By popular request, below is the story of our sweet E’s birth. You have been warned. If labor stories aren’t your thing, I recommend skipping this particular entry and waiting until the next one which will more than likely involve lots of cute baby pictures and new mommy braggings.
This entry is actually very hard for me to write, not because it’s hard to recall or something I don’t want to share, but because of how deeply it impacted me and how significant it was to me and my husband. Words truly cannot convey my experience, but I’m going to try. I think it is important for women to share their labor stories. Birth is not something to fear. It can be scary at times, especially because of the unknowns, but God created our bodies to birth and what better way to empower moms than share our experiences, as varied as they all are, so that we can create an atmosphere that is supportive of mothers, respectful of the birth process and that elicits the awe that God’s creation of pregnancy and birth truly deserve. So, onto attempting to describe the most incredible experience of my life:
Sunday night, January 20th, my sister came over to keep us company. Bed rest was making me crazy, and I had resigned myself to thinking that E was only coming out when they induced me later in the week due to my preeclampsia. Kylie was determined to try everything to get things rolling though, so we bounced on my labor ball, walked and even tried using my breast pump to get contractions rolling with no such luck. It was a nice, relaxing evening, though, and we had lots of fun eating pizza and watching movies—knowing that we still had a few days before a baby would be here.
After she left around 11pm, I decided to go to bed. Thankfully, I was able to sleep well throughout my pregnancy, but I was uncharacteristically tired that night. I kissed K goodnight, told him that he might want to come to bed soon, just in case, and went to bed.
True to being almost 40 weeks pregnant, I woke up a few hours later needing to use the bathroom. It was around 2:15am. I went to the restroom and as soon as I sat down on the toilet, I heard a “plop”. I looked in the toilet and didn’t see anything, so I assumed my bladder had just been incredibly full (also a possibility considering I drank like a camel throughout my pregnancy). K had still not come to bed, so I went downstairs to see if he was going to be on his way soon.
He was still downstairs playing on his computer (attempting to fix his iTunes, if I recall). I asked when he was coming to bed and he said soon, so I turned around to go back upstairs. About halfway up the staircase, I felt another small gush of fluid. Knowing I had just used the bathroom, it was a safe bet that I had not just wet myself. I went to the bathroom again, sat down, and another gush came out. That was when it hit me that my water had broken.
I walked back downstairs (you’d think with all of these stairs, my labor would have been shorter!) and told K that my water had broken. He didn’t believe me at first and asked if I was really sure or if I had just peed myself. I told him that there was no way it wasn’t my water and that it might be good if he got some sleep since we didn’t know what the morning would bring. While he went up to our bedroom, I called my midwife and she said to get some sleep and if contractions didn’t start by 9am, to head to the hospital. She said that they would more than likely start on their own, though, and that she would plan to see me in a couple of hours.
I knew I should have tried to get some sleep, so I went to bed for twenty minutes, but couldn’t relax. My head was spinning with the reality that we would soon be meeting our daughter. My sweet husband slept great, but I got up and decided to try some things to get contractions rolling. I had called our doula shortly after my conversation with the midwife and she gave me some ideas to potentially help. Kylie was going to be in the labor/delivery room, so I called her as well and she continued to text me throughout the morning, possibly even more excited than I was!
By 7am, my contractions still hadn’t started, so I decided to eat breakfast before waking up K to get ready to head to the hospital. While I knew I should eat, it was much like my wedding day—nerves were preventing me from wanting to palate much of anything. I had apple and banana slices with peanut butter. Probably should have eaten a bit more!
K was still sleeping after I finished breakfast, so I decided to shower and make myself feel pretty knowing I wouldn’t be feeling so attractive in a few short hours. I picked my favorite warm maternity shirt and jeans. I even styled my hair! It helped to kill the time and made me feel cute—which, when you don’t feel well, can make a huge difference.
Here I am at 39 weeks 5 days pregnant. We were just about ready to head to the hospital. My water had been broken for about 6 hours at this point.
My husband woke up around 8am and we were on the road by 8:40. The hospital we chose to deliver at was about 35-40 minutes from our house, which was so worth the drive. The care and quality of staff and facilities were incredible and I would deliver there again in a heartbeat. The car ride there was quiet. We were both tired and trying to wrap our heads around the fact we wouldn’t be coming home alone.
Kylie met us at the hospital. We walked up to the labor and delivery floor and checked in. I laughed when the nurses asked whether I “thought” my water had broken and whether I was sure. Oh, I was very sure! They took me to our labor suite (thankfully, we got one with a whirlpool tub) and had me change. I was so excited to wear my hot pink Pretty Pushers gown (and got so many compliments on it too!).
In my Pretty Pushers gown and robe. Wasn't feeling too much here, so I was bouncing on my ball to see if we could get her to drop some more.
The nurse came in and said she was going to check whether my water had actually broken. The test came back positive immediately and when she went to check me for dilation, the rest poured out, confirming that I wouldn’t be leaving the hospital without a baby! At this point, I was still not having any contractions, and my midwife became concerned as something should have started much sooner. The fact I had also not dilated beyond the 1 ½ cm that I was at my appointment on Friday was also disheartening, so we started on a very low dose of pitocin in order to get things moving.
The nurse came back into the room at this point and asked whether we knew a Sara. I know lots of Saras, so it didn’t compute to me right away, however, my sister knew immediately who the nurse was talking about. A long time family friend, who had been my mom’s labor/delivery nurse with my two younger siblings, worked casually at the hospital as a L&D nurse. Of all days she happened to be working, she was there that day! When she saw my name on the list of moms delivering, she asked if she could be assigned to us. What a blessing it was to have her there and seeing a familiar face made the experience all the more wonderful!
Sweet, wonderful Sara. What a blessing it was to have her as part of our labor experience!
After my IV was placed and the pitocin was rolling, we started to walk the halls. There were 12 other women in active labor at the time, so the halls got rather crowded at times. After a little while of walking, we went back into the room to relax. My sister put in a movie and I had some chicken broth and crackers since I had become hungry with all that walking (another perk of delivering with the midwives—being able to eat even if I couldn't palate a steak at that point!).
My doula arrived around 2:20pm, even though contractions still hadn’t picked up to the point they were painful. At this point, they were still more like really annoying menstrual cramps. We decided to try walking some more. I put on my robe (those hospitals get cold!) and we walked some more. I remember laughing a lot, especially as we tried to navigate the IV pole that held the evil pitocin drip. It’s a miracle we didn’t rip out my IV with all of the laughing, stopping and starting we did.
Around 3, my mother and little sister stopped by for a short visit. We made it clear we didn’t want a whole bunch of people in the room when I was in labor, but since nothing was really happening yet, we said they could stop by for a few minutes. I was starting to get uncomfortable, but it wasn’t painful at this point, so it was now or never if they were going to come. Mom and Reagan didn’t stay long, but it was nice to see them for a few minutes.
Once they left, my doula suggested we start walking again since things still weren’t progressing. K said he was sure that something would happen by 4 or 5pm. After 20 minutes of walking, we went back to the room to keep watching a movie. While the movie played, my doula had me try some more techniques to get things moving. I did some step ups and more bouncing on my birth ball, and while contractions seemed to be getting stronger, they were still mild, at best. We walked some more and it was at that point that I noticed things starting to change.
Sweet Sara with the Pitocin pump of death. I hated that darn thing!
At this point, I wasn’t wanting to talk and laugh anymore. Contractions were bearable, but definitely hurt and I wanted to focus more on riding each wave rather than entertaining everyone. There as the suggestion to turn the movie back on to help us relax, but my focus was shifted. I laid in the bed for a few minutes to try and get E to drop into an even more favorable position, and my midwife came in to check on me again. She was pleased with how things seemed to be going and said she would be back for the rest of the evening once she had some dinner. One thing I really appreciated about my midwife was that she always made sure I was okay with something before she did it. Instead of saying, "I'll be back after dinner" she said "If you're okay with it, I'm going to go get some dinner with my family, but I will be back as soon as we are finished". I never felt like I was inconveniencing her and instead felt like she wanted to respect what my needs were at that time. I was also really happy that I did not have to have any cervical checks during this period. The hospital and nursing staff was incredibly respectful of my desires not to have a bunch of checks, and considering my water had been broken for a long time, it was also going to help reduce the chance of infection to me and my daughter.
Jenda left and I hopped back on my birth ball. At this point, I asked my sister to play some of my favorite worship songs. What better way to celebrate bringing life into the world than by praising the God who created life itself?! The music also helped distract me from the pain that was now accompanying my contractions. At a certain point during labor, you stop being self conscious. You stop caring what other people think. This part of you that you don’t even know exists emerges and you are lost in your own world. You know people are there, you know they are talking and doing things, but you don’t care. While sitting on the birth ball, I sang along to the music and would request songs for my sister to find. A few times, I felt myself getting emotional, not because I was scared or in pain, just because of how incredible and beautiful the situation was.
Kylie being my DJ. Smiling between contractions. The cup on the right had the delicious chicken broth...I kid you not, that stuff was great during labor (although I might never actually ask to eat it again like I did that day!)
After spending some time on the ball, we decided to try walking again since things were actually moving along. I felt the pep in my step was now much more of a determined shuffle (no more power walking and lunging for me). Instead of being able to walk through my contractions, I had to stop and hold onto the railings as they flowed. There were several people in the hallways, and I could feel their presence affecting my ability to labor effectively. While the intensity did not die out, my contractions started to get further apart. This further solidifies my attitude that labor is a beautiful and private affair. If you aren’t fully comfortable with your surroundings, you will not progress.
My doula also sensed this and suggested we go back to the room where I could have a bit more privacy. K was struggling to see me in so much pain, but he wanted to be as supportive as possible. I hung onto him and swayed during contractions. Nothing compares to being wrapped in his arms. My midwife came back into the room and said she was going to check me. I had dilated to a 3, which was discouraging, but at least I had made some progress. I was certain things would pick up soon, especially since my contractions continued to intensify.
Rocking through contractions with K. He was so great during labor--I'm truly blessed with an incredible husband!
During some of my contractions, I had terrible hip pain (thankfully no back labor), so my doula, husband and sister would give me some counterpressure during each wave. That helped so much. I remember telling them that I wanted them to go get something to eat since it could be a long evening, so they left in shifts to get food.
In the next thirty minutes, things really picked up. I went from being able to tolerate contractions to needing to focus through each. I was anxiously awaiting being able to use the tub, but knew I didn’t want to get in until I was far enough along to prevent labor from slowing. My pitocin was continuing to climb and let me tell you, those contractions are no joke. Coupled with the lack of cushion from my waters being broken, I was definitely feeling challenged but was still determined to have the unmedicated labor I planned and prepared for.
Sara had to leave for the night, and my new nurse Mariah took over. I was sad to see Sara go, as a familiar face is always a comfort, but knew that things would be okay with the new nurse too. At this point, my midwife could see how painful things had become and suggested that I get into the tub to help myself relax in order to aid in dilatation. That tub was the best thing ever! The warm water was so relaxing and for a long time, my contractions didn’t seem to hurt as badly—even though they were still at the same intensity.
Finally resting in the tub. It felt so good to relax!
Around 9:40pm, they checked me again. I had made it to a 4. I was pretty discouraged, as contractions were getting more and more intense, but knew that the last few could potentially go fast. My midwife was encouraging and told me that things would get moving. She bargained with me and said to make it through 30 more contractions. Counting to 30 was not fun at this point. I got horribly nauseous and everyone was sure that I had hit transition, me included. Listening to my body during this time was another internal moment. I didn’t care what people thought, and I did what felt natural to me. I sang through most of my contractions and couple of them brought me to tears. I remember being conscious of not wanting to be mean during labor, so I used “please and thank you” a lot. At that moment I remember telling someone to “Shut up….please”. My contraction pattern was consistent with transition and we were looking forward to finding out that I had progressed.
Surrounded with support as I labored in the tub. Kylie eventually crawled in behind me to rub my back. It truly takes a team!
Jenda checked me shortly after I had my 30th contraction. I found out that I had made no additional progress. At this point, we realized that E was stuck and that she wasn’t going to be moving on her own. In order to avoid a c-section, we needed to increase the pitocin even more. While I had very much wanted to avoid an epidural, at this point, I knew I needed one in order to cope with the increased intensity the pitocin was going to bring. My pitocin level was far above what normal drips reach, and combined with the lack of sleep, we all determined it was in my best interest to get some relief from the pain.
I got out of the tub and rode out a few more waves while we waited on the anesthesiologist. He came in and I could have kissed him. They got me ready for the epidural and it started working almost immediately. Unfortunately, I had several “hot spots”, so he had to come back and increase the medication in the epidural. I was so nervous that I would be paralyzed from it for the rest of my labor and that I wouldn’t be able to feel the urge to push. I shouldn’t have worried, I was still able to move and feel pressure. It was very well done! My doula told me later she forgot I had the epidural for a while!
Enjoying my epidural and finally able to rest. I was praying at this point that the increased pitocin would help me dilate, as the midwife said we might be looking at a c section if I failed to progress at this point. The Lord heard my prayers and answered them in a beautiful way!
We all rested for a while, which was helpful. I dozed, but wasn’t able to sleep well. By 2am, I had dilated to 10 and baby girl was at 0 station. We knew it wouldn’t be too much longer. The nurse emptied my bladder and E went from 0 to +2 immediately. The sudden drop caused her some distress so they had me move onto my hands and knees to help calm her heart rate.
Jenda went to check the position of E and we realized she was facing the wrong way—yet another reason my labor was not progressing as it should have (and making me all the more thankful that I did not have any back labor). My midwife reached in, grabbed her little head and turned her manually at that point. I was very happy I had the epidural, even with it, that maneuver was uncomfortable!
Evil, evil pitocin contractions!My midwife got the squat bar ready and we started to prep for pushing. As they got the cart ready, I remember being excited and nervous for this last part. I was exhausted, but knew that we were almost done. The squat bar was the best way to push! I was so nervous that I would be limited because of my epidural, but thankfully, I was still very mobile. I alternated between that and modified sitting for pushing and E made great progress.
They brought out the mirror for me to watch. I know a lot of women don’t like to see what’s happening down there (it is a bit of a murder scene!) but I loved watching her get closer and closer to emerging! Seeing all that dark hair was such an encouragement for me to push! Surprisingly, I didn’t get tired during pushing. I felt energized and excited. I never felt like I was straining or working too hard. I do remember getting into an argument with my nurse trying to convince her to let me go to the bathroom because I HAD to poop. She laughed at me and said, “No, you’re pushing out a baby, it feels the same”. She was right, of course, but at the time, I was convinced I needed to use the bathroom.
After a little less than 45 minutes of occasional pushing (thankfully, we didn’t push every contraction—it was very relaxed), E emerged. Things quickly turned from relaxed to intensive though when we realized the cord was wrapped tightly around her neck. My midwife told me to push as hard as I could and get her shoulders out. Those pushes were much harder for me, but out she came and they quickly unwrapped the cord and began working on getting her to be alert.
Those 30 seconds of silence after her birth were the longest of my life. She was very blue and I remember my sister telling me that she might need to go to the NICU. That was the only time during my entire labor I truly felt scared and helpless. Thankfully, she let out a big scream and let us all know she was just fine. The midwife told me later that the cord probably wrapped around her after her sudden 0 to +2 station drop.
Meeting our daughter for the first time.
E was born at 3:32am on Tuesday, January 22nd—26 ½ hours after my water broke at 39 weeks 6 days gestation. I only had two small tears, both a result of the last minute hard pushing I had to do when we discovered she had the cord around her neck. I was up and moving shortly after delivery, although I wasn’t allowed to be unassisted for a few hours. I was able to have her on my chest as long as I wanted after delivery, and the nurse waited to take her for vitals until I was ready to pass her to them. We were able to nurse within the first hour of birth. Truly, it was a beautiful experience.
Nursing E for the first time--such a beautiful moment!Did the birth go how I thought it would? No. I’ll admit that I was somewhat discouraged that I did not achieve an unmedicated birth, but my midwife reassured me that if my labor had progressed how normal labors normally do, that I would have been able to do it without a problem. This was encouraging for future children—I know I can do it next time. I know I had no control over my labor not progressing and my daughter’s poor positioning. I realize now that I never experienced one natural contraction and that my first experience of labor will be vastly different from future pregnancies. Even so, I had the absolute best labor and delivery I could have imagined in the circumstances.
Jenda, my incredible midwife who was so respectful and honoring of our wishes for the birth and who did everything she could to make that happen, even when things didn't go as planned! So thankful for her!Recovery has been incredible. I am 10 days postpartum and rarely need to take anything for pain. At the hospital, I was able to be up and moving around frequently. I had incredible support both there and here at home. I can almost fit back into my pre-pregnancy clothes, and while I’ve lost 20 pounds already, I still have about 18 more to go until I’m back to pre-baby days, but I’m completely fine with that—there’s no rush.
I can’t explain it, but talking about labor and birth and pregnancy is such an empowering and beautiful thing. Not everyone enjoys talking (or hearing) about it, but I do. I marvel at how God created our bodies to nurture a life for 9-10 months…how he enabled our bodies to birth and heal…how he’s designed us to be able to nurse and nourish our babies outside of the womb. What divine design!
Cherishing my sweet daughter.
Photo courtesy of Cherished: Portraits by Michelle (http://www.cherishedportraitsbymichelle.com/)
I loved my birth experience, even thought it didn’t go perfectly according to my plan. I told K within hours of E’s arrival that I couldn’t wait to do this again. Mind you, it will be a couple years, but I already miss being pregnant and am looking forward to yet another labor experience. I only hope that more women can learn to embrace labor and instead of facing it with fear, face it with the confidence that they are strong and capable of giving birth to their children. It’s an incredible and beautiful thing and I feel blessed that I was able to experience it! Motherhood truly is the most marvelous adventure and greatest blessing!