Welcome Baby James: A Birth Story


Welcome Baby James!

I am so, so excited to introduce you to my son James, update you on the end of the pregnancy, share some photos, and tell you his birth story.

Baby James was a tough one. My doctors tried inducing me for 60 straight hours which ultimately ended up failing, so baby James was born into the world via C-Section about a week ago. Of course, it was all worth it, but the labor was rougher than I expected and hoped.

An unsuccessful 60 Hour Induction

Last time I updated you was at 35 weeks, where I told you I’d likely be induced because of cholestasis. My bile acid levels and liver levels kept going up, so they ended up sending me to the hospital a little past 37 weeks to be induced. Upon arrival, I was not dilated at all, so we started with a 12-hour dose of Cervadil to soften the cervix and hopefully open me up a little bit. It did soften my cervix, but it didn’t dilate me at all. They then put me on Pitocin and the contractions began, but even after 8 hours of Pitocin, I was only dilated a ½ centimeter. Next we added the foley balloon with the Pitocin, which over the next day opened me up to 4-5 centimeters. 

The contractions at that point with the balloon + Pitocin were agonizing, so I decided it was time for the epidural in the early morning of the 3rd day. I had reviewed my spinal history with the anesthesiologist previously, but the anesthesiologist came in, prepped his kit, washed my back, and then…said he couldn’t do it.

It was 1am at the time and he said I needed to call my spine doctor from two years ago and get her to give him her blessing. The trouble is that ordinarily the epidural is given at L4/L5 or L5/S1, which is exactly where I had my spine surgery. It can be given at L3/L4, but I was told that they couldn’t go any higher without risking spinal cord damage, and that if I tried at L3/L4, there might be issues because of scar tissue.

In the state I was in, this was devastating. The contractions from the Pitocin and foley were unbearable. We called the spine practice and got the doctor on call (someone I don’t know), who said that it would probably be fine since I didn’t have any rods or anything put in. So the anesthesiologist washed my back again to give me the epidural, and the spine doctor called back and said he changed his mind and did not advise an epidural since he didn’t operate on me and didn’t know enough about my history. So that was that. The anesthesiologist said he couldn’t do it and he left. GAH. I don’t blame him at all for not being comfortable giving me an epidural, as I don’t want anyone not confident in what they’re doing to stick needles in my back, but no one had ever said at any point that I couldn’t have an epidural.

To help move things along and hopefully get me closer to delivery, my doctor broke my water manually. To manage the pain temporarily, they gave me demerol which lasted about an hour, and when they gave me the next dose, I started vomiting, so we stopped.

By late morning on the 3rd day, I was a total crazy person screaming that I couldn’t take the pain anymore, that I needed an epidural, that my spine doctor told me previously that I could live my life like a normal person, and I felt like I was going to die. It had been 3 days with no food and no water, and extended days of painful contractions. And I was actually starting to close up, going from 4-5 cm to 3.

The hospital shift changed over and a new anesthesiologist came to see me and told me he would do the epidural for me, but he wanted me to understand the risks. Potential spinal tap, only a partial epidural taking because of scar tissues, or worst case scenario, that my breathing would be temporarily paralyzed. But, he said he had given epidurals to people with rods and much more significant spine surgeries than I had, and didn’t have any issues.

He gave me the epidural and it went beautifully. I’m so grateful he had the confidence to give me relief in a time when I was desperate for it, and for what it’s worth, my spine doctor got in touch with me later that day and said there were no problems with giving me an epidural.

With the epidural, I was finally able to relax a little bit, but even with increasing Pitocin and broken water, my cervix never came back from 3 centimeters. By that point it had been 3 full days in the hospital, with my energy running on nothing but an IV, so maybe my body was crapped out. The doctors had run out of ideas. At the 60 hour point, I was told I didn’t have any more options left except for C-Section. I was so disappointed.


James at the hospital after he was born.

The C-Section

I honestly had not read much about c-sections before having one, mainly because I was really hoping it wouldn’t happen. I didn’t want my front sliced open again after my appendectomy/tumor removal/colon resection from a year and a half ago. It’s something I always knew might happen, but not something I necessarily expected.

I don’t know how people generally feel about the whole C-Section experience, but I found it to be extremely traumatic. Being awake and able to feel what was happening was scarring beyond belief. Sure, you can’t necessarily feel pain since you’re so pumped up with drugs, but I could feel the pressure of them cutting me open, and also pulling the baby out of me. I was so anxious I couldn’t stop trembling the whole time and threw up during the operation.

The moment I remember most from the C-Section was when I felt them tugging a huge mass out of my belly, then saying Happy Birthday to my son, and soon after giving my husband the baby to hold. I looked at my baby and started crying from a mix of emotions. I was relieved, happy, and excited to see him, but I was also aware of what was happening in my body and freaking out about it, that it was time to sew me up, and I didn’t feel I was in a state to feel really happy about my son’s birth. Per my husband, at that point the anesthesiologist started pumping me up with lots of drugs for the remaining part of the procedure and I don’t even remember my husband and baby leaving the room. The next thing I remembered was the feeling in my body as the doctors rolled me off the operating table and put me back on a transportable bed, and being wheeled to the recovery room next door.

As the drugs began to wear off in the recovery room, I was able to settle in better to being excited about baby James. Oh my gosh, love at first sight. And even still when I look at him, I can’t stop staring. He’s so precious.


The C-Section recovery has been going really well, as far as I can tell. It has felt very familiar to me because the tumor surgery was a very similar sensation, and there was a comfort in knowing that I could definitely handle the recovery, as painful as it was and still is.

I won’t go too far into the details, but I ended up leaving the hospital less than 48 hours after delivery, which is less time than a typical vaginal delivery stay, while a C-Section stay is supposed to be 96 hours. It was absolutely the right decision for me, my husband, and the baby, and I felt I could make that decision confidently with my past surgery experiences. There were many reasons I left, but overall the hospital conditions were unsuitable for recovery. The worst of it being that having to share rooms with other patients is standard protocol in NYC (unless you pay for a private room, which starts at $630/night, not covered by any insurance), and my roommate invited the whole town to our tiny room. There were between 12-15 people in our room at any given time! I’m so happy I went home.


James grabbing daddy’s finger!

Baby James!!!


Happy baby squeals with daddy!


James getting a sponge bath! He didn’t seem tremendously happy about it, but he didn’t cry either. Seems like a win!

All the birth drama aside, life with James is incredible. Pete and I love him so much, and even though it has been a long and hard week so far, it has been awesome. I always knew Pete would be an incredible dad, but actually witnessing it makes my heart so full.  I love people and family and it’s the most amazing thing to now be a bunch of three. I look at James and at my husband sometimes and tear up because I love them so much. Over the past several months I’ve been thinking a lot about what is truly important in life, and sometimes I feel like I can get caught up in the most unimportant things, and deep down I always know that what I really value in life is relationships, love, family, and experiences. I know we are going to have such a beautiful life together and I feel so lucky to be on this adventure.

My favorite thing about baby James right now are his noises and his facial expressions. Every time I look at him or listen to his baby noises…oh do they get me! So adorable. Seeing him smile (even if it’s not “real” yet) is also the best thing ever. We are loving and cherishing this stage of his life but also can’t wait to see how his personality develops as he grows.

My husband and I have also been very, very close for the 10 years we’ve been together, and it has been the most beautiful thing to experience our love in a new way. Having a child with the love of your life, your best friend…I can’t find the words to describe how beautiful it is.


I will share more updates with you later, but for now, Pete and I are still trying to get on our feet and care for James as much as we can. Gosh, babies are so time consuming! We feel like we have very little time each day to do much beyond take care of James and take care of ourselves (at a very minimal level), it’s actually really scary! Sometimes I get a little anxious, but then I remember that this is totally normal for a new parent.

Time to get back to James and Pete, but I just wanted to update you guys and let you know James is here and we’re doing well!


And I know, I know. We need to take a family photo together 🙂 Soon!


Joanne, Pete, and James