This is an intimate post about my birth story that I want to document and share. Feel free to skip over the gory details and let me summarize by saying my labor started out easy, progressed to difficult, then baby was born healthy and beautiful. Read on at your own discretion.
I’m a control freak; not knowing when my baby was coming was both stressful and freeing as a surrender to the unknown. On Sunday afternoon, 4/19/15, I discovered I was spotting and knew labor was imminent. That evening Russell and I took a long walk to dinner downtown. I think this may have been what sparked contractions later that night. At first I thought they were just cramps, but they progressively grew stronger and started coming in measured waves. I didn’t want to wake Russell up, so I went downstairs to the couch and breathed through the pain and tried to keep track of the timing in my notes app. I found that counting out each one then recording it helped me stay calm.
I used the breathing methods I’d learned in yoga and birthing classes. Things like repeating the mantra: I know I am breathing in, I know I am breathing out. Breathing deeply and slowly. Each contraction was relatively short at 15-30 seconds, so it really wasn’t so bad. I just didn’t get any sleep. I’m glad labor started during the night though. It was quieter and I was able to go inward and focus by myself. Around 6:00, I decided to take a bath and slowly started getting ready for the day. That’s when contractions started coming in really close together, about 2-3 minutes apart, and the pain was a lot more palpable. At birthing class, they told us to try to stay home until contractions were 1 minute long, 4 minutes apart, for at least an hour. I didn’t fit that description but I knew it was time to go to the hospital. I had my eyes closed for the entire drive over. I’d been anticipating this moment for months, but the pain was too loud for me to appreciate the fact that we were on our way to deliver and meet our son. Around 11 am, I was evaluated at triage and told I was 5 centimeters dilated and I had come in at a perfect time. My hard work through the contractions felt legitimized. Part of me had been nervous that they’d turn me away, tell me to go back home to finish laboring, and that what I’d been feeling wasn’t the real deal yet.
I had decided long ago to opt for an epidural. I’m so glad I did. Just as the contractions were getting really painful, the anesthesiologist came in, got the drugs pumping, and I was a new person. We spent the next few hours in relative comfort, watching the Giants game and 3 NBA play-off games. Labor seemed like a piece of cake during these hours. Things were looking good and labor was progressing quickly. By 2:00, I was 7 cm dilated, and by 7:00 I was 10 cm fully dilated. My water hadn’t broken yet, so they went ahead and broke it for me. They let me “labor down” for an hour, letting baby come down further on his own without my pushing. Then finally at 8:30, I had my legs up in stirrups and it was time to start pushing. I was so excited and impatient to finally see baby’s face. I was feeling emboldened by how easy everything had been so far, not at all scared for the next phase of labor.
By 9:30, it became evident that the baby was in an irregular position. I carried lopsided during the latter part of my pregnancy, with the baby favoring my right side heavily. He remained curled up on my right side through my contractions, refusing to straighten out for delivery. The midwife had me stop pushing for about half an hour and lay on my left side to try to get the baby to switch positions. When that didn’t work, she called the doctor to come and manually adjust the baby. They assured me this doctor was really good, and that she had the smallest hands on staff. Why did her hand size matter? Because before I really knew what was happening, she had both her hands up inside of me, grabbing baby’s head to rotate him. But he was stubborn. As soon as she let go of his head, he would swivel back around. I could see there were concerns that I wouldn’t be able to deliver naturally, and that they might need to do a c-section. I was extremely frustrated by this since I’d already been laboring for so long, and insisted that I could keep pushing. They had to put me on pitocin, a contraction-inducing drug, because my contractions were too spaced apart after pushing for so long. The midwife trusted me and stayed with me for the next three hours, encouraging and patiently working with me to deliver this difficult baby. Russell held one of my legs the entire time and cheered me on too. I always said I’d make him stay above the waist, but by that point, all modesty had gone out the window. The epidural was still working, but there was now a painful pressure and I was exhausted. I had not been prepared at all for this kind of struggle.
The baby’s head finally became visible around midnight. I pushed and pushed, with the doctor, nurses, midwives, and Russell rallying me on. They told me they were impressed, that I was incredibly strong. But because of the baby’s sideways position, I wasn’t going to be able to push him out alone. I ended up having an episiotomy, aka an incision in the perineum. My worst nightmare. But they told me if they didn’t do it, I’d most likely tear much more severely. Fine, whatever, just get this baby out. Snip and swoosh, the baby was finally born! Not only did he come out sideways, but he had his hand on the side of head too. Born at 12:29 am, right on time for his exact due date, 4/20/2015. 8 pounds, 9 ounces, 21.5 inches long. They say it’s rare for babies to be born on their due dates, a 5% chance. I’m so glad to have such a punctual babe, already taking after his parents.
They put him on my chest and all I could feel was relief that it was over. I didn’t cry or feel overwhelmed with happiness/love. I was just shaking uncontrollably and couldn’t believe what I’d just been through for the last 4 hours (25 hours altogether), and now there was the baby I’d been dying to meet, here in the flesh. He was undeniably handsome with a full head of hair and perfectly well-formed features. During the hour of skin-to-skin time, I was able to calm down and process the amazing feat we’d all just endured and the fact that our lives were forever changed.
Russell says his first reaction was also relief: that I was safe and baby was healthy. He was impressed by how calm the baby was. And he was proud of me. After baby’s first examination (complete with shots and heart-breaking cries), Russell helped give the baby’s first sponge bath and then got his own hour of skin-to-skin time.We called our parents, who were so worried that they hadn’t heard any news in so long. They were able to come visit at 3 and 4 am, tired but excited to meet their first grandchild.
It was the craziest day of my life. So intense, so emotional, so painful, so gratifying. And most of all, so amazing that we’re now a family of 3. I feel so complete.