Let me preface this post by saying that some bits and pieces may be a bit TMI but for those who are about to embark on the miraculous journey of childbirth I want to be totally honest. Also for my own personal recollection I want to have as much of this written down as possible so that I don't ever forget how amazing the process was. Delivering Nicolette without any medication or interventions was the single most empowering experience that I believe I will ever have. She IS my greatest achievement and everything that I have ever done up to this point pales in comparison and seems frivolous and trivial.
This post has been written over the past 6 days (and mostly in the wee hours of the morning in between nursing sessions) so I apologize if it is disjointed and certainly apologize for the length of it. I'm afraid it may take you longer to read it than it took me to deliver my daughter!
With that said, here goes...
I believe in my post on July 4th I wrote something along the lines of believing that her royal highness was going to take her sweet time getting here and probably deliver AFTER our July 11th due date, right? Well, I must have irritated the princess - (she definitely inherited some of her mother's stubbornness (I think one of my first full sentences was, "I can do it by meself.")) and she obviously wanted to prove me wrong because things really started moving very late that same evening!
We celebrated the 4th of July with a nice cookout at our neighbor's house on Wednesday evening. While the kiddos were playing with sparklers and (legal) fireworks, the Italian and I decided to head home and call it a night around 9:30pm. It was a "school night" after all, so I needed my beauty sleep since I had to go to work the next day.
That night around midnight during one of my many potty breaks I noticed something in the loo after going...here's one of those TMI moments. It appeared to be that I had lost my mucous plug. For more info on what a mucous plug is, click here. (It's not as gross as it sounds, it's basically the cork in the wine bottle so to speak).
So I start to get a little excited...maybe something IS happening and SOON! I resort to GoogleMD (the most reliable source of medical information that I could get my hands on in the middle of the night) and was disappointed to see that losing your mucus plug could mean that actual labor is still a couple of weeks away. I drift back to sleep content with the fact that we're just going to have to be patient and wait until the "time is right" for Nicolette to get here.
That lasted all of about 2 hours. At around 1am I woke up with what I at first thought was a Braxton Hicks contraction. As it tightened there was actually some serious pressure along with it...not unbearable, just some moderately intense pressure (and I had never had ANY pain with my BH Contractions so this was definitely new for me). I just laid in bed for a couple of hours to see if they continued and they did so I grab my trusty iPad and start tracking them with my Sprout Pregnancy App at around 3:30am. The contractions were a little erratic...MOSTLY 5+/- minutes apart and lasting 1 minute or longer but every once in a while there would be one that was 7, 8 or 10 minutes apart still 1 minute or more long - in our childbirth prep class and at my past several Dr. Appointments they had reminded us to call when we hit 5-1-1 Contractions 5 minutes apart, Lasting 1 minute in duration for at least 1 Hour.
I shot an email off to my boss and some of my co-workers letting them know that I would not be in on Thursday. I still didn't think that "This is it! We're in Labor!" but knew that I would be TOTALLY useless at work on fewer than 2 hours of sleep, trying to count contractions on my iPad. I knew that sleep was useless and around 4:30 I got up to take a shower. While in the shower I realized that I hadn't scrubbed the shower in about a week so I proceed to spend an hour cleaning the shower WITH A TOOTHBRUSH (I am totally neurotic...I KNOW!!!! I think this was one of my last bursts of nesting energy). After showering and cleaning I laid down in bed in my towel and breathed through some more contractions and started tracking them again. Again, these contractions were NOT unbearable, they were uncomfortable, there was pressure and some moderate pain (but I'm really reluctant to use that word because it isn't like "injury pain"). It was like my body and mind knew that this was supposed to be happening so I just sort of embraced it and went with it.
The Italian awoke around 6:30 and I told him what was going on. That definitely snapped him out of his morning slumber. He asked, "Are we going to have a baby today?" I said probably not. I know that contractions can come and go in the final weeks and even if it did progress that first time mothers can take a LONG time so who knows. At this point most of my contractions were 2, 3 and 4 minutes apart with a couple here and there that were 9 minutes apart but I had been having contractions non-stop for 5 - 6 hours. We decided to go for a walk to see if that got things moving so to speak. We walked around the neighborhood for about an hour but didn't time contractions. They definitely were continuing throughout our walk so we headed back home to start timing things again.
When we got back from our walk I timed the contractions for about an hour and found that they were all 5 minutes apart or less and lasting at least 1 minute. This is the 5-1-1 that they taught us about in childbirth and at this point you are supposed to CALL YOUR DOC! The nurse told me to come in by 9am (20 minutes from the time of my phone call) and to eat a piece of toast with peanut butter and have at least 2 glasses of water before we got there. Now cramming all of that in while hurrying hubby along to shower and get ready and trying to get myself dressed, hair brushed, etc was a bit of a mad rush. We got to the doctor's office and they checked all of my vitals and did another cervical exam...only 2 cm dilated DARN - only 1 cm progression since my last appointment??? She said to go home and call back if/when the contractions got closer together consistently (i.e. 3-4 min apart) and/or were much more intense. We headed back to the homestead - the midwife had said that walking would be good for me at this point but it was the start of yet another beautiful 100+ degree day in Charlotte so that was obviously not an option. Instead I resorted to house cleaning - vacuuming everything (AGAIN), cleaning the kitchen, bathroom floors, etc. This was a little tricky to balance while running to my iPad every 3-5 minutes to track contractions which were continuing but not consistently closer together or much more intense.
Around noon, I decided to lay down to see if I could possibly rest through some of these contractions. There was no rest for the weary (although there was pizza for lunch - yummy!). The contractions continued at the same pace and intensity over the next couple of hours with a super strong contraction every now and then (one in particular that I thought was going to make me throw up). Then around 2 or 2:30 things really slowed down a lot. Contractions were not very intense and were definitely not within the 5-1-1 phase anymore. Mind you that by this point in time I had basically been awake for 30-32 hours with only a few minutes sleep here and there so I decided to try to take a nap since things had slowed way down. I let the Italian know that I didn't think anything was happening so he hunkered down in his office to bang out some of his work just in case we did have our sweet baby in the coming day or two.
I slept for a couple of hours and woke up around 4/4:30 with contractions again. This continued and I noticed that they were gradually getting MUCH more intense. I tried to sit in our bathtub for a while as recommended by the midwife and it did feel better and relieve much of the pressure I felt in my back but it was so hot with the warm water, me sweating, etc that it just made me feel more tired and icky so I got out of there. By this point I noticed some light bleeding and the contractions were definitely getting MUCH stronger. I found that I would drop to my knees shortly after the contraction would start and I would have a hard time getting to the iPad to track so it was hard to tell how close or far apart these contractions actually were. I don't know why I was still in such denial at this point. The Italian was still working in his office until he heard a loud noise coming from me in our bathroom...he came in to see me on my hands and knees mid-contraction around 7pm. At this point I figured I really needed to call the doctor. We were pretty consistently 3-4 minutes apart and the contractions were way more intense than those in the morning.
Now when you call the doctor's office after hours you sit on hold for a bit while they forward you to the on call operator. I went through the shpeel with her and she said that she was going to have a nurse call me back. 10-15 minutes later I repeated the whole story to the nurse who had called me back and she said that she was going to have the midwife at the hospital give me a call to give me instructions. 10-15 minutes later the midwife gave me a call. I now know that the reason that they want the mother to make these phone calls is so that everyone could hear what I sounded like while trying to carry on a conversation. Since I was still able to talk through contractions the midwife asked if I wanted an epidural or natural childbirth and if this was my first child. I said yes it is my first child and I'm really hoping that I'm able to have a natural/unmedicated childbirth. She said that she would advise that we stay at home a bit longer as the rates of success with natural childbirth are significantly higher for mother's who stay at home. I couldn't imagine staying at home any longer but wanted to think about what she said. She said that regardless when I decided that I was ready to go ahead and head to the hospital and they would take care of us.
By this point it was almost 7:45pm and I had a contraction so strong that I literally fell to my knees. I looked up at my husband and said I think we need to go NOW. So he was on a mad dash to pack the car with our pillows, my body pillow, my sweet snack basket that I made for the nurses, Nicolette's bag, Daddy's bag and of course mommy's bag that I am ashamed to admit I never totally finished packing. So I'm trying to figure out what I have and haven't packed in between crazy contractions and notice that there was some blood on the carpet which I decide that I can't leave without cleaning up (okay, so that was definitely TMI but again just goes to prove what a nut job I am! I also had to make our bed before we left which drove the Italian nuts). As he was finishing putting my bag in the car and giving the neighbor instructions for how to take care of our cat and dog child I had the craziest contraction. Again I was on my hands and knees on the floor and my stomach literally started convulsing. The only thing I can relate it to (remotely) was one time at TopCat practice when we had a contest to see who could hold a plank hold the longest...I held out at just over 5 minutes and by the end my abdominal muscles throughout my entire torso were trembling...this was similar but MUCH stronger. At about this time The Italian invited our neighbor into the house to say hello to me...seriously dude! What is your problem? Do you think I feel like chit chatting with the neighbors (who I love dearly) right now? I'm trying really hard not to deliver a baby on our living room floor!
We finally got into the car around 8:10 and started towards the hospital. About 5 minutes into our drive (as we were driving past the resort that I work for) I told the Italian, I feel like I need to PUSH! I could literally feel her moving around in between my pelvic bones and it felt like my body just wanted to start pushing her out. I focused on breathing and NOT pushing as I did NOT want to deliver this child on the side of the road. Hubby kicked it into high gear and by the time we hit the interstate he was going 95 miles per hour with the hazards flashing down the merge lane just to get us to the hospital exit. I'm not exaggerating when I say that we hit EVERY SINGLE RED LIGHT between our house and the hospital...and not hit it mid-redness...approached it (behind another car of course) as it was turning yellow and then red so it felt like we were trapped except for when we were on the interstate.
We pulled up to the maternity ward entrance at 8:30. The Italian ran in and let them know that I was in labor. He said that they started rushing around and bringing a wheel chair. At this point I was hunched over the front seat with another contraction. As soon as it started to pass I walked in and when they saw me walking on my own everyone sort of calmed down. They asked if I wanted the wheel chair to take me to triage and the last thing I wanted to do was sit or lay down so I said no that I'd prefer to walk. I think this made them feel like I really wasn't that far along and that the Italian and I were being overly dramatic first time parents. As we started walking down the hallway I had to ask to stop to bend over a chair with another contraction. The nurse asked again if I wanted a wheel chair letting me know that we had a ways to walk. I could almost hear her inner dialogue saying "Silly first time mom, I bet she's only dilated 3 or 4 centimeters". We walked to the triage room and they left us alone and told me to put the gown on and get in the bed. By this point I couldn't do anything - I went into the bathroom to change and hubby had to help me with everything. And this is gross but all I wanted to do was sit on the toilet. No one had prepared me for the fact that childbirth makes you feel like you have to take the world's largest bowel movement (sorry TMI) and that it feels like "it" may come out at any second (and by "it" I mean it felt like a watermelon sized poo was stuck in there and about to slip out at ANY MOMENT (TMI, TMI, TMI)!!!!
We had been alone in that triage room for over 10 minutes and the Italian was getting antsy so he went into the hallway and asked if anyone was going to come check on us. The midwife and a nurse sauntered to check on this first time mama...they asked me to get on the bed and I asked if I could go back into the bathroom and they said "no, IF you're going to deliver this baby soon, we're not going to do it in the bathroom". DARN I thought. The last position I wanted to be in was on my back in a hospital bed but I was a good patient and obeyed. She did a quick exam and said with a huge smile "you're Rim." Hubby and I looked at each other and were like "what the heck does that mean?". She said, "It means you're going to deliver this baby, now". HOLY MOLY!!!!
All of the sudden the sides were pulled up on the bed and about 6 nurses were quickly wheeling us down the hall from triage to a labor delivery and recovery room. As we moved I don't remember seeing anything I just kept saying "I need to push, I need to push." The nurses and midwives kept saying no, not yet, not yet. Are you crazy? I have a human being trying to escape from my body and I want her out NOW, not when it is convenient for you! We got into the room after what seemed like an hour long journey but I now know that it was only 1-2 minutes (I had hubby walk the route with me the next day since I couldn't remember anything about it). I had to move from the triage bed to the bed in the room and as soon as my booty hit the new bed she said you can start pushing now so I DID! In between pushes I recalled that we hadn't given them our birth plan yet so I asked the Italian to do that. I had spent all this time coming up with a very detailed plan of how I preferred to labor - dim lights, my own music, no medication, my choice of position, etc... so much for all those well thought out plans. In between contractions and pushes the nurse was trying to put an IV in my arm and I had to stop her and ask what that was for and she said for your Pitocin drip to help deliver the placenta after birth. I said, "I don't want Pitocin or an IV." They looked at me like I was crazy, but let me go. Then I hear the midwife and nurse down there talking about Cytotec and after a good push I said "I do NOT want Cytotec". I'll do a separate post on my thoughts (and the FDA's stance) on those medications for use during childbirth later - for those interested PLEASE consider watching "The Business of Being Born" and "Pregnant in America".
I was amazed at how coherent I was able to remain even in between pushes. And I am so thankful for that because otherwise I would have wound up with an IV, pitocin and possibly cytotec - all things that I absolutely, adamantly was opposed to! I think that because I had no medication that I was able to totally take control of the labor process. They didn't tell me when to push I could feel it and pushed exactly how and when I was supposed to. I heard the midwife say, "she knows what to do, she's pushing exactly as she should with each contraction." So everyone just let me do my thing from that point. The Italian said that they were all talking about what a "rock star" I was and how they couldn't believe that this first time mama who had not taken any Lamaze, Hypnobirthing or Bradley Method classes was doing with this delivery. I didn't hear any of it - was just totally focused on the task at hand. After about 10-15 minutes of pushing the midwife said that her head was "right there" and that she was a redhead. She said that I could reach down and feel it if I wanted. I could not believe how far out she was at this point...it was insane!!!! They had hubby take a peek too at which point I reprimanded him..."You're supposed to be an uptown daddy!!!!" We had had numerous conversations about how I wanted him uptown and not exposed to the trauma of the downtown area...another item on my birth plan totally out the window. At one point I asked for water and the Italizan ran and filled a cup and made sure to bring some ice chips too. Soooo sweet - poor guy did not realize that we were WAY BEYOND the ice chip phase of labor. They had hubby hold one of my legs and I was asking if I could switch to another position - being on my back even on an incline just didn't feel "right". She said unfortunately we were too far along at this point to switch it up...DARN. They kept placing an external monitor on my pelvis to monitor Nicolette's heartbeat to ensure that she wasn't showing signs of distress. She was a total CHAMP!!! Daddy says that she's tough like her mama :) Her heart rate didn't change a bit throughout the whole process and they said that she turned her head exactly where it needed to go when it needed to go to help get her out. Thank you baby for being such a good girl!!!!
At this point with 5-10 minutes of pushing left I realized that we hadn't brought in the nurse's snack basket. I don't know why I was so fixated on this but I kept asking the Italian if he had brought the basket in - he assured me that while he hadn't done it yet, he would. A doctor walked into the room around this point too and I don't remember exactly what he said but I remember that I found him a little irritating. He has a strong southern accent (nothing wrong with that in itself I also have a bit of a southern drawl) but he said something about "Let's deliver us a red headed baby" and he was all hyped up. That along with his poor grammar irritated me for some reason. Thankfully he was only in the room for 2 minutes and then he told the midwife that he wasn't needed here that I had it under control myself so he left...whew! The Italian was being a great coach... I could tell that he was totally caught off guard by how quickly this was moving but he held it together and was really encouraging which was so sweet.
After a grand total of 30 minutes (at most) of pushing I felt her little body wiggle out at 9:20pm. Now THAT was the most surreal feeling that I have experienced. There really aren't words to describe what that feels like. Not painful at all but it is like the sweetest relief that you can ever imagine. I didn't even recognize the sound that came out of me at that moment. It didn't feel like it even came from my voice it was from within me if that makes any sense at all. All I wanted was to have her in my arms immediately. They quickly scooted her up on to my chest and to be perfectly honest I have no idea what else was going on at that point. Everything and everyone else disappeared and she was all that I could see. She let out a little cry/scream while moving up to my chest and that was the best sound that I ever could have heard. (They had let me know that she had taken a potty break while inside (gross Nicolette) so if she was not crying when she came out they would have to take her away to be examined before I could hold her). The thought of her being in someone else's arms before mine made me sick to my stomach so that little scream meant the world to me and meant that mommy and baby and daddy could have time together immediately. I was completely oblivious but apparently Daddy cut the cord (I had wanted to leave the umbilical cord attached for a few minutes...yet another item on the birth plan out the window) and then we were just the three of us...even though there were 8-10 nurses/midwives in the room I honestly only remember the 3 of us for the next 30 minutes or so. I think I kept saying, "I can't believe it, I can't believe we did it, I can't believe I just had a baby with no drugs!, I can't believe she's here! I can't believe it happened so fast!" I kept whispering to her, "I'm going to worry about you forever baby."
It feels like there are a million other things that happened during that short period of time...I never imagined that so much activity and so many thoughts could happen in such a small window. Our car was still sitting at the entrance of the maternity ward...Hubby never even had time to park for goodness sakes!
Nicolette came into this world perfectly! All in all I was in labor for a total of 19-20 hours with no doula, no meds, etc. Just me, myself and I and my own fortitude. I know that natural childbirth is not for everyone and I firmly believe that there is a time and place where an epidural or piton or a cesarean section or other medical interventions are not only warranted but are absolutely necessary for the safety of mother and/or baby. But I do wish that more women recognized their own inner strength and would give themselves and other women the credit that they deserve. I do find it sad that the few times that I would mention the fact that I wanted to try for a natural childbirth the responses that I received from other women were incredulous, "Why would you want to do that?", "Are you crazy?", "I'm getting the epidural as soon as I walk in the door", etc. These were comments coming from some of the strongest and most accomplished women that I know so I was in shock and started to wonder "well if they can't do it I probably won't be able to either". Instead of being supportive and saying "That's awesome I believe that you can totally do that" and encouraging me it was all Debbie Downer, doom and gloom horror stories. I thought we were all supposed to be feminists now...I am woman, hear me roar and all that jazz, right? God made our bodies to do this. He made women to do this, not men. He didn't say it would be easy actually He said exactly the opposite - but "with God ALL things are possible...". I made a conscious decision for most of my 3rd trimester to keep my plans for a natural birth mostly to myself with the exception of a few trusted friends who I knew would be supportive and encouraging just because I didn't want the judgement and negativity creeping in to my head. If you hear someone say, "you won't be able to make it" enough times, you will start to subconsciously believe it. So I made the decision to keep the focus on Nicolette and I and staying positive. There is no doubt that I my body was ABLE, so it was just having a WILL that believed in my body's abilities.
So take that with a grain of salt - I certainly will never, ever judge any woman's decision to have a medicated birth and I hope that other women give those who opt for even considering natural birth a little more encouragement. If the mother gets into the process and "can't take it" - let her be the one to decide that DURING the process....please don't plant the seeds of doubt in her mind in advance and potentially rob her of the most empowering experience that she may ever have in her life. I had my faith to get me through and had prayed and meditated nightly about having a natural birth. I know that "If you believe you will receive whatever you ask in prayer." Matthew 21:22. That verse was my mantra in the months leading up to this (and was also my mantra during our IVF process). I believe that I can do it and because I believe that I can and am praying to God about it in faith he will make sure that I achieve it! But not all women have that sort of faith (which is sad for an entirely different reason) and all she may have is the advice of her female friends who have been through childbirth. So for those who are sharing stories with mommies to be, please be mindful and respectful of the power that you have to influence and encourage (or discourage) her.
If you made it through this novel, thank you for taking the time to read our story. This is mostly for our own recollection but I did want to share in case any mommies-to-be may be reading. I not only believe that you can do it...I know that you can if you choose to do so and I will be your biggest cheerleader even if you do get halfway through and change your mind.
Peace and blessings to all!