Charlotte's Birth Story!

/ Tuesday, July 3, 2018

She’s here! Our sweet Charlotte Elizabeth Sytsma has arrived and I’d love to share a bit about her big welcome into the world, if you’re interested...

If you follow my Instagram stories, you may remember that I was 9 days overdue and trying literally everything to kickstart labor naturally. I ate whole pineapples, clocked hours on the birth ball, smushed, tried acupuncture for the first time, acupressure, chugged raspberry leaf tea...I even sat in a warm bath with ice packs on top of my belly to encourage her “down and out!”


2:00PM At my final OB appointment on Friday afternoon, I was told “baby looks great but your cervix is still 100% closed,” despite all of the tricks. They scheduled me for an induction Sunday night. On my way back to the office, I called my mom and asked if she could meet me after work and walk home with me from Union Square to Brooklyn. "Can you please help me walk this baby out, mama?!"

5:00PM We waddled the 3 miles down Bowery and over the Manhattan bridge to Brooklyn; some pressure and cramping but that was kind of par for the course. My husband met us as home. He whipped up skirt steak, grits and a big salad for dinner. They talked me into a half-glass of red wine. 

9:30PM I showered and curled up in bed to watch some Grey's Anatomy, my pregnancy guilty pleasure. (Does it count as binge watching if you've seen them all already?) 

10:30PM I noticed I was having lower back and butt pain as I was watching Grey's. It didn't feel like period cramps. It almost felt like my stomach was bothering me and I really needed to go to the bathroom (TMI?) but as I payed attention to it, it would come and go about every 7 minutes. 

11:30PM I decided to go out to the living room so I could keep track of things without waking up my husband. I wanted to be sure it was actually labor before sounding the alarms! I hopped on the birth ball, set up my laptop on the kitchen table and decided to get some work done—if this really was go-time, I had things to wrap up! 


2:30AM Honestly, it felt like 15 minutes had gone by! I was still laptop-ing on the birth ball, breathing through contractions. My husband came out to the living room to see where I had gone. He encouraged me to go back in bed to get some rest and save up as much energy as I could. He took over timing the contractions, which were all over the place: 10 minutes apart, 6 minutes apart, 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 90 seconds. We figured it was false labor or very very early labor at most.

3:30AM No sleep at all, just more wacky contractions. 

4:30AM I felt a contraction coming on and all of a sudden I felt a POP! I yelled to my husband, "I think my water's about to break!" and with that a gush of fluid came out like someone popped a giant water balloon up in my vagina lol which, I mean, is kind of what happened, right?

Tip: When you're near the end of your pregnancy, invest in a good waterproof mattress pad and keep it on your bed. Our doulas gave us that advice and thank goodness they did! 

4:35AM We called the doctor, texted the doulas, changed clothes and grabbed our hospital bag. I was GBS positive (which so many women are!) so I knew I had to go to the hospital to start antibiotics as soon as my water broke, even though I thought we were super-duper early in the labor process. 

5:00AM Arrived at the hospital. We went right into triage, which was empty. The contractions became really intense after my water broke. Thank goodness the Uber ride only took 10 minutes since it was so early in the morning. The nurses gave me a triage bed in the far corner of the room, an XXL hospital gown which I could barely keep from falling down, grippy socks and an IV drip. 

6:00AM The triage room started to fill up and I was in a lot of pain. The contractions were coming on quickly. I was super nauseous. Lying down in bed was excruciating! So was sitting on the birth ball. The pressure was just too much. Also the hospital gown was driving me nuts, so I stripped down to the purple pair of Depends old-lady diapers my doulas said to wear to the hospital to prevent any mess in the Uber (genius!) Someone came in to check my cervix. I was 1 measly centimeter dilated—1 frickin' centimeter!! 

7:00AM This is where time starts getting blurry. I knew I was only 1 centimeter dilated, meaning I was at the very beginning of labor, but my body didn't feel that way. The contractions were taking a toll on me. I was throwing up at the peak of each one and I couldn't stop shaking. I kept asking my husband to check-in on where my parents and the doulas were. We were stuck in triage since all of the labor and delivery rooms were full. I just stood there, leaning over the bed, swaying my hips with 2 plastic cups to barf in since they ran out of proper wasn't pretty. All I wanted was to settle in a real labor room so we could start doing the comfort measures we learned about and had been practicing. 

8:30AM I couldn't take the pain any longer. Throughout my pregnancy, I thought I might want a completely natural birth. But as I was struggling, I kept thinking about my aunt who has NO pain tolerance but absolutely loved her birth experience. "The epidural took the edge off just enough for me to relax and enjoy the moment," she said. I wanted Charlotte's birth to be a really happy, magical memory for me...I asked for the epidural, still shoved in the corner of the triage room.

9:15AM Epidural, done! Just as the anesthesiologist finished, my parents showed up. I felt pain with the first few contractions and my whole body was still shaking. My mom started rubbing my legs and told me to hang on, I'd feel better soon. By the third contraction, I was a whole new person. I stopped shaking. I felt a huge wave of relief. I frickin' love epidurals! 

9:30AM My doctor showed up to give me an exam. I was 9 1/2 centimeters dilated and 100% effaced. NINE AND A HALF! 100%!! Ready to start pushing. It turns out, all of the pain, shaking and vomiting that I thought was early labor...yeah, that was actually transition. In just under 4 hours, I dilated from 1 to 10 centimeters. 

10:00AM Even though I was 10 centimeters dilated, we were still stuck in triage. The hospital was overcrowded. The plan was to turn an operating room into a delivery room for me if nothing opened up. But my doctor was pulled away to delivery 2 other babies and I was comfortable laboring with a peanut between my legs, totally blissed out on my epidural, so I said I was okay to keep waiting. 

12:00PM Still no delivery rooms available. Our nurse, Iris (bless her), kept checking in to make sure I was comfortable and not feeling an overwhelming urge to push. She said I was "laboring down," meaning since I was fully dilated but not pushing, the baby was slowly working through the birth canal herself—you go, girl!

12:15PM I could definitely feel the contractions through the epidural at this point. They were intense and painful (mostly in my lower back and butt) but I was able to moan through them because between the contractions I was so insanely relaxed, thanks to the epidural and my crackerjack birth team: Mom stroked my ankles, my husband held my hand, our doula Kerri put this delicious smelling aromatherapy oil on a fan that she used to keep me cool and calm. I felt like I was somewhere else entirely; I went somewhere deep inside and just lived in that sunken bubble. My body felt heavy and calm. Iris kept checking on me. "I can keep going," I said through long, slow breathes.

2:00PM After 4 full hours of "laboring down," my doctor and Iris came back in with amazing news: A delivery room opened up and they were prepping it from me! It was time to start pushing. They wheeled me across the hall, I scooted myself from the triage bed to the delivery bed and the crew gave me one final recap of how I would be pushing. 

2:15PM I started feeling my next contraction and my OB said to do a practice push; curl up and hold your breath, push as hard as you can for as long as you can, then repeat 2 more times until the contraction ends. With my first practice push, everyone started shouting "Great job, Erin! Keep going, we can see her hair!" 

2:36PM Twenty minutes (5 pushes) later, I was holding our chubby, pink baby girl! She was all cheeks and pure sweetness. She had a strong cry and a pouty lower lip, just like I did when I was born. They immediately put her on my chest and we just sat there loving on each other with her dad while my doctor finished everything up. We decided to delay her cord clamping. I asked to wait for the placenta to detach by itself, which it did and honestly I didn't even feel it come out. I had 2 minor tears that needed stitching; the OB said "you're going to feel a pinch" a few different times but I didn't feel that either. 

3:30PM I was able to have my full hour of uninterrupted skin-to-skin time with Charlotte. Once the hour was over, the nurse brought her and her dad over to the baby warmer next to me to get her height, weight and her first bath. She clocked it at 8lbs, 1oz and 20.5" long! Meanwhile, we sent my dad out to grab Shake Shack for the gang, nurse Iris included (who went for a Black & White milkshake and a Shack Burger—strong order)! 

4:00PM We were wheeled up to our recovery room, which we shared with another couple. My parents went home, the nurse drew the curtain on our little matchbox size space. It felt like we were left alone to parent for the very first time on an airplane lol I remember feeling so surprised and overwhelmed that they just leave you with the baby. "Diapers are in that drawer, you should feed her about every 2 to 3 hours, the night-nurse starts at eight" And that was it! 

I have to say, I absolutely loved our birth experience. Way to go, Charlotte! Even though there were hiccups, I wouldn't have wanted it or asked for it any other way. It's funny, laboring in triage due to overcrowding was my number 1 fear while I was pregnant—no joke! I thought that was worst-case scenario. But it turns out, waiting and laboring down in that little corner led to the most incredible delivery for me. It was slow, easy and the exact right amount of "natural" for our family.

To say I feel grateful or blessed would be the silliest understatement. Charlotte's birth was the most special, wonderful day of my life. We are so lucky to have a healthy, happy baby. And we are so lucky to have had a safe and easy birth. Every time I look at her, I send some gratitude into the universe and hope that it lands on another mama and baby working their way into the world at that very moment.

We spent 2 nights in the hospital per protocol but we couldn't wait to bring Charlotte home! (And I couldn't wait for Alan to be able to sleep in something other than a crappy recliner, it broke my heart seeing him scrunched up like that!) We have been a little family for just over a week. It seems like it's only been a day but also like a month has past, does that make sense? What I do know, though, is that life is better and fuller and more amazing than I ever thought possible. Thank you for all of your love and support leading up to this big moment. I'm excited to share this next chapter of life with you all! 

A few little things about Charlotte...

Name: Charlotte Elizabeth Sytsma
Nicknames: Cha Cha, Charlie, Bubba 
Measurements: 8lb, 1oz & 20.5" long
Favorites: Her carseat, having her hair brushed, sleeping with 1 hand on her face.
Outings: Only to-and-from the doctor's office so far
Sleeps: Usually 2.5 to 3 hours at a time
Eats: Boobs only
Smells: Like heaven! I love her milk-breath

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