As the day for Finn’s birth drew near, I tried to imagine how everything would unfold. I only had one other pregnancy/birth to reference, but I also knew that every experience is different, just as we are all unique souls. Like the title says, this was Finn’s story, not mine, so it was just a matter of waiting to see what God had in store for us.
With my first birth experience, everything happened just the way I thought it was supposed to, beginning with one distinct (yet weak) contraction and continuing to increase throughout the day in the three important areas: Strength, Frequency and Consistency. That time it led me to the hospital after over an hour of consistent contractions and was followed almost immediately by my water breaking. I got the epidural, took a nap and finished up a couple hours later. That is a very condensed version of what happened the first time, when I had Miles. You can read his full birth story here. This time, however, was anything but consistent…
The Birth Story Begins
Early Thursday morning (around 1:00 am) on April 30 I woke up to pee and began to feel what could be “real” contractions. The pregnancy had been full of strong Braxton Hicks contractions, so I wasn’t ready to declare labor officially on until they were strong, consistent and frequent. I was too nervous to go back to sleep (plus… I was 39 weeks pregnant, so sleep was a rare gift anyway), so I jumped on my computer and tried to finish the packing list for the hospital bag. As I sat there, the contractions seemed to increase in intensity and (kind of) in frequency. This persuaded me to begin to actually pack the hospital bag. As I was rushing around as calmly as possible (with my insides all a flutter), Steven woke up and asked if something was up. I explained that I was feeling painful contractions, but they weren’t very consistent. He turned over and fell instantly back into his blissful sleep (I’m not bitter). I kept myself busy packing and repacking items. Every once in awhile I would have a very strong, painful contraction and think to myself “I have to get everyone in the car and go the hospital this very second! What if I don’t make it!?!” Fifteen uneventful minutes later I would realize I was silly and it was a good thing I didn’t send the household into panic mode. This rollercoaster of indecision continues throughout my story, but by 6 or so in the morning we had convinced ourselves that this was a sure thing and it would probably be wise to locate ourselves somewhere closer to the hospital. We packed the kid in the car and headed to the city to wait it out at Stevens parents. The hour before we left I’d had contractions every 5 or so minutes for an hour (although the intensity still varied). During the first ten minutes we were driving on the road I didn’t have a contraction and I began, once again, to doubt myself. By this time, however, the decision had been made and Steven had called into work, so we didn’t turn back.
Once we arrived at Steven’s parents house, I tried to take a relaxing bath. Cue two-year-old who thinks all baths are about him. I like to be left alone when I’m in pain so I quickly exited the bath and secluded myself to a corner of the house for a short while. Soon after I abandoned my bath, Steven asked how things were going. By now I was getting kind of frustrated because the contractions were not consistent. Occasionally I would have extrememly painful ones, some even 3 minutes apart, but they didn’t really keep it up. During one particularly strong contraction I told Steven there is no way I wasn’t in labor, please please please let’s go to the hospital so I can get closer to getting my epidural. By now it was 8:30 and my Dr.’s office was going to open at 9, so we waited for half an hour. Steven called the office for me and explained my situation (by this time the contractions were all pretty strong and had been consistent for that half hour). They said since it was my second baby to head on over the hospital for evaluation! Ahhh! It was happening!!!
At The Hospital
When we arrived at the birthing center at Shawnee Mission, I was still freaking out inside because I didn’t know if this was the right decision and yet I was relieved because I was finally going to be at the hospital and I felt like that meant something, I guess. They put me in the triage room and hooked up all the monitors and told me I would need to wait for the on-call doctor to check my progress. Meanwhile, I was having continued, inconsistent contractions. Some were 4 minutes apart, some 8… some would make me want to scream (if I had any breath left in my body) and some were like “wait, did that just happen?” It was kind of nerve racking. Also, the doctor I was waiting for had to rush off to an emergency cesarean and I had to stay in triage for another 30-45 minutes. Steven went out to the car to grab our things and I remember worrying that if they checked me and it turned out I hadn’t progressed enough we would just have to haul it all back. The nurse who handled the triage decided to admit me before we had actually confirmed I should stay because it would mean we wouldn’t have to repeat a bunch of paperwork stuff, but I still wasn’t convinced. Eventually the doc checked and said I was at 4cm and 80% effaced (I think) and could either go home and walk it out, stay at the hospital and walk it out or stay and get my epidural and have my water broken. I really didn’t want them to have to break my water but I was not enjoying the contractions and planned to have an epidural anyway. When the doctor found out it was my second baby she assured me that breaking my water would do the trick and that I should be able to deliver soon after that. I agreed to stay and get the epidural because I was anxious to feel that relief that I felt during my first labor, but I was starting to panic because I felt like I was losing control, that maybe I had made the wrong decision and I should have waited for things to progress more naturally.
With panic in full swing, they moved us to the delivery room while my brain continued to freak out… what if I was trying to rush things? What if something went horribly wrong and it was my fault for not waiting because I didn’t want to feel the pain? Every moment I felt like I just wanted it to be over and yet I was terrified for what was to come. I hadn’t eaten since early in the morning and had to stop eating at this point. Things started to feel even more weird when the shifts changed and I got a new nurse who I didn’t like. I probably didn’t give her a fair chance because I was in pain, panicking and only half sane. She had an accent that bugged me and a “positive” attitude that didn’t fool me and I felt like she wasn’t really listening to me most of the time. It seemed to take forever for her and the person helping her to get up to date on my situation and birth plan and get all the info plugged into the computer (again!). I kept telling the staff that I wanted to get the epidural and wait a bit to see if my water would break on it’s own, and went over some of the things in my birth plan, but often they told me that it probably wouldn’t work out the way I’d like. That was also kind of annoying. Plus the nurse checked my cervix again and announced that I was 3 cm and 50-60% effaced which was like going backwards from when I had arrived.
Finally the anesthesiologist arrived to give me my epidural. He was friendly and casual, but not very great at making me feel like I could trust him. At this point I was verging on paranoia, though and I didn’t feel like I could trust anyone or anything, not even (or especially not) myself. He tried to direct me into the right position for the epidural and he ran through a list of things to be absolutely terrified about so of course my thoughts were something like this “OMG OMG OMG What am I doing?!?! I can’t have a baby. Am I even here right now? It’s not too late to change my mind and leave, is it? It’s too late!!! I’m messing everything up. I’m going to die. Because I wanted to be comfortable. I’m so dumb” (Of course I didn’t really believe these things, it was the insanity and paranoia talking). After the first poke he asked me if it feels right (?!) and in the center or off to the left or right? Shouldn’t he know these things?! That did not help my confidence in his ability to do his job. I said it felt a little off center and he took out the needle and re-positioned, then it hurt so he re-positioned again. That time it felt off to the other side but I was just like whatever, I’m probably wrong. The third time did feel the best of them all and I didn’t trust my own judgement.
I spent the next while (not sure how long, maybe an hour or two?) trying to sleep. The nurse left me with instructions to let her know if I had any of the side effects they were worried about with the epidural (my paranoia wanted to say I had every single one somehow). She also told me she was going to change my blood pressure monitor to take readings less frequently. This was after she had just told me that they have to monitor it because the epidural could cause low blood pressure and a zillion resulting complications. So I spent my “nap” time waiting for the BP cuff to start taking it’s reading then asking Steven or my dad to go look at the screen (that was out of my view) to make sure I wasn’t dying. Also, I could still feel my contractions a bit (moderate pressure) and when I’d feel one that seemed extra strong, I would also make them go look and tell me the intensity. This whole time the contractions didn’t really get consistent. At best they were 5-7 minutes apart and varying in strength. I tried to calm myself, but I felt completely unsure about everything for those few hours until they broke my water.
Ah… then they come in to break my water. It wasn’t nearly as traumatizing as I had worried it would be. It actually ended up being quite reassuring because after the water broke my contractions began to get in line, get consistent in strength and closer together. As they increased in intensity, I realized I could still feel them pretty strongly. The epidural had taken the edge off (and they kept having me push a button to give me a boost that didn’t seem to help), but as the contractions increased I was really starting to feel them. Breaking my water really did the trick. It wasn’t long before I was dilated to 7 or 8 and 80% effaced. At this point my nurse decided it we could try the “peanut ball” to open up my hips or something and move things along. Oh boy did it. It was also about this time that she remembered to empty my bladder. I think, in the end, that’s what really pushed me to delivery. After a contraction or two with the ball between my legs, she wanted to turn me to my other side and we would try it again. But as she began to lower my legs together I screamed because it hurt so bad and demanded that she not let me legs fall together (lol). She was prepared to leave the room and let the contraption do it’s trick, but instead decided to check me again and I was 10cm and 100% and the baby was on his way. She ran to push the “OMG THIS LADY IS GOING TO HAVE A BABY” button and told me to wait because the doctor was coming. At this point I was in so much pain I am convinced the epidural had been rendered useless. I told my nurse that I felt like I really had to push and couldn’t stop it. She made me breathe through it and blow out this stupid imaginary candle that was actually just her annoying finger. (Obviously I’m still working through my bitterness lol). After two contractions where I wanted nothing more in the world than to push that baby out but instead I had to blow out a candle (so different, but it’s kind of amazing how it worked) I asked “WHY can’t I push yet!?! What are we waiting for!??!” and she says (with a completely lost expression on her face) “The doctor’s not here.” Umm… aren’t you a medically trained professional?! I trust my body and it wants to push, so let it push! Don’t torture me, woman!!! Anyway. The doctor breezes in like an angel along with her entourage and tells me I can push!!! GLORY!!! I can’t remember if it took 3 or 4 big pushes, but then that baby was out of there!
A wave of euphoria washed over me as they set Finn gently on my chest. I was so connected to my baby in this moment! Being a mom already had primed me for that experience and, having the opportunity to feel what I am convinced was every bit of the final delivery process, I felt such joy to have my baby there with me. He struggled a bit to breathe and didn’t try to root around or anything because he had some amniotic fluid in his lungs. After a quick minute with him on my chest while they tried to get him to cry, the pediatrician took him over and gave him a deep suction to clear out his lungs. After that he was breathing better, but was still grunting a bit. She warned me that he might not try to nurse right away and he didn’t for a little while. Because they had to suction anyway, they went ahead and cleaned him up and wrapped him up at that point and Steven and my parents got a chance to hold him. Eventually we tried nursing and there was some adjusting to be done, but it was a good start. Miles and Steven’s parents came by and we introduced the brothers and I simply sat there in my euphoria, feeling like an absolute bad-ass. Also, I got to eat chickfila (Finally! Food!). It was glorious… and yet, almost bland because it paled in comparison to what had just happened.
The rest of our stay was pretty good. The best part of the whole experience for me started the moment Finn was in my arms and continued throughout my recovery, which was quicker and easier than with my first. My hormones were a little out of whack and my paranoia kept rearing its ugly head throughout our stay and the week or two after (and still pops up in my life from time to time). There was a scare that maybe I had a blood clot in my calf and they were very good to check it out just in case, but found nothing. I’m pretty sure now that the pain was a result of the nurse dropping my leg during delivery and having it cramp up. This pushed our departure from the hospital a few hours, but eventually we took Finn and met back up with Miles and headed home as a family of four.
Those first few days brought moments I will forever treasure, like Miles meeting Finn for the first time and sitting peacefully in bed while Steven held Finn and we listened to opera music. The feeling of spring and stepping into the outside world again. Having my old “self” settle back into my body like an old friend who had been on vacation.
The beginning of my labor was full of uncertainty and fear and, while I truly believe everything happened how it was meant to and I’ll treasure every bit of this story forever, I probably would have wished that I had relaxed a bit more, waited awhile longer before going to the hospital and probably wouldn’t have had the epidural. I believe I felt every bit of the delivery itself and the epidural barely took the edge off the contractions. For the risks involved, it wasn’t worth it. It definitely didn’t work the way my first one had with Miles and I’m not sure I’d risk it again with another baby someday. We’ll see. I especially would have tried to strengthen myself more in my faith and lessened that paranoia. I think a big part of that paranoia was a result of my hormones and chemicals in my brain/body, but I could have handled it better.
Once my water broke I was much more relaxed, like I could finally accept what was happening and I was excited about it instead of terrified.
This time my mom was able to be there during delivery and I’m so happy she was and that I got to have both her and my dad there earlier in the day while I was laboring. It eased my mind and made the day and the memories extra special.
My husband was/is amazing and always flexible and ready to help me in any capacity I needed.
The recovery was so amazing. I am actually kind of happy that I got to experience the delivery, even the pain. Also, the physical recovery was pretty easy and I took some motrin on day two, but I didn’t have any narcotics afterwards and that was nice.
During the week following the birth I had some pretty intense paranoia and I still get it sometimes when my hormones are off. I haven’t felt fear like that since I was a little girl who was terrified of things I didn’t need to be scared of. I just try to remind myself that my fear is unreasonable.
I hope I didn’t dump too many things that sound negative into this post, because it really was a beautiful experience in the end. I’ll forever hold every minute of it in my heart and experience all over again the joy of working so hard to bring my son into the world and the miracle of holding him to my chest for the first time.