If you had asked me on Friday, May 22nd, I would have told you that I was nowhere close to having a baby. I still had about 3 weeks until my due date, and wasn't feeling any symptoms of labor whatsoever. But if you asked me again first thing Saturday morning, I would have told you an entirely different story.
I woke up on Saturday just feeling different. I started having really sharp period cramp-like pains that morning, but they were intermittent and didn't feel anything like how I had heard contractions described, so I didn't want to jump to conclusions. I did mention to Riley that I thought it was likely that we'd end up with a May baby instead of a June baby, and asked him to go ahead and pump up the fitness ball that we had just picked up (for laboring). I also painted my toenails that morning, just in case, and you'd better believe I was pretty proud of the fact that I could still reach my toes (however awkwardly) at 37 weeks pregnant. All in all, it was a pretty typical Saturday; we were up around 7am and Riley got to work in the yard and garden and I did some housework. We were expecting friends for dinner that evening, and although there were a few times I considered canceling, it seemed silly since I really could push through the pain and it wasn't like I was going into labor or anything. So we went about our day and our evening plans.
By 10pm or so, after our friends had left, the cramping pain started getting so strong that I wasn't able to concentrate on the t.v. show that we were watching in bed. I mentioned to Riley that even though these weren't contractions, maybe we should start timing them just in case. They were clocking in around 5-7 minutes apart and definitely getting more intense. I don't know if I was really that clueless or just in denial, but it wasn't until then that I finally started realizing that I could be in labor. At the 2-3 minute interval, I was needing to use some of the coping strategies I had learned, and Riley was adding our last minute things to our hospital bags and trying in vain to print off the birth plan that I had typed up. I know he said "we should probably get going" several times before I finally gave in. The hospital is only 10 minutes away from our house, but the idea of getting in the car sounded like torture. We finally left the house around 4am Sunday morning.
We were taken to triage at the hospital and when the nurse announced that I was only 1cm dilated my heart sank faster and lower than it ever had before. The contractions were so strong and so close together that they let me labor in triage for 2 hours to see if I could make any progress before they would send me home. By 6am I had only progressed to 2cm, but they took pity on me and admitted me anyway.
By 7am on Sunday, we were settled in a room in Labor and Delivery, we had been awake for 24 hours, and I had been having strong contractions at 2 minutes apart since 10pm. It was at this point that I nixed the idea of going med-free and opted for the epidural. I had studied and prepared as much as I could for a "natural," low-intervention birth, but when I considered how much pain I was already in, how much further I had to progress, and how little sleep I was going on, the epidural seemed like the wisest choice. The relief was immediate and I have no regrets about the decision.
Riley and I spent the next several hours trying to relax in the Labor and Delivery room. He was able to doze off for a few naps, and I may have closed my eyes for a few minutes here and there, but found it impossible to sleep knowing that we were going to have a baby soon. The day wore on, and things progressed ever so slowly. We saw a couple shift changes, and wound up with the same doctor and nurses that we had started out with at 4am.
It was Sunday evening before it was finally time to push. The epidural had worn off enough that I was able to feel the contractions and I could direct my own pushing. I was relaxed enough that the pushing didn't seem too terrible at all, and I was excited to finally get things going! Four hours later, I could hardly take it anymore. I was exhausted from being awake for almost 40 hours, muscles that hadn't been put to much use in the last 9 months were sore from pushing for so long, and although everyone was so encouraging, I started feeling like it was never going to end. My pregnancy acid reflux didn't help the situation, either, and caused me a few vomiting spells as a final farewell. Then, finally, our baby was ready to be delivered, and... I was told to stop pushing. The doctor on call was delivering another baby! Honestly, it was worse than hearing that I was only 1cm dilated. I struggled to wait through 3 more contractions, because all my body wanted to do was get her out, and Riley asked who we needed to bribe in order to get a doctor in the room. After what felt like forever, another doctor was available, and we could finally deliver our baby. I have never felt so much physical and emotional relief in my life.
Della was born at 10:39pm on Sunday May 24th, after about 25 hours of labor and 4 hours of pushing. She was perfect and healthy, and when they laid her on my chest for skin-to-skin, she started nursing right away. We couldn't believe how beautiful she was.
Although labor and delivery was much longer, and much harder than I had anticipated, I am so thankful for the good experience that we had. My biggest fear going into it wasn't the pain, but rather the hospital setting itself. I had read so many positive birth stories and facts about labor and delivery that I wasn't scared of it. I was actually more worried about the hospital feeling like a cold and sterile place, and doctors and nurses pushing interventions that I didn't want. However, our hospital experience couldn't have been more positive. The sweet nurse that had checked me into triage was back on duty by the time delivery finally rolled around, and she stuck with me through those four long hours of pushing. She had written down the gist of our birth plan that we had never gotten printed, and she made sure every single person that walked into our room knew what we wanted and what we didn't. The doctors on call, even though none of them wound up in the delivery room when they were finally needed, respected my wishes without argument when I turned down pitocin and having my water broken. These things were all direct answers to prayer and they made a long and difficult experience so positive.
I am so thankful for Riley's endless support, sweet hospital staff, pain relief, and the opportunity to deliver our baby the way that I wanted. Most of all, I am thankful for a healthy, sweet, beautiful baby girl and the experience of being her mother.