Since this is our first baby, Johnny and I did as much as we could to prepare. We took childbirth classes and we did a whole session with my pelvic floor physical therapist on labor. Both are helpful and really helped us have a smooth labor and healthy delivery considering the crazy circumstance we found ourselves in! Our daughter’s birth story is one we’ll never forget.
From the moment I was pregnant, I had an “I can do it” attitude, which I believe truly helped during labor. I always said, if I could do something, I would. I worked out my entire pregnancy. I went to pelvic floor physical therapy, which I wholeheartedly recommend. In addition to eating healthy with the occasional fries, ice cream and boba tea, I also kept up with work and our social life. Invited to an event? I’m there! A friend’s surprise birthday party? Tell me what to bring! Being adaptable and having a good attitude during pregnancy helped me prepare for whatever would come our way during labor!
The Day It Happened
The day started out normal. Johnny and I had a long to-do list we wanted to finish before she came. We had been checking things off the days before – even taking time off work to make sure we could get everything ready! Little did we know she would arrive by evening!
I started feeling a little off around 10 am, but never thought I was having contractions. I wouldn’t even classify them as mild period cramps. For me, I just felt off. We kept on with our task list for the day. Fast forward to 2:30 pm and what I was feeling felt stronger. Since I have a high pain tolerance, I kept thinking things had to get much much worse based on what I’d heard. Was I really in labor? No way, she would be two weeks early! My brother, who is a physician and delivered his own baby last year, came over. He took one look at me, the 5-minute frequency of my 1-minute contractions and said we had to go to the hospital now. We didn’t even have the car seat installed!
The car seat and stroller box were literally sitting in our mudroom. My brother and Johnny opened the box and installed the car seat together while I changed into a loose dress. Thankfully we had 99 percent of our hospital bag packed and I just threw in a few extra items.
As we pulled out of our garage, I snapped a selfie of me and Johnny so we could remember this moment. We were leaving and we would come back home with our baby girl! Upon pulling into the hospital parking lot, Johnny asked if I wanted to be dropped off. I said no since the contractions didn’t feel too intense to me. “We can walk in together!”
Hospital Visit #1
We waited in the labor & delivery waiting room for a bit before getting buzzed in. I walked around and breathed through the contractions. At one point, I even “assumed the position” as Johnny calls it, where I put both arms on the back of a chair as I waited for the surge to pass. Then a nurse hooked up the monitors to keep track of my contractions and the baby’s heartbeat. Shortly after the ER OBGYN came in to check my cervix. I was only 1 cm dilated and 70 percent effaced. The nurse said I could go home, get some rest and come back when things got intense.
My first thought: I need to wash my hair! In Viet postpartum confinement, you can’t wash your hair for 2 weeks. So if this was indeed happening, I would prefer to start with fresh hair. I also wanted to eat so I could have the energy to sustain labor, so home we went. We also found out my OBGYN was on call, which was soothing to know she’d be there with us!
The nurse said it would be hours before things got really intense, so I told Johnny to keep his haircut appointment. However, out of smart thinking, Johnny did ask for my brother to come back to our house to keep an eye on me, just in case.
Upon getting home, I got in the tub, which felt incredible. The contractions got more intense and I took deep breaths, timing them with a Buddhist prayer. I washed my hair and tried to rest. After about 15 minutes I could tell the contractions were only getting more intense. Yes, it hurt, but it all felt very doable to me. I got up and Airwrapped my hair. I won’t lie – during this, the pain from the contractions got worse. I was so thankful for all the childbirth classes and sessions with my pelvic floor physical therapist. Johnny was home by now and was pressing on my hips and lower back. This really helped me get through each surge by providing relief. I remember looking in the mirror and feeling downward movements inside my body. “My cervix must be dilating!”
I’m not sure why I kept thinking it was going to get worse and this wasn’t it. “I’m going to finish and then we have to go. I want the epidural for when things get worse,” I said to Johnny. I wanted to be ahead of the curve since I could still handle the current pain.
Once the final piece of hair was dry, I went to the bathroom and started to change. Johnny had quick thinking and told me to put on the hospital gown I bought. I put on a pair of postpartum underwear, got in the car and off we went.
Meeting our Daughter
Our second commute to the hospital wasn’t as chill as the first. I turned the heated seats on maximum to help with the contractions. Johnny held my hand through an intense contraction where it was getting harder to breathe, but still doable. “My water broke!” I remember saying. Then, a contraction that felt like it wasn’t ending. Johnny reached over and said, “Oh! I feel her head!” Johnny called 911 and dispatch said to pull over. Johnny ran over to the passenger seat, helped me get my underwear off and her head was out. My body instinctively knew what to do and Johnny delivered our dearest daughter. “Are you okay?” I heard Johnny say. It was 6:40 pm.
This wasn’t how we planned to meet our daughter, but in life you must adapt! Johnny tried to put her on my chest for skin-to-skin and to keep her warm, but I felt the umbilical cord tuggin. Thankfully I already had the seat warmer on and she was between my legs so we left her there. “Ba M? ?ây,” said in Vietnamese, which means Dad and Mom are here. She let out a cry and I did a mini Apgar test – at least what I could and our daughter appeared healthy. Her face was a different color from her body though. I tried to cover her with my hands while Johnny ran to grab one of the towels we had in our hospital bag. I was so relieved but still eager for EMS to arrive.
Meanwhile I texted my brother to let him know I had the baby in the car and ask if he could come right away. Dispatch asked if we had anything to use to clamp the umbilical cord. Who does?! Dispatch recommended a shoelace, so Johnny undid his left shoe. As he’s about to tie the cord, EMS arrives! They sprang into action, which we so appreciated. They clamped the cord, got Johnny in to cut it and asked if I wanted to get in the stretcher or they could carry me to it. I opted for the first. I asked Johnny to grab two of packing cubes, the ones with our clothes and our daughter’s and to leave our car for my brother to handle. What a birth story!
The ride to the hospital was calm. I wish Johnny could have sat in the back of the ambulance, but there were multiple EMTs taking care of me and baby. An EMT did a proper APGAR. They said she was doing fine, which was relieving. I knew deep down she was fine all along. They gave her a little tiny oxygen mask and had the foil wrap over her to keep her warm. I loved having her on my chest and close enough to kiss. To keep her warm, we put one of the little hats I brought on her head. It was too big, but it did the job.
An EMT put an IV in me (not my favorite getting this done in a moving vehicle) and I remember saying I was so cold. Apparently, the shakes are normal. One of the EMTs kept asking if I felt any more contractions. I knew they were keeping an eye on when I was going to deliver the placenta.
When we got to the hospital, they brought us straight to the labor and delivery wing. Nurses swooped in to take our daughter from me to get her weight, height and any care she would need. Shortly after, our birth photographer arrived! I was so happy she was there to capture these moments. Johnny was going back and forth in the room between making sure I was okay and our dearest daughter. It melted my heart to see him tend to both of us and take videos to capture his perspective.
It actually took a while to deliver my placenta. I never got to look at it, but Johnny said it was bigger than he thought. I had a second-degree tear, but we opted to wait for my OBGYN. Johnny made the request and it was nice to have him advocate for me. I ended up having a second-degree tear, but was told it was barely second-degree. Those peritoneal massages worked! I definitely recommend doing them or having your partner help you.
The stitches suck. Let me say it again: getting stitches down there after giving birth sucks. My OBGYN gave me lidocaine, but it wasn’t enough. I was shocked since I had given birth without an epidural. However, my OB said I had already endured labor and my body was drained. It’s totally okay to get the pain meds and let my body start the recovery process.
Sooner after, my brother arrived with our car and to check on me and the baby. He said he felt guilty he let me leave our house, but was so glad everything was okay. I wouldn’t exist without my brother – he asked for a sibling and seeing him brought me another level of comfort.
The nurse taking care of you will come in every 15-20 minutes to press on your stomach to help your uterus contract and check to make sure there isn’t any excessive bleeding. I was not a fan of this. It’s definitely uncomfortable, but not painful. About an hour after arriving at the hospital, a nurse helped me breastfeed for the first time. It was extremely painful, but it made my heart melt to see our daughter so eager to feed and try to latch.
Mommy & Me
Turns out the Mommy & Me wing was full the day I delivered our daughter, so we ended up switching to a more comfortable room on the same floor as labor and delivery. I was eager to settle in, get some rest and be a family of three.
At my hospital, the nurse also helps you go to the bathroom three times to make sure you’re urinating properly, checking on the bleeding and helping you make the postpartum underwear packs.
The FridaMom hospital kit is essential! I am so glad I brought it because the quality of the products made such a difference. From the stretchy underwear that feels much more substantial, the cooling pad liners, and the peri bottle, these all contributed to making the recovery process easier.
After my first “watched” bathroom break, Johnny was the best partner and fed me the pho broth my brother brought from home. I’m so glad I had Johnny place that delivery order earlier in the day! Our daughter was peacefully sleeping and Johnny and I were tired, but our hearts felt so full.