Oh, My Winnie… the day you were born
This blog is for me, for Shane, for Winnie…
There are details many reading won’t be interested in … that’s ok. It’s for the three of us. However, I love reading stories like this, so I’m sharing publicly for anyone else like me. :)
Winnie was due on September 3rd. I was certain I would be 2 weeks overdue. One of the many reasons we chose the midwifery services was their hesitation for inductions. It is standard to wait for a pregnant momma to be 2 weeks overdue before scheduling anything like that. Meaning, if Winnie decided to never arrive on her own, I wouldn’t have been induced until September 18th (at the earliest). I had gone to my weekly midwife appointment on August 30th, crying when I made the next appointment for September 6th because I was certain I would still be pregnant and rolling into that office that day.
However, on Friday, September 2nd (the day before her due date), our tiny one got the ball rolling early on. I had no idea that anything I was experiencing that day was actually labor. I had pushed the thought of having her “on time” so far out of my mind that it wasn’t even on my radar.
Shane and I did what we usually did on Fridays (his day off each week), which is run errands, grab lunch while we are out, and have a lazy afternoon. Leading up to this Friday, we had been making regular trips to Target so that I could walk around. The summer of 2016 set records for being the HOTTEST EVER. I wish I was making that up. It was miserable and I was pregnant, so I didn’t get out of the house much because of the heat. I also was used to being somewhat active, and pregnancy had kind of stalled that, so we would go to Target to wander around, giving me some form of exercise by doing so. I found that if I didn’t move every day, my back and hips would hurt, so that was my undeniable excuse for Target-ing. :)
Anyway, all of that to say, wandering the aisles had become a regular occurrence and one that I looked forward to. On the 2nd, I decided I was over the minimal caffeine I had been consuming and was also looking forward to a fully-caffeinated Starbucks latte while we shopped. However, by the time we got our coffees, I was already so physically tired that making one lap around the store was too daunting. We ended up leaving almost as soon as we had arrived because I just couldn’t do it. I mean, I was one day shy of being 40 weeks pregnant, so being too tired and lazy only made sense.
We went home, and I decided I would get some work finished. I had shot a wedding a couple of weeks prior, and I was finishing up the blog post for those images. I took some time to finish my coffee and finish that blog, only to have my computer completely crash. I was cranky and impatient with it, and also wanted a nap, so I called it quits and climbed into bed. I figured I would return to it later that day, or even sometime in the next few days, considering I would just be sitting around, pregnant and miserable. That’s when my mom called to see if I’d be up for some company later that day. She was impatiently waiting for her first grandbaby, and she knew I was even more impatient while waiting. I really irritable and not in the mood, but I figured it would help distract us both, so I said yes. A few hours later, she was at my house, and she had surprised me by bringing some family, including a new cousin I hadn’t had a chance to meet yet. I still wasn’t in the best mood, but that helped a little. :)
While they were in town, everyone wanted to do some quick shopping then grab dinner. At that point, I was already incredibly hungry, so I grabbed a snack, hoping it would also help perk up my mood a little. I wasn’t really in the mood for shopping (or going out at all, for that matter), but I wanted to spend time with my people, and I also didn’t want to sit at home. So, I kissed Shane bye (he was looking forward to some alone time to turn off for a while) and off we went.
We went to the fabric store, which was our one and only shopping stop. We were there for about an hour, but it felt like a year. No, it felt like a year IN HELL. I’m not kidding or exaggerating. I was so uncomfortable and so irritable. I was spending time with my sweet girl, Kimber, so that helped pass the time, but I grew more impatient by the minute. My back was aching, and I was uncomfortable all over. I mentioned to my mom that I thought I was dehydrated because I had “real” coffee that afternoon, and, in true Lois fashion, she pulled a bottle of water from her purse. I drank it all at once – something I wouldn’t usually do – because I was starting to really hurt, especially in my lower back, and the last thing I wanted to deal with was a bladder or kidney infection from not drinking enough water that day.
After downing that water, we were finally ready to leave. My aunt was the only one shopping, and she had a coupon she wanted to use… I swear, while she searched in her purse for that coupon and then for her debit card, I was ready to TAKE. SOMEONE. OUT. I was miserable standing there… I even offered to pay her the difference of the coupon if it meant we could forget it and get out of there. I just wanted a huge glass of water and to sit down, and each passing second was making me more tired and frustrated and uncomfortable.
When we finally got out to the parking lot, I got right into the car, avoiding all lingering and hoping to get the show on the road and onto dinner. I thought that sitting would finally help my back, but it didn’t. My cousin, Karoline, was standing with me while everyone else got loaded into the cars (we had taken two), and she asked if my back pain could be back labor. Unfortunately, I had been having dull contractions almost every evening for about 2 months, and I was certain that my pain in that moment was just related to that. Plus, I knew I was dehydrated and that was a factor in the back pain. My family suggested going back home, and while I really wanted to, I knew that I would be disappointed to miss out on spending time with them. So, we decided to grab dinner, knowing that all I wanted was to sit and get something to drink.
We decided on O’Charley’s because it was the closest. Like I said, we were in two cars – I was driving one, and Karoline was driving the other. This is only important to mention because, as I was trying to find the entrance to the restaurant, I took every wrong turn there was, and Karoline followed every wrong turn I made. I was tempted to drive over every curb and median in my way at one point, but knowing she’d have to follow is the only reason I didn’t. (and if you’ve been to the O’Charley’s in Clarksville, you know what I’m talking about – it’s impossible!)
We finally made it to the parking lot and into the restaurant. After standing and waiting for service for 10 minutes, I was growing increasingly uncomfortable and impatient, so I decided to run to the restroom. It might be TMI (hello, this is a birth story), but over the past couple of months of contractions, if I had a full bladder, they would feel worse. So, I figured peeing would help. It didn’t. Plus (again, TMI), I didn’t actually have much in my bladder… yet another sign that I was dehydrated. Which told me that my back pain wasn’t going to go away until I could rest and hydrate.
When we finally got to our table, we ordered our drinks, and my mom took Kimber to the restroom. While they were gone, I looked across at Karoline (who was extra emotional thanks to her post-partum hormones), and she was crying. So, of course, I instantly started crying in response (because that’s what pregnant women do), even though I didn’t know why we were crying. She told me it was too hard to watch me wincing in pain, which I didn’t realize I was even doing. She said she wanted my phone because she was going to call Shane – she was convinced I needed to be checked at the hospital, and I had been arguing that it wasn’t worth a trip. I didn’t want to go just to be told nothing was happening (because I JUST DEHYDRATED). However, seeing her cry made me realize how much pain I was actually in, so I handed over my phone and let her call. She told Shane to meet us at the hospital because they were making me get checked. In the meantime, she told me to start timing my pain (which, again, I didn’t realize how bad it was – my family can be a good distraction, clearly). Once I started paying attention, I realized I was having the pain consistently and EVERY MINUTE.
This was about the same time that the waiter brought back our drinks. My aunt asked for to-go cups because “SHE’S IN LABOR.” If you know my aunt, you know how subtle this was. (sarcasm, btw) I thought our waiter might faint. He was flustered and spilling drinks as he tried to transfer everything to plastic cups. (I’m still not sure why we needed those drinks to go…)
My mom returned to our table to find all of this happening. She had no idea we had decided to leave, so she was completely confused (ask me about the conversation that went something like this:
my aunt: “Lois, get those teas.”
(referring to the half-emptied glasses (the other half had been poured into to-go cups) that were ours but were on another table)
my mom: “No! Those aren’t ours! That’s nasty!”
my aunt: “Yes, get those teas! I want them.”
my mom: “What? Why? No, that’s gross.”
me (STILL IN PAIN): “WHO CARES ABOUT THE TEAS I AM LEAVING NOW.”
As I marched to the door, they explained to her what was happening, then gathered our drinks (that our waiter was gracious enough to not charge us for), and followed me out. On the way out, I called Shane back to give him a more realistic description of what was going on. I explained that I was dehydrated from my coffee and just had some back pain, so he didn’t need to rush. However, I suggested he go ahead and grab our hospital bag just in case we were there for a while.
We got out to the cars, and it seemed to take ages to get everyone loaded in. Everyone was convinced I shouldn’t drive, so I handed my keys over to my mom. In the bustle of loading up (and having the waiter chase us down because my aunt left her purse inside), my mom misplaced them. That’s when I realized that something bigger than dehydration might be happening to my body because I lost my cool a little (WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU LOST THE KEYS YOU SERIOUSLY JUST HAD THEM IN YOUR HAND HOW COULD YOU MISPLACE THEM THAT FAST OH MY GOSH SOMEONE HELP ME NOW). She finally found them, I offered an apology, and we took off. She had no idea where she was going (and, again, we had a two-car-caravan driving aimlessly), so I was trying to give directions while dealing with contractions happening less than a minute apart at this point. After a few wrong turns because I wasn’t able to communicate quickly enough, we were finally on our way. I didn’t agree with the idea of me not driving until we were on the interstate and my body was lifting itself out of the seat. The pain had gotten so uncomfortable, I was having an outward, physical reaction to it, which wouldn’t have worked out had I been driving. I still didn’t “hurt” as much as I was just really uncomfortable. It felt like I just needed a good backrub and some advil, not that I could be in labor. Again, I was just dehydrated.
We got to the off-ramp on the interstate, and I decided I should call Shane again. I wanted to see where he was – I was beginning to get a little concerned with how I was feeling, and I really wanted him to be with me. He told me he hadn’t left the house yet, and I started to cry… I didn’t realize how anxious I was until then. I asked him to be safe, not to speed, but to maybe leave very, very soon. He was about 15 minutes behind us at that point, yet he somehow made it to the hospital about 5 minutes after we did.
When we left the restaurant, I had called the birthing center to see what I should do and let them know I was on my way. Because it was after-hours, I spoke with an on-call nurse but had to wait for the midwife-on-call to get the message and call back. We were pulling into the hospital parking lot when she called. I was trying to direct my mom on where to park while answering all of the midwife’s questions – my irritability level had reached an ultimate high at that point. I ended up hanging up on the midwife with an “I’LL JUST SEE YOU IN A FEW MINUTES” and making my mom park the car in the middle of the road because I HAVE TO DRIVE, I CAN’T TAKE THIS ANY LONGER. Again, my cousin was following behind us, (my mom and I had major communication issues at this point – she was frantic, I was yelling… it was a mess) so every wrong turn we took (and we took A LOT), she took along with us. When I finally had my mom stop the car and switch me places, I think bystanders were probably getting a kick out of the entire scene.
After switching places with my mom, I finally got us parked. I could have had her drop me off at the entrance, sure, but since I was JUST DEHYDRATED, it didn’t seem necessary. Also, I was pretty annoyed that all of the front-door labor and delivery parking spots that are reserved for situations like mine were taken, especially after finding out that there was only one other L&D patient that evening. And, on top of it all, in the event that I actually did happen to be in labor, I didn’t want to walk into the hospital alone – I was becoming more emotional by the minute, and I don’t know that I could have handled that.
We parked and walked what felt like miles to the entrance of the hospital (after waiting for what felt like FOREVER to get everyone out of the cars). I was barely able to walk at this point, but I still ignored the wheelchairs at the entrance and waddled myself to the elevator and then into the birthing center. A wheelchair seemed pretty dramatic to use, even though I wasn’t even able to carry on a conversation at this point.
Once in the birthing center, I told my family to wait in the waiting room and left without even saying bye to them. I knew I was going to walk in, be seen, and be back out in minutes. I was frustrated that they were making me do this, and I was looking forward to coming back out and saying “I told you so.” I managed to find my way to the desk (having to stop once to regain some composure), and as soon as the midwife on call saw me, she said (verbatim, by the way), “I can tell by just looking at you that you’re definitely NOT in labor.” To which I replied, “Tell me something I don’t know. (insert eye roll here). I’m just dehydrated, I’m here because they made me come, CAN I PLEASE SIT DOWN SOMEWHERE.” She told me that since I had called ahead, they had already started the process to get me checked in, and only because of that, they’d go ahead and give me an exam (but because I wasn’t in labor (according to the midwife), they took their time getting around to giving me that exam, and I thought I might MURDER SOMEONE).
They led me back to a triage room where they had me pee in a cup then change into a gown (TMI? oops.). Because I had made my family wait in the waiting room, I was in triage alone, and I was getting more and more anxious and upset. As soon as I was changed and about to go grab someone to sit with me, I looked up to see the elevator doors open and Shane walk out. It truly was perfect timing. He came over to me and helped me up onto the bed, where I proceeded to pee as soon as I got settled. YES. I PEED THE BED. Even though I had JUST gone, there I was, PEEING.. IN THE BED.. LIKE AN ADULT.
At that point, I was upset, frustrated, and embarrassed, and I sheepishly told the nurse exactly what had happened. Of course, she assured me it was fine and that it happened all the time. She asked me to scoot up higher in the bed so they could put the fetal monitor on, and when I went to shift, I PEED.. AGAIN.
Pretty much losing all dignity at that point, I told the nurse what happened AGAIN. I went on to explain to her (because she obviously wouldn’t know this information, being a nurse and all) that pregnant women don’t always have a choice when this kind of thing happens, and if the baby shifts hard enough, this can happen and be completely out a woman’s control, and obviously, that was what was happening. As she was telling me not to worry and that she would get a pad to put beneath me (not just a pad, but a 3ft x 3ft bed-wetter pad – super discrete, if you were wondering), IT HAPPENED A THIRD TIME, OH MY GOSH. And by that third time, I could tell it wasn’t coming from my bladder.
This is when she said, “you might not be peeing, sweetie.”
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN, WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME.”
But, sure enough, my water had broken.
I hope I always remember that moment when I looked at Shane as soon as I realized what was happening. That was the moment we had been waiting and anticipating for 40 weeks. It was a realization that we were going to leave the hospital as a family of three. It was a joyful, terrifying moment. It was also the moment that active labor hit me like a freaking Mack truck.
Suddenly, the uncomfortable feeling I’d had all day translated to what I undoubtedly knew were contractions. The kind of contractions that were pulling me up and out of the bed. And, conveniently, this was also the exact time that the nurse needed to check me to confirm that my water had actually broken.
“UM, I ASSURE YOU, IT HAS.”
Mommas of the world will know that cervical checks are kind of THE WORST. Add in the fact that I was in the throes of labor… it was worse than awful. I didn’t realize how hard I was gripping the rails of the bed until one of the rails popped out of place, and I pretty much BROKE THE BED.
I BROKE THE BED. AND IT WAS ONLY BEGINNING.
And then the nurse asked me to get up and walk to the delivery room. (ARE YOU KIDDING ME)
Shane helped me down from the bed, and we made our way out into the hall. The midwife was helping us along, and she was encouraging me to use the rails along the wall to hold on to during contractions. The problem was, I couldn’t make it to the rails. I was contracting so often and intensely, I could only take a step or two before stopping and grabbing on to Shane to get through it. I don’t know how long it took to get from the triage room to the delivery room, but thank goodness I had him to hold on to. Oh, and I was naked as could be underneath my hospital gown… and it was wide open in the back. Thankfully the midwife noticed and fixed it for me, not that I cared much at that point.
Getting myself and my naked rear to the room is a bit of a blur to me. I don’t remember details. It’s a hard thing to describe to people, but labor contractions had been described to me kind of like waves – they start out low and slow and grow larger and more painful before they peak, then slowly and gradually fall away. Then you rest and breathe before the next one. The closer and more intense they are is the closer you are to delivery. My experience was NOT like this.
All I remember is an overwhelming, breathtaking, blinding pain that wouldn’t stop. And the anger I felt about it. I didn’t have “waves” of pain – I had an intense, steady climb that never broke. Every contraction took my breath, and while I was reeling and gasping for air, another would hit. There was no gradual fall away, there was only contraction after contraction after contraction – it was as if I was in transitional labor, right out of the gate (contractions were less than a minute apart (probably close to 30 seconds) and were lasting 1-2 minutes at a time). I quickly got to where I couldn’t stand, couldn’t catch my breath, couldn’t form a complete thought or sentence.
I don’t remember how I got into the delivery room. I remember the floor being wet everywhere I stood. I remember my gown falling off of me. I remember things in flashes, but not continuous time. I remember asking if I could labor in the tub, but then wanting out as soon as I got into it. I don’t know why a birthing center would have tubs that have rounded edges… I couldn’t sit in the water without sliding all over the place. I literally struggled to keep my head above the water. I tried to hold onto the edge for stability, but the rounded edges made that impossible. The water temperature was scalding hot, then turned cold very quickly. I remember making the decision to get out, but not being able to get myself up because of the poor design. I finally gave up and just threw my upper half over the edge… just in time to be violently sick all over the floor.
I’m writing this blog for myself – I don’t want to forget details on this experience. However, that is one detail I don’t mind forgetting, so I’m going to skip it and move on.
At some point between getting sick and getting out, someone asked for my signature in case I decided on an epidural. Someone else needed me to leave my room to have bloodwork taken, which I couldn’t physically do. I’m still not sure what came of that.
After finally pulling my body from the tub, I somehow got back into my gown, but I don’t remember how or when. I also don’t really know how long I was actually in the tub. I thought it was only minutes, but it had to have been longer. Time passed, but I don’t really know how long things were taking. The only way to explain it is I was delirious from pain. I know that sounds dramatic, but it was actually what was happening. From the time I got to the hospital to the time I delivered was about 11 hours – I can account for about 3 of those hours. It was heartbreaking – I wanted to work through the pain, I wanted Shane and myself to experience labor together. But I went from “this is uncomfortable” to out of control, piggy-back type contractions as soon as my water broke – there was no “getting through” because my body was no longer in my control.
Sometime after the tub, I looked at Shane, and I’ll never forget the way he was looking at me. I wish I could say it was a loving look of adoration… it wasn’t. His face was worry and sadness and maybe even fear. We had talked about what we wanted birth to be like (as long as we had a say in it). We wanted something we could go through together – we wanted to avoid medication because we both wanted me to be sharp and present with him through the entire thing. However, the way my body was contracting was taking over the experience. The contractions were owning it. We weren’t going through it together – I was being taken over and he was on the outside, just watching. I never forget the helplessness that was all over his face at that point.
I remember making the decision to try nitrous. The hospital offered it as a pain management tool, but it has to be patient-administered. Meaning, I had to be in complete control of using it and no one could offer any help. Because I was struggling to even exist at that point, holding a mask to my face and breathing deeply wasn’t something I was able to do. I didn’t even get a full breath of it before deciding it wasn’t going to work. (however… that not-even-one-full-breath cost almost $1000. WHAT?!)
After failing to use the nitrous, I was a little heartbroken. I felt out of control; my body and my mind were no longer mine. I couldn’t breathe or think, and I didn’t know how I could maintain that any longer. I told my midwife and Shane that I needed something. There were two options at this point: IV meds or an epidural. We were terrified of the epidural because we had heard nothing but horror stories about it… about women who received one and then labor stalled, eventually leading them to c-sections. We had researched our options throughout pregnancy, and like I mentioned, we really wanted to experience birth together. We knew that a c-section would always be a possibility in the event that it was the safest option at any point, however, we really wanted to avoid doing anything that might push us in that direction. We also know that I am weird on heavy medication… under anesthesia, I don’t wake up easily, almost to a dangerous degree. Since we were so invested in the idea of going through this together, it was a priority that I was present and aware. But, like I said, I was already struggling with that. My mind was completely taken over, and I was far from present.
I asked for the IV pain meds, thinking that would be a good starting point. My midwife was encouraging me, telling me she didn’t think I needed anything and that she knew I could do it without anything. She tried pushing me to continue on (sidenote: the entire labor to this point consisted of my midwife (who wasn’t “my” midwife, but the one on call) just observing everything… in retrospect, it almost seemed as if she didn’t think I was actually struggling to the extent that I was, that maybe she thought I was weak or had a low pain-tolerance, so she wasn’t intervening because how could that help if someone doesn’t know how to manage pain anyway? now that we know what was actually happening (and that my contractions were from the Devil himself), this fact really annoys me, but I digress). Shane and I didn’t go through any birthing classes, so he wasn’t sure of how to coach me through anything. And I was too incoherent to explain what I needed as far as coaching went. I wish I could have been able to even form simple words (sounds ridiculous, but it’s true). I wish I could have explained that I just needed a way to labor through, but I felt like my body was doing everything without me.
I was feeling woozy from the nitrous, and I had been extremely ill quite a few times since the tub. My midwife explained that any other medication would intensify what was happening and that I was in transition (which ended up being for the better part of 11 hours) and that I was close to delivering, so moving to an epidural was my best option at that point (Shane says he could tell she knew I needed relief and that I was running out of time before my body would have required intervention). I knew I needed something because I was missing out on the experience – people may not understand that, and that’s ok. But I knew that the labor I was experiencing was a small piece of Hell, and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t stand seeing Shane stand there, helpless. I couldn’t stand feeling like my body was taking off and doing this without me, leaving me breathless and out of my mind. I couldn’t spend any more time not understanding what was happening. I knew something had to change, and even if an epidural wasn’t a part of the labor we wanted, I knew it would create a pause in what was happening, and that is all I needed at that point.
We moved forward with the epidural, and I sobbed. I felt like I had let Shane down, even though I knew that wasn’t true. What I had to realize was that I didn’t choose it for pain management – I chose it so that I could take back control. Realizing that made the decision the right one, hands-down.
The hospital requires everyone (except medical staff) to leave the room when the epidural is administered, so they asked Shane to step out into the hallway. However, they didn’t explain how long it would take, or that he really was supposed to wait in the waiting room. Our experience at our hospital was really positive, but this was one moment that didn’t go so well.
Shane stepped out into the hallway, then decided he’d go ahead to the waiting room to collect our things. My mom (who had been in the waiting room) had gone to our car to get our bag earlier, so he took the epidural-time-out to go get that from her.
My family had kind of rolled their eyes at me when I told them I was going to deliver naturally, if possible. Because of that, he wanted to keep our decision between us at that time, so when they asked what was happening/why he was out there, he just told them I was getting some medicine. Here’s where the hospital really dropped the ball… the elevator on the floor opens up right beside the waiting room. A nurse (who was not my nurse) was stepping onto the elevator when she heard him tell them this. She stuck her head back out and announced to my family (and everyone else in the waiting room) that I wasn’t just getting medicine, but that I was “GETTING AN EPIDURAL.”
One: she wasn’t my nurse, this wasn’t her business (I’m not upset that she knew, I just don’t understand why she cared to share!). Two: PRIVACY, HELLO. Three: we didn’t know everyone in the waiting room, so thanks for sharing that with strangers. Four: PRIVACY. PRIVACY. PRIIIIVAAAACYYYY. Oh, and Five: WHAT IF. What IF Shane had JUST gotten there and didn’t know the details, and WHAT IF THAT is how he found his wife was having that done?
Ok, back to it. After explaining that I was, in fact, getting an epidural, he got our things and went to return to waiting outside our room (because that’s where they told him he could hang out – there was only one other delivery happening on the floor, so I think they were bending the rules for us a little). However, they wouldn’t let him. Again, most everything else was a positive experience, but this part was upsetting.
There is a set of sliding doors the separates the floor from the waiting room. He walked through these doors and out to the waiting room without issue, but because it was so late (after midnight at this point), the doors locked behind him. Enter panic mode. He is locked out while I am receiving heavy medication through a precariously placed line. He finally got the attention of a nurse and explained what had happened, but they told him he would have to wait there until I was finished (we found out later that this is actually standard, however, since no one explained that to him, it was a frustrating situation for him to be in). They didn’t give him any more information on how long it could take or why he had to wait there (and I can understand why, but some compassion would have gone a long way), so he was anxious and upset when he was finally able to return (which is exactly what you want when you’re about to have a baby). Add in the nurse who crossed the privacy line minutes before, and you have one very upset papa bear.
After getting the epidural and my mind returning, Shane came back to the room. I was euphoric from relief and he was beyond angry at having had to wait without word on what was happening. But after settling in and getting on the same page, that’s when he and I finally had the “oh my goodness, we’re having a baby” moment. And that was all the affirmation I needed that I had made the right choice. Up to that point, labor wasn’t something we were experiencing – it was something that was just happening to us. I mean, I had gone into the hospital “dehydrated” and annoyed, but suddenly I was medicated in a hospital bed, and I couldn’t really account for how I had gotten there. Once I calmed down and reclaimed that experience and that night, we were able to go through it with each other, and that is exactly what we had been wanting. His face changed, my spirit changed, and we were ready to have our tiny girl in our arms.
Of course, we still had fear about labor stalling, etc., but we were in the moment and not thinking that far forward. Our nurses were so great that night, specifically nurse Christy. When I was receiving my epidural and crying about it, she held me and was encouraging and comforting about how labor is a b****, and that whatever got me through was the right choice. She also helped me get settled once the epidural kicked in and I immediately begged to have it taken out – my legs were SO NUMB. Of course, they wouldn’t take it out, and Christy was a huge part in me feeling OK about the lack of feeling in my lower half.
This took place sometime around 2:00 am, and we were encouraged to get some rest since the rest of the day would be big. But because I couldn’t feel anything, I couldn’t relax. Believe it or not, I was more uncomfortable than I had been before the medicine. Don’t get me wrong – I NEEDED to have clarity and my mind back, and the epidural was the only way that could happen. So, for sanity (and I mean that literally), it was the right choice. However, physically, I was miserably uncomfortable.
They checked in on us every 15 minutes or so, helping me roll from side to side each time. This was to keep the epidural from settling on one side of my body. Each time they came in, I asked if they could remove the epidural because I disliked the feeling that much – each time I asked, the answer was no.
When they came to roll me and I asked for the epidural to be removed for the third time, the nurse ignored my request (can’t blame her at that point), but she tried to keep my spirits up by suggesting she check my progress. She gave it to me straight and told me that she didn’t expect much, but that she would check me and let my midwife know where I was, and that my midwife could come talk about the epidural at that point.
I wasn’t checked for dilation at all during pregnancy – my first experience was earlier that night, and it was all I needed in order to know it was awful. So, in that moment, I was thankful again for that epidural.
As the nurse did her thing, I watched her face change from “ok, here we go,” to “OK! HERE WE GO!” She wasn’t hopeful that I would have progressed at all (it had only been a little over an hour since the epidural), however, she found that I had progressed ALL THE WAY. I was 5 cm (I think?) when they administered the epidural, and I was a full 10 when she checked on me (an hour-ish later). Turns out, before the epidural, my body was freaking out and it couldn’t do anything it needed to in order to have a baby. If I had continued the route I was on, there’s a good chance I would have labored for days without progression. Once the epidural was administered, my body took a chill-pill and did what it needed to get things moving along.
True to her word, the nurse did get my midwife and talked to her about my epidural. My midwife came in to double-check my status, and she and the nurse asked me to do a few practice pushes while prepped for delivery. They kept explaining how to push, and I kept trying to do what they asked. They’d say “ok, give it a try.” I’d try with all my might and say, “like that?” To which they’d flatly say, “No.” We did this a few times, and my midwife decided to cut the epidural in half. I couldn’t feel anything I was doing, which meant I wasn’t coming close to what they needed me to do. (another sidenote: I think her hesitation to cut the epidural came from her thought that I was wimpy and that it wasn’t as bad as I was acting like it was… I can’t really explain that, other than to say the feeling I was getting from her was never one of her truly buying-in to what was happening. definitely a bummer.)
I don’t know how much time passed or how long I pushed, but I do know that as soon as they cut the epidural and I could feel the true “wave” of contractions, everything changed. As I mentioned, up to that point, my contractions weren’t waves… there was no rise and fall, just an ongoing intensity that took away my breath (and my mind). I had felt like I was drowning in them – I couldn’t get my head above the water to catch my breath and regain my senses before the next would knock me under again. However, after the epidural was administered, I had calmed down and regained control. Then, once they cut the epidural, I finally felt those waves I had heard so much about.
Shane stood to my right and leaned on the bed, holding my hand and talking into my ear. As each contraction would come, the nurses and midwife would coach me through pushing, and he would talk softly and calmly, encouraging me and pushing me to get through it. Delivery was something that my logical mind wanted to segment and compartmentalize, but his talking me through kept it intimate and emotional and something that we were going through together.
Like I said, I don’t know how long I pushed. Winnie wasn’t able to “find her way,” and she kept getting stuck behind my pelvic bone. They had me try a few different options, including holding a bedsheet in the middle while my nurse held the ends while standing behind the midwife… basically putting my midwife in the direct path that, if I let go, I would clothesline (and I was certain, kill) her. But once she cleared that hurdle, it was incredible. I could feel exactly when she had gotten past it, and I knew exactly where she was in my body from that point forward. The epidural had taken away my incoherency but had left me useless from the waist down as a trade-off. But once they minimized it, the pain was apparent and I felt every detail (and the pain that goes with those details). I was aware of every move she made. (a detail for mommas-to-be who are considering whether an epidural is the right choice… something I didn’t know at the time (that ended up being a huge bonus for me) is the epidural helped my body deliver more slowly, resulting in less… damage/tearing (as in none). I want to keep this from being too detailed, but know that I healed infinitely faster because of the epidural.)
From that point, it went very quickly. A few pushes, a ring of fire, and I could tell she was here. Of course, Shane had no idea since he was so focused on me. It wasn’t until the nurse said, “look what I have!” that he turned to see her retrieve his baby girl (which wasn’t something he was planning on witnessing).
The midwife placed her directly onto my chest. In fact, I don’t know if she was delivered completely before she was being put on me – she went from the womb to my arms in less than a second. Shane and I just looked at each other, both of us thinking, “oh, ok, so she’s here now.” It was amazing, and we loved the fact that she was finally on this side. It’s funny though… I think we both were expecting some magical, mystifying moment, but it was such a simple, pure moment. It was like she was a part of us that we had simply been missing, and now she was finally here to complete the puzzle. Don’t get me wrong, having her here was magical and incredible, but it was also just how it was supposed to be. It was as if we had been waiting for her to complete this journey, and now that she was finally home, we could breathe again.
I held onto her while my body did what was left to do (for record-keeping, I want to include that my placenta had an accessory lobe, meaning there were two placentas that were attached to each other – this was something we had no idea about until delivery, so it was a surprise to see (and we were all very thankful that it didn’t cause any issue, since we didn’t know to look for it or expect it)).
We sat in our little bubble together for about an hour before she was weighed/measured/bathed. When they gave her back to me, she was squishy and soft and I couldn’t let go. On my chest, there was a warmth and weight to her that I had been waiting for. When Shane took her to hold her for the first time, I could see our lives changing into exactly what we didn’t know we needed. Watching him hold her, I could see how there had been a void that we didn’t know about, but now it was filled and we were perfectly fitting together.
We took the first couple of hours of her life to spend as a family of three. We remarked on her calmness, and we all soaked in the peacefulness that had replaced the bustling of delivery just hours before. I also didn’t think once about the labor I had experienced just hours before. It’s not that I had forgotten, but that the present was outshining anything that had happened in the 11 hours leading up to it. There was a great redemption in the birth of this tiny person, and we were soaked in that grace and mercy.
20.5 inches long, 7 lb 1.9 oz