At 36 weeks pregnant, I went to my bi-weekly OBGYN appointment for my typical routine checkup. It was then that I learned that my doctor would be out of the country on a medical mission from July 18th - August 1st (the last two weeks of my pregnancy). My due date was July 27th. To say I was devastated to learn this news would be an understatement. I LOVE my doctor. She really is the best... So the idea that she wouldn't be there to deliver my baby was absolutely crushing. I wanted to have a natural, un-medicated labor, and it was my opinion that a good part of my success in that would be the kind of support staff present at the hospital during my labor (i.e. the nurses and, of course, my doctor). I felt like any questions I now had about my upcoming labor were pointless to ask her because she wasn't going to be the one there to deliver my baby anyway, so it didn't matter anymore what she thought or what she was or wasn't ok with letting me do, etc.. All the trust and planning I had built up with her over the past 8 months felt completely wasted. I went home and literally cried for hours and hours. I was planning on having a productive day that day but, instead, I spent the entire day on my bed soaking my pillow and Eric's shoulder with tears. Pregnancy hormones at their finest!
As my pregnancy moved along, I kept anxiously waiting to feel some kind of contractions to let me know that labor may be coming soon. Every time I went to the doctor they would ask me "Are you contracting?". My answer was always "I don't know... If I am, I sure don't feel anything!"
On Monday July 20th, 39 weeks pregnant and exactly 1 week away from my due date, I thought I might have been feeling some kind of "contractions". (And by contractions I mean, I felt a little crampy that morning). Which was more than I had felt during my entire pregnancy, so it got me pretty excited and I was absolutely certain it meant my baby was going to be born VERY soon. My mom asked me if I wanted to get pedicures with her that afternoon, and because I was under the impression my baby was practically "on the way", I said yes. Anyway... The day came and went... My toes looked pretty (blue for boy!) and by the next morning, my cramps were completely gone and I felt nothing else for the rest of the week... What a tease that was! I felt so confused and kind of let down. I wanted to meet my baby boy!
Now that my doctor was here, I was definitely ready to get this labor started. So I asked her to strip my membranes in hopes to get the ball rolling. She assured me that if my body wasn't ready to deliver, nothing would happen. But if it was ready, I should start feeling contractions within 24-48 hours. What a relief! "Let's do it!" I said. So she did, and the clock started ticking... I was 3cm dilated and 80% effaced that afternoon - about the same as where I was at my prior week's checkup.
I was determined to do whatever I could to help speed things along. I ran errands, cleaned the house, walked the dog, drank herbal teas, did yard work, used essential oils and massage, took a warm bath with lavender, etc... But to my dismay, 24 hours passed and I still felt nothing.
The following Tuesday night I went to bed, feeling a little defeated that it had been 36 hours and I still wasn't experiencing any kind of contractions. I woke up in the middle of the night, (Wednesday morning) at 3:15AM to go potty like I did every night during my pregnancy. But this time when I got back to bed I was wide awake. I was lying there, thinking about how frustrated I was that nothing was happening. I was stressing over the fact that Eric had been on a pre-scheduled vacation for a week and a half now, with less than a week left before he had to return to work, and we still had no baby. I was also stressed over the fact that my mother-in-law, Kathie, was due to fly into Phoenix from Ohio that Friday to visit her Grandson that hadn't even been born yet! (Not to mention the fact that I was now left with virtually zero recovery time before she got here). In summary, I felt like I was running out of time... So I stewed over it for a while before finally deciding to just take a deep breath and let it all go. I reminded myself that there was nothing I could do about any of it, and at the end of the day, none of that stuff mattered and everything would work out just fine. As I continued to lie there, lost in my thoughts, out of nowhere my baby boy gave me a swift kick and POP! ...He broke my water! I could literally feel and hear the sack break, followed by an immediate trickle down below... Did that seriously just happen?. To make sure I wasn't imagining things, I got up and sprinted for the bathroom and GUSH... Yep... My water has broken! I only had to say it out loud once for Eric to hear me and he immediately jumped out of bed and started loading up the car.
I was excited and frustrated at the same time. During my pregnancy, as I was "planning" my upcoming labor, one thing I really hoped wouldn't happen was for my water to break early. I knew that once you rupture, labor accelerates tremendously and the contractions are significantly more painful and intense than they are when you haven't ruptured. You see... When your amniotic sack is in tact, the amniotic fluid in your uterus acts like somewhat of a cushion. So when your water breaks, that cushion is gone and your baby's head is literally grinding on your cervix/pelvis during labor... It's a significant game changer.
Well to my dismay, my water broke... Oh well. I was at least excited that labor was officially starting and our baby boy would be here soon. And boy, was he ready to come out! Not 10 minutes after my water had broken, the contractions started... Hardcore. I was immediately having serious contractions every 2-3 minutes. I thought to myself Oh! So THAT is what contractions feel like! Yikes! Thank goodness you get that break in between! Eric called my mother to let her know things had started and that we were on our way to the hospital. She later told us that she could hear me laboring in the background while she was on the phone with Eric so she knew it was serious and to act fast. By 4:20AM, we were on our way to the hospital.
This is where a lot of the details and timelines get fuzzy, so bear with me...
We got to triage around 4:35AM, and they checked me to see how far dilated I was and confirmed I was still 3cm dilated and 80% effaced. I couldn't believe how painful the contractions were already but Eric kept assuring me I was doing a great job breathing through them and handling everything like a champ. I remember he was being so sweet and affectionate towards me - it was really sweet. But still, every time he tried hugging or kissing me I would tell him to leave me alone, haha! Not exactly in the mood for hugs and kisses right now, honey... Sorry! Love you too! Now let me focus on getting through these contractions.
Once we got moved into my room and my mom walked through the door, I literally felt like an angel had fallen from heaven to take my hand and help me through the pain. It's crazy how much another woman's presence helps you during a time like that. And not just any woman, but your own mother. Right away she started giving me tips on controlled breathing and staying focused. I was lying in the hospital bed at that point, just taking each contraction one at a time, but it was getting increasingly difficult. She suggested I find something in the room to focus on. I told her I had a picture on my phone I was planning on using as a focal point, so she took my phone and would hold it up for me to look at every time a contraction would start. It seemed to help a little, but honestly when the contractions hit, they were so painful and intense, it almost seemed impossible to really focus on anything and hold myself together. But I did what I was told and would just stare at the picture and breathe and moan until it was over.
Not long after we got into my labor room was I desperate to get out of the bed. I felt like I was trapped on it and needed a change in position. So I got up and sat on my labor ball instead. I felt much better on that thing. Still miserably painful, but it felt good to sit up and rock my hips from side to side in somewhat of a circle during the contractions. By this point I was staring out the window into the garden outside. My new focal point had become some vines that were growing along the wall of the hospital. My nurse, Tara (who was the highest recommended nurse by my doctor, by the way), started putting pressure on my hips during the contractions - that seemed to provide some relief. But most of the time it just wasn't nearly enough.
Eventually, it started to feel like time was standing still and I was living in one giant, painful contraction that would never go away. Even my doctor and nurses were commenting that I wasn't seeming to get any relief in between the "peaks". The contractions just weren't going away! I wanted so bad to have that brief moment in between so I could relax and take a deep breath... A quick minute to regain my strength and refocus, pat myself on the back and get ready for the next one. But the breaks were gone... My doctor commented that I might be experiencing back labor and suggested I try getting on my hands and knees to see if it helps. But I told her there was no way in hell I could even stand up to get off my birthing ball. I couldn't even lean my upper body over onto the bed to rest my head between contractions. She suggested I try getting in the shower to run some hot water on my back to see how that makes me feel, so we gave that a try. I don't even remember how I got in there, but next thing I know, I'm sitting on my birthing ball in the shower, with Eric behind me, putting pressure on my hips while I douse myself in scolding hot water. It did feel nice for a while, but after I don't know how long, I got so tired and just wanted to get out of there. I wanted to sit next to the bed again so I could at least TRY and rest my head on the mattress whenever I could.
After 5 and a half hours of laboring like this (on only 3 hours of sleep the night before), I was completely exhausted. I felt like nothing was providing me any kind of relief. I was too hot then too cold. Wanted them to put pressure on my hips, then didn't want it. Wanted to lie down but immediately wanted to sit up once I did. Wanted to be in the shower but didn't have the strength to sit in there any longer. It was like I was so desperately wanting a break from the pain that I was literally trying everything I could to run away from it, but nothing worked. I kept thinking to myself I can't do this any longer. How does anyone ever do this? Why am I doing this? What's the point? I felt like I was literally losing my mind. There were times during the peak of my contractions that I lost all self control and was punching the bed and swearing worse than any sailor could ever dream to. (My poor mother! Haha). The whole experience just felt utterly impossible.
It had been 5 and a half hours and I decided I wanted to know how far I had progressed. I needed to know that I was at least getting somewhere or else everything I was going through just wasn't worth it to me anymore. So they checked me and informed me that I had progressed to 4cm dilation. I was soooo disappointed. ONE centimeter? I only progressed ONE centimeter?? Nope, I'm done... I can't do this any longer. Give me an epidural, NOW! Maybe under different circumstances I could endure to the end on my own... But with my water broken, NO breaks between contractions, and having only progressed one centimeter after 5 and a half hours of labor, there was just no way I could do it naturally any longer. I had always told myself that I would try my hardest and see how things went. I knew that whether I would be able to successfully have an un-medicated labor would depend on the circumstances at hand, and if I ended up getting an epidural I told myself there was absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. And given the circumstances I was in, I felt really good about my decision. I was totally at peace with it. Thank goodness for modern medicine so that we have that option available to us! I kept thinking about all the women in history who have had to labor naturally under similar circumstances (and worse) without the luxury of epidurals, and I felt for those women in a way I would have never been able to before. God bless them!
So they called in the anesthesiologist. I was beyond ready to get some pain relief and much needed rest. At 9:30AM, they got me into the appropriate position, numbed my back (which is honestly the most painful part) and placed the epidural. I had to sit through 3 HUGE contractions while he put that thing into my back too! I still to this day have no idea how I was able to sit still through them, but I did. Luckily the medication kicks in quickly, but unfortunately for me, the left side of my body didn't take and I could still completely feel the contractions on my left side. So much so that I still had to breathe through them and endure until it was over. The good news though was that now that I had the epidural in, I was finally getting a break in between contractions. Just that alone was an incredible relief! They called the anesthesiologist back into the room and he was able to fix the problem. By 10:15AM both sides were completely numb. And I mean, COMPLETELY numb. I could not move or feel my legs in any way whatsoever. What a relief! BEST feeling ever to not be able to feel that pain anymore. We turned on a movie (Finding Nemo!) and I began to finally relax. We even took a group photo to celebrate (see below).
A little after 12PM, my doctor and the rest of the "pushing crew" came in to get everything ready to start pushing. I asked for a mirror because I wanted to watch my baby be born. They explained to me the pushing process (hold your legs and - when a contraction starts - crunch your upper body forward, take a deep breath and push for 8-10 seconds before exhaling. Repeat until the contraction is over, etc...). I gotta tell ya, holding your legs in your arms when you can't feel them is pretty weird. It was like holding onto some dead body's legs. It creeped me out BIG TIME.... Anyway, we started pushing! It was strange because I could only feel it in my face since my entire lower body was numb. They would coach me through the process "Ok, deep breath... 1, 2, 3,... Harder, harder, harder... and exhale! Good job! And again, deep breath..." I kept thinking to myself I have no idea if I am pushing right or hard enough, I can't feel anything! Man my face hurts... I am so glad I can't feel this anywhere else! This is so exciting! Why does my baby's head look so weird and lumpy? Man, this is exhausting!
I only had to push for 10-15 minutes and my little angel from heaven was born at 12:25PM, August 5th, 2015. Even though I was completely numb, I could feel him exit my body and my abdomen empty. It was such a strange sensation and a total relief at the same time. When I first laid my eyes on him, my first thoughts were Holy cow he is HUGE! And so weird looking... But in the most beautiful and adorable way. Why is he making such a sad old man face? I love him so much! I immediately started to cry... Like full on sob. Eric started to cut the cord and our baby immediately started to pee ALL over me. Something only a mother could love, right? We all got a good chuckle out of it and my mom got it on video. So funny.
They finally moved me into my recovery room where we would stay the night. I spent most of my time just holding my baby, feeding him, and staring at him with wonder and amazement. I was finally a mother. Something I had dreamed of becoming since I was just a little girl. The most important job in the world was now mine to perform. I was so happy... I was also STARVING and exhausted. I ordered pizza, fries and chocolate cake as my first meal post delivery. It was the best comfort food I had ever had. I wish I could say I got some sleep that night too, but I didn't (of course!). I think I got maybe 2-3 hours of interrupted sleep. But even with the exhaustion, it's all worth it. Everything he puts me through is worth it. We went home the next evening (Thursday, August 6th). When I walked around the house holding him in my arms, I had this surreal flashback of me sitting on the couch, very pregnant and waiting for his arrival. I became overwhelmed with emotion that the waiting was over and he was finally here. There I was, standing in that same living room, holding my baby boy in my arms. I sobbed for a while just taking it all in. There were a lot of emotional moments like that over the following 2 weeks. Lots of happy tears and overwhelming feelings of joy and wonder at how beautiful it all is. Life is so wonderful and precious. And being a parent truly is the greatest gift of all. I feel so honored to finally hold that responsibility. I am beyond grateful for all the blessings I have been given during my pregnancy, labor, and now in motherhood. I am also so thankful for my amazing husband. For this precious gift he has given me, making me a mother, and for being such an amazing partner and father. How did I get so lucky?
It really was the most beautiful, powerful and most spiritual experience I have ever had in my entire life. I can't wait to do it all again someday.