My birth plan was simply to have a baby. I had been seeing a doctor at a local small town hospital whose philosophy of birthing was along the same lines as mine—that is, that women have been doing this for a long time.
I could get an epidural if needed, and a C-section if needed, but mostly, the advice I was given was that my body would do most of the work, and if I could get by without an epidural, things could go a little faster. I was good with that.
So all I wrote on my little card that said “Our Birthing Plan” was that I simply planned on having a baby, however it was necessary to get the little monkey out healthy and safe.
I tucked the card into a basket of chocolate chip cookies that I had prepared for the doctors and nurses (ok, I love old-fashioned things and am a little bit of a brown-noser). And I apologized in advance for all the foul language that may come out of my mouth during this event called “labor.”
And here I was: at 40 weeks. Up until this point, I had no “regular” contractions, just occasional tightening. In fact, I was still wondering what a contraction felt like. But I didn’t worry about it, I figured that when I had one, I would know.
My due date was on a Saturday and in typical fashion, we were out at my in-laws farm for lunch. I could tell I was feeling a little crampy, but I had felt that way off and on for the past week.
Given the way I was feeling, it sounded good to just rest and read a book. So I proceeded to go home where I bounced on a birthing ball in our living room and read, “Jane Eyre.” My husband, was still at the farm working on his sister’s car, when he came home around 5pm.
We had decided to go to church at a neighboring parish in the morning rather than to our home parish that night, because I was honestly just tired of everyone asking me if I had had my baby yet. (Why do people even ask that? Isn’t it OBVIOUS?)
My cramps had gotten a little worse and hadn’t gone away, so I told my husband what I was feeling. I didn’t want to get too worked up, but in the meantime I downloaded a contraction timer app on my phone. I had been used to dismissing all these “cramps” since they always went away, but then I realized, “I AM due today. It’s going to happen sooner or later so I might as well be prepared.”
After supper, I started noticing times when the cramps were worse, and I could definitely tell when a certain cramp would start and then stop. So I got out my phone and started timing these definite contractions.
They were uncomfortable, but I was still able to go about doing things in the house. Later that night, my sister- in-law came over and the three of us watched a movie and my contractions continued. After she left, I decided to get back on the ball and continue to read while timing contractions.
They were getting closer together, and although a little bit more intense, they were not as intense as I figured a contraction should be for me to really be considered “in labor” (and yes, I was going off of what I had seen in the movies and other birthing videos of women moaning in pain and such, which was not the case here).
They were coming about five minutes apart, so I wondered if we should go to the hospital. But at about midnight or 1am, I decided to try to go to bed instead.
I had heard that you should try to rest as much as possible in early labor. I also reasoned that if I could fall asleep, then I must not really be in labor—at least I had never heard of anyone who had a baby in their sleep. Well, I did fall asleep, and though I still felt some contractions, I was able to get some good shut eye.
Sunday morning came and my contractions were still coming. I was definitely uncomfortable during mass, so when we got home, we started to pack the car to go to the hospital.
And then, all of a sudden, the contractions stopped.
I went for a couple walks around the block when I noticed that 20 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour would go by and I hadn’t had a single contraction. I was a bit frustrated. How can I have regular contractions for over 12 hrs and then they just stop? I was afraid that it could be a few more days until they started up again, and dang it, I was ready to meet this baby.
I was grateful, however, that we hadn’t gone to the hospital the night before! My goal was to stay at home during early labor as long as possible, so that I wouldn’t have to labor in the hospital for any longer than I needed to.
My husband, however, also reminded me that he didn’t want to have to pull over and deliver his own baby on the side of the road (we live in a rural area). It was kind of a gloomy Sunday, so we ate lunch and read and watched tv throughout the afternoon.
Then around 5pm, my contractions started coming again. I wasn’t going to get my hopes up (in case this was a repeat of the night before). But then, the contractions were getting longer and stronger. And I started to not be able to just continue talking or doing whatever I was doing. I just had to concentrate on breathing.
I went for a couple walks around the block, hoping that I’d stay in labor. I focused all my attention to trying to relax as much as possible so that the contractions could do their job, because I knew that tensing up would just be contradictory to progress.
When 9pm rolled around, the hubs decided to go to bed and get some sleep. But he said, “I think we’re going to the hospital tonight.”
Sure enough, around 11:30pm, my contractions had reached the 5-1-1 rule: 5 minutes apart, 1 minute in length, for 1 hour.
They still weren’t HORRIBLE (compared to those coming later!) but a few had been definitely very painful by this point, and I had to concentrate on breathing through them and trying to relax.
My husband got up to check on me, and when I told him the status, he said, “I think you should call the hospital. I’m going to get ready to go.”
I was still apprehensive about being too early, and I dreaded getting there and being told that I was only 1 or 2 cm dilated, but I knew my husband was right and I called the hospital. They told me to come in.
So off we were. We left our house at about midnight and got to our small town (pop. ~1500) hospital around 12:30am. No parking ramps, or exits, or fear of parking too far away.
We went into the hospital where we were greeted by two nurses that had everything ready in the room, and the check-in process was virtually nothing.
Simply calling ahead and telling them my name and that I was coming WAS the check-in process #smalltownadvantages.
When we got to my room, they had me change and lay on the bed so that they could do some monitoring of the contractions and the baby’s heartbeat.
I found this to be immensely uncomfortable since I enjoyed just walking during my contractions. They said that everything looked good, and that the doctor would be in soon.
In the meantime, I tried getting into some positions that were supposed to help with contractions: nothing offered relief. I asked for the birthing ball, but that didn’t help either.
Dr. H finally came and maybe around 1:15am checked to see how far I was dilated— here was the moment of truth—when he said I was at 5 cm, I was so relieved. Since my water hadn’t broken yet, he told me that he was going to break it.
And suddenly that’s when the pedal hit the metal. We went from beginner marathon pace, to 100m Olympian speed. It was like a gun had been fired and my body wanted to race to the finish.
The next two hours were a blur of contractions, throwing up, going the bathroom and losing my mind. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that I couldn’t control any of this—it was just happening, and I wasn’t used to not being in control of my own body.
I kept throwing up so they gave me something for the nausea. There was hardly any relief between contractions. “Can I take a bath or something?” I asked the nurses (and not very nicely I might add). “I don’t think you have time for that honey,” was the reply.
I remember thinking that I thought this was going to be like running a marathon. Well, I have run a marathon before, and the difference was that I could stop and walk whenever I wanted to. I had control over my body. This was NOT like running a marathon after all. Not physically, anyway.
At 2:15am they wanted to monitor me again, and I was 8 cm dilated. At least all this pain was working. By this time I decided to surrender, accepting that nothing was “comfortable.”
I stayed on the bed laying on my side clutching the bed rails and the crucifix that we had gotten from my sisters’ wedding, and panting quite heavily (in through the nose and out through my mouth, like the nurses told me to do).
I closed my eyes and vowed to get an epidural next time. I moaned in pain, only cursing occasionally. I looked at the crucifix in my hand and thought, “How did the martyrs do it?”
I realized my weakness. During this whole time, my husband kept whispering encouraging words in my ear and those words continued to be my only relief. Thankfully this was all happening quickly.
By 3:00, Dr. H told me I was fully dilated and I could push whenever I felt the urge. I waited a couple minutes and suddenly I felt very distinctly the baby move down and my body pushing involuntarily.
The crew in the room moved me from my side to an inclined position on my back and my legs in the stirrups, with my husband at one side and the nurse at the other, and Dr. H in the catching position. I had my eyes closed the whole time, as I concentrated on my body. And then I started pushing.
With my first few pushes I realized how tired I was, and how pathetic my pushes were. I knew I was going to have to push harder than that if this baby was going to be born, and I was discouraged.
I kept saying, “I can’t do this!” but my husband kept telling me otherwise. I finally opened my eyes in between pushing and when I saw my husband’s face, it was like a dose of encouragement.
He was so excited, so enthusiastic, so full of energy. He would tell me, “You are so strong. You can do this. I love you!” (As encouraging as it was however, I was, at the same time, seriously considering that this would be our only child and that we would be getting separate beds when we got home).
I could tell we were making progress through my husband’s increasing excitement. “I can see the head! And it’s full of beautiful hair!”
I’ll never forget Dr. H’s words while I was pushing: “Just a couple more pushes, and then…” I was thinking he would conclude his thoughts with an encouraging phrase like “You’ll know whether you have a little boy or girl!” or “You’ll get to meet your baby!” or perhaps something along the lines of what I was thinking which was “Labor will be over!”
But he didn’t say any of those things. He said very matter of factly, “Just a couple more pushes and then….life gets a little more hectic.”
At the time, I thought, “What? Why are you saying that?”
But there was no time to think through that — another contraction was coming, and I loudly announced it. I took a deep breath in and out and then my husband grabbed one leg and the nurse grabbed the other, and they all yelled, “PUSH!!! YOU CAN DO IT! COME ON!!! ONE MORE!!!”
I kept thinking, “It will all be over soon…” I just wanted this baby out and for labor to be over.
The nurse said, “Well you’ve only been pushing for 40 minutes,” and my mind regurgitated all the birth stories I had read of women pushing for 3+ hours.
I just remember thinking, “Oh, I am NOT doing this for much longer lady!”
So I finally decided: “I AM PUSHING THIS BABY OUT, AND I AM NOT GOING TO STOP PUSHING UNTIL IT IS OUT OF ME.” So I pushed with all my might until the “ring of fire” came. The head was out. I’m pretty sure I yelled, “OUCH!!!” really loud. And then one more push, and out she came.
I don’t even really recall anyone in particular saying, “It’s a girl,” but someone said it softly, and I more so remember seeing her girly parts and thinking, “I knew she was a girl!” and being relieved since we had a girl’s name picked out already.
They put her right on my chest, and just like that, labor was over.
The nurses went into action, but it was a whirl. It was just surreal. I felt like I was in a movie or something. I felt like I was living someone else’s life. I had been in the convent at one point for goodness sake!
And here I am laying with my baby on my chest and my husband at my side and looking at the clock and seeing it was only quarter after 4am. As painful as labor was, it had gone fast and all was healthy and safe.
It all seemed like a dream, or more like, I was just kind of out of it and tired.
I think at that moment and the couple days following, I was just in disbelief — as if the previous nine months hadn’t just happened, and I was thinking, “This is our baby? What? We have a baby? WHHHATTT?? This is crazy! Labor actually happened? I actually had her?? She’s really here now??”
I was surprised I didn’t feel emotional at all, probably because I didn’t have a moment’s rest while the nurse pulled down my maternity bra and this little human I just pushed out started suckling at my breast and in my startled self, my naturally overconfident inclination upon introduction to anything new kicked in and I thought, “Oh!…Yeah…Umm, Ok. Yeah, no, I’ve done this lots of times, so it’s no big deal…right?”
After an hour or two of pure dumbfoundedness, a nurse came in and said, “So, you want breakfast?” to which my husband and I both answered in an emphatic “YES,” and soon there were trays in front of us with every breakfast item on it that the hospital offered.
It was hospital food (and I probably skipped the powdered scrambled eggs or maybe just doused them in ketchup), but the sun was just coming up, and as that early morning light was streaming into our room my husband and I ate that wonderful meal with our baby girl at our side and it was GLORIOUS.
I think I was expecting that after labor, I would be able to get a nice long sleep, eat some food, and just lounge—like that one time I ran that marathon.
Turns out, learning to breastfeed and recovery after childbirth are no joke.
Being in such disbelief that I actually had a baby girl, in addition to the practicals of learning to breastfeed and dealing with the recovery of childbirth (why did nobody tell me about the difficulty of this!) I felt somewhat numb to emotion, and overall completely awestruck that women have been doing this FOREVER.
In fact, I didn’t really feel emotional about the whole thing until a couple days later when we got home from the hospital and I cried in gratefulness just watching her sleep.
I’ll never forget Dr. H’s words while I was pushing—“Just a couple more pushes, and then…life gets a little more hectic.”
They weren’t the most encouraging words at the time, but now I laugh at how true they were.