If labor and delivery are TMI, then skip this post!
When you last heard from me I was at week 38 and showing some small signs my body was prepping for labor: 50-70% effaced and getting some mild Braxton Hicks contractions 3 AM some mornings. I knew something was up, but that it could be days or weeks. At 39 weeks, however, baby was full term, I was over my cold, and I was ready not to be pregnant anymore.
One of my last preggo selfies – I can’t believe he was in there just a couple weeks ago!
That Thursday at work, I started noticing more and more Braxton Hicks contractions. No pain, but lots of tightening. They were increasing in frequency and it was getting hard to concentrate on work. I emailed my boss around 3 PM and let her know I was getting contractions and was going to go home to be on the safe side. On Friday I was off work and David and I went into my 39 week appointment where we found out I was ~1 cm dilated and 80% effaced. Things were moving along! We headed home and decided to swing by Whole Foods for a nice salad/hot bar lunch al fresco. We had a feeling it might be our last meal out as two in awhile.
My contractions had started to feel more like period cramps throughout the day and were getting a bit stronger after lunch. We hung out at home and watched some TV just to get my mind off it. Around 3 PM, I started bleeding that was a bit heavier than spotting. I had expected some spotting from my pelvic exam that morning, but this seemed more than usual and my contractions were starting to feel painful, like early labor contractions. So I called the doctor and they had me come in to labor and delivery at the hospital to check things out. The contractions continued and the pain was getting fairly strong – they were around 3 minutes apart and 45 seconds long. When we got there a really nice nurse helped us out, but I could tell she must have been pretty new. She did a pelvic exam and told me I was 5 cm. Damn! We were officially “admitted” to the hospital at 5 or 6 PM. I was thinking – this birth thing isn’t so hard after all, why do so many women complain?! I thought I was going to take this birth pretty easily. So David and I hung out at the hospital and talked and even played cards to take my mind off the pain.
Finally, the doctor came in and checked me. Nope – I was only 1 cm dilated, not 5. You can imagine how frustrated it was to get that news! We still had a ways to go. I was upset at first, but I told myself I’d remain positive. I discussed with the doctor, and I decided I’d go home and continue labor there in the comfort of our house. It could be a long time and I was also really hungry! I hadn’t eaten dinner and wanted some food before the potentially long night/day ahead, so around 9 or 10 PM we headed home. The contractions were definitely getting more difficult. I ate some leftover pasta at home and started the bent-over breathing type poses (either draped over a chair/couch with David massaging my lower back, or hanging off David’s shoulders) that we had worked on in birthing class. I also tried to sleep, but since the contractions were only a few minutes apart and so strong, I would fall asleep between them, then wake up with the increasing pain. It was not working at all so we got up and did some more poses for awhile, then at 11 PM David suggested we walk around the neighborhood, so we ventured into the humidity. We were timing my contractions, and they were still around 3 minutes apart. I knew I could get through one, but it was extremely difficult knowing the next was around the corner (I tried not to focus on that). We walked and every few minutes I was hanging off David’s shoulders breathing through the contractions. We returned home, did more breathing/partner poses and the contractions continued to come, now closer to 2:30 minutes apart. I was a little perturbed that the frequency was so high, but that was out of my control. My goal was to try to stay at home most of the night so labor would be fairly progressed by the time we got to the hospital. We did another neighborhood walk at 2 AM, and I’m sure if anyone had seen us they would have wondered what the heck was going on! We read on the internet that it’s about time to go to the hospital when you couldn’t talk through the contractions anymore. The next few hours were like a blur, and by 5 AM I was getting into a moaning state. I can’t even describe the pain. I was getting scared of the car ride to go to the hospital, so I knew it was about time we should get going.
Once at the hospital I was measured by a nurse: 2 centimeters. I wasn’t completely disappointed but at the same time after nearly 12 hours of pain to get an additional centimeter was frustrating. Once at the hospital I was hooked up to external fetal monitoring, an IV (since I’d been in labor all night). It was harder to move around so I stayed in bed mainly. The doctor came in to see me sometime that morning and suggested that she break my water. This wasn’t something I’d thought through and I was concerned it might put me on a time clock for a c-section. My goals for the birth were of course healthy baby as priority, but I was also really hoping for a vaginal birth, minimal medications/analgesics and no episiotomies – if at all possible. David and I talked it over for a bit. I knew if they broke the water my pain would go up drastically due to the increase in pressure and an epidural was likely. Ultimately I decided to have her break the water as this would probably progress things best and I trusted the doctor. It was around 7 or 8 AM when she broke my water – I hardly felt the procedure, just the flow of liquid after. They noted I had some merconium in my water (baby poo) and mentioned they may have to suction baby immediately after he comes out to make sure he could breath.
What happened next were the most intense pains I had felt. Sidenote: I had always thought that I deal well with pain, endurance and am a pretty focused person. I thought this would translate to childbirth. I could take the pain just like I could take an ironman, and just keep going. People – this is NOT the case. Labor pain in no way translates to athletic endurance! Labor pain was worse than any pain I had ever experienced. I remember rolling to my side and grabbing the bed arm and just moaning; I was starting to cry and was at the verge of “I can’t do this anymore”. I knew it was only getting worse and I would have to wait 30+ more minutes from the time I asked for the epidural, so I decided to request it. I had gone back and forth a lot in my mind whether it was worth it. I had hoped I could withstand the pain, but I knew going with that pain for hours would leave me exhausted and not able to enjoy the post-partum time with my baby. So I ended up asking for it so I could make the experience enjoyable and the recovery better. The anesthesiologist was just great and asked me about work and cycling while he administered the epidural. David bragged about me being an ironwoman in attempts to make me feel better. The epidural itself was nothing at all, just a quick sharp pain then some pressure in the back. It actually took quite quickly, and after 5-15 minutes I just felt pressure where I had felt contraction pains before. David was watching the external monitoring and could see some crazy intense contractions just after, so I felt I got it just in time and was really happy with the decision.
The relief from the epidural was amazing and I even went to sleep for a short nap at some point. I was pretty exhausted. Somehow a couple hours passed while I was in my blissful state and when they checked me again I was 8 or 9 cm and not much longer until I needed to start pushing. The baby’s head was right there! Everything had progressed as planned; even faster than expected. The nurse that had been with us (can’t say enough nice things about her!) got me set up to where she and David each had a leg (happy baby pose, sort of) and I would wait for a contraction at which I would push three times. They told me in the hospital, and it’s true, but the pushing is more like pushing for a bowel movement than anything. I had to close my eyes and concentrate deep inside and imagine my baby coming out with each push. After several tries I finally got the hang of it.
After a few times the baby’s head was far enough that the doctor came in and was getting ready as well as a huge team of people, maybe 5-7 of them. The doc told me I was proving her point that her athletic patients had to push less and had easier labors, which made me feel encouraged. At this point baby was crowning and everyone was getting excited. The doc told me he had dirty blond hair like his momma so I knew I was really close. The doctor asked if we had a name and we told her we had two in mind: Bryson Andrew or Nathan Gregory. We were waiting to see him before we decided. So she said “if he comes out on this push, it’s Bryson” – and he decided not to come out on that push. But he came out on a push soon after, so we knew he had to be Nathan!
When I did do that last push the doc said “look up!” and I could not believe what I saw. It was the most surreal, beautiful moment to see my baby enter the world. He immediately was crying, which meant he did not need to be suctioned so right away they placed him on my chest and like I said in the last post, it had to be the sweetest, best moment of my life. Once on my chest he calmed and I felt so much love and happiness; he needed me.
We were able to spend skin to skin time with him for an hour or so and to start breastfeeding immediately. I was extremely lucky that he was a good little latcher and had no problems starting breastfeeding (though the rest of the first week was not so easy…). He was weighed and measured and we were surprised to find he was 7lb4oz and 19.25” as we had been told based on the ultrasounds he was measuring closer to 6.5lbs. My in-laws then got to meet him and were of course overjoyed to be grandparents. We spent two nights in the hospital and had a great experience, apart from less sleep than we’d like of course! Every couple hours someone was in to take your vitals, check the baby, get your meal order, etc. But it was great to have nurses there to teach us and answer all our new parent questions.
By day 3 I was ready to go home, but at the same time didn’t want to leave. I just want time to stand still with this precious little guy! I cried a little on the way home. I had no idea he would change my life so much.
Everyone told us how hard having a newborn would be, and yes it is hard, but it is also so much fun and just the best experience!