If you are following Hypnobabies, don’t want to read birth stories that talk about pain or just don’t like the words contractions, placenta or meconium…you should skip this post. I’ll be back soon with fun stories about her name, how the dogs are reacting, what items I’ve loved so far and more. I seriously considered condensing this, as it’s very long — but I wanted to remember the details as vividly as I could. A week after giving birth, I’m already forgetting the events of the day…
- I went into labor early on Friday morning and delivered early on Saturday morning, after almost 24 hours. She was exactly one week overdue.
- When I arrived at the hospital, I was 5 cm. I progressed to 7 cm at 8:30pm, 8.5 cm at 10:10 and 9.5 cm by 10:35 p.m.
- I started pushing at 11:25 p.m. with my water breaking shortly after.
- Audrey was born at 12:44 a.m.
- I did not receive any pain medication and no drugs at all until I was given oxytocin to help deliver the placenta.
- Audrey was born with meconium in her fluids, so we were not able to delay cord-cutting and she had to be attended to (in the room) by a NICU team. Apgar scores were a beautiful 7 and 9.
- She was 7 pounds, 7 ounces, 20.5 inches long.
Epically long and graphic version:
In the days leading up to Audrey’s birth, I tried everything I could to kickstart labor. With an induction scheduled for Wednesday, October 17th at 3 a.m., I figured it couldn’t hurt. And I really (really really) did not want augmentation if I could help it. I had plans for an unmedicated hospital birth, with Hypnobabies and a doula for support.
So I went a little crazy: doing a shot of hot sauce, eating eggplant parmesan, curb walking, drinking gallons of red raspberry leaf tea, taking evening primrose oil and more. At my appointment on Wednesday the 10th, I was 2 cm dilated and 70 % effaced, and I asked my doctor to sweep my membranes.
Thursday night, I started feeling tired and very cranky. I took a shower and just wanted to melt into the walls. Getting out and getting dressed took all of my energy and I went downstairs to sit…feeling huge, sore and ready to go. Now it seems like a sign that my body was starting to gear up. I decided to go to bed a bit early and fell asleep as soon as I closed my eyes.
On Friday, October 12th at 1 a.m., I woke up feeling cramps — no contractions, but just a tight feeling in my tummy and what felt like gas pains. I went to the bathroom (and went over and over, nearly every hour until I left for the hospital). I tried to go back to sleep, but sat in the dark just thinking…and that’s when I felt what I *thought* could be a contraction, but I wasn’t sure.
By 3 a.m., the cramps were coming a bit more regularly, and I decided to start timing them with my iPhone app. They were not very strong — and as a funny aside, I kept insisting, all the way up until I was checked into the hospital — that I wasn’t actually sure I was in labor, and might just be having some tummy trouble. They were regular enough for me to keep timing them, sometimes 10-13 minutes apart and sometimes closer to 5 minutes.
At 7 a.m.-ish, Lucas woke up and found me on all fours in the bed wincing. I told him I thought I might be having contractions, but they weren’t too bad and I was just going to see what happened. I told him to go to work but that I was going to call in to work.
Between 7 a.m. and noonish, I went about my day. Sat in the glider and rocked, pausing every once in a while to time the contraction, but I was able to talk through them and didn’t feel much pain, just discomfort. I ate breakfast, snacked and ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich during this time.
My mom made the chocolate bark/candy mess that I planned to take to the nurses as a bribe/push present. She did that while standing in as my at-home doula — the BEST coach I could have asked for during what became an increasingly difficult time. She calmed me down, rubbed my muscles and helped me from going totally stir crazy as I waited for the action to get into high gear.
Between noonish and 3 p.m., the contractions started coming on stronger, faster and became more painful — sometimes as close as 3 minutes, which concerned me, but averaging about 4-5 minutes apart. Normally, my doctor would have me go to L&D at 5-1-1, 5 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute for 1 hour. But because I wanted to avoid interventions, she advised me to wait until I couldn’t stand it at home any more. I’ll admit, I started to have a few thoughts that I might wait too long at home (denial is a strong emotion) and end up having my baby at home or in the car, and as things really sped up, I started feeling that I might want to head to the hospital soon.
Lucas, of course, was smarter than I and decided not to leave the house for the day, despite my urging — he did a lot of work from home, checking on me every 15 minutes or so and then packing the car. The last hour of laboring at home was very painful — I was burying my head into the couch cushions screaming my head off, and walking just a few steps at a time proved to be nearly impossible. The contractions were coming every 3-4 minutes, lasting about a minute and they took my breath away. I could actually feel them coming before they hit, like an early warning system or a tremor before a massive earthquake. It really didn’t feel like I was getting much of a break (although I’d find out a few hours later what it *really* meant to have no break).
Things that were awesome during this time: cold grapes, backrubs, my iPhone app.
The ride to the car was not as bad as I had feared — I had two contractions in the car but not nearly the intensity of the ones right before we left. When we arrived, I warned Lucas that I didn’t think I could make it upstairs without having a contraction, and as I said it, I felt one coming on. I thought I was being pretty stealthy about handling it — leaning gently against a light pole and trying to breathe through it — but I guess not, because a pack of nurses came by very concerned, an orderly ran at me with a wheelchair (it was VERY hard to convince him to let me walk!), a driver passing by rolled down his window to ask if I was OK and the front desk staff just stared at me. Since the contraction was over, I felt OK — smiling and waving at all of the attention.
We checked in, which did not take long but did cause me to sink to my knees twice for contractions. The poor people in the waiting room weren’t sure what to think of me! Nurse Maggie checked me into triage at 3:40 p.m. I was still convinced that I was going to be 2-3cm and sent home, so I prepared myself mentally for bad news. I changed into my hospital gown, Maggie put the monitor on my belly and we heard the whoosh whoosh whoosh of baby’s heart. She didn’t show any issues for the 20 minutes or so that they kept me on it, so Maggie checked me — and was as delighted as I was that I was 5 cm, very thin with a “bulging bag of waters.” She told me she thought my water would break just walking down the hall…foreshadowing: it would be much longer and much more dramatic.
Lucas took notes throughout the process as well as photos, and he marked that at 4:15 p.m., he dropped my brand new iPhone 5 on the floor. I *must* have been feeling the oxytocin, because I didn’t kill him.
At 4:30, we were officially transferred into the birthing suite — I changed into my pretty labor and delivery gown, got hooked up to the monitor and with a smile on my face, figured I was ready for what was to come!
Ann Marie came in to take over as my nurse/angel. Truly, along with my husband and doula, Ann Marie became one of the most important people in the room. Dani, my doula, showed up just a few minutes after I checked into the suite.
Between 4:30 and 7 p.m., labor got real. I stopped making jokes, started moaning, screaming and grunting…started negotiating with my team:
- I can’t do this.
- I can’t do this and I don’t WANT to do this.
- This is good enough. I have gotten this far and it hurts. I can’t do it.
I remember being so angry at Dani and Lucas for not listening to me — for telling me that I could do this, that I was so close, that it wouldn’t be long, etc. At that point, if they had told me it was 15 minutes away from the end, I still would have wanted the epidural. I started begging and screaming and begging some more. I now know that this was transition — Dani asked if I would let her try one thing before I got the epidural and out of desperation, I said yes. She led me through a series of breathing exercises, asking me to focus and get control back. I really was out of control at this point…the pain was in charge and I could not seem to wrap my brain around anything rational. I was screaming, crying and absolutely out of my mind.
But her exercise worked long enough to get me to 8:30 p.m., when I again demanded to be checked. Ann Marie came in and told me I was 7cm. Everyone else thought that was great — to me, that was a sign that I still had hours of pain ahead of me, and I again started to go crazy, wailing and demanding that someone get me the epidural. Ann Marie looked at me with her hands on her hips and took charge for the next half hour or so, letting me know that as long as she was in the room, I would not be able to say “I can’t.” She helped me into different positions, stared me down until I relaxed and caught my breath and generally saved the day.
(Don’t get me wrong…Dani, my doula, was absolutely incredible. Since the birth, Lucas and I have said at least a dozen times that she was the perfect fit for us, and that we don’t think we could have stayed drug-free without her. But having a new personality in the room and a new perspective really helped me.)
By 9:10, according to the notes, I had regained my calm behavior and was progressing well. At 10:10, I was 8.5 cm and back to feeling desperate. Poor Lucas and Dani got daggers shot at them every time they tried to tell me I was almost there. I knew how hard that 1.5 cm had been and I knew I had pushing left to do. I gave up again at this point and started back with my demands for drugs.
But somehow by 10:35 I was 9.5 cm, and the only thing holding me back was a stubborn cervical lip. If I thought getting to 9.5 cm was hard, getting to 10 cm and pushing through that lip — literally pushing, bearing down while Ann Marie tried to manually move the lip aside — was excruciating. I pushed in a half-dozen positions, with my legs in stirrups, on all fours, flat on my back…finally, at 11:25, my nurse was calling for my doctor.
In a very brief comical moment, my “bulging bag of waters” which everyone thought would break around 5 p.m. did finally explode — all over my doula. My nurse knew it was coming, because she put on a face mask and got the heck out of the way when it became apparent what was about to happen.
At 11:40, my doctor arrived and while I was glad to see her, I was so miserable that I just started begging for her to get in there and PULL IT OUT OF ME. The next hour was indescribable. The most painful, overwhelmingly physical experience I’ve ever had and ever will have. At this point, I was so tired and sore from the labor that I was shaking uncontrollably, short of breath and my muscles felt like jelly. And yet I was still asked to wait for a contraction to arrive — the only time during the entire day that I wished they would come faster — and then bear down with all of my strength to push my daughter out. Those pushes felt like I was being ripped apart, and the further along I got, the harder it was. I could feel her between my legs and had to summon all of my strength to not scream during the wait in between pushes.
I think I cried a little during this section. I know I looked at Lucas and told him I was scared. And then I found out what scared really felt like…apparently when my water broke, the nurse saw a little bit of meconium, or stool, in the fluid. She was concerned enough to alert the NICU team, and ask them to come to the room to check the baby out after birth. I registered that at the time, but was so focused on pushing that I didn’t realize that my baby could be in danger. But as her head started to emerge, the nurse and doctor realized that there was more meconium than they had thought, and they started to tell me, in between pushes, that as soon as she was out, she’d need to be attended to. They would not stimulate her and I might not hear her cry for a while. They couldn’t do the delayed cord cutting and I needed to really concentrate on getting my daughter born.
I pushed with everything I had and then some. They kept asking me to look down and see her but I just couldn’t — it was too hard to see how little progress I’d made. (My doctors told me throughout that I was a fantastic pusher, was making perfect progress and was actually having a faster labor than most first-time mothers but all I knew was that it wasn’t over yet.)
And then, she was born. They had to force me to open my eyes and look at her because I was convinced that they were lying to me — I didn’t feel her pop out or hear her cry and I thought that it was just another trick to keep me motivated. But I looked and there was my big, beautiful daughter. In a rush, they called Lucas over, he cut the cord and she was whisked away to the warming bed across the room. I hollered for Lucas to go to her, started saying “my baby! my baby! my baby!” over and over and then gripped my doula’s hand for dear life.
It was a very difficult 5 minutes before I could see her, but to be honest…I had quite a bit of work left to do, and that really pulled my focus. I had to deliver the placenta, which was more painful than I expected, and then sit through an awful few minutes while my doctor repaired my second-degree tear (lidocaine? did nothing for me.).
It turns out that she was sunny-side up — they were able to turn her during the final pushes — and came out with her little fist up by her mouth, just like she appeared in all of her ultrasound pictures. Adorable, but it made things that much more difficult!
At 12:44 a.m. on October 13th, 2012, my daughter Audrey Saison made her debut, weighing 7 pounds, 7 ounces and measuring 20.5 inches. Despite the meconium drama, she was perfect — getting a 7 and 9 on her apgar scores and getting two thumbs up from the NICU team. When she finally made it into my arms, I was afraid that I had missed my bonding window, but we immediately snuggled skin to skin and she took to my breast like a natural. She nursed for a nice long stretch and then we just sat together as a family. Lucas and I kept looking at each other in awe — amazed that this perfect little person was the one that we’d been waiting for.
And I don’t care how cliched it sounds…I never knew how much I loved my husband until our daughter was born. Or maybe it’s that as much as I loved him before, my heart grew two sizes to accommodate the instant extra love I felt for him when we became parents. Seeing him with her…watching him help me through the hardest day of my life…I’ll never be able to adequately describe how things shifted inside me the moment Audrey became ours.
My recovery was challenging, for sure, and I was very naive about how much pain I would be in in the days to come. My tear caused much of that, of course, but I was also shaky for hours after delivery. We didn’t get up to our recovery room for several hours, and when we did, we were awoken every hour for vitals checks for me and baby. Almost as painful as the delivery was the uterine massage I received every hour. And getting from my bed to the bathroom was a reminder of the workout I’d just had — my biceps hurt from gripping the pull bars and my legs ached from being held back toward my ears through pushing. Peeing felt like sharp knives and pooping didn’t happen for days (way too scary!).
After two days, we were sent home — welcome news, although we had a fantastic support team of nurses who helped us get through the first 48 hours together. And since then, the adventure has been amazing…truly the best thing I have ever done.
More to come about the first week with Audrey, how I feel a week after delivery, whether I’d get an epidural next time or not and my thoughts on the pregnancy, now that it’s over.
I’m a mom. And happier than I could ever imagine. Happier every moment that goes by. Challenged, overwhelmed, tired and more. But in love with my baby.