This is so long, which is ridiculous considering how short my actual labor was, but if you are interested, read on 🙂
We went into childbirth with the goal of having a med-free birth but with an open mind knowing that every labor is different and it’s okay to change your mind. We’d both read lots of books, taken a couple of natural birth classes, discussed our wishes with the OB and felt comfortable with the hospital we’d chosen after discussing with friends that delivered there. I’d heard great things about the nurses being supportive of med-free births, which was very important to me. We also hired a doula to be present during labor to provide us both with support, encouragement, and ideas and suggestions for making the labor process go smoothly. I use “we” instead of “I” because honestly, without Tyler’s support and encouragement from early on I would have likely abandoned ship long ago 🙂
Most of you know I had been on bedrest since 33 weeks when I had a premature rupture/slow leak. I’d had no leakage since my initial day in the hospital and the doctor was optimistic that it had sealed up, though he said in his 30 years he’d never seen it happen. I was supposed to come off of modified bed rest on Tuesday (7/10), but last Saturday morning I woke up with leaking like I’d had before. I knew if I went back to L&D I would get admitted, so we took the morning to get laundry done, finish packing our bags, and dh went to our scheduled infant CPR class so at least one of us would be trained!
Sure enough when we got to L&D the test showed it was amniotic fluid again. I leaked a bit off and on all day but had no contractions. The doctor took me off continuous monitoring in the evening so I could get some sleep, and they also locked my IV because it wasn’t working great and I’d had about 8 hours of fluids already. I sent Tyler home after dinner to rest, thinking we’d be having a discussion with the doctor in the morning about the game plan, which the nurse told me would likely be induction. I was bummed and frustrated but mostly just wanted to talk to the doctor and figure out what the best/safest plan was at that point since I was leaking again and at risk of infection.
I tried to go to bed about 10:00 but had a completely irrational hormonal breakdown. Being by myself at night at the hospital was hard, I wanted my own bed, my husband, and my pugs. So I turned the tv back on and watched one of my favorite guilty pleasures: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. As the movie ended and I was finally ready for sleep I felt a huge gush and knew my water had broken for real this time. It was 11:30pm.
I called Tyler and told him but said to stay home and get some sleep since I figured I would be waiting on labor to start for awhile. I also called the doula and told her the same thing. I figured I would be in early labor for several hours, maybe til morning.
When my water broke and the nurse hooked me back up to the monitors was when I realized I should probably tell the nurse that I was hoping for a med free birth since I’d never printed out the birth plan that I’d typed up just last week. So she knew I had a doula, was hoping to avoid pitocin, but she also understood that we were approaching this this with an open mind. She asked me once after my water broke if I wanted pain meds and I just told her nicely I’d ask for them if I needed them and she didn’t ask again.
The monitor showed some irregular contractions, some at 4 min apart, some 3, some 2, all about a minute long, but inconsistent so the nurse took me off the monitors and I tried to sleep. The cramping/contractions started to slowly intensify so I called Tyler back about midnight and said “nevermind, come on in, I don’t want to be alone.” He got there about 12:30 and was all “turn off the tv! we need to rest during early labor!” just like our classes/books taught us, ha. So he fell asleep but my contractions were becoming somewhat steady at 3 min apart so I went to the bathroom to labor in there, and then decided to walk the halls to let him rest and encourage my labor to progress. Also walking was the only thing that felt good during contractions. There had been a bag of pitocin in my room all day and I did not want to use it so figured walking was my best bet at that point to get things moving.
I walked from about 1-1:20am, then the nurse asked me to do a quick check on the monitors again since my contractions seemed to be regulating. I think she asked me to rate my pain and I said “maybe a 3?” I honestly didn’t know how to rate it, it was worse than period cramps but I could walk and talk through them at that point.
She called the doctor to update him and asked if he wanted her to do a cervix check (he had said no cervix checks since my water broke at 33 weeks and I was 1cm/90% effaced and we wanted to avoid infection) He gave her the go ahead and at 1:30am she told me I was already 4-5cm. I was encouraged but knew I could have a long road ahead of me depending on how quickly I progressed. Tyler asked if I wanted him to call the doula and I said no since we were coping okay and it seemed early. The nurse brought in the birthing ball without me even asking and said I could get on it as soon as my IV was running. The doctor wanted me to do a quick round of antibiotics since my lab work hadn’t come back yet and there were concerns of infection due to my leak. Unfortunately the IV wouldn’t work at all at this point, so she tried to start a new one. Needles don’t bug me but being on my bed on the monitors during this was hard, and each contraction was becoming more painful, but were still 2-3 min apart.
I got nauseous and threw up while she was working on the new IV site, and then all of the sudden it seemed my contractions were unbearable. My toes were curling, and I started kind of thrashing my head back and forth and vocalizing a lot. I told her I would probably need an epidural and soon if it was this bad at 5cm. But before calling the anesthesiologist she checked me again and I was at 9cm!!! This was only 30 minutes after I was 4-5cm!
I kinda lost my shit for a second, cried, may have dropped the F bomb, and knew it was too late for an epidural and that there was no turning back. Part of me was glad that the road was clearly paved for me to have a med free birth and even my desire for pain meds couldn’t get in the way, but mostly I was freaking terrified because things were moving so fast. I remember saying “my hands feel fuzzy, my face feels fuzzy” between contractions at this point and my nurse explained that it was a normal reaction when you hyperventilate. Tyler stepped in at that point and had me focus on his breathing and helped me regulate my own breathing.
It got chaotic in my room when she discovered I was at a 9. Nurses and techs rushed in to get everything in place for delivery. The NICU team got set up in the corner just in case. The doctor was called and told to get in immediately. He lived close fortunately. I told Tyler to call the doula and have her come in as quickly as possible. I kept thinking “I’m going to feel so bad if she misses it!”
About 5 minutes after we learned I was 9cm I felt the urge to push and loudly announced it to the room. My nurse checked again and said I was complete. Another freak out moment as the doctor wasn’t there yet and labor just seemed to keep speeding up. They called him again and told him to gun it.
Contractions were maybe 90 seconds-2 minutes apart at this point but REALLY short. Like 10-15 seconds, which was not at all what I expected. They coached me through how to NOT push, by making a hissing noise, quick breaths, etc. But usually towards the end of the contractions I would have trouble and would involuntarily push a bit. I kept my eyes closed from the point they told me I was complete as I was trying to keep my anxiety in check, and just kept willing the doctor to appear so we could get her out. He rushed in at 2:30am and they gowned him up and threw me into the stirrups. I remember he asked “has she had an epidural?” and I wanted to laugh. There was no way I looked/sounded like someone that had an epidural at that point! Someone on my left started coaching me on how to push and was saying lots of encouraging things in a really soothing voice, I opened my eyes and was surprised to see my doula at my side. She arrived at the same time the doctor did.
When the contractions would start I would grab Tyler’s hand on the right and the nurse/doula’s hand on the left and squeeze, then they’d start coaching me on how to push (bear down, relax my legs, make grunts not high pitched noises, etc). I probably pushed about 4 or 5 times and she was out. The crowning hurt and I got the loudest then but when her actual body came out I think I sighed/moaned in relief. It felt SO good to have that part over.
She squeaked a bit and they placed her on my chest for a brief moment and then had Tyler cut the cord (weren’t able to delay as her status was unclear at that time) and they whisked her off to the warmer in the corner where the NICU team assessed her. Her apgar scores were 8/9 I believe. Everything was good, they just said she was breathing a little fast. The doula went over to tell them I wanted skin to skin vs. wrapping her up right away and Tyler stayed and held my hand for a couple of minutes, during which time they delivered my placenta (doctor just said “give a small push” and it came right out.) Then the doctor assessed my tears (2nd degree) and they started giving me numbing shots so they could start stitching. Took about 10 minutes or so to stitch me up, it was not pleasant but I just kept reminding myself it was way better than the sensation of feeling you have to push but being told you can’t!
We had skin to skin for about an hour while they cleared out the room. She was fast asleep, no interest in nursing at that point. About an hour after she was born the baby nurse came in and bathed her and did newborn procedures while Tyler observed. She was alert after that and we attempted nursing. She latched and got crazy eyes, looking around like “whoa!”
We were discharged after only 3 nights in the hospital (2 nights since the birth). No NICU time, no oxygen, completely amazing how healthy she is for a late term preemie. I really believe the steroid shots I got at 33 weeks made all the difference. She is so tiny, 5lbs 12 oz, but completely perfect. She loves to sleep, snuggle, suck, be swaddled, and occasionally she opens her eyes a smidge to look at us.
So I got my med free birth but it was so opposite of what I expected and we prepared for. Afterward Tyler said: “I didn’t get to practice any of the methods I studied!” but I don’t think that mattered. He was supportive of me going med free from day 1, and more confident in my ability than I was in many ways.
I am still kind of in shock about how it all happened, it went by in the blink of an eye! Makes me wonder how future deliveries will play out!! SO glad I was already in the hospital when my water broke, otherwise we probably would have stayed home until the pain intensified and I was almost complete, and we live 20ish minutes from the hospital!
Now for some pictures:
Checking on Gretchen right after the birth
about 30 minutes after the birth. Yes I delivered in a Chiefs shirt, there was no time to change into a hospital gown!
snuggling in the nursery for the first time, love that glider!