Some people like reading/hearing labor stories, and I do want to record my experience and feelings so I can remember it well. So, fair warning! It's a long one! This is accomplished while I feed Baby Gabe, which has come to take a huge majority of my time!
I'm not sure how long my labor was. I felt contractions starting around 10am on Saturday, but they weren't bad nor very regular until the afternoon. By 4:00 I knew they were regular but still not too painful. Burke and I started timing an hour later as the pain worsened. We passed the time online shopping for furniture and rugs for our house.
I called the doctor around 9pm (it was one of the 2 OBs in the group that I had not met). Our understanding was to go to the hospital when contractions were 5 minutes apart lasting a minute for an hour, so I told her that's what was up. She said to me, "Are they so bad you can't talk, walk, or anything but breathe through them?" I told her they were for the first 20 seconds or so, but then the pain was less severe for the remainder of the contraction. She told me "You might be in labor, but wait until they are so severe you can't do anything but breathe through them for a whole minute."
I was frustrated because I'd been in regular intervals of pain for several hours and I might be in labor? And we had been timing incorrectly? I wanted to feel validated.
At that point things were getting worse. Burke was doing the timing for me but wouldn't time unless he was convinced I was in that intensely severe pain. Which I can tell you made me yell at him a few times. They still weren't lasting very long but were coming more frequently. We tried to rest, but I couldn't.
By midnight or so I called the OB again. Contractions were lasting 30 seconds to a minute but were coming at least every 3 minutes. The OB said, "Well, if your pain is mega-bad, it's probably time to head in to L&D." I was like, um yes, this is mega-bad.
I feel like the worst part was getting to the hospital and checked in. We had to go through the ER and I was feeling like a crazy lady in labor because I couldn't believe they were making me wait (briefly!) at the registration desk, fill out a form, and wait for a triage nurse, etc. Once in L&D they made me go to a triage room which frustrated me because I'm thinking, yes people, I'm in labor, I am not going home. I had to pee in a cup and change into a gown and lie down on the bed to get my cervix checked and monitors on, all of which were terribly difficult and frustrating to me given my pain. I was 4cm dilated and 90% effaced. Hale-freakin-lujah, the words I wasn't sure I'd ever hear! Progress!
I was moved to my room and had to get back in bed to get the monitors on. I wasn't feeling like I was getting any relief between contractions. My frustrations continued as the nurses asked me medical history questions, etc. They asked if I wanted an epidural, and I said not sure, I wanted to wait. I gave them a copy of my birth plan but said, "I don't even know or care what's on there anymore." I was freaking out quite as bit due to pain and a nurse said, "Well you are in the worst possible position; want to get out of bed onto the birthing ball or something?" And I was like, yes, that's something I intended to use, why the heck am I lying in bed?
Once on the birthing ball I felt like I was finally experiencing a few seconds of relief between contractions, but they were coming fast. All the "comfort measures" we had talked about were long gone. Burke held my hands across the bed (he was worried I was going to fall off the ball) and helped me keep breathing and I tried to use a visual focal point. But I was exhausted.
Here were my thoughts on meds. I felt like I wasn't opposed to getting an epidural if I felt like I needed it, but I wanted to try and avoid it if possible. It has the potential to slow down labor, which I didn't want, and I didn't think I'd want to be stuck in bed. I also worried about decreased sensation and if I'd be able to push adequately. I've also heard of times when it doesn't work and that just sounds like worst case scenario. But I also understood the huge benefits of being able to rest some before pushing a baby into this world, and I hadn't known really how serious the pain would be.
I guess it's no surprise that with the above expectations I ended up asking for the drugs. By the time I had been at the hospital for 2 hours I had dilated 3 more cm. That's really quick progress! But I was so exhausted that the thought of having to go 3 more cm was frightening to me.
It was pretty impressive how great it felt to have that pain relief. There was lots of discomfort still, but it was great. Burke got to lie down and sleep at this point. I didn't sleep, I think because I was shaking so much (epidural side effect). An hour later they checked me again: 8-9 cm with a ballooning amniotic sac. The OB came in and broke my water about 4:30.
By 5:30 I was almost fully dilated and felt the urge to push. I wasn't really feeling the contractions but the pressure was crazy! They sat me up to let gravity help, but I guess gravity also increased the effectiveness of the meds. By 6 I was no longer feeling that pressure.
I finally slept a little. Around 7am, shift change, I felt really nauseated and lightheaded. While my nurse was working on getting me some zofran, the baby's heart rate dropped. It was a whirlwind but they put oxygen on me and put me in reverse trendelenburg position and came pretty close to giving me a medicine to try and stop contractions. It was a pretty scary few minutes, but his heart rate improved.
The nurse said it was time to push, but not only had I lost the pressure sensation but also most of the feeling in my legs. I could not move them. From 7:30 til 9:30 I pushed, changing positions every half hour. They turned off my epidural but it takes a long time for sensation to return. I couldn't tell if my pushes were effective; it was pretty frustrating. Baby's head was visible but wasn't really moving. I started to get nervous about having to get a c-section, and I was a little freaked out about what all this pushing that I could barely feel was doing to me!
By 9:30 my OB came in and recommended using vacuum extraction to guide his head out. Based on what I had learned before and his explanation it sounded like minimal risk, but it was still a little scary since we had to give permission and they had a neonatal nurse practitioner in the room. We agreed, and things got real as all the extra people came in the room, my OB gloved up, and we were ready!
This time I only pushed for a few contractions. The sensation was back. What was crazy was not pushing in between contractions when there was a baby halfway in and halfway out. I hope I never forget the extreme emotion as I gave it all I had and pushed that baby out. Burke and my nurse, who had already coached me through 2 hours of pushing, were super excited now.
At 9:50 he was born. Burke cut the cord and they put him on my chest. I saw his super long hair and his big hands with long fingers clasped together. I didn't even realize for a bit that I had delivered the placenta and was being sewn up.
And that's Gabriel's birth story in a lot of words.
I just have to say, having a baby is rough. I knew and expected that labor and delivery would be painful. I knew there would be recovery there. I had heard a little about nipple pain with breast feeding, and leaking. I had heard a bit about the bleeding and some mention of afterbirth pains. Plus I knew there'd be sleep deprivation. But I wasn't really prepared to have so much going on at once. Breast feeding was excruciating, and it only got more uncomfortable when my milk came in. Every latch made me want to cry (and I definitely did!). My body hurt all over. And besides the physical pain and exhaustion, there was huge emotional stress of trying to learn to care for this baby!
None of that in any way takes away from the indescribable joy of bringing Gabriel into this world. I just want to remember it for the sake of the added empathy I now feel for friends who are having babies. Wow! It's not an easy time!!
I still look at my boy in wonder, and I expect that feeling will always continue. I can't believe how clearly he comes from both Burke and I. I can't believe how beautiful he is. I can't believe he grew from 2 cells to a baby inside of me. I can't believe the infinite potential he has. I can't believe the huge responsibility that is now mine and Burke's to take care of him and raise him. It is exhausting being a new mommy, with plenty of frustrations and difficulties. But it's the most amazing and joyful experience there is. Oh how we love our boy!