Once again, I’m going to put the disclaimer on this that this has very real details from my very real birth. If you don’t want to read about it, click away. Go read something else for the day. But lots of people put their birth stories on the internet, and this is my place for mine. Because I’m not sure if my doulas and nurses want to be identified or not, I’m just going to use an initial for them. Oh and I’ll scatter pictures of him from my pregnancy all the way up to present time throughout the birth story. Oh and I tried to get all the details correct, but parts of this have been blurry since the beginning so that’s my other disclaimer.
So this story starts on Friday morning. Friday morning I woke up at like 6:50 am, not that unusual, I usually can’t sleep that long after Nick goes to work at 5 am anyways. I started having contractions pretty quick after I first woke up – at roughly 7 am I had my first one. On the one hand, I didn’t think this was anything because I had had contractions on and off for a week-ish. On the other hand, I was sort of “on notice” because my OB/GYN had stripped my membranes and thought I was likely to go into labor in 24-36 hours when I had my appointment on Thursday (for reference, I was at almost 2 cm when she checked me). So I got up and did my normal thing. Turned on the news, made some breakfast, things like that. The contractions kept going, but I was nervous timing them would jinx them until I think both my friend Laura and Nick told me I should start timing them. Around noon they got stronger and closer together and I kept going back and forth. Am I really in labor or not? I asked Laura a bunch of times probably (she had given birth one time already). Around 1-1:30 I texted Nick and told him I thought he should come home from work. He asked if I could wait an hour so he could try to get a leave early approved. I told him no, I wanted him home. I probably could have waited the hour, but I was a little scared and I didn’t want to be home alone. Eventually Nick came home and we called the hospital and they encouraged me to stay home as long as possible. So we stayed home for a little while longer. Around 3:30ish, Nick wanted to go to the hospital. I was less sure about going, but I thought if he felt we were ready, I was ready to go.
We arrived at the hospital and were shortly checked into OB/GYN triage. Here they hooked me up to a monitor to decide whether or not to admit me. After being monitored for a little bit (at first they placed the monitor too high and it wasn’t picking up my contractions very well, but it did after it was moved), I was checked and I was 3+ centimeters, so they decided they could admit me. So then we went upstairs to labor and delivery (or I think technically they call it the women’s care center or something like that). Shortly after that our first doula(s) arrived. We had our doula M and then a doula in training, C. We met with our nurse B, who read over our birth plan, asked me a few questions to clarify things (she even asked me about things that we hadn’t put on there – did we want the Vitamin K shot for example?), and then took out the things that I said we didn’t want (she took out the IV fluids, things like that) and put a sign on our door that said no male caregivers please (though she did warn me if I pushed the emergency button, everyone would come running, but otherwise, I’d be able to keep it to just females, something that was important to me) and brought us the birthing ball, like I had requested. I was sad because her shift was up almost as soon as we got there so then we had a new nurse, but all the nurses were great.
Thus began a long, long night. Most of the time was spent rotating between walking the hallways, where I would press down on Nick’s hand and he would press back up during a contraction, because resisting against the pressure seemed to help, and then sitting on the birthing ball and leaning back into Nick during the contraction. This was helpful to me because I was having a really hard time getting my breathing under control. I would start breathing really rapidly during a contraction because it would hurt but leaning back into him, he would make his breathing really slow and deep and I was able to sync up with his breathing and that helped a lot. When we were walking, we did the same loop and I would give the doulas the tour since I remembered where everything was. I continuously listened to “Beautiful Things” by Gungor on repeat the whole time I was in labor. We briefly spent some time in the tub, but then I decided I didn’t want that and went back to the walking/birthing ball rotation. At one point, my feet ached from all the walking so C and M gave me a foot massage. I was intermittently monitored during this time, but it didn’t bother me too much since they always let me keep doing whatever I was doing. Since Dominic was doing so well, they also pushed their time limits for me and didn’t monitor me quite as often as they would other patients. Oh and we went through like 5 different nurses that night (no kidding – I have no idea why, but yeah, 5 is an accurate count).
Sometime after midnight, the doulas switched out and I got doula B. For a while there were 5 of us, which was pretty funny, because the nurses kept commenting that every time I did a lap around, my party got bigger. I was still pretty chipper by this point – the contractions were tough (or I thought they were tough then) but I felt like myself in between contractions. Around 3:30 am, I decided to ask to be checked. They hadn’t checked me at all since that first time and I wanted to know how much progress I had made. When they checked me I was still 3 cm. At this point I felt really disappointed and discouraged. I felt like I had worked so hard only to be in pretty much the same place as when I came in. I cried for at least a half hour after that and B and Nick had to console me. At this point I was pretty much ready to quit. We decided to all try and get some rest. Nick fell asleep right away, but I couldn’t partially because I was still having contractions and partially because I was so disappointed, so I laid on my side for a while and B and I watched cartoons and Law and Order. Eventually I fell asleep for about half an hour, but then I woke up again, having more contractions.
Eventually, we decided to wake Nick up. He left for a bit to go get breakfast and I ordered a breakfast sandwich from the hospital’s menu. Around 9 something, they asked me if they could check my cervix again. This is the only time that they asked me if they could check me. I started crying because I was terrified of being checked and being told I had made no progress again (okay, everyone kept telling me that I was making progress, that my body needed to do these things to make labor progress, but it sure felt like no progress to me). The doctor who was on though was very nice and eventually I agreed to be checked. And I was still at 3 cm. At this point, they decided to send me home. This was hard for me – I cried a lot again. In retrospect, this was the best they could have done for what I wanted for labor, because the other alternative would have been to do some kind of intervention to speed labor up like breaking my water or pitocin and I didn’t want those things. I had a very sweet nurse then, A, and her and Nick and B all managed to calm me down. Though I pretty much cried all the way home from the hospital. It was heartbreaking being at the hospital for so long, thinking that this was it, that we were going to meet our baby, and then to leave the hospital still pregnant and empty handed, not knowing how much longer it would be until I progressed enough to move things along. They told me it could happen later that day or not for another two weeks and that devastated me. I was so ready to be done being pregnant and I had been so ready to meet our son.
At home, we played Mario Party – that was what I told Nick I wanted to do. Towards the end of my pregnancy, this video game really just calmed me down and distracted me, so I decided that’s what I wanted to do to try and not feel so awful. After that Nick and I both napped and the contractions spaced way out. I was able to get in about an hour and a half of sleep. I let Nick sleep for a little while longer but then I felt restless and woke him up again. We lay in bed for a while talking and cuddling. This didn’t last very long because my contractions got so much stronger all of a sudden and I had been laying on my back which made them hurt so bad so I had to get up. At this point I noticed I had missed a call from the mail lady so I decided to walk down the block and catch her because I knew it meant packages and I thought they would cheer me up. During the walk I definitely noticed more contractions.
When I got back, I told Nick to make some dinner and I sat down to read a magazine that had come in the mail. Around 4 the contractions really picked up and got stronger and I was all of a sudden in a lot of pain. I was having a hard time handling it so Nick put me in the bathtub which made it better but I was still in a lot of pain. At some point during this, dinner was finished but I was no longer hungry for it. I told Nick our code word for pain medication several times, but as we were at home, I couldn’t do anything about it. He also pushed me to try a little longer, telling me that he knew I really didn’t want it. I would tell him “I know, but it hurts so bad.” At this point I also started having the shakes on and off, which freaked me out because I could not stop shivering, especially my teeth. It wasn’t continuos, but it would come and go for the rest of the evening until I delivered.
Around 6 he called the hospital and he decided we should go back. I was a little nervous but I was in so much pain. He helped me get my clothes back on and I threw up twice. He went to get the car and I could barely handle the contraction I had while he was gone. He went so fast all the way to the hospital and I kept telling him to slow down.
M met us at the entrance and they took me back to ob/gyn triage almost immediately. This was the only bad nurse we had during my whole stay. First of all, she wouldn’t let both M and Nick back with me, so I had to choose between them. Second of all, she put the wrong wristband on me and because I was so in pain, I didn’t notice, but when my doula was trying to get back, she told her there was no one back there by that name and then the nurse asked me if I went by any other name and that’s when Nick checked my wristband and she had given me a wristband for some 17 year old girl named Brittany. Plus she was super slow. And she was asking me all these irritating questions, that I was trying to answer, even though I was having really bad contractions and she wouldn’t take Nick’s answers for me, she needed to hear them from me. And she asked some really dumb questions too. Like I have a drug allergy and she asked me if I knew what I had taken the drug for and I said I didn’t know, which she then followed up with “Well do you know if it was prescribed for a bladder infection?” I said I didn’t know. Though later I thought to myself, if I don’t know what I took it for, why would asking me if I took it for something specific change my mind? I don’t know. Anyways, like I said, the only bad nurse in the bunch. Oh, I threw up more when I was here. They did a cervical check and I was 5-6 cm so they readmitted me. I was able to ask that they fill the tub so that it was ready for me when we got up there. The nurse who had discharged me that morning A, was just finishing up her shift and she was really excited to see me again and then after she left we got nurse B again, so I was excited about that.
M met us up there and as soon as we got to my room, I left it to go to the tub room. I quickly stripped when I was in the tub room, but didn’t even bother to take off my socks, because I knew if I had any chance of getting through this, it was going to be in the tub. The tub is kind of high and when I had used it the day before, I had needed the steps, but this time I just sort of bounded over the side of the tub and got in it.
This time in the tub I used the jets. They felt really good as counter pressure, but eventually it hurt my tailbone, so I would scoot off it when I wasn’t having a contraction and then move back in front of it when I was. I was in the water up to my shoulders but my face would get really hot, so Nick was spraying cold water with the shower head on my upper back while the rest of me was in the hot water. Every time I had a contraction, I would move in front of the jet and lean forward and grab onto the metal bar on top of the tub across from me and do low moaning ooo’s (at M’s suggestion, which really helped) and I had this sort of pattern and crescendo, decrescendo to them. This lasted a while and in between the contractions I would ask how much longer this was going to be (which to her credit, M would always tell me that she didn’t know, which is a good answer because it’s true, but it didn’t stop me from continually asking) I also kept asking “I’m having a baby this time right?” To which her and Nick would tell me yes, I was having a baby and no, they weren’t going to send my home again. Eventually I couldn’t sit up anymore so I switched to lying on my side.
Eventually I asked to be checked again and they tried to check me in the tub, but the way I was positioned and with still being in the tub, they couldn’t tell more than that his head was pretty low. So I labored in the tub for a bit more before I decided that I wanted to get checked again. So I went back to the room and got checked again – more progress, I was 7-8 cm. At this point I decided to stay laying on my side in the bed. I was pretty tired, since I had only slept maybe a combined total of 3 hours since Friday morning and that would be a stretch (at this point it’s Saturday night, in case you haven’t followed the timeline). Laying on my side the contractions were hard, but with the oooing and gripping onto the side railing (and I think Nick was putting counter pressure on my back too, but I don’t quite remember), I was able to make it through them and close my eyes in between. Nurse B here was awesome because Nick and M and B were all telling me what a great job I was doing. At some point, M noticed that I had started bearing down involuntarily during the last three contractions that I had and suggested to me that I might want to think about being checked again. I agreed and they told me I was complete. And I was like, “Does this mean I can start pushing?” And they told me I could and I was so ecstatic – I was so happy. They asked me how I wanted to give birth and I said squatting, so they set up the bed for that. I started out pushing that way and screaming like a banshee each time. Someone (I don’t remember who, maybe M?) suggested that I try to make less noise and focus my energy on pushing. I didn’t think it would help, but I tried it and I was surprised how much it allowed me to focus and work through them to push because vocalizing had helped me so much before. I pushed in a lot of different positions for an hour and 15 minutes (okay, I thought it was just an hour, but Nick just informed me it was an hour and 15 minutes)- Dominic was taking his sweet time coming out and I couldn’t seem to stay pushing in one position for very long. Some of the different ones I pushed in were squatting, squatting with a towel around the bar and pulling on it (referred to as the tug of war I think?), side lying, some weird contortions I don’t even think there are names for and more. You could see his head for a long time though. Nick says for about an hour of the hour and 15 minutes, they could see his head gradually coming out. M, Nurse B, and Nick kept asking me if I wanted to feel it, but I kept telling them I didn’t want to feel it until he was all the way out. I knew that if I felt him and I couldn’t get him out like right after I felt him I was going to be frustrated. As it was, I kept asking how long it was going to be, how many more pushes, but M and B told me they didn’t know, just that it would be soon. At some point, they asked me if it was okay if they put baby shampoo on his head to help it come out better and to help keep me from tearing and I told them that was okay. Eventually, I pushed out his head and his whole body came out right after that, with only one minor skidmark tear. I never felt the ring of fire sensation that so many people describe, I think because his head came out so very, very gradually. The doctor also said that she might tell me to stop pushing or to push gentle to help keep me from tearing, but she never had to do that either, or at least I didn’t notice. Anyways, as soon as he came out, they placed him on my chest and they asked me if I wanted the cord clamped right away or if I wanted to wait. I told them I wanted to wait, so they waited, while me and little guy bonded and the placenta slipped out (that was a weird sensation but it was no big deal after pushing the rest of him out). It was so awesome having him on my chest right away because he was SO alert when he was born. He was able to self-latch twice in that period of time (almost immediately) and we were able to really bond. Eventually, Nick cut the cord, and they took him over to weigh and measure him. 20 and a half inches and 7 lbs 9 oz, May 6th 12:41 AM. He had tolerated labor so well – his heart rate had been strong the whole time and even Nurse B commented on that. After he was weighed, Nick held him for a bit and we were left alone for a while to have our first time as a family. Nick switched the music to shuffle because he was sick of listening to the same song over and over again (now he will probably never want to hear that song again – literally one song the whole time I was at the hospital on Friday and the whole time I was there on Saturday) and the song he said reminded him of Dominic came on and he rocked Dominic while he sang it to him, which was the cutest thing ever. It made my heart melt. Eventually the nurse came back and they moved us to the other side and Dominic got his first bath and then I just watched him sleep and tried to sleep myself.
After my whole birth experience, I highly, highly, highly recommend that just about anyone giving birth have a doula. My doulas were awesome – I truly believe that they are the reason I was able to stick through such a long labor and still have a natural birth in the end. If you’re in the Milwaukee area and considering a doula, I highly recommend them. You can find their website, Mothering the Mother, here.
Oh and as promised, Katrice took the photos I credited to her. You can find her website here.
I know it’s long, so if you made it all the way to the end, thanks for reading! If you have a moment, could you vote in my poll and help me pick my new name?