DISCLAIMER: this is really long. No, I'm serious. It's, like, REALLY long. I wrote it more in personal reflection/journal format to have as a keepsake for me and Eliza, so I truly left no detail out. Reader beware! ;)
I went in on Friday the 13th (so glad she wasn’t born on that day!) for gels – similar to Cervidil, but not as strong I guess. The gel is applied near the cervix. My midwife, Anne, said that if labor was already imminent, it would be enough to push me over the edge, but otherwise would probably not work – if not, I’d need to come in the next night to start the Cervidil.. She checked me and I was 3 cm and 60% effaced. I didn’t have much hope that the gels would work, but she thought they might, especially when the monitor started picking up small contractions once the gel was in. I couldn’t feel them at this point. I went home at about 1:30 and on the drive home I started to feel crampy (in my back, exactly like a menstrual cramp, but WAY less painful), but nothing really bad. Anne said this might be a side effect of the gel.
I got home and fussed around the house a bit. I did the dishes, cleaned a little… it’s my nature to do this, though, so I don’t really know if this meant anything about labor starting or not! Though everyone says it does. The cramping started to pick up around 2:00 or so, and I thought they might have become regular, but it was hard to tell. I still felt everything in my back (I expected to feel everything in my back since that is where I feel menstrual cramps – I always expected labor to feel like this actually – I get incredibly horrible back pain during my period… long story for another time!). I decided to take a bath to help the cramps. It felt good (and I got a chance to shave my legs just in case this was labor! ☺). By the time I got out of the bath, the cramping was pretty uncomfortable, to the point I needed to stop and use some type of pain coping technique to help. They were still easy to breathe through, and getting on my hands and knees really helped. STILL, I was completely in denial that this was labor. I kept thinking ‘it should hurt more if this is really labor’! At 3:00, my mom called from work. I was on my hands and knees in the nursery and told her how I was feeling. She immediately said “it sounds like this could be it!” Still, I didn’t believe it. The contractions didn’t seem to be coming at any regular interval, and in fact my back pretty much hurt constantly. So I thought maybe I was just feeling the side effects of the gel.
Things continued like this until 4:30. Then the cramps got worse and I was really feeling them. I wasn’t timing them (probably should have been!), so I didn’t know how far apart, but it felt like they were coming pretty often. Who knows – time loses all meaning in labor! My mom called and said she was coming over, and that she was in fact really close to my house so she’d be there in a minute. When 15 minutes passed and she still wasn’t there, I was kind of worried, and wanted her to get there ASAP! I was draped over the arm of the couch at this point, breathing through the contractions as best I could. She called again and said she had gotten into a fender bender like two blocks from my house and was waiting for the police to get there. What great timing! I think she could tell from the sound of my voice at this point that I needed her, so she said “never mind, I’m coming right now, I can just file the police report online!” She was at my house right away. She helped me get through the contractions and suggested some different positions. I was really focused on helping the baby move down into my pelvis so I was using every position known to be good for that – squatting, rolling my hips, walking, etc. I remember being very focused on the baby and wanting to do everything I could do help her move down. Mom was checking baby’s heart tones every so often with the doppler and she sounded nice and strong. At around 6:00, she checked my cervix and I was at a 4 and 100% effaced. This was definitely it! I finally believed it ☺. Andy got home around that time – I was so glad to see him. He took over for mom and started helping me get through the contractions. He was extremely good at helping me – the birth class had apparently helped him a lot! Mom made me some ramen for dinner, which I ate in between ctxs, and we just continued to try different positions for a couple of hours. Around 8:00, mom checked me again and I was 5 cm. At this point, mom suggested we head to the hospital; she was worried the car ride would be too uncomfortable for me the longer we waited. So Andy ran frantically around the house throwing things into a bag (um, even though our hospital bag had been packed for weeks! We ended up bringing WAY too much stuff !). The drive was okay. Very uncomfortable, yes, but it was only about an 8 minute car ride.
We got to the hospital and I was in a lot of pain by this point – the ctxs were strong and seemed close together to me, though time really does lose all meaning in labor (did I say that already?). The waterbirth suite was open, so we got there and started filling up the tub. In the meantime, my AWESOME nurse (SO glad I got her) suggested lots of different positions for me to try, which helped. Moving around felt really good. We tried the birthing ball, doing pelvic rocks, walking, squatting, etc… one thing that really worked was sitting on the birthing ball in the shower with the shower jets pointed at my back (so I was facing away from the shower head). It felt so good, and I could move my pelvis around on the ball in circles. I highly recommend this position! The tub was full by this point, so I got in and labored there for at least an hour or so. I remember thinking at this point ‘I can do this! I AM doing this.’ As long as I got a break in between ctxs, I was fine. The rests – albeit small – felt divine. Even though the labor was completely still in my back, I was doing it. This was what I always suspected labor would feel like (in my back), and I was used to that type of pain, so was able to handle it so far.
At midnight, the ctxs started to pick up all of a sudden and got a LOT stronger and closer together. They felt like they were coming one after the other. Anne checked me and I was at a 6. I was frustrated by this, but tried not to be too frustrated because I knew that dilation is not linear – I could certainly be complete in only a short amount of time, it wouldn’t necessarily take hours more… but still, the pain was getting harder and harder to deal with. Anne suggested we try sterile water injections as a method of pain relief for the back labor, so I agreed, hoping it would work. MAN, those things hurt. They basically just shoot a small amount of sterile water (not saline) into the lower back just under the skin in four different places. It’s supposed to trick the brain somehow… not sure exactly what the neurological reasons are that it works… but it has to do with pain of getting them injected. So we did those at about midnight or so and it did seem to work for a while, but I don’t think it worked as well as Anne was hoping. After this point, something changed in my labor – the ctxs started coming close together, and then really far apart, and then close together again. I remember I would get like a five minute rest, which would feel great (and I would almost fall asleep), and then I would be hit with a MEGA contraction. Then after that, another regular sized contraction would come like one minute later. It was weird. I got back in the tub around 1:00 and labored there more. The pain was getting really unbearable and I started to feel like I was losing control, and losing my focus a little bit. Contractions were still coming at weird times, they were not regular at all. I got out of the tub around 1:45 and Anne wanted to check my cervix again. I was still a 6. She also noticed that the baby was, as far as she could tell, posterior. She thought this might be the reason for my back labor. She suggested at this point that we break my water to see if that would help make the contractions more regular. I agreed.
After that, I got back into the tub and things really started to pick up. I thought at first that this was a good sign – contractions were coming every minute or so, very strong, very hard and very regular. Then at, I think, around 2:00 am the contractions stopped stopping - that is, I got no breaks in between them and was wondering what the H*LL was going on! I remember saying “I’m not getting a break anymore – I NEED THE BREAKS! Why am I not getting a break?” I could tell mom and Anne were concerned and this was when they started talking about the possibility that my labor was becoming “dysfunctional” (not a word I wanted to hear!!). Mom explained that because baby might be posterior, she was probably trying to turn to an anterior position and this was causing the constant feeling of having a contraction without getting a break. It was excruciating! Those breaks between contractions are imperative to the process, I have decided! At this point I felt myself starting to freak out, and was very upset that things had stopped progressing like they should. I had been at this for 12 hours and was very tired. I kept saying: “I am soooo tired. I need to sleep.”
At this point I could hear Anne and my mom talking over me in hushed voices and I knew what was coming. Before labor started, I had asked them to please not offer me drugs unless and until my labor reached a point where this would be helpful in their opinion – unless they truly thought it was necessary. I also asked them to please ignore me if I started asking for them. They did both of these things for me, and I am so grateful. I knew going into things that if they (Anne and mom) suggested an epidural, it would be because it was necessary at that point – and not for any other reason (convenience, to get me to shut up – haha ☺). And at 2:30, when I was still at a 6 and still hadn’t gotten a break from the mega contraction, they finally said “okay Ella, we think it’s time to start discussing an epidural.” I was sad, frustrated and upset, but I trusted Anne and mom, and I knew it was the right choice. I needed it in order to bring my baby into the world. I had lost control and felt my body tensing up from the non-stop, powerful back pain I was experiencing. I cried and felt like a failure; I remember apologizing to the baby, apologizing to Andy… oh my goodness, it was so dramatic – ha! ☺ So, at about 3:30 (it took him FOREVER to get there!!), the anesthesiologist arrived and administered the epi. I felt immediate relief and was able to sleep. I slept for about an hour and a half or so.
When I woke up, Anne checked me and I was complete and ready to push! Pushing was my favorite part! I really liked pushing. I felt so in control and with every push I knew I was closer to meeting my baby girl. It was weird at first – I definitely had to learn how to push. Anne was a great coach, telling me what I was doing right, what to do more of, etc… so I got the hang of it quickly. I pushed about three times with each contraction. I preferred to be on my side at first, so I pushed like there for a while, and then Anne suggested I try the birthing bar. The nurse installed that on the bed, and wrapped a sheet around it so I could pull myself up with the sheet while pushing (kind of hard to explain… but the sheet was wrapped up like a rope). I REALLY liked the bar. I could pull myself up while I pushed and really curl myself up and focus my ab strength on pushing. As I was pushing, mom was taking pictures (eew, I know – but in the end I was really glad she did) and showing me the progress I was making (they had a mirror up, but the bar was blocking it). It was awesome. Finally, after an hour and 45 minutes, Anne said “Ella, reach down and grab your baby!” And I did, and it was the best feeling in the world! I grabbed her and pulled her onto my chest. She SCREAMED right away, and didn’t stop for about a full hour after she was born – she made her presence known! And mom and dad cried right along with her. She was finally here. Our girl, our miracle girl. We sat there and cried together, all three of us. We didn’t take our eyes off of our daughter for at least a full hour. They allowed me to keep her on my chest for quite a while – Andy cut the cord after it stopped pulsing, the placenta was delivered, Anne stitched me up (I had a superficial 2nd degree tear), and all the while my eyes were on my daughter. It was quite a feeling of shock and awe – I mean, I KNEW I was pregnant for 9 months, I knew I was having a BABY, but… omg, there was a baby on my chest! MY baby. It was crazy. It was completely shocking! In a good way, of course ☺
They finally took her and weighed her – Anne’s guess was closest at “over 8 lbs!” I guessed about 8 lbs, and she came in at 8 lbs 5 ozs! At 41 weeks 1 day, I thought that was a healthy sized girl. Everyone was saying: “you grew a wonderful, healthy baby girl, Ella! Way to go!” It was such an amazing experience. The entire thing was so rewarding, so wonderful! Even though the labor was difficult, didn't progress as well as it could have with a posterior babe, and became “dysfunctional”, I made it through and I’m happy with the decisions we made to bring our baby girl into the world. YES, I would have preferred to avoid the epi, but it clearly was what I needed at that point, and I trusted the people around me who were supporting me and guiding me through the decision. In the end, I feel great about what I accomplished, about laboring for 13 hours on my own, using many different pain coping techniques, and for pushing my baby out! It was an empowering, life-altering experience and I am so proud of myself and of my baby. She did as much work as I did in being born, after all!
Whew, that was long! Glad I got it out, though. Thank you for reading!