Well here it is – how I brought our son into the world in 2013.  This was my first experience with childbirth, and a lot of things did not go the way I wanted.

I want to write this article so that you can know what happened to me, and because I might teach you a thing or two before you head into Labor and Delivery, too.

Please know that this is intended to be informative, so I’ll be as detailed as I need to be without getting graphic.  Please also be aware that this is just one person’s one-time experience – I am not a medical professional.

I hadn’t really had contractions much at all during my entire pregnancy, and the few I’d had were really spread out.  I had decided that I wanted a natural birth – no epidural, and no induction drugs.  I personally felt that this was what was best for my baby, and I wanted to do it for me too.  My husband and I used our template (found here) to write out a detailed birth plan.

The car had a full tank of gas, towels and garbage bags, a duffel bag of items for Baby and one for us with clothes and toiletries.  I had pillows and blankets for my husband.  We’d taken classes in childbirth, breastfeeding, car seat installation and infant care.  We were just waiting.

I was awakened at 3:20am with a strong contraction

On Father’s Day I was awakened at 3:20am with a strong contraction – to me they feel like extreme menstrual cramps, but this one was bad enough to wake me up.  I didn’t have another so I went back to sleep.  An hour later, another isolated contraction.  At 5am, they started being consistent.  I used my BabyBump app to start timing them when they had been going longer than an hour, and I woke up my husband.

My obstetrician had told me that since I was full term – 38+6 at this point – that I shouldn’t go to the hospital until the contractions were closer than 5 minutes apart for at least an hour.  Throughout the morning they were strong but not debilitating, so I was able to function pretty normally.  They stayed about 10 minutes apart.

In the late morning we called the on-call number just to get confirmation on what to do, and thankfully it was my OB on duty for the day.  He reiterated that my memory was correct; however, he wanted to be sure that I wasn’t in false labor so he told me to put my feet up, rest, and drink a ton of fluids.  Basically if it was false labor then the contractions would stop, but if it was the real deal then they would keep going no matter what I did.  I remember him saying “Maybe I’ll see you later today!”.

The contractions continued but were not excruciating, so we got our dogs and swimsuits to head to my parents’ house about 10 minutes away.  I spent the afternoon in their pool with my family, doing light exercise and letting the water support my weight.  I kept timing the contractions and while they didn’t stop, they weren’t getting closer together either.

As the afternoon wore on, the contractions got closer to 7-8 minutes apart and were getting stronger.  I kept up my water intake, and started mentally preparing myself for the possibility that we were going to have a baby soon!  We left my family’s house after eating around 4:30pm and went home.

I took it easy at home and tried to rest, but the pain was getting worse.  I used my exercise ball and my husband double-checked all of our things in the car.

We left our home for the last time as a
family of two

After 8pm, the contractions were definitely very painful and were 4-6 minutes apart.  By 10pm, we made the decision to go to the hospital.  We called the on-call number to let my OB know that we were on the way, and he said he’d have nurses waiting for us.  We did a last-minute check for everything and we left our home for the last time as a family of two.

My husband and I made the 15-minute drive to the hospital; he was so cute – I could tell that he was nervous but luckily we made it safely.  Unfortunately, it was after hours at the hospital so we parked by the side entrance.  Also unfortunately, the hospital Labor and Delivery department was under construction, so our side entrance was also locked.  With all of our ridiculous bags of gear, we made our way into the Emergency entrance, across the Atrium, up the elevator and through a Post Partum maze until we finally made it to L&D.  It felt like we walked forever!  I had to stop every time I had a contraction, drop my things, and breathe through it.

We signed in at the desk – aside from a few nurses, the place was quiet and deserted.  I was taken to triage.  I was instructed to change into a gown and laid on the bed there.  We went through the usual checks of blood pressure, heart rate, etc.  My contractions of course continued through all this and they were very painful.  I remembered my breathing and squeezed my husband’s hand.  After answering all the stock introductory questions, the nurse paged my doctor who came in.  We talked for a bit and went over my birth plan; while some things on there were not a possibility (like eating during early labor, which I figured wasn’t allowed but had written down anyway), he was totally on board with my natural labor plan.

He did a cervical exam and, to my dismay, I was only 90% effaced and 4-5cm dilated.  What?!  After laboring for over 12 hours and being in pain, I was only at 4cm???  That was disheartening, and made the labor journey seem like it would be endless.

I won’t let you leave here without your baby

Doc, though, was encouraged and reminded me that early labor was the longest phase by far.  He told me that the hospital would admit me – “I won’t let you leave here without your baby” he said, so at least they weren’t making me go back home – and we began the discussion of breaking my water.

While my husband and I were against induction with drugs like pitocin, Doc assured me that breaking my water was not the same thing.  I’d still have 18+ hours before we needed to start to worry about infection or danger to the baby, and I’d still be able to continue to labor on my own.  The way he put it, I could either be in my room continuing to have contractions like I had been, or we could speed up the process a little bit.  After talking with him, I felt a lot better about it and told him that my husband and I would think about it.

Lots more checks and tests were done – I just remember trying to be strong and calm through each contraction, which were now definitely taking all of my attention.  We got taken to our labor room, which was very nice.  I was put in bed and my monitors were hooked back up.  I got an IV for fluids and my husband attempted to unpack us and make us more comfortable.

Fast forward to 12:30am – my husband and I had talked and had agreed to have my water broken, as well as start the IV pain meds at the same time to help take the edge off the contractions (which would be much stronger once the water bag was broken).  Doc came in and performed the procedure, which took a lot longer than I thought it would but wasn’t really painful at all.  Then they started the IV meds.

I wish I had asked what the IV meds were – it was Nubane, a narcotic, and as it turns out it really affected me.  I guess everything happens for a reason, but while they were still putting it in my system my husband says that my eyes got really wide and I started looking around the room like I was hallucinating.  For the next few hours, I’d continue to labor through contractions but would literally pass out in between.  My husband would watch the monitor to anticipate when another one was coming, and help me through it.

I don’t think that I can do this…

Those next 4 hours were the worst – I don’t remember much because of the Nubane, which frustrates me.  My stupid IV pole and my inability to focus kept me trapped in bed.  My exercise ball sat unused in the corner, and I did not always do a good job of breathing through the pain.  I was exhausted.  At one point I do remember telling my husband in gasps, “I don’t think that I can do this.”  My moment of weakness.  But he reminded me of the dangers of the epidural – it may not work, I could have permament damage, it could affect our child, and it would up my chances of needing a C-section – and I fought off my desperation.   Plan to have a moment like that during early labor, and keep in mind who you will have around you when it happens.

My awesome nurse would come in sporadically while I was laboring, to see how I was doing.  Breaking my water did seem to have sped things up, but of course at the time it felt like an eternity.  All I had to soothe me was ice chips, and I know I threw up at least once and gagged at least once every 10 minutes.  The pain was so bad that it somehow made my body think I needed to retch.  (I am very sensitive to anesthetics and painkillers so it might have been the Nubane too).  The ice chips were comforting though.

Around 4:10am as the nurse came in, I told her that I felt like I had to push.  She ran to get the doctor, who came in to confirm that I was fully dilated!  My husband quickly sent out a mass text to update our loved ones, as he had done throughout the evening.  The nurses (now there were two) brought in all of the birthing stuff Doc would need, and they morphed my labor bed by taking off the foot piece and putting my legs way up in stirrups.  There were grab handles on the outside of each calf for me to use if I wanted (it took a few times for me to get the hang of this, and I was so sore the next day! – but I did like having them).

I was still in a ton of pain of course, but I now had adrenaline.  Thank God for that.  The worst was over!  I know I was screaming as I pushed, but I didn’t care.  My husband and the nurses were praising me, and I was falling back and gasping for air in between contractions.  (The feeling, by the way, is like you have to use the bathroom.  Lots of pressure down there, and you almost can’t control wanting to push).  You don’t breathe during a contraction, but you take in a deep breath and hold it while you’re pushing (or if you’re like me, you’re letting it out in the form of a cry).  In between pushes you try to breathe out and in again, and then prep for the next one.

In between pushes about 10 minutes later, my doctor went into this extensive monologue in a calm voice.  He said that he could see my baby’s head! – he was crowning, holy sh!t! – but that I was only pushing for 6-8 seconds at a time.  If I could push for a full 10 seconds the next time, his head would be out!  Doc was still talking as the next contraction came on.

I have never had so much adrenaline in my entire life.

I felt like my life, and the life of my soon-to-be born son, depended on this next push.  I felt all the pressure as well as a horrific burning pain, like someone had poured gasoline on me and set it on fire.  I knew at that point that I had torn, but I didn’t care.  I was about to meet my kid!!!

He was out in the next push.

I didn’t even have to stop and push out his shoulders – I felt his head pop out in the next push, and that was it.  Doc and the nurses helped his shoulders come out and I was done.

For a split second I thought “Oh God something’s wrong…”

I didn’t hear a full-blown wailing cry from my son like I thought I would.  For a split second I thought “Oh God something’s wrong” but then he started to breathe in and cry, rather softly at first and then louder.  I closed my eyes and smiled.  He’s ok! Thanks be to God.

I got to hold my son seconds later, and I knew I’d have to deliver the placenta but it was an afterthought.  I looked at my perfect child, with his head on my right shoulder, and talked to him like I’d imagined a thousand times.  “Hi Baby, I’m your mommy.  I’ve waited my whole life to meet you.”  He was a mess and red and crying, and the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

I was vaguely aware, as they took my son away to have my husband cut his cord and get him cleaned and measured, that there was an extreme burning pain combined with hot stings down where Doc remained.  He was talking to me about delivering the placenta, and I remember asking “Will I feel the urge to push again?  Will I have to push?”  I honestly hadn’t thought about it pre-labor and now I had no idea.  I don’t think I did anything because it was delivered minutes later with no additional conscious thought of my own.  But then all of the burning pain returned.

Since from here I’m in and out of consciousness for a few hours, I’ll just surmise what happened.  Doc was trying to use local anesthetic via injection (hot stinging pain) so that he could begin to sew me up; however my bleeding was so bad from what he would soon discover were three severe tears, that he couldn’t see what he was doing.  I got to hold my son again once he was pseudo-cleaned but I don’t even really remember.  Doc told me that I’d have to be rushed to the Operating Room so that they could knock me out – was I ok with an epidural now?  Hell yes! – and sew me up.

Ironically, I ended up having the epidural anyway, but it was post-partum.  I was in the OR for about an hour and a half, and apparently lost so much blood that I was on transfusion watch for my entire hospital stay.

It was like a bomb went off

I won’t go into a ton of detail about my tearing, but I do want to explain it since tearing or episiotomies can certainly happen.  The weird thing about mine is that no one knows why I tore the way I did.  Basically, according to Doc “it was like a bomb went off down there.”  (Gee thanks, Doc).  I had three unique tears all originating in the same place, and going in different directions.  The least severe one went towards the front; then I had two Level 4 (most serious – going through all layers of skin and into muscle tissue) tears – one going internally (up towards my cervix) and making it to my groin tissue connecting to my pelvis on the left, and one going towards the rectum.  Luckily I won’t have to worry about incontinence or long-term damage.  All my tears remain on the left side of my body, and seemingly didn’t help my son exit the birth canal; he didn’t have a big head or any complications with his position.  Why did I tear this way?  Doc’s only guess is because my delivery was so short – less than 15 minutes – that maybe it was a pressure tear.  Who knows.  I was comforted in learning that this should not happen with future births, according to my doctor.

Around 6:30am my husband and I were finally together in our room; our son had been cleaned and measured and it was confirmed that he was perfectly healthy.  7lbs, and 20.5″ long!

We stayed in the hospital until the following evening; I’ll stop here with my story but I do have a few final thoughts for moms-to-be.

Make sure you have a birth plan.  It helps so much to have discussed all of the possibilities with your significant other, doctor, and other loved ones.  Making decisions on the fly will just make you more stressed out, and you may not have time to get all of the information you want.  I’ll upload a sample one soon..

But, be prepared for things to change.  Lots of our friends have had children recently, and unfortunately none of their birth plans went according to, well, plan.  One had a premature birth, and two had to have emergency C-sections.  I think it’s smart to also think through an emergency version of your birth plan – if you’re faced with having to be induced, what are your thoughts?  If you could try pushing with the possibility that you won’t progress vs having a C-section, which is better for you?  What about an episiotomoy vs natural tearing?  Keep all of these things in mind so you can continue to make rational decisions for you and your baby, no matter what is thrown at you.

Check to see what’s provided, expected, and not allowed.  My hospital was awesome and provided tons of things for me postpartum in regards to my healing and comfort.  I would make sure to find out beforehand what your delivery center allows (can you eat?  how many people can be in labor with you?  can you walk around?) and any other things you’d want to know before you’re having contractions!

I hope that this article has helped you prepare emotionally and mentally to go into labor – please contact me if you have any questions, or feel free to leave your own experiences below in the comments!