The arrival of Caleigh…a birth story

My beautiful daughter turned 7 months old a few days ago and it served as a reminder  that I never wrote down the story of her birth.

This might not seem like a big deal except for the fact that for about 2 months after she was born, I was OBSESSED with talking about how it all went down.

I mean obsessed.

Looking back, I probably gave way too many details about it to way too many people…haha. And yet I somehow managed to never write it down.

Knowing my memory is like that of a goldfish, I had better write it now or the details will be gone forever.

Warning: This is a pretty accurate, detailed and at times gross account…but I am doing that on purpose for 2 reasons.

1) I want to remember it exactly how it happened for my own sake

2) I would have appreciated hearing these kinds of honest details prior to my own experience to have some awareness or knowledge of what actually happens during labor (besides the technical terms I learned in class!)

You should also know before reading this:

I LOVED GIVING BIRTH.

This details my experience in a very true and raw form without holding back and may at times sound harsh…and it was. But overall, the experience, while painful and exhausting exceeded my expectations.

I stayed up late on July 10, 2010 just watching TV with my husband. My normal bed time ranged between 8-9:30 during my entire pregnancy but somehow that night I managed to not go to bed until midnight!

2 hours later, I awoke to a very mild cramping in my abdomen. It sort of felt like a cramping you would get if you were…well, “sick”…and going to need to go to the bathroom often. It was enough where I got up and came out to the couch. I noticed the crampy feeling was coming and going, about every 4-6 minutes. The frequency of it made me think that maybe it was not me getting sick, but possibly the start of contractions. I was surprised that the contractions were so close together, so soon because I always expected the first round of contractions to be every 20 minutes or so.

 

Not the case with me.

They were mild so I couldn’t complain about the pain, but noticeable enough and frequent enough that there was no way I was going to be able to go back to sleep.

I woke my husband and filled him in on what was happening.

I told him I was going to try to sleep since the contractions were not too bad yet. Hearing that, he was able to pass out cold 30 seconds later. I stayed awake for the next 4 hours…haha.

At 6:30, I called the Labor and Delivery unit at my hospital. They told me to stay at home until the contractions got more painful and then call back at that point.

Within 2 hours, they were so painful that I was bending over and kneeling to get through them. At this point I definitely had to brace myself for the intense cramping and pain. I called the hospital and they told me to come on in.

This was happening.

Exactly two weeks prior to my due date and here we were headed into the hospital to possibly have this baby. I was beyond excited and not even really nervous yet. I was handling my contractions like a big girl and really felt like I could do it.

I wanted so badly for today to be the day, but being two weeks early and having somewhat odd contractions, I was worried I’d be told I was having false labor and be sent home.

 

I insisted on taking a shower and getting all ready before we went to the hospital. I had to take breaks during the shower in order to work through some pretty serious contractions, but I still felt strong and capable.

I sent Joe over to Brueggers Bagels to get a bagel and cream cheese for me (completely random because I seriously never, ever eat bagels.) I knew this could potentially be my last opportunity to eat for some time until after the baby was born. Then we got in the car and headed to Kaiser Permanente.

The nurse and midwife on duty hooked me up to the monitor and did an exam to see if I was really in labor…which we learned, I was. I was told that I was 100% effaced and 4 cm dilated. (At my OB/GYN appt. a few days earlier, I had been 2 cm dilated so it was a lot of progress).

Labor Status at 9am: laboring for 7 hours at this point; pretty strong contractions; midwife and nurse tell me they think I have the potential to make it through naturally based on how strong my contractions were showing up and how well/quietly I was handling them.

We were officially admitted and put in our actual labor and delivery room. This was to be our home base until the moment the baby was born. I labored in this room from approximately 9:30 until about 6:00. The contractions were really difficult pretty much from the moment I laid down in the bed.

Highlights of that 8 1/2 hour period:

*annoying nurse pushing on my uterus during contractions – ’nuff said

*laying on my right side caused the baby to have too steady of a heartbeat so I was forced to lay on my left side the entire time (which was extremely uncomfortable and painful my entire pregnancy so…AWESOME). This also forced me to stay in the bed since I needed the heartrate monitor on the baby at all times.

*I labored completely silently. I didn’t plan that or predict that reaction, but for whatever reason, that was how I got through the contractions best. I didn’t want to talk, yell, make noises, have anyone talk to me, walk, move, be massaged…I didn’t really want anything. I just dealt with each contraction on my own and wanted to be left alone during each one. My husband was AMAZING with this. The nurses…not so much. The nurse even put into her file that I was handling my contractions, “silently and stoically”

*I attempted to walk around the room and change my position (usually when I was already up to pee anyway) to see if that would help with the contractions and I am here to say that IT DID NOT. I am one of the rare people who actually preferred to be lying on the hospital bed to labor. Go figure.

*The contractions got so bad that I began vomiting during them around 5:30ish.

It was at that point that I made the decision regarding an epidural. I told my husband that I wanted the midwife to check to see how much I was dilated. (She hadn’t checked me since that morning when I checked in). If I was 7 cm dilated or more, I would push through with no epidural. If I was 6cm or less dilated, I would get the epidural.

 

At 6pm the midwife came and checked to see how dilated I was. All of the other times that I’d been checked, it hadn’t really bothered me.

Now it HURT!

Why did I beg her to check me again?

The worst part was, I was only 6cm dilated. In over 8 hours, I had only dilated another 2 cm!! If that was my pace, I decided there was no way I was going to make it without the epidural. The contractions were so ridiculously strong at this point. I couldn’t do it for potentially another 16 hours! I was so tired and on 2 hours sleep from the night before…so I was dreaming of a nap at this point.

I quietly mouthed to my husband that I wanted him to tell the nurse I was ready for my epidural…and things got underway. I had previously been extremely nervous about the needle in the spine (echh!) but everyone had said when you finally get to the point where you want one, you won’t care about a darn needle…and they were right!

The worst part about it was that they had to move me around which seemed unbearable to me. They had me sit up but then told me they could do it while I was laying down on my side, which I completely  preferred since that was how I best handled my contractions. I was scared of moving while he placed the needle in but he assured me it wouldn’t be a problem. I could feel “something” but definitely not pain. Then it was over with and I could relax.

My epidural did not kick in right away. I told the anesthesiologist that I could feel my legs and asked was that normal. He reassured me that in just a minute I wouldn’t be able to feel my legs.

I could only slightly feel my contractions…which seemed like HEAVEN after 16 hours of labor, 12 of those hours being extremely intense and 8 of those 12 being borderline unbearable.

My husband looked at me and told me that I needed to sleep now that I was feeling better and could relax. He was going to go get some food since it was now 6:30 at night and he hadn’t eaten all day.

For an hour I laid there.

With my eyes shut.

I tried.

I tried sooo hard to sleep.

Yaaaa…that was not happening.

The catch 22 was that now that I felt good, I finally wanted to talk!!! I had been quiet for an entire day… (silent and stoic remember, even the nurse had said so??)

My poor husband…I talked his dang ear off. haha. I even made him take pictures!

After about an hour, however, I could still feel my legs and was once again having to hold Joe’s hand and breathe through pretty tough contractions. This was not how I pictured the epidural at all! I even had a little button I could press to give an extra small dose of the epidural medication, but it didn’t make a dent in the pain I was once again feeling.

We finally called the anesthesiologist back and he informed me that I was going to need another booster shot. I definitely was not supposed to be feeling all that I was feeling. Finally! Relief!

At this point, it was about 8:00ish. My legs finally felt somewhat numb and I could no longer feel any type of contraction. The midwife came and decided to break my bag of waters to get things moving.

Darn. I’m already having a hard time remembering. I knew I should have written this sooner.

If my memory serves me correctly, I am pretty sure that she checked to see how dilated I was again and I was about 8 cm.

She broke my water and after that, the contractions started coming fast and furiously. Luckily I couldn’t feel a thing! What I could feel, however, was more water leaking every time I had a contraction (still coming about every minute or 2). It was such a weird sensation because I felt like I was peeing my bed! This happened for about the next hour and a half.

At around 9:30/10:00, I started feeling my contractions again. I asked the nurse if the midwife could check me to see how dilated I was again. They were very intense and I could only partially feel them, but I did feel a lot of pressure. I couldn’t feel pain so much in my uterus as it was pretty much all down below…haha.

She went and checked with the midwife. She came back a few minutes later and she told me the midwife would be in to check my cervix at 11:00.

With 20-30 minutes, I was feeling major pressure from every contraction and something about it felt more urgent. I told my husband to go get the nurse. I think I need to be checked now, I told him.

He went out in the hallway and brought my nurse back in. At 10:45, she checked my cervix and all I heard was, Whoa! This is it! You are definitely 10 cm dilated and the baby will probably be here in 15 minutes!

I knew something was happening and I needed to be checked, but I never thought I’d hear the news that my baby was going to be arriving in 15 minutes! I was so excited!!

The delivery room was a flurry of activity for the next few minutes. Bright lights were turned on overhead, the bottom portion of my hospital bed was removed and the nurses put on the heavy duty scrubs over their uniforms. All of the activity made me a little nervous, but those nerves were entirely overshadowed by my sheer excitement!!

I couldn’t believe in 15 minutes, my daughter would be in my arms!

 

Or maybe not.

Try more like two hours later.

Two hours of ridiculously painful pushing,

1 episiotomy, and

1 crazy drill sargeant nurse later…THEN my baby was in my arms.

I think if the nurse had looked at me and said, “Wow! I think you could start pushing. Your baby will probably be here in a couple of hours!” I wouldn’t have thought it was so bad. But picturing a quick fifteen minutes and having it take two hours just about killed me.

I really don’t think I was a good “pusher”.

I was a first timer…and they kept telling me I was doing everything right,

but as fifteen minutes turned into an hour and fifteen and

as July 11th turned into July 12, I obviously had no idea what I was doing cause my baby was still inside of me.

They can’t teach you ahead of time how to push a baby out of your vagina. There is no section of the prenatal birthing class that covers the technique for that. The best (and grossest) way to describe it is to say that I felt like I had to go to the bathroom (yes, that kind) for 2 hours and couldn’t get it out. But that comparison would actually only apply here if your poop was a 7 lb one.

Yes, I know. I said it was gross.

It was torture. I won’t lie. It was the only part of my labor that I was not totally silent. I was at my breaking point. I felt like I had no idea how to push this baby out and I felt like I was not getting much direction from the nurse.

This went on for about an hour and a half and then boom, right in the middle of my pushing, they had a change of rotation in the nursing schedule.

The new nurse

was

brutal.

And I love her for it. Still.

She was no nonsense. When she came in and heard how long I had been pushing, she looked at me and said, I will have this baby out in a half hour, I promise.

I should mention at this point that I no longer had any effects of the epidural left at all down below. I could feel every bit of the pain of pushing.

The new nurse, Jennifer, started yelling at me to push. I pushed harder.

Nothing.

I had about 10 seconds of a break between each round of pushing. Every time I had to push, I would push while they all counted to ten. Release. Push for another ten. Release. Then push for one more count of ten.

The first push was always the hardest/best one because I had the most energy. That was the push I would make the most progress on if there was any progress that was going to be made. It was the push that gave me the most hope. If the baby was coming, se was coming on that first push.

They kept telling me that I was making progress and that the baby was getting closer and closer, but when you’ve been told that for over an hour and a half, at some point you stop listening and believing it.

I remember at one point my husband telling me he could see the baby’s head. Every time I would push, the head would crown. Every time I would break, the head would recede. He said it was freaky. At one point, he saw the midwife put her hands on my baby’s head to pull out as I pushed and when she released, he said he could see imprints of where her fingers had been…ON MY BABY! Now that’s freaky!

After the baby had crowned numerous times with no real progress (meaning no baby in my arms yet), the nurse took it upon herself to make it happen. She proceeded to take her four fingers on one hand and insert them into my vagina. She used those 4 fingers to basically rip my vagina open in order to widen the birth canal. My husband described it by saying she took her four fingers and basically went around my vagina in a circle, spreading it as wide as it would go.

Doesn’t sound so bad? It was the worst pain I have ever felt in my life.

The epidural had worn off long ago, remember?

She did it probably for 15-20 seconds, but it felt like 2 minutes of hell. I felt my eyes welling up with involuntary tears and I looked at her and asked her, why did you have to do that?

She looked at me and seemed shocked that I was having that reaction. You could feel that, she asked me in disbelief. I thought you still had the epidural. I’m so sorry! I will not do it again! I didn’t know you could feel it!

Ahhh, don’t worry about it…haha.

Well, the good news is, it definitely made a difference. After that, things really started to get serious. The midwife finally looked at me and told me that she really felt like she was going to have to do a small episiotomy. She knew obviously that I didn’t want one…usually you avoid doing one at all cost, but after two hours of pushing, I was not tearing naturally.

I told her that I trusted her to do whatever was necessary to get my baby here safely. Actually, I probably just said, “Yup, fine, do it!” but I meant all that.

What really convinced me was when she was doing the episiotomy and she looked up at me and literally said, Ok, one more push and your baby will be here!

That was exactly what I needed to hear! Finally!

True to her word, one more push and I finally felt that relief that I had been waiting to feel for 23 hours. The baby’s head was out!! I pushed again and she pulled my baby the rest of the way out and put her immediately onto my chest so that I could hold her.

There are no words that can accurately explain that moment. My baby was beautiful!! She was perfect in every way and she snuggled right against my chest, crying and holding onto my finger with her fingers!!

I have never been more proud in my life.

23 hours after it had all begun, my baby was here! Joe and I could not get over how beautiful and perfect she was. We created this miracle together. My hard work for 23 hours allowed her to be here, now, in my arms. I had never worked harder and it was beyond question the most rewarding work I’d ever done and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

It is hard not to believe in miracles after you have gone through a pregnancy and giving birth. Here is proof of my little miracle:

She’s got her hand wrapped around my finger already!

 

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