Well, we did it! I spent nine months baking this baby, and he has finally arrived.
On December 31, I had Matt take me to Labor and Delivery because I hadn’t felt the baby move in several hours. While I was being hooked up to the fetal monitors, I said to Matt, “My gut is telling me everything is fine, but I can’t shake the feeling like something is amiss.” It turns out that feeling was the proverbial calm before the storm.
We went home after our trip to triage and had a quiet new years. We turned in at 1 AM or so, and I couldn’t sleep. “I’m going to read my book in the living room. I don’t feel so hot.” At 4 AM on January 1, I started to have regular contractions. They were mild enough that I was able to sleep for about 2 hours. By the time 7 AM came around, I knew that today was the day. I decided to labor by myself for a while and let Matt sleep. No point in us both being sleep deprived. At 9:30 AM, I woke him up. “I think you are going to meet your son today.”
Laboring at home gave me a false sense of confidence. The contractions were painful, but manageable. I took a bath, we went for a walk, I sat on my birth ball and watched Mad Men. “This is going to be easy!” I thought.
Around 2PM, the contractions were getting fairly intense and I thought I was about 4cm dilated, but I hadn’t been bleeding or seen any signs that my plug had come out. We decided to go to the hospital. Back at triage, the news was not so great. “Your 2cm dilated and it’s a tight two. Cathy (my midwife) says you can go home or walk around for a few hours and we’ll recheck you” WALK AROUND FOR TWO HOURS! after ten hours of labour?! Oy. That was not what I wanted to hear. I agreed to stay even though I knew I was going to be super uncomfortable – moaning and contracting in front of strangers in the parking lot. I must have leaned up against every tree and bench at Florida hospital. Honestly, except for transition, this was the worst part of labour for me. Walking causes dilation, obviously, which is why I was ordered to do so, but it is SO uncomfortable. It made my contractions closer and more intense. On the way back to triage, I stopped to use the bathroom. That’s when my plug fell out and I noticed some bleeding. This lifted my spirits some.
When I was ready to be rechecked, the news was improving. 4 cm. I could be admitted. It would be a while until we actually moved to Labour and Delivery though, and waiting in triage, I felt like a caged animal hooked up to the monitors. I wanted to sit on the birth ball or get in the bath. It was murder just waiting to be moved. Matt called our parents and told them it was time. Matt was amazing this whole time. From 9:30 AM on, he had been with me through every contraction. He was so patient and kind, as he always is, but its a times like these you really depend on your partner and Matt did not disappoint me. He was positive and reassuring at all times.
Finally, when we did move up to L & D, it was 6 PM. They rechecked me and I was 5-6 cm. This is actually reasonably quick progression, I am told, but to me, it felt like an eternity. I had only slept for two hours the night before, and I was really starting to feel like it too. I was getting somewhat delirious. When our parents arrived, I was relieved to see family. My Mom stayed with me until the baby was born. And even though I think it was hard for her to see me in that much pain, having two support people with me made a big difference, and she was wonderful. I got in the tub a few times, which is GREAT when you are having a natural birth, I highly recommend it. My midwife was actually attending a C-section for another patient, and I didn’t see her until I was about 7 cm. Thank god she was there through transition, which is BY FAR, the craziest part of labour. Transition is the last part of labour when you go from 7cm to 10cm and things get real, y’all. My contractions were so intense and very close together, I could hardly breathe. I puked, I felt faint, I sort of lost track of who I was an why I was there a few times. At one point my Mom says I said to her, “I feel like I’m not here; like this is happening to someone else.” (I have no recollection of actually saying this, but it’s exactly how I felt.) Cathy (my midwife) gave me 50mg of Fentanyl because I was having a hard time breathing. I remember the RN saying something like, ‘slow down or you’ll hyperventilate.’ but it’s practically impossible when you are that far gone; really. It’s like being on another planet. The Fentanyl calmed me down, but did nothing for my contraction pain. I think it really helped me relax a little, which was important because I was about to push. The last stage of labour probably lasted about an hour and a half. It’s a lot of switching sides through contractions. I got on my hands and knees at the end, which was crazy, I swear I could feel the baby’s skull pushing up against my pelvis. I wanted to push him out right there and then.
When it’s time to push; all bets are off. Some women have told me they are relieved to push through the contraction, but I didn’t feel that way. Pushing was hard work. If having a contraction is like being seized by an urge outside of your control, then the need to push is like being transported by another force altogether. Even though there is so much pressure, a burning/stinging sensation and a feeling like your lower half could explode at any minute, you have no choice. You have to push. At this point, I am exhausted. I have had a contraction every 3-5 minutes for over 20 hours. This roughly means that I have experienced 300 contractions since I began labouring and I am over it. In my mind, I have a come-to-jesus talk with my son. “It’s time to come out now. No more excuses.” and I start to verbally say, “Come on, my son. Come on.” And with each contraction, I bear down and push like my life depends on it. When I feel the baby crowning and have to wait for the next contraction, the pain is immaterial because I know we’re almost there. When the baby’s head is out, the relief is tremendous. “Kristen, I need you to stop pushing for one minute.” The umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby’s head. I don’t know this because no one has told me, but I can hear the serious tone in my midwife’s voice. It takes what little energy I have left to fight the urge to push during the contraction. My Mom tells me the midwife quickly and expertly moved the cord and I wasn’t panicked, because I had no idea. Then Cathy says the best thing I have ever heard. “Kristen, reach down and pull out your baby.”
And that’s exactly what I did.
Matthew was born at 1:14 AM on January 2, 2013. He weighed 7 pounds and 13 ounces and was 21 inches long.
I had a small uterine hemorrhage, a second degree tear and my placenta would only partially detach. I had to have some pitocin and methergine. I got some stitches. I was so high off the endorphins post birth, that I hardly felt a thing.
Matthew took to the breast right away. He feeds like a champs and is a happy little lad. 4 hours after I gave birth, I wanted to go home from the hospital, but they wouldn’t release me. I felt energized and a little sore, but nothing major. I think the fact that I gave birth naturally, had little drugs, and no surgery contributed to my speedy recovery. I understand that natural childbirth is not for every woman, and that ultimately every woman must choose what kind of birth experience is right for her. Also, some women don’t have a choice: C Section is frequently very necessary, and so too can be an epidural if things are not progressing. At the end of day, every birth experience is as unique as the child that it is born from. I feel very grateful that I was able to give birth naturally and that little intervention was needed. It’s scary how much I love this tiny person who is so dependent on me. Matt and I are exhausted, but so happy with our little man. He is just perfect.