My Birth Story - Leo Christopher Townsend

Well, Leo is 6 months old officially today!!! And I want to do something really special for it!! And that special something is finally writing out and telling his birth story! Our birth story. And the adventure that the title is in itself. Because let's be real here - it's taken me this long to be able to look back at it all through all the photos and videos and NOT cry. (pregnancy hormones amirite?)

So, if you are ready for a good story (that I think it will be), stop right now, grab your favorite drink and settle in. This is going to be a long one. 

Photo of me and Leo taken when he was 1 month old

Photo of me and Leo taken when he was 1 month old

So pregnancy was a series of ups and downs for me. The beginning was tough getting through the 8 weeks of solid morning sickness (lost 12 lbs during that time because I couldn't eat anything lol) but then when the 2nd trimester hit, it was a breeze and the coolest thing I've ever experienced :) But then toward the end of my third trimester... it was a real struggle for me. As it is for almost all moms to be I'm sure.  

I was due April 20th and once March hit, the sleepless nights really started. The having to wake up every hour to go to the bathroom was in full swing. And my swelling really started to reach all points of my body. None of my clothes fit anymore. My legs grew twice in size. Even my feet went up a whole shoe size and money was too tight to even get a pair of shoes so this girl was wearing flip flops everywhere. I even developed carpel tunnel in my right wrist from the swelling and had to wear a wrist brace to get through the day.... so once mid April hit... I was READY for our baby boy to make his arrival. I had a feeling almost my entire pregnancy that he was going to make his arrival and be ready by mid April. And when my body started dilating in the first week of April, even my doctor believed me. But... mid April came... and went... and it was getting just a few short days until my due date. 

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That last week, I hardly felt any movement from Leo inside me. It scared the crap out of me. But after going to the doctors a couple times they were always able to find his heartbeat (one time it took a few minutes to find it - :O which basically had me in tears. But we found out later it's because he was so low and ready to come OUT. And he is kind of huge.).

My swelling continued to get worse (like how bad could I keep getting before I exploded right?) and in the last week before Leo was due it reached a point I couldn't physically take much longer. When I would stand on my feet for longer than 10-15 minutes, my legs would turn purple. And also by this point, I weighed a significant amount more than my 6'2" tall husband!!! D: And... the 17th of April came... then the 18th.. then the 19th... and nothing. Leo just wouldn't make his grand debut! 

I had a scheduled doctor's appointment on the 20th and I told my doctor I couldn't wait anymore. That my body was in immense pain and I was scared to wait any longer for Leo to come out on his own because something just didn't feel right. My doctor tried to talk me out of getting induced... and I tried my hardest to wait for Leo to come out on his own... but following my gut and listening to my body paid off in the end.

My doctor called the hospital and was able to get me in at 2:15pm. At this point.. it was 10:30 in the morning so I only had time to get home, grab the hospital bags, call my husband to come home from work... and get over to the hospital to be induced!! I couldn't believe they got me in there within hours. 

I took this photo of Paul on my phone from my hospital bed. It was the last sunset we saw before Leo was born. 

I took this photo of Paul on my phone from my hospital bed. It was the last sunset we saw before Leo was born. 

Once I got to the hospital, it didn't take long for me to get checked in, in a room, and hooked up to all the things. Now, that alone was a little scary for me because I had never been in a hospital for myself up til this point. Although I've had quite a few really close calls and some bad injuries, I was always able to manage getting by without a hospital. So the idea of being in a room, stuck, and relying on modern medicine to help me get through this was such a foreign concept for me - but thank goodness for all of it. (OMG)

When I got checked in, I was already 2 and a half centimeters dilated (you have to get to 10 cm before the pushing starts). My body was ready but just needed a little help. They hooked me up to some pitocin, got an iv going, and at 5pm they came in to break my water. My doctor felt my belly and guessed baby Leo was going to be about 18 in long and 7lb 11oz. My guess was 8lb 10 oz but she laughed when I said that. (let's see who's laughing at the end of this haha!)

Right around 7:30pm, contractions started. Now, Leo is my first and only child. So when I was told about contractions I really wasn't sure what to expect! I was told they are like the worst menstrual cramps x100 and that was really hard to measure by lol. And whenever you watch shows and movies they REALLY dramatize the whole birthing experience... surely the pain couldn't be that bad.. right? 

My nurse told me that I should wait as long as I can for the epidural. I knew I wanted to have one... but given it too early and it can wear off before baby is ready to actually come out not to mention slow down the dilation process by a TON. But on the flip side... given it too late and you'll feel everything making the epidural pointless. (hah, the above photo is clearly before any contractions started. the photo below is when my first ones - smaller ones - started coming)

But, I waited it out. As long as I could. To the point where the contractions were all I could feel sending my entire body into intense concentration. And in retrospect, I understand now why the movies and shows on TV and everything else dramatize this. And why childbirth was a pretty common form of death back in the day before the beautiful years of modern medicines and hospitals. Because, even for me, there were a lot of yells, cries, and squeezing of many hands trying to help me get through it. And it was the worst pain I will probably feel in my entire life.

Apparently I suffered through it for nearly 2 hours. The worst part? My nurses didn't believe I was even contracting much because the monitors around my belly weren't on the right way causing them to get improper readings of my contractions. But after having my mom get them back into my room and them seeing how much pain I was in, it didn't take long for them to believe that this baby was coming... and I dilated up to 4cm. I think we all knew by this point it was time for the epidural. (probably waited a little too long but more on that later)

That process in itself was rough. A lot harder than I imagined it to be. Because... contractions don't stop while you're getting it done. And my anesthesiologist took about 45 minutes getting it done on me - and I really wasn't making it easy on her at all. Every time a contraction happened, I curled and hunched into it but had to fight that natural reaction and keep my body perfectly still... this caused some issues that I ended up having to go back to the hospital for later (my anesthesiologist poked my spinal fluid sack during the process and I ended up getting a spinal headache 3 days after birth and had to go into the ER to get a procedure called a blood patch done to fix it..........) but........ in the end......... we got it done. And my body was numbing to the pain of the contractions.

Right around 11:45pm, my nurse checked me and I was dilated all the way up to 10cm. She called the doctor to get her in and while we waited for the doctor to arrive, she was gonna have me do some practice pushing to try and get the process started since it usually take a long time. And well, with Leo and I being Leo and I, he was crowning within 10 mins and I had to awkwardly wait for the doctor to arrive and finish with Leo sitting in the birth canal D: Paul checked multiple times and could see his head there, waiting to come out, and told me Leo had some brown hair (so weird to even think about lol!! Even now!!)

Finally the doctor arrived, the nurses all came in, and the rest of the birth process continued. Each time the pressure of a contraction started (I could still feel the pressure.. just not the pain) I had to push with ALL of me to get him moving. After a while of this though, we noticed that he wasn't coming out anymore and one of my worst fears was realized... 

He was stuck. 

It's a thing that happens sometimes called shoulder dystocia. His shoulder was stuck on my pubic bone and that's when panic was starting to happen with everybody. Especially me, internally. There were about 5 nurses that rushed over to me, one tilted my bed back quickly putting me in a downward angle (my head at the bottom and my bottom half up in the air so the doctor and nurses could access the baby easier). I had the doctor and another nurses' hands inside me trying to wiggle Leo free and about 3 nurses pushing very forcefully on my belly, hips, and all downstairs areas to help assist the doctor getting Leo out.

On top of all this madness happening the umbilical cord was wrapped around Leo's neck making it hard for him to take his first breath and even with his head out of me we couldn't hear him cry or make a sound for nearly 2 minutes. This whole thing left me feeling less like a person and more like a machine who's life was taking second to this precious little baby and my fears of going through all of this and Leo not making it hit me and I just started to cry and lose it. It was the scariest thing I have ever done. 

Paul grabbed my hands and told me (even though he wasn't even sure himself) that everything was fine. That our baby was beautiful, ok, and healthy and that I needed to just keep pushing and doing the amazing job that I was doing. At the time, we both knew it was a huge embrace of naive hope that we both needed to get through it... because the reality we were facing in that moment was we weren't sure if he was even alive or not or would survive the process.

But luckily, Leo finally broke free without the need of breaking his shoulder (which is common in this situation) or having him pushed back inside me to do an emergency c-section. And if it hadn't been for Paul being the calmest person in the room of panicked doctors and nurses, I wouldn't have had the last bit of concentration needed to push Leo out of me. And that last push... I can't even tell you how much of me I put into it and how much focus I zoned in on Paul to give me clarity. And when I finally felt Leo come out of me, a huge pressure was released and I saw my entire belly deflate like a balloon. I remember falling backwards back onto my bed having my head hit the pillow and tears streaming out of my eyes.... scared because I didn't hear a sound coming from Leo. I lost it. 

I watched all the panicked nurses run over to the warming bed frantically connecting instruments to his face and body trying to get him to breathe. I didn't even get to see him - not even for a second. In this moment, Paul was so worried about me that he couldn't even look at our son who was still surrounded by nurses frantically working. He just kept reassuring me that everything was ok. That Leo would be ok. That I was ok and we were all alright.

And then.. I heard that cry from our boy and my soul awakened with hope and happiness and my tears turned to those of joy instead. In that moment, I knew we were all going to be ok. 

Our baby Leo came out weighing 8lb 11oz (just like I thought!!) and measured 21 in long. All the nurses tried to casually laugh off their panicked hearts by saying this little guy who made us all a little afraid during those wee hours of them morning was a little linebacker and maybe even a future basketball player. (But, we'll let him decide what he wants to be) :) Everyone was so surprised such a big baby was in that belly of mine. (NOT THIS MOMMA THOUGH FOR REAL)

I only got a few short minutes holding him for the first time. And what a relief it was. They say you'll never forget the moment you hold your baby for the first time - and everything you have ever read or heard is totally true about this moment. It was a moment in my life where I knew nothing would ever be the same again and although I was dealing with some pretty traumatizing feelings and emotions at the time... this baby was solid, healthy, strong, and very much alive and that made it all worth it beyond words could ever describe.

After my few short minutes of holding him, nurses quickly took him away and rushed him off to the ICU to monitor his breathing since he was having trouble. I remember seeing them roll him out in his little bed and hearing him cry as he left the room instantly made me feel two things very deeply - 1) super protective. I made sure Paul left and stayed with that baby the whole time. 2) separation anxiety. and a huge, whole, heavy load of it. I couldn't stop the tears and I remember being numbed entirely by the stitches the doctor was having to stitch me up with and all the pain my body was going through - the shock even of all the medicines coursing through my body... I was an endlessly crying, shaking, machine of a woman that was left alone and away from my baby unsure of what was even happening. (ok, trying not to cry about it now)

He was gone for about an hour or so and there wasn't a single part of me that could think about anything but how he was doing. I was just in a room filled with people helping this baby enter into the world and after his stubborn entrance, I was left alone like a left over machine who did her job. But - it's like I didn't even have the capacity to care at that time. I only wanted my baby with me to know everything was ok. 

My nurse in attempts to make me feel better after helping me through this experience actually used my sister's phone to record Leo in the ICU to show me that he was ok, breathing, and a healthy strong boy. And can ya guess my reaction? I cried lol. A lot. And thanked her for it so much.

My parents came in after a while and I filled them in about everything and they were in shock with how it all happened. But their company made it possible for me to make it through that separation from Leo and helped calm my inside feels a lot. (Thanks Mom and Dad.) They were at the hospital all night with us and they didn't get to hold him until about 4 or 5 in the morning (I really can't remember now the times of everything because really) and when they did... there wasn't anything short of pure and endless happiness from them - but even moreso a huge sense of relief. And the photo of Paul holding Leo for the first time showcases just how this whole experience was for us - a little scary (ok a lot scary) and embracing that huge sense of relief that everyone felt holding Leo for the first time. Leo is something truly special. 

I remember the first moment we were left with Leo by ourselves. And I remember seeing him laying there in his little bed thinking to myself... what am I gonna do if he cries?!?! How do I know what he is going to want?! Or need?! But everyone at the hospital was SO incredibly helpful. They helped me with the breastfeeding... watched him for a bit at night so we could actually sleep (which omgsh make sure you take this offer up, parents. You are allowed to and your baby needs you to have your rest). 

And then, as word got out that baby Leo had finally entered into the world and he was safe and sound... we had a lot of visitors. A. Lot. There is no question about how loved this little boy is <3

It's hard for me to know how to end this little story of mine because it's honestly probably the biggest most heartfelt story I could ever possibly tell. And if you made it all the way here... thank you!! Seriously. The birth of a child for anybody is a life changing experience and with mine and Leo's time together being so rocky from the start, it created a pathway for a bond that is unmistakably strong between him and I. And my love for him grows deeper and deeper everyday, truly. 

This little boy and all of our hardships we have been through together so far have made me into a stronger person. A more patient, thoughtful, and understanding person wanting to be more empathetic to those around me. He awakens my momma soul and makes me love endlessly in all ways. But especially, to him. Because he truly is the strongest little spirit I have ever come across. It is going to be the truest blessing of my life to watch him grow. And I can't believe he's already 6 months old. 

In honor of this whole thing, I put together a video from the clips my sister took during the whole labor process. And thank you to her for the majority of these photos and giving us all something to remember this experience by because it's no longer the scariest day I have been through - but rather the day the most special person in our lives was born. And how beautifully he truly made his mark into this world <3

Leo, I love you more than I can even say. You have your momma's spirit, 
your daddy's serenity, and a heart that is truly your own. You, my boy, 
are already so wonderful to everyone who meets you and we cannot imagine
life without you now. Thank you for being our little one <3