I said to Jonathan on Friday (2/24), "I think we'll have the baby on Sunday." It was the due date I'd calculated after charting my cycles for more than a year before we got pregnant. Given the exact timing of the way everything had gone, I assumed the baby would come when he was due, as well. I left work Friday pretty sure I wouldn't be back. I bought stuff at the grocery store on Friday that would help us through the first week home with a newborn. Saturday during the day we went over all our materials from our childbirth classes. We were ready.
I was super mucus-y and crampy during the day on Saturday, providing even more confirmation for my Sunday prediction. Saturday night, we had our "last supper" at 3 Angels Diner and then got some YoLo. We were lounging around watching Animal Planet (<-------- really cool thing to do on Saturday night) and I took a shower at 9. Once I got out, I knew I would go into labor that night. I just knew. So Jonathan and I tried to pick up the house a little. About 10, I got what had to be the first "real" contraction I'd ever had. Not long or painful, but definitely the real thing. So we decided to go to bed to try to sleep as much as possible.
I slept until about 12 and then contracted by myself for maybe 45 minutes in bed (one, so I could confirm it actually was labor, and two, so Jonathan could get as much sleep as possible [since he wouldn't have the same hormonal endorphine rush after labor that would help me lose a night of sleep]). But I had to get him up around 12:45 because I needed help.
I labored in bed using a Bradley-ish Method until probably 3:30. With the Bradley Method, you lie completely still in bed in a fully supported position that allows all your muscles to relax while you focus on relaxation, not tensing your muscles, and breathing. I had a heating pad (which was AWESOME - all laboring women should use one!) on my abdomen and Jonathan would massage my lower back. For me, the contractions had 3 manifestations: 1) intense menstrual-like (or gas/diarrhea) cramping, 2) intense lower back pain in the achy way your back feels when you have your period, or 3) both of those at the same time. While I was Bradley-ing, contractions were probably 5-7 minutes apart and lasting anywhere from 30-60 seconds. There wasn't an entirely reliable pattern and while they were strong sensations, I was closing my eyes between each one and trying to snooze. (Side note: we were using a phone app to time them.)
Around 3:30, I needed to move a little more. So we did a few contractions where I would lean against the bed on pillows and Jonathan would give counter-pressure on my lower back. That wasn't working awesomely, so we spent the rest of our time at home with me sitting on an exercise ball and Jonathan sitting behind me providing counter-pressure on my back while I would sort of lean forward into the abdominal pain. We did, in fact, listen to the labor playlist once we got out of bed (the slow/easy listening one), which was nice. The room was dark and there was a light on down the hall, so it was a calm environment.
While on the ball, things got really intense and a lot more painful. Eventually the contractions were lasting 45 seconds to 1 minute+ and would come anywhere from 3-5 minutes apart, sometimes coming on top of each other without a break in between.
Mentally, I was feeling pretty resilient. I was in a ton of pain, but at the same time, I felt really committed to the idea of unmedicated birth. I think at one point I thought, “if this is going to go like this for 5 more hours, I can’t do it,” but then this other little thought would pop in and say, “dude, you read all those books, went to those classes, watched those movies, you need to do it without meds or you’ve seriously wasted your time.” Ha – my internal monologue is harsh!
We had initially planned to head to the hospital when contractions were strong (45-60 seconds) and consistently coming every 3-4 minutes for more than an hour. We also wanted to watch my “emotional signposts” for a noticeable shift in the intensity of the contractions. My doctor said that would happen – that I would be going along with contractions and then at some point, I would notice the last couple were a lot harder than the previous ones.
Jonathan was the one to suggest we get ready to go to the hospital. It was 5am and he said if I had 2 more big ones before 5:10, we needed to go. After one contraction, I said I needed to start getting dressed – it was a noticeable shift and we needed to get on.
We ended up not leaving the house until 5:30 because I had a ton of really intense contractions while I was trying to primp a little and get dressed. The drive to the hospital sort of sucked – but it wasn’t entirely eventful. There’s not a whole lot of traffic at 5:30 in the morning. Thankfully everything slowed down a little, so I only remember a couple contractions while we were en route.
When you get to the hospital to check in for L&D, you first get sent to a triage room where they check your progress to see if you’re ready to be admitted. Jonathan couldn’t come back until they confirmed that. I went into the room with two nurses. Contractions were really strong and close at this point, BUT, the good news: I was 6 centimeters! Definitely going to be admitted at that point. (They went and told Jonathan, so he came back with our two hospital bags, an exercise ball, and a cooler. He said when he got to the door and saw the state I was in, he dropped all the crap in the hallway and came into the room, the ball rolling around the empty hallway, ha.)
In the triage room they want you on a fetal monitor for 20 minutes to see how the baby responds to contractions. In that 20 minute time, they ask you a bunch of questions to admit you to the hospital. As I was answering these questions, I was having serious, intensely painful contractions. It was a strange juxtaposition because I was in the worst pain of my life, yet answering stuff like, “what are your dietary preferences” and “is there any cancer in your family.” In the meantime, they were also trying to get an IV in so I could have the Penicillin for the Strep B. Three people came in to try and couldn’t get it. (Have I mentioned yet that throughout the whole labor, my body was convulsively shaking? Like, naked in Antarctica shaking.)
I started to feel strong vaginal pressure and the nurses told me it was probably the water bag pushing down. In an enormous gush, the water broke. Then things spun into motion.
There was meconium in the water (which can be a sign the baby’s in distress). I remember one nurse yelling, “we’ve got mec!” and the other one ripping the fetal monitors off and saying, “we’re done with this.” They put me on the bed and quickly wheeled me down the hall to the delivery room. It had been less than the 20 minutes they wanted me on the monitor.
When we got to the room and I got onto the bed in there, I started to panic a little because I felt the need to push. I was holding on to one of the nurses through a contraction saying, “I need to push, I need to push.” Next I remember the other one saying, “she’s complete, get the doctor in here!” That is to say, I went through transition (the hardest part of labor) in less than 20 minutes while answering hospital admittance questions.
My doctor walked in and we set up in the birthing position (a supported, sitting squat) we’d discussed. I pushed through a few contractions like that, trying to get the hang of it. To me, it felt like I had a nice long break in between each pushing contraction, maybe 5 minutes? But Jonathan said it was more like 2-3 minutes.
After a couple contractions my doctor said, “can we try a new position for just the next one, and if it’s awful, we’ll go back to this?” I agreed, so they reclined the bed a little bit more and I held my legs up behind the knees (Jonathan held one). This position hurt my tailbone, but the doctor said that was just what I would feel, given the way the baby pushes on it as it’s coming out. Since this position was working much better, we went with it.
The next thing I remember, after a couple more pushing contractions was my doctor getting up from the bed and saying, “I’m going to put my gown on now, you’re about to have a baby.”
I was in a ton of pain. I think they call this the “ring of fire” or “rim of fire” something like that – that is, when the baby’s head is about to come out. At the same time, though, I felt mentally strong because I knew the pain would be over in less than a minute.
And it was! I pushed through the next contraction, felt the baby’s head come out, and then felt the rest of him sort of flop out onto the bed. Someone said “it’s a boy!” and I looked down to see his boy parts before they set him on my chest. I think I kept saying, “holy crap” or something silly because I was in complete awe that 1) I’d just done that, and 2) my baby was sitting on my chest. It was one of the best, most surreal experiences of my life.
Overall, everything about the labor and delivery was perfect (sans that I couldn’t get the antibiotic). Literally, it went as wonderfully as I would’ve dreamed. I’m so glad: my doctor was on call; it went as freaking fast as it did; the nurses were great; the pain didn’t turn me into some kind of monster; the baby was fine (despite the meconium and the lack of antibiotic) – just everything.
And of course, the best part of the whole thing is our sweet little boy! (Jonathan said afterwards he was shocked to see boy parts – he felt positive it was a girl.)
Bates is a week old. Hopefully as we get this parent thing figured out, I can blog more!