I didn’t always know whether or not I wanted a child. But the one thing I did know was that if I ever decided to have a baby, I’d want to have a natural birth. Crazy, right? Why put myself through all of that when the wonders of modern medicine allow you to have a perfectly comfortable, medicated experience? Because I am all that is woman, duh! Having a baby is something only women can do, and it’s one of the most difficult things we could ever put ourselves through. I think I had a mentality that if I could have a natural birth, I could do anything. I would be a warrior, a champion, a strong woman.
That’s great and all, but I now realize I can still be all that, and a wonderful mom to boot, even though I “gave in” and got the good ol’ epidural.
So here’s how my story goes…
By the numbers:
Due Date: June 28 Hours in Labor: 20
MJ’s Birth Date: June 24 Pain Scale: 50 (on a scale of 1-10)
Expectation for how labor would start:
I’d have all the warning signs a few days or even a week before the show started — the discharge, the bleeding, terrible back pain, maybe even signs of dilation at a regular checkup. And it would definitely start in the middle of the night while I was sleeping. Definitely.
Reality for how my labor started:
I went in for my 39 week appointment the morning of June 23rd. I hardly slept the night before because I was so uncomfortable and anxious (all mamas know that feeling at 39 weeks!) It was the first time my doctor did an exam to see if I had dilated, and she found zero signs of it. No unusual discharge, bleeding, back pain — nothing really had changed. I had even been saving some of my really cute maternity outfits to wear the following week because I didn’t want to wear them multiple times toward the end of pregnancy. I started having what I thought were my regular Braxton Hicks contractions around 1 p.m., as we were walking to lunch. Fast forward to about 8 hours and we were calling our Doula asking if contractions 4-5 minutes apart and vomiting could be signs the baby was coming. Needless to say, she headed over to help with labor about an hour later.
I truly had convinced myself there was no possible way I could be going into labor because none of the things I had read about or learned in our classes happened. I will say that our birth coach had even specifically told us it could come at any time, without warning. But you know, I knew that wouldn’t happen to me.
So in case you need to hear it one more time, trust me, labor is going to be different for everyone. No matter what you do to prepare, something unexpected can, and most likely will happen.
Expectations for labor:
It would be hard. Like, really, really hard. I read so many books, went to classes with my husband, partnered with an amazing doula and nailed down a detailed birth plan. I knew it would be tough, but I was ready for it.
Reality of Labor:
It was hard. Like, really, really hard. I had read the books, went to classes, had an amazing doula coaching me and followed our birth plan mostly to a T. But it was still harder than I ever could have imagined.
*This is the part you need to skip over if you’re a weirdo and don’t want the nitty gritty deets!*
We spent much of early labor at home. An inflatable exercise ball, my labor playlist and massages from my husband and doula were absolute lifesavers. I also used a TENS unit, which I loved.
Overall, I was totally in the zone. At one point Emma, our Doula, asked what I was thinking during a contraction. I wasn’t really thinking at all. I was lost in the music and the moment and feeling such a rush as I powered through it. After a few hours of that, I was in the bathtub, my new happy place. During a pretty strong contraction I looked down, then looked at Ryan and Emma. “So, so sorry, I think I just peed. We can totally change the water. I’ll get out!” To which Emma looked over and calmly said, “I think your water just broke. We better get moving!”
After a pretty miserable 15 minute car ride to Swedish First Hill, I got checked in and found out I was only 4 cm. At that point I was basically thinking to myself, “Holy sh*t, how is that possible!?” I thought I’d definitely be more than halfway there.
As we got to my room, Young Joc’s “It’s Going Down” happened to be blasting from our portable speaker. So perfect, right? “This is going to be a fun one!” my nurse joked. We headed straight for the tub (the ones at Swedish are SO nice!) and I stayed there for about an hour. A nurse insisted they needed to check me again. As I walked to the bed, I noticed the sun was coming up. I had not realized that much time had passed. I got onto the bed, and learned I was at 6 cm. I had gone up two cm in just one hour, which apparently was good (“average” is 1:1). But shortly after, I started getting urges to push. Like intense, I am not even trying to do this it’s just happening, kind of thing. Yeah, I was not ready for that.
My whole mantra during labor prep is that I would need trust and follow everything my body would tell me. But suddenly, I had to go against that, which was almost harder than the pain. Almost. Emma did a fantastic job coaching and encouraging me. She and Ryan kept telling me, “You can do this, you can do this!” My reply? “I know I can, but I don’t know that I want to do it anymore.” I was shocked to hear myself say that.
Meanwhile, nurses were telling me it would be dangerous to keep pushing. A nurse even suggested an epidural since I sounded like I was in a lot of pain. The next part is a bit of a blur. Neither Ryan or I can remember what he whispered in my ear, but he said something, and that was the moment I said my secret code word that meant yes, I really do want the drugs. Ryan cried, I think tears of relief. I honestly don’t think I realized how hard it would be for him to see me going through that kind of pain.
The magical drugs arrived. I was at 7 cm at that point. The hardest thing was sitting still while it was administered. It kicked in fast, which was welcome relief. I had been awake for more than 24 hours at that point, and somehow managed to take a quick nap. Ryan was heading down to the cafeteria to get food for himself and Emma when the Doctor came in (my regular doctor had just started her shift, it was so great to see a familiar face). She told Ryan he’d better hurry because I was progressing really quickly. I was around 9 cm. At that point, I had still been feeling contractions, but obviously with no intensity. But I remember being so surprised that I could still feel them. I was grateful for that.
Ryan rushed back and it was baby time! I pushed for 45 minutes. We had one little scare — I didn’t even realize what was happening at first. I remember looking up and seeing a crowd of people running into and around the room. The doctor told me to stop pushing, the baby’s heart rate had gone way down. She said if it didn’t come back up we’d have to try the vacuum or possibly a c-section. The look on Ryan’s face is something I’ll never forget. I had already moved to a different position, but we tried one more. Our last chance to get things back on track. It (thankfully) worked, and then MJ was here!
Expectations for meeting my baby:
It would be the most wonderful, exciting, and happy moment of my life.
Reality for meeting my baby:
It was the most wonderful, exciting, and happy moment of my life.
“My baby! That’s my baby!” is what I remember shouting as I reached down to grab him. We didn’t know whether we were having a boy or a girl. It was up to Ryan to tell me the news. I had sensed I was having a boy, but the moment was still completely surreal.
And what better way to be welcomed into motherhood — the first thing MJ did was poop on me. I really didn’t even notice. But the nurses laughed as they cleaned us up. He nursed almost immediately. We were able to snuggle together for almost two hours before the team stepped in to get him measured and cleaned up.
It was in that moment, I realized I was completely content. All that I cared about was right there with me. A safe, healthy, beautiful baby with Ryan by my side. Regardless of my plan or expectations for labor and birth, in the end, that was truly what I wanted and I’m so happy we arrived at that moment in the way we did. Poop and all.