It was 2 a.m. Friday morning. I woke up suffering from what I thought were severe cramps. However, when the pain started to come and go at regular intervals, every ten minutes or so at first, I knew what this really was – I was finally experiencing contractions. The pain was strong enough were I knew I couldn’t fall back asleep, so I took a bath, went downstairs, and turned on the TV. I starting using the contraction timer that came with the BabyCenter app I had downloaded. By 5 a.m. the contractions were coming closer together, about every seven minutes. I ate some oatmeal and tried to relax and practice my Yoga breathing techniques. I didn’t alert my husband as to what was going on yet because I knew once I did he would be up and I figured at least one of us should go into this on a full night’s sleep. So I let him sleep until about 8 and then calmly told him that I was indeed in labor.
I had some toast around 10 a.m.. I knew I would need my strength even though I wasn’t very hungry. I continued to breathe through the contractions with ease, using my Ujjayi breaths to get through the pain. I did my cat-cows and hip circles, sat on the exercise ball, and rested in child’s pose between contractions. Now, my midwife told be to labor at home as long as possible, at least until my contractions fit the 5-1-1 rule – coming every five minutes, lasting for one minute, for at least one hour (or until my water broke). It wasn’t until 2 p.m. that my contractions started to fit that pattern. It was then that I called the number my OB/GYN’s office gave us and left a message for the midwife on call. A few minutes later the midwife who ended up delivering Leo, called back. I told her how I’d been in labor all morning and that my contractions were one minute long, five minutes apart, and had been for the past hour. She instructed us to come to the hospital and go to Triage on the Labor and Delivery floor so that they could examine me.
My husband and I gathered up the last of our things, cell phone chargers, wallets, snacks, and threw them in our go-bags (deep down, I think my husband was really excited to finally get to use his go-bag, even if it wasn’t for a zombie apocalypse). We got the dogs settled and locked them in their room (a.k.a. the mudroom). I gingerly waddled myself to the car and off we went. Fortunately, the hospital is only 15 minutes from our house, so we were there in no time. My husband offered to drop me off at the front entrance, but requested that he park the car first so he could walk me in. And just like all the labor and delivery staff said, it took us a good 20 minutes to get from the car to the check-in desk at Triage because every five minutes I had to stop and breathe through the next contraction.
Once we got checked in and into an exam room, they hooked me up to the fetal monitor and examined by cervix. I was only three centimeters dilated, but my contractions were coming at regular intervals, so they agreed I was ready to be admitted. Now a few months back I had filled out the paperwork necessary to deliver in the Natural Birth Center wing of the labor and delivery floor. But in that moment, when they asked if I still wanted to go, I hesitated. The pain had been tolerable until we left the house. But now it was about 4 p.m. and I had been in labor for 14 hours. I didn’t know how much more I could take. After talking it over with my husband and receiving some encouraging words from the midwife in Triage, we decided to continue on with our original birth plan and off to the natural birth wing we went.
After they took us to our birthing suite, my husband got our bags from the car. It seemed like he was gone forever, but it was only maybe 15 minutes. That was one of the only times he left my side (except to get coffee later that night). I changed into my sports bra and robe and put on some very fashionable mesh panties. They hooked up and IV port for the antibiotics I would get every few hours since I tested positive for Group B Strep (many women do). By 5 p.m. we were finally settled and I was able to focus on my breathing again. It wasn’t long before I was eager to get into the tub. The nurse filled it up for me and once in, I must have labored in there for a good two hours. By the time I got out the day nurse was leaving and the night nurse was starting her shift. I’m sure most mothers have a special place in their hearts for the labor and delivery nurse(s) that helped them through their child birth. I definitely am thankful she was there to help me through mine.
Our midwife came in as well to make sure I was okay and after she delivered a baby down the hall she was with me the majority of the night. She was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. She used lavender essential oil to help me relax. She massaged my hips and lower back. And she helped position me on the peanut shaped birthing ball so we could get the baby in an optimal position. She also helped me keep my breathing slow and relaxed, which became increasingly difficult with every passing hour.
And my husband, my wonderful loving husband. He was my rock. He made sure I stayed hydrated. He let me squeeze his hand as hard as I wanted. He rubbed my back, let me lean on his shoulders, and made sure we had good music to listen to. And when the time came to push he helped to hold my legs and gave me the encouragement I needed to not give up.
Now, by 10 p.m. I was really getting tired. They don’t call it LABOR for nothing. And my water still hadn’t broke. By ll p.m. I was 9 centimeters dilated and we decided to have our midwife artificially rupture the amniotic sac. The tool they use to do this looks like a crochet hook. It was painless. After that, everything happened so quickly it was almost a blur. I was really starting to feel pressure like I was ready to push, but I wasn’t fully dilated yet. Tracie was able to manual stretch my cervix the rest of the way and then it was go time.
Our midwife and nurse got me positioned on the bed. They instructed my husband how to hold my left leg while our nurse held my right. I pushed with each contraction with all I had, but I was thoroughly exhausted by this point. While pushing they noticed that the baby’s heart rate was dropping so they kept rolling me over on my side between contractions. He was crowning after about ten minutes of pushing but I couldn’t get him over that threshold. I tried and tried, but with his heart rate dropping, they had to give me an episiotomy so I could push him out right away. After 22 hours of labor, Leo was born just after midnight, at 12:02 a.m. By this time there was a whole team of people in the room, most who’s faces I never saw. They put Leo on my chest just long enough for me to deliver the placenta. Then they cut the umbilical cord and whisked him off to the bassinet to check his vitals and make sure he was okay. It seemed like forever before I heard his first cries, after which I gave a huge sigh of relief.
During all of this chaos I realized that my OB was in the room with our midwife. They were trying to sew me back up but I hear them talking about all the blood. It turns out I had a postpartum hemorrhage due to the fact that my uterus wasn’t contracting like it should have been. Once our midwife had stitched me up, my OB was alternating between shoving her hand up my cervix and pulling out clots from my uterus with pressing down on my stomach to help my uterus contract. As if my body hadn’t already been through enough. They tried to give me Pitocin threw my IV to help with this process, but I looked over and my forearm was all swollen. They had to eventually redo my IV, which took forever because none of the nurses could find a good vein because, as you can imagine, all of my blood supply had been redirected elsewhere. It was a surreal and bloody hot mess.
With all of this going on, my only focus was on our son. I craned my neck the best I could to look over at the bassinet so that I could overhear what the nurses and pediatricians were saying. I kept asking my husband to check on him, but he wouldn’t leave my side. They eventually let me know that he was okay, but me, not so much. Eventually they got the new IV in and once the Pitocin started to work they did get the bleeding to stop. But they did decide to send me down to the regular labor and delivery wing so they could keep a better eye on me just in case. So after they got everything in order, we said good-bye our luxurious birthing suite and headed down to labor and delivery. I remember being rolled down the hall on a gurney, half naked, and seeing my parents in the hall, yelling to them “I’m okay”, knowing I looked like a hot mess. By about 2 a.m., we were settled into our new room, me, my husband, and our newborn son. My parents were finally able to meet him and I was finally feeling at ease knowing he and I were both going to be okay.
That first night I didn’t sleep much because for one, I was really wired after all that had happened and was trying to process everything, and also, every two hours they came in to push down on my stomach to check the size of my uterus and then peak to make sure my bleeding was still under control. I think I maybe managed to get three hours of sleep that first night. That morning my husband’s parents were scheduled to fly in. There timing couldn’t be more perfect. By Saturday afternoon all the grandparents were there to meet little Leo. We were one big happy family. While I was one big exhausted, sore, hot mess.
We eventually were moved to a regular Recovery room with the other moms and newborns. That night I sent my husband home so he could get a good night’s sleep on our bed (he has chronic back pain from an accident he was in a few years back and we have a Tempur-Pedic). So it was just me and Leo. The nurses were very helpful because I obviously had no idea what I was doing. Sure, I knew how to change diapers and how to hold a baby. But this whole mom thing was new to me and EVERYTHING was new to him, so we were both kind of winging it. Of course, he just wanted to be held and snuggled, so every time I put him down in the bassinet he cried. I eventually found a white noise for babies video on YouTube that helped soothe him an allowed me to get a few hours of sleep, but that was about it.
On Sunday Leo’s grandparents came to visit again and he also got to meet two of my dearest friends. It was great to have visitors because you start to feel isolated after being in the hospital, even if only for a few days. Sunday night was the same as the last, just me and Leo trying to get by one hour at a time. The nurse offered to take him to the nursery so I could get some rest in between feedings, but I knew I still wouldn’t be able to sleep because I would just be thinking about him. In all, I probably slept 8 hours over the course of three days.
Monday morning was the big day. We were finally going to get to go home. After numerous visits from the Pediatrician, OB/GYN, lactation consultant, and hospital volunteers talking to us about new parent resources, we got our discharge papers and were free to go. We bundled Leo up, had the nurse help us put him in the carseat, and gathered up our things. My husband went to get the car while Leo and I waited to be wheeled downstairs. After the three of us were loaded in the car, my husband carefully drove us home. We got home and it finally sunk it that we were parents now. Life was forever changed…