Disclaimer: this is most definitely one of those ‘My birth plan went out the window the second I went into labor and it was the best thing that could have possibly happened’ kind of blog. Be warned.
My birth DEFINITELY did not go according to the painstaking plans I made and practiced for.
I really wanted a natural birth, so my husband and I had been researching and practicing Bradley Method techniques for months. I had typed up my birth plan six weeks in advance, had given a copy to my midwife, and had 2 extra in my bag just in case we needed them on demand. I was educated, informed, and prepared. This birth was going to be everything I wanted.
Unfortunately, about 3 months before I was to give birth, I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes and soon after was placed on medication to help control my fasting sugars (the only thing I couldn’t manage with a strict diet and exercise). This put me at higher risk of all kinds of complications, including stillbirth, so my Perinatologist (whom I saw once a week from the diagnosis on) let me know I would be having an induction well before my due date to be sure the baby was safe.
Already my plan to wait until labor struck naturally was destroyed. It took me awhile to get over it and, if I’m being perfectly honest, I’m still grieving a bit over not being able to start labor when my body was ready. But what can you do?
We were initially encouraged to schedule the induction a week before the due date but I negotiated up to the day before, hoping against all hope (apparently) that Little Miss would show up on her own before then.
We tried everything. You can read more about it in my last blog.
In my final appointment with my midwife before the induction, I was told that I had not progressed at all since the appointment the week before and I would need to arrive at the hospital the night before my induction in order to prepare my body, since it didn’t look like my body was preparing enough on its own.
Monday finally rolled around and we showed up at the hospital around 7:15 that evening for the prep work. They showed me to my room (a little bit like a Swiss hotel: very Ikea-ish), I met the night nurses, and launched into my checklist of questions and concerns. Everyone was very kind to us, but my birth plan was further stomped on when I was told I would need to wear a fetal monitor the entire time I was in the hospital.
That was a huge blow for me. The rate of unnecessary c-sections is much higher when you’re forced to wear a monitor all the time, and this was one of the most important points in my birth plan- infrequent fetal monitoring. Since I was going to be medically induced and medically regulated there was no way I would get away with not having a monitor on.
The nurses wanted to start an IV right away in case I went into labor immediately. Unfortunately it took them SIX needle sticks to get one in- bruises blew up on both arms. The sticks didn’t really hurt that much- I don’t know if it was because I’m totally grown up and can handle needles now (finally) or if I just knew labor would be more difficult so it was less of a big deal. But I did it! Endured all the needles until they finally found a vein that could handle it.
The first thing the midwives attempted was a foley bulb. This would manually dilate my cervix so labor could progress more quickly. It’s not a medication, so I was quick to agree to this trial. Baby’s head was already super low, however, and after several extremely painful minutes trying to insert it around her head, they gave up. I contracted for about half an hour afterward, but with no progression- just pain.
Next up was the first medical intervention: Cervidil- a little bit like what Icy Hot feels like when you accidentally get it in a place you don’t want it. Not fun at all. However, it did help my body to get going. Around 10 pm that night the contractions started. Because my body wasn’t ready to go into labor, Baby Girl began moving around quite a bit every time I had a contraction. Meaning she moved away from the fetal monitor and a nurse had to come and wake me up in order to move the gadget to pick her heartbeat back up. Poor nurse, she was super busy that night- every half hour or so she’d come into the room, apologizing for waking me, and attempt to find the baby’s heartbeat. Needless to say, I got very little-to-no sleep that night. The contractions weren’t so bad yet, but a sleepless night is no way to go into labor.
Around 5 the next morning, the midwife came back in to take out the Cervidil (UGH), and give me half an hour to myself- I could shower, walk around, breathe a little, and prepare for the Pitocin.
About 6 am I was back in bed, checked (zero progress) and the Pitocin was hooked up. Contractions picked up immediately but weren’t overwhelming at first. Much more noticeable than the night before, but not terribly uncomfortable. I let The Professor continue dozing on the couch for awhile because he’d need his strength, too.
This is a great pausing point to share with you my incredible team- my nurse, Allie, and my midwife, Kelly. Allie was a superhero that day, meeting every need I had before I could ask, and fighting for my birth hopes. Kelly was supportive but challenging, attempting to move my labor along more quickly. The more quickly I progressed, the sooner I would stop laboring and have my baby. They were a dream team. Unpause.
I honestly don’t remember how long it was before the Pitocin really took hold, but the contractions seemed to get terrible out of nowhere. I knew they were upping the dosage every half hour, but all of a sudden my whole world had narrowed into a tiny black focus on my lower abdomen. I could concentrate on nothing else.
The Professor got me out of bed and we walked the hallways for awhile, stopping every two minutes or so so I could lean on him and moan through a contraction. I was hoping being mobile would help move things along, so I continued to shuffle up and down the hallway while my body was being sliced in half at the midsection.
As time wore on I grew more and more and more exhausted. I could lift my head less and less and was struggling to keep my eyes open. I asked my husband to take me back to my room and I straddled a large exercise ball (more of an oval, really), and attempted to sway the pain away.
It was absolutely horrible. The pain was so sharp, so hot. I’ve never felt anything like it before. It was all-consuming. I could think of nothing else, could do nothing else, but breathe and moan through each one.
The Bradley Method teaches you a full-body relaxation technique. Being a yoga teacher this was extremely familiar and comfortable to me. But I was so exhausted from not having slept the night before that I couldn’t even relax in the two minutes between contractions. My body felt like it was giving up. Every inch of me was tensed. Another cervical check showed that in the last 12 hours of labor I had only progressed one centimeter. ONE CENTIMETER. All that time and all that pain and I had only gotten to 2 centimeters total. How unspeakably discouraging it was to hear.
Allie was with us at that point and could tell I was losing my grip. She saw how exhausted I was and laid down the bottom line: “Pushing is the most difficult part. If you are struggling to keep your strength up now, you’re really going to have a hard time then.” It was easy to see this could end in a c-section for me. If I could barely keep my eyes open now, the baby could get stuck in the birth canal during pushing and real damage to both of us could occur.
I threw in the towel. So. Hard.
“I can’t do this anymore. I just need a nap. I want an epidural.”
To my husband’s credit, he asked the nurse to wait a little while before allowing me to give in. That was part of our original plan- if I started asking for interventions we would wait at least 20 minutes to make sure it’s what I wanted. But because Pitocin contractions are a synthetic labor, this was not a normal or natural scenario at all, and I truly couldn’t manage any more without a break. Allie called in the anesthesiologist.
Now this is where the temptation to feel shame can come in. I was a huge proponent of natural labor and delivery. Still am. But I’m also a huge proponent of avoiding c-sections, and having a healthy and safe baby come out. My body clearly wasn’t ready for labor and it was showing by my poor progression and my exponentially-increasing exhaustion.
The anesthesiologist came in and whipped out my epidural in no time flat. It was not that big a deal at all! He numbed the area with a lidocaine shot which felt a bit like a bee sting. It burned for maybe 3 seconds and then I couldn’t feel anything more in the area. I had a muscle spasm on the right side of my spine when the epidural went in, but other than that it was a cake walk. I could move and feel everything for quite awhile afterward, so I was able to get comfortably into bed. When the pain started to dissipate, I fell asleep instantly.
I woke about an hour later, feeling like I was leaking. I opened my eyes to see my nurse and midwife coming in to check on me.
“I feel like I’m leaking…” I was so confused. And exhausted. That nap really wasn’t long enough.
“It may be your water breaking, but let’s just check to see how things are going.”
I was up to 3-4 centimeters, and my water had broken on its own! Kelly had initially wanted to break my water way, way earlier, but I knew that would have intensified the labor much more quickly and I didn’t think I could have handled it. I had asked her to let me labor on my own awhile longer, and then had asked for an epidural.
She was really impressed that my water had broken on its own. Apparently this doesn’t happen often at the stage of labor where I was. I was elated, but mostly still in that half-awake/half-dead space, so after she congratulated me on my progress, she encouraged me to go back to sleep and she would check on me later. Allie was all smiles and thumbs up. She had placed a smaller birthing ball between my knees to help my hips start to open in preparation for delivery, and was spending her morning moving me from side to side to keep the blood flow going and my hips even.
I asked The Professor to put on a movie for me- I had brought a few of my favorite films, ones that brought me peace- so I could listen to it as I drifted in and out of sleep. I asked for the live action version of Cinderella- you know, the one with Lily James and Richard Madden. What a soundtrack!
He obliged, as he had been doing all along, and I drifted back off.
Two hours later I awoke with a start, feeling the strangest and deepest sensation in my pelvis. Did I need to push??
A little stressed out, I pressed the nurse’s button on my bed and called for Allie to come in.
“I feel a little bit like I need to push. I think. It’s so weird..”
“Let me just check to see how you’re progressing.”
“Well, it looks like it’s time to meet your baby. You’re at 10 centimeters!”
What? I went from three to ten centimeters in two hours???
I burst into tears. Like huge, hot, heavy tears, streaming down my face. I could scarcely catch my breath I was crying so hard. I wasn’t ready yet! I had been sleeping through all that progression, I hadn’t had enough time to prepare for this final stage!
Allie was smiling and laughing and trying to calm me. The Professor was just as surprised as I was, and we were certainly both in a state of real shock.
But this was the glory of my epidural. My experience was exactly what they hope it will be when they give them. It allowed my body to relax deeply enough to let the contractions work on my behalf, without my subconsciously fighting them. Just call me the Poster Child for Epidurals. Praise the Lamb.
And then my body calmed down a bit. The contractions slowed down for about an hour, but I honestly don’t know if it was my body truly relaxing or if they turned down the Pitocin drip. They let me wait until I felt a true urge to push and it took almost the whole hour. Which I desperately needed to emotionally wrap my head around the reality that I would soon be a parent.
The hour came and went and I could begin to feel the contractions building again but never really felt that ‘real urge’ they said I would. Allie told me to try some practice pushes, and Everly descended pretty rapidly. She called in Kelly, my midwife, so the real work could begin.
I sat up, not wanting to push on my back, propped one foot on the midwife and one in The Professor’s arms. The epidural is a magical, magical invention. I could feel all the pressure of what was happening in my body, but with none of the pain. It’s so hard to explain. I could still move my feet and curl my toes, I had decent control over my left leg, but my right leg was stupid drunk and would not listen to any of my commands. It was the strangest sensation.
But the time had come to meet my daughter. I plucked up my courage, breathed deeply, and pushed with everything in me. Four contractions and ten minutes later, and Everly Rose was born.
She opened up her powerful lungs immediately and let the world know she had arrived. They handed her to me, goopy and grey and crying with all her little might, and I burst into tears once more.
She was- she is- utterly perfect. Utterly perfect in every single way. They let me hold her close for almost an hour before they weighed her or performed any of their tests. She latched onto my heart in a way I never imagined a person could.
All the Mom cliches? Completely true. The kind of love I feel for her is genuinely indescribable. When she cries I feel a physical pain. When she sleeps, or when I snuggle her, I feel a deeper peace than I ever have.
I had the absolute best possible birth experience, given my circumstances. And you know what? Probably even without my circumstances. Just the best possible birth. My team was incredible, the epidural was top-notch and did exactly what it was supposed to do, and Everly arrived safely and healthy and whole. And she’s all mine. She’s everything I could have hoped for, and more.
And I’m so glad things went down the way they did.
- Everly weighed 7 lbs, 2 oz and was 20 in long at birth
- Born at 3:12 pm
- Counting beginning contractions, labor lasted about 17 hours total
- Epidurals for all things. Oh, you have the flu? Epidural. Stubbed your toe? Epidrual
- She passed her blood sugar tests in less than 24 hours (but needed some assistance from sugar water and formula after a few intital failed tests)
- Postpartum was more exhausting than labor- nurses, midwives, and lactation consultants coming in to check on us, poke on us, and answer our questions, even in the dead of night. There were probably 30 different staff members we saw in the 3 days we were in the hospital
- Recovery is much worse than delivery if you tear (and I did- in two separate places)
- Spray bottle is BAE
- So is Witch Hazel
- Everly is a CHAMPION eater and gained her birth weight back in four days
- Placenta pills make a huge difference in your hormonal swings
- Balancing wanting to share her with visitors and not wanting to share her snuggles is crazy difficult
- Having my husband home for two weeks was just like a second honeymoon- we feel more connected now than ever