My doctor stripped my membranes for a second time at 40 weeks and 2 days. At that point I was dilated to 3cm and was 70% effaced so I really had been in early labor for two weeks. I was happy that the contractions had at least done something productive. Once again I was cramping a lot after the appointment and started contracting every 4 minutes shortly thereafter. I didn’t want to get excited though—it was probably just another false alarm. I had an induction scheduled for the following Monday which was just four days away so I at least knew I wouldn’t be pregnant forever.
As the afternoon progressed, so did the contractions. I got my hair done and silently counted the minutes in between and prayed they wouldn’t go away. Around midnight, the contractions were every 2.5-5 minutes and definitely getting stronger so I texted my doctor and she told me to head into the hospital. At this point, Matthew didn’t really believe me since I had thought I was in labor half a dozen times up until then. Lisa (my sister) said I was “the girl who cried baby.”
We got to the hospital and I was still only 3 cm. Seriously?? I was then “on the clock” so I had two hours to change my cervix or they would send me home. Matthew and I did a lap around the halls and I started doing squats in the room to try to get things going while he took a little nap (he had been on shift the preceding 24 hours and had not slept at all). All of the sudden the contractions picked up full force. Everyone had told me, “labor will be a breeze since you had kidney stones.” That is NOT true at all. The pain quickly became unbearable. It literally felt like my insides were ripping apart. They say you forget the pain, and maybe to a certain degree we do, but I can remember thinking I had never felt anything close to that level of pain in my life. Surely I was dilating quickly after all the Evening Primrose Oil… I thought. Of course, when my nurse checked me again I was still 3 cm, although my cervix had thinned out a little more and the baby had moved down. At this point, Matthew was up and trying to help me as I threw up nearly all over him from the pain and sobbed through each contraction. It was clear I was in actual labor so they started my IV and paperwork and offered me an epidural. I had never been opposed to an epidural, but I had always said I would try to hold out as long as possible. In my experience, I know first labors can be very long and I didn’t like the idea of being bedridden for the next 12+ hours. (More on epidurals in a future blog post!)
Around 5am, it got to the point where I could not take it anymore and went ahead and asked for the epidural. This is when I really messed up. As Matthew nearly passed out from seeing the needle and the contraction pain completely encompassed me, I didn’t speak up when I clearly felt the needle more to the left of my spine instead of in the center. Subsequently, the efficacy of the epidural was much more on the left side than the right, and I had no pain control above the waist meaning I could still feel the contraction pain in my abdomen. It wasn’t nearly as bad as it had been so I declined when my nurse offered for the anesthesiologist to come back and redo the epidural or give a rebolus of medication. I knew from experience with patients that that would inevitably result in complete numbing of the lower body and I didn’t want that at all. Ideally I wanted to still feel something so I would know when to push and therefore be a better pusher.
When my doctor came in around 11:30, I was sure I was still stuck at 5 or 6 cm but to my surprise I was completely dilated and my water had broken on its own. I had asked previously to be able to “labor down” meaning delaying pushing until the baby moved down a bit more even after the cervix is completely dilated so my doctor let me do this for awhile. Once it came time to push, I was very numb in the perineum but I felt pain with the contractions so I at least knew when I was supposed to push. With the first contraction of pushing, I pushed 3 times for 10 seconds each and the nurse called the doctor to the room. Apparently I was a great pusher because I pushed once with the doctor and she told me to stop so they could set up the room for delivery. The third push, she instructed me only to push for 5 seconds. With that, her head came out. With one more little push, the rest of her body came and the doctor asked if I wanted to pull her out. I had never actually seen a doctor let anyone do this so it was pretty awesome. I pulled her up on my chest and was immediately flooded with emotions. I had been so worried that because I experience births on such a regular basis that it would somehow be less special to me but I was so wrong. The feeling is absolutely indescribable. She was perfect.
There is a picture from my delivery room that pretty accurately portrays how I felt at the time. The moment your healthy baby is placed on your chest for the first time is absolutely indescribable. It is the culmination of nine months of emotions, anticipation, and quite literally human being all wrapped into one perfect little package. If I could bottle that feeling, I would certainly be a wealthy woman!
I am so grateful that I had such a wonderful labor experience. I owe it to my labor nurses, Becky and Julie, and my doctor for giving me such a unique birthing experience. Now, OF COURSE I am biased being a Labor and Delivery Nurse, but if it weren't for my labor nurses, I probably would've had a horrible experience. Becky was my night nurse and talked me through each contraction and plan of care. Despite having other patients, she sat with me and held my hands, teaching me breathing techniques that even I did not know. Julie, my day nurse, was a rockstar, too. Once my epidural pretty much stopped working on one side, she helped me get through each contraction and kept my family in the loop. Even seemingly small gestures such as flipping my pillow made me so appreciative of the care I received. I learned so much from my labor experience and I hope to give the same great care.