Natalie is SUPER PREGNANT and will be giving birth this month (!!!!) At this point in my pregnancy, I had stopped consuming birth stories because I didn’t want to hear about anyone’s labor that wasn’t my own. I was a grumpy, frustrated mass of non-sleep over the fact that this kid wasn’t coming out a week or two early as I’d hoped. Since you’re probably not getting much comfortable sleep anyway, might as well read my first baby’s birth story, friend:
My pregnancy was almost boring in how unproblematic it was. We didn’t “see” the baby after the 20 week anatomy scan & the plan was to induce at 41 weeks if he didn’t come on his own. I had been 1 cm and 70% effaced at my 38 week appointment and then had zero change for the next two weeks. I’d had mild, sporadic period cramps for weeks that never amounted to anything, and I’d lost chunks of my mucus plug over the last three weeks. (If you’re reading this like MUCUS PLUG!??!?!? it’s exactly what it sounds like. And that’s what it looks like. If you can’t get your mind around a mucus plug, you might just wanna be completely unconscious for the birth because it doesn’t get any better from here.)
Mentally, I was crawling the walls because I’d started self-employed maternity leave when we moved houses at 36 weeks. (Do not recommend moving during the third trimester! But a million percent worth getting done before the baby arrives!) I did all the things: eating dates, having sex, walking day and night, drinking red raspberry leaf tea, bouncing on an exercise ball, labor-inducing massage… nothing happened. I was finally very physically uncomfortable at 39+5– breathing was getting really hard and I assumed it was because the baby had gotten quite big.
My OB practice has many doctors on staff, so I met a new-to-me doctor at my 40 week appointment. I was insanely out of breath just walking the one flight of stairs from the lobby to the OB clinic, but was told “well, yeah, you’re 40 weeks pregnant.” The nurse then said my blood pressure was “a bit high” which bowled me over because I have hereditarily low blood pressure, and my numbers had looked perfect all pregnancy. She read it at 144/80, and took it again at the end of the appointment- 128/88. The doctor didn’t love those numbers, but was pretty cavalier about the whole thing. He said my cervix wasn’t yet favorable so an induction wasn’t a great option. I was scheduled to come back on Thursday at 40+3 to check my blood pressure and see if they wanted to induce before the weekend. I asked if I should get an at home blood pressure cuff and he said no, just go right to the hospital if I experienced swelling or a sudden headache. I tried to not think about it the rest of the night, but I just didn’t feel awesome about the whole interaction. I told my husband if I was expected to just wait til Thursday for news of induction or not, I was at least going to get a cuff to monitor my own blood pressure.
The next morning, my at home blood pressure readings were 128/99 and 119/94. I had a bit of a headache but also hadn’t been sleeping well so didn’t want to read too much into it. The Internet told me the bottom number was quite alarming, but since the top ones weren’t insane, I was confused on what to do so left a message for the on-call nurse at my OB clinic. About an hour later, she called to say they were scheduling me for an induction later that night based on my blood pressure readings and that the baby was full term. Induction wasn’t part of my ideal birth scenario, but I was so ready to be done with pregnancy that I got pretty giddy.
They had me immediately go to a drive thru clinic to get a COVID swab, then we were to arrive at the hospital at 7:30 pm. The house was already pretty clean due to my severe boredom, so I took a long shower, checked and re-packed my hospital bag, told a select few friends what was happening, then curled my hair figuring it’d still look half-decent whenever I finally wore it down again. I think we had chili for dinner and watched an episode or two of Chopped, trying to play it cool but knowing that this was our last night of quiet for, like, ever.
After getting admitted and settled in at the hospital, Cervidil was placed at 8:30 pm. I was warned that for a first time mom at basically zero dilation, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to need multiple rounds or for this to take multiple days. (Um, no thank you! I’m here to have a baby ASAP!) They did give me an Ambien for sleep, which was somewhat effective given the circumstances; I got maybe 4-5 hours of broken sleep. The nurses started rounds at 6 am and it was a beautiful thing that they let me eat breakfast, have coffee, and take a shower before my next cervical check. The baby was super low, and the doctor was shocked I had gotten to 3 cm and 80% effaced overnight. We agreed she could break my water and then start Pitocin at a 2 at 8 am.
My ideal birth scenario was to labor without pain medication. The hospital was super respectful of my decisions and assigned me a nurse who was also a trained doula. She was an amazing support and taught me breathing techniques and suggested many different labor supports and positions. An hour and a half in, the Pitocin was upped to 6 and I was having doubts about my no meds decision. By 10 am (4 cm) I knew there was no way I was meeting this baby without pain management. The nurse was almost too good at respecting my wishes and I had to communicate many times that yes, I know I said I didn’t want an epidural, but that was the before times and I definitely want one now! It took until about 11:15 to get it placed, but it was 1,000% the right choice for me. I’m actually quite proud that normally inflexible me realized my limits. I remember thinking, “If I get to meet this baby today either way, why not take the help and be able to not completely hate the experience getting there?” It was a wonderful epidural for someone who still wanted to feel things– I could move my legs and DEFINITELY still feel pressure and some pain, it just no longer felt like an 18-wheeler semi truck of flames was ripping through my midsection every few minutes.
I was worried the epidural would stall labor, but I was at 7 cm by noon and my mood was markedly less demonic. I started getting the urge to bear down around 1 pm but I didn’t want to get my hopes up, so finally had the nurse check me at 1:40 and I was at a 10! The on call doctor was at another hospital so we tried some practice pushes shortly after 2 pm. Apparently I’m a real effective pusher (thanks, three years of obsessive barre exercise!) and I was told to STOP pushing. The doctor– whom I’d never met before!- delivered my son while running in with her gown untied at 2:43.
The epidural did not take all the pain of pushing away, and pushing was not my favorite part. It felt so unnatural to be pushing that hard and holding my breath- seriously a physical feat. I had a mild second degree tear and thank God I was obsessed with the baby on my chest so I could be distracted from the stitches that I could definitely feel getting sewn in. He was so slippery and cried so loud and for so long! I kept looking over my shoulder at my husband (good job staying away from the carnage, husband) like “Do you see him?! Do you see this?! This is happening?!” We did delayed cord clamping and then enjoyed skin-to-skin for an hour before they took him to get measured and cleaned up. Well, I enjoyed it– the baby shrieked like a pterodactyl for most of it. He was not happy about his sudden eviction.
…am I supposed to tell you about all the gory after parts now?? Maybe a different post. Just know that a lot of fluids will GUSH OUT OF YOU for a VERY LONG TIME after.