Today I would like to welcome Catherine Rahm, of Mommy is Exhausted, to the blog to share Claire’s birth story. Cat and I go way back to my undergraduate days at AppState (Go! Fight! Kick Ass!). After having an epidural with her first baby (Jack), Cat knew she wanted to try delivering Claire without an epidural. Instead, she was given an alternative drug for pain relief. This is her story.
My second pregnancy was so different than my first. I had little to no morning sickness, I gained half the weight I gained with my first, I started showing at only 8 weeks and I physically felt much better. I think that was from chasing a 2 year old around!
Mentally, however, I was a bit of a mess. I had very serious obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety throughout my second pregnancy. This was made worse by my son going through his first year of preschool and getting every illness ever!! (Seriously– throat infection, mono, erythema multiforme, penicillin allergy, norovirus, you name it.) My nerves were completely shot. At 39 weeks pregnant my son was recovering from a sinus infection type deal and was on medication. I felt like every week of my pregnancy was devoted to taking care of Jack, figuring out what was wrong, monitoring fevers, symptoms, doctor’s appointments, etc. I really didn’t have much time to mentally prepare for the baby I was having at any moment.
On Wednesday March 2nd, I waddled into my OBGYN office for a check up. My doctor checked me and I was only 1cm dilated, if that. She asked me if I wanted her to strip my membranes since I was due on March 6. I said, “No- definitely not… my son is sick… life is crazy – I don’t have time for labor right now!” I left the doctor and that night I stopped to get some Tylenol for my son at the drug store. I started spotting, which I was reassured by the office was because of being checked.
Fast forward to Saturday. I spent all day in the nursery trying to get it ready for my daughter. It was a mess. I was on my feet most of the day and I desperately tried to get everything straight. That night I settled down to dinner and the Duke/UNC game. I started having a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions. I didn’t think much of it, as I had those throughout both pregnancies pretty frequently. Also, I thought there was no way I was going into labor. My first baby was born at 41 weeks, after I had to be induced. He had no plans of coming out on his due date. I thought this pregnancy would be the same.
That night I went to bed. I woke up at 2 am to pee. I was so tired and so excited to be getting more sleep. At 4 am, I woke up again, and like usual… I had to pee, again. I wiped and there was blood. I had my bloody show. This was so different from my first pregnancy. I didn’t know what was happening and I started to panic.
I woke my husband and called my doctor. The doctor told me it was most likely normal. She told me to calm down and I could come in to the hospital to get checked. While talking with her I had my first contraction.
We woke up my 2 year old, who was very tired and very cranky. He cried all the way to the hospital. After we got there, I was checked into triage and hooked up to the monitors. The baby looked great on the monitors. All of my vitals were great, and I hadn’t dilated anymore. I was having contractions that were very painful, but was going to be sent home to labor.
I couldn’t believe labor was actually happening. On the hospital bed I just started crying. I said, “I just can’t believe this is happening… now.” The nurse said, “Well, you’re 40 weeks, when did you think this was going to happen?” I told her I just felt like I had more time. I felt so unprepared.
My in-laws came up to watch my son, and my husband stayed with me while I endured labor. I got in the shower to alleviate the pain. I sat on an exercise ball. I laid in bed and tossed and turned. My husband shoved a ball of socks into one big sock and let me squeeze it during contractions. The pain was so intense. I was miserable. I tried to deal with the pain as much as I could.
Around 2 pm my contractions were pretty steady at 5 minutes apart. At this point I’d been having contractions for 10 hours. I called the hospital and let them know I was on my way.
When we got to the hospital I was extremely disappointed to find out that despite my pain and regular contractions, I was still only 1cm. I was feeling very defeated and out of my mind with pain. I think the hospital staff knew how discouraged I was. One of the nurses made the decision to admit me. I heard her tell another nurse, “I think if we send her home she’ll just be back.” She was right. I was at the point that I needed to be monitored and encouraged. My anxiety was too bad, and I wanted to be in a place I felt safe so I could relax.
My contractions were regular, but I wasn’t dilating, so the nurse suggested we try some morphine for “therapeutic rest.” I had therapeutic rest with my first pregnancy as well and it really did help, so I thought I would give it a shot. When you’re in labor your body does not feel less pain when given morphine, it is simply a way to relax. By 6 pm, after morphine, walking, the exercise ball, etc… I was finally at 4cm.
The next few hours were a blur. I was so crazy exhausted. The only person at the hospital was my husband, which was so different from my first pregnancy. All of my family was there for my first child and the distractions were certainly being missed this go around. Unfortunately, my whole family had the flu and my sister-in-law and her family had strep. It was just us.
I made small talk with the nurses. One nurse reminded me to go with the flow with the contractions. She reminded me that fighting them would only make things worse. She was right. When I gave in to the contractions and relaxed, I tolerated them much better.
As the hours ticked by, I was crying out in pain. I tried to shower, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t do anything but think about the pain. I squeezed my husband’s hands… I hunched over the bed, I cried, I shook. I made noises that didn’t sound human.
My nurse started noticing around 8:15/8:30 that I was crying out every few minutes regularly. She told me she wanted to check me because it seemed like things were pretty regular and pretty frequent. I was about 7/8 cm.
I told her I didn’t think I could do it. My only real “plan” in my birth plan… was to not have an epidural. I hated the epidural. I had it with my first and I didn’t like it. I really thought I could have my baby without one, so I wanted to do just that. Knowing this, the nurse suggested we try Stadol. She said that there was no way I was having this baby before midnight, so we were fine to go ahead with the Stadol. She thought it would be out of my system by the time we were ready to push.
The Stadol made me out of my mind. I was in and out of …sleep? I couldn’t think straight, I was exhausted, I kept closing my eyes and seeing mailboxes. I don’t know why. I was just “driving down the street” and noticing mailboxes… yet I was still aware of what was happening. I knew I was in extreme pain and having a baby. I was there, but I wasn’t. It was a very bizarre experience. I kept yelling and biting. I looked at my nurse, Jenna, and screamed, “JENNA!! I NEED YOU TO KNOW THAT I AM FUC*ED UP!”
I screamed with every contraction. I tried to bite my husband. I bit the bed. As my glasses were falling off of my face, I bit them. My husband screamed, “That’s glass!!” The nurse screamed for someone to get a washcloth to put in my mouth. Even though I’d only had the drug for about 30 minutes or so, I told them that I was going to have this baby soon. I knew it was time to push. Jenna checked me and was shocked to see that I was fully dilated and ready to push. The nurse called for the doctor.
The doctor came in and broke my water, since it hadn’t broken on its own. When she did that, I thrashed around the bed. The pain intensified dramatically. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t sit still. The doctor told me to push and I did. With the very first push, my baby’s head was right there and they could see her hair. She screamed to the nurses to call the special nurses in because there was meconium in the amniotic fluid, and told them to do it quickly because I’d gotten the baby so far down with only one push.
It was time to push again, so I did. I pushed with everything I had. One nurse, that I didn’t realize was there until she spoke, screamed at me to “push through the burn.” I remember thinking it was crazy that she knew I was burning and wondered how she knew. (She could see me tearing). I also wondered who she was (ha!).
With that one, long, painful push, my baby girl was here! I pushed for 5 minutes and a total of two pushes, and she was there on my chest. 9:26 p.m. I can still remember the weight of my new baby as the doctor laid her on my chest. She was beautiful and, like her brother, stopped crying immediately. I also noticed that she was covered in meconium water and it was now all over my hospital gown (ha!). Labor is not the cleanest experience.
I was so grateful that they immediately put her on my chest. Her brother also had meconium in the amniotic fluid, and at that point (3 years prior), they took the baby immediately to be examined by special nurses. I didn’t see him until he was already wrapped in a blanket. My son, and now my little girl, were both healthy despite the minor complication.
My daughter looked exactly like my son and I was overjoyed to have her. She came right on her due date– March 6, 2016. I was shocked to learn that she was 8 lb 10 oz and 22 inches. Three different doctors told me they didn’t think she was as big as my son. (He was 8 lb 6 oz., 22 in.).
Immediately after having my daughter, the postpartum anxiety/OCD began. We had a rough first few months, but thankfully they were short lived. My daughter is such a blessing. She is a happy, healthy, beautiful dream come true and the perfect addition to our family.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Cat! It takes so much courage to be honest about mental health, but there are so many women out there who can identify with your story and take comfort knowing they are not alone!
If you are interested in sharing your birth story, please let me know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Your birth story does not have to be unmedicated to be shared! This blog is for sharing real stories about real families. If you asked for an epidural the moment you got to the hospital, planned a c-section, had an emergency c-section, or even had your baby in the car, we want to hear about it! Every birth story is different, but they are all stories of love and bringing new life into the world. What could be more special than that?