While pregnant, I watched A LOT of A Baby Story and Birth Day, and read many birth stories on TheBump.com. I guess I just wanted to know what I was getting myself into. A few of them scared me (I unfortunately Googled what a 3rd degree tear was after hearing it mentioned on A Baby Story), some of them made me cry, and most of them amazed me (women are capable of astounding things and babies are so darn cute!).
I never thought I’d write my own birth story for the world to see, but then this blog came around, and it just seems like the right thing to do. It’s long, but I couldn’t leave anything out!
My due date was March 15 or March 21, depending on who you asked. March 15th came and went with no apparent movement by my little guy and no real dilation. As my doctor said, “You aren’t having this baby anytime soon unless your water breaks.”
I started taking even longer walks, I ate the spiciest food I could handle and I went to the chiropractor, all in hopes of starting contractions. It was my plan to labor at home as long as possible so I could be comfortable and relaxed. And as a freelancer, I’d have to tie up some loose ends before heading to the hospital.
Nic didn’t listen to my plans. On Thursday, March 18, I got home from a meeting at about 8 pm. I was feeling a bit off, so I asked my husband to make us something to eat and went to my room to put my jammies on. That’s when I felt some wetness. I went to the bathroom and GUSH. Had I just wet myself or did my water break? After some panicked debate between me and my husband Shaun, we decided that yes, my water had broken. He called the hospital and I jumped on my laptop to take care of some lingering work issues. I had tested positive for Group B Strep, so I knew that my water breaking meant that I couldn’t labor at home. I had to get to the hospital and started on antibiotics.
I worked for 20 minutes while scarfing down a last meal of undercooked frozen pizza. Shaun loaded the car with my bag, birthing ball and about a dozen other things I thought were essential, but turned out not to be. What I remember most is that before we left, we hugged in the kitchen and I cried. It was the last time it would be “just us.” I was excited to meet our baby, but needed a minute to mourn the ending of an era.
The hospital was whisper quiet when we checked in. After about 20 minutes, we got confirmation that my water had broken and we started to walk the halls. I wasn’t contracting yet, so we made dozens of laps in a tiny circuit on the maternity floor. At about 1 am, we decided to take a nap in hopes that the contractions would come on their own. If I wasn’t contracting regularly by 4 am, the nurses were instructed to start pitocin.
Going into the birth, we had done a lot of preparation. I practiced yoga throughout my pregnancy and got regular exercise, and my very squeamish husband read The Birth Partner cover to cover—all in anticipation of the marathon of childbirth. I didn’t write a birth plan, but instead a short list of objectives, including go as long as possible without pain medication, avoid pitocin if possible, and try for skin-to-skin contact directly after the birth. However, I was prepared for the fact that anything could happen.
At 4:30 am they started the pitocin and within a half hour, I was contracting regularly. They weren’t too frequent and the pain was bearable. I felt strong and ready for the challenge ahead. For the next 6 hours or so the contractions got stronger and we worked our plan. I sat on the birthing ball, breathing and concentrating through contractions. Our families even filtered in and out of the room. I was reasonably comfortable and felt in control, even as they kept increasing my pitocin. I was empowered. This is what we’d been waiting for.
Patiently waiting for the arrival of our little boy. That tiny outfit was my focal point for labor.
At noon, my contractions started to really intensify. We tried new positions (straddling a chair was a personal favorite) and Shaun applied pressure to my back during contractions. The pain was manageable, but just barely.
Since my water was broken, they didn’t want to check my cervix frequently for fear of introducing bacteria. After the contractions started to get really intense, I had my first cervix check. This was 16 hours after my water had broken. The check was painful and I was only 3 cm dilated. I didn’t want to be, but I was disappointed and the pain was increasing rapidly. I thought I may be able to make it without an epidural if I was getting close, but knew at that point that I wouldn’t make it for several more hours.
I decided to get in the shower, having heard the tale of water being “the wet epidural.” Well, that wasn’t the case for me. I literally hit the wall while in the shower. I remember leaning with my face against the tile and telling Shaun I was ready for the epidural.
My one regret of labor was waiting until I was at my breaking point to request the epidural. Because the anesthesiologist was with another patient, I had to wait about 30 minutes before it was my turn. While waiting, I had a dose of phentenol to take the edge off. It helped immediately, but I needed more.
After what seemed like forever, my epidural was in place. Getting it felt like a bad bee sting and it only hurt for a few seconds. Once the medicine was flowing, I was in heaven. I requested a light epidural, so I could still feel the contractions, but they didn’t hurt. Thank the Lord. This was at about 2 pm.
I contracted steadily and comfortably until the late evening when my epidural wore off. I’m pretty sure this was during transition for me—what is supposed to be the most intense part of labor. It’s a little fuzzy, but I just remember it HURT. So much so that I didn’t want my parents to come into the room. I remember Shaun stalking the anesthesiologist in a panic until he came back to top me off.
Once my epidural was dosed up, I was happy again. My cervix had been dilating well and at last check, around 7 pm, I was at 9 cm. I was almost there! But I stayed there. At 9 pm, I was still at 9 cm. At that point, they warned me that if things didn’t change soon, I would likely need a C-section. This caught me totally off guard. The thought of a C-section hadn’t even crossed my mind. My reaction surprised me though. I was totally ok with it. No crying, no disappointment. More than anything, I felt excitement and relief. I would meet my little boy soon! They waited a half hour more and checked me again. I was still 9 cm and that last bit of cervix was starting to swell. I was actually going backwards.
My doctor came in tell us that a C-section was necessary and we all started preparing for surgery. Shaun looked so cute in his scrubs! Both of us were too excited to be nervous. I didn’t even consider the fact that I was having major surgery. I was going to have a baby soon!
Maybe he should have been a doctor?
I remember laying in the operating room as everyone got ready for the delivery. My arms were spread out in a T and my shoulders and neck ached from 26 hours of labor. I was SO uncomfortable, but it was worth it. In just a few minutes, I felt them pull him out of me, I heard him cry and then I saw him. My doctor thrust him up over the curtain and I saw his amazing round face and dark hair. He was making what we came to refer to as “hungry face.” Shaun and I both scrunched up our faces with tears of joy. Our little boy continued to scream and everyone oohhed and ahhhhed over how perfect he was. Shaun cut the cord, and in minutes he was holding him next to me. What I remember most were his dark pink lips. Especially his bottom lip, which was shaped like the top of a heart, but upside-down. I’ll remember my first look at him, and that sweet little bottom lip forever. At least, I hope I will.
In this first few moments as a little family, we decided on his name (there were a few in the running), and we took our first family picture. Then we just soaked in our baby.
Our first family photo
I didn’t get my instant skin-to-skin (or pretty much any of my other “birth objectives”), but Shaun went with him to the nursery where he gave Nic his first bath and watched while they attended to all of the necessary tests. The doctors sewed me up and I was wheeled to the recovery room. I felt like it took forever for Shaun and Nic to meet me there, but when Shaun pushed that clear plastic bassinette into the room, I knew my wait was over. I would get to hold my little guy for the first time. I don’t actually remember what it felt like to take him in my arms, but I remember his tiny face nestled at my breast for his first feeding. He was hungry from the long labor and ate for 45 minutes. I relished every minute of it.
I could go on and on about the hours and days that followed, but it suffices to say that Shaun, Nic and I became a family in our tiny hospital room. My labor didn’t go at all as I planned, but I am proud of the strength and confidence I felt throughout the beginning of the process, the calmness with which I faced the C-section, and most of all, the family we have become since.