There have been a million emotions these past two and a half weeks. From overwhelming joy and love at the birth of our daughter, to pride and a sense of accomplishment at my natural birth attempt, to feelings of sadness, depression and failure surrounding my breastfeeding journey. What a whirlwind the past several days have been. These days since April 6th have flown by for me — they’ve been the quickest weeks of my life!
Emery’s Birth Story
The timeline of Emery’s birth is one that makes me laugh a little bit. I spent so much time reading birth stories only to have my own that was so unique, and even perfect in it’s own way. But it was also completely different than I’d imagined. I am sure many (or most?) moms say the same thing.
Thursday April 1st – I went to acupuncture and because I was 39 weeks on this day, my acupuncturist needled the labor points on my body. This needling won’t induce labor if your body isn’t ready, but if your body is ready, it can help aid the process. After acupuncture Ben and I went for a walk. After that, mild cramping began and for the first time I began passing my mucus plug.
Friday April 2nd – Mild cramping continued as well as lot of braxton hicks. Mucus plug continued to pass.
Saturday & Sunday April 3rd and 4th – I was having random contractions from sun down to sun up each of these days. Once that evening natural melatonin began to spike (the kind that our bodies produce on their own, not the kind you take from a bottle), the contractions would start. Both Saturday and Sunday AM I was up and out of bed with stronger contractions every 5-30 minutes starting at 2am. I would walk the living room while everyone else slept. Luckily, Dad and Linda were staying over in case I went into labor. On Sunday morning I thought, “this is the day!” but by 9am contractions stopped again. We all went to church and then out to lunch in Boulder.
Monday April 5th – Labor Begins
On Monday I went to see my Chiropractor in the afternoon. After, Ben and I headed to the birth center for my 39/40 week check up. I was 39 weeks, 4 days pregnant. I had asked for a dilation check (my first one) since the contractions had been sporadic yet painful the past few days. I was 1-2cm dilated, 90% effaced, and baby was at 0 station. On our way home from the birth center Ben asked if he could stop by the liquor store to get some bourbon because he wanted to make a hot toddy. We’d both had been dealing with allergies and had had mild coughs for a couple of weeks. At 5:40pm I told Ben he better pull over so I could get the heck out of the car as I was having my first real, painful, legit contraction that hurt much more than I expected it would for 1-2cm dilated. I don’t even know if he was fully parked when I got out of the car, leaned against the door and breathed through my first legit contraction. From that point forward, I was in labor.
7:50 pm – In between contractions that were coming about every 5-9 minutes I felt a couple of pops and immediately had fluid coming out of me. It wasn’t a massive gush but more a trickle. At first I thought I peed myself! So I sat on the toilet and peed. Then I stood up and more fluid came. A continuous light flow of water. We called my doula and the birth center to let everyone know my water had broken. By 8:55pm we’d called and requested my doula come over and she arrived not long after. My contractions were fast and furious then. They were about every 3-5 minutes apart, lasting up to 1:30 in duration, and painful. Holy moly were they painful. When I threw up a large amount, my doula said it seemed it was time to go to the birth center. We called the birth center midwife and let her know what was going on, and she said she’d meet us there.
10:15pm – Ben and I arrived at the birth center followed closely by my doula.
By 11:10pm I was laboring in the bathtub. At 1:15am I had my first “in labor” cervical check. Much to my disappointment, I was only 4-5cm dilated. I was still 90% effaced and baby was at 0 station. I couldn’t believe the contractions were so strong, and lasting so long, while only being at 4-5cm dilated. I looked at Ben with tears in my eyes. At that. moment, I didn’t know if I could do it. I was in so much pain. He reassured me I could do this. So I labored on. And with Ben never leaving my side, I got into the labor rhythm I had read about. I tried walking, I tried soaking in the tub, I tried the birth ball. I tried lying on my side. The contractions came so painfully and with each position change, I’d have another immediately even if I’d just finished one. And with each contraction came a flow of water as my amniotic fluid continued to leak. I walked around the room in a diaper. Any time I’d take it off, I’d leak all over the floor.
At 4:40am I had a very hard time accepting the news that after 3 more hours I had only gotten to 5-6cm dilated. At that time my midwife did a membrane sweep. I then walked outside, walked the halls, did lunges and did “shake the apples” per spinning babies. I got in the tub for another 2 hours. I was so exhausted I’d fall asleep for a minute between each contraction, and then wake up for the contraction, and then fall back asleep. The contractions were so strong now. So, so strong. Ben didn’t leave my side unless it was for a quick minute to pee. Dianne, my doula, was there the entire time and didn’t leave me either. By 8:45am things were amping up. A new midwife came on and I will say that she has gone on to be a rock for me in this entire birthing + postpartum process. She checked me and I was at 8-9cm, 90% effaced, and she felt baby was at a -1 to 0 station. At this time it was mentioned that the baby may be asynclitic, or, in a bad position for birth. This meant the baby’s head was likely tilted and not entering into the birth canal in an ideal position. This stalls labor and can make it more painful.
For the next three hours I tried everything I possibly could to help birth my baby. I walked. I lied on my right side. I lied on my left side. I sat on the birth ball. I stood and rocked my hips from side to side. I sat backwards on the toilet. I did squats! Clary Sage was diffusing in the birth room. Each time I’d change positions I’d nearly cry from the intense pain. I breathed and moaned through each contraction. I never yelled, or screamed, and I never lost control. I didn’t even know I could make the noises I did. I was in what I now call “labor land” because I was in another zone that I cannot quite explain. It was like an out of body experience, though I was most definitely in my body because I felt every. single. thing. Contractions were 3 minutes apart, lasting up to 2 minutes long. There were several times when my midwife and doula asked if I was feeling the urge to push. I wasn’t. I wish I had been. But, I wasn’t. I was, however — puking, and sweating, and I had the chills, and my face was getting tingly from what I assume was the massive amount of endorphins and adrenaline you feel during transition.
At 11:50am my midwife did a cervical check. I had not progressed. Three long hours in transition and I had not progressed. The belief was that the baby was still asynclitic. My midwife did the cervical check while I was having a contraction to feel the entirety of the contraction and it’s impact on the baby, the birth canal, etc. The contractions were not effective.
I heard the words that I’d been dreading — “I think it’s time to transfer.” This was a very emotional moment for me. Since the night prior I’d been laboring hard. The baby’s heart rate throughout it all had been rock solid. And now there we were…. I’d come so far. She’d come so far! Only to transfer to a hospital? I looked at Ben. He was my rock throughout everything. We had said we wanted a natural out of hospital birth. But we’d also said if something wasn’t right, we would transfer without hesitation because above all else, what mattered most was a healthy baby and healthy mama. And we did not want a c-section. And while her heart rate didn’t dip once throughout all of the hours of intense contractions — I knew no progression while in transition meant we may need interventions. My midwife thought an epidural would help relax my body to allow the baby to get into the right position. I had read about epidurals. I’d watched the videos from my birth course. I knew some women needed an epidural to relax their uterus / pelvis. So, we agreed to transfer to the hospital. I wanted to go to the hospital in Louisville around the corner from our apartment. I was scared to death of a c-section, but I felt more at ease when I learned we’d be transfering midwife to midwife and I wouldn’t be under the care of an OBGYN unless an emergency.
We opted to drive ourselves to the hospital because it was a non-emergent transfer considering both me and the baby were stable. I had 5 contractions in the 15 minutes it took us to get to the hospital. Also, en route, the baby got the hiccups. With a severely irritated uterus and a baby in a mal position who was very very low in the pelvis…. you can imagine just how wonderful those hiccups felt while in the car….. (not). Thankfully, my midwife from the birth center rode in the back seat of the car with me & held my hand through each contraction and helped me breathe through them. Finally we got to the hospital. Checked in. Got to our room 265. And then everything just went so, so quickly….
1:25pm – Epidural placed. It didn’t hurt. Much to my surprise, I barely felt it. I mean, compared to the contractions the epidural was a walk in the park.
1:55pm – Cervix check. 8cm. 90% effaced. -1 station. Baby no longer asynclitic!!!!!!
2:05pm – Pitocin drip started at 2mU/min to help have more effective contractions.
From 3:20-3:40pm I did the sidelying release to further help baby position. My doula led me through this.
4:40pm – 10cm dilated, 100% effaced, +3 station. TIME TO PUSH. At this time Ben was napping on the couch. His first sleep in nearly 2 days. The midwife said to me.. “Are you ready to push?” I said, “Now?” She said, “Yep! It’s time for you to have a baby!” Ben shot up and the midwife said, “Okay dad, grab a leg!” I’ll never forget Ben jumping up from a snooze and being like, what??? Now??? And so, we got ready! Ben grabbed one leg. Dianne my doula grabbed another. It was time!
4:45pm – PUSHING. They brought a huge 2 foot tall mirror into the room so I could watch myself push Emery out. After 15 minutes I could already see her little head in the birth cancel. The midwife rubbed oil on her head and me to prevent tearing. She continued this until Emery was born.
5:45pm – EMERY IS BORN! Caught by her daddy and placed on mama immediately and left there for a couple of hours until the nurse asked if she could weigh her. (7 lbs, 2.4 oz, 19.5 inches long. Apgar 9.) My first thought once she was out was total nurse / mom brain — is she breathing? Is she okay? Did you get all of the meconium? Emery had meconium (baby’s first poop) in her mouth – a bunch of it – and had to be bulb suctioned as soon as she came out. Then they rubbed her back and she let out her first cry on my chest. Ben and I were overwhelmed with emotion and just stared at her.
5:50pm – I had a 1st degree tear. Getting sewn up.
7:25pm – Our doula left. It was just me, Ben and Emery now. Our new little family ❤
I wanted a natural out of hospital birth. I didn’t want medications. But everything ended up being okay, anyway. Our hospital stay was effortless and the team of nurses and midwives at Avista Hospital did such an excellent job. Once I arrived at the hospital after the transfer they got me checked in so easily, they placed the IV without pain, there was hardly any delay for the epidural, they got me food! I hadn’t been able to eat at the birth center due to the nausea and once I tried to drink more to keep from dehydration, I threw it all up and then some. And all throughout labor I had had the worst heartburn of my life. But once the epidural was in I managed to eat a cookie and a popsicle and drink some water. I chewed a couple more Tums (which I am convinced never helped the heart burn one bit during labor). I could feel my contractions with the epidural but they were no longer painful. I talked to Ben and Dianne and began to process the events of the past 24 hours. The nurse kept coming in prior to pushing and telling me to rest for pushing but I was high on adrenaline by then and I knew my little baby was coming soon — no sleeping for me!
During pushing the midwife helped me through it all. I was able to feel the contractions coming on and knew when to start pushing, but because of the epidural I was not able to feel what I wanted to feel with pushing. I had wanted to feel it all. I had wanted to feel the pain of pushing. The satisfaction of a successful push. The recovery time before pushing again. But instead, I kept asking if the epidural was still on because I wanted it off. I wanted to be able to push effectively…. not just be told how to push and “hope” I was doing it right. This wasn’t the case because of the epidural. So, I followed my own body as it told me when to push, and with the help of the midwife I breathed through each push until she was born.
My tailbone is still suffering from pushing. But it’s healing, slowly, with each day. My first degree tear is healing, too. The stitches are still there. They’ll dissolve entirely eventually. My swelling is still there, too, but it has it’s good days at bad days. I’m bruised. It’s healing. Slowly. Tomorrow will be 3 weeks since the birth. It’s crazy how long recovery takes.
I got to experience natural labor. I got to experience transition at an 8-9cm for hours. I got to experience laboring at the birth center. And at the hospital. I got to experience an epidural. Pitocin. A vaginal birth. Having the epidural was relaxing. I see why so many women opt for it. And I know why the next time I have a baby, if I’m lucky enough to have another one, I’ll likely opt for the natural childbirth process again – unmedicated. I’ll try again. Because as relaxing as it was to sit in that hospital room and feel contractions without the pain because of that epidural — it was 10x more satisfying to know I was doing all of that naturally just hours before at the birth center. And that I could do it. It was the worst pain of my life. It was harder than I ever imagined. But I could do it!
We’re at peace with all of the events of Emery’s birth. Emery, Ben and I checked out of the hospital the next day to begin our new lives. Mom, dad and Linda were waiting at our apartment when we walked in at about 8:45pm on April 7th. Emery met her grandparents and her fur siblings. What a crazy 48 hours it had been.