It’s been eleven days since I gave birth and I want to share my story while everything is still so fresh and vivid in my mind. I’ve finally found some “me time” with enough mental capacity to lay down and write this while baby sleeps. I have always found it so helpful reading about others’ experiences with their births, so I am happy to share mine. And so I don’t forget all the details.
Let me start off by saying that I actually miss being pregnant. While I love that she is here, something about being pregnant and expecting her arrival holds a special place in my heart. I also enjoyed giving birth. I highly recommend having your partner record it so you can go back and watch it.
This entire pregnancy I was certain I would deliver past my due date, which was to be December 11th. I ended up going into labor in the wee hours of Monday, December 7th. Leading up to birth, I was experiencing frequent Braxton Hicks contractions. These were not at all painful, just a tightening of the stomach. I spent many evenings on the internet and pregnancy discussion boards to prepare myself on how I would know if I was in labor. I wanted to be prepared since I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Also the night before labor I was carelessly bouncing on my yoga ball after dinner. “Don’t be doing that or else you’ll go into labor” were Pat’s famous last words ha ha.
Because baby was sunny side up, I was fully expecting to experience horrendous back pain that so many others had warned about with a sunny side up baby. Yet when I awoke at 2:30am to period-like cramps and a slight feeling of wetness down there, I dismissed it as early labor contractions. I went to the bathroom and saw bright red blood on the tissue (aka I found out later that that was my bloody show and I didn’t even know it). Having read that you should do much of the early labor in the comfort of your own home, I took deep breaths and embraced the fact that I COULD be in labor, but I didn’t think much about it.
I used the Ovia app to time my contractions. Mind you I fell back asleep and at one point I was falling asleep in between my frequent contractions. Follow the 5-1-1 rule. If you look at my timer, it’s clear I was in labor yet I dismissed it. Having a high pain tolerance helped me get through them but anticipating the next contraction and then feeling it take over your body is ineffable. I just thought there is no way could I be in labor. Four words of advice: Listen to your body.
Ok so how do contractions feel? Mine were all in my stomach. It felt like a tightening of the stomach starting from the sides and creeping its way to the center. Each center hug came with intensified pain that only deep breaths could subside.
I decided to call the consulting nurse line at 6am after talking with Pat, who told me I should call. She immediately advised me to go to the hospital when I told her my blood was more bright red than the darker red. This kind of freaked us out. Well, more Pat than myself. “Wait let me take a shower real quick” I told him, to which he said no we’re leaving NOW! We didn’t even bring my carefully packed hospital bag that was ready to go because we didn’t believe I was in labor. I took my dog Lexi out for a potty break and gave her kisses on our way out. Thank god my sister lives down the street as she was able to get her to take her to my mom’s, as well as drop off my hospital bag. Note: I only ended up using a couple items which were the stroller fan and VAVA night light. The hospital provided everything I needed. See what I packed here.
I was scheduled to go in for my 39-week checkup later that morning at 9am. That’s another reason I wanted to hold off on going to the hospital. I was expecting to waltz in (more like waddle) to my appointment and get my cervix checked for the first time to be told I still have some time. WRONG! I was in active labor by the time triage checked me out at approximately 7:30am. “You are 70% dilated and 80% effaced. You’re in labor!!” The nurse exclaimed all excited. I remember that feeling of shock just washing over me followed by my throat closing because I wanted to cry (happy cry). This was really happening? Immediately thoughts about work and any unfinished to-do items flooded my mind, but I quickly pushed those aside as priority was now all on baby.
Since I had not eaten breakfast, I was famished. Later in the morning when Pat ordered something off the hospital menu, I begged him to order me white rice and fruit to sneak it in. But thank god I didn’t since I vomited and had the extreme labor shakes. I resorted to eating an orange popsicle which tasted like heaven. By the way, I forgot to mention I had to get a COVID test upon getting admitted and had to wear a surgical mask my entire labor. I actually did not mind this because the surgical masks are breathable, and I liked that it concealed half my face during the pushing.
I ended up getting an epidural. When in doubt, get the epidural. It was a game changer. I was still feeling sharp pain on my right side after 8-12 minutes of getting it, but laying on my right side helped alot. At this point the contractions were nearly three minutes apart and intense. The anesthesiologist told me I shouldn’t feel any pain, only pressure. Also ask the nurses to rotate your body equally on each side so that the drugs can distributed. Don’t be afraid to ask. It is your body, your birth. Everyone is there for YOU. My nurses and delivery doctor were amazing and overall couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
I had to get hooked up to an IV of penicillin because I was GBS positive. At least two bags before I could start pushing. They want you to get it at least four hours before birth. I felt that the actual IV inserted at the top of my wrist hurt more than anything else. At around 2pm, the nurse asked if I felt the need to push yet. I couldn’t feel a thing down there, only numb legs. She asked if I wanted to practice pushing and I agreed. The head was much further along and it was go time! PUSH! Am I doing this right? Am I supposed to breathe like this? I had no idea what I was doing as I took a deep breath and pushed with all my might.
We ended up wheeling a mirror in so I could actually witness myself pushing. Let me tell you, GAME CHANGER number two. If I am to give anyone birthing advice it is to ask for a mirror. Not sure if that was my competitive side surfacing, but seeing the head make its entrance with each push really motivated me. At one point I pushed so hard we had to take a breather because baby was overexerted, and they hooked me up to an oxygen mask.
I pushed for 20 minutes (50 minutes total counting the breaks in between) before sweet Zara made her debut at 2:59PM. Those first few minutes with her fresh out the womb was absolute perfection. The newborn cry you hear is the sweetest sound you’ll ever hear (though I was warned that would change within a week hah).
We spent the next couple hours skin to skin. She weighed 7 lbs 12 oz and measured 21 inches long. I got to look at my placenta which was just fascinating. We also brought our Cord Blood Registry kit with us since we are storing her cord and tissue.
After a total of 32 hours at the hospital, we were discharged as an official family of 3. Someone walked out with us to make sure our car seat was installed properly. Other post-labor items included filling out some forms for the hospital, including a mail-in form for the birth certificate.
I will share more on my postpartum journey soon since there is a lot that I want to write about. I’m settling in just fine now and adapting but boy was that first week hard. I am enjoying every minute with Zara now. More to come!