On the evening of Monday, July 16, I began to feel my first contractions around 10:30pm. My husband and I had had a feeling earlier that day that our little one might be arriving soon. After I finished working from home for the day, we went on a long two-mile walk on the trail behind our house to get the ball rolling. I felt great and felt like I could have kept walking for a long time.
When we got home, we decided to keep our labor ball rolling and ordered buffalo wings and pizza for dinner. After we ate, I felt a sudden surge of energy and launched into finishing all the work projects I needed to get done before I began my maternity leave. I sent email after email until everything on my to-do list was taken care of. At some point during this time, I began to feel my first contractions. At first, I wasn’t really sure what they were and thought maybe it was just false labor. Our due date was still a few days away and I had anticipated going past the due date, anyway.
The contractions kept coming and began to feel a bit stronger and more frequent. Eventually, Chad and I started timing them. They were about 8-9 minutes apart at that time, around 10:30pm. We timed them for over an hour until they got to about 5 minutes apart. I still wasn’t convinced that I was really in labor, but we decided to give the doctor a call and see what he said. I called in and was directed to Dr. Dawkins, the doctor on call, since my doctor was out of town. He asked how dilated I had been at my last appointment, and I told him that I hadn’t been dilated at all. He said to go ahead and come in to have them check and see where I was at.
So we grabbed our bags and Chad loaded everything into the car. We woke our sleepy pup, Lily, up and we all piled into the car. We headed to my parents’ house to drop Lily off. At this point, even though contractions were now about 4 minutes apart, I was still fairly convinced that we would eventually get to the hospital only to be sent home.
We got to my parents’ house and I sat down for a glass of water and a quick chat with my parents, even though they were urging me to go to the hospital. I got up to let Lily outside and was coming back into the kitchen when I suddenly felt a huge gush of water rush down the lower half of my body. It felt like a huge bucket of warm water had been dumped over me. I looked up at my mom and told her my water just broke.
Now she was excitedly telling me to go to the hospital right away, but I felt so drenched and uncomfortable that I needed to change my clothes before I got in the car. I quickly switched clothes and even though water continued to pour out of me even in these new clothes, Chad and I climbed into the car and headed down the road to the hospital. Luckily, it was only about five minutes away from my parents’ house.
We checked in and I felt so strange as I calmly told the emergency room staff that I was there because I was in labor. They brought me a wheelchair and we cruised back to the birthing center and were checked into room 135.
The nurses came in and asked about our birth plans and questions. I told them I wanted to try to have the baby without an epidural, but I’m not totally opposed to changing my mind as the situation changes.
After 4 fairly painful tries, I eventually had an IV in my hand to provide any water or nutrients that my body might need during labor. The nurse checked to see if I was dilated, and I was disappointed to hear that I was only 1cm. I had to get to 10cm before I could even begin pushing. Apparently I wasn’t going to have one of those super quick labors.
Before long, it seemed like the contractions began to kick it into high gear. They became stronger and closer together to the point that it was almost hard to tell when one was ending and the next beginning.
The pain was a million times worse than I had thought it would be (and I had prepared myself for some pretty bad pain). I was also experiencing back labor. To counteract it, I asked Chad to push as hard as he could on my lower back. I only felt the slightest relief when he would push on my lower back so hard his arms were shaking. I told him to push against it like he was fighting against something that was trying to break through my back.
Lying in the bed felt like the worst position on earth, so I was moving around a lot and even kneeled down by the bed and laid my head on the mattress. To do this, I had to unplug myself from the monitors that were checking my contractions and the baby’s heart rate, so nurses kept coming in to check on me. Each one asked if I wanted to consider an epidural. They told me they had had one when they had children and their kids and labor were fine.
I felt determined to at least give it my best try without the epidural. After nine hours of labor, the nurse came in again to check my progress. I was only dilated 4cm. 4cm after nine hours of the most intense pain I’d ever felt and I wasn’t even halfway to 10cm?! It would only get worse from here and would probably take just as long. The nurse asked again about the epidural and I told her I wanted to think about it for five minutes. She left the room, and Chad and I talked about it.
I asked him what he thought, and without hesitation, he said, “I think you should get it.” We talked it over in between more horrific contractions. If I had been a little closer to 10cm, if I had been making more progress faster, or if I felt like I could stand the same pain or worse for another 9 hours, I would have tried to get by without it. But the idea of another 9 hours like this seemed like the worst possible idea on earth. So when the nurse returned, I said ok. I felt guilty and disappointed in myself. I felt an intense sense of admiration for my mom, who had given birth twice without an epidural. But once the epidural was in and the pain subsided, I couldn’t help but feel relieved. Not just because I was out of personal pain, but because the look of relief on both my mom and Chad’s face. It had been agonizing for them to watch me endure that level of pain and to have no ability to make it go away.
Once the epidural kicked in, the nurses encouraged me to rest while I could so Chad and I both took a nap. Some time later, I was roused from a sound sleep by the sight of two nurses I’d never seen before who hurriedly put an oxygen mask on my face and began adding fluids to my IV. Chad and I were both still out of it and felt like we were in some dream-like state. I tried to ask them what was going on, but they were rushing about and didn’t seem to hear me. It seemed like my worst nightmare, and I wasn’t quite sure what was real and what wasn’t. Chad had turned on our baby music mix while we slept, and the nurses told him to turn it off so they could hear each other.
Again, I asked what was going on. One of the nurses said that the baby’s heart rate had dropped and they had to do things quickly to make sure the baby was ok. My nurse came in a few minutes later to see what was going on (she had been on break) and was grateful that the other nurses had been keeping an eye on me. They had been relying on some piece of equipment tied to my belly to monitor the baby’s heart rate and whenever I moved, the device could miss the heart beat. Since I had been lying on my side sleeping, I may have accidentally moved the device and thrown them off. To be more accurate, they inserted some tiny device that would give a better reading of the baby’s heart rate. Then they checked my dilation and I was relieved to hear that I was now at 10cm! When I had fallen asleep, I had been at 6cm. I had slept through 6cm to 10cm! That definitely would not have been possible and provided the rest I needed to get through the next phase: pushing.
The nurse prepped the area and my mom and Chad got ready to help in this last phase. The nurse told them to help me hold my knees up while I pushed. I asked the nurse how fast she thought I could push the baby out. She set a goal for 20 pushes, and I thought surely I could do that. Heck, I’m in good shape and feeling well-rested. No problem.
Ha. I pushed and pushed for two and a half hours, and even with the epidural, it hurt like heck (still not as bad as the first nine hours of contractions, though). The thing that drove me crazy was the pauses in between pushes. I’d push 4 times, then the nurse would say to take a break. After over two hours of pushing, I just wanted that baby out and taking a break seemed impossible anyway because it felt like the force of the baby was going to come out whether I was pushing or not. I kept shouting, “Get it out! I just want it out!” Yes, I said “it.” I couldn’t really feel close familial ties or emotions for the creature that was putting me such agony at that moment. As the head began to emerge, the nurse asked if I wanted to feel the baby’s head. I said, “No! I just want it out! I don’t want to play with it!” I must have said, “Get it out!” a hundred times. Apparently, that must have sounded funny because everyone laughed, and I yelled, “It’s not funny! Get it out!”
I had been worried about Chad and feared that he might pass out, but he did an amazing job and was such a calm coach. My mom was so supportive and if she could’ve pushed the baby out for me, she definitely would have. Heck, I think Chad, mom, the nurse and the doctor were all doing some pushing themselves.
When the baby finally emerged with one last final push, the nurse told me to open my eyes and look at our baby. With the pain of pushing finally gone, I opened my eyes and was shocked to see the purple, slimy, wriggling messy baby that we had made. The baby looked huge to me, and I couldn’t believe that he had fit inside my belly mere moments before.
The next few moments were a whirlwind, and I can’t really piece together the order, but at some point the baby was placed on my chest and I looked at his little face with tears in my eyes. Welcome to the world, my beautiful little Brayden Allen.
Born on July 17, 2012 at 2:17pm, Brayden weighed in at 6lbs 12oz (smaller than the doctors, nurses or I had predicted) and 19.75in long. 10 fingers, 10 toes, and the sweetest face I’d ever seen.
After a grand total of 16 hours of labor, our little boy was finally here and we already love him more than we could have imagined.