It all started on Thursday, May 23rd - 2 days before my due date. I had an appointment with my OBGYN that morning for a routine 39-week check-up. However, this cervical check felt significantly more uncomfortable than usual. When the check was over, the doctor told me that I was 1.5 cm dilated and she had just stripped my membranes. I was shocked and felt very violated, as this was not part of my “plan”. I wanted to go into labor on my own without any intervention. After the doctor left the room, I looked at my husband and started crying. Little did I know, but this was the beginning of my birth story.
After the appointment, I proceeded to Caribou Coffee for a latte and Bruegger’s Bagels for some carbs - this was my #treatyoself routine after each OB appointment because cervical checks aren’t the definition of “fun”. Later that day I decided to go on a walk. (Side bar: I joke that I actually exercised more when I was pregnant than I ever have in my life. I attribute the amount of exercise I did to a healthy pregnancy.) I felt pretty crampy that afternoon, so I strolled around the neighborhood at a slow pace. I also experienced some light spotting that lasted throughout the day. That evening I was supposed to walk at Elon graduation for completing the MBA program. I told the program director a week prior that I would not be making it since it was so close to my due date (and it’s a good thing I didn’t attend LOL). To celebrate my graduation, my husband and I went to Ruth’s Chris and sat at the bar. We split a wedge salad and a cheeseburger and I had a lovely glass of red wine. The last month of pregnancy I was very worried about what my “last meal” would be before I went into labor … safe to say this one surpassed my expectations! We actually ran into a co-worker of mine in the bar and joked with him that we may be across the street later at Women’s Hospital … God definitely heard that and laughed.
After dinner, we went home and watched TV. I retreated to bed around 9pm, but told my husband that I wasn’t feeling too well so I was going to sleep upstairs in the guest bedroom and that I would come get him if I needed him. I was still a little crampy from the membrane stripping and had an upset stomach. Of course, when I told him that he couldn’t go to sleep. Sure enough around 9:45pm I started having contractions coupled with diarrhea. I turned on my labor playlist, opened my contraction timer app, and started to pray and breathe deeply. During contractions I would lay in bed or crawl around the room on all fours between trips to the bathroom. I texted the doulas after an hour to let them know that I was in early labor. My contractions started out lasting 1 minute long, coming about every 7 minutes and there was no doubt in my mind that this WAS IT!
Around midnight, I proceeded downstairs to wake my husband (who never actually went to sleep) because things were picking up and I needed his help. We kept the lights off in our bedroom, as I went back and forth from the bathroom to the bed. I found it most helpful during contractions to stand leaning over the bed, swaying and moaning. When the contraction subsided, I would get in bed and rest on a heating pad. I kept crackers by my bedside and refilled my water bottle frequently, as I knew staying hydrated was critical. Around 1am I started throwing up and bleeding. My husband called our doula Jessica shortly thereafter to tell her what was happening. I spoke with her on the phone through a contraction. She told my husband to put me in the shower and if my contractions increased, we should consider making moves to the hospital, but if my contractions slowed down that we should stay home a little longer. My contractions sped up, but I still wasn’t ready to go to the hospital. I wanted to labor in the comfort of my home and delay any unnecessary intervention or monitoring for as long as possible.
Around 4am we saw more blood and no longer felt comfortable managing at home. We called Jessica and left for the hospital around 5am. When I got to triage, I was 5cm dilated. The nurse started me on fluids since I was still throwing up and felt very weak after being awake for nearly 24 hours. Jessica met us in the hallway as I was being wheeled to our labor room - boy was I relieved to see her! I labored with the help of my husband and Jessica - my husband would hold my hand and tell me I could do this, while Jessica performed counter pressure on my lower back and reminded me to relax. I alternated between laying on the bed and sitting on the toilet, which felt extremely intense. I labored without medication until around 930am when I started going through transition. At this point, I remember sitting on the toilet crying saying that I couldn’t do this anymore, but my husband and Jessica were extremely supportive and positive, telling me that I WAS doing it and I was strong. Our nurse was also amazing - she understood and respected my desire to have a natural birth. I ended up asking for nitrous gas during transition and inhaled it for about an hour. It didn’t take the pain away, but it helped me relax during breaks. I even started singing songs at one point! However, looking back, I don’t think I would use nitrous again because it made me very loopy and I don’t remember a lot around that time period. My body started to bear down shortly thereafter and Jessica told me not to fight it. At this point, I was 9.5cm dilated with a lip. Our nurse instructed me to push, while she attempted to pull back the cervical lip. This was very hard work, but it was also exciting because it meant our son would be here soon (or so we thought). Once I got to 10cm, I felt something coming out of me, but much to my dismay, it wasn’t a baby - it was a portion of my bag of waters. Nurses started coming in the room to look, because my bag would not break on its own and apparently this is quite rare. As weird as it sounds, this was one of the highlights of my labor. The vibe in the room was exciting and I felt very powerful. Everyone thought that our son, Parker, would be here soon!
(Using the nitrous oxide below)
After 30 minutes or so, our nurse proceeded to break my water with her hands … and after that, everything changed. I started really pushing at this point, with my feet on the squat bar and my hands pulling on a sheet wrapped around the bar. 30 minutes of pushing later and Parker wasn’t making any progress down the birth canal because his head was turned at an undesirable angle. Around 11am, the OBGYN on call came in to check me and we decided as a team that it would be beneficial for both baby and I to get an epidural, despite my plan for a natural birth. The epidural was virtually painless and I was so relieved to be able to relax. Jessica and my husband ate lunch and rested, as I laid on my side with a peanut ball between my legs in order to get Parker to turn his head. We actually invited our families in to quickly say hey, which was very nice. After 45 minutes, the nurse pushed pitocin because my contractions had basically fizzled out, even though Parker had indeed turned and dropped to +2 station. Once the pitocin kicked in, I was instructed to push. This time around with an epidural I felt nothing. This was extra frustrating for me because I had experienced pushing without medication, so I knew what I should be feeling, but I wasn’t feeling a thing. After the third push, the nurse quickly picked up the phone and called the OB. The OB came and checked me during the third push and then walked over to me and said, “We are going to have this baby now, but I want you to know that you are a great candidate for a VBAC next time.” I will never forget her face or those words - the fact that she knew I wanted to have a natural birth and reassured me that next time could be different meant the world to me. Before I could process what she said, the room filled with nurses and anesthesiologists. I looked over at my husband who was getting dressed in scrubs. Nurses were talking to me and telling me what was going on, but I was very out of it. Luckily, I had enough wits about me to ask for a vaginal swab so that my son could still get the beneficial bacteria from the birth canal and a clear drape so that I could see him being born.
Within 5 minutes, we were wheeled down the hall to the cold OR. Unfortunately, Jessica wasn’t allowed to come with us. I have to say that the scariest part of the day was lying on the operating table staring at the lights and mirrors above me, watching the nurses prepare my body for surgery without my husband next to me because he wasn’t allowed in the room until they were ready for surgery. I thought they were about to perform the surgery without him, but thankfully he showed up just in time to put headphones in my ears and hold my hand and pray with me. Within 5ish minutes, around 3:05pm on Friday, May 24th, I heard “10 seconds to curtain” and then BOOM the blue curtain dropped and through a clear drape I saw and heard our son - he was here and healthy and very angry LOL! They held him up for me to “touch” him through the plastic curtain and then took him away to clean him up.
In hindsight, I am so thankful I received an epidural so that I could be awake to see him being born. Because I continued to throw up throughout the procedure and my teeth were chattering furiously, my husband got to do skin-to-skin with Parker, which made me so happy! The nurses stuck Parker’s little body into neck of my husband’s t-shirt and our nurse took the most precious photos! After what seemed like FOREVER, Parker was placed on my chest under a blanket and we were wheeled out of the OR. Even though I really didn’t want to see anybody because I felt absolutely horrible, our family was waiting for us around the corner and I will never forget watching my parents cry and hug each other as we passed by on our way to the recovery room. While in recovery, yep, you guessed it, I was STILL throwing up. After about an hour, my stomach finally calmed down and I was able to hold Parker. He latched on immediately after waiting very patiently for his mom to feel better :). We were then wheeled to our room aka our home-away-from-home for the next three nights and the rest, as they say, is history!
I will be forever grateful to Jessica and my husband for being there for me during this 17-hour ordeal, for being so quick to grab the throw-up bag, for telling me that I COULD do this, for remaining calm, and for helping me make smart decisions that ultimately helped to bring our son Parker into this world safely! God is GREAT!