Stella Mae Strouse was born on April 25, 2016. Today, she is four weeks old so I thought it was finally time to introduce her on our blog by sharing her birth story! It's a long one and this story is more for us than anything else, but we thought we could share it with you as well. Enjoy!
(There's a mixture of cell phone pictures and pictures taken with our camera. Please excuse the cellphone picture quality.)
Waking up at 4AM in the morning with my water breaking was how I expected this story to begin. I hoped we would have been rushing around the house to get all of our things. I envisioned yelling at Brad as a bad contraction came on and I thought we’d speed down the highway to the hospital, arriving just in time for our baby girl to be born.
Can you tell I’ve read one too many birth stories? I was fascinated and wanted to try to wrap my head around the experience and what to expect. So I read and read and read them until my face turned blue. I read the good, the bad and the heart wrenching ones.
However, our birth story is nothing like what I envisioned. In fact, for a planner like me, it was rather planned so you’d think I would have been thrilled. Well, as planned as you can be with an induction. However, it was actually really hard to digest that my experience with labor wouldn’t be anything close to what I had read or envisioned. It wouldn’t be me laboring at home, taking a quick shower and heading to the hospital. It would be very much planned and monitored. And after all is said and done, that was completely ok.
Leading up to our due date, I thought everything was a sign. Stomach ache at 6AM? Nah, just needed to go to the bathroom. Headache? Just needed a glass of water. Backache?! IS THIS IT? Nope. Just too much weight on my body. I was nesting list crazy. I cleaned our house probably six times over a two week period including having it professionally cleaned. I had BURSTS of energy randomly and one good night’s sleep. I was SURE I would go into labor at any moment. Sadly, none of my signs ever came to fruition.
My labor never started on it's own.
So, our doctor scheduled us for an induction on April 25th. I will be the first to admit that each day past our due date of April 18th was harder and harder to endure. We thought it would be so fun to have Stella’s birthday on April 20th (Brad’s birthday), but that didn’t happen either. Once we got to April 21st, I had a mild breakdown and pregnancy hormones were flying. I knew everything was going to happen according to God’s plan, but it’s so hard to keep that in mind when you feel like a beached whale while every appendage on your body is swollen and sleep just isn’t happening. I just want to feel like the stories I’ve read and heard about. I didn’t want to feel different, but I did feel different. I felt defeated and sad. However, I decided to try and embrace the fact that this was how my labor story was going to start.
The weekend leading up to our induction date was nice. I cleaned (again), we welcomed Brad’s parents to Richmond, had a nice dinner with them at my parent’s house and even enjoyed church and brunch as a whole family on Sunday, April 24th. Looking back, it was the most perfect way to spend the weekend before “our lives change forever.”
We went home early that night because we wanted to have a good night’s sleep. I should preface that our furby DEXTER had been regressing when it comes to sleeping in his crate. We started leaving him out at night and thought that would work. Well, we headed to bed around 9-10PM on April 24th and Dexter began whining like crazy to get in our room. We tried putting him in his crate and he proceeded to completely shred his plastic crate tray. It was a hot mess. Finally, around 1AM, I went to the couch and DEXTER took over my spot in the bed with Brad. This was NOT how I wanted to spend my last night with Brad as a couple. (In hindsight, DEXTER was just being super protective over me.) Alas, in order to get some sleep, this is what had to happen.
Brad came to wake me up at 4AM so I could try to have a birth story close to what I envisioned. I took a shower, straightened my hair (I knew it would be days, if not weeks, until I did it again), put on a little make-up (I knew we’d be taking pictures) and gathered all of our items. Brad got ready, ate some breakfast and enjoyed some morning news. At 5:20AM on the dot, we loaded up in our CR-V (purchased in November because our sorry excuse for a Dodge Stratus was not going to be a safe vehicle for a baby) and headed to the hospital. It was a cool morning, even though later in the day it was supposed to reach 80 degrees! Good thing we were going to be inside all day. This preggo, swollen woman couldn’t take one more day of heat.
Brad held my hand the whole way as I started to get super anxious. I wanted to use the bathroom before we headed in because I was told I’d have to use a bedpan once they started my epidural. Bedpans were not part of my plan so once we arrived at 5:45AM, I quickly headed to the restroom.
We took the elevator to the Labor and Delivery ward and I called the nurse at 5:55AM to let her know I was there for my 6AM induction. They asked us to wait in the waiting area and someone would come shortly to get us.
We took our final pictures as a couple outside of a hospital room. One of me in front of the labor and delivery sign and then one of us together. We took a deep breath and got ready. Here goes nothing!
A nurse came, got us and took us to Delivery Room #5 at 6AM on the dot. I was hoping to at least enjoy the warm day by looking out the window, but our hospital was under construction so I literally didn’t have anything to look at. It was dark and semi-depressing. Looking back, I didn’t even pay attention to the window. I was in a labor and delivery time warp! By 6:05AM, I had an IV in my arm and my fluids were started. Just when I thought I couldn’t swell anymore, I totally did.
In addition to my IV, they got the monitors set up to monitor my contractions and Stella’s heart rate. Her heart rate was 130 BPM. For the next hour, we just waited on something to happen, someone to pop in and our moms to arrive.
At 7AM, the nurse that took us back originally was about to leave so she introduced us to our new nurse, Nurse Christy. She was young, sweet and laughed politely at all my lame, “I am nervous” jokes. Christy told me that my first recorded contraction was at 7:40AM! I didn’t even feel it. That actually made me feel a little better...like I had actually been having contractions for a while and on my own, but never felt them. Maybe I wasn’t broken like I thought!
We waited, hung out, and listened to the playlist Brad made for Stella’s birth. We were waiting on orders from my doctor as to what she wanted us to do. At 8:30AM, nurse Christy received the orders to start my pitocin. In other words, official labor was about to begin! At 8:50AM, I felt my first contraction! It didn’t feel like much, maybe like my belly was tightening a little bit. From there, we just waited. I guess the contractions kept coming, but I wasn’t uncomfortable...yet.
At 9:30AM, my doctor came in to check on us and break my water. Let me tell you that was an interesting sensation. There were a few times throughout my pregnancy that I was like “did my water just break?!?” Clearly, I had no idea what my water breaking would feel like. It only took about 10 minutes. Shortly thereafter, my doctor let me know that I was 4 cm dilated and 80% effaced! (I had been 3 cm and 50% effaced for about 2-3 weeks .)
From there, I labored in the bed for a while until the contractions started getting uncomfortable. They were a few minutes apart, but weren’t doing anything. At 10:30AM, I moved to the birthing ball which helped relieve some pressure.
The contractions started getting pretty intense and I am a wimp, so at 11AM I asked for the epidural. I had heard from so many people “don’t wait too long to ask for the epidural because it’ll take a while for them to arrive.” So glad I listened to that because the anesthesiologist was in surgery! Luckily, she came shortly thereafter and the epidural procedure started at 11:30AM.
The epidural procedure was a situation in itself. I had to sign a bunch of paperwork, wait for the doctor to review it with me and then we finally got started. I am pretty sure I couldn’t concentrate on anything he was saying because the contractions were really intense. After getting through the paperwork, the other anesthesiologist, Jill, started the epidural. Luckily, nurse Christy turned off my pitocin so I was able to sit still (it temporarily halted my contractions). The procedure started with a local shot to numb the area where the epidural was to go in. It was taking quite some time and Jill asked me if I had scoliosis. I told her that I was unaware if I did. Well, guess what - I do and my spine is about 2 inches off center from where it’s supposed to be! Jill had to try a few different spots to get the epidural in. So basically, I had probably 5-10 local shots (that burned) to numb the areas and after trying to put the epidural in 3 different spots, she finally got it in. The relief was so great! Jill did tell me that she may have hit spinal fluid so if I had headaches the next day I needed to let my nurse know. I didn’t think anything of it at the time; I was just so excited to not REALLY feel contractions anymore! More on that later...
I should preface (and I heard this) that the epidurals only take the edge off. I still felt some pressure from contractions, especially in my groin, but it was so much better than it was before. Around noon, I felt the epidural fully kick in and I felt good!
At 1:30PM, my doctor returned to check on me. I was 5cm and still just 80% effaced. Stella was still really high up. She hadn’t dropped at all. My doctor asked for more pitocin (up to “#6”) and had me change positions to try and get Stella moving. I ended up on my side with a peanut (like a yoga ball but looks like a peanut) between my legs. It was supposed to help open my pelvis up so she could slide on down. You’ll later learn that didn’t work.
I didn’t know until we took our baby classes that when you get an epidural, you also get a catheter. So at 2PM, it was time for that goodness. With all modesty already out the window, nurse Christy asked if the visiting nursing students could watch the procedure. It’s a hospital, my mom, husband and mother-in-law plus a series of nurses and doctors had already seen my junk so what’s two more people. The procedure was quick and thanks to the epidural, I didn’t feel anything.
We quickly upped the pitocin to “#8” and went to a larger peanut ball. When I mean large, I mean this thing was ridiculous. It was almost half the size of my mom who is five foot. This peanut was easily two and a half feet tall. The small peanut didn’t help move anything along so nurse Christy was hoping this one would. She explained that the reason we use the peanuts is because we are trying to basically get baby to float down the canal. You know how when you put a lime in your Corona and flip it over, it floats? That’s essentially the same thing or what we were trying to get Stella to do. Stella was the lime and I was the Corona. (Nurse Christy’s example).
For the next two hours, I laid in the bed waiting for something to happen. I had a bit of pain in my groin during contractions, but nothing to write home about. Brad had our playlist on repeat and we had already gone through it once. We were sure Stella girl would have been here by the end of one loop! The playlist was almost 6 hours long! Boy was I wrong!
At some point, I think Brad even took a little snooze. My mom and mother-in-law stepped out to visit with my father-in-law who was a saint and waited in the waiting room this whole time alone. I believe sometime later in the day my dad arrived to sit with him.
At 4PM, my doctor came back in for another exam and to check my progress. (Did I mention how awesome it was having her checking on me? Plus side of a scheduled induction - you schedule it when your doctor is around.) This exam was a bit more painful because Stella was still SO HIGH! My doctor said I made a little progress - I was 6-7CM dialated, but still had a ways to go since Stella hadn’t moved. Also, Stella’s head was now transverse, meaning she was not going to be able to come down the canal in the way she was turned. This got me a bit concerned, but I didn’t worry just yet.
At 4:10PM, nurse Christy got me to change positions again to try and get this baby moving! I was glad because the side lying position with the gigantic peanut was starting to hurt. I was allowed to sit all the way up with the heels of my feet touching, almost in an Indian style fashion. This relieved all the pain in my groin, the little bit of nausea I was feeling went away and I was feeling good again! The waiting continued. We had already watched the Today Show and every other talk show under the sun so we turned it to HGTV, a favorite of mine, and watched Flip this House.
At 5PM, nurse Christy got me on my hands and knees with my bum facing my mom and mother-in-law. That was a sight for sore eyes. Just kidding...what an awful view. They were sweet to look away.
This positioning was really exhausting and made me feel sick. Around 5:50PM, I got nauseous and threw up everything I had eaten. Granted, it wasn’t much. I had to stop eating and drinking at 11PM the night before. Once I got to the hospital, I was only allowed clearish liquids so I only threw up ginger ale and yellow jello. Yum.
After barfing, nurse Christy let me switch back to the Indian style position so I wouldn’t get sick again.
At 6:10PM, my doctor came back in to check on me. We were officially 12 hours into labor with no real progress so she gave me options. I could keep trying different positions for a few more hours (more peanut balls) or we could head on in and get this little lady out. She did mention that it had been 12 hours, Stella was still transverse and hadn’t made her way down the canal yet. Normally a doctor can manually turn the baby so they aren’t transverse, but my doctor said Stella was way too high up for her to try.
By this point, I was exhausted, hungry and sleepy. I was also ready to meet this little girl so I made the decision for a C-Section. It was important to me that I make the decision. I was not pressured into anything. I made the decision.
After lots of tears and praying with our moms and Brad, they prepped me for surgery at 6:40PM. What’s crazy to me is I was taken back around 6:40PM, I remember them saying the surgery was starting at 6:48PM and baby was out at 7:04PM. I couldn’t believe how fast everything was.
Backing up for a minute, nurse Christy put an awesome hair net on me, Brad threw on some scrubs and we rolled the 10 feet to the OR entrance where I had to tell Brad goodbye for five minutes or so. Once we got there, anesthesiologist Jill (who seriously is the sweetest lady ever) started getting me ready. They had music on and it happened to be 103.7 Play. I mentioned “oh, this is one of my stations” and they just thought I was saying “oh, this is one of the stations I listen too.” I was too exhausted to explain further (until later) so I just asked if I could close my eyes for a minute.
I remember waiting for the loneliness that I had read about to set in while Brad had to wait outside. I never felt it. The nurses and anesthesiologist were so warm and caring that I never felt alone.
Brad eventually was allowed in and I remember I asked again “is it ok for me to close my eyes for a minute?” I was later told it was because the medicine made me drowsy, even though I was going to be awake for the c-section. Another interesting sensation was my nose itched like crazy. I was later told that was also a symptom of the medicine. Luckily, they didn’t strap my arms down so I was allowed to scratch my nose as long as I didn’t try to touch my stomach.
As I mentioned, at 6:48PM, they said “let’s take a timeout...it’s 6:48PM, this is Allie Strouse for a C-Section...” or something like that. Then - the show got on the road and they started to cut into me! I felt a bit of pressure, but nothing that bothered me. I felt lots of movement and tugging and before I knew it, they were yelling to Brad “OK DAD, come take a look!” Brad got to see them pull Stella girl out! I asked him if it grossed him out to see me all cut up, but he said he didn’t even notice because he was so focused on Stella. He just saw her and that was it. At 7:04PM, Stella Mae Strouse was born into the world!
My doctor put Stella right on my chest so we could have immediate skin-to-skin, another thing that was so important to me. This was made possible because a group of nurses from Henrico Doctors’ Hospital invented a drape allowing this to happen! Brad and I both were bawling, snot was flying and we were in complete awe. Here was this little human that I had been carrying and dreaming about for the last 9 months, alive in the flesh laying on my chest. How surreal it was! We had tried to envision what she would looked like! We hoped for hair and chunky cheeks, but never knew that’s what she would have. As soon as we saw her, we balled and said “she has hair!”
Earlier in the day and weekend prior, we were taking guesses from our family on when she would be born, how big she would be, if she would have hair, etc. I thought she was going to be big with dark hair, just like me. Guess who called it! I also noticed that she had this little ear flap just like me!
The nurses needed to get Stella weighed and cleaned up quickly so they took her to the scale. Coming in at 8 pounds and 12.2 ounces, I don’t think she was ever going to come out naturally! The nurses then measured Stella and she was 22 inches long! Maybe we have a basketball player on our hands! Well, we are hoping for a soccer player! The nurses then took her to “cut the cord.” My doctor technically cut it when Stella came out of me, but they saved some of it so Brad could take part and “cut the cord.”
Brad spent the next few minutes just looking at her as she calmly waited under the warmer. Meanwhile, my doctor was stitching me up and I again asked if I could just close my eyes for a minute. I was pooped!
The nurses finished what they needed to do with Stella and put her back on my chest while my doctor finished stitching me up. Nurse Christy had stayed with me even though she got off work at 7PM. She gave all of us a little hug and finally said her good-byes. It was so special that she was with us from start to finish! The bond I felt with her after going through this experience was intense. She is an amazing nurse and I highly recommend her!
My doctor had finished my surgery and on her way out, she also gave us a hug and kiss on the cheek. She took such great care of me over the past nine months (and past nine years). I just love, love, love her.
Finally right before they rolled Stella and me out of the OR, I finally explained to anesthesiologist Jill how 103.7 Play was actually one of my stations! It was one of the five stations that I worked for making commercials. Right was we were leaving the room, one of my commercials came on and I said “see! That’s my voice.” They finally understood and laughed! (SIDE NOTE: It was super crazy to be listening to one of my co-workers during his show while Stella was being born. Even more weird? Hearing my boss’ voice on a commercial during delivery.)
We rolled back to our delivery room with Stella on my chest the whole time. Major skin-to-skin time! The nurse that took over for Christy came in and was also a sweetheart. She let Brad and I have our family time while I tried to nurse Stella for the first time. I was clueless, but Stella was a champ. It was like she was saying “Mom, chill. I got this.” After stressing that breastfeeding was going to be an issue, this was such a relief! She screamed until she figured it out and I breathed a sigh of relief!
It was important to us to have an hour or so alone before our family came into meet Stella. Brad, at this point, hadn’t held Stella yet so after what we thought was a successful nursing session, I handed Stella to Brad and he beamed a smile bigger than the moon! It was so sweet to see the two loves of my life together!
We, unintentionally, left everyone in the waiting room waiting for quite some time. Graciously waiting was my mom and dad, Brad’s mom and dad, my brother and sister-in-law, Conner and Kristin who arrived at 7:30PM, and my paternal grandparents who arrived at 7:45PM. They joined Steve, Brad’s Dad, who had been waiting for 13 hours! What a trooper!
Conner and Kristin brought everyone Jimmy Johns, including Brad and me. They had asked me a while ago what I wanted as my first non-pregnant meal and I proudly said multiple times “Jimmy Johns Number 4 with sprouts!” Lunch meat and sprouts are a no-go when you are pregnant so I wanted them as soon as humanly possible once Stella Mae was evicted.
At 8:21PM after what we felt like was a super short time and our family felt was a super long time, Brad finally sent our family a text announcing that Stella had arrived!
We allowed our parents to join us first as I was super worried about being overwhelmed. They held little Stella Mae as I texted our friends to let them know she arrived! Looking back at those texts a week later I am pretty impressed it was a coherent text. Oh, pain medicine.
Everyone was so happy, taking pictures and just oohing and aahing over this little chunky lady. I made it clear that I didn’t want to be in many pictures because was so puffy from being pumped full of fluids all day long. Shallow, right? Ha!
After our family got to spend some time with us, we finally let the nurse know we were ready to head on up to the Postpartum ward. I was anxious to see it since it had been newly renovated and just opened.
We said goodbye to our parents and they prepped us to move and made our journey to our new room around 11PM.
Since the new ward was in an entirely different place in the hospital, the trip there was a long one! Luckily, I was allowed to hold Stella for the whole trip! We rolled past lots of people, all wishing us congratulations. We finally arrived and dropped Stella off at the nursery for her tests and a bath! They continued moving us to our room where we would spend the next 3 nights.
Once we got settled, nurse Diana and a nursing student came into greet us! There was a large cup full of water (which I still use today, 4 weeks postpartum), pamphlets and more! She let us know what to expect over the next few days. She let us know that she would be in every couple of hours for pain medicine and to check my vitals. We asked our questions like “Can I eat real food now?” (almost 24 hours since a real meal) and “can we send Stella to the nursery so we can get some sleep?” Nurse Diane said yes and let us get some rest. We ate our Jimmy John sandwiches, texted our family to thank them for their support and drifted off to sleep before Stella was re-delivered to us!
Over the next three days, we had visitors, enjoyed quality time with our family and I, unluckily, battled with a wet tap.
Remember when the anesthesiologist told me to let the nurse know if I had a headache? Well, guess what happened. Yup! Headache! It was debilitating and went down to my neck. The only time I felt OK was if I was laying flat. I let my nurse and doctor know. Long story short, we finally had another anesthesiologist come talk to be about it. There is a procedure they could do to stop the pain, but it’s risky because it could cause another wet tap. The anesthesiologist recommended that I just work through the pain, drinking caffeine (because it’s supposed to help) and laying flat (for the next week) because the wet tap would fix itself. I looked at him like he was crazy. I had just given birth so I probably shouldn’t be drinking much caffeine and I couldn’t just lay flat for week. I needed this pain to go away. He said he would come back in and check on me a little later. After doing a little research (and my research I mean my friend and nurse Michelle talked to a few doctors to get the down low on the procedure), I said I need to do the procedure. At that point, I didn’t really care about the risks. I needed this pain to stop. You’d think the pain medicine I was on for my surgery would have taken care of it but the medicine didn’t touch the pain.
On Wednesday, we waited and waited for the anesthesiologist to come back so I could ask him to do the procedure. It took him forever! It wasn’t until my doctor lit a fire that he came back.
Anesthesiologist Jill from my surgery popped back into apologize for causing the wet tap. See, so sweet. I said “don’t even worry about it” and asked if she would be with me during this procedure. She stayed with me the whole time which was so comforting. The procedure took place around 1PM on Wednesday and I felt instant relief.
Basically, this procedure included me getting ANOTHER epidural (but without the medicine) and inserting sterile blood (of my own) to patch the area where my spinal fluid had been hit during my original epidural on Monday. The anesthesiologist said that I needed to lay flat as much as possible for the next day or so to make sure the patch took. Not wanting this pain to return, I listened and laid flat while everyone took care of Stella. Thank goodness for our families and Brad! I was worthless.
On Thursday, it was finally time to go home! We waited all day for my doctor to come discharge us and finally around 1PM - 2PM she did! It was finally time to be a family of three in our own home!
Although my labor story isn’t what I had envisioned, it’s our story and it’s special.
Stella Mae Strouse. We are excited you are here. Welcome to the world and War Eagle!