Lilou Tran Phan
6lb 6oz, 19.25 inches
It’s been a month since Lilou arrived and I figure I should get to recording her birth story while it’s still fresh in my mind! But first – the name Lilou. Husband and I had narrowed down our list of names to about 3 or 4 names and Lou was at the top of my list. I liked the French sound to it and how it was slightly masculine but still sweetly feminine. I even liked how it could sound like the name of a janitor….but also the name of a cool French girl (e.g., Lou Doillon). Husband then suggested Lilou, a similar French name, but also the name of a character in The Fifth Element. Yes, Milla Jovovich’s character in that sci-fi movie with Bruce Willis and Chris Tucker. So Lilou it was – or Lou for short. But really, we’ve still been mostly calling her Beet.
I woke up on a Saturday morning not really feeling any different. I had been having braxton hicks contractions daily my entire third trimester, and that day was no different. At that point, I had gained 45 pounds and was waddling around with some back pain, but pretty much able to go about with my normal activities. We met up May and Calvin for dinner at a Salvadoran restaurant for pupusas and plantains. By the time we got home at 7pm, I commented to Tu that it seemed like my contractions seemed to be getting more frequent. They still felt the same – like tightening, but not at all painful – but seemed to be occurring more often. We used the contraction counter function on one of my pregnancy apps and saw that they were coming about every 10-15 minutes. The hospital had told us that they generally won’t admit you into labor & delivery until your contractions are 5 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute each, for an hour. We were still a ways off, so we settled on the couch and watched TV. Pretty soon, the contractions started getting closer together and more intense, 7-10 minutes apart. I called my OB/GYN and she told me that if I was able to call her and talk to her normally on the phone, the contractions probably weren’t strong enough. ”YOU’LL KNOW when they’re real contractions.” She said she wouldn’t be surprised to hear from me in a couple hours, but to sit tight until the contractions were closer together. Eventually, at midnight, we decided to turn in and go to bed.
I woke up at 2am because the contractions were definitely starting to feel less like tightening and more like actual pain. They were still only occurring every 10 minutes, so I tried to sleep through it, but that ended up being impossible. I’d squeeze my eyes shut through each contraction, breathing through the pressure, but every time the pain would subside and I would fall asleep, another contraction would hit 10 minutes later, waking me up. I laid in bed like that until 6am.
In the morning, Husband said we should just go to the hospital, but I was afraid they’d just send us home since the contractions wouldn’t get any closer together than 7-10 minutes apart. By then, the pain was getting more and more intense, where I couldn’t even respond to Husband’s questions if a contraction was in progress because my eyes were closed and I was trying to breathe through my nose and out my mouth. Husband suggested taking a walk to see if we could speed things along, so we took a morning walk with the dogs. When we got home, I finally agreed to go to the hospital because it was starting to hurt so much. Let’s just hope that we hit 5 minutes apart by the time we get there!
In triage, they hooked me up to the monitors and checked my dilation and turns out, I was already dilated almost 6cm (you start pushing at 10cm). I was admitted at around 11am and they told me I’d probably be delivery by the late afternoon. OMGOMGOMG.
Would I be wanting an epidural, the nurse asked? Oh HELLS yes. I want all the drugs, all the doctors, and all the computers. No at-home-water-birth-midwifery for this pregnant lady. And let me tell you, an epidural is the BEST EVER. We had the whole afternoon of contractions ahead of us to wait for me to be dilated enough to start pushing, but surprisingly, it ended up being REALLY pleasant. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon, we had a big private room with a window view of Mount Ranier, and it was just a really nice, chill afternoon. Husband and I hung out and talked, watched tv, had lunch, took naps. Again, epidural = best thing ever. I was having contractions every 3 minutes and I slept through all of them. In fact, those naps were some of the best sleep I’d had my entire pregnancy. I FEEL NOTHING. So good.
At around 4pm, they told me that Beet was in position, but that she had turned “sunny side up” to a posterior position, where she was face up looking up towards my belly button. The ideal position for an easier delivery would be for her to be facing my spine, so the next 2 hours were spent with the doctor trying to turn Beet while she was still inside me, and me laying in different positions to get Beet to turn on her own. Like a good girl, when the doctor checked me again, Beet was in the correct anterior position and we were ready to get this baby out of me!
I remember the transition to the “pushing” stage being a lot more casual and fast than I anticipated. It was literally like, ok why don’t you start pushing. Oh, what, like…now? Yep! Oh, ok. Like….just start pushing? Yep! No curtains pulling, getting out stirrups, doctors with masks, or anything. Just grab your knees and push!
Based on movies and tv, I thought the “pushing” stage was like, CONSTANT PUSHING UNTIL BABBY POPS OUT. Well, in reality, you only push for maybe a minute when you are actually having a contraction. Then you rest for a couple minutes until the next contraction comes and then you start pushing again. So I was having this conversation with the doctor about how I went to law school *OK READY TO PUSH? PUSHPUSHPUSHPUSHPUSH JUST A LITTLE BIT MORRRREEE OK* and then I practiced for about 5 years doing tax law *OK READY TO GO AGAIN? PUSHPUSHPUSHPUSHPUSHHHH OK* and then we moved to Seattle and I decided to leave law and go into retail operations *OK HERE COMES ANOTHER CONTRACTION PUSHPUSHPUSHPUSHPUSH* and I’m now working at a store called Moorea Seal down in Belltown on 3rd.
Now I had told Husband from the beginning of my pregnancy that he would not be allowed down past my waist during delivery. Because I imagined it would be looking ALL KINDS OF CRAZY down there. But when Beet started to crown, the doctor exclaimed, “Oh my god, she has so much hair! So cute! Tu, you gotta see this!” So Tu WENT DOWN THERE AND LOOKED. He reported back that the doctor was twirling Beet’s hair with her fingers and that it in fact did not look as crazy as I probably imagined.
“Do you want to see?” the doctor asked. ”We can bring our a mirror. Sometimes it helps with the pushing to see.”
“Umm….” Even though Husband had already looked, I wasn’t sure if i was ready to see. If there was ever a THINGS YOU CANNOT UNSEE situation, this would be a big one.
“It really doesn’t look that crazy,” Husband assured me.
So they wheeled out a tall mirror and set it up next to the doctor and you know what – they were right. It really wasn’t that crazy. I was expecting a horrific scene of blood and fluids and poop (oh god). But I didn’t see any of that, thank god. And I totally COULD see the top of her head, which was kind of crazy.
“Do you want to reach down and feel her head?” the doctor asked.
So I did and felt her tiny little head of hair. It was kind of unreal, feeling this foreign thing that was completely separate from your own body, and yet still very connected.
“Alright, one more big push!”
In seconds, I felt her being pulled out and immediately heard her cries. The nurse put Beet on my chest right way and I remember that “oh my god” moment as I cupped her tiny head in my hand. SHE’S REAL. AND SHE’S RIGHT HERE.
I ended up being in labor for about 24 hours, but only pushed for about 30 minutes. All in all, labor and delivery was a really good experience for me. I remember thinking afterwards, I could totally do this again! The RECOVERY afterwards, on the other hand. TOTALLY DIFFERENT STORY. Recovery was SO MUCH worse than actually birthing the baby. I won’t go into specifics, but there are definite consequences to having a fast pushing stage. I tried to be a hero and not take any of the painkillers that my OB/GYN offered, only to call my OB/GYN 4 days later asking about that Percocet she mentioned earlier? Besides epidurals, I highly recommend alternating some Perkies in with the rotation of Ibuprofen you’ll be on postpartum. It makes life SO much less terrible. Because having to get up every 1.5 hours to feed a newborn when your vagina feels like it’s going to fall out is kind of the worst.
Recovery aside, one of my favorite memories so far was that first week home. We had no visitors yet, no parents in from out of town. Husband was home that week on paternity leave, so it was just our new little family – me, Husband, Beet, and the dogs. It was so quiet and peaceful, especially since Beet was still a super sleepy newborn. It truly felt magical and I didn’t want it to end. To those expecting little ones in the future, I’m so excited for you to be able to experience this special time. Definitely a time I’ll always remember.
Beet is a little over a month old now and we are settling into our roles as parents. I still can’t believe that this thing is mine. Or that I have to take care of this thing. FOREVER. I have moments where I forget that I own this organism and am responsible for its life. Like, I’m not just babysitting her. This job, in fact, DOES NOT END. Yes, it’s overwhelming at times, and yes, it feels like I’ve cried more times this past month than I have in the past 10 years, but it’s also fun. You surprise yourself with how much you’re willing to do and forgo for this tiny creature. And I hear it only gets better from here.