When I was pregnant, I was obsessed with birth stories. (Ok, I still am.) I would grill every mother I came into contact with and would Google into the late hours of the night trying to read and hear as many as possible. What fascinated me so much was that they were never the same. Not even close. Every woman’s experience is so different yet all mothers share in this “birth” experience. For many of us this is the most important, beautiful, terrifying, amazing, painful experience we will ever endure. Especially the first because it is all unknown.
So many emotions, opinions and beliefs are tied to birth that it is difficult not to compare it to other people’s experiences. In the mom world, I feel it has become an unnecessary sort of competition over baby weight, length of labor, hours of pushing, tearing, not tearing, latching on, not latching, c-sections, vaginal births, pain meds or no pain meds, and the list goes on and on.
None of this matters though. We all went through this most amazing miracle of birth! A human life grew inside of us and we survived getting them out! And, in the whole world, of all the billions of babies and moms, no one did it the same way or felt the same things.
I wrote my birth story in the hopes of being vulnerable. Of saying, this is my experience. It was terrifying and beautiful and not any better or worse then yours.
A little back story….
I had always been really afraid of giving birth. I can remember asking my stepsister when I was a teenager if she thought about how painful it would be every day that she was pregnant. When she responded that she didn’t think about it like that, I assumed she was lying.
As my pregnancy started to come to a close, I didn’t feel afraid at all. I felt excited. I think that God does this for us. As we get closer to actually pushing a baby out, he takes away a lot of the fear for us. Which is insane. There had been so much build up, and pregnancy was such a long process that I was so so ready to get this show on the road!
Despite my best attempts to live a holistic, organic life I never felt particularly drawn to a natural birth or midwife setting. I went into this hoping for an epidural as quickly as possible and didn’t really have any plans other than that. I highly applaud anyone who has the intention of a natural birth. However, that is not my story.
I had bad back pain most of my pregnancy, which intensified in the weeks leading up to labor. I also started getting lightning pains in my cervix when I would walk anywhere. Some days, when I would walk my dog Kota down the street, I would feel as if he was falling out.
Just to add to the normal stress of not knowing when a baby is coming, I was due on Christmas Eve.
Three weeks out, I was checked by the doctor, and I was dilated 1 cm. Two weeks out, I was at 2 cms. The doctor offered a “membrane stripping.” I had this done Thursday, one week before Declan was due. I don’t think I recommend this to anyone, it hurts!! Nothing compared to labor, but still. The stripping is supposed to start labor within 24 hours or it is ineffective and considered a failure.
I had contractions off and on through the next 2 days, but they never got really regular until Saturday afternoon. We were at Costco, wandering around (the Saturday before Christmas at Costco was not the best plan.), and my contractions started to be about 3 minutes apart.
We called the doctor and came home so I could shower, and then we went to the hospital. (Side note: Whenever I would read birth stories, they always said they showered before the hospital. I thought this was so weird and strange, but it was the only thing I wanted to do. Very odd!!) Anyway, we got to the hospital, got all hooked up in triage, and my doctor came in. It was the same guy who had done the membrane stripping, which was nice. He checked me and said my contractions weren’t “effective” enough. I was offered to stay and wander around or go home. We went home, picked up a pizza and waited.
I continued to have contractions all through Sunday, but they still were not incredibly painful or consistent enough to go back. I kept hearing my doctors voice in my mind, “when it’s real, you’ll know.”
During this whole time we were seeing family and celebrating Christmas. There are actually some pictures of me opening presents while having contractions! I would not recommend that anyone have a baby due on Christmas Eve. Poor planning on the Kulps end! But alas, thats what we were doing and I think we tried to make the best of it.
Monday morning (December 21st) Josh got up to go to work. I had stopped working the Thursday before, so I got up, made him breakfast, and was planning on laying back down when I started leaking a little bit. (Graphic! I told you.) I told Josh, and we both decided that he would go to work and we would wait and see if it kept up. This was around 6:30 a.m. I cleaned and walked around for awhile (Nesting, I guess.), and the fluid kept coming but very inconsistently.
I had been to the doctor on Black Friday for leaking and after the hospital incident on Saturday night, I really didn’t want to be turned away again. Contractions were off and on, but nothing too painful. I waited till about 11 a.m. to call the doctor. As I was on the phone with them, I felt a gush! She gave me a noon appointment to come in.
After I hung up the phone, I went to the bathroom, and while sitting there felt another gush and a very strong contraction. I had been planning to drive myself (Ha!) but called Josh after that to come get me. I still wasn’t sure this was it but the contractions were getting stronger and stronger.
We got to my ob-gyn which was across from the hospital around 12 noon and though I hadn’t leaked much more I was definitely having regular, strong contractions. We got checked in, and the nurse practitioner told me that I was 3 cms, 70% effaced and my water had definitely broken. This was it! We were having a baby! She called over to the hospital to get us pre checked in and off we went.
We arrived at the hospital and went right into a birthing room, skipping triage this time, which I was really thankful for. My contractions were strong, but I remember thinking to myself, “I can do this, this isn’t that bad.”
I was offered an epidural right away by my nurse. She explained that it would take about an hour once it was ordered to complete the IV fluids and get the anesthesiologist in. Despite my initial plan to wait until I was further along, I ordered the epidural right away. Apparently, they are easier to administer before you are in excruciating pain. The worst part of this whole epidural process was my IV. It took 2 nurses and 3 attempts, leaving me with a black and blue forearm. Once the fluid was started and the epidural ordered, a resident came in to do an ultrasound. She said I was only 2 and a half cms and there was fluid in front of his head. I guess my water sac had just punctured? I’m not really sure of the whole anatomy of baby waters.
In the ultrasound, she confirmed that Declan was head down but that his head was turned the wrong way- “sunny side up.” That explained most of my back pain. They also told me that he was around 7 1/2 pounds.
Around this time, my mom and mother-in-law arrived. They were asked to leave, though, for the actual epidural. My anesthetist was great, and it was a fast, not terrible experience. Nothing like how I had imagined in my mind. As soon as that took effect, they told me they were going to start pitocin and break the rest of my water.
I’m not sure what I expected an epidural to feel like, but I was INCREDIBLY numb from the hips down. You could’ve amputated my leg, and I probably wouldn’t of known! I felt a little giggly and pretty sleepy. The doctor came in to break my water, and I remember her saying this is going to be an impressive amount of fluid and then coming at me with a large crochet hook. I didn’t even care. The next few hours were fine. I napped on and off and chatted with Josh, my mom and Karen, my mother-in-law. The doctors were impressed with my contractions and eventually turned off the pitocin entirely. Around 8 pm, after my new nurse Kelly arrived, things started to change. I could feel my back pain again, it hard started breaking through. I was checked again and was 7-8 cms.
Now, I don’t know if this was the drugs or hormones or what, but I felt so afraid suddenly. Afraid of pushing, of meeting my son, of being a mom, all of it. I was allowed to hit the button for my epidural every 15 minutes and I took advantage of that from about 8-10 p.m. The longer time went on though, the medicine stopped keeping up with my pain. I wanted to move on my side but couldn’t. I had thought contractions would feel like intense period cramps, which I felt prepared for. I was not prepared for feeling like someone had a hammer on my spine.
I don’t exactly remember when the shaking started, but around 11 p.m. they came in to check and said I was 10 cms, but Declan wasn’t all the way down yet. They wanted me to labor down, which is when they sit you all the way up to help baby come down further naturally. This terrified me!
Suddenly, I just felt that I could not do this. I was way in over my head, and I was not really sure I wanted a baby! I told Josh that I didn’t think I could be a mom, and he jokingly reminded me it was a little too late for that. I don’t know why, but I hadn’t really thought about pushing and how scary it seemed. I just didn’t think I could do it (not a very good mindset to have).
After they sat me up in bed, the pain was pretty unbearable. I hadn’t hit the button in awhile since I wanted to prepare for pushing. I remember just wanting to walk around, it was so horrible to be in this upright position. I started shaking uncontrollably. I’m not sure if convulsing is the right word, but that’s how it felt.
My husband was so amazing during this time and just kept feeding me ice chips, which actually really helped!
After about 45 minutes to an hour of this laboring down, they told me it was time to push. My doctor was so amazing and sat with me on the bed. Declan’s head was turned and it was pushing against my spine when I pushed, causing more pain and making my pushes ineffective. For probably an hour (Time really has no meaning in labor.), my doctor sat with her hands in me attempting to turn his head and encouraging me to push. I was having the hardest time. One push would be good, one would be bad. I felt like I was giving 120% , and he wasn’t getting any closer. Dr Peters decided to cut my epidural in half to try and help me push more effectively. We continued for another hour with lots of encouragement from my nurse, Josh, and the doctor. Still, Declan was not coming.
They could see his head crown sometimes but then suck right back in. The decision was made that my epidural be turned off. About 15 to 20 minutes later, I felt like a freight train hit me. The pain is indescribable! Again, this is just my experience. It was hard for me to distinguish contractions because the back pain was just so intense. The shaking had gotten so bad too, and I just could not find any position that would soothe me. I started vomiting around here and was screaming that I would never do this again! My doctor, nurse and Josh were still encouraging me to push and would all count with me and breathe with me. I think Josh almost passed out at one point because he was breathing how I was! This continued on for another hour, and despite them all telling me he was close I just couldn’t really connect with my pushing. I’m not sure if it was because I couldn’t really feel contractions or because his head position or because of my epidural, but I felt stuck. After vomiting some more and the most intense feeling of a train crashing into my tailbone, I gave up. I told them I couldn’t do it anymore and they needed to get the baby out. I remember my doctor telling me that I could tear pretty badly with forceps, but I didn’t care. The anesthesiologist came back in and gave me back my epidural (Happy Days!), and the room started to prepare.
Two things: the epidural was not nearly as effective as my first one because of the level of my pain, and the room was a terrifying scene. Had I been of normal mind, I would’ve been stressed out by the NICU team that had assembled: my doctor and the 2 residents by her side and the 3 nurses at my bedside. I can’t even count how many were in that tiny room.
We had planned for Declan to be put on top of me and Josh to cut the cord but was informed that wouldn’t happen. I remember feeling very dizzy and like I was going to pass out and someone putting oxygen on my face.
I laid back and heard my doctor tell Josh to hold my shoulders. She let me know she was going to cut me a bit, but I was just staring at the lights, in another world. She told me to give a big push, and I felt my whole body being yanked down the table. I could tell Josh’s grip on my shoulders was getting tighter as I felt the yanking again followed by a huge whoosh. Relief. He was out! It was 3:48 am on Tuesday, December 22nd.
Following birth, I immediately was frantic to see him, but the NICU team had swept him away to their little incubator. I was asking all the nurses if he was ok and how big he was. I remember thinking they would tell me about APGAR scores, but no one ever did. It seemed an eternity before they finally weighed him and gave me his stats. All I could hear around the room was, “He’s a big boy! Oh my!”
Josh ran over to my bedside and told me excitedly that he has his hands. I was getting stitched up for what seemed an eternity when they finally announced it.
Declan was 9 lbs, 9 ozs and 21 1/2″ long with a head in the 100th percentile. Dr Peters told me that she thought his head would just keep coming and coming and that it explained why I had such a horrible time with pushing him out. After he was all checked out he was placed on my chest. He was perfect!
I had a really hard time the days following Declan’s birth. Breastfeeding was painful. He had some minor complications due to a forceps delivery and required some additional monitoring. I was recovering from tearing, an episiotomy and being an all around train wreck in the private area. I was so grateful for the amazing team at the hospital that supported me and for my doctor’s ability to avoid a c-section.
My husband was also the most amazing partner I could have asked for. He was constantly giving me encouragement and was definitely getting a lot closer up than he ever imagined! Maybe one day I will post about those first few days and how hard they were, but that’s a whole other story.
I used to think a lot about our next child and what I could do differently to make it a less traumatic experience, but as Declan grows and the pain has resided I feel it doesn’t even matter. This was our path, something we went through together. My little large headed baby, my husband and I.