Here I sit, six weeks postpartum and feeling ashamed and humiliated to write this down for you to read. The girl who so adamantly fought tooth and nail to prepare for a natural childbirth but begged (literally) for an epidural. I was prepared to labor at home, in my beautiful jetted bathtub. I was prepared to breath through my contractions, and use what I had learned from Bradley classes to labor my daughter into this world. My husband was prepared, too. We were so ready to do the dirty work to bring Virginia into this world without the interventions that we had read, debated, and decided against for our baby. We had a birth plan, written and even illustrated in certain points. We were so, so, so, so, so, ready for everything that could come our way. Except we weren’t. I was so, so, not ready. I wasn’t ready for a 28 hour labor. I wasn’t ready for over 48 hours with no sleep during that labor, and I really wasn’t ready to even entertain pain medication options. Bad combo, guys…bad combo.
In order to really give you the nitty gritty details I’m sure I’d want to read if I were you, we have to bump ourselves back a week with my 39 week appointment at the OBGYN office.
In my mind the baby was NOT coming before Valentine’s Day. I’m unsure why, but I had read everywhere that your first baby would most definitely not come on your due date, and it certainly was not going to come early. So, in my head, I had decided she would be joining us on Valentine’s Day. Mind you, her “due date” was January 31st. Call in my anxiety meddling, or call it wishful thinking to avoid the inevitable–but I was legitimately positive this was going to be her birthday. So when I got to the doctor on my 39 week appointment date I was shocked that the OBGYN (brand new to the practice) said he had stripped my membranes while checking for dilation. Something that I most definitely did NOT consent to, and something that immediately sent me panicking that they had just guaranteed our baby be born before she was ready. As if that wasn’t traumatic and angering enough, the doctor left the room and came back in to inform me he had scheduled me for an induction the day after my due date with Cervadil. Legitimately I thought I was in a parallel universe. Every other doctor and midwife at this practice refuses to even discuss induction unless you are a week” overdue” or have some medical concern. I was a perfectly healthy, ridiculously low-risk, first time mother…and I panicked. After being told “well once a baby is past their due date we need to get them out, there’s just no good that comes of keeping a baby inside past their due date.” as a response to my questioning this decision I realized I had to go with it. I let them finish my appointment, and held it together until I got to the scheduling area where the receptionist asked if I needed an appointment card to remind me of the time for my induction date, and I started hyperventilating. Of course, this was the ONE appointment I told my husband I really didn’t need him a for. Bewildered, she grabbed my hand and informed me that she could tell it wasn’t what I wanted or was prepared for and she graciously allowed me to schedule an appointment the day before my due date with one of the midwives I so adored. Shout out to God for giving me a great receptionist who was a WVU fan and I bonded with MONTHS prior to this mental breakdown. Cue me thinking that best case scenario I go into labor without any help and the doctor forgets, worst case I just don’t go to the appointment for induction…or the midwife agrees it is ridiculous and makes me feel better about naturally going into labor.
Cue me getting ZERO, NIL, ZILCH, NADA, sleep the night before my next appointment.
The midwife never once mentioned an induction, and sent me on my way to hopefully go into labor on my own within the next two weeks.
We had rigatoni with meatballs for dinner, and settled in to catch up on some backlogged DVR episodes of Scorpion and I started having really consistent contractions. I told my husband not to get too excited, but to make sure our hospital bags were in the living room to grab them in the middle of the night.
I was exhausted and already running on 24 hours of NO sleep, and tried to get comfortable enough in bed to catch some rest. I was positive I was in labor, but didn’t say anything to Matt because I wanted him to get a good night of sleep if I couldn’t.
You see, the days leading up to this night I would go to bed absolutely crippled with anxiety that I would go into labor. I wasn’t ever afraid to labor, but I was really afraid of the next chapter of life beginning and the previous one ending. Oddly, when it actually happened I got really excited.
I was in shock that my baby would either be a day early, or come on her projected due date.
After tossing and turning for three hours I decided to take a bath. From Bradley class we learned it could stop a false labor, or stall a real active labor and I decided either of those options sounded great because I was exhausted. After two hours of being in the bath tub but not feeling much relief I decided to try walking up and down our steps in the house. Then I had to wake Matt. The contractions didn’t “hurt” but they were getting really close together–about 2-3 minutes apart and sometimes less than that. We live a decent trek from the hospital and he was mega paranoid I’d deliver in the car while he was driving–which if you know my husband would have been hysterical and probably landed us on he Ellen show–so we headed into the medical center.
I was four centimeters dilated and fully effaced, and we walked an empty hospital (super creepy), and walked, and walked, and walked until I was about five centimeters and begging to get into the shower. Our labor and delivery intake nurse was ending her shift four hours after we arrived, right after she moved us into our delivery suite. She laughed and said she’d come see us in Mother and Baby that night because we were the first “normal and fun” people she’d seen in a while. (Side note: we were told this multiple times over the next two days, and made us wonder what type of crazy shit those poor girls saw on a regular basis). She even started the shower for me, and helped me get in and comfy before going home for the night. Lauren, if you’re reading this, you da real MVP.
The hot water from the shower was the only thing that made me feel any type of relief. At this point, I was on almost 35 hours of NO sleep, and was physically exhausted. Mentally, I was fine–we were getting this baby out and I was NOT going to get any drugs. The labor and delivery nurses were the absolute sweetest. Our two girls we were assigned for the day are still two of my favorite people I’ve ever met. A nurse named Jordan, and her pal named Melanie were about to become my new best friends. Probably because they were with me that next 12 hours, and were heaven sent just for us. Seriously…they laughed when we cracked jokes, held my hand when I was in pain, and rubbed my back while I cried in frustration. When we told them we were planning to labor naturally they were all for it.
“So if you are frustrated and say you want some relief, do you want me to talk you out of it? Or let you get it?”
Well color that a question I’d never thought of. I stared at Matt and he looked back at her and replied that, “if it gets to the point she’s begging you for drugs then she needs them. She doesn’t complain.” I agreed and thought, naively, that I would surely be like 8 centimeters and moving along since I’d been in labor for over 15 hours, awake for almost 20, and needed. some. damn. rest. ASAP.
We were so lucky that the midwife was on call for the day, and also very blessed that all in all aside from intermittent monitoring of the baby we were left to labor alone. Our fabulous nurses would come in, check on us, and leave. It was perfect.
Until I was stuck at 5 centimeters for over six hours. Frustrated, and feeling like I really had nothing left to give to walking, to shifting positions, to acupressure, to anything else I agreed with the midwife breaking my water would be a minimal intervention to get things moving again.
Holy. Effing. Poop.
Ten minutes after my water broke I was crying. Something that I don’t do often, and really hadn’t done at all in over twenty hours of laboring with this sweet baby. I was in so much pain, and the contractions weren’t giving me a break anymore.
I was exhausted mentally now, and beyond exhausted physically.
I couldn’t move, I couldn’t catch my breath, and I felt like it was never going to end. At one point the crew of nurses and our midwife came in the room to me sobbing to Matt repeating, “I’m just so tired and I’m so done.” over, and over, and over again and one of our amazing nurses just sat beside me and held my hand.
She looked at me and said, “You’re doing a great job. A really amazing job. You’ve been doing this for almost a full day with no break. You’re allowed to be tired. What can we do to help?” At that point I was so delusional I really thought I could just go to sleep, wake up the next day well rested, and then deliver the baby. I was that out of my mind tired. I’d been awake for over 40 hours, and I was done. So done. I looked at the team, sobbing, and said I wanted just something that would help me be able to sleep for an hour to re-energize myself.
I felt defeated, and embarrassed. When they left to get the infection of meds I looked at Matt and broke down sobbing. He crawled on the bed, held my hand, and said the best thing he could have. “You’re doing the right thing. She is going to be okay, you are NOT going to ruin her, and I love you.” Immediately I knew that he was right.
At this point I thought I was dying, and the pain meds they gave me through my IV were a damn joke. The nurses said they’d go grab lunch then check back on me. There is no way they could have made it to the cafeteria before I was frantically pushing the call button begging for the epidural. I was exhausted, and looking back I was in transition. I’m pretty sure that I was so delirious they contemplated calling a priest instead of the anesthesiologist. They wanted to check me and I flat out refused to be touched until I was medicated heavily.
Jordan and Melanie got everything ready for him to arrive, and I got more and more insane with every contraction.
Actual things that came out of my mouth between the 20 minutes they called him, and he arrived:
“Are you sure you actually called? I don’t think he got the page.”
“But what if he doesn’t come? I can’t do this anymore.”
“You have seen him do this enough times, I trust you to do it.’
Then the poor guy arrives and is genuinely one of the nicest human beings ever and I was a ridiculous bitch.
“The board says you wanted a natural labor and delivery, what were your reasons for not wanting an epidural so I can make you feel a bit better, Jordan?”
Don’t care about the natural birth. We can talk about it after you give me the medicine.
“So let me just run down the list of things that could happen, I have to.”
Don’t care. Medicine. Now.
“Alright we need your husband in that chair over there, and you’re going to have to sit perfectly still for me, okay?”
How the fuck am I supposed to do that when my contractions are so close?
(At this point our nurses burst out laughing.)
Melanie, God bless her, came to hold me and let me literally soak her shirt with my tears as she rubbed my head while he did the epidural. She was calm, quiet, and made me feel so much better about being stabbed in the spinal column.
Once the epidural was in I then decided the poor guy did it wrong.
“It still hurts. You told me I wouldn’t feel anything. You lied to me.”
Mrs. Leonard it takes about ten minutes to kick in.
“Well that sounds a lot like false advertisement.”
Then it kicked in. Damn. Epidurals for everyone, for everything, for life.
Then I had to let the poor girls check me again, and I was almost nine centimeters dilated. Talk about going from 0-100 (or 5-9) real fast.
Finally, after 24 hours of labor, and almost 50 of NO sleep, I took a nap. A blessed nap, a nap sent from heaven.
When I woke up I knew I had the urge to push, but just didn’t feel like I was ready. I asked if they could turn off the meds in the epidural so I could feel pushing better and be able to feel what was happening in my body again. They happily obliged, and I realized I needed to push her out–then.
Almost three hours of pushing later, and our amazing nurses STAYED. Their shifts were over, and they stayed to see our baby brought into the world. Seriously, nurses, ya’ll are amazing and I love you. You deserve all the Starbucks and all things good, because damn.
Then she was here. A tiny, bug eyed, tree frog looking, cute little baby that I waited so long to meet. Everything everyone tells you about your baby instantly making your heart grow ten sizes is 100% true.
I thought that I would feel regret about getting the epidural and medication, but honestly I haven’t felt that way at all. It was right for me at the right time. Do I hope that next time I’m not in labor as long, and I slept the night before? Hell yes. I really think I’ll aim for a natural birth again, and hopefully be able to do it next time now that I know what to expect. I’m mostly just upset about the “I told you so’s” or “I knew she wouldn’t do it” that accompany admitting this special type of defeat.
In the end I had full control over my laboring process, and that itself was empowering. I wasn’t scared, or anxious that my body was broken or couldn’t do the job. Our healthy, perfect, amazing baby girl latched within ten minutes of being born with a latch so perfect the midwife was shocked. Breastfeeding has been the easiest thing I’ve done so far as a mother, which is a major blessing in and of itself. Truly, we are blessed beyond measure with a beautiful baby girl who won’t ever care that her mother screamed “Seriously dude, what the *&^%?” to the anesthesiologist as he prepped her spine, or that she wasn’t delivered 100% naturally into the world. She’s just happy to be here, and that’s perfect for me, too.