The world is never wrong: everything becomes suddenly so small once your child comes into the world. The pain, the agony of labor, the stress of pregnancy – it’s all over and all forgotten. Our daughter, Huntleigh Reese Christian, was born at 1:09pm on Thursday, May 16th, 2019 and has been an absolute ray of sunshine since the first moment we met her.
Now, the story of how we got here has been chronicled through my pregnancy each trimester, but actually giving birth to her was so much different than I could have ever imagined based on how my pregnancy went. I look back at the roughly 16 hours of labor and delivery, and it makes me just absolutely laugh how life throws you curve balls when you least expect them so I just felt the need to share this funny, unexpected story with you.
My doctor, husband and I opted to go with an induction at 39 weeks in order to avoid an emergency C section due to the slightly above average size of our daughter. At 38 weeks, she was measuring already 8 pounds and if we went to term, it was likely she would be over 9 pounds at birth! We went to the hospital and checked in at 7:30pm on Wednesday, May 15th and my doctor opted to use a method called Cervadil to induce my labor – basically, a long string with induction hormone gel is inserted into my cervix to help me dilate. We expected it to take all night since I was only 1cm upon arrival dilated and not fully effaced, then we would start pitocin in the morning to kick labor into gear.
The monitors you’re hooked up to are neat, because you can see your baby’s heartbeat and track your contractions. I saw my contractions starting to happen as they just felt like period cramps, and could easily see them picking up in intensity. By the 3 hour mark, I was having absolutely insane contractions lasting 1 minute that were 1 minute apart – I surely thought I was in the transition phase with that intensity and near giving birth. After having some wet dripping down my leg, I surely thought my water broke so my nurse removed the dilation device and checked me. It’s hard to believe but I was STILL only 1cm.
After that, we just decided to wait and see how it went. My contractions were happening still, though at a much slower, lighter pace, so I decided to get some rest. The next thing I remember was waking to an incredibly painful pop feeling in my stomach like a water balloon bursting – and the tsunami happens! Water was just gushing every where all over my bed and all I could do was sit up and yell “Jeff! I think my water broke!” He was in a half in-half out sleep and was probably actually mad I woke him up. The nurse came and it was beyond flooded by now. My sheets, my puppy pad, my gown – no towel could absorb it and no amount of materials could continue to absorb it as the water kept coming the next few hours.
My contractions began to pick up and the discomfort of a wet bed and strong pain in my back kept me awake for a few more hours. Thank god for TVs in labor and delivery rooms to distract you! By 3:30am, my husband was snoring and I was crying in pain from the contractions as mine were “coupling” I.e. coming in waves of three contractions at once versus the traditional one contraction. I couldn’t keep the tears of pain away, and my birth plan for an all natural delivery was clearly more difficult by the second. I finally gave in and called the nurse – I asked her to check my progress and when she said I’m still 1cm, I immediately asked for the epidural. I knew this would be a long ride and it was just a must in order to have some kind of rest to prepare.
My husband left the room and the difficulty to sit still while the epidural was inserted was agonizing. I needed him and it’s the one thing he wasn’t allowed to be in the room for. Although, once I laid back down and the first dose was being monitored, I couldn’t keep my eyes open as the pain melted away. It was the best decision I made at that point to help myself cope in what I expected to be a very long day.
The next thing I remember was the nurse coming in at about 5:30am and adding pitocin to my IV. The real induction was starting. I woke up and because my progress was so slow, and my poor husband was completely restless, I told him to go take his dad to breakfast and run a few necessary errands, so my mom came to join me for a few hours to give me company. We just chatted away and the doctor came to visit for the first time. I was still 1cm and with my water being broke, we had to have the discussion about a C section in the afternoon if I continue to not progress due to the risk of infection.
I texted my husband and he agreed that a C section was the best idea instead of laboring it out for potentially nothing. The doctor would be back by 2pm to make the decision. The morning went on, I kept asking the nurse every 2 hours or so to up my epidural as it wore off, and eventually Jeff came back just after 11am. While him and my mom were there, my epidural started to wear off again and my contractions started to feel like an incredibly painful bowel movement in my bottom, so I called the nurse to tell her the last dose 20 minutes ago didn’t work so the anesthesiologist may need to come back with a direct shot in my back catheter like he already did once.
My mom left and before upping my epidural, the nurse opted to check me for progress and the next thing I heard is “you want the good news or bad news first?” My husband and I expected to hear I was still only 1cm, so we said bad. And her next words were “you’re going to be pushing in the next 10 minutes”. Wait, what? I asked her if she was kidding since she was a funny nurse, but she most definitely wasn’t and immediately started bringing in other nurses to prep our room. Our entire family wanted to be in the waiting room when it happens so we picked up the phone and started calling everyone to get there ASAP.
It took about 45 minutes for them to prep the room. I’m sitting there in shock with my husband fighting the intense contractions I was having WITHOUT an epidural and for once thinking how overwhelmed I feel. This isn’t what we were expecting, this wasn’t the plan. We were probably going to have a C section and now I’m going to deliver this baby naturally after all? It was incredibly shocking and I didn’t know how to feel but to just start crying.
Our nurse who helped me start the process came and started showing me how to push with each contraction. All I felt was painful pressure on my bottom and she said that’s her head pushing toward the birth canal. At 12:29pm, I started pushing. With each contraction, I couldn’t help but groan in pain from all the muscles I was using and my contraction pain. Resting felt more like torture waiting for the next wave of pain. I couldn’t feel her moving down with each push and it made me cry more. What if I pushed for hours? It was exhausting.
Eventually, after about 10 contractions and 30 pushes, I felt a pain that was sharp and intense in the birth canal – her head finally exited the womb and was on its was out. The doctor was called and I kept pushing. The room filled with about 3 or 4 people and it all became a blur of pain and I couldn’t help but scream. I felt hysterical with pain that felt like I was being ripped in half from the inside. I didn’t think I could do it, it felt like something was wrong. All my nurse kept telling me was to hold my breath and push, and that she could see the head coming.
I couldn’t even tell you the exact moment her head came out because I was inconsolable. I was crying to get her out, I was pleading at my husband to help me even though I knew there was nothing he could do. The last thing I remember was the doctor putting pressure that felt like immediate ripping and within a minute my child was on my chest screaming. The pain became so minimal, and my husband and I looked at each other crying. The work continued down there as the doctor pulled out the placenta and fixed a few rips I had with stitches, but my focus was completely on the relief that she was here and healthy.
Honestly, the pain is something I’ll never forget, but the look on my husband’s face when she finally arrived made me feel so much more in love with him and her. We were finally a family of three and it was the craziest, warmest feeling around.
The first few days while recovering the hospital are tough – you’re tired, sore, and going to the bathroom is an experience that makes you WISH you had a catheter again, especially if you have stitches. It was nice to have everyone visit and see her, but it is exhausting. I highly recommend taking full advantage of all the help you get from the staff during your stay. We opted both nights to have our daughter stay in the nursery while we slept at night because she had a lot of fluid still coming up from birth, and we feared we wouldn’t sleep, worrying that she’s choking, so it was nice for the nursery nurses to watch after her. They only brought her back every four hours with them when I had to do my regular check up and feeding for her.
Also, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get breastfeeding right. Our daughter was a great latcher but often is fussy and frustrated when nothing came out, so pumping and feeding her from a bottle has become a regular thing, not only to help with my milk supply but also for her convenience so she’s not fussy trying so hard. As long as she’s eating and is healthy, that’s all that matters.
So, all in all, know that this experience is tough but totally worth it. Our daughter is now a week old and is so precious. She has driven us to sleepless nights and tense situations of exhaustion, but I just take a step back and think about how much of gift she is. This journey to parenthood is tough but you have to have patience and grace with your child, your spouse, and yourself because you won’t be perfect. Our hospital bag is still sitting on the dining room table with clothes in it, my living room needs to seriously be vacuumed, and our poor dog hasn’t been walked as much as she wished. But you know what, our life is different and forever changed in the best way possible.