Before going into labor I had this fantasy of having a perfect birth. It was going to be unmedicated, move along at a wonderful pace, and end with that euphoric feeling of having finished a marathon with the prize being my baby girl.
My mom had 3 unmedicated births, one with a breach baby, and in my head I thought, “If she can do it, I can do it.” When it comes to pain, my mom is not made of tough stuff, so I thought birth must be easy peasy (I mean, I wasn’t that naïve, but I wasn’t living in the reality realm either…) Labor and delivery, here I come!
I’m almost laughing as I type this, because first of all, labor is no joke. And second, nothing happens like we plan it to.
The Beginning of Labor Pains
6:30pm, Thursday – My first contraction started in the evening, and I thought “Yesssss! Finally! Let’s do this thing!”
To be clear, I was not excited to be in labor and to deliver a baby. But I was excited to be done with pregnancy, which had become an excruciating experience toward the end (read about my pregnancy experience here). I’m convinced God made the last month a horrible experience for women so that when the labor pains arrive, we are in fact, happy about it.
At first my contractions were about 30 minutes apart, so I hung out on the bed, told my husband to order a pizza, and settled in for what I figured would be a long night of waiting until we could go to the hospital. Our pizza arrived and I carb loaded like a fiend. I actually highly recommend eating a big meal when those contractions start, because you’ll need the energy.
10:00pm – my contractions had progressed to 8-12 minutes apart, and I got in the bathtub to soak and relax. At the time I didn’t realize I was having back labor that extended all the way around my front, so my contractions were far more painful than if they had been normal cramps in my lower belly. After soaking for an hour, I got into bed to try to sleep, but by 1:00am I was in so much pain on all fours on our bedroom floor (contractions 4 minutes apart) and my husband was freaked out that he would be delivering a baby, so he insisted we head to the hospital.
2:00am – we checked into triage, and they confirmed I was indeed in labor, but only 3cm dilated. What the what?!? That was a lot of pain for 3cm…and technically it was only 1cm because I was 2cm dilated before going into labor….
I spent the next 7 hours in our L&D room trying to sleep, in and out of the bathtub, and bouncing on an exercise ball to dilate more.
Stalled Labor & Pitocin
9:00am – my doctor came in to check me and said I hadn’t progressed at all, in fact it looked like my labor was stalling and I would probably need to start Pitocin soon. I begged for a little more time because this was not a part of my fantasy birth story.
12:00pm – between 9 and noon my doctor checked me to see my progress, but then she finally called it and said I needed to get started on Pitocin to move things along. A nurse came in and hooked me up and after he left, I burst into tears.
At this point my husband figured he was in hell. Neither of us had slept all night, his wife was crying and in labor, and there was literally nothing he could do to change the circumstances. (My husband is amazing, and he kept me encouraged throughout the whole process, told me I was doing awesome, rubbed my back, and somehow got me through the longest day of our life so far.)
He kept reassuring me that just because I needed Pitocin to get my body to do what it should be doing on its own didn’t mean I wasn’t an amazing woman.
I felt like my body was failing me – and I think many women I know feel this way if our bodies don’t respond to labor well, or we face infertility, or we struggle with miscarriages and carrying a baby. We think our bodies should do this on their own. But we need to realize that there is no should in this life, and we are each so uniquely created that sometimes, modern medicine and science can do for us what our bodies fail to do on their own. And that’s ok.
(I will admit, it took me months to work through my disappointment – but I did work through it, and now can look back on my labor story with fondness, because it’s the day I met my daughter. Even if it wasn’t perfect.)
1:00pm – my doctor came in to break my water and progress labor even quicker. I thought it would hurt but of all the things that happened, that was by far the easiest and most painless. She inserted a long white stick-thing, punctured the sac, and out poured amniotic fluid for the next several hours. Except for the discomfort of all the fluid, I didn’t mind them breaking my water.
Get Me That Epidural!
3:30pm – At this point I was crying from the pain and my doctor came in and checked me. I was only at 4cm. And she called it a tight 4. At that moment I gave up my perfect birth scenario and called for the epidural. I was in so much pain that I didn’t even notice the needle going into my back. Relief from my back contractions came within the next 10 minutes and I felt amazing. I went from hell to heaven in the span of 20 minutes. A nurse helped me to my side and I fell asleep. What bliss.
6:45pm – my doctor came in to check on me and announced I was at 10 and ready to push. I couldn’t believe it, how had I gone from 4 to 10 in the span of 3 hours, when I had barely gotten 1cm in 21 hours. Maybe I should have gotten the epidural sooner…
7:00pm – I started pushing. I pushed until 8:50 when I suddenly spiked a fever and started losing energy. In a few short minutes I suddenly had a room full of NICU nurses, and my doctor began to look tense. She looked up at me and said she needed to perform an episiotomy, because my baby was stuck.
I remember being disappointed again, but wanting the whole thing to be over. I gave my consent and she cut me. A few more pushes and my baby girl was born (with the help of a vacuum) at 9:24pm. I was done.
They put Skylar on my chest for a few glorious minutes before the NICU nurses took over. They checked her out to ensure she didn’t have any residual side effects from my 102 fever (which immediately went away after our baby came out).
My doctor stitched me up (yay for pain meds and not feeling a thing!), and nurses pushed on my belly to deliver the placenta. I didn’t feel or care much about that part after my experience giving birth. And finally, we were wheeled to our hospital room with our brand-new baby girl.
We did end up with a NICU stay for a few days because our daughter had an elevated white blood cell count, a fun side effect from my fever. But when it was all over, nothing prepared me for the fierce, unconditional love that filled my entire being for this little bundle I held in my arms. Baby’s truly are perfect.