joy for us all. See you soon. Love, MOM

  6. Adrianne permalink
    February 1, 2012

    I love this story. Thanks for sharing and for making me cry…again!

  7. December 8, 2012

    oh my. what an emotional story! my husband wants to know whats wrong with me! haha

    • Becky permalink*
      December 8, 2012

      Ha, it was an interesting start to parenthood. :) He’ll be two at the end of this month though and you’d never guess he was a preemie!

  8. Chelsey permalink
    March 3, 2013

    I was born 9 weeks early, and spent my first 7 weeks in the hospital, as well. Unfortunately, my poor mama was on bed rest for 2 months before they finally took me by C section. Twenty three (and a half) years later, she still tears up whenever she talks about her pregnancy or my birth. Your family and stories are so beautiful, thank you for sharing!

    • Becky permalink*
      March 3, 2013

      Wow. I LOVE hearing stories like that. And being on bed rest for 2 months before??? OMG. Your mom is a trooper. Women amaze me. Thanks for reading!

  9. Brooke permalink
    March 29, 2016

    I found your site while searching for paleontologist birthday parties for my soon to be 5 year old. He already had the dinosaur party to end all dinosaur parties for his 4th birthday party but the obsession continues and this is what he wants so this is what he gets! Anyway, for a brief moment I thought I was reading about us. My water broke at 29 weeks and I was on bed rest in the hospital for 3 weeks and Sawyer was in the NICU for 3 months. What a difficult and beautiful experience all at the same time. We would have sunk if it weren’t for the prayer support from our church, our faith in God and our amazing family and friends. Sawyer also had a construction birthday party when he turned 3. I think our boys might be kindred spirits. Ethan looks amazing and Sawyer is the picture of health as well. I find that we almost get to a point where we forget what we went through. I guess that’s the beauty of this great adventure. Good or bad I wouldn’t trade this journey for anything. Thank you for sharing your story and God bless your family!

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