We realize this is 8 months after the fact, but better late than never right!? Before giving birth, we didn’t read many birth stories (not sure why, I guess they just weren’t in any books we read), but in retrospect we wish we had so we would have had a better idea as to what to expect (and not just medical facts or what they tell you in the birthing classes). It would have been nice to read more stories from different people’s perspectives (especially friends), and their particular experience of such a crazy and wonderful event, so we decided to write this out for our friends who will experience this one day or for those who are just simply interested (and for our own reading pleasure in the years to come). Oh and disclaimer, we’re really just kidding about the title of this post, but if the thought of reading the intimate details of a birth makes you want to poke your own eyes out, you should probably read no further.
About 8 days before Caleb was born (16 days before my due date), I began noticing various signs that I would be going into labor soon, so we had a good feeling Caleb would be born early. Then on April 25th (9 days before my due date), I woke up at 4 am with regular contractions. They weren’t incredibly strong but they were 3-5 minutes apart, so we went to the hospital as we were instructed to do when contractions reached that frequency. When we got to Long Beach Memorial, I was placed in a triage room and hooked up to the baby monitoring strap thing to measure my contractions and monitor Caleb’s heart rate. It was confirmed that my contractions were consistently close together, but I was only 2 cm dilated (you need to be 10 cm dilated before you are able to push). When they asked me how much pain I was in on a scale of 1-10, I said “2 or 3,” and they sort of laughed at me and said: “most women who come in and are admitted say 9 or 10.”
Because I wasn’t very dilated, they had me walk the halls for an hour to see if that would accelerate labor (they said they didn’t like to admit women who weren’t at least 4 or 5 cm dilated). The walking didn’t help, and I was subsequently sent back home with the instruction to come back when I was in “more pain.” We were a bit frustrated by this, because that seemed like such a vague instruction – we felt confused and worried that we wouldn’t really know when it was time to come back. They also told us that Caleb would be coming “soon”…and when we asked them to clarify what they meant by “soon,” they wouldn’t directly answer so we had no idea if that meant a few hours, or a few weeks. Really not what a super hormonal and highly uncomfortable pregnant woman wants to hear.
So we went back home at about 10 am and tried in vain to get some sleep (we were just too on edge). My contractions actually petered out throughout the day, so at 11:30 pm, we got ready for bed. Just as I was about to fall asleep at midnight, the contractions started up again. They were stronger than before, but now totally irregular. This continued until 2 am. We had no idea what we were supposed to do since we were under the impression we weren’t supposed to go to the hospital until the contractions were strong AND regular. Finally I was in so much pain I was groaning aloud, and I had Sean call the hospital to ask for advice. They told him we should come in. I was sure they said that to everyone who called to avoid liability, so I decided to wait longer.
At about 2:45 am I couldn’t take it anymore, and we decided to just go to the hospital despite the irregular contractions. I was brought once again to the “triage” area and hooked up to the monitoring device. By this time, my contractions were extremely painful and had become regular. I thought for sure I was 4 or 5 cm dilated, but when the nurse checked me I was only 3 cm dilated. The nurse communicated very little with me and said she had to go call my OB doctor before a decision whether or not to admit me could be made. Once she left, I literally burst out into tears. I was in SO much pain and was convinced they were going to send me back home. All I kept thinking was, “my contractions are now strong AND regular…how the heck am I going to know when to come back in?? I am going to have this baby in my apartment!!”
The nurse was gone for what seemed like eternity (probably more like an hour), and finally returned to check my monitor and give me the very unsatisfying news: “I’m still waiting to hear back from your doctor,” and left again within a couple minutes. Unfortunately the maternity ward was incredibly busy that day (April 26th), so I didn’t get much face time with the nurses to ask many questions or get much explained to me, which was frustrating and difficult. By this point my contractions were becoming so strong that I had literally reached a state of delusion. My vision was really blurry and I remember feeling like I was in a dream. Everything seemed to be moving reeeeaaaally slow and I had trouble processing what was happening. I’ll let Sean take over here because honestly, I can hardly remember what happened from about 4 am to 7:30 am.
One of the most difficult parts of that morning was that the few bits of information we received seemed to be in contradiction. They would say, “wow, your contractions look ‘textbook’ and strong!”, but then they would check her and she was not dilating any further. So it seemed like a huge relief when they finally informed us at about 7 am that she would be admitted and they were locating the next available room. She had already been in labor for 7 hours, so I was hoping it would be just a few more minutes until they got her out of that cramped little temporary room. After another agonizing 45 minutes, I began to think they had forgotten us. At about that time, Melissa leaned over and clutched my hand, her eyes looking directly into mine yet focused 1000 yards behind me, and simply whispered “Help me.” I went to find out why we were still in the waiting room, and discovered that the nurses were having a shift change which was causing a delay in finding a room for us…our timing was just perfect I guess (plus every single birthing room was in use that day). When the new nurse came in, she started prepping Melissa for an I.V. Unfortunately the valve on that I.V. was faulty and when she stuck the needle into Melissa’s wrist, a voluminous stream of blood began draining onto the floor. The nurse hadn’t noticed, Melissa was on another planet, and I was in too much of a stupor to do anything but point and say “uuuuhhhhmmmm….uuhhhmmmmm….” as I watched a 1 foot diameter blood pool collect by the nurse’s foot. My last image of that little room was a shaking, yelling Melissa being loaded into a wheelchair while someone got on a radio and said, “bio hazard cleanup needed in room 9.”
Back to Melissa. It always seemed silly to me to have a birth plan (particularly with my first child) since I had no idea how the birth would go down (i.e. what it really feels like, if there would be complications, etc.), so before going to the hospital we printed out our “birth plan” which had one sentence on it: “Just get the baby out” – a joke for the nurses. Of course I educated myself on the options I would have/the obstacles I might face and what I *thought* I would want to do, but I made sure to keep an open mind and remain flexible so I would be prepared to handle anything that happened. Getting an epidural was one of the options I hadn’t made a decision on before going into labor. At 3 am when I first got to the hospital, I was still unsure if I wanted one, but by 7 am it was the fastest and easiest decision I’ve ever made in my life (and I’m terrible at making decisions). Ha!
I think there are a lot of strong opinions about epidurals out there, and mine is this: if I would normally get anesthesia for any other major medical event (pulling wisdom teeth, surgery, etc.) why would I NOT get it during the most painful experience of my life to date?? Currently, there is no empirical evidence to support the theory that it is harmful to the baby nor that it increases the chance of cesarean delivery, so it just doesn’t make sense to me to take such an opposed stance (however, I do agree that like any drug, there is always the chance of side effects). It also seems that the whole epidural issue can breed a weird sense of pride and competition like the female version of “how many weights can you lift? I bet I can lift more.” Additionally, the only women I personally know of who gave birth without an epidural had relatively short labors; all others opted for one. I WILL say this though – if you had a labor longer than 10 hours with no epidural, I will bow down and kiss your feet because that is just ridiculous. Anyway, I digress…my point is that I think you can get an epidural and still be considered a “good mom” 🙂
So after starting labor at midnight, I got an epidural at about 8 am. As the nurse was getting ready to move me from the triage room to the birthing room, she spent time making sure my hospital gown was completely covering me and I remember thinking to myself “I don’t $*%#@ care if you wheel me down this hall butt NAKED…just get me the epidural NOW!” LOL! Once in the birthing room it took them three tries to get me to round my back so they could administer the drugs. They asked me to arch forwards and I arched backwards. They asked me to go the opposite direction…I arched backwards again…I was slightly confused and out of it 🙂 The epidural took effect pretty quickly and it was a huge relief. I was finally able to relax and rest (in a very loose sense of the term). My mom and younger sister showed up at this point and it was great to have them there with us for support and distraction.
From 8 am on it was a slow but steady progression. I gradually dilated more and my doctor broke my water for me in the afternoon. (Contrary to popular belief, labor does NOT typically begin with the water breaking). It was painless, but pretty weird. There was a LOT more fluid than I thought there would be. There was a huge gush at first and it continued to leak over the next hour or so. Also, like I mentioned earlier, it was insanely busy in the maternity ward that day so I sat in soaked sheets for an hour before they were changed 🙁
Caleb kept falling asleep during labor (seriously???) which they could tell by his heart rate, so I had to wear an oxygen mask for most of labor (which I hated…it was so annoying, I kept asking if I could take it off). They also kept making me turn on my side to wake Caleb up, which was extremely painful and uncomfortable because of the severe pelvic pain I had developed in my third trimester of pregnancy. At one point (maybe around 3 pm), my epidural began wearing off rather quickly so I buzzed my nurse like she asked me to before pushing the button for more drugs to be released. She didn’t respond and it took 30 minutes for the nurse at the front desk to finally come back and assist me (she was the ONLY nurse available in the whole place at that point…ridiculous!) I actually really liked the nurse assigned to me, I just didn’t see much of her :/
By about 5:30 pm, I was feeling the urge to push and they stopped administering the epidural so that I would be able to feel the pushing contractions. It was exciting I had reached that point but I was also super exhausted. They had me push for 10 seconds in sets of 3, which I did for about an hour and 15 minutes (Caleb was born at 6:47 pm). Near the end of the pushing, I was so exhausted and worked up that I began hyperventilating. My nurse had to yell at me to stop because it would have caused problems if I continued. Thankfully, right as I was thinking “oh my gosh, I legitimately do not have the energy to push one more time,” Caleb popped out. Like literally, he popped out super fast. I see now why Dr.’s are somewhat paranoid about dropping the baby…once the head comes out they are like slimy little rockets! Haha!
…And I got a 2nd degree perineal tear. Not gonna go into details, just look it up on google if you don’t know what I’m talking about and have the stomach for it 🙂 Apparently this is an incredibly common occurrence, which is a bummer. After the nurses did a few things with Caleb and my Dr. was stitching me up, they put Caleb on my chest for his first opportunity to nurse which he wanted absolutely no part of. I held Caleb for awhile and then Sean, my mom, and my sister got a turn to hold him. Then he was off to the nursery to get washed up and other random things I can’t remember now.
I’ve heard many people describe the first time they hold their child as this incredible moment that is breathtaking, spiritual, and somehow magical. You know, the typical “as I gazed into my child’s eyes (eyelids?) I had this overwhelming sense of how much God loves me because of how much I love this child and this is just so amazing, incredible, etc…” I’m not ridiculing you if this is how you felt, I’m just saying my mind wasn’t even close to having such deep thoughts at that moment. The extent of my profound ponderings was “wow, how amazing is it that I just pushed such a large object out of such a small opening!”
Of course all the more meaningful thoughts came later, but honestly at the time I had reached unparalleled exhaustion and felt like total crap (though I was relieved he was finally out). Reference below picture (ha!):
I had slept 4 terrible, restless hours in the previous 2 1/2 days, labored for 19 hours, was carrying a lot of extra weight, just got a rip stitched up, was bleeding profusely, and had to pee like crazy. As far as I know my birth experience was really nothing out of the ordinary or especially awful – it really was pretty standard, so my hunch is that people who were capable of a deep moment after birth are either projecting later feelings back onto that time, were delirious from the drugs/exhaustion, or were the dad 🙂 Also on a random tangent, I have yet to understand how some women are able to post a picture to facebook 5 minutes after giving birth looking chipper, with their hair and makeup perfectly done (you know what I’m talking about, can I get an amen!?) I mean, mad props if that is you, but the absolute last thing I wanted to do after giving birth was take a picture period nor did I care one ounce how I looked.
Just in case there is any question at this point, I do love my son and in retrospect Caleb’s birth experience was incredible; those are just the honest and raw emotions I experienced at the time. Like I said, Caleb’s birth wasn’t unusual or particularly crazy, I just wanted to document the details because it is special to me 🙂
What happened next:
Caleb’s Afterbirth – the Hospital (Part 1)
Caleb’s Afterbirth – the Neighbs (Part 2)
Caleb’s Afterbirth – Breastfeeding Blues (Part 3)
Caleb’s Afterbirth – Body Slammed (Part 4)
Caleb’s Afterbirth – Am I an Incompetent Parent (Part 5)
And here’s the 10 ways pregnancy crushed my dignity: