The day I went into labour, I had a major burst of energy. I heard about this from so many women (including my own mom) during my pregnancy and sure enough, I got it too. Despite my bump that got in the way of just about everything, in my own mind there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do. I was on fire!
I’m going to describe the day in quite a bit of (mundane) detail because I always found it helpful to see how other women’s labours started out in the very early hours.
I woke up the morning of Saturday September 20th feeling antsy and distracted, despite a large to-do list on my desk. After breakfast, I went on a long walk with Eric to try to get out my restless energy. I was getting some pelvic pressure throughout the walk, but thought nothing of it since it had been happening on and off for a few weeks.
Later on, we took my final pregnancy photos (I just didn’t know it at the time). The weather was gorgeous and warm – hence the summer clothes! Oh how I miss that weather.
Once home, I wrote and published my 39 week post, all while convincing myself that our baby was going to come a week late. I made lunch, and then went on a couple errands. I got a few intense pains while out and just felt off. All throughout the day, I had menstrual-like cramps and pressure in my vaginal/pelvic area. I thought maybe it was due to my cervix dilating a bit more. We got home and worked on the new business for a couple hours. After that, I tested a new recipe and shot the food photography in the late afternoon. Have you ever seen an almost 40 week pregnant lady doing food photography? What a sight! hah. Eric thought I was nuts. After all of this activity, I was still feeling restless. We headed out on another short walk after dinner.
I should also mention that my body was “cleaning itself out” several times during the day (a sign of impending labour everyone warned me about). Another major clue.
Later that evening I still wanted to get out of the house. We went to Crate and Barrel. While at C+B, I started to get intense pain shooting down the back of my leg and butt. I hadn’t felt anything like this before so I knew something was up. I told Eric I wanted to leave the store asap and didn’t buy a single thing (yea, that rarely happens at C+B!). The car ride home was pretty painful and it felt like it took so long to get home.
We came home and snacked on Honeycrisp apples with almond butter (oh yea), chilled on the couch, and decided to go to bed at 10:30pm. But before bed, I had an urge to scrub the kitchen sink. Little did I know this would be nesting’s last hurrah! So scrub the sink to a brilliant shine, I did. It gleamed and I felt better. Peculiar.
Eric gave me an amazing back massage in bed – my lower back was especially sore that night. God, it felt amazing. After the massage, almost instantly, I started to get intense pelvic pain (it was probably 11:30pm at this point). I joked to Eric that he sent me into labour with all the oxytocin flowing from the massage! My stomach was hardening up so much, but I didn’t know if it was Braxton Hicks contractions. I felt a soft “pop” in my pelvis area and couldn’t tell if my water had broken or not. But after going to the bathroom, I realized I lost my mucus plug. My water had not broken yet. At this point, I started to get super cold and shaky. I said to Eric, “If this isn’t the start of labour I don’t know what is!” I put on his robe to stay warm.
We started to time contractions around midnight. Well, that is, once we figured out the damn app! The contractions were coming every 2-2.5 minutes already, lasting for 45-60 seconds, and felt very intense quickly. I couldn’t believe how quickly things progressed! And holy hell the contractions hurt. I had to breathe deeply through the contractions to get through each one. I bounced on the exercise ball for a bit. I said to Eric, “We might be having a baby TODAY!” We looked at each other filled with excitement and nerves.
We showered and got cleaned up. Eric started packing last minute things, like our huge cooler of food, which I of course had planned way in advance, hah. Priorities, right? I took out a frozen soup and put it in the fridge so it would be ready when we got home from the hospital. It was now 1:30am.
I took these notes in my Google document so I could remember the unfolding of events. I wrote, “I am humbled by labour already. Scared. I’m thinking an epidural sounds really good right about now. I’m impressed though by how nice it feels when a contraction ends! Maybe I can get through this??” That was the last note I wrote to myself. After that I had my game face on. aka…shit got real.
Once we were certain I was in labour, we messaged our doula around 2:30-3am and she came over shortly after. When we were waiting for her to arrive, I told Eric I wanted to go to the hospital…now. I started to freak out a bit. I was already in so much pain and wanted to meet our doula at the hospital rather than wait for her to come to the house. I recall saying something like, “I want to get an epidural as soon as I get to the hospital.” Eric encouraged me to wait until our doula got to our house so she could see how I was doing. After all, that is part of the reason why we hired her; I wanted to labour in the comfort of our home for as long as possible. She is very familiar with the signs of how labour is progressing so I agreed to wait. When she got here, it was such a relief!! She helped me cope with contractions using breathing techniques, the exercise ball, and she also hooked me up to her TENS machine. Best of all, she calmed my nerves. There’s something to be said for having a woman there with you who has been through it (and many other labours). Her and Eric applied counter-pressure to my back to help relieve some of the contraction pain. I was feeling most of the contractions in my lower back (I had mostly back labour throughout) with pain wrapping around the front.
It was now 6am and the sun would be rising soon. By this point, the contractions picked up to 1.5- 2 minutes apart, lasting about 60-75 seconds long. They also got a lot more intense on the pain scale. I started to cry during one of the contractions because I was so scared of the car ride to the hospital (and subconsciously, labour itself). I didn’t want to leave the house! Earlier in my pregnancy, I remember someone saying, “You know it’s time to go to the hospital when you don’t want to go to the hospital anymore.” I was confused at the time. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to everyone’s labour, but it couldn’t have been closer to the truth for my first labour. By 6am (which was 7.5 hours of intense contractions), I felt like I was in too much pain to leave the house. Meet Irrational Ange. Luckily, Eric and my doula talked some sense into me and we left quickly after. My doula said, “I promise the baby isn’t going to just fall out of you!” Oh how right she was! I had about 3 intense contractions during the car ride to the hospital. Every pothole in the road was majorly painful, but I just focused on my breathing techniques and I handled it ok.
Once we arrived at the hospital, it was a long walk to the triage because I was doubled over in pain from the contractions every minute. I locked eyes with a tired looking man in the waiting room who gave me a concerned, yet knowing, look. Once inside, I was brought into the triage room. They put me on a bed and hooked me up to a monitor for 20 (long) minutes to check the baby’s heart rate and monitor my contraction patterns. I disliked being confined to the bed and not being able to move around like I could at home. Finally, the nurse checked my cervix and found that I was already dilated 7cm! I was absolutely thrilled. I would’ve danced on the bed if I wasn’t in so much pain. All that labouring at home paid off. I felt like we might not be far off from meeting our baby girl!
But oh there was plenty more to endure…
After triage, they checked me into a Labour and Delivery room. Back when we pre-registered at the hospital a few weeks prior, I thought I was going to be nervous about being in a hospital setting, but the pain from the contractions was so intense I barely even noticed where I was. I was only concerned about getting through the pain! Plus, Eric, the nurses, and our doula were amazing and made me feel so comfortable. Being in the hospital was a non-issue.
After an hour of labouring in the delivery room, I was checked and found to be 8cm dilated. I was hoping to have progressed more than 1cm since arriving, so I was a bit discouraged. I knew it could be worse though. Plus, I was happy that I could have intermittent monitoring, meaning that I was free to move around during labour.
Time went by soooo slowly though. At 8cm dilated I started to feel desperate for relief. I asked what pain killers they could give me – epidural, laughing gas, extra-strength Tylenol (yup, that got a few laughs!!), whatever. I wanted ALL THE DRUGS. I was feeling major self-doubt at this point which I hear is very common during transition. Everyone knew that I wanted to try to have a drug-free labour, so they didn’t overly encourage the epidural, but they would have given it to me if I did want it. The nurse said, “You are so close!! You totally got this.” My doula suggested that I try out the hot jacuzzi tub and see how I felt. I cautiously agreed, but it felt like hours before the tub was prepped and ready. I was getting desperate for relief!
Finally the jacuzzi tub was ready and the nurse brought us in. I stripped right down (yup, it’s totally true about how modesty goes out the window when in labour) and eagerly got in. It felt like the best thing in the world. I sunk down really low into the hot water and the jets blasted me from all sides. My hair was soaked and I was a crazy hot mess. But I couldn’t have cared less what I looked like. I was so happy to experience some relief. The contractions still sucked, but I found them more manageable in the hot water. I never thought I’d be a hot tub person during labour (it just sounded like a big pain to get undressed, soaking wet, and then dried off, etc), but I can’t recommend it enough. It was a life saver!! Jacuzzi tub for the WIN.
In between contractions, I found myself doing something I never thought I would do – I started dozing off. Yes, me, the girl who never naps was sliding in and out of sleep in the bathtub during labour, of all things. What the heck? I was so out of it, unconscious at some points. I heard the doula and Eric talking beside me, but I honestly felt like I was in another world just watching everything happen from afar. Eric said he was talking to me and I fell asleep mid-convo while my eyes slowly rolled in my head. Creepy, right? I can only imagine what poor Eric was thinking! haha. I’ve heard that this is a common “out of body” coping mechanism during labour. I felt myself getting more and more inward focused. It was my body’s way of coping with the pain and I was so thankful for it. I would drift for a minute and be brought back into reality with the next contraction. I was shaking uncontrollably with chills at times despite the hot water.
After an hour or so, I wanted to get out of the tub because I was getting an overwhelming sensation to start pushing. I was not so secretly hoping that I was 10 cm dilated by this point. I got checked and was 9cm. Close, but no cigar. It was really difficult because sometimes the urge would literally take over my entire body like some other life force was in control, but I couldn’t give in unless I wanted to risk swelling. After what felt like hours (which was probably only an hour), I was 10cm dilated and got the go ahead that we could start pushing! I was relieved. Let’s get this show on the road! This was around 10:20am – about 12 hours of consistent, 1-3 minute apart contractions by this point. The nurse talked me through how to push and after several tries I got the hang of it. Basically, I waited until a contraction hit and then I took a huge breath and pushed with all my might for 10 seconds or so. I did this three times, back to back, without stopping. Sometimes the nurse would press on the area where I needed to focus the pushing energy and this helped a lot. Pushing was physically exhausting, but I was hopeful that it wouldn’t last longer than an hour or so. Plus, it finally felt good to be able to work with the contractions rather than just getting through the pain. Everyone kept telling me I was so strong, had amazing lung capacity, and was a great pusher. I welcomed the ego boost because I didn’t feel overly confident.
Right after we started pushing my water broke and it scared the crap out of me! I couldn’t get over the loud POP and all the water that gushed out. I actually thought it was the baby bursting out for a split second (umm, NO…lol). My doula said it was the loudest water-breaking pop she’d ever heard! I guess that was one strong push? Shortly after my water broke, the contractions felt even more intense. I kept saying, “One contraction closer to meeting our baby.” to boost my faltering energy. Our doula and Eric kept offering me coconut water in a glass with a straw. It was the only thing that I could stomach and even so I could only take tiny sips. But I think that coconut water gave me life. I also managed to choke down a glucose tablet at one point when my energy dropped.
As it turned out, my pelvis was tilted on a bit of an angle so the baby was having a hard time maneuvering down the birth canal. Well, shit. It took a long time to see any progress. The nurse kept saying that our baby still had to “turn a corner” and I started to feel so discouraged. Turn a corner? Shoot me now! I admit, it wasn’t the most encouraging visual. One and a half hours of intense, pushing went by and I started to lose hope that I was going to be able to have the vaginal delivery I hoped for.
While the progress came slowly, it did come. Eventually I was able to push baby around my pelvis and “turn a corner” and she started to crown. The nurse held up a mirror so I could see her head. Unreal. I thought we were so close!! Eric started to cry….we both thought it was any minute now!
But there was another big hurdle to overcome. We found out my perineum was having a very hard time stretching so that the head could fit through. I pushed and I pushed and I pushed with little to no progress. I was spent and honestly gave up hope at many times. “I feel so discouraged and can’t do it anymore.” is what I whispered to Eric. I could see the pain in his eyes; it was as if he was feeling my pain too. Our doula kept getting me to look into Eric’s eyes as he counted, I gripped his hand, and I pushed through the pain. I was getting so desperate I started to hold my pushes for a crazy long time – some of them were over 20 seconds – but still nothing. Eric kept telling me how strong I was. I honestly don’t know what I would’ve done without him beside me throughout the labour. He was my rock. I just kept thinking of meeting our baby girl at the end and when I wanted to give up, I used her for motivation. I just wanted her to be ok. And I wanted to be strong for her because she was being strong for me. I felt so close to meeting her, but so far away. Each series of pushes didn’t bring us much closer to meeting our baby. The perineum just wouldn’t stretch as much as it needed to. The OB tried manually stretching and massaging it many, many times, but it would not budge enough.
The OB told me that she could perform an episiotomy which would be a small incision in the perineum to enlarge the vaginal opening. I didn’t want any interventions unless absolutely necessary, so I told her I would try pushing a bit longer. (Meanwhile, I couldn’t believe I was saying I wanted to push longer…) She agreed we could keep pushing since the baby was doing great and showed absolutely no signs of distress. I was happy that I wasn’t pressured to speed things up. Well, after 45 long minutes, and trying all kinds of crazy labouring positions (it was like Cirque du Soleil up in that room!), not much progress was made. I had been officially pushing with every ounce of energy I had for 3 hours and 15 minutes. And I was absolutely done. Wrecked. I started to feel desperate and panicked that she was never going to come out. I just knew that if I didn’t get the episiotomy I would be destined for other interventions. I decided to go through with the episiotomy and everyone agreed it was the best decision.
After the procedure, I pushed 5 more times. On the sixth push everyone yelled, “She’s almost here!! Keep going!! Hold it!” The excitement in the room was unreal. I gave one last crazy long push with all my might and our sweet baby girl was born and let out a big cry. What a total high.
I’ll never forget that moment of pushing her out. It felt better than I could’ve imagined. I always heard women say that pushing the baby out felt so amazing, but I didn’t buy it. Well, it surely did feel amazing! It is the best release ever – all that intense pressure is instantly gone!
Adriana’s birth was the happiest moment of my life, by far.
Eric wrote this part of the birth story in his own words and let me share it in this story:
“It was a long morning of pushing for your mom. It was raining in the early morning. As your mom was pushing the nurses kept saying “she’s almost here”. In anticipation, I burst into tears on three separate occasions. Little did I know your mom had a couple more hours of pushing to endure. In the final moments of pushing, the rain cleared and the sun came out. It was beautiful outside. Your mom’s face was beet red and her energy levels were completely drained, but she kept going.
Finally, you were born at 1:34pm! I burst into tears once again and your mom looked up at me with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen. All the pain washed away. You were already squirming and crying loudly. The nurses were surprised with how alert you were with your blue eyes taking their first gaze of the world. You were immediately put into your mom’s arms (for skin to skin) and we soaked in the happy moments of you in our arms at last.”
[Yup, I totally cried reading his account of the birth. It was really nice to see it through his perspective. For one, I had NO idea what the weather was like outside! lmao]
As Eric mentioned, the doctor placed Adriana on my chest for skin to skin and they delayed clamping the cord until it stopped pulsing. While she was on my chest, the OB stitched me up, but I barely noticed it. I was on such a high and after the intense pain of labour, I was not fazed by stitches. I also delivered the placenta right away with one final push, which was effortless. Adriana got a 9 on both her Apgar scores. I was on a total euphoric high even though I should have felt exhausted.
During the final few hours of labour, I said to Eric that I would never do a drug-free birth again, but by the next day I was already saying that I could probably do it again. It’s so true that you forget about the pain of childbirth once it’s over. I had a lot of new postpartum pains, but I felt like I could handle anything after going through labour and delivery. Even by the next morning, I was having a hard time recalling how painful the contractions were. My memory is now fuzzy (thank you, brain).
Even though my labour didn’t unfold exactly as I imagined it to (and I’ll admit, my recovery has been rough), labour was still a very positive experience and it taught me many things. Our story is one I will be forever grateful for and immensely proud of. After all, it brought the sweetest baby girl into our lives and that is all that mattered to us in the end, no matter how she came into this world. We love her to pieces and can’t imagine life without her.