I thought it would be a fun idea to share our birth story now that little miss Charlotte is a week old! But before you continue reading, I do want to warn you that there is probably more information than anyone wants or needs to know, especially for those that are not expecting and don’t care about the laboring and delivery process. For those of you that are the latter, it might be best to skip over this post.
I hope this post is informative for those that are expecting, but also keep in mind that everyone has a different labor and delivery experience and no two women or pregnancies are the same. I will be completely honest in this post with the hope that it informs and does not scare anyone. Again, this was the most amazing experience of my life and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but there are elements of labor that are just plan painful and not fun. And no book or post or show can truly prepare you for it.
So on that note, here’s Charlotte’s birth story.
Last Saturday morning I started to have my “bloody show” as they call it – when the mucus plug starts to fall out. Of course from all our classes and online reading, this can happen at any time and doesn’t necessarily mean labor is on the way. Mine kept coming throughout the whole day. I thought this was abnormal so I called our doctor and they said it wasn’t. They said I could start to labor today or in a week. So I just kept an eye on it and we continued our day as any other day.
We took a long walk on Saturday evening and when we got home I started to have really bad lower back pain and bad menstrual pain. I didn’t feel anything in my actual tummy area where baby was so it was hard to tell if this was a contraction or just a random event. We decided to wait and see what happens. Then these pains continued to come, so we decided they were probably contractions and started timing them around 11:30 p.m. For those that are expecting and have smart phones, we used a free app called Full Term to time our contractions and it was awesome! All you had to do was push the start and stop button at the beginning/end of each contraction and it gives you the length of the last contraction as well as averages over the past hour and six hours.
The contractions were all over the place, some really close together and others much farther apart. The back pain was very unpleasant and I was not comfortable in bed. I was also nauseated. I know they say to eat while you labor at home because you’re not allowed anything but ice chips at the hospital, but I was not hungry and I was afraid I would throw up if I ate. I tried laying on my back and my sides and couldn’t get relief. So I laid down on the floor over our exercise ball and that helped a lot! I’m not going to lie, all I wanted to do was go to sleep, but with the contractions about every 8-12 minutes apart, I could hardly close my eyes before the next one came. By early morning they were getting stronger, but not closer together. I also found a lot of relief just walking around the house. I went outside and walked around our patio for a while and the fresh air was nice. When a contraction came on, I found it was really helpful to have one thing to focus on – it didn’t matter what it was – a spot on the patio, a design on the rug, a photo. I would just focus on that item and my breathing making sure to take deep breaths.
After almost 12 hours of laboring at home we decided to call the doctor as we honestly weren’t sure when to go to the hospital. Our classes said not to go until 5-1-1, which means the contractions are 5 minutes apart for one minute each for one hour. Well, again, my contractions were all over the place and at one point were almost 5:30 minutes apart, but then would go up to 7, 8 or 9 minutes apart. But the pain was definitely getting stronger. The doctor said to just go to the hospital, so we put the bags in the car and started our journey. This was very emotional for me and I knew that once we left, we would be coming home with a baby. Tears were definitely shed from a combination of excitement, anxiety, fear and lack of sleep.
We arrived at the hospital around 11:45 a.m. and they got me dressed in the gown and put two monitors on my belly – one to track my contractions and the other to monitor baby’s heart rate. After some initial paperwork, the nurse checked my cervix and I was 2 cm dilated and 90% effaced. I was 1 cm at our last appointment so there was some progress. By the strength of the contractions I thought I would be dilated a little more, but things picked up quickly from there. After all my vitals were checked the nurse wanted to talk to the doctor about what his thoughts were since we were past our due date but I wasn’t dilated too much. They decided to admit me and come break my water! (The nurse said that they do send some people back home if they aren’t seeing much progress, so I was relieved to hear we were staying). About a half hour later the doctor came in and checked me and I was at 4 cm! It was all starting to move fast now, so they broke my bag of waters. I didn’t feel a thing other than a long gush of warm water and some pressure. Plus, little Charlotte was ready to come out as she was really low, which was perfect. I did ask how she was positioned because I was afraid with all my back pain that she was on my spine, but she was sideways. Everyone’s contractions are different and I thought it very interesting that all my pain was in my back and lower pelvis.
Before the doctor came in to break the water, we discussed pain medications with the nurse. Jed and I had discussed this many times and I determined that an epidural was something I would want if the pain was too much for me to handle. I had no expectations for what the pain would be like, but I was still shocked at how much the contractions did hurt. So we said yes to the epidural, but no to the analgesics. So once the doctor saw that I was progressing and dilating, they did some blood work to send to the lab to determine if I was ok to have the epidural. That took about a half hour for the lab to analyze, which felt like forever as the contractions were now close together and really strong. I thought I was going to break the railing off my bed squeezing it so hard during the contractions. I also threw up a few times during contractions, which is also completely normal. Once the blood work came back they called the anesthesiologist. Thankfully it wasn’t a busy day and they were there pretty quickly.
I’ve heard epidural’s hurt, but I only felt a very small pinch when they put in the Novocaine. It only took about 10 minutes from start to finish and they give you a dosage straight away to make sure it’s taking effect in the right places. I’ll tell you what, I have never felt so much relief in my life! My back pain went away almost instantly and I could finally think about bringing this wonderful baby into the world instead of dreading the next painful contraction. The nice thing about the epidural was that while I couldn’t feel anything below my mid-section, I was still able to move my legs. I think Jed was a little taken back by the epidural though as he was able to watch them do everything. Probably a good thing I couldn’t see it, but at that point, I was just hoping my contractions would be far enough apart so that I wouldn’t have one while they were putting it in.
Once the epidural was in, I finally got to relax. I tried to fall asleep, but the adrenaline was too much. Jed and I just spent the time talking and watching a little t.v. in the room. The nurse came to check on me every hour and to help me change positions. So I was on my right side for an hour and then my left side for an hour. She checked my cervix every other hour and I was at 5 cm dilated an hour after the epidural was in. I couldn’t feel any contractions, but Jed had a fun time watching the monitor and letting me know when I was having one and how intense it was. After another hour the nurse decided to give me the smallest dosage of pitocin because the contractions were strong, but weren’t getting closer together. After being on the pitocin for about 2 hours, she checked me again and I was at 8 cm dilated! It was getting close to push time! I actually was dilating to 9 cm while she was checking so she decided to start getting the room ready and to page the doctor to let them know it wouldn’t be too much longer. She estimated it would be about 45 minutes before I was 10 cm and ready to start pushing. So our delivery nurse and another nurse came in and got the room all set up for delivery. It was so crazy to see the little warmer and all the blankets coming out. Such an exciting time.
Sure enough about 45 minutes later I was all the way dilated to 10 cm and the nurse wanted me to give a couple pushes before calling the doctor in. Jed and the nurse helped hold my legs and I started to push. The only difficult part about this was that I couldn’t feel myself pushing, but I was able to start feeling my contractions in my upper uterus, so it was easy to know when to push. The nurse was also fabulous in guiding me through the pushes. With those first few pushes, Jed got to see the top of our little girl’s head and her hair!
They called in the doctor once she was really crowning and then everything happened so quickly. From start to finish, I probably pushed for about 20 minutes. It was such an extreme experience, especially once her head was out (which I could see). Once her head was out, the rest of her body just slid right out. The doctor held her up for Jed to get a quick photo and then immediately put her on me. We were both crying, me from joy, her probably from the extreme stress she just was under. Jed and the nurse took her over to get her cleaned up and weighed while the doctor stitched me up. Why did I have to get stitched up?
THIS NEXT PART IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART (AND PROBABLY IS TOO MUCH INFORMATION). CONSIDER YOURSELF WARNED.
During delivery I did have a tear, which is pretty typical. Unfortunately mine was pretty severe. They rate them from 1-4 with 1 being a small tear and 4 being the worst. I was a 3rd degree tear and they also had to conduct an episiotomy, which was the one thing I was dreading during delivery. I know they did it for my benefit so that I wouldn’t tear even more, but let’s just say that was a sound I never want to hear again (yes, I could hear it). As the doctor said, she had a big head and I’m not necessarily a big girl. This is where I am so glad I had an epidural as I could not feel a thing. The doctor stitched me up, they cleaned up the room and then they handed me our little girl.
I am breastfeeding, so it was really important to start bonding with her and to get her on the breast immediately. She did great! She latched on both and got her first meal and immunization.
My parents arrived literally a couple of minutes after she was born so after we breastfed, my parents and younger brother got to meet the newest little addition to our family. Everything was beautiful.
After about two hours, they moved us from the birthing unit to the maternity ward and took her to the nursery to get everything checked out. The next few days were a little rough on me, both physically and emotionally. Physically speaking, the tear and episiotomy was extremely sore and uncomfortable. I was on pain medications throughout the hospital stay and at home. Walking, sitting and especially going to the restroom was painful. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not fully recovered yet, but I feel 1000% better than when I left the hospital and am able to do most everything in terms of taking care of baby now. I am so glad Jed was there every minute because I really could not do much other than breastfeed and sit in bed with an occasional walk and shower. So daddy got to change a lot of diapers and learn how to swaddle.
Emotionally speaking I was tested with breastfeeding and the fact that I was pretty much couch-ridden for a couple days. I can completely understand now how they say women can lose their confidence and give up and just go to formula. The second day she did not want to latch on at all and we would only be successful every once in a while. And by the second day she was really getting fussy because she wanted more but my milk wasn’t in yet, so we had some long cries. While at the hospital we did do an SNS feed twice. This is where they take formula and put it in a small dispenser with a long, narrow tube and strap it to the breast so that the baby gets food, but still has to work the breast to get it. That did the trick and she was a happy, full baby. My milk finally came in the evening we came home and since then we have had NO problems latching on and feeding. She is a very hungry little girl and has already gained her birth weight back. The other emotional part was being at home and not being able to really do much for baby as I was still recovering. I felt inadequate to say the least, but again, that passed much more quickly than I anticipated.
But for all those women out there considering breastfeeding, just be patient. It will happen, but it will test you. It’s definitely hard to think that you can’t provide for your new baby, but it’s only for a limited amount of time (if at all) and it’s okay to supplement in a way that doesn’t deter the baby from breastfeeding. The nurses were awesome and so helpful and encouraging – take advantage of them as well as the lactation consultant if they come to visit.
So overall, here are my quick points based on our experience having our first child:
1. The pain is intense, but it’s short and will go away. And it means you’re that much closer to welcoming baby. As our instructor said during our class, once you have a contraction, you never have to think about that one again. It’s all progress.
2. It’s okay to be filled with a mix of emotions. You’re already hormonal, but this is a life changing event and you’re allowed to cry, laugh, yell, etc.
3. Just breath. Breathing was probably the one thing that helped me the most during contractions. Just focus on taking deep breaths and know that it will be over shortly.
4. Be patient. Throughout this whole process, baby and your body are making the game plan. Let them (and your nurses) guide you. Everything will happen in good time – from delivery to breastfeeding.
5. Enjoy every moment. It’s such a rush when you finally get to see your little baby and hear their first cries. Take it all in as it does actually go by really fast. I was technically in labor for about 18 hours, which seems like a long time, but really, it felt like a few hours.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Everyone is there to help you, so whether it’s your doctor, nurse, pediatrician, lactation consultant, etc., ask questions.
Hopefully this is helpful for those of you expecting, as I know a few of you are. I can’t wait to continue to share little Charlie’s journey with all of you.