Towards the end of my pregnancy, I read every birth story I could find on Pinterest. I could think about nothing but labor and childbirth, and I soaked up every detail of other women’s accounts. Each story fueled my excitement and gave me a wide range of perspectives. If you’re an expectant mama who isn’t sure what to expect, I’d love to share my personal experience with you. I’ve tried to include all of the details I wanted from other people’s stories.
In this post, I’ll share:
- The agony of waiting for labor to start and then re-start,
- What contractions actually felt like,
- The process of a hospital labor and delivery,
- Stage by stage progression of my labor,
- The culmination of events that led to a surprising change in my birth “plan,”
- What it was like to finally give birth and meet my baby.
My Baby Didn’t Read My Birth Plan｜Part I
Waiting for Labor
I was so sure she’d be early.
Her little legs had such a kick, even before thirty weeks, that I just could not imagine her being content to stay squeezed in there all forty. At the very least, I figured she would kick her way out through my side.
I was thoroughly convinced, but perhaps it was wishful thinking because I was so ready to not be pregnant.
As it turned out, I was wrong. She was not early.
I had really been counting on cancelling my forty week OB appointment, but forty weeks rolled around (with much greater ease than I could roll around), and I dragged myself into the doctor’s office, resigned to being eternally pregnant.
Baby Gets a Nudge
My doctors did not mess around. If you made it to term (37 weeks), they put you on the calendar for an induction.
While I was uncomfortable with the idea, I let them schedule it figuring I could always cancel it later (and that I wouldn’t need it because this baby was coming early!). I was due on September 21st and if Baby Girl wasn’t walking through the doors by the evening of the 23rd, they planned to smoke her out.
At my forty week appointment on the 21st, my doctor stripped my membranes. At this point, I was more than happy to try anything to get that baby to come “naturally,” but looking back, I have mixed feelings about the practice.
When she checked my dilation, I was only one centimeter dilated.
I didn’t expect membrane stripping to be comfortable, and comfortable it was not. It was a prime opportunity to practice breathing through the pain in preparation for labor.
Finally Some Action
Abuzz with anticipation, I drove home and waited for labor to start. I felt some mild cramping following the appointment, but nothing to call Mom about (I did anyway).
We went to bed hoping that the relaxation of sleep would encourage some action, and it did!
I woke up to what felt almost like menstrual cramps, but had a little touch of squeeze added in. I was immensely excited, but decided to go back to sleep.
If it’s true labor, I reasoned, it will wake me up again. Either way, I need to be rested for the big event.
I did wake again, and the feeling was getting stronger. I started timing contractions and when they were about seven minutes apart, woke my husband to watch Netflix with me. Which to be honest, he was not thrilled about.
Based on my mom’s labors, I expected to be on my way to the hospital imminently and meet Baby Girl in a few short hours.
My contractions were pretty steady in these wee morning hours. This is the part in most other birth stories where they get close enough together that a call is placed to the hospital, an unnecessary number of bags are hastily thrown into the car, and speed limits are exceeded for a just cause.
My contractions stopped. Rude.
Four a.m. they tapered off.
What a buzzkill.
With no action to speak of, we returned to bed. A few hours later, still nothing.
We decided to take a board game to a Panera very close to home because I knew I couldn’t sit around in the apartment all day timing every little twinge.
Once we got to Panera, we realized the board game needed at least three people. We ended up chatting and talking about baby names for a couple of hours, and it ended up being a really nice date.
We thought going for a walk might help, so we went home to change shoes, but back at the apartment, it hit me how tired I was after being up all night. When I sat down to put on socks, I ended up falling asleep instead (hello motherhood).
Following a delicious, but insufficient nap, I was sitting on the couch when suddenly OH, CRAP!, my underwear was wet.
I’d been having quite a bit of mucus plug/bloody show lovelies, so the first brief thought that entered my mind was that my underwear was getting stained. Then as quickly as that thought came and went, I realized my water had broken.
Cue the Hallelujah Chorus.
Everything became so real and surreal at the same time. We called the doctors’ answering service to let them know we were on the way, picked up the bags that were already ready by the door, and headed to the hospital.
At the Hospital
Around 6 p.m. – A lab test determines if I peed my pants
Upon arriving at the hospital, we were in for a major surprise.
I hadn’t told my mom anything yet because I didn’t want to excite her too early, but when we walked in the main entrance, my mom was standing by the door waiting for us. On a hunch, she’d driven the two and a half hours to the hospital and waited all day for us in the lobby. No, she wasn’t excited at all. Why would you think that?
I was taken to triage, given a hospital gown and socks, and a nurse took a sample of my amniotic fluid for testing. Before they could admit me, they had to confirm I hadn’t just peed my pants. Apparently, that’s not uncommon. And apparently, a time consuming lab test is the only way to find out.
In the meantime, I was given a huge jug of water and a packet of crackers and told I had to consume all of it, pronto. Because if I hadn’t already peed my pants, why should I be deprived of the opportunity?
It was a long wait for the test results to come back, but I didn’t care! I was at the hospital! My excitement continued to grow as I felt contractions beginning again. Finally, the nurse came back to let me know I had not peed myself.
An hour of waiting could have been saved if they had simply asked me to stand up because by now, the tiny rupture in my baby sac was a steady leak. Then again, that might have made too much sense. The nurse then tried three times to insert my IV without success. She decided it could wait.
A little after 7 p.m. – Like an avocado, I can’t seem to ripen
I followed the nurse to my delivery room, leaving a trail of amniotic fluid in my wake and trying to make sure the gown was staying closed over my bare rump. (I promptly took my socks off after this and hid them; there was no way I was putting those back on.)
Nurse number two made attempts four and five on my IV. Either their training stinks, or I’m defective because she couldn’t get it either. She had to surrender to my nonexistent veins and fetch the charge nurse, who also required two attempts, but finally found the only vein in my entire body located in the side of my wrist.
I felt like the Operation game board, and really wished I could electrocute them every time they missed. Needless to say, my morale was draining a tiny bit through the six extraneous holes scattered over my arms.
Let the pains begin.
I was GBS positive, so they started antibiotics, jammed some Cervadil where the sun don’t shine, strapped two monitors around my baby keg, and left me to leak.
The Cervadil was suppose to help my cervix ripen faster (I was still one centimeter, by the way), and its rough insertion at the hands of my no-vein-finding nurse was not pleasant.
With the Cervadil ‘doin’ its thang,’ my contractions picked up quickly, both in interval and intensity. Even so, they were still feeling like strong menstrual cramps, to which I am no stranger. I was feeling like,Man, if this is all it is, I got this!
That was not all it was.
I should also note that the few days leading up to this, I had been developing a little bit of a cold, and my body decided now was a great time to host an exhibition of cold symptoms in all their glory. In case you’re wondering, coughing through contractions feels just fabulous. If you’re worried that labor won’t be bad enough on its own, I highly recommend getting sick.
At some point in the night (I don’t remember when), they also introduced Pitocin and ish got real. I was trying so hard to stay calm and breathe through the pain, I was, but I was starting to struggle.
News Flash: Contractions Hurt
I wanted to be up moving around, or bouncing on my ball, but my nurse couldn’t figure out how to keep the fetal monitor in place for me to stand.
The contractions felt like a hundred pound bowling ball pressed against my spine, so being forced to remain in a reclined position only exacerbated the pain. Added to that was the discomfort of sitting on soaked puppy pads because I was still gushing amniotic mess.
When the contractions came, I was trying to stay relaxed and breathe through the pain, but I felt like I needed to lift myself up on my elbows a bit to straighten my back and shift what felt like the thousand pound bowling ball….so my very helpful husband, in between taking naps (NAPS!), thought he’d be a dear and scold the woman delivering his child for tensing up. (I wasn’t tensing, but I’m sure it could have looked that way to someone without a million pound bowling ball in their spine).
I’m not proud of snapping at him to shut up.
It didn’t at all fit into the image I had of romantically swaying in my partner’s arms as we worked together to breathe through each “surge.” But then my very exhausted husband wasn’t being very romantic anyway. So I phoned a friend.
2 a.m. or thereaboutsish – I’m having triplets
I called my best friend to come. I’d been feeling rather private and introverted, but suddenly, I just knew I needed her. Having a girl friend there to support me was amazing. She stayed right by my side and told me how proud she was, that she couldn’t believe how well I was doing (ha!), and even that I looked pretty (double ha!).
All in all, the night seemed to be passing pretty quickly…until 4 a.m. By now, my labor had taken on a mind of its own. I had heard and read that I was supposed to get breaks between contractions, but my uterus had clearly slept through our Youtube birthing class.
My contractions were coming in triplets and I was not getting a chance to recover. By that, I mean a contraction would begin, peak, release, and then immediately start again in patterns of three. I wondered if I was in transition, nearing the end of labor. Wouldn’t that be nice?
These terrible triplets continued all morning, and I was losing control of the pain and panicking a little. I was falling asleep in the seconds between contractions, and waking as they peaked (bad idea).
One of the reasons I didn’t want intravenous pain medication was that I didn’t want my inhibition compromised. Turns out the brain has its own way of mitigating pain, and it isn’t much different. I got loopy all on my own.
You know how you feel when you first come out of a dream and you’re not sure what’s real and what’s not–maybe even start talking?
Well that’s how I was feeling, and I did talk. Then it dawned on me, from the quizzical expression on my girl friend’s face, I had no idea what I was saying and it made no sense.
7 a.m. – I get some unsavory news
Right about 7 a.m., my doctor came in for the first time to check me. I expected by this point to be around six to seven centimeters dilated, if not more. After all, I had been laboring intensely all night, maybe even experiencing transition.
I was….drumroll…three centimeters. “Maybe four.” My soul died, as another contraction started. Realizing this could continue into the evening, I knew I needed to consider my options.
I wanted a medication-free birth, but an epidural was sounding awfully nice at that point. My doctor did not pressure me in either direction, nor did my friend, mother, or husband; my decision was purely my own.
I was exhausted and feeling discouraged from the doctor’s news. I felt unsupported by my sleepy husband, disillusioned by the whole experience thus far, and I didn’t think I could stay strong mentally and emotionally if I forced my body to undergo an un-medicated labor.
Change of Plans
I chose to have an epidural because I felt it was the best choice for both my baby and me if I had a break.
I’m not going to lie, having the epidural put in was painful. But once the contractions were dulled, relief was sweet.
I didn’t want to be completely numb, so I didn’t really juice the pump; if I could have elected to just get a thirty minute break, I would have. I settled for very mild contractions and left it at that.
My doctor briefly noted that my contractions took on this triplet pattern because my baby was “sunny side up,” which meant that her head was turned to the wrong angle. I wish the nurse had explained this to me during the night while I was in the thick of it; I would have made sense of what was happening and perhaps coped better.
The rest of the morning, I was able to rest, even sleep intermittently. I listened to music in my headphones and receded into my own world. The nurse put me on my side with the peanut ball between my legs and flipped me over occasionally. All things considered, I was pretty comfortable.
Noon – My baby becomes a literal pain in my butt
Giving my body the opportunity to relax was just what it needed. I closed the gap (or opened it, rather) on those seven centimeters in only a few short hours. Noontime, my doctor checked again and I was the full ten centimeters.
She sat me up in the “throne” position to wait until I felt the constant urge to push. Sitting up, I was very nauseous. The nurse offered anti-nausea medication, but I declined it, then puked.
Even though I had had the epidural, I was beginning to experience a shooting pain in my hip.
I thought perhaps I just needed to shift positions, but after fidgeting for a while, it was only getting more intense. It became nearly unbearable, so I called the nurse in to help me.
Instead of moving me, she immediately called the doctor in, who announced it was time to push! The pain I was feeling in my hip was the baby’s head. They laid the bed back again, and thank God because even with the epidural, I couldn’t take the pain any longer.
Push Comes to Shove
My husband and friend each held one of my legs, and when a contraction came, I crunched up, held my breath and pushed for ten seconds, released, (breathed), and repeated for a total of three pushes each contraction. It took a few attempts to feel what worked best, but I could see the finish line and was determined to get that baby out.
Normally, there might be a lot of back and forth movement–as you push, the baby moves down, but when you relax, the baby slides back. There was no backing with my baby; only forthing! Every time I pushed, she stayed put. Right away, I was able to reach down and touch the top of her head.
Touching her for the first time was an extremely emotional and sentimental moment. Feeling her gave me the drive I needed. Only a few pushes later, she shot out like a rocket all at once, and was catapulted from my crotch to my chest in .07 seconds.
12:56 p.m. – My baby isn’t ugly
I will never forget the feeling of holding my daughter for the first time. It is difficult to even describe with words. I cried more than she did. I was so overwhelmed with joy and happiness and love that my body didn’t know what to do with it.
The experience was like the moment in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy opens the door of her aunt’s farmhouse and her black and white world instantly explodes with color. You think you’ve felt joy and love before, only to learn your past encounters were a mere shadow of the beauty you now know. I can’t fathom any experience ever comparing to childbirth.
Meanwhile, my doctor was busy delivering my placenta, but I barely noticed. When it came time for stitches, however…those were a little more difficult to ignore. I was very glad to be holding my baby girl during this part because it forced me to stay relaxed enough not to squeeze her guts out and quiet enough not to scare her.
Afterwards, they took her away for a few brief minutes to measure, weigh, and otherwise examine her.
(Note: if you want to refuse/delay the Hep B vaccine given at birth, now may be when they administer it. Make sure the nurses are aware in advance of your wishes, but also remind them at this time.)
Once they finished, they gave her back and I got a good look at her for the first time. Everyone but my husband left the room and I made my first attempt at nursing. She latched on right away, and I felt pure contentment (I still do when nursing her to this day).
The staff gave us about an hour to relax and bond, then moved us up to a recovery room.
If you’re a first time baby birther, what are some of your preconceptions about labor and delivery? If you’ve given birth before, what’s the top tip you’d give someone who hasn’t? Comment below!
If you’d like to know what I learned from this first pregnancy and birth experience, check out Part II!
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