WARNING: The following post contains graphic descriptions of childbirth.
My due date was June 16, 2017. In the weeks leading up to my due date, I had decided against having cervical checks at my weekly appointments because I had read that they could be painful and was not a reliable indicator of when birth may occur. Some women are dilated a few centimeters and go another week without giving birth. Others are completely closed up and give birth the next day. I decided there was no reason to put myself through that invasive check-up until it was useful and necessary. My OB also didn’t push me to have them yet.
I was convinced that I would be overdue, since the very first result on Google claims that the average first time mom gives birth at 41 weeks and 1 day when no intervention was used. However, other articles and sources indicate that most mothers (even first time) typically give birth before the due date. This is also what my OB told me. I was also convinced that I would mostly likely have a C-section. My mother had C-section births for both of her kids, and I was prepared for this fate for me as well. In hindsight, this mindset was probably beneficial in helping me achieve a positive birthing experience, with low expectations.
Just Like in the Movies!
On Friday, June 9, I had been having intermittent, mild contractions throughout the evening. I didn’t think too much of it since they weren’t regular or painful, and this wasn’t the first time I had felt them. I went to bed around 10:30 pm. The next thing I knew, I felt a gush between my legs, like someone poured a gallon of warm water out of me. I ran for the bathroom, dripping along the way and more fluid gushed into the toilet. I thought the majority of it had passed, so I hobbled towards the office, where my husband was hanging out with a friend. As I got closer, I started leaking more, so I had to grab a towel and hold it between my legs. I opened the door and told my husband that my water just broke.
I was still leaking so I hopped into the bathtub and then tried calling my OB. The midwife called me back and told me that because my contractions hadn’t really started yet, I could either go into the hospital now or wait until morning unless I progressed sooner. I knew I wouldn’t be able to go to sleep, so we decided to go in. We finished packing our stuff and threw in a load of laundry of all of the fluid soaked linens.
I was actually very happy that my water broke. I was hoping that it would but knew the chances were slim, since only about 10-15% of women’s water break spontaneously before labor begins, contrary to what TV and movies have us believe. I hated the thought of going into the hospital and then being sent away because I wasn’t dilated enough or my contractions were strong enough to be admitted. This way, I knew that I couldn’t be turned away!
I got admitted at 3 am and got my IV access port put in. I had my first ever cervical check and was at 4 cm, which was a very nice surprise, considering my contractions were not strong. My husband and I tried to get some rest before morning. The nurse that was on call that day came in to introduce herself, and it turns out, she went to the same high school as my husband. What are the chances!
At 8 am, they came to check me again and no progress had been made. They told me they would start me on Pitocin after a shower and breakfast. They started me on 2 drops of Pitocin, increasing by 2 drops every 20 minutes. My contractions started getting slightly stronger. A lot of family members were stopping by at that point. It was a little awkward, during my contractions, because everyone else just stared at me, and I felt like I had to try to hide my reaction. The contractions still felt like uncomfortable cramps at that point.
After I was getting 4 drops, my OB decided that they were going to increase my Pitocin by 6 drops all at once. After that happened, the contractions really started to ramp up, both in frequency and intensity. During each contraction, I would get a strong desire to pee. I tried to hold back because I didn’t want to pee myself but I finally gave in and instead of pee, amniotic fluid gushed out . I didn’t realize that after my water broke, fluid would be continuously leaking out until birth. The contractions were lasting 45-55 seconds long, with less than 2 minutes in between.
Soon, the contractions started to get excruciating. I dreaded the anticipation of the start of each one and was praying that extra breathing exercises in between would prolong the gap time. I asked the nurse about medication options, and she said that she could give me Fentanyl right away through my IV, as well as order the fluids I would need before getting an epidural. I felt the Fentanyl right away, and that relieved a lot of the pain. I felt extremely sluggish and out of it, and even though I could still feel the contractions, they weren’t as bad. However, that only lasted about 20 minutes. The rest of the time, I was watching the clock until the 1 hour mark, when my fluid bag would be empty and the anesthesiologist would be there. Time has never passed so slowly.
My husband, who is normally an anxious person, was amazingly calm throughout the whole process. He was the best coach I could have asked for when the pain was getting to be unbearable. He helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel and acted as my stress ball, since the hospital strangely did not have any. Something I didn’t know before giving birth was that once contractions get intense, any shift in position causes them to become more frequent before it settles down again. Going to the bathroom and sitting up for the epidural made them a lot worse.
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Finally, the anesthesiologist arrived. I had to sit up on the edge of the bed for him to place it. I didn’t feel anything except a bee sting prick in my back, and the whole process lasted about 10 minutes. I felt improvement in the pain right away. Once the epidural was fully in effect, I could still feel and move my legs; they just felt tingly, like they were asleep. I could also still feel the pressure from the contractions, but not the pain. Every few minutes, the contractions would feel like pressure in my butt, like I needed to poop. I was silently praying that I would not poop on the table.
After about an hour, they checked me again and said that I was fully dilated, but that I would wait to push until the contractions felt continuous, rather than intermittent. However, the nurse checked with the OB, and he said that we could start pushing now. My mom and my husband each took one leg and I was instructed to push 3 times for 10 seconds during each contraction. I wasn’t feeling any pain at that point so the pushing wasn’t bad at all. The worst part was that I felt like I was straining so much that I was going to pop a blood vessel. The pushing was very productive and after about 30 minutes, the OB got called in for the delivery. After another push, I could feel the pressure at the opening, and the nurse said to stop and wait for the next contraction so that I could stretch.
Welcome to the World!
Baby Elijah was born during the next contraction. It was the strangest feeling, fluid and limbs coming out all at once. He was put on a blanket on my chest for skin to skin and my husband cut the cord. I got 2nd degree tears, and the OB worked on stitching me up for about 30 minutes. Certain parts of the sewing stung, especially towards my backside. The pushing on my stomach for the placenta was also not very pleasant, but I wasn’t too concerned at that point. Eli was quite alert and calm after he got wiped off and he stayed on my chest for 40 minutes. Then he got weighed and measured before he got handed back to me.
The laboring time was quite short, considering it was my first baby. The Pitocin was started at 9 am, and he was born at 2:30 pm. Overall, it was the best birthing experience I could have hoped for. It was quick, relatively pain-free, and with no complications.