Although I became a mama on a crisp night in October, it actually all started a month prior when I began noticing a lot of pelvic and back pain. The doctor explained that this was likely because Jay was sitting so low in my pelvis. Plus, my Braxton Hicks were really amping up there at the end--we're talking dozens of them every day. Turns out all this was just helping my body prepare to bring a baby into the world!
I refused to be "checked" until my 40 week appointment. I mean, why would I want to add to my anxiousness about this little guy's arrival by finding out I was dilated and then not going into labor or vice versa? But at my routine 40-week appointment, the day before my due date, I was so dang impatient that I decided to finally get checked. The the nurse practitioner got me set up in those lovely stirrups and began checking my cervix. At first I thought something was wrong because she was extremely quiet and just kept feeling around down there for what seemed like forever (which anyone who has been checked knows is NOT a pleasant experience). Then she suddenly left the room explaining that she "would be right back". A few moments later she returned with another practitioner. Because the baby was so low, she couldn't get her fingers past his head to reach my cervix! She needed the other practitioner to hold my back in a special position and then was finally able to reach what she needed. Turns out I was already 100% effaced and 4cm dilated--all without a single real contraction! As I was leaving, my practitioner warned me that because of his positioning I might have a very quick delivery so I needed to make sure and head to the hospital as SOON as I started having contractions. I brushed her off because like I said, I didn't want to get my hopes up. By this point I was convinced that I would be eternally pregnant. Turns out her premonition was actually spot on.
The next day was the BIG day. October 16th. The DUE date. Much to my dismay, it came and went just like any other normal day. Thankfully my mom, sister, and sweet friend Kira did a terrific job distracting me with pedicures, shopping, fall baking, Starbucks, and some serious girl talk. When Justin got home from work, we enjoyed the Friday evening together at home (little did we know it would be our LAST kid-less Friday night) and went to bed early because I was feeling sore and tired.
Around 12:30am I was in and out of sleep because the baby was kicking and squirming around per his usual middle of the night routine. Suddenly there was a HUGE kick and I felt a rush of fluid. I hopped out of bed and exclaimed "J! Wake up! I think my water just broke!!!.....Either that or I just peed the bed." Ha! I guess I couldn't believe that this was actually happening. Also, we had been warned in out birthing class that only about 10% of all labors begin with the water breaking so to not expect this scenario. But sure enough, my water had broken! There were no contractions yet so we decided to hang at home for as long as possible and try and get some more rest.
I guess sleep wasn't in the cards for us that night because just an hour and a half later I had my first contraction. I'll be honest and tell you that it was so strong and intense that I was completely overwhelmed. After expecting a gradual buildup of pain filled with warm baths, soft music, back rubs, and long walks around the block--such sudden intensity made me second guess my ability to do this whole birth thing. I think after this contraction I might have even told Justin I was taking back everything about our birth plan and wanted an epidural the second we arrived at the hospital. Luckily that sweet, sweet man knew better than to let me do that! He talked me through each contraction and I was able to calm down.
Because my contractions were instantly so dang intense, we hopped in the car and headed straight to the hospital. Being the middle of the night, there was no traffic and no congestion at the hospital. Praise the high heavens for that because the contractions were getting so close together. We were admitted around 2:30am and welcomed into our birthing suite by our angle of a nurse, Marcia. She immediately asked about our birth preferences and I told her frankly that I wanted a natural experience but was questioning that because of the intensity of the pain. I could just see a sparkle in that sweet woman's eye and she firmly said "I know you can do it". Every time I would ask about pain management she would simply distract me, encourage me to switch up my laboring position, and hold me off for a little longer. My labor progressed so fast that when she told me I would have to sit still through 3 contractions to get an epidural I knew there was no way in you know where that was going to happen (moving around was my jam throughout my labor) and so I grit my teeth and simply said to myself "like it or not, you are going to do this". My husband later told me that he and Marcia were conspiring behind my back the entire time to help me continue on my path to the natural experience I wanted. It was extremely special to have someone besides my husband advocating for me. They say the nurse is one of the most important people in your birthing experience, and I would say that is certainly correct.
Anyways, right after we were admitted, the doctor came in to check me and told me I was already dilated to 6cm. I also found out that Jay happened to be positioned posteriorly, so the bulk of his body was pointing inwards and his little skull was nuzzled nice and comfortable against my spinal nerves. Trust me, that felt about as good as it sounds. Justin drew me a hot bath in the massive jacuzzi because by this point my back labor was really amping up. I think the contractions themselves would have been manageable, but that back labor was really something else. In trying to describe what it felt like, all I could say is that it felt like my hips and tail bone were shattering through each contraction. I am not kidding when I say I literally thought my bones were going to break.
As much as I LOVED that heavenly tub, it was short-lived because before long I started having strong urges to push. At the nurse's insistence, I was hustled back towards the bed just in case it was time to get that pushing party started, but I HATED lying in the bed so I stayed up on my feet as long as I could. By this point I was getting desperate so I asked Justin to talk me through the contractions and tell me when they were on the decline. Little did I know the monitors weren't even hooked up right because I kept moving around so he was basically making the whole thing up to keep me calm. Haha! What a sweet, wonderful man he is for enduring this by my side! After finally coercing me into the bed, the nurse checked me and I was dilated to 9cm so she called the delivery team in to get set up.
Pushing helped the contractions become more manageable because it felt like I was doing something productive rather than just enduring. In fact, when I was pushing the contractions didn't seem hurt at all. I would push 3 times per contraction for 10 seconds per push before my strength would be completely depleted. The worst was the last 20ish seconds of the contraction when pushing would be over and the agony of my back labor would strike again. I remember saying over and over again in between contractions "my back, my back, my back is hurting so bad!" It is funny how everyone reacts so differently to labor. Typically when I am in pain I just want to be alone and am calm and quiet. So imagine my surprise that I was so audible during labor--I had no problem telling everyone in the room just how much it hurt. Ha!
Justin and I decided it would be just the two of us in the delivery room. It seemed like the best way to avoid distractions and since I am a more private person, keep me as comfortable as possible. Because it was just the two of us, I knew he would be a big part of my labor support team but I never imagined just how much I would need him. He was constantly feeding me ice chips, pressing the heating pad onto my lower back, putting cool compresses on my face and chest, and most importantly giving me words of encouragement. Just feeling him there next to me provided me with so much security.
But I digress, back to the story. As I began pushing, the nurse brought in a mirror (at first I thought this was super weird, but then it ended up actually being really neat) so I could try and make my pushes more productive. It was surreal to see his head move closer and closer to the surface with each push. In between contractions I would just look at my sweet husband, not believing I could do it one more time, only for him to reassure me that not only could I, but I had to. So push I did.
I was actually delivered by a resident OBGYN student under the care of our favorite doctor. How lucky am I that of all the doctors on staff my doctor happened to be the one on call that night? So dang lucky. Anyways, the resident was so kind and kept talking to me all about running (she is a major runner too) to keep me distracted in between contractions. After each contraction I would ask her if the next push would be the one, and she told me it was all up to me. That was extremely motivating because I realized no one could get me through the experience except myself. I had to keep going no matter how painful or scary it seemed. I finally decided to have a small episiotomy because my cervical band was so tight. As soon as they made the incision, Jay was out just one or two pushes later. He had miraculously flipped around at the last second and come out in the correct anterior position. Oh, and his hand was up by his face, which apparently makes it harder to get the head out.
The relief I felt when his head finally emerged was overwhelming. His body slid out right after his head and they placed that screaming, goopy, perfect little baby straight into my arms. After only 4 hours of laboring, our little boy was born at 6:29am! Birth was nothing like I expected, but it was the perfect experience for me. Right after he was born I remember looking over at Justin and seeing the biggest smile on his face. After the umbilical cord stopped pulsing, he got to cut the cord, his excitement to be a daddy radiating out of his every pore.
I was shocked that the birth was only half the story. I still had to deliver the placenta. Unfortunately, this ended up being quite the bloody affair resulting in our sweet doctor being drenched from the belly down in my blood. I think they said I lost over 800cc of blood, which apparently is a lot more than usual. Luckily, the nurse did't have time to remove the mirror so I got to witness this whole monstrosity first hand. haha! I just kept thinking, "man, that is a LOT of blood" and apologizing to the doctor over and over again. Birth sure makes you do/say crazy things...
Then I had to get and get stitched up. Throughout my labor I experienced what the nurse called "labor shakes". Basically this just meant I was shaking uncontrollably from the moment my water broke. By the time Jay was born, I was shaking so bad that the doctor called for me to be administered a quick dose of some pain medication (I can't even remember what it was...) in my IV to stop the shaking so they could safely stitch me up. Although it made me really loopy, it only lasted a short while. I was finally able to relax and lay calmly with Jay on my chest and my best guy by my side. It was such a perfect way to spend our first hour as a family of 3.
After a quick bath for the baby (Justin helped and gave Jay his first hairdo--a comb over), the nurse began preparing us to move over to the recovery unit. One of the perks of having a natural labor was that I was up and walking just 30 minuets after that wonderful "golden hour". We had equally wonderful nurses in the recovery unit. Justin changed his first diaper, dressed our sweet boy, and learned to swaddle under the direction of those sweet ladies...and only got peed/pooed on a couple of times.
Our time in the hospital was filled with visits from our favorite people, lots of delicious hospital food (we were surprised by how dang delicious it actually was!), learning to breastfeed, and lots of snuggles from our tiny man. Since then my recovery has been really easy but that is only because we have been utterly spoiled by our families, friends, and church members. When we got home from the hospital, we were greeted by a clean house, completed laundry, an empty dishwasher, and a freshly prepared dinner thanks to my sweet mom. Since then grocery shopping hasn't even crossed my mind with the delivery of so many home cooked meals. And my heart is warmed day after day by the people anxious to meet and love on this little man. Our hearts are so full! So yes, labor was dang scary and painful but also extremely gratifying and empowering. I would do it all over again a million times just to call Jay mine.
And that my friends, is the story of how I became a mama.