I wanted to write out the specifics of a very special day, the day we met our little boy, before the details became fuzzy. Labor and delivery are truly incredible things; the way God designed our bodies to go through such an intense and wonderful process is amazing.
On Monday, June 10, something felt a little different. I knew labor wasn't starting. Everyone assured me that when it did, I would know, but I had nearly constant Braxton hicks contractions and lots of pelvic pressure. That day, I had gone grocery shopping for some freezer meals. Rather than wait until Tuesday to prepare them as I had originally planned, with a burst of energy, I stayed up late in the kitchen and made three freezer meals. On Tuesday, at 38 weeks, 6 days, I had my 39-week appointment with my midwife. She assured me of the same, that my body was "revving up" for labor, but not yet in labor. The baby's head was still very low at 0 station, where he had been for weeks, I was 80-90% effaced, and I was 2cm dilated. I took a belly picture at the office, just because. I came home, went about my day, tidied up at home, did laundry, and knit on my Tecumseh sweater a lot (is creativity nesting a thing? I think it is for me). We stayed up late on Tuesday night, until about 11pm, and then went to bed.
2:20am — I sat up, woken by a tight contraction and then felt a large, warm gush of fluid as my water broke in bed (nobody said labor and birth weren't messy)! I woke Nicholas up, and we knew that things were beginning. He said he knew the moment he heard the tone of my voice that this was it. I got up and stood in the shower and then sat in the bathtub for awhile, since with every contraction, there was more fluid. I felt excited and in a little bit of disbelief that this was it, this was labor. I timed my contractions, and at this point, they were about 4-5 minutes apart, lasting for about 1-1.5 minutes. Nicholas finished packing a few last-minute items into the hospital bag, and threw our sheets in the wash, etc. (PS—our mattress cover happens to be waterproof, phew, so the mattress was fine). I ate a KIND bar and tried to drink as much water as I could to gear up for labor. I put my contacts in, because I dislike working out with my glasses on, and I figured that labor was as good a workout as any. ;)
4:30am — My contractions were now 3-4 minutes apart, and lasting 1.5 minutes. They were also getting quite a bit more uncomfortable, but still tolerable at this time. We took one last picture as a family of two, Nicholas put down towels in the car, grabbed our bags, and then we walked slowly out to the car. Thankfully, it's a short 7 minute drive to the hospital, during which I only had two contractions. We checked in at the ER desk, and then they wheeled me up to labor and delivery. My midwife/OB practice doesn't do frequent cervical checks after membrane rupture, but they did test to see that my water had truly broken (it had) and then hooked me up to the monitor to see how Cooper was doing and to monitor my contractions. Hospital staff drew some blood and started a saline-locked IV. The nighttime on-call midwife said to proceed with monitoring, off and on, and that the next midwife would be on-call around seven. Our labor and delivery nurse got a peanut-shaped exercise ball for me to labor with, and she was relatively hands-free, just checking in on us periodically and watching Cooper's heart rate and my contractions on the monitor. We diffused some peppermint oil in the diffuser and applied some topically to under my nose and to my lower back, and it seemed to help some with the discomfort. The contractions continued to get stronger, and as I was feeling nearly all of the pain in my lower back (as back labor), Nicholas would provide counter pressure with massage to my lower back for the duration of all the contractions. The nurse recommended getting into the shower for some hot water, since that can be helpful with back labor, so she unhooked me from the monitor. The shower felt really good, and between the warm water and inhaling through my nose, exhaling through pursed lips, I was able to cope better with contractions.
8:00am (approximately) — My contractions were faster and more intense than before. They checked on Cooper, who was doing great, and then I asked them to check me for the first time. I was at 4cm, 80-90% effaced, and still 0 station. At this point, we were so tired and my legs were shaky and sore from sitting on the peanut ball, we tried sitting on the couch with pillows propping me up to hopefully get some rest between contractions. Mentally, I was feeling fatigued and very aware that we had a long way to go for this labor. Nicholas switched between sitting behind me and next to me, and applied lots of pressure to my lower back with the contractions, and he also let me death-grip his hand.
9:00am — The contractions seemed to slow down for awhile, decreasing in frequency to more like 5-6 minutes in between. They were still very painful, but the nurse said it's unlikely that my dilation and effacement have changed much. I had been laboring for about 7 hours at this point and I started to feel discouraged. She encouraged us to get up and move a bit, or get in the shower. I get in the shower again, and find some relief from the hot water, but not as much as before. Nicholas sits in a chair right outside the shower, getting all wet, providing counter pressure during the contractions because the hot water alone isn't enough. I pray through the contractions, and repeat "Do not be afraid for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my right hand of righteousness." (Isaiah 41:10). After around an hour to an hour and a half in the shower, I get out. I remember feeling dread between contractions, not wanting to leave the comfort of the shower, but wanting to move more.
10:00am — I felt what I thought is more pressure when I get out of the shower, so the nurse checks and I was 6cm, 80-90% effacement. I remember feeling somewhat discouraged that I wasn't further along after 8 hours, on the verge of tears, wondering if I can really do this, if this baby will arrive. Contractions are still a bit slower than they had been, so we decide to walk in the hallway. I lean on Nicholas hard, and we stop and breathe through contractions. They do feel a little better when I'm walking than when I'm sitting. We walk around the nurses' station some, and then walk some more. My sister-in-law comes by and brings Nicholas lunch and some applesauce for me, which Nicholas feeds to me as I bounce on the peanut ball. I don't remember too much about this part of the labor, except that I had to be very focused during the contractions and pray my way through them.
2:00pm — Still not a lot of change. The nurse checked me again and I was at 6.5cm, only having progressed 0.5cm in four hours. The nurse ran through some options, including an epidural, so I could rest, or a paracervical block. We decided to wait, not wanting to limit mobility (with an epidural) and since my pain was in my lower back, the efficacy of a paracervical block could be variable. At this point, I felt weary and fatigued, having been in labor for 12 hours, running on 3 hours of sleep. I try side-laying in bed, Nicholas sits at the edge of the bed. We were both so exhausted, so we tried to sleep between contractions, and then I woke him up to put pressure on my back and hold my hand when I felt one coming on.
3:00pm — It was shift change, and a new nurse came on. I got in the shower again, and this time, even with the hot water I was not coping with the pain as well as I had been. I was still very quiet during the entire process, trying to focus on my breathing. All I could do was breath pray during contractions (inhale: more of You, exhale: less of me). My nurse asked if I'm okay, and says she'll be back to check on me whenever I want to get out of the shower, and to take as much time as I need. Since we had discussed my desire for a natural labor and delivery at length during my pregnancy, Nicholas suggested we move around a bit more and if I still was not making progress in an hour, to figure out a different game plan. I agree. We got out of the shower and went for another walk around the unit, and I started to feel more pressure.
4:30pm — The nurse checked me, and I was at 8cm, 90% effaced and Cooper was at +1 station. I cried I was so relieved. I knew I had a ton of work ahead of me, but being in transition and feeling progress was so encouraging. The nurse knew how exhausted I was, so she suggested a side-lying position in bed with a smaller peanut ball between my legs. The contractions were extremely painful at this time, but at this point, they felt purposeful. I cried during some of them, and Nicholas continued to encourage me, pray for me, cheer me on, and press my back and hold my hand during the pain. I remember asking the nurse and Nicholas, "Do you think I can do this?" And their response was "Yes!" and the nurse reassured me that we would meet our little boy soon.
4:45pm — I felt way more pressure, and the nurse checked and I was at 9cm and almost fully effaced, and she told me it won't be long before I have this baby, and that the midwife is on her way in.
4:55pm — I was 10cm, fully dilated and I felt the urge to push. The midwife was there, and we briefly talked about positions for pushing and we decided to stay with side-lying. My midwife turned to the nurse and I heard her say, "Let's keep this small, just you and me in the room." I immediately felt comforted and less anxious by that, knowing that it was just my nurse, midwife, husband, (and baby boy, of course) with me. Pushing felt more terrifying to me than the whole of labor, and I cried and yelled through every effort, whereas prior to this, I made almost zero noise during the entire labor ;). I pushed for 40 minutes, and then after the midwife helped birth the baby's head and shoulders...
5:36pm — Nicholas got to catch his son(!) and they put him directly on my chest, at which point he pooped all over me ;). We finally got to meet our Cooper! They wiped him down a bit, and did a few newborn checks, all while he was on my chest. He was able to nurse right away and have a few hours of skin-to-skin contact before the staff got his weight, etc. Nicholas kept saying how strong I was and how proud he was of me.
It was such an intense day, from the physical exertion of a marathon and the emotional weight of meeting our firstborn to the awe of a God who created the tiny toes, fingers, lips, heart, and everything of our Cooper. We are praising Him for a safe labor and a healthy baby boy.
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
Psalm 139: 16-19