It’s taken me a long time to muster the courage to type this story. I worry that I can’t convey the emotions I felt that day, and have felt ever since, as eloquently as they deserve. I think back on the day that my little bundle of perfection was born and it physically hurts. My chest gets tight and my fingers become shaky. Since that special day in April of last year, my heart has been living outside of my body. It’s taken on the appearance of chubby cheeks and wispy hair. It’s vulnerable, so beautifully and terrifyingly vulnerable.
Laurel’s due date was April 20th, but my awesome OB was willing to support us in going past that date before considering induction. Induction was the topic of a discussion we had with her early on, as I had a fear of being induced. I figured that one unnecessary intervention could lead to more and my ultimate goal was a completely natural birth. Since she couldn’t really give us a “medically necessary” reason for it anyways, the option was basically off the table.
At my 40 week appointment, I had my membranes stripped, in hopes of naturally progressing things along. I was already 3 cm dilated at this point and my OB said that it’s a 50/50 shot on whether the membrane stripping will do anything. I guess that makes sense, it either will or it won’t, right? I also started going to acupuncture, during which time I would feel contractions, but the contractions would subside as soon as I left the building. At this point, I was eating pineapple, spicy foods, bouncing on my birth ball, walking, and doing everything short of castor oil to induce my labor naturally.
Well April 20th passed, then April 21st, and April 22nd (membranes stripped again), April 23rd, 24th.. there we were on April 25th, two days before Week 41. My OB was really chomping at the bit for this baby to be born. Ryan was feeling a bit anxious as well and would ask me several times throughout the day how I felt, if I had any contractions, and if I could still feel the baby moving. I like to think I was feeling pretty relaxed and patient, but also very excited to meet our little one.
After several serious discussions between Ryan and I, we ultimately decided that I would be induced. I was steadfast on my decision not to receive pain medication, even though I knew that Pitocin can cause intense contractions. I was prepared, both mentally and physically. Read about how I prepared for birth here.
At around 7am on April 26th, my OB broke my water and I started feeling minor contractions. She had agreed to break my water first to see if that would jump start labor. As part of my birth plan, I agreed to have a hep-lock put in place, but declined an IV. I wanted to be free to move about my hospital room completely unrestricted. I bounced on the birth ball, played cards with my mom and Ryan, ate tons of snacks, walked around, and really just waited. My room was large with a huge window that took up an entire wall, with white plantation shutters looking out over a playground.
By 1pm, no “progress” was made, I was still 3 cm dilated. Still confident, I agreed to start Pitocin. My nurse hooked up an IV and started me on a very low dose. It began working immediately. Ryan and my mom had gone down to the cafeteria to grab lunch so I actually had my first real contraction while they were out of the room. My nurse was able to shut the Pitocin off after a little while since it started making my contractions too close together, and boy were they intense!
For the next 6 hours, I labored. I squatted, I lunged, I twisted and turned by body in any way that gave momentary relief. I breathed in sync with my mom and listened as Ryan “counted down” each contraction. As I would feel the pressure and discomfort building, I would ask him “How much longer?” and, although I realize now that he was completely guessing, he would start counting down from ten. Before he reached one, the contraction was subsiding. Laurel’s heart rate was perfect the entire time, I felt so fortunate. Over the hours, I could see my belly get lower and lower, as our baby moved deeper into the birth canal. She was getting ready to make her debut!
It’s interesting to think about the comfort measures that I thought I would want during labor: massage, counter-pressure, touching, bouncing on the birth ball, walking around, music. I wanted none of these. I did not want to be touched and music was irritating, almost like it was over-stimulating. During our birth class, we practiced all of these techniques and Ryan knew exactly what to do and say; however, when the time came it all went out the window! We even made a birth poster with “reminders” and little sayings that Ryan could refer to. I remember the best thing for me was keeping my eyes closed, breathing deeply, and rocking back and forth on the bed, go figure. My foot actually fell asleep several times because I had it tucked under me on the bed. My mom would massage it when it would get tingly.
Weeks prior, Ryan and I had a conversation with my OB about different laboring and birth positions, mainly to get a feel for what she was comfortable with. I’ll never forget her response because it still makes me giggle to visualize, “You can swing from the lights during labor if you want but I’d prefer you near the bed when it’s time to push.” I appreciated her for being so supportive of our birth plan (minus the swinging from the lights thing).
Eventually, I was almost fully dilated, I lunged on the side of the bed and pushed past a cervical lip. When my RN told me I was 10 cm I said, “Are you sure, you’re not joking right?!” I was so happy! She told me to push whenever I felt the urge to. For the next two hours, I pushed and pushed and pushed. I started in a squat position, using the squat bar on the bed. This helped Laurel pass my pubic bone, which she was stalled at for a bit. We didn’t know at that time how big her head was, gulp.
It started to feel good to completely relax, or should I say collapse, between each contraction & push, so I ended up on my back while pushing. Throughout my pregnancy, when I had visualized giving birth, I saw myself on all fours, or even in a squat position so gravity could help me. When I would collapse between pushes, that was when Ryan would stick a straw in my mouth and tell me to sip water, which I was so thankful for. He also reapplied my chapstick which was a Godsend! (#1 thing to pack in your hospital bag: chapstick!) Read about what else I brought in my hospital bag here.
I must mention that throughout the entire process, Ryan had our GoPro strapped to his head. He started the video on our drive to the hospital. One of his main jobs was to take pictures and videos for me to watch later. I’ve watched the videos probably a hundred times. I would highly recommend that to anyone. Even if you’re not loving the idea of having your experience filmed, at least have someone snap some pictures so you can remember those moments we quickly forget afterward.
The time came when our OB entered the room, the bottom of the bed was dropped, and the whole world (it seemed) was staring at my crotch. I even had a nurse intern right next to me, holding one of my legs. I could feel the poor guys arms shaking the entire time. I had agreed to allow the intern in on my birth because I figured, and my nurse confirmed later, that they don’t get to see many unmedicated births. He definitely had a story to write home about!
My precious baby girl entered the world at 9:39pm and, after a very brief once-over by the doctor, was placed on my chest and not moved for the next two hours. Ryan and I were crying, she was screaming, and the entire room cheered. It was the happiest day of my life! I have tears as I type this now. Her vitals were checked as she stayed curled on my chest. She latched on to breastfeed right away, umbilical cord still attached. After about three minutes, Ryan cut the umbilical cord and then said what later become an infamous phrase in our house, “I helped! I did something!”
After hours of skin-to-skin contact on both me and Ryan, Laurel was brought to the scale just on the other side of the room, while I went to the restroom. While in the restroom, I hear, “Whoa! No way!” and Ryan informed me that our baby was 10 pounds 1 ounce and 22 inches long. I think we all just started laughing. After we settled into our new hospital room, Ryan and I just stared in awe at the miracle we created. I don’t think I slept a wink that night.
Laurel, Ryan, and I stayed at the hospital for two nights as we acclimated to life as a family of 3. The hospital was amazing and let me order as much food as I wanted. Surprisingly the hospital food was delicious and my appetite was ravenous, thanks to breastfeeding, so I really appreciated that. My nurses were wonderfully doting which made the middle-of-the-night blood pressure checks as enjoyable as they could be. My mom stayed at our house to take care of our dogs and would come and go from the hospital throughout the day. My dad sent us a few Edible Arrangements, tons of balloons, and stuffed animals. My mother-in-law flew in the day after Laurel was born. Friends visited us at the hospital and brought meals to our house, which was so appreciated. It all feels like so long ago now but what a wonderful time it was! I hope to never forget these moments. I plan to tell Laurel about her birthday as often as she’ll want to hear about it. I can just imagine her now, asking me, “Mommy, tell me about the best day of your life.”