Jack is our first child. My husband Sam and I prepared the best that we could by reading books, talking with friends and family and taking a birth preparation course at the hospital where our son would be delivered. As the weeks went on I began to feel more anxious and excited. In some ways, my labor and delivery experience was what I thought it would be and at the same time it wasn’t, because, how can you truly anticipate and fully prepare for something like that?
Sam and I made a pretty flexible birth plan. It was important to me to have options throughout the whole process and to maintain mobility for as long as possible. I wasn’t sure if I would use pain medications and/or the epidural or not…I wanted to stay open and see what happened. So….here’s what happened:
I started having contractions a little after midnight on Sunday, October 4, 2015. It felt like intense menstrual cramps, and they would happen about every 40 minutes or so. I knew these weren’t true labor contractions, so I didn’t bother waking my husband up to tell him about it. It could wait until the morning. Besides, I had been experiencing Braxton-Hicks contractions for a few days now and ever since the first time I felt one, Sam had been on high alert….he was ready to go to the hospital at any time. I felt pretty relaxed about things at this point.
Later that evening we went to my nephew’s 16th birthday party. My whole family was there and asked me how I was doing. I explained the early morning contractions. And I experienced them at the birthday party, too. My family got excited, knowing that the baby could come at any time. I knew it was possible that he could come at any moment, but it was far off in my mind. Our son wasn’t due for another 12 days. And I’ve read the books; first time babies are usually late, right? I wasn’t getting too anxious.
Monday, the contractions continued. They were anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 hour or more apart. I still wasn’t getting overly excited as I knew that early labor could go on for days, even weeks. It wasn’t time yet. I already had a doctor’s appointment scheduled for that afternoon. My OBGYN blew my mind when he said that I was about 80% effaced and 2-3 centimeters dilated. Things were further along than I thought. He said that we were officially on baby watch and to just wait and see what happens. My chest got a little tighter. Wow. This really could happen soon….
Since my contractions were still irregular, I was considering going into the gym to lift that same evening. I’d maintained a pretty consistent workout routine throughout my pregnancy and if I felt like I could, I wanted to workout. The familiar routine could help keep me clear-minded and calm. I posed the question to my coach and training group: should I go in and workout, or should I take it easy and work through the contractions at home? But then when the contractions started to come on every 15-20 minutes, I decided that my workout for the evening would be early labor. It went on like this for the better part of the evening.
During the night while I was sleeping a good, hard one would wake me up about every hour or so, and then….they stopped. In my rational mind I figured, well, this is the part that they say can go on for quite some time. Nothing to get too excited about yet. I didn’t have any contractions for about 4 hours. And then…..
At about 11am on Tuesday October 6, 2015 I began having stronger and more frequent contractions. They were about 8-10 minutes apart and lasted for about a minute to 90 seconds. My husband was at work and I knew that they weren’t close enough together to go the hospital yet, but I knew that he’d want to know how I was feeling so I texted him. He came home from work early, and my contractions were getting closer and closer together.
There were 3 different laboring positions that I preferred. One was lying on my side with a pillow in between my knees and breathing deeply with the rise and fall of the contractions. Another was standing with my arms around my husband’s neck and leaning into to him as we swayed from side to side (also called “The Slow Dance”). But the one I used the most was being on all fours with my chest and arms draped over a physioball. My husband would place his hands on my hips and squeeze during the strongest part of the contraction (aptly named, “The Double Hip Squeeze”).
Around 12:45 p.m. or so my contractions were about 5-7 minutes apart and were lasting about a minute. Me being efficient and all, I wanted to eat lunch before we went because I knew that I wouldn’t get to eat again for a long time. Well, I don’t know if you’ve tried to eat a meal while in active labor, but the process gets a little drawn out! I would have a contraction between every 2nd or 3rd bite of food. In the meantime, my husband was making sure we had everything we needed in the hospital bag. He was really excited. I was, too, but I just wasn’t convinced that we were actually having this baby yet. He wasn’t due for another 9 days and surely my contractions weren’t that regular yet, right? As we were headed out the door I looked at my husband and said, “Are you sure we should go? Are you sure it’s time?” “Yes,” he said sweetly and gently. And away we went.
We got to the hospital a little after 2pm. We walked up to reception and I told the woman who was behind the desk, “I think we’re having a baby…” My mindset was still not allowing me to believe that this was actually happening yet. Not so much out of anxiousness or fear over having the baby, but as self-protection for not being disappointed if they sent me back home because it was too early.
However, my body talked back to me as I continued to have contractions in the waiting room and in the delivery room as the nurse was checking us in. She handed me a gown and a big plastic bag. I was to change into the gown and put my clothes in the bag on the back of the bathroom door. In that couple of minutes in the bathroom alone, I really started to think that this was happening. I’m in labor. I’m having a baby….I had another contraction.
I laid down in the hospital bed while the nurse checked my vitals and put the fetal heart rate monitor on me. I looked over at her and I said, “I can’t help but feel like I’m going to go back home.” She looked kind of surprised as she said, “Not without a baby, you’re not! You’re having this baby today.” Apparently, she never even questioned whether or not it was really time.
My contractions were gaining more intensity and were getting closer and closer together. After about an hour of being there, they were coming one after the other, with very little to no rest in between them. Sam called family and friends at my request to update them on our progress.
The first person to show up at the hospital was Cara. We had talked about it beforehand and we decided that she would be Sam’s relief person. She was so excited and showed up with trashy magazines because she knew I’d like that. The next contraction was coming….I hugged her, leaned on her and the tears started flowing. This was so exhausting and painful. And, I was so happy to have her there.
I started to consider pain relief. It was important to me to maintain mobility for as long as possible, but I wasn’t sure how long that would be a priority to me when I was in this kind of pain. The nurse filled up the jacuzzi tub for me and I had planned on using it, but my contractions were coming so quickly that I never got there.
I decided to go ahead and try an IV of fentanyl (a narcotic pain reliever). This was to help take the edge off. I was required to stay in bed for at least 15 minutes while it was taking effect. Unfortunately for me, the effects of the drug only lasted about 5 minutes, and I couldn’t try another dose until it had been an hour. When an hour had passed, I tried another dose. Same thing. 5 minutes, and then it was gone.
At about 6:30 p.m. I looked at my husband and I said, “Okay. I’ve had about enough of this.” We asked the nurse to order the epidural. Being a trainer, a lot of people anticipated that I would have a natural childbirth. I even thought that I might have one. Ordering the epidural did not make me feel weak, disappointed, like I wasn’t a “real” woman or like I was letting anyone down. For me, it allowed me to be more open and relaxed for the experience. And besides, isn’t desiring relief when you’re in pain natural, too?
When the anesthesiologist arrived, the majority of my family had arrived as well. I have a big family and we love being together. I think my mom came before everyone else, but that’s a little foggy…They had to wait outside until the epidural was administered.
The anesthesiologist went over all of the necessary risks and benefits and walked me through what was going to happen before it happened. I continued to have contractions while he was talking and prepping me and it was really hard to focus. The hardest part of all was that he told me that I needed to stay very still, even if I was feeling a contraction, while he put the needle in. I managed to do it, and I barely felt the sting of the needle as I rounded my back per his instruction, especially compared to what I had been feeling. He asked me to let him know when the pain of the contraction started to go away. It went away in just a couple of minutes. Relief washed over me. I could finally breath and somewhat relax. I told Dr. Jensen that I loved him and offered to give my child “Jensen” as his middle name. Of course I was kidding. This was a good sign that I was feeling better.
I have never been hospitalized or seriously injured before and this was my first experience with a drug of this capacity. The strangest feeling was that my right leg was completely asleep. I could mostly feel my left leg, and it made me worry….would I feel contractions and pushing on the left side?
But, I couldn’t even tell when I was experiencing contractions anymore. To me, this was a good thing and a bad thing. Good that I couldn’t feel it, but bad because would I be able to tell when I had the urge to push? A catheter was also placed for my urine stream. Honestly, this was the most uncomfortable part of the epidural process for me. While it didn’t hurt, I could feel the tube the whole time.
My family was let back in. I was really grateful that they didn’t get there before I received the epidural. I love having my family around, but I wouldn’t have wanted them to see me going through the pain of contractions. Those were very private moments between Sam, Cara and I. I can’t say that I remember how long they were in the room for or what we talked about. I don’t remember talking with Sam or Cara either, even though I know that I did. I remember having a couple of popsicles and some chicken broth. And I remember the nurse having to constantly readjust the fetal heart rate monitor. This made it very hard to rest and/or sleep before pushing. In fact, I’m not sure that I fell asleep at all.
Around 11:00 p.m. I felt like…well, like I had to poop. I told the nurse and she said that that was a signal that we could begin trying to push. My husband shot straight out of the hospital recliner and came by my side. I remember my dad stopping by the room to check on me and I told him, “We’re going to start pushing soon. He’s almost here.” He smiled with a thumbs up and quietly stepped back out into the waiting room.
I was lying in a semi-reclined position on my back. Cara was on my right, Sam was on my left and the nurse was at the edge of the bed. She coached Sam and Cara in how to hold my legs to assist while another nurse was paging the doctor. Then I pushed for the first time.
Nothing really happened, but I felt relieved that I was able to push. The epidural was working well. I couldn’t feel anything but the pressure and urge to push. And, thankfully I was able to push as I felt like it.
I tried pushing on my back for a little while longer, but the baby’s heart rate was dropping too low so they helped me turn on my side, and I tried pushing there for awhile. This part is kind of fuzzy. I flipped from side to side pushing for a long time and that’s really all I can remember. At one point, the nurse said that she could begin to see my son’s head, so we were making progress.
After 2 hours of pushing, the attending doctor came in and assessed the situation. She suggested that I wear an oxygen mask and go back to the semi-reclined position on my back. The epidural was still working, but I was beginning to feel a little bit more. And really, I was grateful for it. There was a button that I could push any time I felt like I was feeling too much and needed an extra boost of the medicine, but I decided not to push it. I wanted to feel the progression of the pushes and meet my son as soon as possible.
Over the course of the next 20 minutes, I pushed. Everybody kept saying that he was getting closer. That they could see his head. The doctor asked if I would like a mirror. I declined. I was afraid that it would distract me from concentrating on pushing. The next few pushes, I pushed with everything I had. The doctor said that he was almost here, but I was feeling discouraged that after 2 ½ hours of pushing that he wasn’t already here. She said, “Reach down and feel his head.”
I did. I felt the soft, wet, warm head of my son. He had hair! I knew I could do this. I had to do this. I pushed again and out his head came. The hardest part of the pushing was over as the rest of his little body slipped out. I heard him cry. They brought him to my chest immediately. He was here. Labor was over. I was a mother. Sam was a father. We were a family. My best friend was still right by my side telling me how proud she was of me, crying with us and loving with us. I thought that my heart might explode, it was so full of love. This was the hardest thing and the most rewarding thing that I’ve ever done in my entire life.
Jack was born on October 7, 2015 at 1:22 a.m. He was 7 pounds 14 ounces and 19 ½ inches long. He was perfect. Beautiful.
After an hour of skin-to-skin time with me, the nurse did a few of the newborn routine tests and stats. I looked over as she laid him down on the scale, and he started to cry. Sam was over there, too, and he started saying, “It’s okay baby boy.” Almost immediately, Jack stopped crying. He knew his dad’s voice. It was amazing.
The family members who remained that late into the night came in briefly to see Jack and to say congratulations. Then, they took off and said that they would see us tomorrow.
After some time in the delivery room and after I met the requirements to be able to move, we gathered our belongings and headed upstairs to the mother-baby unit. And then the beginning of a brand new life for us began. Our first night as a family.
Jack is now almost 3-weeks old. His presence in our lives thus far has brought us immense joy, happiness, and hard challenges. As we continue our journey into parenthood I plan on sharing my struggles and joys with you along the way.
If you’re still reading this, thank you for taking time to read my story. I’d love to hear yours.