When my husband and I found out we were expecting our first child, we were ecstatic. For months we planned and dreamed of our precious little bundle of joy, and anxiously awaited his arrival. My first and second trimesters whizzed by without much commotion – besides a bit of fatigue and some pesky Braxton Hicks, pregnancy was a breeze for me. My third trimester proved to be a little more wearisome. My body was constantly achy and swollen, no matter how much sleep I got, I felt completely exhausted – and the weeks seemed to drag on and on. I tried to put my best face on and found myself constantly telling people, “Oh, I’m being patient! He’ll come when he comes…” But inside I was hoping and praying he’d come sooner rather than later.
Despite all my wishing, it wasn’t until 41 weeks that our little boy came into this world. I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions, and had been dilated between 2-3 cm and fully effaced for several weeks. The Friday before our son was born, I had an appointment with my Midwife, who swept my membranes and told me that I was almost to 4 cm dilated. She expected me to go into labor on my own either that day or the next, but scheduled an induction for the following Tuesday.
All weekend I went back and forth between relaxing and over working myself, trying to get my contractions to be consistent enough to be “active labor”. It wasn’t until Monday, that I gave up. I decided to get as much rest as I could before being induced the next day. As the day grew to it’s close, I grew more and more uncomfortable. My contractions weren’t necessarily painful, but they were definitely noticeable. I still didn’t think I was in labor, and I had promised myself that I wouldn’t be one of “those girls” that rushed to the hospital at the slightest tinge of discomfort.
Around 11:30 at night, as I was getting ready to go to bed, I felt a strong impression that I needed to head to the hospital. My initial reaction was to dismiss this – but I just kept feeling like it was time. I called the Labor & Delivery unit, and explained how I was feeling, and to my surprise they urged me to come in.
So, I sheepishly asked my sweet husband if he would drive me to the hospital. I remember how much I kept apologizing to him for dragging him to the hospital so late, and how I was embarrassed because I probably wasn’t in labor. And you know what? That handsome man of mine just kept comforting me and dismissing my apologies. I’m so blessed!
Anyway, we arrived at the hospital and got checked in. I was really feeling embarrassed at this point. Here I was, supposedly in “labor”, and I was walking around, talking, laughing…not anything like I was told active labor would be. The nurses checked me and said that I was between 4-5 cm dilated, with contractions about 2 minutes apart. They admitted me, and started hooking me up to be monitored.
My husband and I took a birthing class a few weeks before I gave birth, and went over my birth plan together. I had wanted to go without medication if I could, and we had several techniques set aside for helping me deal with the pain of labor. While I was being monitored, my husband asked the nurses for a birthing ball for me, and offered to start filling up the jet tub in our room. I was really impressed with how attentive and calm he was.
I honestly felt that I would be laboring until late the next day, so I kept suggesting to my husband that he rest or start a movie on Netflix, and not worry about the relaxation/pain relief techniques we had learned, because I wouldn’t need them for awhile.
Somehow, after we’d been there for about two hours, he convinced me to hop in the tub. As it was filling, I started shaking uncontrollably. I couldn’t figure out why, because I wasn’t stressed or nervous about giving birth. I also started having intestinal cramping, and diarrhea. I’m going to be honest with you – intestinal cramping in between contractions is AWFUL. But you know wasn’t awful? The tub. I’m seriously so glad my husband thought to fill it up for me – the warm water helped relieve a lot of the pressure I was feeling inside, and it took away the intestinal cramping and eased my contractions.
I’m still smacking myself over the head for getting out of the bath as quickly as I did. I only stayed in the tub for about 20 minutes, before insisting that I go back to the bed to rest for the night. I reasoned to my husband that I would get back in the bath later, when my contractions were more intense.
I really don’t know why I kept expecting the contractions to get worse in pain level. I blame the media. My pain level never increased. The amount of contractions I had did – and yes, they were exhausting – but they weren’t really all that painful. It just felt like a lot of pressure with a little sting at the end.
So, the hospital I gave birth in had a policy that I had to be monitored every hour for 15 mins. After I got out of the bath, the nurses came in to monitor me. One thing I wasn’t told was that if they don’t get a consistent monitoring, they have to keep monitoring you until they do. You have to be in the bed to be monitored. And really, you can’t move while you’re being monitored, otherwise the reading won’t be consistent. Which is really hard to do, when you’re having contractions. Does anyone see where I’m going with this? No?
I don’t know how long they really monitored me for, but I do remember being so unbelievably uncomfortable. It’s not a secret that laboring while laying on your back is the least comfortable position ever. I felt like the intensity and pressure of the contractions was increased just by my position. I don’t remember a whole lot from this time other than being super uncomfortable, to the point I was holding on to the rail on the bed and trying to shift around to ease the contraction, and that I pushed the call button on my little hospital remote twice to ask if I was done being monitored yet.
When the nurse finally did come back, she didn’t take the monitors off, she adjusted them. She explained that they kept losing the heartbeat of our baby – not because his heartbeat was dropping – but because they kept falling off from him kicking them. Oy vey.
During this time, I kept having the same thought over and over – I was so tired. I wanted to sleep. I couldn’t sleep through the contractions. And I didn’t want to be exhausted when it came time to push, which I assumed would be hours from then. I came up with only one conclusion – I needed to get an epidural. I wasn’t in enough pain to want one, but I was tired enough to want one.
And so, I sheepishly asked the nurse attending me what the procedure was for an epidural. I can still remember her shocked look, and then how I could literally see the wheels in her head spinning, trying to be careful with how she responded.
“A better question, I think, is what made you want to go without the epidural in the first place? I don’t want you to get one unless you absolutely want one.”
I explained to her that I had wanted to see how long I could go in labor without an epidural, and though my pain level was at like a 3 or 4, I really wanted to sleep so I could be more awake when it came time to push and to eventually meet our son. She was hesitant, but she said that the anesthesiologist was in the room next to mine administering another epidural and would be in once he was done.
I turned to my husband and asked him if he’d be disappointed in me if I got pain medication, and he just held my hand and told me that he loved me and supported me no matter what. (I love him!)
With in 20 minutes, the anesthesiologist was in the room hooking me up to the IVs and sticking a needle in my back. And just a quick shout out – he was awesome! He worked in between my contractions and explained what he was doing and how I would feel while he did it before each step. Once that little tube was in my back, I had to lay there and wait for it to take effect. It worked pretty quickly, and with in five minutes I was feeling…well nothing! haha
At this point, I instructed my husband to take a nap, because we’d be here for awhile.
Okay. Wait a minute. If you’ve ever had a baby, or watched someone go through labor, especially at a hospital, what is the one step missing here? You guessed it (or maybe you didn’t) – They never checked me. Here we are, around 5 something in the morning – I’d been at the hospital for 5-6 hours, and the ONLY time they checked my progression was when I was admitted. To be fair, the nurse had asked if I wanted to know how far along I was before the epidural, but I asked if she could check once it was in, since getting checked seemed to always make me more uncomfortable than necessary.
So about 10 minutes after that epidural was in, she checked my cervix. And started laughing. Because I was completely dilated (10 cm), and appeared to have been there for awhile. She asked me if I had felt like pushing, and said that my shaking (hours!) earlier was probably transition.
They phoned my midwife, and told me to hang tight while she drove to the hospital. At this point, we decided to call our parents and let them know what was going on. We figured the midwife would take a while to get there and get prepped, so I again, instructed my sweet husband to take a nap. Which he did.
My (amazing!) midwife showed up literally ten minutes later, ready in her scrubs. As soon as she entered the room and started soaping up her hands, the nurses started running around getting all the delivery tools – moving me into a position with my legs up and grabbing towels, and all that fun stuff. The midwife was just beaming (don’t you just LOVE a person who LOVES what they do?!) and she exclaimed, “I didn’t think you’d be delivering until later today! The last update I got was from when you were admitted and then when you got the epidural!”
Then she asked me if I was ready to push – which I was of course. So, so ready! One of the nurses unplugged my epidural and explained that it would wear off in about an hour or two. I was SO numb it was crazy. I couldn’t move my legs at all.
So, during all of this buzzing around, my husband was still asleep. My midwife woke him up with a gentle, “Nathan! Grab her leg! She’s ready to push!” and he literally jumped out of the chair next to me and looking most perplexed, grabbed my leg and tried to give me a little smile of encouragement.
“Okay? You ready? I’m going to count to three…”
It was go time. The first push broke my water.
While I was pushing, I was laughing and talking to my midwife and the nurse helping her. (Yeah, TOTALLY not like the movies!) She asked me that if I knew that I was at a 10cm before getting the epidural, would I still have gotten it – probably not. I explained I had just wanted to sleep before pushing, but I still felt really proud that I had made it that far anyway.
When our baby boy started crowning, I watched my sweet husband’s face, and then asked, “how’s he looking?!” He laughed, “You don’t want to know!”
(later he’d describe labor from his perspective as “a smashed cherry pie”! haha)
I pushed for TEN whole minutes (I know, who am I?!) before our dear, sweet little boy popped out. They laid him on my chest and he just cried, and cried, and CRIED! I couldn’t stop kissing his head and telling him that I loved him. My husband had the privilege of cutting his cord, and he did wonderfully. There he was. Our perfect, sweet, healthy little boy. Clark Nathan Custance.
My favorite moment of meeting our little boy was seeing the tears well up in my husband’s eyes as he held him and kissed his little head. Nothing in the whole world compares to seeing your husband be so tender and sweet.
The only things I really remember after that as far as the people around me were my midwife stitching me up and showing me my placenta, which she exclaimed was “the biggest placenta [she’d] ever seen!” and then remarked that I make really good babies.
While she was stitching me up (which took MUCH longer than I expected) I could feel my epidural start wearing off. It still didn’t hurt, but I could feel the needle touching me and the tugs of the thread. At this point she said that she was GLAD I had the epidural because I had a 3rd degree tear, that I probably didn’t want to be feeling right about now.
I don’t remember really caring very much about Clark’s stats – his weight or height or time of birth. I just wanted to love on him. My whole body was just radiating with pure love, I don’t even know how to explain it. For months and months I dreamt of this little boy and now he was here in my arms, and I never wanted to let him go!
Clark was born on a Tuesday morning, at around 6:30am. While we were at the hospital, I didn’t enjoy it very much, so we asked to be released as soon as possible (We went home Wednesday afternoon) everyone there was extremely nice and helpful – I just hated that I kept getting bugged every hour or so for pain medication or to read my vitals. Mainly though, and as silly as this sounds, I just wanted to cuddle with my husband. I’m a HUGE cuddler and I just remember that was a huge struggle for me while I was in the hospital. My husband slept there, on a sofa bed. But he couldn’t fit on my hospital bed and I couldn’t fit on the sofa bed. So we were there. Sleeping in the same room, light years apart. (Okay not really, but it felt that way!)
Over all though, I really, really loved my birthing experience. For our next kiddo, if everything goes exactly the same, I’ll probably forgo the epidural. But I actually didn’t mind the epidural at all. If I could choose one word to explain Clark’s birth, it would be peaceful. Everything was so quiet the whole time, and I just got to spend time with my loving husband – and to be able to be completely relaxed while I was pushing, to be able to be laughing, and be alert and coherent when he came out…I loved it. Every second of it. It was so beautiful and perfect. Even now, months down the road, I look back on it so fondly and wish I could do it all over again, exactly the way it happened.