tl;dr - I had a baby.
The evening before I went into labor, Marco and I went out to dinner at our usual place in town, Maud’s Tavern. I wasn’t very hungry (which is strange for me — I’m aways hungry) so I only had half of a chicken caesar salad. We spent the rest of the evening being us, which begins on the internet and ends with watching some Netflix or pirated TV shows while we hang out on the couch. That night, it was great and normal.
[Photo was taken at 12:30AM, April 22nd.]
Shortly before 4 AM on April 22nd, a sharp pain woke me up. I thought, “This has to be a real contraction, because that sucked.” I’d been having Braxton-Hicks contractions constantly for the prior week, but that one was distinctly different. I tried to go back to sleep.
A few minutes later, there was another one. They felt like horrible food-poisoning pains that would come and go. I woke Marco up.
A few more contractions came and went. We decided to try to get as much sleep as possible before things really picked up. I didn’t sleep very much between taking a lot of trips to the bathroom and just being so excited that this was really happening. I woke Marco again a few hours later and asked him to start timing the contractions.
We called our doula to say that we thought labor was beginning. She reiterated to get more sleep if we could and that she would come over in a few hours. Marco and I spent the morning in bed together, thinking that today would be the day we would meet our son. We knew that these were the last few hours of it just being us. We were ready for our son to arrive and change our lives.
Our doula, Barb, came over around 10 AM. As she pulled into the driveway, our neighbor’s daughter stopped by, asking to take some dirt for their garden from the huge pile we had in our front yard left from our home renovations. Marco granted permission and got her on her way quickly so she wouldn’t know that I was laboring in the kitchen and wouldn’t notice the doula unpacking her car.
The three of us got settled into a bit of a rhythm over the next few hours. We chatted while I labored. I had some hummus for breakfast between contractions. I mainly labored standing at our table, on the backs of chairs, and at the kitchen counter: anywhere I could stand and hold onto something through each contraction.
A storm was beginning to roll in and our landscaper called to tell Marco to clean the leaves out of the drain in the driveway before the rain picked up. So he went out in the rain to clean a drain as the neighbors shoveled dirt out of our front yard and I moaned through contractions, hanging off of tables and chairs.
We had been in contact with the midwives on the phone all morning, and at around 1 PM, we decided to head to the hospital. My water still hadn’t broken, but my contractions were getting strong enough that we thought it would be good to get going.
In my ideal plan, I was going to be laboring at home as long as possible, but I tested GBS-positive and needed to be at the hospital long enough to get two doses of antibiotics. So we wanted to get there with enough time for that.
In the car on the way to the hospital, I called my parents to let them know the baby was on his way. They were going to be staying at our house to watch our dog, Hops, and get everything clean for the baby’s arrival while we were at the hospital. (I have the best parents ever.) My mom asked how far apart my contractions were and I actually had no idea — I was just concentrating on getting through them.
In the car, the contractions slowed. By the time we got to the hospital, a 20-minute drive, I’d only had a few contractions and I was feeling pretty relaxed. I declined a wheelchair because sitting was so uncomfortable, so on the way up to the maternity floor, I had two more contractions that forced me to hold on to the wall. I was with Barb while Marco parked the car.
After getting into the delivery room, the midwife on duty, Robin, checked my dilation. Only 2 centimeters. I was crushed. All that work since 4 AM and that was all?! Robin suggested that we head back home since I still had so far to go and my contractions had slowed significantly.
All I kept thinking was, “This is only supposed to take one day!” That was how I was mentally getting through a natural labor: it was only going to be one day. But at that moment, it felt like it was going to be much longer. My Mom had very short labors with me and my brother (about 7 hours), and I was hoping to inherit that trait. Our options were to either take a long walk and wait around the hospital, or go home. I surprisingly wanted to stay in the hospital, the opposite of what I though I would want. But practicality, it was better to go home.
So back home we went. Told my parents not to come yet and told Barb to head home too because we were just going to try to get some sleep. Marco ran out to get bagels because he was starving. The rest of the afternoon was full of erratic contractions lasting 40–60 seconds, 3–12 minutes apart. We took a few naps, but every time a contraction would come, I would have to jump up and hang onto the mantle, a bookshelf, or Marco to get through it. Sitting or laying down was just unbearable. I kept chanting, “It will end, it will end,” to keep hope of relief in mind.
At one point in the evening, I was making my way into the kitchen to get some water, and when I turned on the lights there were termites everywhere! We usually only have one outbreak a year and it had already happened. Of course, we had to get a second one on the night I’m in labor. So after the longest day ever, Marco was in the kitchen at 10 PM trying to vacuum up a swarm of termites as I’m moaning through the pain in the living room.
By about 12:30 AM, after a long 18 minute nap, my contractions were suddenly just over a minute long and two minutes apart. I kept moaning,“It will end, they all end.” We called the midwife and our doula, and they sent us on the road again, back to the hospital. I kept hoping we were finally getting to the end.
The car ride was awful. Sitting through so many contractions was pretty hard. Each one was an incredible pressure, low in my hips with a strong, dense pain, like terrible food poisoning but unimaginably worse. And my water still had not broken. I tried focusing out the window. It was raining, and everything was wet and shiny under the street lights. Luckily, the roads were empty and we got to the hospital quickly.
Marco pulled up to the side entrance near the maternity ward. He parked a moderate distance from the door because I wanted him to walk with me instead of having to leave and move the car later. As I waddled my way to the door in the rain through contractions, we saw that it was closed for the night, and we needed to use the emergency entrance instead. Damn it! “It will end, it will end.”
Marco ran back to the car and backed out of the spot so quickly that he almost screeched the tires. He picked me up at the curb and we sped over to the emergency entrance.
Marco left his car parked at the curb in the emergency lane and we headed inside. This time, I didn’t refuse the wheelchair since it would have taken me about a year to get myself across the hospital. The orderly told us the car was fine where we had left it for the time being.
Once upstairs in Labor & Delivery, they set us up in a room and started the fetal monitor to get a baseline and check on the baby. Barb (our doula) arrived. Marco had to run out and move the car because someone at the hospital was upset that he parked in an emergency lane. Barb helped me through trying to stay still on the bed when all I wanted to do was stand through the pressure of the contractions. When laying down, I felt a lot of the pain in my back. “It will end, it will end, they all end.” Once Robin (our midwife) arrived, she checked my progress: 8 centimeters! Yay, progress!
Once all the monitoring was done and I got my first dose of GBS antibiotics, Robin wanted me moved to the room with a private shower so I could labor with the hot water on my back while standing. I agreed. In my original plan, before reality hit, I always pictured myself laboring in a tub. But at that moment, I didn’t even want to think about sitting in a birthing tub.
As we moved into the other room, one of the nurses was carrying in a bag of Pitocin. That freaked me out a little: I so badly wanted to do this 100% on my own. I had no intention of asking for anything because I had convinced myself that any intervention would only make the pain worse. So we had no safe word, and no “ask me three times” plan. I was never going to ask for pain management. The only time I wanted help was if the baby or I were in serious trouble. Seeing that Pitocin bag scared me, but I couldn’t let that break my focus.
Getting into the shower felt amazing! I was able to hold onto the old-lady bars through the contractions, and the hot water really took a lot of the pressure off, giving me something else to focus on besides the pain. Barb and Marco kept cheering me on and getting me lots of water to drink. Robin admitted me as a patient and I signed papers against the shower wall between contractions. My water still had not broken and the pressure was getting stronger and throbbing.
I can’t remember how much time passed, but I guess I was in the shower for about an hour. All of a sudden, I got the urge to start pushing. So I went for it. Robin came in and said that if I felt the urge to push, I should. I was already at that point, but it gave me so much confidence to know that I was listening to my body and doing the right thing on my own. After a few more intense contractions, I started to see some blood. My breath stopped and my throat tensed. Is this it? Is he coming? Is it the bloody show? Then came one of the worst contractions yet, with stabbing pain, and I screamed out, “Oh shit, it will end, it will end, they all end!”
And my water broke! Robin checked and the baby was right there, ready to go. I asked if I can deliver in the shower because I was scared and shaking, and I couldn’t think about moving. Robin said that in her younger days with better knees, that would be possible, but that it would be better for her and everyone if I weren’t confined in a shower.
I quickly made my way into the room as everyone was rapidly setting things up. But Marco wasn’t there! He had gone to the bathroom down the hall, so Barb quickly ran to get him. After all that time of nothing happening, it wasn’t until he left for a few moments that the baby was ready to be born. He came running back into the room as we were getting ready for the final pushing.
I didn’t want to get into the bed. I wanted to use gravity as much as possible to get the baby out. So Marco sat on the edge of the bed, and with my back to him, I used his knees to help brace me as I squatted. Robin was on the floor, ready to catch.
I screamed through my first push. Robin corrected me, instructing me to focus that energy on pushing, not yelling. With her no-bullshit attitude, she helped me focus all of my strength to get this baby out as smoothly as possible. There was a lot of blood, but it didn’t feel painful in the same way the contractions had. Robin asked me to stop for a few moments to let things stretch, as they do, since the baby was coming out quickly.
After only a few deep pushes, Adam was born at 4:04 AM on April 23rd. After 24 hours of contractions, it was over, and our baby was being put on my chest. He was here. It was the most surreal moment of my life. And I was right: it had only been one day, and it did end.
Adam was so tiny. He sat on my chest as the cord blood pumped out. Neither Marco nor I wanted to cut the cord, so Robin did it. Adam stayed with me until I was ready to have him weighed and measured: 5 pounds, 12 ounces and 18” long. He looked perfect and scored two nines on his Apgar tests.
The placenta was delivered with no trouble. I wanted to see it, but Marco was grossed out. It was a lot larger than I had imagined. As Adam was getting cleaned up and footprinted, Robin stitched me up. I tore a little and was a bit upset that I might have messed things up, but Robin reassured me as she stitched: “Don’t worry, I quilt.”
Marco brought Adam over to me after he was checked over. We laid him back on my chest and he started successfully nursing immediately. We called our families simultaneously. My mom cried. I couldn’t stop staring at Adam’s little face.
It was surreal. I wasn’t tired anymore. I wasn’t in pain anymore. There was a lot of blood and I wanted a shower. Everyone left the room, and for about an hour, the three of us were together. Our new little family. We wished Hops (our dog) could have been there to make it complete.
For me, the relief from the worry and fear was so great. I had a beautiful tiny baby in my arms, and it was all over. I was so afraid of the labor before. My biggest fear during my adult life was labor and delivery, and I had just done it without interventions or complications. The intense relief made me euphoric, allowing me to focus on our new son and our new family.