Hi y’all! I wrote this a week after I gave birth and while it’s deeply personal, I’ve shared it with close friends. They have encouraged me to blog it and after some deliberation I decided I wanted to share it here with you. As a warning, if descriptions of pain, female bodily functions, or the F word offend you, move along, pardner. Enjoy!
On Sunday, November 8, I was in a rotten mood. People kept calling me and texting me and Facebook messaging me to check in, and while I know intentions are always good, when you’re 39+3 days pregnant, you just want to be like “LEAVE ME ALONE, NO, THE BABY IS NOT HERE YET, YOU WILL KNOW WHEN SHE IS.” Also not helpful? People’s “advice” on how to get the baby to come. Guess what? She’ll arrive when she wants to. I slept in until 11 am that day, and then after I had breakfast, I was so exhausted I napped from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. Matt and I putzed around the house, and then because I was feeling stir-crazy, I asked if he’d take me to Nordstrom Rack because there was an additional 25% off clearance sale and we had gift cards from Christmas last year. We went to Nordstrom Rack where I bought some random stuff I didn’t really need; a headband, some hair ties, and some new Haviana flip flops. We got home and I was feeling crummy so I headed to bed around 10:30 p.m. I woke up at 12 a.m. and felt worse, so I wondered if I was hungry and ate three pineapple spears. Pineapple induces labor, you know! I guess in my case I can say it worked.
I was up more than usual to pee that night because the pressure on my bladder was insane. I think I woke up like four times to pee, and I felt restless, unable to sleep well because I was antsy. Little did I know my time was quickly approaching! At 6:00 a.m. I was awakened by strong cramping. I lazily stayed in bed another 15 minutes until I had another painful cramp. I decided to get up to use the bathroom and once I sat up I immediately felt a gush, then another one, then another one. I cautiously debated – was this pee or did my water break? Pregnant women don’t always have the best bladder control. I shifted in bed a bit and decided this was not pee, and softly said to my sleeping husband, “Guess what Matthew? We’re having a baby.”
I headed into the bathroom where I confirmed it was definitely not pee, and then I got into the shower. I shaved my legs (and noted that one of my legs was shaking uncontrollably), took a nice time exfoliating my face, and let the hot water massage my back. When I got out of the shower I decided on wearing my hair in pigtail braids, and I remember asking Matt if I had time to remove my nail polish (I wasn’t happy with the manicure I had given myself a few days earlier. Ha!). He said probably not and I went to get dressed. I had my “last meal” of Special K Red Berries (my fav cereal!)and a protein drink (you can’t eat during labor just in case you need an emergency C-Section). About an hour after my water started to break, we got into the car and headed to the hospital. We had a garbage bag and old towel set down in the seat. Matt dropped me off in front and I stood and waited at the check in desk, feeling remarkably calm and excited. Even the volunteers were like “You’re so calm!” Matt brought in the suitcases and we headed up to Labor and Delivery.
I got into my ugly green gown and got into bed. The nurse, Michelle, was a lovely woman from Pittsburgh. They took my blood pressures and no big surprise, they were running high (148/90). Because I was Group B Strep Positive, I knew I would need two four hour sets of antibiotics intravenously before delivery, so my IV was set up and the fluids started going. I don’t really mind needles, so getting the IV placed was honestly no big deal. The worst part was having to shepherd the damn IV stand to the bathroom each time I needed to pee. I asked the nurse when I’d get checked for progress, and she said because my water had broken, they try and refrain from checking because bacteria can be introduced to the womb. My doctor instructed that they start me on Pitocin to help me dilate. Matt made the calls to the family to let them know to be on their way because hook or by crook, Holly was coming!
The first four hours of Pitocin were a breeze. I was having contractions about 10 minutes apart, and while they weren’t comfortable, I could breathe through them. Michelle told me that I’d know when true labor begun because the contractions would become much more uncomfortable. All of a sudden my contractions felt like they went from bearable to “Holy fuck what the fuck is that pain in my body?!”, and I was asking Matt to squeeze my hand to help me count through them. I remember our nurse coming in, seeing Matt and I together and saying, “Oh yes, labor has begun.” I swigged one more small cranberry juice (Matt was leery but consented to me doing it), and I asked if he’d let me cheat and eat something (he said no). At this point I asked for the epidural and they turned off the Pitocin until it was placed. My birth plan all along had basically been one word: drugs. I’m an advocate of better living through chemistry, and while I respect those who choose to have an un-medicated birth, that was not my desire at all. The anesthesiologist came in about 20 minutes later and I remember them asking Matt to come sit in front of me, because several husbands had recently passed out from seeing the needle placed in the spine. I sat on the edge of the bed, had numbing agent put in my spine, felt gentle pressure and fiddling, and that was it. I think I was so relieved the Pitocin was turned off that a snake could have sunk its fangs into my cheek and I would have been like, “Ok, cool, that doesn’t hurt.”
The epidural took about 15 minutes to kick in, and while initially I had some anxiety that I wouldn’t be able to feel my legs, I was quite delighted when a warm, toasty sensation spread through my lower body. I could still very much wiggle my toes and feet. They placed a catheter in me, which again, was not enjoyable, but fine, and then they turned the Pitocin back on and left the room so Matt and I could relax. We dimmed the lights and turned on the Smoke Fairies, some very calming folk music. I remember saying several times that an epidural was a joyous thing. I honestly had the relaxed sensation of sitting by a fireplace loving the cozy feelings in my lower body. I tried to sleep but couldn’t with all of the hospital noises, so I just vegged out in my bed, chatting with Matt and the nurses. I had no desire at all to be on my cell phone or social media and was quite enjoying my little cocoon of solitude.
At about 3:00 p.m. they checked my progress (I was shocked how fast the day was going), and my cervix had dilated to a 5. They pumped up the Pitocin, and I remember pressing my “quick hit” of pain relief on the epidural a few more times as the contractions grew closer and closer together. The weird thing about contractions on the epidural is at this point they were more pressure than pain. I had some nausea, so I was given Zofran, which is an anti-emetic that they give to chemotherapy patients.
Around 7:00 p.m., my parents arrived. I remember asking them to get me a baked potato when they came back later in the night to meet Holly, because at this point after 14 hours of labor with no food or drink, I was damn hungry, and some carbs with butter sounded AMAZING! The good doctor came in, juiced up my epidural again, and five minutes later; I felt intense nausea and threw up three times all over myself and my hospital gown. I remember feeling instant relief and then thinking, wow, this must be some bad nausea since I’m on prescription anti-nausea med and still upchucked! Now I remember that nausea means labor is very close, since that’s the transitional phase of labor. My parents decided to head out at this point and they went back to our house, where my Dad apparently slept on our couch and my mom anxiously tried to watch TV.
At 8:00 I was fully dilated and it was time to push! I got lucky because my night nurse was Jami, an awesome chick I had met at one of my non-stress tests and really liked. Jami showed me how to count through the contractions – one deep breath in, then hold it for a count of 10, and do that three times. I remember at that point I was feeling really tired and hungry, and pissed that I had to essentially do the most physical thing I’d ever done with no fuel in my body (even harder than walking 60 miles in one weekend!). I begged Matt to sneak me some sips of his Coke in-between pushing and the nurse leaving the room, and he did, bless his heart. After about an hour of pushing, I was in a lot of pain again, and they asked the anesthesiologist to come back and juice up my epidural again. I had started to feel a sharp sensation in my left butt cheek and lower leg, so I was paranoid it was wearing off – which apparently cannot happen, just labor pain becomes more severe so you need a higher dose of drugs.
I pushed for another hour and at this point the fatigue was really starting to wear me down. According to Matt, I was very calm through out my labor, and only let out a good “Fuck!” once. I remember feeling very lazy and wanting to cut down the number of pushes per contraction to two instead of three, and almost proposed it to the nurse, but I knew that might delay my progress. The nurse brought over a mirror so I could see Holly’s head, and that was really cool to know she was right there!
After two hours of pushing, the doctor was called in, and they started bringing in a table with tools on it. I knew I had to be getting close. At this point it was 11 p.m., and I was starting to get really grumpy and irritated that my 6:00 a.m. start of labor was still not over. The contractions were about every minute now, and while the Doctor chatted with the nurse about Dancing with the Stars, I kept breathing through the contractions and pushing. I remember feeling slightly annoyed that, HELLO, I WAS TRYING TO HAVE A BABY, and you’re talking about normal life stuff?! Of course now this just goes to show how delivering a baby is just another day’s work for doctors, because they’re chillin’ while women are squeezing watermelons out of lemons in their faces. It was around two hours and 30 minutes of pushing that I told the doctor I wanted a C-Section because I couldn’t do it anymore. Her response? “You’re the only one who can do it, because I can’t push the baby back up inside of you!” I accepted this fate and wearily continued pushing.
I knew at this point that it was do or die (no, not literally) and I needed to muster up every ounce of strength I had in my exhausted body to get this baby out. My forehead was covered in sweat, and I could feel my legs trembling with each push. I would bear down and the last three seconds of a push, I tried to imagine my legs pushing the stirrups off the bed as hard as I could. I was groaning pretty heavily at this point and had reached an ultimate focus and concentration. Finally, I felt the baby’s head push through me, lower, and as the doctor, Jami and Matt cheered me on and encouraged me, I heard the doctor say excitedly “That’s it! That’s it! That’s it! KEEP GOING!”
I pushed with all my might, quite sure that I would push off the lower half of my body, and in one beautiful, miraculous instant, I felt Holly slide out. “Look down!”, the doctor excitedly shouted, and then I saw my wrinkled, cheesy, tiny baby being held up towards me – a miracle of an infant that listened to my heart beat for nine long months.
They pulled my gown down, placed her on my chest, and I burst into tears, exclaiming that she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. People had told me there would be no feeling like seeing and meeting your baby for the first time, and they were right. Even though I had never seen her, I felt like I knew her. Holly suckled at my breast for a few moments and then as the nurse listened to her heart, they whisked her away to the warmer. The pediatrician and NICU staff on call rushed in, and all of a sudden, she had an oxygen mask on, and a tube placed down her lungs to clear her throat. I was being stitched internally and suddenly I had no interest in anything going on with me – I only wanted to make sure my baby was ok. After about ten agonizing minutes, Holly’s heartbeat stabilized and she was breathing normally, back to her rosy pink color. The doctors think the long labor, epidural, and three hours of pushing shell-shocked her in the womb, and when she came out to bright lights and noises, she essentially passed out.
I had also requested to see my placenta, and as expected, I was horrified at how big and nasty it was, but also impressed that my body grew that thing that grew my baby. (We have a picture of it for the curious souls. I left it out of here as a courtesy. You’re welcome.)
After all this, Matt and I got to spend a blissful hour with our new baby, holding her, loving her, and being amazed that two people created such an innocent, miraculous, beautiful little being. Happy birthday, Holly!