I want to say I remember my son’s birth day day like it was yesterday. Seeing as how it ranks at the top of my “most important days of my life” list, you know. But the truth is, I don’t remember it like it was yesterday. Sure, I remember bits and pieces, but sometimes, when I recall it, my husband has to tell me, “No, it didn’t happen QUITE that way.”
With all the excitement, nerves, oxytocin, and those sleepless nights for months afterward, certain details have gotten lost. Luckily, my amazing birth doula, Nina – The Baby Chick, took labor notes throughout our journey, and so here goes my best attempt at recreating my most favorite day thus far.
How It All Began…
Monday, August 19, 2013, was a typical Houston summer day. Sunny, balmy, a cool 100+ degrees. Perfect for a 40 + 1 pregnancy. I woke up that day with some anxiety over the fact that we were scheduled for an induction discussion with my doctor on Tuesday. She would let me go to 41 weeks, but I wasn’t sure how she felt about letting me go over. The previous week, my cervix was still closed tight, and baby hadn’t really dropped. And since I had only recently begun to feel Braxton Hicks contractions, I was convinced this pregnancy was far from over.
My maternity leave had already started and my husband had 6 weeks of paternity leave from his client, so we were free to do what we wanted that day. I knew walking could positively affect progression and potentially naturally induce my labor, so we decided to hit the outlet malls by our house. After close to 4 hours of browsing, snacking, and shopping, I was utterly pooped. So we headed to the grocery to pick up dinner and settle in for a long night of restless sleep and acid reflux.
At the store, we used our usual tactic of divide and conquer. I ran into my friend Ellie, who was surprised to still see me pregnant, and we chatted for a few moments. While talking, I felt something. I wasn’t sure what I’d felt, but I suddenly couldn’t concentrate on what Ellie was saying, so I wrapped up the conversation and headed to find Doug.
Sadly for him, I pried him away from the beer aisle and insisted on getting home. Once there, I headed straight for the bathroom and was shocked to find what I could only imagine was my entire mucous plug. Doug was on the other side of the door, and as I was squealing for joy/staring into the toilet, he was repeating, “What is it?!” over and over. I joyfully opened the door and announced proudly that labor had started! And then..nothing.
The Long Wait
That was at 5 pm. There was no progress for the next 4 hours, no indication that labor had really started. Around 9 pm, I began to feel irregular contractions—nothing big but definitely something different from Braxton Hicks. I thought, “Okay! This is it!” But by midnight, they had stopped, and nothing else was happening. I tried to keep positive, but I was frustrated and disappointed. We went to bed, exhausted from the day’s emotions and curious about what Tuesday would bring.
Around 2:15 am, I woke up to use the restroom. At this point, that was hardly out of the ordinary, so I didn’t think anything was awry. But as I went to lift (haul) myself back up into the bed, I heard a little pop and felt something trickling down my leg. Hmmm. I returned to the bathroom and found that the trickle had become a steady stream. It took me a while to decide whether I peed myself or if my water had broken. I finally concluded that it was the latter (FINALLY! Another sign!).
I left the bathroom and told my sleepy husband my water had broken! Doug’s response? “I’ll put on the coffee.” We decided to call my parents because they live four hours away and would need time to close up the house and get on the road. Of course, my mother had been predicting they’d get a call in the middle of the night! After talking with them, Doug asked if he could go back to sleep, so I said yes, but I was too excited to do so. Instead, I took a long, hot shower, dried my hair, and wrote thank-you notes from a recent baby shower.
The Real Fun Starts
Somewhere around 5 am, my contractions finally started for real. They weren’t in the range of needing to call anyone, but they were consistent. By 8 am, I had gotten back in bed because the contractions were much stronger and closer together. The only thing that made me feel better was to lie in the fetal position and have Doug rub my back as best he could.
Our doctor appointment was scheduled for 10:30 that morning, but by 9:30 am, the contractions were 3-4 minutes apart and were very strong. So, we gave them a courtesy call and canceled that appointment. I’ll never forget what Doug said when Diana, the nurse, answered the phone. “I’d like to report that my wife is in labor.” I can still hear Diana laughing out loud on the other end. She told us to go to the hospital, so I called Nina, my doula, and told her I’d update her once we were there.
The drive to the hospital was TERRIBLE. Traffic was horrible, and the journey there felt like it took forever. My contractions were coming every two minutes, and the pressure was INSANE. I could’ve sworn that baby was going to fall out in the car. We turned up the music, and I tried to sing, laugh, anything to take my mind off the pain. By 10:30 am, we were at the hospital.
I could not believe it when the doctor in triage told me I was 5 cm and could go straight up to labor and delivery. It seemed like everything was progressing precisely according to my plan! We got to the room to find not only my parents (they had decided to forgo sleep and pack up and head to Houston) but my in-laws AND the most beautiful flowers from one of my best friends waiting for us.
Nina arrived shortly after. I changed into my labor gown (I had chosen a short, black, lacy nightgown that made me feel beautiful and empowered), gave my parents and in-laws hugs and kisses, and sent them off to the waiting room. Then we got to business. For the next few hours, I rotated between positions on the birth ball, walking the halls, and even a little dancing to Jay-Z’s latest album. (Holy Grail featuring Justin Timberlake was my JAM at the moment.)
Transition Is No Joke
So far, although there was a lot of pressure, I felt really good until the first cervical check. After reading and researching, I wasn’t sure I wanted a cervical exam, but I was so anxious for that baby to arrive that I wanted to know how far I had dilated. Well, BIG mistake. The on-call doctor took it upon herself to stretch me (just the teensiest bit, she proclaimed), and I swear her hands were 15 times the size of a normal human being. OUCH. Pretty quickly after, I started feeling sick and the contractions were much more painful. I decided that was it, no more checks.
Around 5 pm, Doug and I walked around the halls. Contractions were very intense, and I could barely make it one lap.
I surprised myself because I had still not started questioning the sanity of my “no interventions” decision! Nina suggested using the bathtub to relax, as I was definitely in transition, but the nurse was really skittish. Instead, we put the birth ball in the shower and I sat on it as the hot water pounded my back. I swear, they couldn’t get it hot enough. I can’t remember exactly how long I was in the shower, but they had to force me out.
Time to Push
My doctor had arrived from her practice upstairs, having seen all her patients, and she stayed in the room until I was ready to go. (This is very unusual. Most doctors don’t come into your room until you start pushing.) Back I went in the fetal position; I knew I was ready to push. However, I was so scared she’d check and find that I wasn’t at 10 cm, so I refused to let her. In making that decision, I probably prolonged my labor by about an hour or so.
I remember whimpering to Doug and almost crushing his hand while one single tear dropped from my eye. (He likes to tell the story of the single tear I shed all day.) I could tell from his eyes that he was in agony over seeing me like that. I silently chanted to myself, “This is temporary. The pain is temporary.” over and over.
Finally, Nina convinced me to let the doctor check me, and wouldn’t you know it . . . I was 10 cm! Everything happened so quickly then, almost like they’d known much longer than I did, that little man was ready to make his debut.
Positions. Doc suggested we try the throne position first, but after a couple of pushes, it just didn’t feel natural to me. I was frustrated, and so Nina suggested the squat bar. I got excited (yep, excited) and wanted to try. So, they set it up, and after a few bites on the bar, the nurse got me a towel to sink my teeth into.
I felt much more productive in the squatting position (mentally, I thanked my trainer and yoga instructor for insisting on the awful wall sits and squats they had me doing for months in preparation), and pushing actually felt really GOOD. Then, we switched up the music to Pretty Lights. The lyrics were pissing me off (yes, I realize this is slightly irrational), but I wanted a good beat.
The Main Event
I remember being confused about my contractions because I wasn’t really getting a good break between them. Nina explained that I was having coupling contractions, which meant one wasn’t ending before the next one began, and little man was descending quickly. I pushed for 45 minutes, at one point stopping entirely because I just needed a friggin break! Then I finally felt Fischer’s head, shoulders, feet, SHOOT out. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the sensation of his shoulders pushing out. Once he was out, I fell back against the bed, and he was on my chest in a matter of seconds. Fischer was born 8/20/13 at 8:15 pm, 7 lbs. 11 oz., 20 ¾ in. with a FULL head of red hair.
My first words to my newborn son? “Oh my Gosh. You’re so f*cking cute”.
My Favorite Memories
1. Insisting on peanut M&M’s as I approached transition.
Doug had to scramble to find some and then feed them to me as I pushed.
2. Med students poking their heads in while I was in transition. When I got to the hospital, I agreed that students could come in and observe. (Probably the teacher in me thinking it was a great learning experience for them.) I’ve been told I used profanity when one of them attempted to introduce herself. I plead the fifth.
3. The excitement in Doug’s face and voice when he saw Fischer’s head (even though he had sworn he wasn’t going to look).
4. And my MOST favorite: the tears streaming down Doug’s face when he looked at Fischer in my arms for the first time. (I don’t quite remember this one, but we have the pictures to prove it.)
Reflecting on that day, I was one of the lucky ones. I had a textbook perfect labor and delivery. Or, at least, I had MY textbook perfect labor and delivery. Will I do things differently next time? Probably. I was well-prepared physically and mentally for a natural birth, but I’ll probably practice more breathing and relaxation techniques next time. I’ve also heard some friends use Frankincense to soothe and minimize the stinging “ring of fire.” We’ll see when that time comes.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the day I met my son. I would love to hear some of your stories!