I love to read people’s birth stories, they are among my favorite “types” of posts to read. I loved to read them well before I was pregnant and always imagined I too would one day document my own labor story… That was until I actually had one to tell.
It has been 3 months since JJ was born, and although I consider it one of the best days of my life… it was also one of the hardest.
When I was pregnant I restricted myself to only reading positive birth stories. I was terrified enough as it was of the whole labor and delivery experience, so I didn’t need to read scary stories to make me any more nervous. With that being said, I want to add this disclaimer to anyone who might be like I was. Although of course in the end we delivered a healthy, beautiful, baby boy and that makes it a wonderful story…things didn’t exactly go as smoothly as I would have hoped.
I have a lot of painful, tough feelings associated with that day, and I hate that because that whole experience brought me my little guy and I wouldn’t change that for the world. With some encouragement by a few people in my life, I am hoping that by documenting these memories, it will be therapeutic, and I can move past those negative feelings. So here we go…
**I know this is long, but I wanted to capture every little memory for myself. I don’t expect anyone to read the whole thing, but I did add some cute JJ pictures throughout to make a bit more entertaining.**
It all begins on Thursday, December 18th… the day before JJ’s due date. If you read any of our “bumpdates” you would remember that I was pretty sick all throughout the pregnancy—and therefore I had not really gotten things together for when JJ came. We had semi-started the nursery, half packed the hospital bag etc. I was pretty much in denial that he was really coming!
That Thursday we had a midwives appointment and for the first time I got checked… Because I hadn’t been feeling any signs of labor whatsoever I didn’t feel the need to check before I was at 40 weeks. I knew most first babies were late, and had been told to expect JJ to be here around New Year’s. (His due date was the 19th.) Imagine our surprise when we found out I was 3 cm. dilated and 100% effaced! That’s when things got real for me.
The midwife asked if I wanted my membranes swept, (a process that sounds 100 times worse than it actually was) and told us that this could cause things to get moving a little quicker. We decided to go ahead with that… and as we were leaving we scheduled an appointment for the next week but she told us she had a feeling we wouldn’t be needing it. This was getting serious!
On our way home I made a list of all the things we needed to get done before JJ came, and once we stepped inside we got moving! This was honestly the only time that “nesting” thing happened for me… and just in time too! That night we got every single thing checked off that list, and I went to bed feeling really accomplished.
Throughout that day after the midwives appointment I was having small cramps, and I was told those were to be expected so I didn’t think anything of it. That night/morning (JJ’s due date!!) I woke up at 2am to some bigger, more consistent cramps. I started tracking them on my app. (We used BabyTime Contraction Timer, and loved it!) Around 4am things started getting pretty painful so I woke Zack up and let him know I had been having contractions…
Just a quick side note—Zack was so amazing throughout this entire experience. I’m sure he didn’t know what he was doing either (we never finished our childbirth classes…whoops!) but he never once seemed uneasy or unsure of things. He was the best most supportive partner I could’ve asked for.
Zack called my parents later that morning and told them what was going on and let them know he wouldn’t be in to work that day. I was having pretty regular contractions, but not to the point where I felt we needed to head into the hospital. That night we had a Christmas party planned with my mom’s family so around 3 o’clock we head over to my parents’ house. I don’t see my mom’s side of the family too often so I didn’t want to miss out and I was thinking it might be a good distraction from the contractions. We made it a couple hours before thinking it might be time to head to the hospital.
Leaving my parents’ house was pretty emotional… I was nervous for what could be coming. We live about an hour away from the hospital so by the time we got there I was in quite a bit of pain. We walked into the labor and delivery unit and they sent us into a room. The nurse that came in had me take a urine sample and checked me—I was still only 3 cm. dilated and she didn’t feel like that was enough progress to check me in as a patient. She told me to walk around the hospital for an hour and then come back to see if things had progressed.
After an hour we came back and I had only progressed to 4cm, and she was still not convinced I should be there. We told her we lived an hour away and really didn’t want to drive home only to come right back. She told us then to walk around another hour and come back again… so we did.
At this point I was pretty frustrated and tired of walking around! I would say it was well after midnight at this point. Zack’s parents had gotten into town and were at the hospital so they walked the empty halls with us for awhile before we had to go back to get checked again. I unfortunately had not progressed any more and the contractions had slowed a bit so the nurse told us we had two options… 1) Go home and come back later if things progressed… or 2) Get a shot of morphine in my butt which would make me go to sleep and maybe when I woke up things will have progressed more and they could check me in. I really didn’t like the idea of #2 and told the nurse I wasn’t interested in that option—it was at this point our nurse got pretty sassy and told me if I was scared of a little shot in the butt then I probably wouldn’t handle childbirth very well. So rude. Despite her professional opinion, we decided to leave.
It was around 3am and Zack made the drive home. We both were so exhausted and were hoping to get a little sleep in when we got home. This was definitely not the case for me, I was up all night/morning long with really intense contractions. In my head I told myself I just had to make it to 7am so that the mean nurse would be gone at the hospital!!
At exactly 7am (Saturday, December 20th) we left again for the hospital, this time almost certain we would not be sent away. The contractions were super intense and when we got to the hospital Zack got a wheelchair and wheeled me in… The nurse that morning was 1,000,000 times nicer and was shocked that the nurse the night before had sent us home. She said that there was no doubt I was in active labor and had progressed to 6cm. I was officially checked in as a patient and was assured I would be meeting my baby that day!
This is where things get a bit fuzzy… My timing is pretty skewed on things and the details are probably a bit off, but I’m just writing them the way that I have them in my head. :)
Once we were moved to our room I tried different positions to progress the labor… on the ball, on the floor, on the bed. You name it, I did it. At some point that morning my parents, sister, Zack’s parents, and my cousin Jessie had all arrived. They were all in and out of the room most of the morning. Also at some point my doula Madeline arrived. My midwives’ office had volunteer doulas that were optional and I was on the fence about it… but while in labor I decided the extra support would not be a bad thing and so they called her in. She actually worked at the office too so I had met her a couple times already, which I think was a good thing. I felt pretty comfortable with her there and I can not say enough kind things about her. Besides Zack, I could not imagine a better person to have helping me through the whole process.
A few hours after arriving I had moved to the bed and had gotten an IV to give me some fluids. I was in the middle of an intense contraction on my side when all of a sudden I felt a big release of pressure and a big gush… my water had just broke. I announced it to the room and heard my sister, mom, Zack’s mom, and my cousin Jessie all gasp! I heard there were tears as well. :)
At this point we decided to get into the tub. I was surprised when I walked into the room that it was a dark room with candles lit… pretty dang relaxing. We were in the tub for awhile, and that’s when the contractions got really intense. I can’t even explain the feeling of those strong contractions—it’s like a bad cramp, but then someone squeezes and twists your uterus on top of that. Definitely a unique feeling… At this point I started having some anxious feelings. Up ‘’til then I had kept my breathing really strong and things were manageable—but I started to tell Zack, “I don’t think I can do this.” He assured me over and over again that I could, and that we were almost about to meet our son! It would all be worth it.
I should mention that because I was avoiding thinking about the whole labor process, I never had a birth plan. I wasn’t opposed to an epidural by any means, but wanted to see how long I could go without it. I had 3 loose goals for the whole labor process (besides the obvious, having a healthy baby boy.)
1) Make it to the hospital. (check!)
2) Avoid a c-section if at all possible.
My midwife and doula helped me out of the tub and once I stood I felt a lot of pressure down there, something was definitely happening… This gave me a lot of hope.
The whole time I was in labor I just wanted someone to give me a timeframe. If I had an exact amount of time until I got to meet my son, I could do it. I could countdown. Of course giving me this estimate was impossible… but I told myself in my head that I must be getting close.
The whole day during contractions I constantly recited 2 Corinthians 12:9, “…my power is made perfect in weakness.” I kept saying in my head, “My power is made perfect in your weakness.” Just reminding myself that God was there. This was his plan, and he was present. Eventually I shortened it to just, “perfect power.” I would inhale, “Perfect.” Exhale, “Power.” I just sat with those words during each contraction, and it really did help!
Once we got back to the room it was time to start pushing. I really don’t remember much of this part… only that we tried numerous positions and I kept thinking, “How much longer?” I pushed for approximately 6 hours. It might have been more, but that’s what we are estimating based on what Zack and I remember. At some point during the pushing I decided to get a small dose of some sort of painkiller in my IV, and let me tell you—it was amazing. During labor I tried to keep a sense of humor, and I remember telling everyone repeatedly, “This is great. I love this stuff.” I also decided in between pushes that I didn’t actually know my midwife well enough and started asking her questions about her life. Everyone must have thought I was delusional, but my midwife was a great sport and answered all my probing questions.
Throughout the pushing they could see JJ’s head, and each push they would be yelling, “Yes, Angela! Good! Go go go!” So I thought I must be getting close, but they would never say that I was almost done or anything like that. It had been 6 hours of intense pushing, but the time was a blur to me… I was amazed that it had been that long because it really didn’t feel like it.
Let me also note that this whole time they were monitoring the baby and his heartbeat and everything were super strong. There was never a point where they were worried about him, and I think that’s why they let me go so long.
During this whole time I had waves of nausea and thought I might get sick a few times, but never really did. They were giving me cups of maple syrup and packs of honey to eat for energy, but they just gave me heartburn. All our families were in the waiting room this whole time and they must have been so confused/worried about what was going on during these hours!
After all this pushing they had determined that something must be going on, there must be a reason why he wasn’t out yet. They called in the doctor on call to get an opinion. The doctor was concerned about my energy level after pushing for 6 hours, she mentioned a c-section but I assured her I felt fine… I’m not sure she believed me though. (In my defense, I had no idea it had been that long and I really didn’t feel tired… it must have been the endorphins? Or the honey. :)
She had figured out that JJ’s head must have been tilted to the side, and that’s why he wasn’t coming out. They couldn’t tell exactly which way he was turned though so they didn’t want to try and move his head. They decided that I should get an epidural to try and relax things and give me a break, and then try pushing again to see if maybe he would tilt his head and come out. I was so scared to get that epidural… and now that I’ve had it I’m not sure why. It really wasn’t that bad.
I was surprised by the epidural. I still felt the pressure of the contractions, but the pain was gone! I totally understand why people get them—but I was still proud of myself for not getting one for so long. I was stronger than I ever thought possible—if circumstances with JJ were different and his head would have been in the correct position, I think I probably would have gone without the epidural completely… not to mention he would have entered this world a lot sooner.
After pushing some more with the epidural, the doctor told me she really wasn’t comfortable proceeding any longer. He was not tilting his head, and they needed to do a c-section.
I knew we had tried everything we could and we were out of options. I felt really nervous for the c-section and asked for my mom and sister. My sister went through a similar situation with Harper so I needed her to tell me everything was going to be ok. I feel a little bad now because as she was giving me these heartfelt words of encouragement I was drinking the acid reducer that they gave me… so after she had spoken these nice things I immediately made a sour face and said, “Is this supposed to be grape?!” My family still makes fun of me for that… And Danielle, if you’re reading this… I really did appreciate your words—even though I was distracted at the time. :)
When we got into the operating room I started shaking really badly. I’m not sure if it was the drugs I was given, my body’s exhaustion, or the nerves (or a combination of everything?) but it was pretty scary. My arms were literally flapping up and down. I was worried that they were about to cut me open and I couldn’t keep still, but no one in the operating room seemed at all worried so that helped.
Things from here on out get really hard to remember. I vaguely remember them announcing to Zack that they were taking out the baby and hearing his little cries. Then they wrapped him up and brought him over to me. They placed him right by my face and I kissed him and then looked at Zack and said, “Zack, we have a son!” Then they took him over to get cleaned up, weighed, etc. At this point I asked the anesthesiologist how much longer it would be and he said maybe 30-45 minutes. To me, at the time that seemed unmanageable. I was shaking uncontrollably, and the nausea was back with a vengeance. I told my midwife that I was going to throw up and they got a little bin to my side just in time.
I really don’t remember anything after this. I guess I got sick and they wiped off my face and suctioned out my mouth. Zack said it was pretty scary for him, but the doctors and everyone didn’t seem worried at all so he was trying to convince himself everything was ok. I felt really drowsy and had a really hard time keeping my eyes open, then I guess I just fell asleep.
I woke up a few times in the recovery room and was really confused. Zack was with the nurse one time giving JJ a bath, then he was sitting next to me, then he was asleep in the corner. I felt so awful. I was shaking still and literally could not stay awake. I guess we were in the recovery room for over 3 hours, but I don’t remember much of it.
I woke up around 3am in the empty recovery room and finally stopped shaking. I saw JJ asleep in his bed across the room, and Zack in the chair next to him asleep also. I yelled for him to wake up and he walked over and handed me my phone. He said the nurses told him they were getting our room ready and would be back to get us soon. I told him he could go back to sleep if he wanted to and proceeded to text my cousin Jessie who was still out in the waiting room, and I guess I called my best friend too. I vaguely remember thinking, “Oh I’ll text Jessie because she probably has her phone out…” but don’t really remember talking to my best friend much at all. She told me about it later.
The nurse finally came to get us and started rolling us to our room. I was so excited to see our families again and have them meet JJ, but I still hadn’t even really met him myself. At least, not that I could remember. The nurse must have sensed something because she asked if I had held him yet and I told her no, but I was scared I would drop him because I was shaking so badly and could not stay awake. That wonderful lady immediately piled up my bed with pillows on the sides and placed my baby next to me. She said, “Don’t worry, we won’t let him fall out. He needs to be next to his mama.” I was so thankful for her in that moment.
Once we got back to the room our families came in and met JJ and took some photos. I am so thankful for all their love and support. I cannot believe how long they were in that waiting room! They left shortly after that with promises they would be back the next day.
From then on, (thankfully) things were pretty uneventful. JJ was (and still is) such a great little baby and hardly ever cried. He learned to nurse like a champ, and was completely healthy. We got to leave on the 23rd—just in time for Christmas!
On paper, I technically achieved my 3 goals for labor… Not only did we get an amazing and healthy baby boy, I made it to the hospital, I survived the whole process, and although I did get a c-section—We did everything in our power to avoid it.
I think most of my negative feelings are due to the fact that I didn’t get that “moment”. You know the one, where they deliver the baby and set them on your chest? That ideal moment where you get to see your baby for the first time and take in their every little feature… Comparing them to that vision you’ve had in your head for 9 months, seeing if you were at all correct. I didn’t get that moment. In fact, I hardly remember even meeting my son for the first time…
I’m sure these feelings will pass eventually, but every time I read a birth story or watch a movie/commercial/etc. with “that moment” in it I get a little teary.
The funny thing is, even to this day JJ will sleep with his head tilted to the side. Such a stubborn little guy, I guess he just knows his comfy position and likes to stick with it. :)
Overall, of course, I am 100% thankful for my healthy baby boy. Above all, that is really the only thing that mattered the whole time.
After a long 44 hours and 44 minutes of labor he is here… and it was all worth it.