I woke at 12am Tuesday morning, my stomach tight and knotted as it had been many nights for the last two weeks. I ignored the feeling, not wanting to get my hopes up yet again about the possiblity of meeting the baby boy I had been carrying for 4o weeks and 4 days. Around 2:30am, after waking several times over the last few hours to contractions that were now getting stronger and more consistent, I began considering this might actually be the start to labor, and started paying closer attention.
I lied there quietly excited, taking note of the intensity and consistency of each contraction. At 4am, deciding this was definitely early labor and not being able to sleep, I took a shower. Reassured this was really it with consistent contractions, I washed, blow dried and dressed. Around 5:15am, still having contractions, I lied back down attempting to get any last bits of rest I could, since I would need my energy going into labor after all. Another contraction woke me at 7am, I lied there afterward thinking about whether or not I should call my doctor and cancel the 10am appointment we had scheduled. I sent a text to my mom and sisters, “Today’s the day. Not going in anytime soon but I think it’s safe to say I’m in labor” and another to Carrie and Greta (see Everett pt.1). I knew Carrie had gone into labor the day before, so I wondered if she had given birth yet or not. I resolved that if I had another contraction, I would call my doctor for his advisement on whether or not to come in. I waited and waited, paying close attention, but nothing happened. My husband, David, stayed home from work and I went to my appointment.
Dr. Leonard informed me at my appointment I was 3cm dilated and 70% effaced. He performed a second membrane sweep and then an ultrasound because my belly was measuring small. He checked my fluid levels which were good, and estimated baby at 7lbs 6oz. We discussed how I wanted to proceed if I was still pregnant at 41 weeks–three days from now–and agreed to schedule an induction for Friday morning. He explained he would break my water for the induction and only use pitocin if necessary. I felt comfortable with Dr. Leonard’s plan, I trust him completely and knew labor with Aspen went pretty quickly after my water broke, from 3cm to pushing in about 5 hours.
At home I updated my friends and family on the progress, and my sisters offered to go walking with me to get things started back up but I declined. I got word that Carrie’s baby had arrived that afternoon, little Eleanore, and that was enough to distract me for a little while. I had a few contractions here and there throughout the afternoon, spending my time alternating between sitting crossed legged on the floor, squatting and sitting on the exercise ball. It was around 4pm, I was bored, feeling restless and disappointed, so decided to take a walk with my family as a distraction. We packed up the wagon with Aspen and drinks, set off and made it almost to the park when I had to pee, made a u-turn, stopped back at home, and set off again. Aspen played for awhile, she especially loved the seesaw, she and David together making an almost perfect counterweight to pregnant me. Luckily, the return of my contractions were enough to distract me from my weight woes. I began to time them at the park, and continued as we made our way back home.
Home again, my sister text me for an update, I told her things weren’t consistent, I had no idea if this baby would come out, and I was bored out of my mind and frustrated. She invited us over for dinner as another distraction and I jumped at the chance. It was 5:30pm, we packed up and went right over, slippers, pj’s and all. My brother-in-law grilled steak, my niece made homemade tortillas and my sister prepared Mexican rice and beans. My brother-in-law asked me about my contractions and I told him I was having them while we were there, but they weren’t bad enough he would notice. I insisted to him I just needed my water to break, sure that would be the only way my labor would progress consistently. The contractions were becoming stronger and closer together through dinner, so fearing I had another sleepless night ahead of me, I told David we needed to go home around 8:30pm.
While David was putting Aspen to bed, I started getting really nervous thinking of going into labor in the middle of the night and things progressing too quickly. We’d have to call David’s mom in the middle of the night, wait for her to get up and ready, drive over to be with Aspen, and then drive ourselves to the hospital. How long would that take? I couldn’t imagine it being less than an hour, possibly more, so before my anxiety got the best of me I decided to call David’s mom and ask her to come stay the night, which she of course agreed to do. I was able to fall asleep, but woke each time a contraction came on. By 12am Wednesday morning, my contractions were so intense and uncomfortable I could no longer lie still in bed. I moved to the couch and tried to rest over the back of it while kneeling on the cushions. I alternated positions a bit, attempting child’s pose while hugging one of the cushions then leaning upright into the back with my left side. Contractions were getting more and more intense, but were only nine minutes apart which left me confused. By 2am, my contractions were more intense than I remember them ever being, lasting about a minute and a half, and still 9 minutes apart. I figured if they were this intense and I had already been at 3cm that morning, I was probably dilating more and maybe I could be admitted despite the 9 minute delay. I woke David, asked him his thoughts (we agreed), and headed to the hospital, arriving around 2:30am.
As many women have done before me, I sat in triage with a monitor on my stomach, and the nurse performed another cervical check. I was surprised to hear I was still 3cm dilated and 70% effaced, same as at 10am the morning before. I only had 2 contractions during the 20 minutes, for some reason my contractions like to slow when I’m reclined back with the monitors on, so the nurse had us walk around for an hour between 3 and 4am. Walking was horrible. My contractions sped up to 5 minutes or less during that hour and were super intense. I had to stop with each contraction and hold onto the rails along the wall, trying to burrow my head into it. My whole body would contract, I had no control over anything during those contractions. I remember trying to keep my legs apart, but each time a contraction would start, they would pull in together on their own. The contractions started double peaking, lasting 2-2.5 minutes each. At one point I would only make it about 10-15 steps before I’d have another contraction, and the combination of labor, walking, and not sleeping was starting to wear me down. At 4am we went back to triage, got set up on the monitor and watched my contractions stop. I think I had two again in thirty minutes. The nurse checked again, I was still 3cm, 70%. I couldn’t believe it was all happening again, just like with Aspen, I’d have to do this for who knew how long without any relief or progression. At least with Aspen I was 41 weeks and had an induction available if I wanted it, at only 40 weeks 5 days, I was growing irrationally concerned I would be in labor just like this for the next two days. The nurse offered ambien for sleep and lortab for pain, but after talking to my doctor informed me he wanted me to walk for another hour, and I could only have one of the medications or the other but not both. I politely declined walking the L&D gauntlet again, and asked for some time to discuss our options. I weighed the options aloud, walking for an hour, lying here for an hour, or going home, and asked David what he thought. David replied by restating my options and then the pros and cons of each, to which I responded, in an extremely annoyed tone, “yes, I’m aware of all the options, thanks for restating everything I just said.” The nurse returned asking what we decided, and I told her I still didn’t know what to do. She said in her opinion, I had already walked an hour and nothing had changed, so she didn’t think there would be much change in another hour, especially since nothing had progressed since my appointment the day before. She also said she thought the ambien would be better than the lortab, because it would help me to sleep through some of the contractions, provide relief longer, and help me to relax enough to hopefully get things moving. She then made the most impactful and discouraging comment I think she could have possibly made, I swear I will remember it for the rest of my life, “if this were real active labor, your contractions wouldn’t slow down once you were put on the monitor.” Wait, so I’m not in real labor? If this isn’t real labor, what am I getting myself into? I took the ambien and returned home around 5am.
I fell asleep, waking up for contractions, until 6am. By then, the contractions were too intense again I couldn’t sleep or lie down, I felt totally gipped by the sleeping pill. I went back to the couch and to position swapping. Contractions were back to nine minutes, sometimes seven, just as intense as they had been before. My mother-in-law got up around 730am and sat with me, I told her about the hospital, stopping during the story to bury my face in the couch with each contraction, and finished by telling her I just needed my water to break. I stayed on the couch when Aspen got up, my MIL made her breakfast and told us she’d take her home for the day. She took her to get dressed, leaving me alone on the couch again. I had another contraction just like all the others, but right at the peak I felt something, not sure if it was a baby kick or just the popping of the sac that I felt, but my water had broken. I actually said out loud “and there it is.” What I had been waiting for finally happened! I had another contraction, and worried any exertion on my part would result in an amnitotic covered couch, so I yelled for someone to come help me up. My MIL came, looked at me and asked if I was sure my water broke and it wasn’t just urine because I didn’t look wet or anything. I went into the bathroom to confirm, and without all the gory details, I was certain my water had broken. I told David we needed to go, cleaned up and changed my clothes. Standing at my nightstand waiting for David, having more intense contractions and starting to get nervous about how fast it would go and how long David was taking, I finally yelled to him in an annoyed tone once again “are you ready yet?!?” He was ready, my MIL left out the front door with Aspen and we got into the car through the garage. My phone was dead from using it to time contractions all night, so as we pulled out of the garage I used David’s to text all the moms and sisters at 8:35am. I could barely function, but managed to type “water just broke, heading in”. I didn’t realize how vague that message was, and how poorly it communicated the urgency of the situation until later. I told David to drive carefully, and though he may have been it certainly didn’t seem that way and I would snap “CAREFULLY” at him while having a contraction. I was digging my feet into the floor and my back into the seat, my eyes were closed most of the drive, and I had to breath loudly and hard during contractions, which were now relentless. I was also getting really nervous that we wouldn’t get to the hospital in time, or baby would come flying out and I wouldn’t get the choice of an epidural or not. Before labor, I figured I’d just wait and see how it went, but at this point all I was thinking about was an epidural because I couldn’t imagine things getting worse than they were and for who knew how much longer. Labor and pain management is so much a mental game, and not knowing what’s to come is probably the number one motivator for epidurals in my opinion. When we pulled into the hospital parking lot I started having another contraction and saw two speed bumps ahead of us. I told David again to drive so carefully, but after hitting the first I told him to just pull over until my contraction was done. He started to contest about how close we were but I barked “PULL OVER!” once again. We sat in the middle of the drive until my contraction was over, and then I told him to get to the door as fast as possible. We pulled up to emergency which is the OB entrance and I told David I needed a wheel chair. He came to get me out of the car and I told him, no, bring the wheel chair all the way to my door, I can’t walk.
He wheeled me to the check-in desk and they started asking me questions until I got a contraction, and there must have been something about my breathing or my body language or I don’t know what, but the girl stopped questioning us and said “um, we need to get her to triage, we’ll send the paperwork up for you to do later.” An escort came and asked David if he was pushing, he said yes so they took me right up to 3rd floor L&D again. When we got there the escort said I had just been there at 5am and asked if they should take me straight to a room or to triage. The nurses at the nurse station told them to take me to triage, to which I mentally screamed “NO!” They wheeled me behind the hanging sheet and said I needed to get on the bed. I stood up but I couldn’t physically exert myself enough to get onto the bed, every muscle was in use and in pain, so I just leaned against it. One of the nurses came and told me she needed me to change, and again I groaned in defiance, possibly rolling my eyes, and did it while wanting to cry. The same nurse came and started asking me questions I’d already answered, I could barely breathe through contractions they were one on top of the other, so when she asked if my water had broke I snapped “yes!” at her. She sort of got defiant and scolded me, but I was angry at how nonchalant she was treating me when I was clearly in hard labor and having endless contractions. She made me get on the bed and strapped monitors to my stomach, every touch hurt so much. She checked me and I was a 6cm, which seemed insane to me because I swore this baby was coming. I wasn’t mentally capable of reasoning that I was in transition, and that it wouldn’t be long. All I could think was 6cm, only 6cm, nonstop contractions, pain, who knows how much longer, I can’t do this, epidural. The nurse told me I wasn’t having the baby yet, and there were things she had to do before I could have an epidural. They took four vials of blood and tried to start my IV, I needed a bag of fluids and my antibiotics started before the epidural, but they couldn’t get it to stay in or tape it down because I was drenched in sweat. I told the nurse, “I can’t do this, the baby is coming” and she said “no, he isn’t.” At some point she put a wet rag on my forehead but I don’t remember that at all, except for finding it later in my bed soaking into my side. Someone came to tell David to move the car so he left, and I couldn’t help but groan through contractions. It wasn’t a scream or yell, but a loud groan. Someone else was in triage, she was 3cm and they were giving her the medication options I had a few hours prior, I pitied her. I also couldn’t shut up and felt bad that she was witnessing my very loud labor, she was probably horrified. I told my nurse again that baby was coming and thank goodness another nurse overheard and asked my nurse if she had checked me again. She said she would, then after doing so in a suddenly serious urgent voice announced I was complete and she was wheeling me to a room. In my head I thought, “I TOLD YOU!”
David was back and there was a rush of people assisting to get me into a room. The nurse told me to move into the other bed and I couldn’t. She told me I had to and I tried but I really couldn’t lift myself up, all my muscles were busy and in pain. She threw my legs over and then forcefully threw my upper body over and they called a doctor in since mine wasn’t there yet (I guess they had called him to say I was a 6, then called again to say I was ready a few minutes later). They told me I could push whenever I felt like it but I didn’t really have the urge like I’ve heard about from others. My body wanted to resist the contractions, and I could tell he wanted to come out on each one from all the pressure, so maybe that’s the urge, but my body wanted to tense up instead of push through it. A really big contraction went by and I didn’t push, then my doctor was there, and the nurses commented that I had waited for him. They told me I had to push on my next contraction, so I did, but it was pretty half hearted and more a tensing up of things down there than an effective push. The nurse reminded me that I needed to push like I was pooping (sorry!), and the light went on in my head and I was like, oh yeah, I got this! I sat myself up because they had me way too reclined and pushed on the next contraction and all was good, but then they told me I needed to lay back or I’d exhaust myself or get too sore or something so I listened which I shouldn’t have. I pushed again, this time more like in a crunch position holding onto my thighs, I think balancing on my tailbone, and I felt him crowning. I remember thinking, oh that’s the ring of fire, but it’s not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. It kind of felt like I was pushing against a fiery wall, or like that burning sensation when your lips are really chapped and you eat spicy food. I pushed again and felt his head come out, took another deep breath, pushed and felt everything come out and it was the greatest relief ever. Everett was born at 9:24am, on Wednesday, March 12th, less than an hour after we left the house. I opened my eyes and the doctor quickly toweled him off and handed him to me. He only made a few little yelling noises, not a full cry, and calmed down once I had him. A little bit later they clamped his umbilical cord and David got to cut it, right there while he laid on me. The room cleared out and the doctor started my stitches, he said it was just a little tear, and I didn’t even feel the stitches. I had just pushed a baby out unmedicated, but none of that bothered me, instead I was sitting there telling my doctor about how sore my tailbone was. He told me we were just waiting for the placenta, they would give it 30 minutes and then he’d have to retrieve it. I tried to ignore the idea of a manual retrieval, and figured all I could do was wait and I had a perfect baby to distract me so I didn’t have to think about it. My doctor waited there quietly and patiently, with his hands folded in his lap and my legs bouncing all over the place from the adrenaline. At about 15 minutes they gave me some pitocin to help, and then finally right before 30 minutes my placenta came out. Recovery was pretty easy, I could sit and stand easier than with Aspen because I wasn’t as swollen or as sore, and with both kiddos I only used motrin afterward for pain.
I didn’t really notice any difference in the baby or in myself when comparing a medicated birth with Aspen to a natural birth with Everett, other than I had more bladder control this time and didn’t pee myself when standing up the first time after. They left Everett on me skin to skin for the first several hours, he ate immediately, and my mom was the first person to show up around 10. My sisters and sister in laws started showing up too, and that’s when they told me they figured from the text my water broke and they had some time before they all needed to get there, not that I was already in full labor and to get to the hospital asap. My hospital is “baby friendly,” so they no longer dress the babies at all to encourage skin to skin contact, they don’t bathe them until at least 12 hours after birth, they don’t offer formula or pacifiers unless requested and even then they have to educate you about why it’s better not to have them before they can give them to you. I think that’s amazing. Everett was weighed and measured a few hours after birth, 7 lbs 3oz and 20 1/4 inches long. Aspen came later that day to meet him, but she was very tired and uninterested. I stayed overnight alone so David could take Aspen home for the night. The hospital was great, my doctors were amazing, and we got to leave the next day at 2pm.
If someone had told me when I first arrived at the hospital that it would be less than an hour before he was born, and this was the worst of it, I think I could have handled it a little better. I don’t thin I would have asked for the epidural at all had I known this was the end. But, that’s the mental game of childbirth, you never know. I will say, natural birth isn’t as bad as you think, and honestly that last hour of contractions was way worse than actually pushing him out. When you think, “there’s no way it can get worse than this, there’s no way I can handle anything worse than this,” chances are that really is the worst part.
I thank God for His many blessings in this pregnancy and delivery, and praise Him for his oversight and provision.
I’m talking breastfeeding, differences in newborn care the second time around and some of my favorite products next time!