It was finally time to push! Dr. Thomas actually came in for the entirety of my pushing and delivery (most doctors come around mostly to catch the baby!)--she said this was the best part and why would she want to miss it!
Once I was in position they would help me know when a contraction was coming and then we would push for 3 counts of 10 as hard as I could and then rest. Jenna and Dr. Thomas were really great coaches and Matt was very encouraging. We had to move positions a couple of times to try and navigate the pelvis but with patience and persistence we did it! Very early on you could see and feel that tiny head of hair! It was encouraging to see and feel progress.
Dr. Thomas worked VERY hard to keep from having to perform an episiotomy or from having me tear. I was so thankful for the effort she put forward because I know many doctors would not have been so patient. In the end, however, there was simply no way that Harper was going to make it into this world without it. And so she made a small incision to try to help us get her out. Somewhere along the way Dr. Thomas also noticed that we both felt really warm. Upon taking my temperature we discovered that I'd spiked a fever somewhere around 99 degrees or so. They immediately got me some Tylenol to try to reduce the fever. Unfortunately we had no such luck and my fever continued to climb with it's highest being somewhere around 101.8. They started me on an antibiotic and told me that the baby would for sure be headed to the NICU because of the infection. Apparently in long labors moms can spike a fever because of infection in/around the uterus at the time of it's opening. I honestly don't understand it all but because the baby is exposed to that infection she has to be treated with antibiotics as well. I was heartbroken but at this moment all that mattered was getting her out.
So we pushed on and finally at 2:05pm I felt her whole body slide out. They were able to VERY quickly set her on my chest and let Matt cut the cord before whisking her away to the NICU team for suction and assessment. Once she was finally a bit more clean and ready they brought her over to me in the picture above. She smiled at me and blew bubbles--this moment/picture might be my most prized possession and memory from that day. They then took her back to the NICU team and Matt was able to go with her and make sure she was settled and well cared for.
In the mean time, my small cut had become a 3rd degree tear that needed some serious stitch work. Dr. Thomas began work on that because the placenta was taking it's sweet time to come out (she wasn't too concerned at this point). However, my epidural was wearing off. I could wiggle my toes and feel my feet. So the pain of the stitches was pretty significant--she injected some lidocaine to try to help but I could still feel her working. She finally finished the stitches and made it back to work the placenta out. You have 30 minutes to deliver the placenta or else that have to retrieve it manually. Alas, we didn't make the time table and so Dr. Thomas had to reach in and get the placenta out herself. It was THE most painful thing I've ever experienced. It didn't want to come out and my epidural was wearing off. I screamed and cried. Finally it was all over and Matt made it back from the NICU to tell me everything was going to be ok.
Now they needed to clean me up and monitor my infection and fever before we could go see my baby girl. It seemed like the longest hours of my life but finally around 5 or 6 so we were able to go back and meet Harper Christine for real.
It wasn't exactly how I'd imagined labor and delivery going--and definitely wasn't what I'd hoped for our baby's first few days of life--but it was all still a beautiful and miraculous process. I can't believe that I carried and nourished that beautiful child for 9 months and then successfully pushed her out to experience life in this world! Let the adventures begin!