Warning to the reader: this story will most certainly include things about labor and delivery, obviously, and some content may be TMI for some people. These are all of the most important details I could remember from my very long labor experience.
The story actually begins on Friday, January 11 – only to say that I had been laying around for most of the night while Mark was at work. I had class on Saturday morning so I tried to make sure the lights were out and I was trying to sleep by 11 pm. I woke up a couple of times throughout the night, which wasn’t unusual, the fact that I was waking up at every little noise and sleeping very lightly was. I never wake up when the heat kicks on in our house but on this particular night I seemed to just be extra vigilant. I went to the bathroom a few times and noticed a couple of wet spots in my underwear. Nothing major, and nothing seemed to be happening when I wiped either. I had just laid back in bed and decided to Google some stories of water breaking in a slow leak and how slow it can be, just to rule out that this might be happening since there was so little. Suddenly I felt like I was leaking profusely. I got up really quickly and ran to the bathroom. My underwear was covered in clear discharged, leaked all the way through to my pants, and was running down my leg. When your water breaks you are supposed to check the time right away because babies are delivered within 24 hours of water broken to prevent infection. It was 3:37 am on January 12, 2013. We were on our way to having a baby!
Labor had not started at all for me when my water broke. I was totally shocked that it even happened. My understanding is that the water breaks before labor in much fewer cases than the other way around, like 10%. I feel like even though we went over this in our childbirth class the instructor made it sound like odds are this wouldn’t happen – but it happened to us! We had a few minor things left to pack and as much as I wanted to try and help or take a shower or relax for a bit before we left I quite literally could not get up without gushing more fluid, more than a pad would help. After dirtying another pair of underwear and pants I sufficed to just sit on the toilet, call the on-call number for the doctor, and yell instructions to Mark as we got ready to leave.
In order to get me out the door we stuffed a towel in my pants and laid another towel down on the passenger’s side of the car and were finally able to leave. It was about 4:30 AM at this point. The car ride was very surreal and I was getting nervous and excited all at once. The thought crossed my mind that normally when you’re in labor your not allowed to eat anything so we pulled over and got some snacks out of our hospital bag and ate them on the way. We arrived at the hospital at 5:00 AM and were admitted through emergency. It was funny because the same girl was working the admission desk when we were there a few days earlier for headache and high blood pressure, so we joked around with her that we wouldn’t be leaving without a baby this time! At this point I still was only feeling mild period-like cramps that started shortly after my water broke. I wasn’t tired at all, just ready to get the show on the road! We were admitted into Labor and Delivery room 3 and started the initial interview with our nurse. The monitor wasn’t showing any contractions yet and she had me drink some juice to wake up the baby so he could be monitored as well. I was checked and learned that I had virtually no progress going on whatsoever – cervix still closed and high.
For the next few hours the nurse suggested we try to get some sleep. Mark was able to take a short nap, which was good because he hadn’t even gotten to bed at all the previous night. He couldn’t sleep and had dozed off on the couch for just a short time before my water broke. I probably got somewhere around 3-4 hours of sleep combined with getting up and using the bathroom, sleeping lightly, and so on. I wasn’t able to sleep that morning in the hospital though. I watched TV in bed and had some light contractions start showing up on the monitor. The nurse came back around 7:00 am and said that I would be able to order a light breakfast, so I got to eat some scrambled eggs with toast and juice that finally got to my room around 8:00 am. While waiting I had to sign consent paperwork and get my blood drawn. I also had time to spread the word to family and friends about being at the hospital and what was happening so far.
During the morning the doctor came in and talked to me about what would likely go on since my water broke. He explained the two options typically include starting with medical interventions like Pitocin right away, or trying to stimulate labor naturally. I strongly indicated on my birth plan that I did not want medical interventions if possible and the doctor was great about that. He said he felt good about me working towards the natural route and would come to check on things later. I wouldn’t have a lot of cervical checks during the process because of the risk of introducing infection.
Our morning and afternoon was very busy with trying to get things going. We walked and walked and walked circles around the labor and delivery floor. The same nurses and housekeepers eventually started giggling about how often they saw us walking, and the intensity too. I would try and pick things up and go quicker in hopes to stimulate something. I also spent time bouncing on the birthing ball in our room. Contractions started coming more frequently, but not always consistently. They were anywhere between 3 and 6 minutes and were not super intense. They gradually seemed to become more uncomfortable but nothing worse than period cramps at that point.
My parents came up to visit us around 12:30, which started out okay but ended up being too distracting and overstimulating for me in the end. At first I thought it would be nice to have visitors but being as we had been there for 7 and a half hours with not much going on I just felt more frustrated and perhaps more performance anxiety or something with people sitting around waiting for something to happen. I was absolutely starving too, really wished I could eat something, and the nurse eventually got around to getting me some more juice and crackers. I had been drinking water throughout the process, which was certainly helpful.
At 3:30 PM, 12 hours after my water broke, the doctor came in to check out what was happening. And what was happening just wasn’t enough given our time restraints – I was only about 2.5 centimeters dilated and 50% effaced, but baby’s head was starting to come down nicely. The doctor suggested that we would need to get started on Pitocin to hopefully help move things along. He was reassuring that since the little contractions I had been having so far were working hard to efface me, the medication should truly be helpful. I was so upset though – this was just not part of my plan and I really didn’t want to do it. I wasn’t resistant because I knew it was important to deliver him more quickly but I cried quite a bit initially. I wasn’t defeated though. Just had to make the best of a situation I really was hoping not to deal with.
The nurse came in just few minutes later to hook up my IV and meds. IVs are truly awful. It took a while and all that jabbing is not just uncomfortable, it’s painful. They explained that the Pitocin would start on the lowest setting and they would only be able to turn it up every half hour as needed. I started on a 1 mL dosage and by the end I was up to 16 I believe.
My contractions prior to the Pitocin were already a tad uncomfortable but really not painful. Everything I’ve ever heard about Pitocin had left me terrified that I was going to immediately be in severe amounts of pain that I wouldn’t be able to handle but that really wasn’t the case. It seemed the contractions grew in intensity as gradually as the dosage picked up, maybe even less so. I worked on pain management with the birthing ball still, as well as sitting up in bed and laying on my left side. The nurse also suggested standing and leaning over the bed or a table and laying on my back or other sides. Walking could be done in my room but I wasn’t able to leave the room anymore.
Once the contractions started getting worse I was more than happy to not be walking the halls. The nurse later said how surprised she was that the birthing ball worked so well for me; I spent the majority of my time using it and leaning over as with my forearms on my knees was really nice for back pain.
What contractions felt like to me: I initially felt my contractions in my lower abdomen. They started wrapping around to my lower back and my hips as well. I am writing this 3 days after labor and I honestly can’t even recall how to describe the pain, but when it was really bad it was bad.
It took me a LONG time to get into active labor. At 12:00 am on January 13 the nurse checked me and told me that finally I was 100% effaced, but I was still only about 4 centimeters. Baby’s head was in position though and she suggested I make sure to stop using positions like leaning or standing that would make his head drop further and use the ball for counter-pressure or laying in bed on either side. For the next few contractions I laid on my left side, then got up and moved to the ball. The nurse came in and let us know that baby’s heart rate was starting to decelerate with contractions and that I should try to lay on my right side to see if that would help things. It actually did, and his heart rate went right back to where it should be.
After hearing that I was only 4 cm and the fact that the contractions had been bad and were still bad and getting worse was really upsetting. I was told that generally women will dilate 1 cm an hour, but I might go more quickly since I was totally effaced. The nurse helped me with breathing techniques and Mark helped any way that he could. What I found most helpful was to have him just cheering me on, reminding me to concentrate on my breathing, and to just be encouraging. I don’t think I ever actually looked at anyone during contractions, I preferred closing or covering my eyes. Hearing soothing voices helped me to try and relax and just get through what I could. He was the best support I could ask for and I could not have gotten through everything pain-med free without him.
I had gotten back up and moved to the birthing ball and had two contractions in a row where I started feeling like there was pressure in my bottom area. I was really freaked out by that because I wasn’t supposed to be dilated all the way yet. I asked Mark if he could try to go find the nurse to make sure that this feeling was okay. The nurse came in and we asked when I would be checked yet. She said that I was just checked 45 minutes ago at midnight so we would probably wait until 2 am to check me again.
We decided to move me to the bed first on my left side again and at that point I was in full freak out mode and yelling that he needed to go get the nurse, it felt like he was going to push himself right out! Mark went over to the door but I started begging that he needed to stay with me so he pushed the call nurse button and the nurse came in. I continued to freak out and explain that I felt like my body was just pushing and I couldn’t help it. The nurse ended up checking me and I was totally ready at 10 cm. From 4 to 10 in 45 minutes! I was also shaking so bad at this point, almost like I was practically convulsing, which the nurse said was normal at this point in labor. It kind of made everything seem worse though because instead of having a break from contractions and resting I was shaking uncontrollably.
Nobody really expected things to move this quickly, so the nurse had went to start setting things up in the room and had to go get the doctor who was actually about to go in to a C-Section before me. I know that some people find pushing to be relieving but I found pushing to be horrifying. It made me feel really panicky and it did not feel good to me to push – it just felt like my body took over and I had to do it. The nurse and doctor were super encouraging and excited, telling me to just listen to my body and let it tell me what to do. While things were getting set up I was able to push during my contractions with just Mark and I on the bed. I started feeling like I was just pushing and nothing was even happening, that you couldn’t see anything. The nurse told us that yes – you could see his head at the opening while I pushed. She pulled over a large mirror and during my next contraction she pointed out where you could see his head starting to make an appearance and it was the craziest thing! We did maybe 3 pushes before the doctor was ready.
Finally things were set up for real pushing. I got into the stirrup position and the doctor helped coach me on how and where to push as the contractions came. It was so hard to do and so painful, I thought. This took about 4 pushes, and on the last push since I was tearing the doctor decided to do an episiotomy to help him out. (at that point I asked them to push the mirror away, I didn’t want to see that happen). I felt the episiotomy but it honestly felt better than pushing without it. Plus this really motivated me to just get him OUT, I just didn’t want to push anymore. The doctor had me open my eyes mid push to see his head finally come out, with one last push out came his body and he was here! 1:47 am on 1/13/13. He weighed 7 pounds 1 ounce and was 20.75 inches long. He is the most perfect thing I've ever seen and he was so alert when he was born! I can't believe he's really mine.