In the months leading up to having a baby new moms get all sorts of advice. Some from people you ask direct questions, some unsolicited, and some you find in the mountains of research you're doing to keep you sane and "prepare" you for the birth and arrival of your baby.
The fact of the matter is that you have no idea what's coming.
I had a theory leading up to those last few days that current moms weren't talking on purpose... they weren't telling the real story. That perhaps if word got out none of the rest of us would ever get pregnant and send the world into population decline. Or perhaps it's some sort of hazing technique... they went into it blind... so should the rest of us.
Or maybe it's what they say about "forgetting"the pain. That moms have to forget or we would never bother with a second child. If this is the case I am writing Miss Finley's birth story now... before I forget. :)
I went into early labor overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday morning. I actually woke up from a dream during which I was dreaming about cramping. After laying in bed and dozing on and off I began to realize that these "period-like cramps" were coming at regular intervals. I laid in bed until 5am then got up and took a shower. I did this mostly because, if I was in labor, the idea of being in pain with greasy hair was intolerable, and also because this was one of the few things I heard that most mom's did in early labor. I was also killing time. The class Christian and I took suggested to wait at home until you can't wait any longer. We live 40 min away from Spotsy Regional so I wanted to wait, but I didn't want to wait so long that riding in the car became unbearable. Christian was going to start painting the fence that day so when I came in to tell him we were probably going to have a baby instead he woke up pretty quickly. I woke up my mom too who looked pretty excited and nervous at the same time.
I have to admit that I have a Pinterest board with over 250 pins for "Baby." Among them include labor techniques, labor supplies, labor attire, and a myriad of suggestions about how to labor naturally. It was my plan to have Finley naturally for two reasons. The first was because I wanted her to breast feed successfully and have no drugs and second was because I am stubborn and I wanted to see if I could do it. There are two camps of previous mothers - those that advocate for the epidural and those that are vehemently against it. I think in statistics the appropriate diagram would be a reverse bell curve with most people on either end and few if any in the middle. Despite wanting to do things without drugs I considered myself sensible and ignorant enough to know that I might get into a situation where I did in fact want them. A book about being a doula that my mom was reading suggested a code word for a laboring mother to use when she had finally had enough so that she could moan and cry and say she couldn't do it but that no one would offer a drug solution until she said the code word. I chose "Mr. Wobbles" as my code word. Yep, my code word was the name of one of my geese.
We had breakfast in the kitchen and I walked around as Christian timed my contractions with an iPhone app. They were about 5 min apart and several within an hour. They were also painful... more painful than period cramps. Of course I had no idea at that point exactly how much MORE painful they could get so I suggested we head into the hospital. I figured I would be at least 3cm dilated because I was already 1.5 at my OB appointment two weeks earlier. We decided to kill some time in Target by walking around and buying tube socks and tennis balls because our labor class suggested we use them for massage. I did leave the bullet ice maker at home because no matter how much I thought it would help me before the contractions started I had already begun to realize that sucking on cute bullet shaped ice cubes weren't going to help distract me.
We left Target around 10am and headed into the hospital. Unfortunately when we arrived they had me lay down in the bed to monitor me and my contractions slowed and decreased in intensity. I had only dilated to about 2.5 cm and they weren't ready to admit me with those numbers. So... I had to leave.
People tell you this happens, that they go too early and have to go home or wander around some retail store trying to hide the fact that every 5 min or so they might double over in front of the frozen food. What they don't tell you is how pissed off and disappointed you will be when you get up off the bed and walk out to the car and everything intensifies all over again. But we couldn't go back so we went to Eileen's for lunch. I barely ate but knew I should eat because everyone warns you that they won't let you eat once you are admitted. We then wandered through a downtown Fredericksburg museum shop and an Antique shop until our 2 hour parking ran up. By this time I was in some pretty decent pain but wasn't relishing the idea of being sent out of the hospital for a second time. My mom suggested driving home but that wasn't going to happen. I was not driving 40 min home to then drive 40 min back. No way. Instead, we went to the movies. We saw a 2pm showing of Malificent which wasn't bad but wasn't really good either. We sat in the back row so I could get up and stand if I needed to and we made it through the whole movie.
After we left we sat in the car for a few min and Christian started to time my contractions again. They were stronger, but still only about 5 min apart. During this time we discovered my mom's phone wasn't working so I suggested we go to the Sprint store to kill more time. I was not being sent out of that hospital again. When we finally walked into the hospital for the second time it was sometime after 4pm. I was crying at this point because, yep it hurt, but also because I was nervous that they were gonna throw me out again. One of the nurses later told me that she knew I was back to stay when she saw the tears in my eyes. I suppose that is the most difficult thing to convey to someone who hasn't been in labor before... how painful it can be and how much it can surprise you even when you are just in the beginning stages. I was admitted at 4cm and that's when the real work began.
Christian and my mom were my chosen doulas. Both had no prior experience and limited education. That being said they were champions. I could not have done it without them. They traded off when they were tired and they both stuck with me the entire time.
I spend almost my entire labor either standing or squatting. I'd heard that gravity pushed things along so I wanted to spend as little time in bed as possible. What I didn't know is that while they are monitoring you and while you are being "checked" you have to lay still in bed. Some exceptions can be made and in my case they did let me be monitored sitting on a birthing ball next to the bed for a few of the sessions. They monitor for 20 min out of every hour so this can be quite painful if you want to be up and moving. I would rest on the ball between contractions and then stand up and squat over the ball during contractions. Amazingly this squatting technique helped tremendously and the lower I went the easier the contraction was to bear. My mom and Christian would hold my hips and gently sway me around in a circle to help distract from the pain. I labored in this way for several hours before they checked me again. I hadn't progressed much from my previous jump from 4cm to 7cm and that was when I pretty much lost it.
In class and talking to people you hear about labor stalling out and you think to yourself no big deal it will pick back up again. When you are fighting through every contraction the idea that you've made little to no progress in the past two hours can be earth shattering. At this point everyone says I "lost control" of the contractions and I would say that description is pretty accurate. They felt twice as painful and instead of breathing and working through them I was now screaming and crying and had abandoned all technique except laying across the bed. A nurse came in and started to suggest mild pain meds that might take the edge off. By this time I was screaming "Mr Wobbles" in my head over and over through every contraction. But I never said the words out loud. If at that moment I could have had something that would have taken all the pain away I probably would have given in. They only thing stopping me was the knowledge that I would have to wait for an epidural and then sit still at the edge of the bed through painful contractions while they put the needle in. At some point a nurse named Jasmine came over and with Christian in my ear forced me to start breathing through the contractions. They then got me to agree to move into the shower. I had figured beforehand that the shower would help me but when you're laboring the thought of changing positions is scary. Things might ramp up or slow down and you have no way of knowing.
Christian put on some swim trunks and got into the shower with me. At this point I was completely naked with nurses coming in and out to check on me. Christian was half in and half out of the shower 2cm away from my right ear talking me through every contraction and almost hyperventilating breathing along with me. We were in the shower for almost 2 hours before they needed to monitor again and so I moved to the bed. Thankfully when they checked me I had progressed to almost 9cm. If nothing had happened I probably would have died right there on the spot.
Christian spent the next few hours getting me from 9 to 10cm as I tried to rip the side panels off of the hospital bed. It was too late for pain meds or an epidural and the remarkable clarity I had in my head during all of this told me that I had come this far and wasn't going to give in. At some point I started to feel like pushing. It wasn't an overwhelming sensation like I thought it would be but it started to sound better than just breathing through each contraction. They gave me a choice to push or to labor down while we waited for the doctor. I chose to push.
According to Dr. Jackson and my nurses I pushed her down pretty fast. This was a good thing because at some point there was concern about her heart rate and so they hooked her up to the little corkscrew head monitor. They then put me on oxygen and hooked me up to an IV as tons of people flooded the room. I was calm for some reason but my mom and Christian knew something wasn't right. The nurse Jasmine came over and told me that I needed to push her out NOW. Pushing and the pain of having a head working its way out of your pelvis was both the weirdest and most uncomfortable feeling ever. Finally Dr. Jackson said I would have her out in two pushes and she was right. On the second push I felt a giant release of pressure and a warm wet body on my tummy. Miss Finley had the cord wrapped around her neck and Christian said Dr. Jackson unwrapped it in what seemed like a half a second and clamped off the chord. They then rushed her over to the warmer because she had swallowed some meconium. Her blood gasses were off and they were worried about her glucose. We were also surprised to hear that she was only 5lbs 12oz since her last ultrasound suggested 6lbs 8oz.
But here she was! And she scored a 7/10 on her Apgar. This picture was taken just moment after she was born and as our friend Frank pointed out she is already showing a reflex. Our little Finley recovered quickly and was able to stay with us and start nursing right away.
After you have the baby you still have to have deliver the placenta. You also have to endure multiple people pushing on your stomach to get your uterus to contract. AND, if you have been squatting your entire labor you have to fight with a left quad muscle that is cramping wildly while your OB stitches you up. Then there is all the fluid and the weird sensation of someone pulling on the umbilical chord attached to the placenta inside you. There are nurses changing pad after pad underneath of you and you are spread eagle for all the world. Not that anyone could care less after the whole process. It's probably what makes breast feeding so easy. It's nothing to hang out with your boobs out after everyone has already witnessed you naked and not at your best.
A hour or so after she was born Christian passed out on the couch. He snored for several hours as nurses came in and checked on Finley and me and my mom kept me company. At 6:30 I was able to order breakfast and when it came at 8:30 it was delicious. I remember the apple juice being especially tasty. I never drink it but in those first few hours and throughout the rest of the day it was like nectar from the gods.
The take home message is that natural child birth is the pits. It hurts. It hurts like crazy and I think you have to be a little bit crazy to want to do it. In the days following I swore I would schedule a c-section if we ever had another child. I'm still not sure I wouldn't want to. Also all that crap I pinned on Pinterest... USELESS. In the middle of contractions as you think about all the stuff you "packed" into your labor bag that you thought would help and you are going to laugh. Essential oils to smell and help you relax... yeah right.
The other take home message is that you must have a good... no, a GREAT support system there with you. I could not have done it without Christian and my mom. There is no way. My fabulous husband who hates hospitals and is freaked out by all medical procedures stepped up in ways I couldn't believe. My mom was a calming influence on both of us during labor and stayed awake with me for another 12 hours after she was born to help me breast feed and adapt to being a new mom. I couldn't have asked for a better team.
Almost two weeks out my only remaining battle scars are the burst blood vessels in my eyes. All the other post labor pelvic discomfort has faded and I doing regular stuff around the house. I am so thankful that everything went well and that I was able to accomplish a natural labor. The strength to do so was not my own and the reward was fantastic.