Otto's Birth Story

11:41 AM


This is my birth story. With all big events in my life, I like to have a place where I can record the details and emotions of the experience so that I have something to look back on. I have decided to share this on my blog, but want to forewarn that it will be lengthy, detailed, and include somewhat “graphic” features. I understand that this sort of account may not be everyone’s cup of tea, so thought I would include this note up front. :)

PS—there will also be pictures. Most are not too gruesome, but I will feature several of Otto and I shortly after his birth.


My pregnancy was overall pretty healthy / normal. I had a tough first trimester with morning sickness and exhaustion, but once I got past that, everything continued on as normal. Everything always looked great at my doctor’s appointments and baby grew right on track.

At my 35 weeks appointment, my blood pressure was a bit higher than normal. I had done some gardening outside beforehand and didn’t eat lunch soon enough, which gave me low blood sugar / the jitters. We chalked it up to that. However, a week later, my blood pressure had climbed to 140/90, so my OB sent me into L&D triage at the hospital to be monitored.

I was monitored for a few hours and then sent home with orders to do bi-weekly BP checks. Over the next couple of weeks, I did these checks, and my blood pressure actually improved quite a bit and returned to a normal level. My OB was a bit shocked but also pleasantly surprised, as he had mentioned the possibility of inducing me early if needed at 37 weeks if my BP didn’t go back down.

Also during these last few weeks, I had a huge burst of energy and felt absolutely amazing! I definitely hit “nesting mode” and used it to clean my house, organize my kitchen, and make freezer meals. I was thankful to be feeling so well so late in my pregnancy.

At 38 weeks, I was dilated to 1cm and 50% effaced. I was glad to hear this, because baby had dropped clear down and I was having a lot of pressure. I also had a lot of random Braxton Hicks contractions, although they were never consistent nor did they ever develop into anything. However, it was still encouraging to know a little progress had been made…

Around 39 weeks, I was starting to get really anxious to meet my little guy! I had actually convinced myself that I would deliver early, since both of my sisters and my mom delivered their babies early. In fact, one of my sisters never made it past 38 weeks with her kids!

At 39 weeks, I was still feeling pretty good and hoping that I had made some more progress. On the day of my appointment (which was Wednesday, 9/20) I had gone to my women’s bible study that morning and then stopped at the grocery store to pick up ingredients for that night’s dinner. I ate lunch at Chick-Fil-A and then headed over to my appointment later that afternoon.

Much to my surprise (because I had been feeling great), my BP had climbed back up to 145/90. My OB was not surprised given my struggle with it several weeks before. He explained that at this point in pregnancy, when the mother has high BP, there is no benefit to continuing the pregnancy because the baby is already developed. To do so can cause danger to the mom and also up chances of other complications like pre-eclampsia. He gave me about 10 minutes to relax so that he could re-check my BP a second time, but at this point I was pretty worked up about this news and it remained high. He ended up sending me into L&D triage again to get bloodwork done and told me to pack my bags in case I needed to stay.

I would say that my main goal going into having my baby was to remain open and know that in the end, I just wanted a safe delivery and healthy baby. I tried to keep my expectations low and not “plan” on too much, but for some reason this change of events really hit me hard. One thing I really wanted to avoid was being induced, and now it looked like this would be my reality. I was just hoping to be able to go into labor on my own, and let me body lead the way. And I also really wanted to avoid a C-Section and have my baby vaginally if at all possible.

At this point, it was about 3:30 in the afternoon, and I called my husband crying, telling him this turn of events. He came right home from work so we could head to the hospital. In the mean time, I headed home and finished packing my bags and hopped in the shower. As soon as the hot water hit me, I started bawling. I don’t know why it hit me so hard, but I was really upset and also slightly anxious about what lie ahead. I think I was just so surprised and taken off guard, and everything seemed to be happening so fast.

I finally pulled myself together :) and Ryan and I headed into the hospital. They immediately hooked me up to a BP cuff and drew some labs. I believe my bloodwork came back OK, but some of my levels were starting to look off and my BP remained high, so they admitted me. They did a quick ultrasound to confirm baby’s head was down (it was—yea!!) and checked me again… which showed no new progress (still dilated to a 1cm and 50% effaced).

We were put into a birthing room and the nurse explained to me that the first step was to start me on Cervadil, which was a 4-hour pill that they insert to see if your cervix will soften / dilate on its own. My main concern at this point was dinner :) and they assured me I could eat while this was taking place. Ryan got us Subway and the pill was inserted around 6:45pm. I would later be thankful for this meal, as it would be my last for the next 48 hours!

At this point, I was in communication with family and my parents were trying to decide whether to head to Madison that evening or wait until morning. They ended up deciding to head our way, which I would again be thankful for because of what would unfold ahead.

Around 10:45, they checked me again to see if the Cervidil had worked. Unfortunately, it had not—there was no new progress :( and my BP continued to remain high. My nurse was amazing and super sweet and explained to me that the only other thing option at this point was a Foley catheter. Normally, they could try a 12 hour Cervidil pill, but they were worried about my BP being so high and needed to keep moving things along. The Foley catheter is inserted into cervix and a balloon helps to mechanically dilate the cervix. If it sounds painful, that’s because it is! They explained that the placement would be uncomfortable, but that usually women get used to it and the pain goes away.

My nurse had explained that I would likely have to do this, but again, it just felt like everything was happening so fast. The next thing I knew, they were inserting this contraption and I was shaking from fear. I turned away and tried not to think about what was happening. I think my nurse saw my discomfort and smiled at me and said, “Do you want a hand?” I nodded, and she held my hand while this long, wiry contraption was placed inside of me. They said it would need to be in for at least 4 hours before checking me again.

The placement WAS uncomfortable, but nothing could prepare me for the pain I felt afterwards. Thankfully, around this time, my parents had made it to the hospital.

By 11:30, I was in extreme pain. I felt each contraction as if I was dilated to a 9… I had to breathe through each one. Because my BP had continued to climb and they deemed me as getting “sicker and sicker,” they started me on Magnesium. This is the treatment for pre-eclampsia, which they were treating me for at this point because of my BP. They explained that this would make me feel crummy, “like I had the flu.” Super.

The next several hours consisted of my mom holding one hand while Ryan held the other, and me writhing in pain through each contraction because the catheter was SO uncomfortable. I felt tremendous pain and pressure each time. Also, the magnesium started to kick in, and it made me EXTREMELY hot. I sweat profusely, so every 2-3 minutes, my mom would soak a rag in cold ice water and put it on my forehead. The room was an igloo; everyone else was freezing cold and in sweaters / cardigans and I was dripping with sweat.

I also had terrible labor shakes, so I basically shook violently / sweat / breathed the best I could through each contraction. I was bedridden at this point, with a BP cuff on one arm, compression cuffs on both legs, and an IV in my other arm giving me meds.

My nurse gave me some IV meds for the pain eventually, which helped take the edge off for about the first 10-15 minutes each time she gave them. They were wonderful for those first minutes, but unfortunately quickly wore off.

Usually, once dilated to a 4, the catheter would just fall out on its own. However, at around 2:30am, they checked for progress and said… “We’ll call that a 4,” with a smile… I was SO thankful! The pain was seriously terrible! My nurse told me that no one has a Foley catheter and comes out “happy,” but that they DO work.

Because I was experiencing so much pain already, my nurse said, “Let’s get you an epidural.” I didn’t argue with her… I didn’t know how I’d keep going at this level of pain and just wanted it to go away! However, as soon as they took the catheter out, my pain almost disappeared! They wondered if it wasn’t just a poor placement because of how much discomfort I experienced.

Since the anesthesiologist was on his way, I decided to get the epi, anyway. It was nice to get it placed while I wasn’t writhing in pain. Ryan came around to my front and held both of my hands while it was put in… and honestly, I barely felt anything. After the pain I had just gone through, it didn’t seem like a big deal at all!

So at this point, I was officially hooked up to meds all over my body and every limb was occupied. The epidural did its job and immediately made me feel 1000% better. It also dropped my BP quite a bit, which is normal, so my nurse gave me oxygen to make sure the baby wasn’t affected by such a drastic drop.

It was around 2:30/3am by now, so my dad went to our house to sleep, and my mom and Ryan slept in the hospital room for a few hours. I tried to “rest,” so I would relax my body, but every time I felt myself starting to fall asleep, I noticed I was tense again! My body was still very much laboring and sleep seemed impossible, but it was nice to just lay and relax for awhile.

My contractions spaced out quite a bit and there was no new progress (I was dilated to about a 5cm since 3am), so they started me on Pitocin at 7am. About a half hour later, I remember Ryan waking up and coming over to my bed and checking in on me. He then went back to the couch and I believe was on his phone for a bit.

At about 8am, my mom had gone into the bathroom. My nurse was in the room with me, and I was still laying in bed dozing. All of the sudden, I heard a choking noise and saw Ryan fall off the couch face-forward, smacking his forehead on the ground. I immediately knew he had passed out and started screaming for my mom in the bathroom.

The nurse was thankfully in the room and had seen him go down. She thought he was just standing up from the couch, but later realized his arms were slack and he had just fallen forward. She paged a “Medical Emergency” to my room.

At this point, my mom had flown out of the bathroom and we realized Ryan was having a seizure. I was unable to see anything, but hearing it was enough. I had never witnessed a seizure before, so it was very scary. I honestly thought my husband had collapsed and was dying right in front of me.

What was so amazing, though, is that within SECONDS of the nurse calling an emergency, our room was flooded with people. In under a minute, there were nurses and doctors EVERYWHERE (my guess is that there were no less than 15 people in our room). A chaplain appeared at the left side of my bed and was holding my hand; my mom was on my other side holding my other hand. Doctors kept approaching my bed, asking me questions about if this has happened before, how old he was, what his medical history was. Meanwhile, Ryan was convulsing on the ground and crying out.

The medical personnel all helped to keep Ryan calm and safe and talked him through as he came out of his seizure. It was seriously the scariest thing I had heard or experienced in all my life and I felt so helpless and out of control laying in my hospital bed, hooked up to a million things, unable to see. They strapped him to a board and carried him out of my room. The chaplain spoke softly to me and had a prayer with me.

My room had literally exploded into a flurry of activity, but somehow through it all, I felt this amazing peace. Especially after the prayer, this tremendous calm came over me, and although I had no idea what was happening with my husband, I somehow knew it was going to be OK.

My mom later told me that my blood pressure stayed completely stable through this entire process. Everyone assured me that Ryan was in the best place he could be for that to have happened, and my nurse said that there was a faster than usual response time because anytime a  “Medical Emergency” is called in an L&D room, they assume it’s the mom (and/or baby) that’s in distress, so they come even faster since they have to act so quickly.

What was so amazing to me was how amazing all of the staff was during this process. They could not have been nicer, more understanding, and thorough. My mom told me that over the next few days, doctors stopped her in the hallway and would say, “Excuse me, you look familiar. Are you the mother-in-law of the guy who had the seizure? How is he doing?”

Ryan was taken down to the ER. My dad came over to the hospital to sit with Ryan, and his parents immediately started on their way from Central Illinois. He woke up from his seizure a bit confused, but eventually came to and asked about me. Ryan’s nurse was made aware that his wife was in labor, and they gave him updates on me. His nurse was awesome and told Ryan, “If I have to CARRY you up to the L&D room, you WILL be there for your son’s birth.”

He was pretty exhausted and also nauseous from the seizure, so they gave him fluids and let him sleep and ran some tests.

Meanwhile, almost immediately after Ryan gets taken down to the ER, my water broke. :) I was a bit worried this would mean I would start progressing quicker, but I really didn’t. Around 10:30, they actually had to go in and finish breaking my water, as part of the bag was folded over and still in tact. At this point, I was about a 5-6cm.

My nursing staff was amazing and I think kind of “strung me along” with the Pit at this point, since we were waiting on Ryan to make it back up for the delivery. Ryan’s parents made it a couple hours later and sat with him the rest of the time, and my sisters also made it to the hospital around early afternoon.

During this entire process, due to being on the Magnesium, I was on an all-liquids diet, which meant I could only have ice chips / water or popsicles / Jello every couple hours. Through most of my L&D, this wasn’t a big deal since once you progress to a certain point, you don’t feel much like eating, but I did remember being SO thirsty.

Ryan made it back up to the room mid-afternoon and was able to eat a little lunch. I remember looking over at him and reaching out to him from my bed. I wanted so badly to burst into tears and fall apart, but I didn’t feel like I could at that point. I was in labor and needed to stay calm. I took the opportunity to thank God—I was just so thankful that he was OK.

Shortly after, I believe they started to up my Pitocin, because I started to progress some more. Around 2:30pm, I was a 7-8cm. At this point, I started to feel tremendous pressure, “like I needed to have a bowel movement.” It was obviously way too early to push, but I would have this feeling for the rest of my labor and it would only gain in intensity.

A welcome distraction were my sisters, who each took the time to come and spend some time with me and talk to me. It was so fun knowing they were in the hospital waiting for little boy to be born!

Over the next couple hours, I started to get really uncomfortable again. Each contraction, I had to breathe through it, because the pressure was almost unbearable. I just felt like pushing each time, or like maybe I was going to have to go to the bathroom!!

I remember the doctor checking me at about 8cm and saying, “OK, I’ll be back in 2 hours to check you again,” and I wanted to scream at her, “NO! Check me in 20 minutes again!! I just want to push this baby out NOW!”

Thankfully, she came in at a little under 2 hours and checked me again at 4:30—and I was a 10cm and fully effaced! Hooray!!

I was SO ready to push at this point. A resident, my nurse, and the doctor all came into the room. They coached me through the pushing process, and told me I’d have to tell them when I was having contractions—they had inserted something inside of me to show the strength of the contractions, but took it out for the pushing phase. I told them NO PROBLEM! It was very obvious to me when I had them. Since every inch of my body was hooked up to something and I was bedridden, my legs had to go up into stirrups and I asked them to pull the mirrors down so I could watch.

I began pushing at 4:30… after my first push, his head appeared and we could see all of his dark hair! It was SO crazy! They were very impressed that I made so much progress with just one push. However, because of my position and I was also new at this whole “pushing” thing, it took awhile before his head came all the way out. My contractions actually spaced apart, and were almost 4 minutes apart! So in between each contraction, we all literally stood around and waited. Thankfully, I wasn’t in too much pain. I felt the discomfort of his head being halfway out :P but nothing like what it would have felt like without an epidural!

After about an hour and a half (18-19 pushes- I made Ryan count), after 24 hours of labor, Otto came out at 5:59pm! He had a head full of tons of dark, curly hair! They immediately put him on my chest… I kept trying to lift his head up to see his face, but he didn’t like that and would start crying. I would later learn that this little guy has a mind of his own, and lets you know when he doesn’t like something… he came out of the womb that way! :)

We were all immediately in love with little Otto Ryan. I didn’t have too many expectations about how he would look, but in my mind I always thought I’d have a dark-haired, chubby-faced boy, and that’s exactly what he is! He weighed 8 pounds 3 oz. and was 20” long. I cannot say enough about all of the medical staff at St. Mary's Hospital who helped me deliver... they were all so wonderful to work with! I had amazing care all the way through.

We had no shortage of visitors to come love on Otto shortly after he was born...

One of the moments I'll never forget is how when I was holding Otto and showing him off to family, he just stared at me as I talked. It's like he was realizing who the person was behind the voice he was hearing for the past 9 months! It was the sweetest thing and melted my mommy heart right away!

Because I was a pre-eclampsia risk, I was kept on Magnesium for the next 24 hours following labor. I was disappointed to learn this, because it thwarted my plans of a post-delivery cheeseburger meal!! I had to stay on an all-liquids diet, so I celebrated with a popsicle. I was also bedridden for this time, so was not able to change my baby’s diaper or do much other than hold and nurse him.

The hospital kept me an extra night for observation, so we were there a total of 4 nights including the night of his birth. We were able to go home on Sunday at noon. All I remember about this time is how very weak and tired I was. Getting up and out of bed was very hard—I would become really dizzy and felt like I could barely walk. I had intense feelings of shortness of breath, and couldn’t make it far without having to stop and get my breath. I was just very weak.

Once home, I pretty much stayed down for the next couple of days unless I had to be up. Thankfully, my mom was still with us and was a huge help! Ryan had a follow-up appointment a few days later, where we learned that his seizures are a carry-over from his childhood petite-mal seizures that he used to have. A small percentage of kids who have these seizures will go on to develop epilepsy into adulthood and have grand-mal seizures, and he is just one of the unlucky few. As he has had 3 other episodes in his past adult life (none of which have been observed by anyone else, but all factors point to a seizure), we know his triggers are emotional stress paired with little sleep. Our job is to manage these triggers and the medicine he is on should also help reduce the chances of him having another one. He will also have an MRI and EEG to check for any abnormalities.

He is unable to drive for 3 months from the time of his seizure (it’s the law in Wisconsin—a little better than 6 months in Illinois!!) This has been an interesting caveat to work through as a new mom with a baby, but thankfully we have awesome parents who have come to help us, and it just means I get to perfect my skills as chauffeur for the next few months :)

Over the next few days, I started to feel myself get a little stronger, but was still struggling with shortness of breath and dizziness, so I called into my OB. He again sent me into the ER triage, where I was monitored, labs were drawn, a chest X-Ray was done and a urine sample. Thankfully, everything came back with flying colors… which gave me peace of mind, since I was feeling so crummy. The next day at my appointment, we determined that my BP medication was making me feel weird and we took the dose down a little.

This is when I started turning a corner and feeling a lot better. Each day, I felt a bit stronger and could do a little more. And the next week at my doctor’s appointment, I was able to completely go off my BP medication!

My story is a bit crazy and nothing like I ever would have expected. The most amazing part to me is that with everything that was working against me (being on Magnesium, which is actually known to SLOW labor / contractions, having such high blood pressure, and then my husband having a seizure), I was still able to have a vaginal birth. Also, throughout this entire process, little Otto NEVER showed any signs of distress! His poor parents didn’t handle L&D very well, but he was a champ! He stayed calm during the storm. His heart rate stayed steady, and he came out perfectly healthy. We are so thankful for this!

I never would have picked for things to go this way, but even so, I see God’s hand in it. It just reminds me that life never seems to unfold as planned, yet His Presence is always near and His Peace is always available. I just keep going back to those horrifyingly scary moments while my husband was down, and I had no idea what was going on with him… and even though it was scary, I felt this inexplicable peace surrounding me. I remember just breathing so deeply and drinking in God’s goodness in those moments, and letting the Chaplain’s prayer / words swirl around me like a big hug.

Nothing is guaranteed in this life, but I know that God is good and He is full of grace. I lean on that daily as we navigate this “new normal” as a family of 3, and all of the challenges that come along with it. We also bask in the joy our sweet little boy brings to us, and daily thank God for the miracle he is in our life.

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