So I wanted to write a post all about my birth story months ago but life with a toddler is busy and I forgot all about it until now. As I mentioned I had a really great pregnancy. Everything went perfectly. My baby was healthy, I was healthy, and I didn’t gain too much weight. However, I went overdue by 2 days. That might not sound like a lot but when you’re enormous, have a little human kicking your insides 24/7, can’t stop peeing and can’t sleep because you’re huge and uncomfortable, those extra 2 days feel like eternity.
FYI: This post will contain a fair amount of TMI. You have been warned.
On my due date, I had my OB perform a stretch and sweep. This is basically a process of stretching the cervix so it opens and separating (sweeping) the membranes from where they adhere around the cervix in the lower portion of the uterus. Have I mentioned how uncomfortable that is? It’s not pleasant and it kind of hurts. Similar to having a pap smear except you’re pregnant. The purpose of the stretch and sweep is to help labor along ― but it doesn’t always work. (I should mention that at this point Ollie was head down and ready to go.)
In my case it did, or I think so anyway. Within 2 days I began experiencing the symptoms of early labor. On August 18th I went to the hospital with light contractions. I was only 2cm dilated so they sent me home with tylenol. (Hah! Tylenol! Little did I know what was coming…) Thankfully I lived only a few blocks from the hospital at that time. I came home and had a bath, basically trying to do anything to relax and comfort myself.
Less than 2 hours later real labor began. Real contractions literally knocked me off my feet. I could barely walk. I remember scaling the hallway with my hands to reach the door so we could drive back to the hospital. The drive was horrible. I screamed in pain with every bump in the road. Walking from the parking lot across the street to the hospital was excruciating. And I still had to get myself signed in at the hospital ― a task that seemed nearly impossible at that point.
So after doing that I came to my room where I was changed into a super-stylish hospital gown, was checked for dilation (Only 4cm? What!?) and hooked up to a variety of machines. All of these things would be scary in other situation but when you’re in the throes of labor you just don’t care. I was hooked up to a fetal monitor to check my baby’s heart rate and measure my contractions.
Unfortunately my OB was unable to assist me at the hospital (due to busy birth season), a total letdown because she was an actual angel. Thankfully I knew the OB that came to assist and felt comfortable with her.
So I spent the next several hours laying in bed, routinely being checked for dilation/effacement and not-so patiently awaiting my epidural. Honestly, I wanted to go pain-free. I had this idea in my head that I was so tough and could handle labor without any medication. Bullshit! Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about choosing a different route.
I was in so much pain for hours. I went medication free from 9pm until 4am when the doctor arrived to administer my epidural. Now, during your epidural your parter/husband/significant other will be asked to leave the room. What happens is the doctor will inject a small area on your back with a local anesthetic to numb it. He will then insert a needle into the numbed area surrounding your spinal cord in your lower back. After that, a small catheter (more on catheters later) will be threaded through the needle into the epidural space.
I was SO afraid of having an epidural but I’m so glad I did. It took just a short while to kick in and once it did, I was out cold. I literally passed out into that strange state where you’re not quite asleep but you’re not quite awake. I could hear everything going on around me but I couldn’t move or talk. I felt nothing. It was glorious. But then… my water broke. That’s right! My water did not break until I entered the late stages of labor.
Now this is kind of funny because I remember feeling a relief of pressure then a surge of wetness. I recall saying “I think my water just broke” and the nurse came over, lifted the sheet, and said “Yep, it sure did!” It doesn’t sound as funny in a blog post as it was in real life. It was one of those ‘you had to be there to understand‘ kind of things.
A brief return to the mention of catheters ― You will have a catheter during birth. They will insert it into your bladder through your urethra to help remove urine. This will alleviate your need to go to the bathroom as a full bladder in labor can become distended and cause the baby to have trouble moving down into the pelvis. I never had a catheter before and it was so uncomfortable. I don’t even know how to describe it other than feeling like something sharp is pinching your clitoris. Enough said.
So continuing on… Once my water broke, things really started moving along quickly. The nurse administered Pitocin, a natural hormone that helps your uterus contract during labor, because I was so numb from the epidural that I couldn’t feel my nether regions. This basically brings back all of the pain that you felt before.
This is also when the real fun begins. This is when your legs will be elevated and the doctor will turn on this super bright light. The nurse(s) will arrive to assist the doctor and you’ll suddenly feel like you’re an exhibit in a freak show. You’ll be told to start pushing except you can’t because you still can’t quite feel your nether regions. You feel like you’re pushing but you’re just not quite sure how to ― all of the parenting classes in the world can’t really teach you how to push a human being out of your vagina, nor can they prepare you for this moment.
While you’re pushing, you will have a nurse up close and personal with your vagina. I don’t know how to describe exactly what she was doing. Basically she uses all of her fingers to stretch your vagina. It’s super awkward to talk about but honestly, any sense of dignity goes out the window during birth. Shame no longer exists. But these people do this every day, multiple times a day, and they’re not judging you. Fortunately I only had to push for around 40 minutes before Ollie made her appearance.
So once the baby arrives, the doctor will place her on your chest for a short while so you can see her and enjoy those sweet, new Mom bonding moments of skin-to-skin and breastfeed. Afterward the doctor will cut her umbilical cord. I chose to wait a few minutes to allow the extra blood to flow from the placenta to Ollie, which is said to lower the risk of newborn anemia and iron deficiency in infancy.
The doctor will perform an Apgar assessment (Activity, Pulse, Grimace, Appearance and Respiration) to evaluate your baby’s heart rate, breathing, muscle tone, reflex response and color. A nurse will put antibiotic drops in your baby’s eyes to help prevent eye infections. The nurse will also weigh your baby and give her an injection of vitamin K to help her blood clot. A nurse will also perform a gentle sponge bath and a complete pediatric exam.
A nurse will prick your baby’s heel and take a few drops of blood to test for phenylketonuria (PKU), hyperthyroidism, and other disorders. Your baby will also receive her first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine before being discharged from the hospital.
OH, I almost forgot the best (sarcasm) part. Afterbirth! So the afterbirth is essentially the placenta and fetal membranes being expelled from the uterus following the baby’s birth. I don’t know how to describe the sensation of afterbirth other than just basically shitting out a giant squid. The nurse wheeled my placenta over asking if I wanted to see it. Barf no. I have no interest in seeing that thing. I still can’t believe there’s women in the world that actually eat their placenta.
Onto the icky truth.. After all this is over, the doctor will stitch your vagina back up. Don’t look at it for a while. It will look like something out of a horror movie at this point but honestly your vagina will look as it once did again soon. The nurse will take you into the bathroom where she will teach you how to keep your vagina clean (thus preventing infection) using water in a spray bottle. This is super important. It is vital that you keep the area clean!
The nurse will also give you giant pads, really though… more of a diaper, to wear. Get used to them! You will be wearing them for quite a while.
Seriously, your downstairs hurts so much at this point and the basic bitch tylenol the nurses give you just doesn’t help ease the pain. It hurts to sit. It hurts to walk. It hurts to pee. Pooping is next to impossible. (It really is. Expect to be constipated for a while. And if you do feel the urge to poop, expect to be terrified that you will pop a stitch and your insides will fall out into your toilet.) All those losing your virginity and walking sideways jokes your friends made in high school will come back to haunt you now.
Here’s the thing.. When you ask people to describe just how much labor hurts, they will tell you it hurts but that you forget the pain. This is true but it doesn’t make you feel any better when you’re trying preparing yourself for it. Labor fucking hurts. Okay? It hurts a lot. It hurts more than any pain I have ever felt in my life. It is an all-encompassing, every bone in your body is breaking all at once sort of pain. But once it’s over and you get to see and feel and hear your child for the first time, you really do forget the pain. The pain will become a distant memory replaced by the most incredible feeling of joy and love that you have ever felt.
Ollie was born on August 19th, 2016 at 8:14am. She weighed 7 lbs and 6 oz. She had slight jaundice which we kept an eye on, thankfully it cleared and all was well. Ollie was, and still is, absolutely beautiful and perfect in every way.