So it’s taken me two months, but I have finally written my labor story!
This is a long post, but it was a very long experience. I could shorten it, but when I was pregnant I really wanted to read detailed, accurate accounts of what labor would be like... So that's what this is.
The good, bad, the ugly... and the very, very long! :)
Every woman’s labor is different. This was what it was like for me.
Going into this, I had no idea what to expect. People tell you to have a “labor plan” but how can you plan for something you’ve never experienced before?
I decided to be what I thought was very open-minded. There was no point planning on what position I wanted to be in or if I’d want a peanut ball or anything like that… I was going to just go with the flow.
There were only three things that I knew.
No… there were only those three things that I knew for certain that I wanted. Otherwise, I was just going to be very open to whatever happened.
Even though my due date was July 28th, I predicted that I would give birth on August 3rd. This was because I knew that most first time moms went a little late and the 3rd was the next full moon. My midwife, Kari, said that the full moon was always their busiest time of the month.
As you may recall from previous posts, I’d been getting menstrual-like cramps for weeks. And at about 4pm on August 3rd, I began feeling them. Except, these were different than usual. There was a separation between them. They were actually time-able. Could these finally be contractions?
The contractions were not super frequent. Only every ten to twenty minutes. And, eventually, they subsided altogether.
The next morning, August 4th, I tried a half-dose of the castor oil cocktail recipe that Kari had given me. Castor oil is the only “natural induction” that the midwives recommended. It is more commonly used for its laxative effect, but the intestinal stimulation it provides can also stimulate the uterus. This, in turn, can trigger contractions, but only if you were already on the brink of labor. Otherwise, it won’t do anything. This was why I didn’t mind giving it a try.
Kari told me that the worst that could happen was that I’d have massive gastrointestinal distress—meaning I could throw up and poo…a lot. That’s why I was nervous and I only took a half-dose. Thankfully, I did not have a bad reaction. I emptied my bowels several times. Then, at around 4, I began feeling very intense contractions. They were in my lower back (which is always where I get my menstrual cramps) and, again, they were different from normal. These felt like an intense, aching pain—dull, not sharp. As if you had a deep internal bruise that someone was pressing down on, squeezing and then slowly releasing. They lasted about 30 seconds to a minute each and returned every five minutes like clockwork.
HOURS passed like this. I was absolutely certain that it was the beginning of labor.
I knew how important rest was, so I tried napping but that was virtually impossible. Instead, I tried moving through the contractions. Dancing! I remembered… and I put on my playlist and I moved around my house to this. I bounced on my pregnancy ball. I tried the miles circuit moves to ensure that the baby was in the optimal position. And I sat in the bath for ages, which was an incredible relief.
Then, around 10:30 my husband and I decided to watch the Trump interview on HBO and it was as though the baby watched this and said, “I changed my mind. I’d rather stay in here!” and the contractions stopped completely by about 11. It was honestly bittersweet as I genuinely appreciated the break from the pain—it meant I could sleep—but also it meant that labor had stopped. Again. I knew that early labor could start and stop like this, but it was still disheartening.
On the 6th I had another prenatal appointment. We discussed induction, which was something that I wasn’t interested in. Not unless it was medically necessary.
We agreed to wait until 42 weeks, which would be August 11th. At that point, we would do another ultrasound and make sure the placenta and amniotic fluid all looked okay as well as the baby and her position. We would also monitor her heartbeat for about 20 minutes. Based on those readings, we would decide what to do from there.
My midwife explained that after 42 weeks, the placenta began to degrade, but no one could say how quickly or when. She checked my cervix which was I was relieved to hear was 1cm dilated—it meant that my 6.5 hours of labor at home had at least been somewhat productive. Then, she did a membrane sweep. Though I had read online that some women found this to be excruciatingly painful, I did not find it at all bothersome. Before we left, Kari recommended that I try the castor oil cocktail again, but this time to use the full-strength dose.
August 8th, I tried the cocktail for a second time. I drank it between 12:30 and 12:45. By 1:30/2, I was already feeling the effects. I needed a few trips to the toilet and there was a brief period of nausea, then the back cramps started to kick off.
By around 3/3:30, contractions were already every five minutes and pretty intense. Movement was the best medicine. I liked to lean against a wall, rotating my hips, or bounce on the pregnancy ball. The heating pad was also an absolute godsend.
At around 6, David and I tried to have a nap, preparing for the long night ahead. I got maybe ten minutes shut-eye and then the pain was too much for me to sleep. Lying still definitely made it hurt worse. I hopped in the shower and put my playlist back on. The combination of the hot water and rocking my hips to the music was like magic and I wanted to stay in there for forever.
As the evening progressed, I tried my best to relax, as per my doula’s recommendation.
I tried to write a little bit but only managed a few lines. Which were: “Labor pains as they got closer definitely hurt more. Like someone was reaching inside of me and squeezing hard.”
That was it. I couldn’t concentrate enough to write more.
The contractions, still exclusively in my back, were very intense and becoming closer together. Now, they were every three minutes. Then every two. I had to keep moving so, while David made dinner, I continued to dance around the kitchen (it was to Hot Stuff by Donna Summers in case you wanted to know!)
It was around 10:30 that night that I noticed the contractions were much closer together. Only a minute apart now. I texted my doula, Emily, and she had me time them for twenty minutes. This was agony. Timing the contractions forced me to focus on the pain.
After twenty minutes, I saw they lasted roughly 55 seconds to a minute each with a minute break in between, on average. Emily told me that it sounded like I had begun active labor.
I’d been holding off hope until this point, but now I finally decided that this was it. This was the real thing! Emily said that she’d be very surprised if my contractions abruptly ended again.
I hadn’t wanted to tell anyone until I knew it had really begun, but now that I was sure, I text all of my family to let them know: I was in labor.
David and I expected a pretty long, sleepless night. We watched TV to pass the time while he massaged my lower back. Eventually we came to the conclusion that we should try to lie down. It was possible we’d go to the hospital in the middle of the night or it was possible that it wouldn’t be until morning. Either way, rest was necessary.
At around 2:30am, we went to bed. The pain was becoming much worse now, though. I couldn’t stay lying down for long and I finally got up to stand in the shower again at around 3.
While I was in the shower, I texted with Emily. “Are you ready to go to the hospital to get settled in or do you want to labor at home a while longer?” she asked.
I wanted to stay at home for as long as possible. But, I told her I suspected I would be needing to go very soon.
At around 4am, I tried to lie down some more, but again could not sleep as the contractions were too painful. So, I went downstairs to eat a bit of fruit and drink some water and lay with my heating pad on the couch. It was around 4:30, maybe a bit past. I watched a dumb romantic comedy and I managed to drift off a little, dozing off and on. At some point, I managed to sleep a whole 40-45 minutes straight. It was a contraction that finally woke me, but it was then that I realized that they had slowed way, way down. By that time, it was about 6am.
My doula text to ask how I was. She asked if I had felt the baby like normal. "Actually, I've barely felt her at all. Maybe once in the last 6 hours," I text back.
I’d assumed that this was normal during labor… I’d read somewhere that activity slowed down right before birth… but apparently I was wrong.
Emily suggested that I go to the hospital to make sure everything was okay. Suddenly, I became very worried. I woke my husband and we went immediately.
At the hospital, they hooked me up to the heartbeat and contraction monitors. Thankfully, baby girl’s heartbeat was excellent! I continued having contractions while I was there, though I could not feel them. At first, they were 4 to 5 minutes apart but they grew to every 2. The baby’s heartbeat remained perfect throughout.
My midwife told me that back labor was much more painful than front labor, which I lamented but also celebrated as a badge of honor. She said it was possible that this was a sign that the baby was pushed more towards my back than my front. Or it was possible that since I always got menstrual cramps in my back, that this was where I would get contractions, too. But, just in case, Kari helped me into a Miles Circuit position for a while. Then, she checked my cervix which was now 2cm dilated and did another membrane sweep. This time it was super uncomfortable.
Before we left, Kari discussed with us our options. She asked if we were ready for an induction yet. She told us that she was very happy with the baby’s readings. But, it was my 2-vessel umbilical cord that was giving her concern, as well as how close I was to 42 weeks.
We went home to sleep.
I really did not want to be induced. In my mind, I had already attempted to nudge the course of nature twice with the castor oil cocktail. Clearly, my body was telling me that it was not yet time. I began texting with Kari, expressing my concerns and my reluctance.
She explained that she had walked past 42 weeks with pregnant women before.
And she had also seen cases of inexplicable and out of the blue stillborn before.
That word was like a lightning bolt jolting me.
That one word alone was enough to make me change my mind entirely.
In an instant, I was suddenly resolute.
I had told myself I would only consider induction if it was deemed medically necessary. We had reached that point. Unless labor started naturally again that night, the plan was to be induced the following morning at 8am. I would not risk the possibility of losing my baby.
Well, labor did not resume naturally that night. I was disappointed. But, at the same time, I made sure to congratulate myself. I had endured 14 hours of back labor at home in a way that I could be proud of. And 6 hours on a day before. That was no small feat.
In a way, though it hadn’t been to fruition… I’d been able to experience the kind of at-home labor I had hoped for myself. I’d even danced through my contractions. I could be proud of that.
August 10th, we went to the hospital at 8am with our hospital bag. My midwife briefed me on the plan.
They would give me a dose of Cytotec. This generally did not do much for most women, but was a way of gently getting the ball rolling by hopefully getting the cervix a bit more dilated. After seeing how I responded to Cytotec, they would decide whether to give me a second dose or switch me directly to Pitocin… which usually was enough to do the trick.
However, if not, we would then discuss breaking my water bag manually. There was a downside to this option, however. Once your water breaks, the clock is ticking. Because the longer there is between your water bag breaking and giving birth, the increased chance of infection. But, we'd cross that bridge once we got there.
At around 9am, I was given Cytotec. They inserted this directly into my cervix in the form of a tiny pill, which meant that I had to remain lying down for at least 2 hours. After that, I could move around. With Cytotec, I wasn’t hooked up to all the monitors. That was only for Pitocin. The nurse, Brooklyn, came to check the readings manually every half hour to an hour or so.
A half an hour after insertion, I began having hard contractions.
They were made more painful by the fact that I couldn’t get up. Contractions are not meant to be endured lying down!
Brooklyn seemed a little surprised because Cytotec didn’t usually solicit such an intense response straightaway. She told me they should even out soon and thankfully they did.
At around 11, I checked the weather forecast just to see if maybe there was a thunderstorm or at least some rain… It said clear blue skies. Oh well.
But then, not twenty minutes later, I noticed that the sky looked really dark out the window.
I asked my husband to open the blinds.
The sky was black, the wind was roaring, and to my delight there was a raging thunderstorm.
The nurse, Brooklyn, came in to get a reading of the baby’s heartbeat. Her heartrate was like BOOM BOOM BOOM… “She’s excited,” she said.
It was clear to me that my baby girl liked thunderstorms, too. :)
Then, Brooklyn, who seemed skittish about the storm, asked David to step away from the window which I thought was a little dramatic. Just then, as if on cue, the alarm went off for the hospital.
At first we thought it was for a tornado. Brooklyn went to go check. In the end, it was actually a fire alarm set off by someone in the mental health ward.
When the storm had passed, David went home briefly to walk the dog. He took a video of the storm’s aftermath along the roads and I’d never seen anything like it! Turns out that our nurse hadn’t been so dramatic after all. We learned later that we had been hit by a derecho, which is a land hurricane. The last one that had struck Iowa was in the 1800’s!
Now that the 2 hours were finally up and I could move around, I decided to listen to my playlist on my headphones and dance around the room for a bit.
Again, the hip swaying and pelvic rotating was very helpful. I really do recommend it!
At 2:30 I began having just a few front contractions, which were way easier to cope with than the back ones. Unfortunately, they didn’t last and soon they were in my back again.
Brooklyn said that, with the way I reacted to the first dose of Cytotec, she didn’t think I’d be needing another. “You might not need anything else at all!” God, I hoped she was right!
At some point I texted my midwife and I asked her,
“Does it get much worse than this?
Because what I am experiencing is absolutely no fun, but it’s manageable.
And I just want to know what to prepare myself for.”
I was thinking, if this is it--I’ve got this. I’ll just dance my way through right up until the baby comes out!
Kari sent me back an incredibly diplomatic reply, “I don’t know what you are feeling,” with a shrugging emoji and a wink, “but I can say that all labor is HARD work.”
At 3, Kari checked my cervix and I was now 3cm dilated instead of 2 and the baby was lower.
As the contractions continued to intensify, I decided to hop into the shower. The hot water on my lower back was an immediate relief! Another tool that I definitely recommend.
At around 5:30, I lost my mucus plug and there was a bloody show. I took this as a very good sign. Things were finally progressing.
Unfortunately, I learned that I was having coupling contractions. A productive contraction is one that is a gradual incline up and then back down, lasting about a minute with 2-3 minutes in between. Coupling contractions are when you have two or more successive contractions without a return to the baseline between them. They are intense but, sadly, not considered productive.
My midwife, Kari, wanted to try something new. She did not want to give me another dose of Cytotec since my uterus had been so unusually reactive to the first one. But, she did want to get my cervix more dilated before switching to Pitocin. So, she suggested a cervical catheter, which I agreed to. It was a procedure in which she would insert a catheter into my cervix and inflate the balloon with a saline solution. This would put pressure on my cervix and would encourage dilation. Eventually, the bulb would deflate and the cervix would be dilated enough that it would just fall out on its own.
I won’t lie… inserting this into my cervix was excruciating. I can’t sugar coat that. Even worse was that it took Kari a while to fish around and get it into the right position. When she finally did, I needed her to stop just so I could catch my breath.
I about cried knowing that there was still the saline solution that needed to be pumped in.
After I had composed myself, Kari began and I started to feel hot and sweaty and nauseated. I lasted as long as I could before I needed her to stop again. It was awful.
After a few more minutes, I let her pump more medicine but needed her stop yet again before I’d received the full dose.
“Give me a 10 to 15 minute breather and I’ll let you try again,” I said through gritted teeth.
But, even after that, I still couldn’t. The contractions were way too intense now. Kari told me not to worry. She said we had gotten in 50ml of the 60ml dose, so that would be good enough.
“It might be a good time for the tub,” Kari told me. “And to call Emily.”
So the nurse, Brooklyn, wheeled in a big metal tub to sit in. The catheter had a rubber hose that hung from me like a bizarre tail, which made my movements weirdly comical.
Once they got the water hot enough for me, the bath was heavenly.
The only problem was that, while it helped with the contractions, the rest of my body felt like it was cooking… like I was a frog in boiling water. Kari fanned my face while Brooklyn fetched an actual fan.
Eventually, it was a shift change and my next nurse, Parker, came in. It was around that time, as I was in my tub, that my doula, Emily, arrived. Kari had been waiting until she got there. She made sure we were all settled before she went home.
Emily was amazing. My husband had been massaging my lower back off and on all day, but his wrist was aching and so she took over. She massaged me for ages.
“Remember, the time in which you are contracting is less than when you aren’t contracting,” she told me.
I’d read that it was helpful for some women to visualize a flower opening and I’d been doing that through each contraction. Emily gave me another visualization to try and told me to think of my contractions like a wave. “But, the most important thing to remember is that each wave has an end.”
For months I had wondered what labor pains would feel like.
I had tried googling, searching for any description.
Women always talk about the pain, but they never describe what that pain is like.
Is it like stubbing your toe? Is it sharp, like getting cut with a knife?
When I had gallstones, several people told me that they’d heard these were worse than labor. So, whatever labor was like… I was sure I could handle it. I’d endured worse pain.
Well, I can definitively say that labor was worse than gallstones. And I understand now why women refrain from describing the pain of a contraction… it’s difficult to put words to. The best I can do is to compare it to a menstrual cramp. But, take that cramp and amplify it ten-fold.
It is not sharp, necessarily. Though, some feel sharper than others.
And it does feel like a mighty big wave, the pain of which intensifies and builds and builds before reaching its peak and then gradually subsiding.
Another image that kept recurring for me was that of a fist clenching and then releasing.
Like I mentioned earlier, imagine you have a very deep, painful internal bruise and there is someone squeezing it and then releasing.
That’s the best way that I can describe it.
It is an extremely intense physical sensation, not particularly comparable to… well, anything really. I found that labor is its own unique experience.
Emily timed my contractions. They were every minute to 2.5 minutes apart with lots of coupling, which we could see on the contraction monitor. Eventually, I moved to the shower and David fed me slices of peach while I stood beneath the stream.
Kari decided that the best thing would be for me to get some rest, so at 10 they gave me Ambien and Tylenol. I was extremely skeptical that these would help me sleep through my contractions, but I was out like a light by 10:30/11. They hooked the fetal monitors to me so that the nurse wouldn’t have to wake me every half an hour to get a reading. Nevertheless, they slid out of place often. I’m a very light sleeper, but when Parker came to reposition them I slept through it almost every time. The catheter hose leaked strange disgusting mucus onto my sheets throughout the night. And, unfortunately, it never fell out like it was supposed to, so the nurse took it out at 5am.
When I woke up at 7am on August 11th, the contractions had stopped altogether. David went to walk the dog and Sabbath, my new nurse for the day, got me a fresh hospital gown and wrapped my IV so that I could take a shower. Then, Kari checked my cervix and, though it was still 3cm, she said that it was more open and ripe.
We started the Pitocin at 8:45am.
The baby’s heartbeat dropped dramatically and two nurses came rushing in to check.
Her heartbeat recovered quickly and they said she was just having a little tantrum.
It was her way of saying “I really don’t want to come out!”
Immediately after receiving the Pitocin, I had very intense contractions yet again. They eventually levelled out. But, before they did, the dietary aid came in mid-contraction to get our meal order for the day and said,
“Are you STILL in labor?!”
Mid-contraction… I just gave her a look.
My nurse, Sabbath, was much sharper-tongued. Shooting the woman a vicious glare, she snapped, “Never say that to a laboring woman!”
David came back shortly after I’d gotten all hooked up to the monitors and my contractions were going pretty steady. The goal was to have the contractions be every 2-3 minutes and last about a minute which we had achieved by 11. They weren’t as intense as last night which I was grateful for. I wanted to ease back into those. And if they could stay 2-3 minutes apart instead of every 1 that would be a godsend!
I was happy to find that I could move around despite being hooked up to all the monitors. So, I did some lunges and I bounced on the ball.
At about noon, I started to stand up from the ball so that I could go to the bathroom and I felt a weird POP. Just as I thought to myself, “What the hell was that?” and stood, a gush of water ran down my legs.
Finally, my water had broken! I took this to be a very good sign.
It’s funny because in the weeks building up to labor, I was worried that my water might break and I wouldn’t notice. Like maybe it’d be a tiny trickle or just a bit of moisture. Ha! It wasn’t a light dribble or something that you couldn’t notice. It was pouring out! And it wasn’t just one gush either… it kept coming!
I took a shower just before Kari checked my cervix again. I was over the moon when she told me that I was 4cm now! Finally, we were making some progress!
Kari had the nurse increase the Pitocin and Sabbath told me that it might be a good time to call my doula back and have her on the way. She said to expect things to pick up soon.
Boy, was she right!
By 1/1:30, I was crying just from the relief of one contraction reaching its end.
I laughed when I remembered the early labor contractions I’d been having the day before (or even at my house) thinking how manageable they were and imagining myself just dancing right up until the end…
How foolish I’d been!
When I asked Kari how much worse they would get, HA!
Her answer should have been: WORSE.
If each contraction was a wave, I was in the middle of a typhoon now.
Sabbath turned the Pitocin level down. Then again when I asked.
“You are probably the most polite laboring woman I’ve ever seen,” she told me.” It was a nice compliment to receive. I’d always wondered what kind of woman I would be in labor… I’d imagined myself much louder, with more swearing. But, I guess the answer was polite. “It seems like a good time for the tub,” she offered me then.
I got into the shower while I waited. When my nurse brought the tub to me, I said, “I really hope this is active labor!”
“Oh, it is,” Sabbath assured me. “By the sound of it, you might even be in transition.”
I was very encouraged by this. I swore I could feel the baby’s head getting lower.
Emily arrived somewhere after 2. Contractions by then were every 2 minutes apart.
I got into the shower again and then back into the tub. They started getting closer together.
“Remember, you are contracting for less time than you aren’t. Focus on that,” she reminded me.
“I don’t know how much longer I can do this,” I said. Everyone told me that I could. Between David, Emily, and Sabbath, I had felt like I had a whole team of cheerleaders all urging me on.
Emily was giving me wave imagery again. She reminded me to relax my body and to stay open. This was all helpful, but the contractions kept getting closer together. They were so intense! Some were spiking off the chart on the monitors. And they were just one after another after another, with no time in between to get my bearings.
I said that I wanted to pussy out. I hate using that phrase as a synonym for weakness and I hate that I said it there in that room full of empowered women, but it’s what I said.
They told me that Kari would be back in half an hour and encouraged me to wait and see how far along I was.
I didn’t want to leave the tub, but I was exhausted and I had to lie down. They helped me move to the bed and gave me a peanut ball. Lying down made the contractions much worse. It was so hard not to tense up, but I kept breathing through each one. They were just so relentless!
By 2:50, I had them ask Kari to hurry. She came 5 minutes later. She checked and I was still only 4cm, though I was a bit more effaced.
This sealed the deal for me. “I want an epidural,” I told them.
My goal had been to go without but these contractions were right on top of each other. I couldn’t get enough time to recuperate in between.
Thankfully, the anesthesiologist was already on her way to another lady and Kari stopped her and told her to see me first. I felt guilty about this, but also so so grateful.
Meanwhile, contractions were only about 30 seconds apart now.
I felt like I was drowning beneath the waves. I wailed through them, trying to keep my voice nice and low. Everyone was so helpful and encouraging… honestly, beyond words.
Sabbath gave me some fentanyl which hardly helped but at that stage I was going to take anything and everything I could.
As the contractions continued getting closer, they were now 20 seconds apart... I somehow managed to actually fall asleep between them, that’s how drained I was. I remember dreaming that the anesthesiologist had arrived.
By 3, the anesthesiologist, Katherine, was there. By 3:15 I’d gotten the epidural. It helped almost immediately! It numbed my lower body and I couldn’t feel a single contraction then.
I was surprised when they told me that I wouldn’t be allowed to stand up to go to the bathroom. I told them I could still wiggle my toes, so surely I could walk… but they said it wasn’t safe.
They would have to empty my bladder for me. I didn’t like hearing this as I’d been told that a urinal catheter was very painful, but they reassured me that I wouldn’t feel a thing. They were right.
I would have to stay in bed hooked up to all the monitors including one for blood pressure. At that point, though, I was too drained to do anything else.
I napped a little. We had dinner at 5. I wasn’t hungry but I made sure to eat as I knew it would give me strength. There was still a long night ahead. David went to walk the dog again.
At 5:15ish, Kari and Emily were back to check my progress. I was 5cm now and the baby was much lower, at a zero. They confirmed that my contractions were still on top of each other with maybe a 20second break.
Emily said, “Remember when I told you that you would have longer not contracting than contracting? I was like damn you made a liar of me.”
Both she and Kari were very reassuring about my getting an epidural, which I really appreciated.
At 5:30 they left me to nap more. It was Emily’s son’s birthday so I told her to go be with him for a bit. “There’s nothing about this labor that has been fast,” I told her. “And if that changes and she comes quick… well, I’ll be okay with that!”
The epidural made me incredibly itchy all over, so at 6:10 I was given some Benadryl and they increased the Pitocin. I could definitely feel pressure down there and I was sure that meant baby was moving lower.
My nurse told me that she could see dips on the heartbeat monitor which were an indication that I was right. Until this point, her heartbeat was so fast, my nurse said, “She’s been too happy… that’s not a baby about to go in labor. But now, we’re seeing what we want.”
David was back at 6:20. We slept for a bit.
Somewhere between 8:30 and 9, my evening nurse, Parker, was checking my readings. “Don’t worry about pooping,” she told me. “I know it’s something I’d be worried about if I were in your shoes… but don’t. It happens to everyone and it’s honestly no big deal.”
I became suuuper itchy and trembling as if I had a fever, except I didn’t. Then nausea hit. I was told that this was a possible sign of transition. I kept feeling pressure in my vagina so I was really hopeful.
Kari came back at about 9:40ish to check me. I was still at 5cm. She used a uterine catheter to check the strength of my contractions to see if I could get more Pitocin. But, as she had predicted, my contractions were very strong and exactly as they should be. This was actually not good news.
The next step, she told me, was to discuss a C-section.
I was honestly very surprised.
But, I’d been such a low-risk candidate… how had it come to this?
This was not what I wanted to hear.
It was because my water bag had broken already; we were on the clock.
Kari reassured me, “You did everything right. Not just in labor, but from day 1 of pregnancy. You exercised, ate well, you did all the right things…”
“If I had gotten the full dose of the cervical catheter, would that have helped?” I asked, tears in my eyes. “I’ll let you do it again.”
“No,” she said. “That wouldn’t have made a difference. Sometimes, there is no rhyme or reason. You can do everything right and have this happen. While others can do everything wrong, and can smoke and drink and not take care of themselves… and have a seamless vaginal birth. It goes under the chapter of unfair things about life.”
Though it looked likely, Kari kept me hooked to the catheter monitor for a while, just to be sure.
But, finally, the call was made.
I was going to be having a C-section and it was going to happen tonight.
They had to bring in the on-call surgeon, a doctor that Kari reassured me was excellent.
The anesthesiologist was also going to return. The hope would be that she could just use my epidural to inject the anesthesia.
As I waited, however, something began to feel wrong.
The pressure I was feeling in my vagina was increasing to the point that it was actually becoming painful. Then, really painful.
I was feeling contractions again, except they were no longer in my lower back. They were inside my vagina.
I assumed this was because the baby was still trying to make her way out of the canal and that the epidural just simply didn’t help with pain down there. David encouraged me to hit the button for more medicine and I did, but received no relief.
I was extremely itchy again and so I got another dose of Benadryl. And then I just proceeded to become more and more uncomfortable. Until, once again, I was writhing in pain with each relentless contraction.
“It’s in my hoochie!” I kept saying when Parker would ask me where it hurt.
She told me she found this word very funny, but I was not at all amused.
At some point during all of this, the baby’s heartbeat became distressed. Kari and Emily returned to check.
A C-section was now absolutely necessary.
They saw that I was in so much pain again. They were pressing the button for more medicine, too, each time having to wait ten minutes in between… only for there to be no relief.
They didn’t say as much out loud at the time, but they couldn’t understand why I was still hurting.
“This is no fair!” I cried. “I’m getting a C-section and I’m still having fucking contractions!”
Parker had to shave me to prepare for the surgery and I could not lie still. It was absolute agony even trying.
Finally, the anesthesiologist arrived and she checked my epidural and said, “It’s fallen out.”
I’m told by my husband that she seemed very angry.
Parker said, “I’m so sorry; I didn’t think to check because that’s never happened before!”
Honestly, though I knew I had the right to be angry, I was just so relieved because it meant that I was finally going to get relief. And, sure enough, in a few minutes the epidural was back in and the pain was subsiding. I think I almost instantly fell asleep.
The anesthesiologist began talking me through what she was going to do for the C-section but I was gone. I heard maybe five words, dozing in and out.
Finally, I heard her say, “Do you have any questions?”
I was just like, “No… no, I think you covered everything.”
I was too embarrassed to say I hadn’t heard a word.
They rolled me to the OR alone while my husband and midwife donned hospital robes and hair nets nearby. My doula would not be allowed in during the operation.
There was a whole team of people and they all introduced themselves to me. They asked me if I ever had surgery before and I told them my gallbladder had been removed. They asked if I’d had any complications with anesthesia and I said no.
Then, the OB walked me through the procedure.
I was so exhausted, I couldn’t keep myself conscious.
Again, I heard almost none of it and again felt the need to lie when he asked if I had any questions.
“No, thank you” I think I said.
I was scared.
I was scared to be cut open.
I was scared that I would still feel something because I could still wiggle my toes and I said as much, but they reassured me that this was fine.
I was scared that I was too tired… that I’d be too tired to feel joy when they would hand me my baby.
This wasn’t how I wanted to bring her in to the world.
This wasn’t how I wanted to be when I met her.
David and Kari came back. I don’t remember much until suddenly I felt my whole lower body was shaking—shaking isn’t even the right word. I was being violently yanked around.
There was a curtain which meant that I couldn’t see, so I asked David, “Have they started yet?”
“Oh, they started a while ago.”
He began talking to me to distract me. I don’t remember what we said.
I just remember the surgeons counting and I asked what that was about. They had put cloths into my open stomach and were now removing them, counting them out loud to make sure none were forgotten inside.
I was scared, but trying hard not to think about things.
Then, I heard my baby cry… just a little.
And suddenly nothing else in the entire world mattered.
All my exhaustion and my worry and my fears just floated away.
My baby was here and she was okay.
I began crying I was so relieved.
The nurses and Kari cut the cord and then handed her to me.
She looked into my eyes, staring, calm… like she knew me. Like she’d seen me a thousand times.
It was the most magical, surreal thing. I wasn’t even conscious of the surgeons stitching me up. There was nothing in the world that existed in that moment but my baby.
Eventually, I passed her to Kari so that David could hold her. She was crying in Kari’s arms but when she passed her to my husband, again she instantly quietened. The baby just stared at him, completely calm, because she knew him, too.
And that’s my labor story!
At 12:49am on August 12th my Iris Elizabeth was born.
I know it’s been a long read but, well, it was a very long experience!
Nothing about my labor went the way I wanted.
Kari told me that checking into the hospital for my induction was as easy as it got—nothing else went smoothly, from my first dose of Cytotec.
And the three things I had said I didn’t want to happen—to be induced, an epidural, and a C-section—were the three things that happened.
In the end, none of that mattered.
Nothing mattered except the fact that I had my healthy baby girl in my arms.
Looking back, I can say that labor was not what I thought it would be.
Even after reading all about it and reading other women’s accounts… it’s one of those things that is difficult to imagine until you experience it yourself.
I’m certain, however, that my positive outlook served me well throughout.
And I am incredibly proud of myself for going through that and even more proud for the baby that I’ve brought into this world.
So that’s it! That’s the end of this journey. But the beginning of another, even more beautiful one.
Thank you so much for reading my blog.
Posts may be more irregular but I plan to keep writing here. To write about being a new mom and the challenges and beauty that motherhood presents.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. What was your labor experience? Was it how you imagined?
I'm Kelsey! Proud Iowan native, world traveler, writer, wife to the most incredible husband, and now soon to be mother