Largest Baby in the NICU: Birth Story of Kyler James

Our baby Kyler spent a couple days in the NICU.  Needless to say, he was by far the largest baby there.

11:29pm - Wednesday, May 22

"Oh my gosh -- this guy is HUGE," a doctor called out from behind the curtain as he pulled a baby whale out of my abdomen.

Or so I gathered.

Kyler, fresh out of the womb.  He had a cone head from trying to unsuccessfully enter the birth canal.

Everyone in blue scrubs laughed and cheered the new life they had just helped bring into the world, while his inexperienced mother was laying on the operating table, struggling to stay coherent.  I didn't know that cesarean surgery would mean being figuratively strapped to an old metal park merry-go-'round in Antarctica and perpetually spun at 80 miles per hour after being force-fed half a bottle of sleeping pills.  

After talking to my sister about delivery for months, I thought having a c section meant having the bottom half of you pleasantly numbed for a few minutes as doctors gave you a painless paper cut that sprouted into life while the top half of you smiled behind a curtain of cotton candy.

For me, not the case.

Combine the adverse reaction I was having to the anesthetic with the fever that was causing my body to shake like the 7.0 earthquake I once "enjoyed" while visiting Guatemala, to say I was vastly uncomfortable may be the understatement of the year.

But allow me to back up a bit.  Birth stories are all different and thankfully more interesting than wisdom teeth stories, so missing the opportunity to toot the off-key horn of my first would disappoint my mom.

And moms shall not be disappointed.

Monday, May 20

First day of maternity leave.

Time to learn how to relax!

I probably would have continued working all the way up until my baby fell out (for financial reasons, not female-workplace-empowerment reasons), except the doctor thought that might not be the best idea.  Turns out, she offered good advice.  Crazy how doctors do that sometimes.

Spencer took his last two finals for the semester that morning, which turned out to be perfect timing.  The last thing we needed was my water breaking in the middle of a final exam when his phone was turned off.

I spent the day uplifting myself with the latest episode of the new Chernobyl mini series on HBO (crazy to think a quarter of the world was almost destroyed), sending emails for our new comedic athletic apparel business (because the easiest time to start a business is right when you start a family), packing my hospital bag (poorly), organizing random baby things so I could feel the illusion of being productive, and going on a walk with the Spencer and our dogs.

Though walking was still getting tougher each day.

Which made me feel like the baby was still getting bigger.  

And bigger.  

Big Baby?

Over the last couple months, I had suspected the baby I was carrying was large, though I could never be sure because I have no frame of reference with which to compare.  

Around the 6th month of my pregnancy, a nurse confirmed to me when I called in with some questions that my latest ultrasound showed the "little" nugget was already in the 75th percentile for size.  Since then, I always asked about his size at my regular appointments, but never got a clear answer.  Instead, it was "he's looking healthy" or "he's definitely a boy," almost as though they suspected my baby was huge, but didn't want to tell me.

What I did get was that incredibly super-scientific measuring tape on my belly to tell me my baby was "right on track."  

This scientific measurement technique was also used by 13-year-olds at one of my recent baby showers, proving its air-tight medical reliability.

Typically when I went to the doctor, I expected to be hooked up to the ultrasound machine and see a bunch of black and white Rorschach blobs on a screen while the doctor talked about each splotch as though it was as clear as IMAX film, while I smiled and nodded in masked confusion.

But the more my pregnancy progressed, the less I saw the ultrasound machine and the more I saw Mr. Measuring Tape.

Over time, rather than telling the doctors and midwives -- "Um, no -- I need you to instead hook me up to that machine and interpret everything on it while other patients wait," I shrugged it off and proceeded to grow like a marshmallow Peep in the microwave.

I was also one of those people who tracked my weight every day, more out of objective curiosity than out of concern for how I looked, and it seemed that no matter what I ate, I was gaining weight quite quickly -- sometimes two pounds in 24 hours.

My weight crept out of the "recommended" zone for the third trimester.

But as I gained weight, I was constantly told by others that I was "all belly," and there were times I felt like a giant belly with a few limbs attached to it.  

By the time I was seven months along, I was already larger in front than many of my friends had been when they gave birth at full term. And while the "Is it twins?" question started out as a funny joke, by the ninth month, it was a full-on sincere question from random strangers.

Was it because I was normally 5'3" and petite, so the baby had no where to fit?  But some of my other pregnant friends had also been petite, and they never stuck out as much as I did.

Four days before delivery.

But appointment after appointment, the baby's heart rate was always good, and the measuring tape told me I was right on track, so who was I to defiantly demand more data?

Labor Begins...?

Without going into nastoid graphic detail that tends to go hand-in-hand with pregnancy, when Monday night rolled around, I noticed a little not-so-transparent surprise when I used the bathroom, which made me wonder if labor was actually around the corner.

I called the hospital to confirm it wasn't cancer, and a nurse ensured me it was a normal sign of nearing the end of my pregnancy, though it could have meant hours, days, or even weeks remained.

Days?  Even hours?  It didn't really register to me.

End of pregnancy meant the beginning of having a baby around.  I'd never had a baby before.  What do I do with a baby?  Last time I brought home a puppy, I could put it in a crate when I needed to run errands.  You can't crate a baby, right?  Let alone command it to pee in backyard.

I brushed off reality and went back to watching TV.  I hadn't dilated even a millimeter by my last appointment, and it had looked like I would likely pass my due date and have to be induced days later.  

Plus, I still had hundreds more pages to read in my "What to Expect" baby prep book.  The baby should have gotten the memo that he wasn't allowed to appear until I had finished the book and thus graduated parent planning class.  

But he didn't get the memo.

Shortly after the bathroom surprise, I started feeling what appeared to be light menstrual cramps.  They seemed irregular and far apart, but after 45 minutes of scientific research on Google, I figured it was nothing to worry about and went to bed.

I was woken up a few times that night by stronger versions of these cramps, but I always changed positions and drifted back to sleep.  After all -- Most pregnant women will agree that waking up multiple times every night to random aches and pains is a common occurrence.

Tuesday, May 21

Morning came, and I still had occasional cramping.  I finally told Spencer about the cramps, to which he reacted as I expected.  "Sweetie, it's labor!!"  No, no.  It couldn't be labor, silly husband.  He thought a hangnail was a sign of labor, which is why I hadn't admitted to any cramping until now.

But then... the cramps became more and more regular and stronger and stronger, until I finally had to admit that maybe husband was right.  Perhaps these "cramps" weren't really cramps at all, but more... dare I face it... contractions.

Not wanting to be one of those newb moms who shows up at the hospital way too early only to be sent back home, I consulted the trusty "When Should I Come to the Hospital?" guide that was hanging on our fridge, courtesy of my medical provider:

The hospital's guide on when to come to Labor & Delivery.

It clearly stated that I shouldn't go to the hospital until my contractions were 3-5 minutes apart and lasted about a minute each, for an hour.

Ok.  I can wait for that.

Around 4:00 p.m., I noticed that my contractions were about three minutes apart and had been that way for a while.  So I called the labor and delivery department at the Irvine Kaiser Permanente hospital and they told me to come on in.

Dang.  It was happening!  Ahhh!!

I mean, no problem.  I got this.

I got this...?

At the peak of rush hour, Spencer and I grabbed the hospital bag and hopped in the truck to make the 10 mile drive to Kaiser. 

On the way to Kaiser

When we arrived, they gave me a gown and connected me up to some wizardry machine to see how frequent my contractions were, and sure enough, they were already 1 to 1.5 minutes apart.

That was a lot closer together than my fridge guide had specified for hospital admission.

Hooked up to the contractions machine in the screening room.

The friendly nurse told me it was a good thing we came in.  Now we just needed a midwife to come check my dilation level to ensure my body was ready to pump out a baby in the near future.

Pregnancy 101

A brief pause in our story.

For those who have not been pregnant and have no idea what weird things like mucus plugs are, from what I understand, dilation is basically how ready or "open" your body is to be able to push out a baby.  It's measured from 0 to 10 centimeters.  0 centimeters means you're as close to going into labor as your husband, whereas 7 centimeters means you're in "active labor," the pain jumps up, and the baby is on its way.  10 centimeters means the baby's head could already be sticking out and looking around.

Kaiser Labor & Delivery has a policy that they don't typically admit women until they are at least 5 centimeters dilated, unless their water has already broken.

But water is a liquid, and liquid can't break...?

I think of it more like a water balloon breaking.  Basically, when the baby is living in your bulbous stomach, he is swimming around in a liquid called amniotic fluid.  As labor gets closer, sometimes the lining keeping the fluid in your stomach breaks and the amniotic fluid starts spilling out of you.  That's called your "water breaking," though it's more accurately your "amniotic fluid sack breaking."  

Once your water breaks, it becomes less safe for you and your baby if too much time passes, since there's not as much protective fluid for the baby and the both of you are at risk of infection.

Or so I'm told.  If a doctor saw this, they'd probably roll their eyes and wish I would stop contributing to stupidity on the interwebs. 

But I digress.

THAT Dilated??

So all I needed was a midwife to check me and tell me I was dilated at a 6 or something and we'd be on our way.

As far as pain goes, my contractions hurt, but they weren't worse than the ruptured ovarian cyst I had experienced a few years back, and definitely not as bad as falling out of a tree and dislocating my kneecap when I was a kid.  Did this mean the pain wasn't going to be terrible?  Or did this mean I just had a high pain tolerance?

Neither, it turns out.

I should have known better.  I whine about pain when a mosquito bites me.

A midwife came into the room, checked me, and told me I was barely 1 centimeter dilated.


How could I only be dilated to a 1 if my contractions were a minute apart?

I was following the fridge!  The fridge, I say!

With an unsuccessful attempt to mask condescension, the midwife told me I couldn't be admitted yet until I was further dilated.  She then "stripped my membranes," which is some medical phrase for reaching into a pregnant woman with a pickax in an attempt to speed up their dilation.  Ok, no pickax.  But still...

Mother oucher.  

Then they threw my clothes at me and told me to come back when I was more ready to have a baby.

Um... how was I going to know when I was more ready to have a baby?  Technically, each minute that passed meant I was more ready, didn't it?  

Plus -- the fridge was very specific about when to come to the hospital -- when contractions were 3-5 minutes apart.  Mine were down to a minute apart, so now what?  What could I use as a measuring tool?

When I posed that question to the midwife, she said to "come back when the contractions are more painful."

More painful?  But how much more painful?  I've never given birth before.  I don't know how painful these contractions are supposed to be.

"Painful enough that you can't speak through them."

Have you met me?  The chances of me not speaking through something are slim to nil.

It didn't matter.  "You'll know," she said, and then left the room to roll her eyes and add another tally to her list of eager beaver women who came to the hospital too early to have their baby.

I was concerned.

A few months ago my stepsister had also been rejected by the hospital when she started feeling close contractions, and she ended up having her baby when she got home.  Since then, my stepmom's advice was "If they send you home from the hospital, stay in the parking lot."

Now what?  

I did not want to go home and have my baby.  I could just envision myself going into active labor as my husband passed out on the floor, and me calling 911 and telling them to treat his gaping head wound first...

But what choice did we have?  

So we gathered our things and left Labor & Delivery with our tails between our legs.

Getting rejected from the hospital.

From the moment we stepped into the hall, I felt a rush of pain.  I stopped walking, gritted my teeth until the moment passed, and then took a few more steps before another strong rush of pain took over -- much stronger than before.

Well, the midwife's pickax had clearly done its job, because my contractions had suddenly increased in strength.  They had become so strong that even I, Jolie, had trouble speaking through them. 

I looked behind me.  I had only made it a few steps away from the Labor & Delivery door.  The midwife had said to come back when the contractions were much stronger.  So... that was now.  But there was no way they were going to admit the woman who had just been sent home three minutes ago.

So bit by bit, Spencer and I made our way back down the never-ending third floor hospital hallway toward the elevators, pausing every 60 seconds or so to breathe through a contraction.  

When we finally made it back to our car, I called my dad who is an anesthesiologist back in my home state of Utah.  Through pulses of pain, he sympathetically explained to me that it was unlikely that I would dilate high enough in less than a few hours, so his recommendation was to go back home for a few hours, then if contractions continued to feel worse, call the hospital and see if it was a good time to come back in.

If contractions feel worse?  They were already well established suckland now.  Was this really what women go through before having a baby?  "When the pain is that of a thousand knives, come back to the hospital."  Isn't the hospital supposed to help prevent that kind of pain?  This wasn't on my fridge!

But my dad's advice was good, as usual.  We went home and basically tried to distract myself from my pain for a few hours by watching other miserable people in reality shows on Hulu, though I even began envying the comfort level of the addicts on TV.  

I couldn't help but wish my contractions were 3-5 minutes apart like a normal person, instead of 60 seconds.

I have never felt like I was dying before, but once 10 o'clock that night rolled around, I was pretty sure the end was near.  I called and told the hospital how I was feeling, and once again, they told me to come in, so we got back in the car and headed back to Kaiser.

Heading back to the hospital for round 2.

Take Two

This time it took longer to walk down the hall than it had to drive to the hospital because I had to pause every few steps for what seemed like a never-ending contraction.

When we arrived at Labor & Delivery, they put me in a different room, gave me another robe and hooked me up to the wizardry machines again.  Sure enough, my contractions were still measuring a minute apart, except one now often led right into the next without any lull or relief in between.

I didn't need a machine to tell me that.

The bottom line measured my contractions about a minute apart.
We had a new nurse and an ob-gyn this time instead of a midwife come in and check me.  This time, I wasn't dilated at a 1 anymore.

I was a 3.


I was being pounded by ultra-painful contractions constantly, sometimes without any relief in-between, and you're telling me I have to go home again because I was only dilated at a 3??


It said to come to the hospital when contractions were 3-5 minutes apart for an hour!  Not 60 seconds apart leading directly into each other for half a day!

They could see I was in major pain and I could see they weren't going to bend on their dilation policy, so I asked what other options there were.  They said I could either try to walk around the hospital and see if it helped me dilate further, or they could give me a shot of pain killer and send me home for a few hours to try to get some rest before coming back.

If speed walking two miles every day or swimming laps a few times a week hadn't been dilating me at all, walking around the hospital wasn't going to do squat.  Plus, walking around the hospital would involve walking -- something that I was really struggling to do right now.

...Not feeling great...

So we opted for option B.  The nurse zapped my butt full of morphine mixed with a powerful antihistamine, and twenty minutes later, I was half-awake and feeling better than I had all day. 

We went back home and I immediately fell asleep on the living room couch.

Take Three

I woke up at 4:30 a.m. as the morphine was wearing off.

The death pains were back.

Only this time, I went to the bathroom and -- low and behold -- a clear trickle of liquid had manifested itself.  Could this mean...

My water had broken?

Ah HA!  Take that, Kaiser!  You may have turned me away on your fake 3-5 minute fridge rule, but even I knew that you couldn't ignore someone's water breaking.  This meant it was time to go back to the hospital, and this time, we would be staying there -- thank you very much.

Knowing I wouldn't be able to eat or drink anything other than ice chips upon being admitted, I fixed myself a classic Jolie breakfast of Eggo waffles and milk, woke up Spencer, and then right as we were leaving the house, I vomited up all of breakfast along with yesterday's dinner.


Empty stomach, it would be.

Heading back to the hospital a third time... and hopefully the charm.

We pressed through morning rush hour traffic to get to the hospital and again inched our way through the long hall to Labor & Delivery, pausing every few feet for contractions.

I'm pretty sure a construction team had increased the length of the hallway overnight.  It took forever to walk there.

This time when we arrived at Labor & Delivery, they didn't need to take my information because they knew who I was.  

The lady who had been there twice already.

Checking in again at Labor & Delivery.  "Long time no see."

With poorly masked skepticism, the same nurse who had given me my butt shot asked if I had any proof that my water had actually broken.  I went to the bathroom and emerged with my panty liner for analysis, though she could have just taken one look at my gray maternity pants, which looked like I had peed myself three times over.

"Oh, yeah - Your water definitely broke," she said, surprised.

Her reaction made me wonder how many women had faked their water breaking in the past.

But whatever.  I was being admitted, and that's what mattered.   

Wednesday, May 22:  Admitted

If the check-in room was Motel 6, the delivery room was a five star hotel.  Around 6:00 a.m., Spencer and I were brought into a large room with a hospital bed, all the necessary fancy machines, a table and chairs, and enough space to hold at least a dozen twirling ballerinas.

They immediately put me in bed and introduced me to my nurse, a girl named Ashley who was just plain awesome.  She was so sincere and funny and genuinely cared about her patients -- she was the perfect nurse for us.

Our awesome nurse, Ashley

Another ob-gyn came to check my dilation -- It was still only a 3.  No baby was going to squeeze out through a 3 centimeter hole.  Especially a baby I suspected could be north of average birth weight.

The doctors pumped my IV full of Pitocin.  Pitocin is a drug that is designed to speed up the labor process so I would give birth sooner.  If Pitocin did its job correctly, my contractions would get stronger and I would dilate to a 10 and push a baby out by the end of the day.  

I knew about Pitocin because I had read and heard horror stories about it.  Women who have been induced with the drug say that it causes incredibly strong contractions that hurt like mad.


So where was my epidural?

For those of you who don't know, an epidural is a massive needle a doctor shoves into your spine that makes you feel fantastic.

Which reminds me.  When we arrived in the delivery room, the nurses asked me if I had a birth plan.  I gave it to them:
  1. Husband is a pass out risk and should be sitting whenever blood is present in the room
  2. Give me an epidural as soon as physically possible
  3. Everything else is up to you.  You are the experts.  We are just a couple of newbs with access to Google
I could see nurses and doctors laugh and relax as they learned the birth plan.  I think they were relieved that we weren't one of those couples with a list of irrational demands or weird requests we had gotten off the internet.  That alone helped us develop good relationships with the people who were taking care of us -- something I was determined to do from the moment we arrived.  The last thing I needed was a nurse or doctor with control over pain management who thought I was annoying. 

Which brings me to the epidural.  I have a lot of friends who have done home natural births, or even hospital births, sans epidural.

I am not one of these women.

My dad is an anesthesiologist.  I've known I was going to have an epidural since I was five.

Nurse Ashley read my mind.  "You want an epidural now, huh?" she said as I watched the Pitocin slither through my IV tube and into my veins.

"Yes, please."

She called in the anesthesiologist.

Some doctors work in the medical field because they sincerely care about helping people.  Other doctors work in the medical field because they get to drive a Porshe.

This anesthesiologist was definitely proud of his Porshe.

He wasn't horrible, but he definitely wasn't the warm and fuzzy type, nor the type to take a little extra care to help the patient avoid a little extra pain or feel less nervous at the sight of a needle.  For him, it was "bend over here" - push - "needle goes here" - stab - while talking about all the ski resorts he had visited around the world.

But to his credit, that epidural made me feel like I was floating on a cloud.  It was awesome.

Though I ended up laboring so long that the anesthesiologist had to come back twice to top off the epidural when I started feeling pain again.  The first time Mr. Porshe returned, he lunged at me with a syringe to my neck, causing me to jump backwards and freeze in fear.  It turned out the syringe was just full of water that he was using to test out what I could and couldn't feel at a neck level, but he hadn't explained what he was doing beforehand, and I had no idea if there was a needle attached to the syringe at the time of his lunging.

The look on nurse Ashley's face was a mix of disbelief and disgust.  Once he left the room, she said "he should not have done that."  We laughed nervously.

The second time the anesthesiologist came back, he griped that topping off the epidural wasn't going to help me feel less pain, but he was going to do it anyway because nobody ever believes him.  Ten minutes after topping it off, I went from wincing in pain to being back on a fluffy cloud.  Yeah, no wonder nobody believes you.  Because you don't seem to know what you're talking about.

I thought back to watching my dad delicately care for impoverished patients in free surgery clinics on a humanitarian trip to Guatemala a few years back.  

Not all anesthesiologists are created equal.

From the moment the epidural first kicked in, "labor" for me started out awesome.  My pain was gone, I was in a cozy bed with a fluffy blanket, and Spencer had figured out a way to hook our Chromecast up to the TV by way of a mobile hotspot so I could watch episodes of "The Office" whenever I was awake.  Our nurse was incredibly helpful and fun to talk to, and the ob-gyns who came to check on me seemed trustworthy and not condescending.

If this was labor, sign me up for the week.

Epidural + fluffy blanket = bliss.

"The Office" is my comfort show, so Spencer rigged it up on the TV.

Spencer drew this picture of me on his tablet while I was passed out on the labor bed.

Ashley was even happy to watch our baby announcement video, which I tried to sleep through because it always feels awkward watching people watch that, but whatever.

By the early afternoon, I was dilated to a 6, which was progress, and the doctors were confident I had a good shot of dilating enough to have a natural birth by the evening or possibly the next morning.

But as the hours went by and the contractions measured stronger and stronger on the charts, my body wasn't fully cooperating.  It wouldn't budge beyond a 6 in dilation, and it was looking more and more possible that I would have to deliver by c section -- something I had already considered and accepted.

And something else began to complicate the situation.

By the late afternoon, Ashley took my temperature and realized that I was starting to get a fever.  Likely, an infection had kicked in since it had been a few hours since my water broke.  For me, this meant my body was hot, but was starting to feel really cold.

And I hate being cold.

I'm the weirdo who brings a blanket to church with me because I can't stand feeling cold.

In order to avoid overheating the baby inside me, Ashley apologetically took away my fluffy blanket, and my body began to shiver.  I missed that blanket so much, but thankfully I at least had a sheet still covering me.

As a fever started kicking in, they had to take away my blanket, but let me keep the sheet.

It wasn't much longer before Ashley took my temperature again and then had to take my sheet away.  Not long after that, she had to take away my precious socks (I am rarely caught without socks).  Soon, all I was left in was a thin hospital robe in what suddenly felt like a room cooled to the temperature of a refrigerator.  My body started to shiver and didn't stop shaking for hours.  What had been such a peaceful day of comfort had morphed into a miserable evening of chattering teeth and a longing to be warm again.

But the baby was first priority, and if it meant shivering for a while to help keep his temperature down, I wasn't going to protest.

They eventually took all my comfy blankets and socks to try to bring down my fever.

By the time 10:00 p.m. had rolled around, I had been having contractions for 48 hours, but was still only dilated to a 6.  

Suddenly a beam of light and floating sparkles filled the room as the new shift ob-gyn, Dr. Tamiko Takahashi, walked in to talk to me.  Spencer and I took one look at her and then looked at each other.  Umm... they must have been filming Grey's Anatomy in the other room and she walked into our room by mistake, because she was straight off a Hollywood set.  Petite with long flowing brown hair and a smile that warmed even a refrigerated room, our hats were off to the hospital's casting director.  

My Ob-gyn could have her own TV show.

Not only was Dr. Takahashi worthy of her own TV show, but she was also incredibly kind and a very competent physician -- a triple threat.  She checked my dilation a final time, and then explained with kindness and concern that she thought it was a good idea to go ahead with a c section that she would perform.  Something about her gave me the feeling that I was in good hands, and I accepted the terms fully.

At least I hadn't tried to push the baby out unsuccessfully before having been deemed a natural birth fail and rushed to a c section -- which had been a big fear of mine.

"My guess is that this baby is a little larger -- maybe nine pounds," Dr. Takahashi said.

Finally, someone was being open with me about my baby's size.

It's Baby Time

They gave me a sour medical drink to help keep my stomach acid at bay during the operation and wheeled me out of the room and down the hall into an operating room where the surgical team was there to greet me.

Spencer scrambled to put on his medical scrub suit which he put on backwards and promptly broke one of the shoe covers, but the nurses helped him fix everything so he could follow me down the hall.

It's hard to put on clothes correctly when your wife is being rushed into surgery.

Thankfully Dr. Porshe had gone home for the day and was replaced with a different anesthesiologist who reminded me much more of my dad -- someone who was good at their job and cared about the patients.

Still shivering, I thanked everyone in the room in advance, then bent over and vomited all the sour medical drink into a plastic tray I had managed to snag in time.  

That's how I punctuate gratitude.

From there, they stretched my arms out from my sides on cross-like planks, draped a curtain over my chest to protect me from catching a glimpse of my surgically open self, and injected me with some fancy anesthetic.

Instantly my body started shivering violently -- partly from the intense fever and partly from whatever anesthesia I had been given that my body was not a fan of.  My eyelids started drooping uncontrollably and everything started spinning around me.

It was the most uncomfortable I can remember ever being since the time I was stuck in a snowstorm on top of Mt. Everest.  Ok, that never happened.  But that would have been uncomfortable.

My body was trapped inside a perpetual spinning bottle, but I knew I had to stay as conscious and alert as possible.  My son was going to be born, for cryin' out loud.  Time to exercise mind over matter, if it was possible.

I kept doing mental checks with myself to make sure I didn't lose track of where I was or what I was doing there.  "I'm in the operating room, getting a c section," I told myself.  I tried to follow the voices of those in the room to know what was happening, step-by-step, but there were times that I must have lost consciousness because there are gaps in my memory that I can't account for.

I remember Spencer being brought into the room and feeling him sitting by my head, where he gave me the play-by-play of what the doctors were doing.  I remember telling the anesthesiologist how horrible I felt and how I was struggling to stay coherent, and then taking comfort in the fact that he didn't seem concerned, which meant my physical state was nothing at which to be alarmed, as uncomfortable as it was.

It felt as though the room was filled with old friends having a party while I was locked on the patio during winter.  The tone was jovial, yet professional, and I remember feeling envious.  I wanted to join in the party.  I wanted to make witty comments and be that memorable patient with a good sense of humor.

But instead, I was a convulsing vegetable from the freezer aisle.

Not great party material.

It wasn't long after I thought I heard that my incisions were being made that I heard a doctor shout about how huge the baby was, and then everyone laughed and cheered.  Dr. Takahashi exclaimed, "He looks just like his daddy!"

And with that, Kyler James Price entered the world.

It was 11:29 p.m. on May 22 -- his due date.  Barely.

"Why isn't he crying?" I asked Spencer through dizziness.  "Why--" 

And then I heard him.  My little boy, taking a breath and crying for the first time.

Relief set over me.

Everything after that was a blur.  Spencer continued to give me the play-by-play, including explaining how he stepped away to cut the umbilical cord -- something I didn't know he could do without passing out, but give him complete props for doing.

Spencer cut the umbilical cord!  I thought it would make him pass out!  Joke's on me.

The baby -- not crying anymore -- was quickly whisked over to my head and placed there for a moment where I could feel the warmth of his skin against my cheek.  Then he was pulled away.

Spencer drew the moment I met baby Kyler for the first time.

Spencer told me that he was going to go with the baby while the doctors took care of me.

Just like that, I gave in to the narcotics and lost consciousness.


I woke up back in my labor room about an hour later, still fighting drowsiness, dizziness, and frigid cold.  Various nurses and doctors came to talk to me or check my vitals, and I had oxygen being fed through my nose through tubes I've seen on TV.  

The pediatrician on duty, Dr. Miller, walked in and stood a few feet from my bed.  Wearing a black electrical guitar skull cap and sporting the facial hair and blunt demeanor of someone who probably rode a Harley Davidson to work, he stared at me until I opened my eyes.

"Ten pounds, eight ounces," he said with wide eyes.

"What??" I exclaimed.  Even my delirium wasn't strong enough to muffle that statement.

"Yeah.  I have no idea how he came out of you, but he's a big guy."

How was that even possible?  My siblings and I had all weighed somewhere around seven or eight pounds at birth, and while my husband was 6'3" and bigger boned, he and his three siblings were not big babies, either.  In fact, we couldn't think of a baby anywhere in our family history who had been born above nine pounds.

My child basically weighed 10% of me, pre-pregnancy.

I asked how he was doing, and was assured that he was doing well, but had inhaled a good amount of amniotic fluid and was being treated with antibiotics for the same infection that had caused me to shiver for the last few hours.  They were treating him in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU), just to be safe.

Apparently after he was born, Kyler with Spencer in tow was whisked away to the NICU, where Spencer gave Kyler a quick father's priesthood blessing (a father's prayer given to a child in need) and stayed by his side as nurses and doctors ran multiple tests and hooked Kyler up to necessary tubes and machines.  Dr. Takahashi even managed to sneak away between takes of filming Grey's Anatomy to give Spencer a hug and assure him everything went well.

Kyler being wheeled from surgery to the NICU.

I, on the other hand, laid in the labor room, drifting in and out of consciousness as various alarms on the machines around me kept going off and nurses continued to top off my IV fluids and meds.

After about three hours, I finally didn't feel like I was spinning out of control anymore.

I also noticed the same annoying alarm going off repeatedly, so I finally asked the nurse, "What is that?"

"That's your oxygen levels," she told me.  "We're not allowed to let you out of here until they're above a certain number."

"Oh, that's me causing that alarm?"  Why didn't she say so?  

I could totally fix that.

The nurse left the room and I instantly started replacing my automatic breathing with deep breaths of the oxygen being fed through my nose.  After a minute or so, the alarm stopped.  Eureka!  I continued the deep breathing, and a half hour later, the nurses were back in my room saying my levels had normalized and they could take me to see my baby.


A few nurses and Spencer gathered around my bed and pushed it out of the room, down the hall, and into the NICU. 

On our way to the NICU to see our baby Kyler.

We maneuvered the large bed passed the sweet itty bitty premature babies to the far corner, where a much larger, but just as helpless, baby was connected to many machines.

Our Kyler.

My first view of Kyler as they wheeled my bed into the NICU.

I'll be honest, it was so sad to see him hooked up to so many tubes, with IVs puncturing the veins in his tiny hands.  But I knew it was also a blessing to have access to modern medicine, and we would not object to any treatment the medical professionals felt he needed.

Even though he was a c section baby, he was still really swollen from his journey into air.

It's interesting.  The new parent book I've been reading talks all about how you want to do skin-to-skin contact and try to nurse immediately, but they don't really say what to do when your new baby ends up in the NICU.  

With me laying in the big hospital bed after being chopped open and Kyler hooked up to multiple machines, I didn't see much chance of me holding him.  A NICU nurse confirmed that it probably wasn't the best idea at the moment.  So I just stared at the swollen little guy, lying there.

Me 'n' my big baby.

He was laying curled up on his stomach with blankets and bumpers acting as padding all around him -- all big no-nos when putting an infant to sleep at home, but apparently fine when being constantly monitored by a medical team.

Spencer explained to me what the readings on all the machines were.  Three main readings monitored heart rate, oxygen levels, and respiratory rate.  It was apparently his respiratory rate that was the furthest off the charts as he was trying to learn how to breathe with his lungs, showing a consistent 130 breaths per minute instead of a normal 30.  He would need to start breathing normally before he would be released from the NICU.

I reached out my hand and put it on his back.  "It's ok, sweet boy.  Mommy's here.  You're a very sweet boy."  I spoke softly to him as I lightly stroke his back.

Spencer noticed something.  "Sweetie, his breathing is slowing down to normal," he said, amazed.

I looked at the numbers on the machine, and sure enough, Kyler's breathing was slowing down to normal levels as I spoke to him.

A NICU nurse also noticed from further away.  She quickly approached us and watched the numbers for a moment.  "Wow, they really are slowing down," she said, surprised.  "Let's have you hold him, after all."

Quickly, the nurses lifted Kyler and all his tubes from his bed and placed him on my chest.  Sure enough, from the moment he was in my arms, his breathing leveled out at normal levels -- significantly better than before -- and stayed that way for the full 45 minutes I held him.  Even the nurses and doctors were impressed.  

"He knows his mommy," they said.

During my first time holding our big-little guy, his breathing leveled out for the first time in the hours since he was born.

I was amazed to see it myself.  I guess he had been listening to my breathing and heartbeat for months.  It made sense that it could bring a sense of comfort to him now.

It was nothing short of remarkable.


It's weird to give birth and then be sent to postpartum for a few nights without your baby.

It makes everything seem like a dream -- like maybe that whole pregnancy thing didn't really happen.

But then I looked down at my belly that was still huge and my legs and feet that rivaled those of an elephant's, and it solidified that yes, I had actually been pregnant.

My water retention was pretty bad while pregnant, but now it was insane.  I regretted leaving my compression running socks at home while I was at the hospital (I thought I'd be staying for one night instead of three), because if you would have pricked my lower extremities with a pin, water would have sprayed out like a broken pipe.

Water retention in my feet - one day after delivery (top) and one week later (bottom)

When I finally did get home, those compression socks were a life-saver.

Compression socks' effect on my leg.

But while I was in the hospital accumulating another solid $400 copay per day to my credit card, Spencer and I spent our time resting and visiting Kyler in NICU, when I wasn't being poked and prodded by nurses and doctors monitoring my recovery.  But instead of waking up and nursing our new baby every few hours at night, we just kinda slept and didn't feel much like new parents at all.

Lots of tubes, but in good care.

I will say, though, that we were pleasantly surprised by the high quality of the Kaiser Irvine staff -- our nurses, doctors, techs, etc., were generally awesome and made us feel well taken care of.  After a two-year nightmare of Kaiser doctors failing to correctly diagnose significant chronic back pain I was dealing with, my opinion of the Kaiser system was quite low before pregnancy.  But this experience was redemptive.

It hurt like crazy to move, cough, or laugh (the "no laughing" thing was the worst), or even think about moving, coughing, or laughing.  That being said, I wasn't about to complain.  Had I tried to give birth to Kyler 100 years ago, we both likely would have died because there would have been no way to push him out naturally.  So while the pain of the c section was prevalent, it's a lot less painful than death.

And our Academy Award-winning Ob-gyn apparently did an amazing job with my incision. Every doctor or nurse who came to check it said it was one of the best they've seen -- like it was a piece of art.  It didn't feel like a piece of art to me, but I'll happily be a canvas to a great incision any day I'm rushed to emergency surgery.

My awesome mom drove down from Utah and spent the days with us in the hospital, which helped pass the time.

Kyler makes grandchild #3 for Grandma Tracy.

And she's staying with us for a month, which helps our sanity and raises the chance of our baby's survival.

Eventually, just in time for the last night, Kyler was discharged from the NICU and we got to spend a night with our sweet little-big guy in our room before being discharged the next day.

Finally released from the NICU after 48 hours.

By Saturday afternoon, we packed up our things, loaded our cutie into his new car seat with straps that were probably far too tight, and drove home.

"Mom, I can't breathe."

Operation Baby Birth: complete.


Since he came into our lives, we have absolutely loved our Kyler (which is why it's taken me so long to write his birth story, because I want to spend all my time with him).

Everything he does is beyond adorable to us.  My mom says he is a "good baby," because he rarely cries and he sleeps pretty well, but we don't really know the difference since we've never had a kid before.  He was basically born a month old, so if he's "good," that's probably why.

Everyone says he looks just like his dad, though we're waiting to see exactly what hair and eye color he ends up having.  I think maybe he has my nose?

Who the heck knows at this point?  

Spencer (left) as a baby compared to Kyler (right) - What do you think?

Being home with him instead of away at work or something has been amazing, though we won't be able to financially afford that for long, so I'm enjoying every moment while I can.

As for his size, here is how he measured at his first pediatric appointment a few days after he was born:

At the >99th percentile for height, he is literally one of the tallest newborns in America.  Didn't see that coming.

That definitely isn't something he inherited from his mom.

We named him Kyler because we wanted a name that was unique without being weird, and he gets his middle name, James, from my brother who is basically me in male form.

Our 3-year-old whippet, Jpeg, has decided that Kyler is one of his own pups, and he constantly follows him around, sits as close to him as possible, and shows concern when he cries.  

In summary, I am so grateful for the gift we've been given, and I feel so blessed to be Kyler's mama.  

His story is just beginning.

And rather than bore you with more words from me, here are a bunch of pictures, courtesy of doting new parents:

We love him.


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