For some reason I was convinced that my baby would be born at 38+6, on July 17th. The day came and went uneventfully and I was bummed. In my crazy magical thinking, this automatically meant that I would go over my due date, need Pitocin, then need an epidural and eventually a c-section. And those were the things I didn’t want.
I didn’t have a birth plan per se, not anything written anyway. All I knew is that I wanted to do it as naturally as possible. No pain relief, no inductions, no interventions unless they were absolutely necessary. It may have been the biggest shitshow of all time trying to conceive this little lady, but I had a ridiculously smooth and uncomplicated pregnancy and had no reason to expect that delivery would be any different. Plus the women in my family tend to have short labors and push their babies out in less than 10 minutes and I was absolutely sure I would be just like them.
Since July 17th came and went with no hint of labor, July 18th (Saturday) was the day that I resigned myself to going past my due date. I adjusted my expectations and decided that I would likely deliver on 7/26 now. Don’t ask me why. I have no reason for these weird quirks of mine. I went out for a sushi lunch date with two of my best friends, and I snapped a picture of my big beautiful belly in the mirror before I left. After lunch one of them came back home with me and spent the entire afternoon figuring out how to secure the bookcase in the baby’s room to the wall (and that only took 4 hours and a trip to Home Depot) and putting up the rest of the polka dots on the walls. I was amazed and relieved that the nursery was FINALLY done. I had done three loads of laundry that morning but the rest of my house was an absolute pigsty. But that was okay, because I had all day on Sunday to clean.
I went to bed a little later than normal, around 11. I had been having CRAZY Braxton-Hicks all night and the baby was super active, so I took a really long really hot shower to relax before bed. The baby loves when I take hot showers and I could feel her relaxing as much as I was.
I got up to pee around midnight and noticed some yellow stuff on the toilet paper and in the toilet. I reasoned it was probably my mucus plug, thought, “hmm, maybe I’ll go in the next few days and won’t be late after all!”, and I went back to bed.Before I fell asleep I convinced myself that it was just the evening primrose oil I’d been taking for three days leaking out and to stop getting my hopes up.
At 2:30 I got up to pee again. When I stood up from the toilet, some yellow watery discharge came out. I caught it with the toilet paper and thought, “hmm, what was that?” The toilet paper was stained very obviously yellow so I thought, “hmm, that can’t be my water breaking, because amniotic fluid is only that color when there’s meconium”.
I put on a panty liner and hopped back into bed. I closed my eyes and just as I began to drift, I felt a gush, kind of like when you have your period. I jumped out of bed and ran back to the bathroom and found the liner completely soaked with yellow liquid, which was now running down my legs. “Hmm, this is a lot of discharge,” I thought as I wiped my thighs down.
I changed my panty liner, underwear, and pants, and then…you guessed it…I hopped back into bed. I must have woken Brian up, because he got up to pee and while I was lying there and he was in the bathroom – yup – I felt another gush. Brian came back to bed and I got up without saying a word and headed to the bathroom for the third time. This time a good amount of it gushed out and hit the floor while I was standing in front of the toilet and cleaning myself off. Confession: the first time it happened, I sort of knew exactly what was going on. I was just in denial. I knew I was looking at amniotic fluid stained with meconium, but I didn’t want it to be real so I just pretended it wasn’t happening. Now there was pretty much no denying it.
I put on a real pad this time, hopped back into bed, and consulted Dr. Google. Brian rolled over and glared at me. “Why are you on your phone right now?” he asked sleepily.
“I’m trying to figure out if my water broke or not,” I replied calmly.
He bolted straight up in bed. “WHAT?!? What do you mean you’re trying to figure it out?!?!”
“Well this fluid keeps coming out but it’s not clear, it’s yellow, so I think I’m either peeing myself or there’s meconium in the fluid and my water broke.”
“But…wait…isn’t meconium poop? Isn’t that bad?”
“Well then call the hospital!”
I shook my head and kept reading some stupid post on BabyCenter that wasn’t even really relevant to the issue at hand. “No, I don’t want to bother them if nothing’s really wrong. If it happens again, I’ll call.”
It happened again. And again. And then the sixth time Brian actually started yelling at me. So I conceded and I called the hospital and spoke to the on-call doctor. When I told her I was also having painless contractions, she told me to head in because she was pretty sure my water broke, and she was VERY concerned to hear that the fluid wasn’t clear.
The only thing I hadn’t done yet in preparation for baby was pack a bag beyond a pair of yoga pants and an extra phone charger, so while Brian scrambled frantically I calmly packed some nursing bras and maternity tank tops and toiletries and clothes for the baby to come home in. I wrapped my exercise ball in a sheet and asked Brian to bring it to the car while I put on a new pad and changed my pants one more time. I was moving in slow motion and completely devoid of any emotion. I think I was in shock. And maybe denial too. I had asked the doctor on the phone if I had to be admitted if my water broke and she was surprised to even hear me ask that. “Of course. Once your water breaks there’s no way the baby isn’t coming. You said you were full term, right?”
I put on my favorite 90s pop Pandora station in the car, and we listened to some classic gems during our 25 minute ride to the hospital – Wannabe by the Spicegirls, No Diggity by Blackstreet, and Mr. Jones by the Counting Crows. My calmness rubbed off on my husband, and we talked and joked about anything and everything except the baby while we sang along to some of our old-school favorites.
We pulled into the hospital parking garage at about 4:15am. We left everything in the car except my purse, and as we walked away from the car and towards the emergency room entrance (the rest of the doors are locked from 9pm-6am), we turned around and noticed that we had parked next to a black Ford Fusion with New Hampshire plates. Brian’s best friend passed away the day of my positive beta, and he had driven a black Ford Fusion with…you guessed it…New Hampshire plates. We both had a tear-filled quiet moment of reflection, and I never felt calmer as I did at that second. I put my hand on my belly and whispered a silent prayer to him, asking him to watch over me and my baby.
We got up to the maternity ward and checked in. We were brought into triage by a nurse named Nicole. She instructed me to change into a johnny in the bathroom and leave a urine sample. I changed and, of course, forgot to leave the urine. They got me into a bed, hooked me up to some monitors, and grabbed the on-call doctor to check me. They explained that they would test the fluid I was leaking and be able to tell if it was amniotic fluid within just a few minutes. They dropped the bottom of the bed, had me put my legs in stirrups, and put in a speculum.
“Oh!” the doctor said.
I looked up. “What?”
“Oh, we don’t even need to test this sweetie, your water DEFINITELY broke. I can see it pooling. And there’s a whole lot of meconium.”
My calmness suddenly wavered a little bit. “This is it?” I asked.
“This is it! You’re having a baby!”
Brian squeezed my hand excitedly. I drew in a shaky breath. “This is it,” I repeated. “It’s baby time.”
By 6am I was in room 490, tucked into bed and hooked up to new monitors and starting to actually feel my contractions which were already coming every 2 to 5 minutes. I could talk through them, and only needed to pause for a deep breath when they would peak. Within about two hours, I realized that I was feeling all the pain in my back and my nurse announced that this meant the baby was posterior, meaning her face was up instead of down.
By 9am the contractions were getting so intense that I couldn’t talk through them anymore. I breathed and I moaned and Brian pushed on my lower back as hard as he could. I tried getting up and moving around but that just made it worse. I was most comfortable lying in bed on my side. Brian stood behind me and let me squeeze his free hand while he pushed as hard as he could on my lower back with the other. He watched the contraction monitor and would tell me when they would start to come down. My contraction pattern was weird, but my nurse said it was very typical of a baby that’s facing the wrong way. I would have one big terrible contraction, and about thirty seconds later I would have another that was about half the intensity of the first, and then thirty seconds later I would have a third contraction that was about half the intensity of the second. Then I had a 2-5 minute break before the next big bad one started.
Around 12:30 in the afternoon, the doctor came by and asked if I wanted to be checked. I nodded emphatically. I’d been having extremely intense contractions for hours now. I had been dilated to 2cm on Thursday at my weekly checkup, and I figured that after all these hours I would be at least a 5. It would be just the push I needed to stay strong and keep at it. And boy, did I need some motivation. I was in AGONY. Back labor is no joke, my friends.
She waited until my contraction passed, and then checked me. I caught her gaze as she started to pull her hand out. She smiled encouragingly. “You’re just about a 3,” she said.
At the same moment she pulled her hand out, the amniotic fluid that until now had just been steadily trickling out of me finally came out with that dramatic TV show gush ALL over this poor doctor who had just broken my heart.
The nurse rushed over to clean me up and I burst into tears. The doctor was very understanding. “I know you said you wanted to do this naturally, but I want to let you know that you do have options. We have a non-narcotic painkiller we can give you through your IV to help take the edge off it you want. It might help you power through. Is that something you want to try or not?”
“I don’t know,” I wailed.
“Think about it,” she said, promising to return in a few minutes.
I turned and looked at Brian. “I can’t do this anymore,” I whispered, tears pouring down my face.
“Of course you can, baby, you’re doing great!”
“No…I mean…I can’t do it without drugs.” I felt about 2 inches tall. Me, the chick with the impossibly high pain tolerance who scoffed at the idea of needing drugs to get through childbirth…I was only 3cm dilated and I was already giving up.
“That’s okay,” he assured me. “You did great without them, I’m so proud of you, but you’re suffering and it’s okay to take the help.”
“You’re not being a wimp,” Lynn, my nurse, chimed in. “Don’t feel bad about any of it. It’s your labor and it’s your decision.”
Lynn was great by the way. We bonded over loving cats with deformities and had been passing the time between my contractions by sharing the ridiculous stories of the jerk things our own cats have done.
The doctor came back in and I told her I wanted to try the Nubain. They gave me a shot through my IV and a shot in my butt and told me it might make me feel a little drunk. It did. It made me feel quite drunk. And it took absolutely no edges off of any pain. Fifteen minutes later I was screaming through my contractions to get the anesthesiologists because I was ready for the epidural.
Brian and my nurse held my hands while I curled over my belly and miraculously didn’t have a single contraction while the epidural was put in. As soon as I got back into the bed I had a big one, and then two minutes later a tiny one, and then I was smiling and sighing with relief as the combo of the epidural and the Nubain put me into an incredibly zen, sleepy state. Now that I was relaxed, the nurses gave me a giant peanut shaped pillow. I had to alternate lying on each side with the pillow between my legs to help open up my pelvis and get the baby to rotate so she wasn’t “sunny-side up” anymore.
Around 4 the doctor came to check me again and announced that I had only dilated 1cm and was up to 4. “So I guess this is the part where you tell me I need Pitocin,” I said sleepily. “Can you just please give me the smallest dose possible?”
“Of course,” the doctor assured me. “We only give you as much as you need.”
With the help of the Pitocin I dilated to about a 5 by 5:30. It was around that time that I started to feel an intense pain in my left hip with every contraction even though I was still hooked up to the epidural. Every time I mentioned it, they would bump up the meds, but the pain was getting worse and worse and was spreading into my left lower back. By 9pm I was 9cm dilated with a small lip, and I was moaning and wailing through my contractions again. Why nobody thought to call anesthesia at that point is beyond me. But anyway, by 9:15 I was 10cm!
“Do you feel an urge to push?” my new nurse asked. Her name was Carla. She came on at 7. I already missed Lynn.
“No,” I replied, sweating and crying through the contractions.
“Well let’s try to push anyway.”
And try we did. But every time I pushed, the pain in my back got exponentially worse. I couldn’t push. I physically couldn’t do it because the pain was so severe. So she had me roll on my left to push, then my right, then my back, then my left again. Then I begged to get on my back because it felt better. She said no, but I did it anyway. The pain got so bad I started to throw up. My husband held my bucket with one hand and got fresh, freezing cold washcloths for my forehead with the other.
“You’re never going to want to have sex with me again,” I wailed at one point, simultaneously vomiting bile into a pink basin and screaming with my legs in the air.[Note: I asked Brian a few days later if I really said that or if I only thought it. He laughed a lot and said that yes, yes I had absolutely SCREAMED it in the middle of a contraction and the nurse busted out laughing when I did.]
“Yes I will,” he promised. Liar. What a saint.
This is when I started to falter. “I can’t do this,” I moaned. “I can’t do it. I want to go home. I don’t want to be here anymore, I don’t want to do this.”
“You want to do this,” my husband promised, squeezing my hand. “We’re going to meet our beautiful baby girl! Don’t you want to meet her?”
“Nooooo,” I wailed, tears pouring down my face. “I don’t want this anymore, I don’t want to have a baby, why the hell did I do this to myself? I’m infertile for a fucking reason and I shouldn’t have messed with the universe!”
So now I had horrific pain tearing through my back and an equally horrific pain tearing through my heart as I started saying over and over that I didn’t want a baby despite my husband’s assurances that I wasn’t thinking straight. A contraction started and the nurse grabbed my leg to help me push. “NO!” I shouted. “I can’t!”
We went back and forth like this for a few minutes until finally Carla had me squat and turn around and lean over the back of the bed. I bore down once, and that’s when I lost it. “I CAN’T FUCKING DO THIS!” I screamed at the top of my lungs.
“Yes you can, you’re so much stronger than you think you are…” the nurse assured me.
“YOU AREN’T LISTENING TO ME! I CAN’T FUCKING DO THIS, I PHYSICALLY CANNOT PUSH THIS BABY OUT! IT HURTS TOO MUCH!”
“Yes you can, you’ve got this…”
“I CAN’T DO THIS, YOU HAVE TO HELP ME! WHY WON’T ANYONE FUCKING HELP ME?”
“NO! STOP IT!”
I was hysterical and I was in so much pain I thought I was going to die. I lowered myself back into the bed, I rolled on my side, I grabbed the side of the bed, and I said, “I either need the anesthesiologist or I need a c-section. I’m done. I’M FUCKING DONE.”
I started moaning and I couldn’t stop. I’m pretty sure I put myself in a trance. Doctors came in and out. My husband tried to talk to me and calm me down and I just kept moaning. My parents were in the waiting room and apparently my terrified husband went to talk to them and get a pep talk while I stayed right where I was and continued to moan one long note, punctuated only when I needed to take a breath. Doctors were asking me questions and I couldn’t answer them. I heard someone say “vacuum” and I tried to reply “over my dead body” but I couldn’t stop moaning.
They rolled me onto my other side despite me wailing in protest. They fiddled with the catheter in my back. I felt something cold, and within minutes I was not only numb, but paralyzed from the waist down. The pain stopped. Mercifully the fucking pain FINALLY fucking stopped and I stopped moaning and burst into tears of gratitude.
“How does that feel?” the anesthesiologist asked me.
“I fucking love you,” I whispered in a haze. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
He patted me on the arm and then either the doctor or the nurse (I was still in a haze so this part is tough) told me that they wanted me to sleep for an hour and see if the baby started to come down on her own. I nodded and agreed.
Time passed, but I wasn’t aware of it. Suddenly I was being lightly shaken awake. It was July 20, and it was 12:15 in the morning. “Do you feel like you’re ready to push now?” Carla asked me. “It looks like the baby has moved down on her own quite a bit.”
I still felt no pain. I could move my legs now, but only slightly. And I could feel that the baby had in fact started to come down on her own. I nodded. “I can do this,” I said. Then I looked the nurse dead in the eye and felt a huge pang of guilt. “I’m sorry I swore at you.”
“It’s okay,” she assured me.
“No, it’s not. It was incredibly rude and I feel awful. I’m sorry.”
She laughed. “Okay, let’s try this again.”
She grabbed my right leg and Brian grabbed the left. I took a deep breath as my next contraction started. I grabbed under my thighs, curled myself forward, and I pushed for three counts of ten. After I was done, I lay back and I smiled. “I can do this now. I can push this baby out.”
After about an hour of pushing, the pressure started to get intense. And wouldn’t you believe it…I started to feel a pain in my back. I told the nurse in a panic that the pain was returning and she cranked up my epidural…as quickly as it started, the pain was now gone. “I guess I should speak up as soon as I start to feel it, huh?”
“Yes, please do!” she replied. “It’s easier to fix that way!”
Now I’d been pushing for about an hour and a half and I felt like I was about to poop out a giant bowling ball. I yelled. I moaned. I asked why her head was so big. I asked if I was close, and I cried when the response was, “you’re doing great”. That wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear that I was crowning, but clearly I wasn’t.
Almost two hours in I was moaning constantly and I only had about a 30 second break between contractions. The urge to push was so overwhelming it was all I could think about. The doctor came in and started stretching me while I pushed which was horrendous, but I knew it was necessary so I tried to breathe through it.
And then suddenly with no warning, the room was swarming with people. The bottom of the bed dropped out and someone propped my legs into stirrups. Carla leaned in close. “This is the worst part,” she told me quietly. “But you need to be brave and you need to be strong and you need to push as hard as you can through the pain, okay?”
“Okay,” I whimpered, realizing that this probably meant the baby was nearly out.
The next contraction started, and instead of taking a deep breath and curling over my belly, I threw my head back and I screamed while I pushed as hard as I could. The nurse was yelling at me to keep pushing. My husband was yelling at me to keep pushing. My body was screaming to stop and I was ignoring it. Suddenly I felt a popping sensation followed by a little bit of relief. The head? Is the head out? I wanted to ask. I stopped pushing because in my childbirth class they told us that you’re supposed to stop pushing once the head is out. Apparently that’s not the case when there’s no nuchal cord and the baby is covered in her own poop.
“Keep pushing!” the doctor shouted.
I threw my head back and screamed again and I pushed as hard as I could and let me tell you, the head coming out isn’t the worst part…the shoulders are the worst part. I had a split second of excruciating pain and suddenly someone told me to look down…
Through the haze of tears and sweat and not wearing my glasses I vaguely saw a something pale and baby shaped and I heard my husband start to cry. Before I had a chance to focus on her, they cut her cord and whisked her away to the corner of the room.
It felt like hours and hours and hours, but realistically, it was less than 10 seconds after being born when Annabelle opened her beautiful little mouth and let out a squeaky little cry to let us all know that she was less than impressed with what was going on. And the rest is history. They suctioned her lungs and they took her vitals and they cleaned and diapered and foot-printed her while I lay in bed, not feeling the stitches and in a total daze. My husband stood beside the table where they worked on her and talked to her and wouldn’t you know but she stopped crying every time he spoke. And finally…FINALLY…after about 15 of the longest minutes of my life, a nurse came over and opened my johnny and they slipped my perfect little 7 pound 11 ounce baby girl onto my chest.
Recovery was no picnic. The day after she was born I took a shower and cried through it because I was certain I would never have another baby. I would never go through that ever again. But about 5 days later once the pain and the baby blues started to subside, and even though I was smack in the middle of breastfeeding and jaundice troubles, I decided that I’m already excited to have another baby. Watch out friends…I give it a year before I jump back into IVF.
So even though I had an epidural, I had P, I didn’t get to do skin-to-skin or delayed cord clamping right after birth, and even though my daughter is primarily formula fed and a refluxy, colicky, cranky baby…I wouldn’t change any of it. No way, no how. She is here and she is perfect and sometimes I just stare at her and I cry because I can’t believe she’s really real. I’m the luckiest girl in the world. OMG. WTF. I’m a mommy.