Spoiler alert and content warning: there WILL be ‘labor and delivery’ related content in this post (no crazy photos, just vocabulary) so if you don’t like that sort of stuff… you’ve been warned and I would advise you to not read any further….pansy. However, if you DO want to hear the story of how our sweet baby Charlotte Grace entered the world then by all means, grab a cup of coffee and continue reading…. it’s a LONG one.
Charlotte’s estimated due date was August 12, 2012 (a Sunday). I had been mentally telling myself for weeks that her due date wasn’t until later in August because I knew that if August 12th came and went and we still hadn’t met our girl I would be disappointed.
On Thursday, August 9th I had my weekly OB appointment. During the weeks prior I had been measuring at only 1 cm dilated and 50% effaced – which, I learned, really means nothing! You can be 100% effaced and 4cm dilated for 3 weeks before actually going into labor… cruel, just cruel…. and I wasn’t anywhere near that. During this appointment my OB said I was 1-2 cm dilated (oooooh, progress). Still only 50% effaced.
Lesson 1: Some things you just can’t rush
At this visit I asked her about stripping my membranes, a process that several of my coworkers, friends, and acquaintances had done to sort of ‘speed things up’ (with mixed results). My OB advised me against the process, particularly because I was not over-due and this was my first pregnancy – she said “I know it’s hard to wait and you are probably very excited and anxious and ready to be done with all of the swelling and pain, but just enjoy this last little bit of pregnancy and let your body tell you when it’s ready to have this baby”.
Best. Advice. Ever.
She told me that in her experience, stripping membranes and doing things to speed labor along results in increased likelihood for c-section and other complications because while it may help one aspect of labor along (dilation, effacement), the other aspects of labor (hormones, position of baby) are still controlled by your body and it’s timing and may not progress as quickly causing things to be ‘out of sync’.
Thursday at work I told everyone “see you monday” (I don’t work on Fridays), because I was certain I would not deliver until the following week after my due date. However, early Friday morning (1:30-ish) I began having contractions. I was going to let Chris sleep a while longer because I knew once things started progressing we wouldn’t have a chance to sleep for a long time. At about 2:00am though he rolled over and said he couldn’t sleep. “Oh good, because I’m having contractions!”. The contractions were about 9 minutes apart. This being our first time going through labor we had no idea what to expect and no idea if things would progress quickly or slowly. I think I remember telling Chris (or at least I thought it) that these contractions could go on like this for a really long time without progressing to the point where we need to go to the hospital and that he should get some sleep. There was no way that was going to happen for either of us, though, so we did some major nesting for the next 14 hours (Chris put the pack-and-play together, we did laundry, cleaned the house, finished packing our bags, watched Netflix, Pinterest-ed, etc). I was able to go for a walk around the neighborhood early on and spent most of the day on an exercise ball, which I highly recommend! We even managed to drive up to Tropical Smoothie in between 7-9 minute contractions (had a contraction, drove to the smoothie shop, had a contraction in line – I got some interesting stares, drove back home, had a contraction walking up to the front door…. it was actually perfect timing and the smoothie was so yummy).
Lesson 2: There are no guarantees and there will be surprises
I don’t think I will be able to enjoy Tropical Smoothie for a while after this labor experience because soon after we got back with our smoothie was when the vomiting started with almost each contraction. I remember thinking to myself “Hasn’t there been enough nausea and vomiting in this pregnancy?” – I was still taking Zophran every other day up until that morning to help me keep food down. I thought for sure I wouldn’t have to deal with vomiting any more once I went into labor.
Again. There are no guarantees.
There are always surprises.
Things continued to progress and contractions were coming closer together. I used a free App on my iPhone to track the contractions (frequency and duration), which was so helpful (unless I forgot to hit the ‘stop’ button… I think I logged some 20 minute long contractions throughout the afternoon – world record!!!). At this point my contractions were regularly 5 minutes apart with a few coming in at 3 and 4 minutes apart. Chris said he thought it was a good idea to head to the hospital. I wasn’t so sure – I was so afraid of going in and having them tell me to go home or being hooked up to machines too early and having my labor slow down. My goal was to labor at home and without any medication for as long as possible. Of course, Chris won out and we were on our way to the hospital at about 5:30 Friday evening. On the way to the hospital my contractions really slowed down (to 7,9, 12 minutes) – dagger! Exactly what I did NOT want to happen. When we arrived they put us in a triage room to monitor my progress to determine if I would be admitted. We could see my contractions on a monitor, very tiny and infrequent little blips. But we could also see all of the other ‘contractions’ being monitored in other rooms (with no identifying information, of course). It was quite entertaining to watch – “ooh, look at L&D 4….I think that might be her screaming, her contractions are off the chart”.
Lesson 3: Pain is relative and pain scales are completely subjective
I can definitely joke about this now, but when the triage nurse asked me what my pain was (on a scale from 1-10) I reported that it was an 8 because up until that moment that was the most pain I had ever been in. I knew things would get more painful, so that’s why I didn’t say 10, haha, but I would learn soon enough. If I could go back now I would report those contractions (and the ones I had been having all day) as a 3 or 4 on the pain scale. Silly me.
When we arrived at the hospital, the nurse checked me and reported that I was 3 cm dilated. What?! After a whole day of consistent contractions…only 3cm? I was really bummed and just knew they would send me home, especially since my contractions had really slowed in the car. But the nurse said they would monitor me for an hour and go from there. After an hour I was 5 cm so they decided to admit me to L&D.
By the time we gathered our things and I was wheeled (you have to be pushed in a wheelchair everywhere) to our room I was already 7cm dilated, so things were progressing really quickly now. My OB came in and said “So… no epidural?”. WHAT?! I replied with “um…yes, epidural, yes”. She said she saw that I had already made it to 7cm without the epidural so thought I might be wanting to go the whole way without it. I contemplated refusing the epidural for about .5 seconds, then came to my senses and told the nurse and my OB that I wanted it as soon as possible, since things were progressing quickly. They hooked my up to saline (I had to have half a bag in me before receiving the epidural). The nurse said it would take about 30 minutes for the saline to get into my system, then the anesthesiologist would be called. So, I watched the clock. After 30 minutes I remember turning around to look at the bag of saline only to see that it was still very full!! Um, why is that stuff still in the bag and not in my body?! I called the nurse in and she said she had put the drip on very slowly so it wouldn’t flood my body. Well, sister, I suggest you flood my body with that stuff because time is ticking. At this point I was starting to feel a different kind of pain and some pressure. After another 30 minutes (once I finally got the saline in me) the anesthesiologist came in and did his deal (not too bad actually. I made it a point not to look at any of his instruments. The hardest part was dealing with a contraction while he was in my spine and couldn’t move). The nurse (we’ll call her NBSLIS – Nice But Seriously Lacking In Skills) came back in and told me she was going to roll me on my right side and place a towel behind me to keep me on my side. Then she mentioned something about epidural and gravity, then scurried out of the room (Keep in mind, this was my first time doing this… I had no clue what was going on). By this time I was about 9cm dilated and the contractions were becoming unbearably painful. How did I know? Because only the right side of my body was getting relief from the epidural, the left side was not numb at all. There was a little ‘button’ that the nurse gave me to push if I needed an extra ‘dose’ of medication….well, I mashed the heck out of that button but was still in crazy pain on my left side. I called the nurse back in and she said it usually takes a while for the epidural to work (strange, I thought, because my right side is already in happy land) but that she would call the anesthesiologist back in. Meanwhile, I’m still vomiting through each contraction and eventually my water breaks during one of these crazy contraction-vomit duos. Also going on at this time, shift change. A new nurse walks in, along with the anesthesiologist. The anesthesiologist gives me a ‘boost’ of medication, which again goes to my right side, leaving my left side to suffer the wrath of each contraction.
Lesson 4: Screaming and hollering are for the movies…and for wimps.
I didn’t really talk much at all during labor, which landed me a compliment from a nurse. She was telling us that many women scream and yell during labor simply because that’s the image of labor they have in their minds from movies. I guess that’s just something added in movie scenes to add excitement and drama. I think that yelling and hollering would have added to the pain and my anxiety…
even if the hollering was coming from me.
(Listening to a music mix that Chris put together for me)
Anyway, shift change nurse (we’ll call her ANN – Awesome New Nurse) asked me how I was doing, I explained the whole ‘pain on left side, not on right side’ deal and she said “Oh, well let’s get you rolled over onto your left for a bit. The medication works with gravity so since you are laying on your right side your right is receiving all the medication”. Within 10 minutes my left lower body was blissfully numb…. and just in time to start pushing.
(The incubator, all ready to warm her up after she is born)
Lesson 5: Your Husband and Nurse basically deliver your baby… your husband is not prepared for this.
No book, video, or class can truly prepare you or your spouse for what will happen during labor and delivery with your first child. Chris was a much more active part of my delivery than he had anticipated. I commend him for remaining calm, despite the trauma of having seen things he “can’t un-see”, as he put it.
I’ll spare you the rest, but 15 minutes later we were listening to the precious first cries of our little girl.
Charlotte Grace Baker
August 11, 2012
12:14am . 6lbs 9 oz . 20 inches