Labor and Delivery- Warning—I get fairly graphic here, as I am trying to keep it real for what a natural birth was like for me. And, of course, EVERY labor and delivery is different, because our bodies are all different!
Early Monday morning around 3:00 a.m. I woke up with contractions. Nothing too out of the ordinary, I had been having contractions before, and was being monitored once a week to check baby’s heart rate and amniotic fluid.
As the day went on, I went to the Chiropractor, got a pedicure, and pretty much felt normal. Bill and I were going to go to the store to buy food for my friends to come over to make freezer meals the next day. I told Bill I wasn’t feeling well…(like ummm…contractions maybe?) and he went to the store on his own. Finally, around 7p.m., I started packing things up in a hospital bag. The contractions were getting a bit stronger, and when Bill got home, I wasn’t able to talk through them. He wanted to go to the hospital right away, but I didn’t want to go too early. I was nervous for them to send me back home because I wasn’t dilated enough. Supposedly, you need to be around 3-4cm (out of 10cm) dilated before they admit you. So, instead, we tried watching one of our favorite T.V. shows until around 9p.m. Finally, I agreed to go to the hospital, mostly because I really could handle watching T.V. anymore and pausing our show at every contraction. As we loaded up in the car, I got really emotional and started crying…I told Bill I couldn’t believe our baby was ACTUALLY coming! It still didn’t seem real to me that I’d actually leave the hospital with a baby in my arms! How could I? Besides weighing 18 pounds more than normal, I felt fine.
When we arrived at the hospital, luckily, I was 5.5 centimeters dilated! I also didn’t realize they check this by literally measuring with their fingers up in your cervix….for some reason I was thinking they had this cute little tape measure. Wow. Ha! Before I could be moved into a labor and delivery room, they had to start an IV. This was no fun. They had to stick me 5 times, and had 3 different people try. The bruises on my arms are horrendous still! I think it was because I was stressed and my body was tensed up from all the contractions that were starting to get really painful.
Once we got into the room, I continued to labor and was in a lot of pain. This is about the time I adopted a mantra to get me through the contractions. I heard that can be a good technique for coping with the pain. I decided to go with a word uncommon to my regular vocabulary but that felt appropriate for the occasion. And it was a four-letter word that started with an “F.” But after yelling that and feeling guilty, I changed it to a four-letter word that started with an “S.” About an hour later, the nurse came in to check how far I had dilated. I was STILL at 5.5 centimeters. So frustrating! I got nervous about not progressing fast enough and was scared I wouldn’t be able to make it without an epidural. And I did NOT want an epidural…but it was sounding pretty nice. I’m not against epidurals in anyway. I just really wanted to see if I could go naturally, because women have been doing it for thousands of years, and I KNEW if I believed I could do it and set my mind to it, I could! After not progressing, I decided to try Fentanyl. Fentanyl is a narcotic to help treat severe pain. I originally did NOT want any kind of interventions, but after talking with the nurse, she reassured me the baby would not be impacted, and they wouldn’t give me any more doses close to delivery, since it could make the baby drowsy. The Fentanyl could be given once every hour, but it only lasts 30-45 minutes. So, the last 15-30 minutes of the hour were super painful contractions. I did experience nausea with this medicine and puked my guts out because of the pain too. But, I did feel marginally better afterwards! I think if it were not for the Fentanyl to take the edge off slightly, I might have gotten an epidural. Finally, I was starting to have more and more painful contractions. I’ve been asked what they feel like…it is really hard to describe. It’s not a period cramp…but similar? Maybe times one million? It feels like you are being ripped in half down there…? The nurse checked after another hour, and I was at 8 centimeters dilated. Whew, I had made good progress, but now we are getting to the hard part of labor. Between 8 and 10 centimeters dilated, I think I broke Bill’s fingers, cursed, puked, screamed, said, “I’m done”, “I can’t do this” and “If I have ONE more contraction like that I can’t go on.” And that was for about an hour. Ha! When people say you become someone else…and it’s like an “out of body” experience…that is a pretty accurate description. Even though I don’t like the “out of body” experience comparison…I was definitely IN my body, feeling EVERYTHING. But, I do have to say I don’t remember a lot of what I was actually saying. Around 9 centimeters dilated, my water STILL had not broken. The nurse explained that she could come have the doctor break my water to speed up delivery, but it would make the contractions worse. At that point, I said no. I seriously couldn’t imagine the pain being worse than it already was. So, I held off.
Finally, around 9.5 centimeters dilated, I agreed to come have the doctor break my water, so I could start pushing. The doctor came in, and I felt a slight tug-pinch, and whoosh. There is went. I heard the nurse say that the fluid was tinted a funny color. This meant that the baby had pooped, (called meconium) in the sac. If the baby inhales it, it can be dangerous. So, they told me once her head was out, I needed to really focus on not pushing again so they could clear out her airways.
I don’t remember how long it was later, but it seemed fast. Suddenly, I had an immense urge to push. It is like nothing I have ever felt before. The urge to push completely takes over, you can’t NOT push. Finally, I felt like we were getting close. After two or three good, hard (probably too hard) pushes, the nurse said to hold off…we had to wait for the doctor to come back. Wait, “hold off?” Was she crazy? When you feel like you have to push, there is no stopping it; that is for sure. I think at this point I was yelling out loud that the doctor better come fast because I’m pushing this baby out NOW! The nurse replied, “I am NOT delivering you baby.” Bill also looked around and said, “Ya, I don’t want to deliver the baby either, so just breathe babe!” The nurse got on the phone to the doctor and said, “You need to come NOW!” A few minutes later, the doctor walked in. I did two or so more good pushes. “Her head is out babe!” I heard Bill yell excitedly. I couldn’t quite look, because at the moment I was so focused on not pushing, so the doctor could clear out her airways. Finally, at 2:47 a.m., once last long, good push, and encouraging words from the nurse, “PUSH LIKE YOU’RE PUSHING OUT THE BIGGEST POOP OF YOUR LIFE!” (It literally does feel that way!) baby girl was out! She immediately started crying, and Bill had big tears in his eyes. I wanted to do skin-to-skin immediately afterwards with her, but, unfortunately, I had too much bleeding and the doctor needed to stitch me up right away.
The next hour was one of the hardest parts of the whole delivery. I thought that once the baby was out, everything would be fine, and there would be no more pain! WRONG! I wish someone had told me you’re not done once the baby is out. I was still having painful contractions, and the doctors and nurses were pushing on my tummy to get the placenta out. The pushing on your tummy is super painful. Once the placenta was out, the doctor immediately began stitching me up. I had three pretty big tears, and over 40 stitches. My legs were shaking so bad, I had a hard time controlling my body at all. The nurses were putting in new IV’s, and taking others out, and another gave me a big shot in my leg…all at the same time as the doctor was stitching me up. Because my legs were shaking so bad, the doctor said, “I’m getting motion sick down here!” Ya, funny. Not. I kept looking over at Bill, who was now holding the baby skin to skin with his shirt off. I really wanted there to be immediate skin-to-skin because it is so beneficial to baby. The baby is happier, their temperature is more stable normal, their heart and breathing rates stabilize better and the baby’s blood sugar is more elevated. So, I was glad that at least Bill could do skin to skin.
I was in so much pain, and just wanted to be done! Finally, after what seemed like forever, I got to have baby Eliana on my chest. I was completely overwhelmed with emotion. I felt so happy, relieved, proud, and oh ya, did I say relieved?
The next few hours flew by. I wanted to breast feed right away, which luckily went well and was an amazing bonding experience. The baby and I were checked on every few hours. Since Eliana was born small for her gestational age (37 weeks, 5 days) they wanted to check her blood glucose levels every time she fed. Poor thing had to have her foot pricked every time. But, after 24 hours of eating and getting checked, she passed! The pediatrician came in and checked her over. She had moderate jaundice, but nothing we had to do extra luckily. The next evening, after Eliana was born, our chiropractor also came to the hospital to do her first adjustment. It was so sweet and simple. Barely a fingers’ touch put her tail bone and spine back in place. I wanted my Chiropractor to adjust her because after doing some research, (and completely trusting my Chiropractor!) it has been found that chiropractic care can help infants with breastfeeding problems, sleeplessness, colic, irritability, and ear infections.
Bill and I switched off holding the baby and were completely in awe of this little human we had created. My mom and sister came down as well. My sister asked, “How did labor go?” I told her to get an epidural. Ha! I think I totally freaked her out. Sorry sis.
The next morning we went to a baby discharge class where they talked about how the first night home would go, taking care of yourself, and some tips for taking care of the baby. After, we did some final checks and were officially discharged by Wednesday morning! Bill and I were ready to take baby girl home.
Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. I am proud of myself for being brave and sticking to my plan. I also feel very fortunate that my labor and delivery went so smoothly! (I mean, it’s labor, but, still.) I didn’t have any major complications, and by time I got to the hospital, I really was only in hard labor for less than 5 hours. I know so many women who have perfect birth plans, and they end up having to deviate because of other complications. What is the most important though, is making sure mom and baby are safe. HOWEVER you had or have your baby, YOU are a freakin’ rockstar. I don’t care how the baby came out…YOU are amazing. Labor and delivery is no joke the hardest thing I have EVER done in my life. Would I do it again? Um no. Just kidding. But, isn’t there some hormone that makes mamas have amnesia about labor? That hasn’t happened to me yet…it’s still pretty fresh. All in all, Bill and I made an awesome team and I’m so happy that baby Eliana is healthy and happy.