Since it’s Summer’s birthday week, I thought I’d do a mini blog series on lots of things involving this perfect little girl. So for now, I’m going to rehash my birth story. I personally love reading about other women’s birth stories, but if this isn’t your cup of tea, you’ve been warned.
It all started during the first week of March when, during my OB appointment, I found out that I was already 3cm dilated and 30% effaced. WUT. HOW. Naturally, Tim and I started freaking out. All of a sudden I magically felt like I was walking around with some sort of channel in me through which my baby could just fall out (if only it was that easy sigh). Things began to truly feel real; after months of studying all sorts of facets about labor and delivery, mine was actually starting! The problem, however, was that I was still a few days shy of the 37 week mark, at which babies are considered to be full-term. So after a few days of pelvic rest and mentally willing my baby not to go anywhere, I became SO excited that I was about to go through this giant physical challenge in order to meet my little Summer. I was also extremely excited that my labor was 30% done, and I hadn’t felt anything to indicate that! I was almost tempted to believe that labor would be a cakewalk…but that would be silly. Early labor (0-3cm) is typically the stage during which women are excited and chatty and aren’t experiencing terrible pain, so I knew that when my full labor experience started, it would pick up at a more difficult spot than someone who begins their labor at 0cm.
Fast forward three weeks: the baby is past “full term”, and I am past fed up. Being 9 months pregnant is not exactly the most fun thing a person can experience in her life. I mean I was waking up to pee anywhere from 3-6 times a night. Not to mention the indigestion, unruly appetite, and having to wear the same four outfits because they fit my watermelon belly and were weather appropriate. So I started participating in various activities that are rumored to bring on the labor: eating pineapple, snacking on spicy snacks, partaking in other unmentionable activities, etc.
Thus, on the night of Wednesday, March 20, I felt an odd rumbly in my tumbly. Tim and I engaged in our usual late night routine: eat something yummy while watching our way through The Office and laughing our booties off. Throughout these activities, I experienced an odd sensation in my stomach, but because it was entirely unfamiliar and almost “dull” in sensation, I didn’t think much of it. I assumed it was one of my organs being squashed or that Summer was up to some weird activity. We went to bed and fell asleep, and then it wasn’t long until I was up again. And then again. And then again…and so on. Each time I got up, I used the bathroom, and it was almost like I could feel my body trying to empty itself of any hindrance. Because I was in such a sleep fog and the feeling was so odd, I still hadn’t connected the dots. I seriously was thinking “Man
these last few weeks of pregnancy are just truly uncomfortable.”
However, at around 6am, the severity of the feeling had reached a new level. Wondering if this could actually be the sensation of the fabled “contraction”, I began to time the length of the pain-thing, as well as the time from the beginning of one until the beginning of the next. I quickly noticed that there was a very clear regularity to what was happening, so I woke Tim to tell him that I was calling the hospital because I thought that I actually was in labor. I told the nurse that the contractions were four minutes apart, and she told me to keep laboring at home until they were only two minutes apart. I am 10000% all for laboring at home, but I don’t think this nurse fully comprehended that I said that I lived forty minutes away. Forty minutes down a steep, extremely wind-y mountain road. “No matter,” she said. “Come once they’re a bit closer together.” Mmm okay.
By now I was definitely experiencing true pain, not just an odd, annoying, dull thing. I mean I was still fine, and could move and talk and do whatever without much difficulty, but I was really uncomfortable. I let Tim go back to sleep for the time being, and I drew myself a nice hot bath. Being in the bath made me realize completely why some women have water births, because the pain literally subsided. As in, to the point that I started to think that I was maybe in false labor, because suddenly everything felt pretty great. Of course, once I got out of the tub, everything came rushing back. I took a shower to get all nice and clean and rinse the bubbles off, then went to wake Tim and make sure we had everything ready to go. I timed my contractions: two minutes exactly. We called our parents and hit the road.
At the point that we left, walking and talking through a contraction was pretty difficult, but it paled in comparison to sitting as the car went down the curviest road ever developed. True torture. Thank goodness for my excited and hilarious husband, and the musical stylings of Beyoncé whose feminist anthem “Run the World (Girls)” helped me make it through such difficult times. We walked into the hospital, and it was the oddest thing to walk up to a desk and say to someone, “Hello, I’m in labor.” We (I) wobbled to the elevator, and once on the correct floor we were led to our triage room. There is where the truest of all tortures began. A nurse came in, had me lie on my back, strapped the fetal monitor on me, and then left. SHE LEFT. For twenty minutes Tim and I were alone and I was forced to lay on my back as I experienced the end of what’s called “active labor” (3-8cm, which is followed by “transition” 8-10cm, which leads to delivery), just writhing in pain on the bed. Honestly, this is the largest factor as to why, should I ever become pregnant again, I will not give birth in a conventional hospital. Laying on one’s back is one of the WORST possible ways to labor. I wanted to stand, kneel, get on all fours, anything, but no one was coming or listening to us.
Finally, finally, another nurse came and allowed us to move forward. Before I got up from that bed though, she wanted to check my progress. As she reached for my cervix, she commented that all she could feel was the sac (membranes, bag of waters, etc.). As I was wondering whether or not this was a statement that should concern me, WHOOSH. An explosion of sorts happened, and suddenly I was covered in extremely warm liquid (which, let me tell you right now, is not water). “My water broke!” I couldn’t help but obviously exclaim to all listening parties. This was followed by another exclamation, “You’re at 8cm!” My jaw dropped. It was only 9 in the morning! I had only been really laboring for three hours and even some of that felt like a joke! I thought this stuff was supposed to take all day…two days even! But no, this was it. It was pretty much go time. Early and active labor were over and shit was about to get real. I hobbled my liquid-ridden self across the hall to a labor and delivery room, and then all hell broke loose.
Tim says that for those 35 minutes, it sounded like someone was stabbing me in my sternum with a knife and dragging it down through my stomach. I say that that would have been a more enjoyable experience. My contractions were soon anywhere between a minute to 30 seconds apart, and there was no possible way to get comfortable. Laying down sure was not going to work, sitting sucked, squatting felt too difficult, and so I settled on standing for the time being. For about twenty minutes, I let gravity work with me, and every 40ish seconds I gripped Tim with all of my might and screamed bloody murder as the wave ripped through me. Because everything was happening so fast, I had no time to think about anything from my childbirth classes or any of the labor techniques I learned. I mean, technically I did have time, but I guess I’m a poor laborer and was so caught off guard by it all that instead of handling it calmly and with planned breaths, I handled it savagely. Like a wild, jungle woman. Not to mention, I was the only woman having a drug-free labor and birth on the floor that day (only the second that month?!) so my screams were literally echoing down the hall and I remember just pitying any woman that could hear me.
At a little past 9:30, I suddenly heard myself yell “I need to push NOW!” The nurse hurried over to take a quick check in between contractions and make sure that I was at 10cm. Sure was! They told me that my doctor was on his way and to try to wait until he got there if I could, to which I (mentally) replied a resounding “hell no.” That doesn’t really work when your body seriously starts pushing for you. I was still standing at this point and I did a few contraction pushes in this position before my doctor came bustling through the door, announcing that he could hear me from the elevator. “HAR HAR!” I almost spat at him with venom, but I refrained. My leg muscles were on the brink of exhaustion, and when he offered me the opportunity to sit/lie and finish pushing in that position, I decided to try. To my surprise, it truly felt better. The rest is a bit of a blur, but I know I only pushed for about ten minutes total. I distinctly remember approaching the famed “ring of fire” where it just begins to really sting and you know things are close. Tim went back and forth between kissing my face and looking for Summer’s, and my heart jumped when he announced, “I see her hair!” After just one long, painful minute later, her head was out. One more extremely less painful push and there she was! A real baby! In my arms, on my chest, nuzzled against me. I kept saying “My baby! My baby!” over and over and truly tried to come to grips with reality. She was born at 9:48 am, less than four hours after my labor started. She was 8 pounds and a half ounce, totally perfect and yummy. After a little while, she nursed for literally two hours, and the rest is history. 🙂
It’s definitely not an experience that I’m in a hurry to ever relive, but the pain and subsequent issues* ended up being completely worth it. Summer is a daily source of love, light, and joy in my life, and I sincerely cannot fathom my existence without her. I’m so excited (and sad!) to celebrate her first birthday this coming week. What a true precious gift that I endeavor daily to not take lightly. Thank you, Jesus.
*I had a horrifying encounter with the nasty preeclampsia (think Sybil in Downton) post-partum. It’s a disorder that is normally cleared up by birth, but for some of us buggars it then becomes exacerbated. So ladies, even if you take great care of yourself during pregnancy (which I really tried to do), but someone in your immediate family had preeclampsia during their pregnanc(ies) (which my mom did), pay close attention to your blood pressure if its even slightly high after you have your baby.