I finally had some time to write this out – warning: it is long! When I was pregnant I loved reading others’ birth stories, and was totally engrossed in even the most minute details of the experiences, so I am sharing my own story with that in mind.
2 weeks before Isla was born, I had a little bit of a scare. I went in for a routine prenatal with my midwife, and things turned very serious very quickly. Normally these appointments were a lot of talking about how things were going, listening to baby’s heartbeat, and getting measurements. I’d been measuring small which led to us having to get a growth scan at the end of October, and it turned out to be fine. At this appointment though, I’d lost 4 pounds and was measuring even smaller than my previous appointments. My midwife decided to do a quick ultrasound to make sure that I had enough amniotic fluid left, but couldn’t find much. Her demeanor changed very quickly from happy/laid back, to really concerned. She told me to go to triage right away, and that if I did have low amniotic fluid, I would have to be induced. Cue the panic and tears from me – but after a few hours of monitoring and an ultrasound, they found that everything was okay. However, the whole experience left me feeling really anxious, and pressured to get the baby out naturally before something could go wrong. Induction in my mind meant throwing my entire birth plan out the window because I just didn’t think I could handle a medically-induced labor without pain meds.
1 week before she was born, I woke up before work feeling really ill/crampy. I felt so “off” that I actually stayed home from work because I wasn’t sure if it was the start of early labor. I’d had a few days of symptoms that could be labor, but nothing ever really kicked off. It got to the point over the next week where I’d have what felt like real contractions, and I would just tell myself “it’s all LIES! You’ll be pregnant forever!”. A few days before she was born, I’d reached the point where when anyone would ask how I was feeling, the kindest response I could come up with was “still pregnant”. There was a lot of anxiety surrounding when and how labor would start, and I know Jeremy would feel it too…because anytime I would call him, even just to see how his day was going, he would answer the phone with a little bit of fear in his voice.
The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I worked a full day. I’d been feeling really tired all day, that just seemed to get worse as the day went on. I’d also been having what felt like minor contractions, but I ignored them because I figured it was just my body faking me out again. I seriously felt like I could fall asleep on my drive home, but was fighting it – so I decided to go for a walk once I got home. I had to stop running a few weeks before this just because it was too uncomfortable, so my new routine was to go for a brisk walk while listening to The Birth Hour podcast. It was so cold outside! I really had to bundle up for my 45 minute walk, and pushed myself to walk fast to get my blood flowing and wake myself up. When I got home, I was feeling much better and got ready to make dinner. I started the stove, and my water broke.
Like I said in my last post, I knew exactly what it was when it happened. It was so uncontrollable that I started laughing before I called Jeremy to tell him that this was it! He got home, we ate dinner, and then called triage and our doula to let them know. We decided to wait out the next few hours at home since my contractions hadn’t started, and I didn’t want to go to the hospital too early. I double checked the hospital bag, Jeremy loaded the car with everything we needed, and then I headed to bed around 10:30. It was definitely not a restful sleep because I knew what was coming, and I was scared. I was woken up at 2 am by a contraction, climbed out of bed and went downstairs to let Jeremy keep sleeping, and work through them on my own. They were coming about 7 minutes apart, and after 45 minutes I realized that they were mild enough that I could probably try sleeping through them on the couch. I knew I was probably in for at least 12 hours of labor, and needed to conserve my energy – thankfully, I was able to go back to sleep while my body did the work.
At 6am, I was woken up by a contraction too painful to sleep through. When I was pregnant, I had a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions, which made me wonder if I would really KNOW when I was experiencing the real thing. Trust me, you know. Our goal was to labor at home as long as possible, but since I was GBS positive, I had to get to the hospital to get my first dose of antibiotics by 10am, so we headed to the hospital at 9:30 – totally in disbelief the entire time. When we got to triage they confirmed my water broke, and admitted us. The nurse said that we were lucky since there was only one tub room left since “everyone decided to have a baby today!”. Before they moved us from triage to our room, we decided to take our last picture as a family of two.
Once we settled into our room and met our nursing team, I participated in a virtual reality study for their anesthesiology team. I basically spent 10 minutes working through contractions on my own, followed by working through contractions while “swimming with manatees” through a VR headset. It was definitely distracting!
Shortly after this, my contractions really started picking up. They were about 4 minutes apart, and getting painful enough that I couldn’t talk through them anymore, so we called our doula Cara to have her come meet us. I started crying as soon as we made the call because it was all suddenly feeling very real. Cara was there pretty quickly, and was amazing at helping me talk through what I was feeling which helped me to calm down and find my focus again.
The next 5 hours went by in a blur, the contractions never got closer together than 3 minutes, but they were really painful. So painful, that I thought I might be nearing transition. I was surprised by how vocal I was during those contractions, a long, low sound was the only thing I could do to feel like I could get through them. It was surprising how good it felt when they ended! I asked the midwife to check my progress at this point, but to only share the number with Cara and Jeremy. I was having trouble coping with the pain and was worried if I wasn’t as dilated as I thought I was, I would get discouraged and want to give up. I found out later that I was at 6 cm and about to enter transition!
I was offered the tub to labor in, and even though I was afraid to change positions because of the pain, I did it. Cara warned me that often what happens in the tub is that you get a little bit of a break from the contractions, but when they return they can be more painful than they were before you got in. I’m so glad she told me this, because it is exactly what happened – and I even had some contractions that came one on top of another, so it would be a few minutes before I’d get a real break. I was in the tub for two hours (with an antibiotic break after one hour), but it only felt like 20 minutes. At this point I knew I was in transition because I felt like I was losing control of my coping skills, I’d lost all track of time, and was feeling trapped in my body. It was scary, but I had Jeremy and Cara talking me through it which prevented me from panicking.
The tub was feeling uncomfortable, so I decided to get out – and this is when things started going a little crazy. My blood sugar was crashing, so I was eating runner’s goo when I was coherent enough. I couldn’t walk without help because I wasn’t able to get a real break in between contractions anymore, and when one would hit I would have to hit the floor on all fours. Once I got back to the bed, the contractions were unbearable and my body started involuntarily pushing at the peak.
Everyone got concerned at this point, so the midwife checked me again and I was only at 8 cm – bad news to be pushing when you’re not fully dilated, so I knew I might be in trouble at this point. I spent the next two hours working through the contractions and trying to breathe through the urge to push (this felt impossible), and towards the end of those hours I started asking for an epidural. We decided when I was pregnant that if I absolutely knew I wanted pain medication, to use the code word “Murphy”. This was because I thought I might reach a point where I’d say I wanted an epidural, but wouldn’t be serious about it. The code word meant I was serious. But, I’d also asked for a little bit of push back from Jeremy and Cara to be 100% sure that I wanted it – so they spent another hour helping me through contractions until I begged to be checked again and found out I had been stuck at 8 cm that ENTIRE time. At this point the contractions were on top of each other and I couldn’t keep myself from pushing – I was exhausted and in so much pain.
Just then, the baby’s heart rate dropped and the rest of the team rushed into the room. They put an oxygen mask on my face, and put a scalp monitor on the baby – and it all happened so quickly, during a 5 minute long series of contractions (yes, really). My arms were flailing, screaming at the top of my lungs “please help me! I need Murphy! I need Murphy! I’m scared!”. I vaguely remember seeing the look on Jeremy’s face, tears in his eyes, looking shattered at how powerless he was to help me. He says now that it was pretty traumatizing to see me like that. I had completely lost all control and ability to cope with the situation, and it wasn’t my finest moment. But, I know now that I was handling it the best that I could. Once the baby’s heart rate was back to normal, things settled a bit and the midwife agreed that an epidural was the best decision. I ended up getting the epidural after almost 22 hours of labor. The pain relief was so immediate that I told the anesthesiologist that I loved her. I remember her response being “yeah, we’re pretty popular around here!”. I’ve never been more thankful.
The midwife checked me an hour later and I was completely dilated! So the plan now was to get some sleep, and let my body push the baby as far down as it could, until I felt the urge to push again. I spent the next 4 hours in and out of sleep, waiting for the sensation to hit me, but it never did. I was getting some pretty intense low back pain though, so we called the midwife in at 5am who checked me to find that the baby was at a +2 station (basically about to crown!). She flipped all the lights on, and said “this is it, we’re going to have a baby!” I remember feeling a big sense of relief, and determination even though I had no energy.
I started pushing at 5:15 in the morning, but was making very slow progress. We found out later that Isla’s hand was next to her face the entire time, which is what got me stuck in transition, and also why she wasn’t coming out as quickly as she should have. After 3 hours of pushing (which felt like 45 minutes), she finally came out! She was warm, and slippery, but she had a super short umbilical cord so they could only put her on my belly. We waited a few minutes for the cord to stop pulsating before Jeremy could cut it. They finally were able to move her up to my chest, and I was able to get a look at her face. Jeremy and I were both ugly face crying the entire time. Isla was so alert, and let us know right away (by sucking on her tiny fingers) that she was hungry!
It was a completely overwhelming experience, and nothing like I expected. Even though I wanted to get through it without medication, I’m really proud of how long I stuck with it, and feel that getting the epidural was probably my best chance of avoiding an emergency c-section with the situation we were in.
Isla will be a month old this week (how is that possible?!), and these last 4 weeks have been a blur. New parenthood is tough, but we’re slowly getting the hang of things and finding a routine again. We love this little lady so much.
Thanks for reading!