Jett Oliver Cusick
Born 5:28 pm on July 20,2017
7 pounds 15 oz. 20.75 inches long
My due date had arrived and still no baby! To be honest, this was to be expected... Based on what I’d heard and researched, I figured he would be somewhat late since first-time mommas typically go into labor a few days past their due date anyway. On Monday, my due date, I had a routine sonogram appointment measuring my amniotic fluid to ensure he wasn’t outgrowing his space and that there was enough fluid to sustain the pregnancy until he was ready to emerge. Honestly, I'm glad I got this sonogram because we discovered baby boy was particularly active during the scan and the technician was patient enough to show him moving all around, and also how his arm rises to his face for a booger snatch or a finger suckle session. Amazing! Prior to this at my last sonogram, he was relatively calm and I didn't get to see him do much, so this was a treat!
The sonogram technician explained that after performing some measurements, baby was estimated to be around 8 pounds 6 ounces already and the amniotic fluid in his living space was measuring "low-normal". Based on the ratio of his size and amount of fluid, she still considered me in the safe zone, but it was possible that I may be slowly leaking. My doctor suggested that we make another sonogram appointment for Wednesday to check my fluid levels once more. By then, if it appeared that I had lost more fluid, they would consider baby boy to be a candidate for induction and would check me into the hospital Wednesday evening to be induced early Thursday morning. Aside from when the doctor assigned an estimated due date 8 months ago, this was the first time we were given a realistic time window to prepare for delivery, an unbelievable moment for both Brandon and me.
Wednesday came quickly and Brandon met me at the doctor’s appointment for our amniotic fluid check-up. The technician made her measurements and let us know that I had lost more fluid in the past two days. Within the next 15 minutes we had an appointment for that evening to check into the hospital! Even though B and I had known this was a very real possibility, the fact that we were meeting him so soon still hit us like a freight train! Our appointment to check in was at 8pm that evening, so we promptly left the doctors around noon and headed home to get everything in order.
Now, let’s be clear – I was really hoping to go into labor on my own and have that exciting feeling of my water breaking or one-minute contractions, five-minutes apart leading to the "this is it, time to go to the hospital!" Though now, in retrospect, getting induced was the way to go! Full disclosure – I’m aware that getting induced can increase the risk of requiring a C-section, but we remained confident in the medical decisions of our doctor and care team. We had several hours to go home and (somewhat) calmly get together our things, do some last-minute cleaning and just enjoy those last few hours at home together! We packed up the car, dropped Mochi off at our amazing doggy daycare and headed to one of our favorite restaurants, North Italia, for our final meal as a couple!
North was extremely busy and they told us the wait would be about an hour for a table. We explained to the hostess that we had maybe an hour before we had to leave for the hospital to go "have the baby" which sounded so funny, but it was true! We told her we would be induced the next morning and needed to eat a hearty meal since I was not able to eat from the time we checked in until I had the baby. The waitresses we told were so sweet and understanding and found us a table in the bar that the couple were almost done with their meal and promised we could have it as soon as they were done.
At this point, I had been craving pizza AND pasta and so we decided to split a Margherita pizza and Bolognese pasta dish plus an obligatory order of zucca chips (these baked zucchini chips have always been a favorite of mine at North). It was the perfect "carb-loading" meal for my upcoming hours of labor with a no-eating-allowed policy. The manager even came over to congratulate us and not only packed up some tiramisu to-go, but comp’d our entire meal (as long as we promised to bring in the baby next time we came in)! The generous act was entirely unexpected but not surprising given the outstanding reputation and generous nature of North’s staff. We left full, happy, and excited to get this labor started!
On the drive over to the hospital, we giddily discussed our expectations and ran the checklist to make sure we had everything covered. When we checked into Shawnee Mission Medical Center’s beautiful Birth Center, we were whisked off to our labor and delivery room where we settled in for the long road ahead. As Brandon arranged the room, the nurse had me change into a gown and inserted Cervidil, a cervical ‘ripening agent’, to aid in dilating me from my current 1cm to the eventual 10cm needed for delivery to occur. As the nurse hooked up IVs and monitors around my belly to chart my vitals as well as the babies, I felt butterflies as I heard baby’s heartbeat come in at a steady 150bpm. What further surprised me the most was how we could see my contractions on the monitor, yet I couldn't feel them at this early stage! Now, as the Cervidil worked its magic through the night, those contractions started to get stronger, but still very mild and manageable.
After a long night, we started off the morning with a hot shower before starting the Pitocin, the synthetic oxytocin drip medication used to accelerate and induce labor. If you know anything about me, I was ecstatic about taking a hot shower to start the day because I wasn’t expecting to be able to do so and it’s a refreshing and relaxing way to start what was about to be a long day (even after the Cervidil I was only dilated to a whopping 1.5 cm!) After the shower, our nurse, Ally, started my Pitocin at 7am on the dot and we were off!
Within an hour of the Pitocin kicking in, I started feeling the contractions come on stronger and closer together, but still relatively mild and manageable. I wanted to get up and walk the halls a little bit before I received the planned epidural since I knew from then on I would be bed-ridden! Since I was hooked up to wireless monitors to continue to watch baby's heartbeat and contractions, I grabbed my IV pole and started circling the halls with Brandon. After 20 minutes of lapping the labor and delivery floor, the contractions suddenly got more intense. I went from feeling like I was experiencing just your average cramps to very painful stabs to the belly. Not only were they intense but they were lasting up to 90 seconds or longer! I had the nurse request my epidural and braced myself for each contraction while we waited. Luckily I didn't have to wait very long before the Anesthesiologist came to prep me for the epidural.
Our Anesthesiologist was kind yet direct as he talked us through the epidural while I signed some additional paperwork. After agreeing to the treatment, he had me sit on the edge of my bed and round my back hugging a pillow while he first numbed the area with some local anesthetic. Once the local anesthesia was set and a few sharp pricks, the epidural was in place and I could feel it flowing through me within minutes, almost like someone was pouring cold water down my back. It immediately took the edge off and I started to feel my lower half become numb. However! Soon after the epidural was placed, I began to shiver uncontrollably as the Anesthesiologist described to me that the as the medicine runs through the spine, your body translates that to the brain as being very, very cold. I felt so cold and had Brandon grab me some extra warm blankets and they bundled me up like a big burrito. This went on for maybe 30-40 minutes before I finally stopped shivering and felt like I was a regular temperature again.
The next frightening moment we ran into also occurred soon after they gave me the epidural. Our attentive nurse noticed that my blood pressure dropped simultaneously with a drop in Jett's heartbeat over the course of a few minutes just out of the safe window. Out of nowhere five or six nurses rushed to our room, placed an oxygen mask, flipped off the Pitocin pump and flipped me onto my other side. What probably lasted less than 60 seconds seemed like hours at the time. But very soon after, baby recovered and I was given something through my IV that helped my blood pressure recover to normal levels. Thankfully our wonderful nurses that knew exactly what to do and stayed calm throughout the entire ordeal!
Laboring to 1-4cm was much more mentally taxing then 4-10cm. I seemed to be progressing so slowly as it took around eight hours to get to 4cm! I also had a rough time getting over the my legs feeling completely numb. Frantically, I kept thinking about how I couldn't move on my own and that fact alone made me enter momentary cycles of panic. I tried to stay distracted by talking or watching what we had on TV, but it seemed like hours before I finally got over it. I kept reminding myself that the alternative to the numbness was feeling all of those painful contractions and how the numbness was a much better feeling for me!!
There were several times we had to take the Pitocin off because baby's heartbeat would drop low and the nurse was worried that it might be putting more stress on the baby. So throughout the day I was on and off Pitocin, which was one of the reasons progression was slow early on. About an hour after the nurse confirmed I was at around 4cm, the baby’s heartbeat dropped low again. She said that one of the doctors was going to come in to place internal monitors on the baby himself so they could watch him more accurately than through my belly monitors. The doctor came in about ten minutes later and after preparing to place the monitors, she said something totally unexpected "Megan, you’re at 10cm and ready to push!" I couldn't believe it! I was hoping for a 6 or 7, but to learn I was ready to push totally changed my mood from "this is taking forever" to "it's go-time baby, I'm ready to meet this little guy!!!"
They had me labor down for about an hour before my doctor came to have me start pushing. Laboring down, I came to find out, just meant that I relaxed and let the contractions push baby as far down as possible before we started actively pushing. The nurse told me to let her know when I started to feel constant pressure down there, a sign that the baby was in an optimal position for me to push. At first, the pressure came and went with contractions, and let me tell you, that's a crazy feeling! They say that you just ‘get the urge to push’ and that's exactly what it felt like! After an hour of laboring down, I was 100% confident that it was time to start pushing!!
Once active labor began, my doctor arrived just in time. In the room, it was just our doctor, nurse, Brandon and me and, oddly, it was a very laid back and easy going atmosphere. Brandon turned on our Ben Rector playlist, my nurse coached me through the mechanics of pushing and we were off! It took me a few tries to get the breathing and pushing technique down and, after I did, I was surprised at how difficult it still was! After 30 minutes and six rounds of intense pushing efforts, baby Jett Oliver Cusick entered the world at 5:28pm. As the doctor placed him on my chest, I felt it immediately: I was in love with him.
After a quick cleaning and clearing of his lungs, Jett and I got that integral skin-to-skin time for an hour to connect and let him know he’s safely in his mother’s arm. This time was so special and the first time I really felt like ‘I know him now, but it feels like I’ve always known him’. After my hour of going skin-to-skin, they gave him his first bath and Brandon got to hold him for the first time. As I watched the two of them, I fell in love all over again. Not only with my husband, the only man I’ve loved deeply up to this point, but now my son and our new family of three. As I reflect on that moment, it seems so surreal and wonderful. Amongst all the chaos and activity of labor and delivery, we now existed in a moment of peace and sheer joy, knowing we had a healthy, beautiful baby boy. Even armed with the full knowledge of the many inevitable rough nights ahead caring for an infant, we were now a family and our combined love for this baby boy will be nothing short of boundless and unconditional.
I love you, Jett. My little man, my baby boy, my firstborn son.