* Note prior to reading this: first off, I discuss labor and birth in all its glory. Second disclaimer is that I went through this childbirth naturally. The husband and I chose this route because we researched what was best for myself and the baby. I do not begrudge anyone that chooses to be induced or has an epidural or elective c section. (So many people were confused when I told them I would not be induced unless it was medically necessary as an intervention even if she was a week or two late.) That is everyone's choice and I respect that. (In fact, I was close to requesting an epidural.) I tell you this not to rub it in your face that I have a high pain tolerance (I don't think I have one), but rather because I use unusual terms for standard labor words that I was taught via the Hypnobirthing classes I attended. I included the standard terms in parentheses. Final sidenote: while this is not my best writing (there's a decent amount of steam-of-consciousness), I wanted as many details as possible so that I could remember everything for the future.
Conclusion of disclaimers, commencement of birth story.
Leading up to Sophie's birth, I was becoming a pro at practice surges (Braxton hicks contractions). I had several every day. When she was a few weeks out, the surges started having cramping with them on occasion.
My pregnancy had not been hard; for that I am thankful. I had carpal tunnel, my feet ached every day-progressively more the closer to Friday the days became. I had a pain in my crotch that felt as though someone continually was kicking me there. Sleep was not a huge struggle, but I would somewhat regularly wake up at five without the chance to fall back asleep. Nothing out of the ordinary.
At what ended up being my last doctor's appointment, ten days before she was born, the husband wanted to know how far dilated I was. This was something I was not interested in finding out. I planned on having the midwife tell him in private after my exam, but we failed to mention that. I was one centimeter, but 70% effaced.
I made it through the last week of school before spring break and started to relax. That Friday, the last day before the break, there was a change in my discharge. It made me wonder if she was going to show up sooner rather than later. I had my bloody show. Not too much blood, but lots of pink and brown discharge. I also lost my mucus plug while showering that morning.
LDS General conference came and went. Sunday night, we went to my Aunt's house for a dessert party. My Grandpa was visiting from Minnesota and it was fun to chat with everyone that was there. Many people asked when my due date was and became excited when they found out it was just a few days away.
That night I slept well. The surges were different, but I thought nothing of them. I didn't feel a surge or any pain until I would get up to use the bathroom. Previously, the surges came as they pleased, occasionally waking me up.
On the morning of April 3, I woke up later than normal at around eight. The husband slumbered as I searched for things on my phone and daydreamed about the baby. We both got up just after nine. After I used the bathroom yet again, I noticed that another surge came almost immediately after the previous one had ended. And then a third. We looked at the clock and realized only ten to fifteen minutes had passed. Before that morning, the closest my surges had been were every 6-10 minutes. I told the husband that I would appreciate being chauffeured on my errand that morning. Just in case.
At 9:30, I began to time the surges on the fancy app I had downloaded months previously. Immediately the timer indicated that they were between 2 to 5 minutes apart in length and lasting approximately 40-60 seconds. The husband mentioned that April 3rd might be the day. (He also reminded me that he originally predicted that her birthday would be April 3.) I concurred, but I also knew that many first time moms labor over several days. I debated about whether I should do a shot of heparin. The midwife and doctor we had seen both agreed that if I felt I was going into labor, I should not do a shot that day. The husband encouraged me to do the shot still. We chopped up a pineapple and left on my errand to visit my school. I was planning on meeting the substitute teacher that was taking over my class for my postpartum sick leave. On the ride over and during our brief conversations, I kept the phone contraction app going. When I originally mentally planned how long to spend at the school, I first that I would spend a good thirty minutes going over everything I needed to clarify with her. However, as I met with her and the time progressed, I felt the need to get out of there. I felt the urge even more as I walked over to part of my room and felt a thin liquid start to come out. I was not positive that my membrane had ruptured (water had just broken); I wondered if it was just some random discharge.
(Sidenote: ironically, one of my students had recently asked his mother what it meant for someone's water to break. After her explanation, he asked her what he should do if my water broke during class. I ended up having my water break in class.)
The husband and I rushed to the car as I told him I thought my membrane had ruptured, but I was not sure. On the way home, we stopped at a local grocery store to buy some food I wanted to eat while birthing. Just in case. As the husband went to the different counters to get the food I wanted, I paced down aisles as surge after surge engulfed me.
When we made it home, I noticed a blood clot. I parked myself on my exercise ball and asked the husband to call the doctor's office to see if they thought we should head over to labor and delivery. Surprise. They did.
I felt a surge coming on when I had the brilliant idea to take a bite of the chocolate croissant we had purchased. Bad idea. I had to book it to the toilet to relieve my stomach of everything I had eaten earlier. This had me slightly worried. I had heard stories of women that throw up with each surge and I worried I was going to become one of those women.
I hopped in the shower, thinking of everything I still wanted to do before Sophie arrived. I had not cut my hair, painted my nails, finished the nursery, deep cleaned the kitchen one more time, etc. However, even by this point in time, I was not sure Monday was the day she would arrive. The husband stood in the bathroom as I showered and I told him every time a surge started and concluded. Between surges, we talked about everything that we needed to grab on the way out the door. (I had my bags packed a week or so ago, but there were a few items we had not added to the bags yet.)
Once the shower was over, we grabbed everything we had discussed and went out the door, narrowly remembering to grab the birth plan.
Every time we had driven around throughout the course of the day, the surges were definitely worse then when I had the freedom to move around without being strapped down by a seatbelt. The surges had a greater space between them, but I hated not being able to move.
Upon arrival at the hospital, we left the bags in the car and headed in, past the front desk ("Do you need helping knowing where to go?" "Nope! We know."), and into the elevator to labor and delivery. We ironically passed a new mom as she came out of the elevator as we stepped in.
We arrived on the third floor and the husband picked up the phone that would allow us into the labor and delivery ward. "Yes. My wife is in labor," he proclaimed into the phone immediately before the doors unlocked. The nurse at the desk asked the usual questions (name?, gestational age?, smoker?, drinker?, contraction timing?, doctor?) before taking us into triage. I did not know what I thought triage would look like, but it was a regular room. I changed into the robe and hopped on the bed, taking in my surroundings. The husband claims it took forever for a nurse to show up, but it may have just been 5 minutes. She first attached the baby monitor to my stomach. It was good to see the heartbeat. Next came the contraction monitor. To see the tightening of my uterus detailed in numbers was interesting. Finally the nurse checked me. I was up to 4.5 cm and she said my water had broken. "Congratulations. You are having a baby today." Whoa. What? I was a bit numb when the nurse announced that. Really? The entire morning I had decided that this was a practice run for the real thing in a couple of days. I didn't want to get my hopes up.
The dilation number was slightly disappointing. We had emphasized to every medical person we met so far that we would not check into the hospital unless I was dilated to a number that was satisfying to the two of us. (We had previously verbalized 7 as that magical number.)
The husband started to tell this to the nurse, saying that we might leave and come back later. The nurse said that we could do whatever we wanted, but that because my water had broken, we had less than 24 hours before it would become necessary for the baby to come.
I cut the husband off. Something told me that I wanted to be in this hospital. I did not want to leave. The husband looked slightly perplexed as I had seemed adamant before about staying out of the hospital until I was further along, especially because the plan was to hang out near the hospital until I felt ready. We would not have headed home to remained close by. He said nothing, however, and we were asked to wait a second until they could get a room ready. Before she left, we asked if we could have a corner room as we had heard that the corner rooms were much bigger. The nurse said that was definitely doable as there were two corner rooms open.
A few minutes later, the husband gathered up my clothes and helped me up so I could waddle down the hallway to our corner room. The time was just after 1:00. (We thought we had many hours to go.) The room had lovely windows on the two sides of the room that had an outside wall. I also noticed that it was incredibly warm. We met the nurse who would be helping us and were told the midwife was on the way, but she was about a half hour drive away. The husband said he would run down and grab my bags. I requested that the nurse turn up the AC. Everyone left and I had a seat on the exercise ball they had brought in. While I was alone, I started getting really uncomfortable and I really wanted my man to come back. The discomfort was bad. The husband came back and the nurse was soon to follow, asking about our birth plan. She also wanted to hook me up to monitors for a few minutes. I curled up on my left side on the bed as the nurse attached the two monitors. The husband offered to go over the plan as I closed my eyes and tried to zone out everything.
The nurse was fine with all our requests, but she skipped over the notice that I would be eating if I wanted to. We found that entertaining. As we waited for the midwife to show up, the nurse showed the husband how to press down on my right hip whenever a surge came to help with the pain. He also plugged in some headphones so I could listen to my relaxation track. Eventually everything was just too distracting. I threw off the headphones and shook the husband away from pressing down. The pain was getting too intense.
Thankfully, around the time I told the husband in anguish that I did not know if I could handle it anymore, the midwife stepped in the room. The time was around 1:45. I felt bad because she was dressed nicely and I knew she had the day off. (She gets paid the big bucks though.) She took one look at me and quickly got the timeline of what was happening. She said that I could handle it, but she would talk to the anesthesiologist to see what he thought.
Fifteen minutes later she came back in the room with some good news and bad news. The bad news came first. Even if I decided to cave and get an epidural, he refused to give me one. His policy was to not give an epidural to someone who had taken heparin less than 12 hours earlier. We had previously been told it only had to be a few hours. The good news came after the midwife checked me.
"I know you were just checked, but I want to check you myself. Are you okay with that?" I nodded and rolled onto my back. After just a few seconds, she announced that I had already progressed to an 8. What? 3.5 cm in just about an hour? Maybe I could do this. Both the husband and the midwife commented later that after I was told how far along I was, my countenance changed. I looked less like I had given up and more determined. She then asked if I wanted to try laboring in the tub for a while. Definitely.
She updated the nurse about the dilation and tub. The nurse was shocked that the midwife wanted to put me in the tub even though I was already to an 8. "Don't worry. I'll pull her out if she feels like pushing."
Shortly thereafter, I threw off my gown on the way to the tub. (Amazing how you don't really care about who sees you in what when you trying to get a small child out of your body.) I knelt in the tub, trying to get as much of my body covered by water as possible. Lots of blood was coming out which surprised me. There was something in the tub that turned the blood into a greenish color. I was petrified at first. I thought meconium was coming out. The midwife calmed my fears to explain the special blood color changing tub abilities. She had the husband press on the small of my back with each surge and I enjoyed the short time I spend in the tub. After a while, I felt too hot and I dragged myself out. The time was approximately 3:00.
The midwife turned the bed I was in into almost a birthing stool. I misjudged where the bed was and almost fell over as I tried to sit down. The husband was taught how to press my knees into my body as another pressure point relief while the midwife proceeded to rub the area between my eyebrows and whisper birthing affirmations during each surge. The surges at this point seemed to be farther apart, but were slightly more intense. I was fine as long as my knees were being pushed and my forehead was rubbed.
The midwife asked me to tell her when I felt pressure between surges. By around 3:40, I started to feel the pressure, but the midwife decided I was ready before I said anything. The midwife left for one surge to gather the cavalry and supplies. For that one surge, I panicked. I called out for my midwife. I needed that forehead rub! I also didn't think I was ready to push and did not think we needed to ready the room. (I was impressed with how quickly they brought in all the supplies, mostly for me.)
The midwife returned and announced that I was ready. As part of the birthing plan, I did not want to do the stereotypical "push" that most women end up doing. She told me originally that for the first birth, most women do not know what to do and they usually end up doing the push, but she would let me try breathing the baby down until I needed more help. She told me what to do. I held my legs up as I began the process of bringing out the baby. Around twenty minutes later, I began hearing there was a sign of the baby coming.
Red hair! (This piqued the husband's interest.)
Red hair! (This piqued the husband's interest.)
The midwife continually warned me about the "ring of fire" as the head started to come out. Yes. I had heard about the ring of fire. I didn't want to think about it.
Slight problem as I continued the process of bringing my child into the world.
Her hand was above her head.
The midwife worked frantically trying to move her hand back down. It didn't work.
Sophie, in essence, punched her way into the world. (Glad to know she was excited too.)
As the baby came out, it did not feel nearly as intense as I thought it would. My intense labor was worse than the delivery.
I felt the head come out and then the rest of her body. 4:06 pm. The perfect time to have a baby. Less than 3 hours in my delivery room. 7 pounds, 7 ounces. Perfectly sized.
Wails came from the baby. They slid the slippery baby onto my shocked body. She screamed. I rubbed her. It felt so foreign. My body shook uncontrollably. In the back of my head, I remembered hearing it was natural and good to rub a newborn. She kept crying.
I turned my attention back to the midwife. The cord was done pulsating and ready to be cut. She offered to let the husband cut the cord. He had told me ages ago that he was definitely not interested in cutting the cord. Ever. She offered one more time. He declined again and I heard the snip. She asked if I wanted to see my placenta. Why not. (Mine was heart shaped.)
Then came the worst part.
"Because your baby's hand was over her head, you have a second degree tear. I think if she would have kept it down, you would not have torn or the tear would have been minimal. I'm going to stitch it up now."
At this point with the cord cut and placenta delivered, I shoved the baby under my gown (as she continued to cry and I continued to shake). As the midwife put in what seemed like an hour's worth of stitches, I cringed with each stitch and rubbed my screaming baby.
"Why is this worse than the delivery?"
"There's no cute reward at the end."
She finished the stitches and left. (Right after we sang praises to her. She was amazing. She was what got me through the delivery. She was perfect.)
The rest of the night flew by.
We were taken to the recovery room by 6:00.
A pediatrician declared her to be perfect.
Several nurses were impressed at my non-epidural ability to walk around. (And I gave birth at the most natural-birth friendly hospital in the county. I guess that doesn't make it a common occurrence.)
She received her first bath which she hated up until her hair was washed.
The husband fed me my victory dinner as the baby continued to cry.
She fed like a champ for over an hour.
The baby finally fell asleep at 8:00.
I had so much adrenaline that I paced the room. I felt like jogging, but I don't think that's encouraged after giving birth and having stitches.