Happy Monday everybody! Please join me in welcoming Sarah to the blog today to share Iris’ birth story!
My pregnancy with Iris feels like a whirlwind in a lot of ways. My background is early education and care, so I had a lot of strongly held opinions about how I’d want to do things when I had children. Unfortunately, I’ve always had irregular periods due to a mild case of uterine fibroids, and was unaware I was pregnant for several weeks, sending my perfect scenario of perfect diet and best case prenatal care out the window!
Fortunately, at my husbands prompting, I took a pregnancy test around Week 5, and lo and BEHOLD! I spent most of the weekend feeling slightly clammy remembering the previous weekend’s margarita, and resolved to do better. Which I did! For two weeks…until the morning sickness kicked in. And by morning sickness, I mean kind-of all-day sickness. I sweated it out with saltines and ginger gummies for a few weeks, until my OB told me that keeping down 8 oz of water a day was not adequate hydration, and put me on Diclegis. The morning sickness resolved, and then the swollen ankles took over, and so on.
The rest of my pregnancy flew by. I was working very long hours at a new position coordinating childcare partnerships, and trying not to let on to anyone there that I was pregnant until it was absolutely obvious. Even after I told them, I felt like I needed to “prove” that I would still be the go-getter they thought I’d be when they hired me, unaware of my pregnancy.
So, cut to me, 39.5 weeks pregnant, water newly broken, sitting on a towel, trying to jam out a few final emails before going to the hospital. I had been working through what I thought were Braxton Hicks the previous Thursday & Friday during work. Occasionally during meetings, I’d have to stop talking, focus on the cramp…and then I’d be fine. This would happen every 8-9 minutes for about an hour, and then stop. Then resume again about 7-8 hours later. Friday found me on my hands and knees compulsively cleaning the bathroom, which my husband darkly muttered was a “sign”. Of what? My pre-birth mania?
My husband and I went to see Star Wars that Saturday night, and he later told me he worried we were going to doom our child to geekdom by birthing him or her in a Star Wars screening. I was shifting a lot in my seat, and timing my contractions with my iPhone, and even had to leave the theater an hour into the movie to try and walk some of the discomfort off. But again, after about an hour of timing things 8-9 minutes apart, they petered out, we went home, and went to sleep.
The next day, Sunday, all was quiet on the baby front. We had a nice breakfast and I ate double helpings of pineapple trying to get things moving. My husband cut the lawn, I went for a walk, and we might of tried that other thing that my OB-GYN matter-of-factly said was the only thing proven to hasten cervical ripening (It works, ya’ll!)(also, she said that in front of my husband, and he broke into the biggest shit-eating grin).
We went to church, where I sat during all the worship songs because my feet hurt, and then went home. We dug into a big crockpot I’d put together of a delicious abomination called buffalo chicken mac ‘n cheese, and watched something stupid on TV. My Aunt Kristi had sent a chocolate pie over the previous week, so I ate a slice of that. Then, feeling sorry for myself, still pregnant 5 days before Christmas, and feeling self-pity that I was sure to still be pregnant on Christmas (Christmas Eve was my due date), I ate a second slice.
The very moment I finished the pie, POP! I sat straight up, paused, and then ran-waddled to the bathroom, where I watched a gush of clear fluid enter the toilet. My husband had no idea what had happened, and finished the chocolate pie while I was calling my OB and describing the fluid (“About a cup at first, yes, it keeps coming, yes, it’s clear, yes, it smells fine”). He walked up to check on me, and his eyes went round and silent when he saw me standing in the shower while a new gush of fluid came out, and after a beat, he said “I guess this is it”.
I sent him off to finish packing his bag and do a few last minute things (move laundry over, make up the guest bed) while I shaved my legs and, with some difficulty, painted my toe nails. I was supposed to get a pedicure the next day, and dammit if I didn’t want my favorite OB to believe I had some attention to basic maintenance.
I still hadn’t experienced any kind of regular contractions after my grooming, so I got dressed, we called my parents and my in-laws to let them know what was going on, and checked back in with the hospital. My OB gave me the go-ahead to wait until the morning to come in, with the caveat that I’d be more likely to get a bed sooner (lots of scheduled inductions 4 days before Christmas ya’ll!) if I came sooner.
We decided to “labor” at home (what labor? I felt great!) until midnight, and then go in. I sent the forementioned emails, my husband nervously paced, and around midnight we loaded up and set off. I still had not experienced so much as a cramp since the mild one that popped my bag of waters, so the ER nurse that checked us in at midnight joked “Honey, you’re too relaxed to be in labor.” I just smiled, knowing my secret weapon (they don’t send you home once your water is broken!) was probably going to keep us at the hospital. My parents met us there, and waited while we went into a triage room to get checked out.
My favorite OB (The one who told me I was “perfect” while measuring the fundal height at an earlier appointment) came in, and after checking my cervix, gave us the disappointing news: “You’re not dilated at all. Since your waters broke at 8:00, you have about 20 hours left for labor to start naturally. You can start walking, and we hope it will get going, or we can start Pitocin now.” I really, REALLY didn’t want the Pitocin, because I’d heard all about the cascade of interventions, and every good crunchy mama KNOWS you don’t want to go THERE, so I said I’d walk.
I started walking laps with my husband, him trying not to laugh at my waddle (I had the equivalent of 3 of those doggie training pee pads stuffed in my underpants to help with catching the still-leaking amniotic fluid) and me doing deep squats every 4-5 steps. Within 30 minutes, I started to cramp, and we went back into the triage room to get a nurse to attach the external monitor and see if I was obviously contracting.
A few minutes later, I was having major gushes of fluid, and more painful contractions. I started to get a little worried – we were still in a tiny, very hot triage room, the nurses seemed to be ignoring me, and I was soaking through the underpads they had me resting on while they monitored my contractions. I had my husband call out to the nurses’ station that I needed help, and hobbled into the restroom, where I had another contraction, accompanied by a gush of bloody fluid. This concerned me more, but the nurse that came in said since I was just now starting to dilate, that could be my mucus plug.
I was starting to have more pain, and after another hour in the triage room, a bed opened up, and they moved us to a labor suite. GLORY. I immediately stripped down and got in a warm bath, and my husband started playing some Sufjan Stevens Christmas music. I labored like that, getting in and out of the tub, for about 5 hours. My husband helped massage my hips with the handheld shower nozzle, which felt heavenly, and when I got out, he applied counter-pressure while I bent over the bed. I got checked around 9 am and was still only 3 cm, and was a little discouraged, but the very upbeat nurse reassured me that I was making good progress.
At that time, I started to have an upset stomach, and was having much more regular and continuous contractions. I was only receiving intermittent monitoring at that point, so was free to move around the room, but was pretty much staying in the bathroom due to stomach upset. My mom helped me clean up, and I got back in the tub, but I was starting to feel like the tub wasn’t working to alleviate my pain. During a particularly intense contraction, I slipped, accidentally pulled the “emergency cord”, and opened my eyes at the end of the contraction to two nurses, my mom, and my husband (who had stepped out of the bathroom for a half second) all staring at me with great concern! My OB came by to check me again around 11, and I was in a LOT more pain at that point. I had told my husband to turn Sufjan the hell off about 2 hours prior, and was finding difficulty getting comfortable unless my husband was applying a metric ton of pressure to my hips.
My OB said I was still only 5 cm, and my cervix was very high, so he was going to try something, and then manually reached up and PULLED my cervix down. I used every swear word in the book to tell him I didn’t like him anymore, and then apologized as he left the room shaking his head. At that point I started asking for the epidural, but my mom and husband managed to talk me into trying Fentanyl intravenously first, since I’d already coached them ahead of time to ignore my request for an epidural.
The Fentanyl just made me really sleepy, but didn’t numb the contractions. It did help give my brain a rest, but then I had the distinct displeasure of being woken from drifting off comfortably by a contraction over and over again. Also, I forgot that I respond poorly to certain classes of opiod analgesics, and threw up 30 minutes after getting it. I was starting to get really discouraged, and during monitoring the new nurse that had come on shift pointed out I’d been awake 30 hours at that point (due to when labor started) and I needed to rest.
As I threw up again, I told her I wanted the epidural, and she said “Are you sure?” My husband started to interject, and I said “No. I know what I said. This is different, and I know what I want.” Even though I feel that epidural guilt occasionally, I do believe in my heart of hearts that the epidural helped me relax enough to finally dilate and get a vaginal delivery. (I was fully dilated within about 2 hours of the epidural.)
The anesthesiologist came and administered the epidural after waiting out a series of back-to-back contractions. She also concluded I likely had mild scoliosis (my sister has severe) due to how difficult it was to get me to “sit straight” during the epidural – this would’ve explained a lot of my left hip pain during pregnancy!
I immediately started feeling better, and was able to rest for about an hour. But then, the new nurse had me flipping from side to side to try and help ease Iris out of that same left hip – her heart rate was dropping a bit more than they felt comfortable with during contractions. They were also limiting checking my cervix in order to reduce the chance of introducing infection to my ruptured amniotic membranes, so we weren’t sure how much I’d progressed since starting the epidural.
My OB came by shortly after 2:00 to tell me he was ending his shift, but that I was in great hands with the new OB. One of the nurses whispered to me that the new OB was “the best” and “Dr. ___ never breaks a sweat, and if he does, there’s a good reason.” He only delivered babies on Mondays because he was mostly retired, and had been one of the founding OBs for my practice. I later found out Iris was one of his last babies, as that was his last shift before full retirement.
When he introduced himself, he matter-of-factly said “We’re going to start Pitocin now,” and I was 100% okay with whatever he said. While I know a more “natural” practice or women’s center might’ve given me longer, I also know that my window to deliver without developing a fever or infection due to having ruptured membranes was going to close soon, and I was ready to be done laboring.
It seems like the period after starting the Pitocin flew by. While the contractions weren’t unbearable, I could DEFINITELY still feel them, and complained more than once that I thought the epidural might not be working. Before I knew it, the nurse told me we were almost ready to start pushing. The OB came in and checked one last time, confirmed I was almost 9 cm, and left again. The nurse turned down my epidural, coached my mom to support one leg, with my husband supporting the other, and coached me through the pushes. She was also pregnant, and so animated and excited, like a tiny Polly Pocket pushing coach – it really motivated me to labor down and focus during contractions.
When the OB showed up, it was essentially to “catch” the baby – that nurse was the real star of the show! However, I did appreciate one thing. As I was gritting through one of the final pushes, the OB held up his hand and said “whoa, whoa, hold on”, and did some stretching and “rearranging” of things downstairs, which I am convinced helped limit my tearing. I just had one small 2-3 stitch vaginal tear, which considering the speed with which I progressed through pushing, was pretty good.
We were waiting to find out the gender, so the doctor immediately swung her around to face us so we could see. The look of shock, love, and God-given fear on my husband’s face was a memory for a lifetime. He had spent a great deal of time joking during my pregnancy that he could only make boys (he is one of 3) and the cosmic justice was perfect.
I held her for a minute before they took her to the warming table for her APGAR, and brought her right back so I could try to latch her and nurse for the first time. In that moment, all of the craziness of pregnancy and labor faded, and I just knew what I needed to do for my baby.
The ensuing months (she is 18 months old now) have been so good, and so hard, all at the same time. Labor and birth are just the beginning! She changed everything, in both good and hard ways. There is so much you are totally unprepared for as a first time mother.
While all of the prenatal focus is on preparing for labor, this really gives little attention to the practices of parenting a newborn. In retrospect I wish I’d spent less energy stressing about doing things “right,” and more energy enjoying my pregnancy and my newborn! Like most things in life though, you can’t really gain perspective when you’re in the work, so this grand story keeps spinning on.
Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful story with us, Sarah!!
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?