Note: this post contains some frank details of the birthing process. Not insanely graphic, but there’s no way of getting around how we all end up in this world. So, if that kind of stuff bothers you, might want to skip this post!
Nothing like the adventure of giving birth! We are now in the midst of feedings, naps, pumping, and adjusting to life as parents of a newborn. I have learned so much over these days, more than I ever could have dreamed. The love I feel for our little girl is overwhelming. As part of her story, I wanted to record her birth experience.
I’d been having false labor for over a week. One word: maddening. In fact, we spent all afternoon at the hospital on May 27th because the contractions were regular and speeding up. This being my first kid, I had no idea what intensity to pay attention to. As it turns out, um, they have to be really, really intense! So we knew we were close, but close at this stage of pregnancy means either a couple hours or a couple weeks. I was starting to think, though, that I would be pregnant forever.
On June 3rd, I had my 40-week appointment and was 2 cm dilated. My doctor told me to plan to come to the hospital on the following Monday to be induced if nothing happened before then, but he seemed fairly confident that I’d go into labor on my own. On Wednesday evening, we went for a walk and then I did some cleaning and slammed out a pile of thank-you cards for baby gifts. Burst of energy? Maybe.
At about 5:30 the next morning, on June 5, I woke up and went to the restroom. Whilst within, I had a largish contraction, felt a weird internal pop, and out gushed my water. I woke up Steve to tell him and we started getting ready. We took our time because I wasn’t having very regular contractions. I ate a big, fortifying breakfast (I thought back to my pre-race brekkies for inspiration), cleaned up the kitchen, tidied the bedroom, and got the guest room ready for my parents. We finally left the house at 7:30, and I’d still only had a couple more contractions. Baby Elwood (bloggy nickname still to come) was still moving around, which surprised me.
One surprise that I did NOT read about in my books: you keep producing amniotic fluid! So in addition to that first gush, I kept randomly leaking/gushing for several more hours until her head descended enough to basically plug the tear. Who knew?? Feels like maybe that could have been mentioned somewhere!
We were admitted to Marion General Hospital and the contractions got more frequent, but still weren’t super strong. When we got up to the birthing center, all the labor and delivery rooms were full and we had to wait in the hallway while they moved out one family and cleaned the room. I got all checked in and attached to the monitors to see where I was at. By about 9:00, I still wasn’t having very strong contractions, and my doctor came in to talk about administering pitocin to get things going. While that was not my first choice (and holy wow, I hope I won’t have to have it for our next kid), we made the choice to go ahead to prevent a long, unprofitable labor that might end in a c-section.
Before the pitocin kicked in (and I was given the lowest possible dose) I was really relaxed. We watched a couple episodes of Outsourced on my Kindle. They brought in a clear-foods meal tray, and as I was devouring my Jello, things started to get real, man. Regular, every 3-5 minutes hard contractions that required focused breathing. I changed my position about every half hour for a while – hands and knees on the floor, sitting on the ball, leaning over the bed with Steve applying counter-pressure on my back, etc. He was amazing throughout the entire experience. He breathed with me, let me crush his hand, massaged my back, coached me through it all. I couldn’t have done it without him. He was there every step of the way.
I stayed on top of the pain for a while, but things started to get fuzzy after several hours like this. The contractions were every two minutes, and hard. Steve kept saying how strong I was, but I was starting to feel defeated. How could I stand this level of pain for much longer? I was committed to a natural, no-epidural birth. But could I do it?
By 3:00, I was ready to talk options. I was so tired, in so much pain. I just couldn’t keep up with it. The nurse suggested a IV medication called Stadol, which wouldn’t dull the pain but would help me relax in between contractions. I knew someone who had used it and hadn’t been a fan, but maybe it would give me what I needed to power through. At this point, I was about 4 cm dilated. I fully expected to be at this for another six+ hours.
They administered the medication, and I was able to relax so much in between contractions that I fell asleep! I even remember going back to the same dream several times…something about an herb garden. I was also more able to manage my breathing, at least for a little while. At this point, apparently things started happening rapidly because I was able to relax so much. Even with the drug, I was highly aware of how much was going on inside me. I was so overstimulated, I basically kept my eyes closed for the last few hours of labor. Couldn’t handle seeing anything…or smelling, unfortunately for Steve and his Jimmy John’s sandwich. (“Remove your sandwich!!”) Steve tried to distract me with HGTV at one point, and that didn’t work out well either. (“Turn it off! Can’t handle stupid!”)
Things became more intense. The pressure was building and I felt like I needed to push. But the monitor wasn’t picking up on the contractions well, because when Steve told the nurse, she said, “Really? Well, OK, I’ll check her.” I was nine centimeters, and she rushed out of the room to have someone call my doctor, who was across town at his office.
The books all call it an “urge to push.” It’s not so much an urge as it is a frenetic, uncontrollable force with a mind of its own bent on destroying you. I couldn’t help myself several times; I screamed with everything I could muster. Which isn’t helpful, wasting energy and breath on making noise. Steve and the nurse were working overtime to keep me calm and reminding me to breathe.
Through my closed eyes, I could tell that a bright light had come on. Steve told me that they were getting ready for delivery, and that I was super close. “I don’t believe you!” I kept saying. Even though I felt this “urge” I didn’t believe that my body could actually expel the baby. And my body agreed with my head, so all in all, it almost took reaching outside of my mind and body to convince myself I could do it in those last moments. I opened my eyes briefly to see my doctor putting on his gear, and that the table was set up behind him with supplies. The room seemed to rapidly fill with people.
Dr Mueller told me to push, and with just three pushes (and possibly, yes, screams) our baby arrived. In those moments, I reached into a strength that I don’t even understand. I’m not sure I even believed it when she was out. I just stared at her in shock as Dr Mueller cleaned her up, cleared her airways, and placed her on me while he clamped the cord. Steve got to cut it. She was here, she was ours, and she was perfect. Born at 5:10pm on June 5, 8 pounds 10 ounces, 20 3/4 inches long after almost 12 hours of labor.
Meanwhile, I was aware that things were still happening. Dr Mueller was saying something about a lot of bleeding. I felt the placenta come out, and then a burst of pain. I yelled out, “No surprises! What are you doing?!” And in very measured tones, he replied, “Honey, you’re losing a lot of blood and I need to stitch you up.” A nurse who was assisting him started giving me a play-by-play, letting me know when he was giving me local anesthetic and when he was stitching. I was shaking uncontrollably – also something I missed hearing about before birth! Apparently it’s caused by hormone changes, is completely normal, and lots of people do it.
Steve and the nurses kept reminding me to breathe and to focus on the baby. I remember staring at her hand – it was so beautiful and her fingers seemed so long. And while I’m maybe possibly biased, she looked so good even from the start! No funky shaped head, her skin was a pretty color, and she was completely, entirely whole and healthy. Steve and I were in love.
Post-delivery, we stayed in the room for a few more hours. We had a long skin-to-skin time and started working on breastfeeding. The room was cold, and she had a relatively low core temperature, so they put her under a heating device and monitored her until it was raised to the right temp so she could have a proper bath. We Skyped with our parents to tell them the name. They were located in Pennsylvania (my parents), Hungary (Steve’s dad), and Turkey (Steve’s mom) and at one point, we had three different devices pointing at her so we could tell them all at the same time.
I got to walk to our recovery room, pushing baby in the bassinet. I was exhausted, but it felt so nice to stretch my legs after essentially being in bed all day. We got all settled in, and Steve left to pick up take out at Applebee’s. Which I went to TOWN on.
And then, we started our journey of being a family.
Quick note on the hospital: Our experience at MGH was great. The nurses were awesome, a lactation consultant came to our room, and even the food was good! We were very thankful that our hospital experience was so positive. The nurses especially were super kind, helpful, and supportive.