This post is long overdue. But I figured her birthday would be the perfect opportunity to look back and reminisce on this day a year ago. Many have asked about how my labor went and I feel like this is probably the best way to share it.
I know I can’t be the only one who looks for and gets excited about hearing other people’s birth stories. I think it’s so cool how every woman has a different labor and delivery story. If this doesn’t interest you, then I am not at all offended if you stop reading here. But if you’re anything like me, and this sort of thing does interest you, keep reading to find out how my birth plan completely went out the window and the story of how Anna Grace entered into the world unraveled.
In the weeks leading up to Anna’s birth, I was doing all that I could to naturally induce my labor. I’m talking red raspberry leaf tea, dates, evening primrose oil, you name it, I was trying it. Pregnancy was not my favorite thing and towards the end of my third trimester, I was certainly over it and ready to meet my baby girl. Every time someone asked me how I was feeling in those last few weeks, my response was consistently “ready”.
At each appointment during my last few weeks of pregnancy, I was having my cervix checked to see if anything was going on down there. At 36 weeks, I was only 0.5 cm dilated. I was told to get active so I started going on oh so many walks. I would go to the mall and just walk in circles for a couple of hours. I also started doing squats multiple times a day because a friend said that would help to move her down. I was 1 cm dilated at 38 weeks and the doctor said that my cervix was soft and baby girl was really low. They were guessing she’d come a little early and told me to keep staying active to try to get labor started. At this appointment I was told “do a little bit of what got you here in the first place” to which I blushed blood red. By my 39 week appointment (Friday morning, February 28th) I was up to 2cm and that doctor said I was fully effaced. They decided to strip my membranes to see if we could get things moving. I was very hopeful after leaving the appointment that I’d be meeting my daughter by her due date, which was just 4 days away.
Later that day, I started to notice some bloody show, but no contractions. I was hyper aware of my body the entire day, evaluating every cramp or discharge to see if I was finally starting labor.
The next day: Saturday, February 29th, 2020, it was leap day and I was 39 weeks and 5 days pregnant. Around 8am that morning I (finally) started feeling contractions. They started very inconsistent and spread apart. I told Evan about the contractions and we ran over to the mall to walk around to see if we could get them to progress in intensity and consistency. I didn’t even really track the contractions until they started becoming more regular around 4:30 that afternoon.
Over the next several hours, my contractions got more and more regular, slightly more intense, and were getting closer together. Around 9pm, my contractions were coming at about an average of 5 minutes apart, lasting for about 1 minute, and had been doing this for about 1 hour. This is when they’d said to call the on call doctor to see if they wanted me to come into the hospital.
Up until this point, my contractions hadn’t been very intense. They were mildly annoying but were progressively getting more annoying. I was able to talk through them, and go about my normal getting ready. I remember doing a quick clean of our condo to make sure it would be nice when we came home. I double checked and packed what was missing from our hospital bags. Evan loaded them into the car so we would be ready to go when the contractions got closer together. We just took this time to prepare as much as we could to bring her home.
On the drive to the hospital my contractions started getting more and more intense and were coming about 2 to 3 minutes apart. We arrived at the hospital at 9:30pm where they checked me into triage. With each contraction I started feeling very nauseous. By the time the nurse came in and checked me, I had vomited once from the pain. A few minutes later, the doctor came in and told me that I was still only 2cm dilated, despite the fact that my contractions were so close together. I was told that I would need to either go walk around for an hour or so and come back or I could go home, shower, and see if the contractions intensified! This was 11:00pm.
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I chose to go home, and boy did the contractions intensify. Because we had driven the Tesla, we needed to charge before heading all the way home. I figured that since we had time to kill, why not? I vomited again in the garage before we even left the hospital. We drove the short drive to the other garage where the chargers were and by the time we got there I ran out of the car to vomit again in the trash can. I had brought a bag from the hospital with me just in case I couldn’t make it. While we were there, I stayed with the car, with the windows down, despite how cold it was, to help me relax and breathe. Breathing was surprisingly difficult when I was contracting and feeling so nauseous. I guess maybe that’s why you always see women practicing their breathing. Evan ran into the Target right there to get me some water and gatorade because by now, I had lost all that was in my system.
We charged the car for about 20 minutes and then started the 25 minute drive home. I kept the window down, freezing my poor husband. I did my best not to throw up again in his car, but… I couldn’t help it. I puked again on the drive home. By the time we got back to the house, I was having trouble standing with each contraction. The contractions were still coming 2 to 3 minutes apart. We made a mad dash into the house so I wouldn’t collapse outside on the sidewalk. At this point I decided to take a shower and take off the clothes that now reeked of vomit and sweat. I showered on all fours for a few minutes and eventually turned to lay down in the tub letting the hot water hit my abdomen during the contractions. That seemed to help, but not with the nausea.
At this point, it was about 12:30am March 1, 2020 and I was already exhausted from all of the vomiting. As I lay on the floor trying to gather the energy just to head back to the hospital, I told Evan, “I can’t do this without the epidural”.
This was completely not my hope at all. I’d gone into this preparing for an unmedicated labor. The thought of staying in bed with the epidural was not one I was very excited about and we’d read and prepared and packed all the things I needed for an unmedicated birth plan. I was prepared however for this, just in case. I didn’t want to be disappointed with my birth not going according to my plan. So, we went with plan B: the epidural.
We drove back to the hospital, this time in the FJ, with a bucket in hand. We drove in absolute silence and Evan had to help me through each contraction. They continued to get more and more intense and by this point, I was vomiting about every third or fourth one. They continued to come 2-3 minutes apart through the end. This was, I think, the hardest part for me. Every time I would come out of a contraction I felt like the next one was right there. I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath or have a chance to relax or ready myself for the next one.
When we got to the hospital it was about 1:30am. I was checked back into triage and they checked me again. I was given something for the nausea, which didn’t help because it came right back up minutes after. I had a different nurse come in to tell me I was 4cm dilated and I was going to have a baby. His name was Brenden and was my favorite nurse of the entire stay. It was about 2am when Brenden took me to my room and got me set up. He asked me a bunch of questions, and asked if I’d had a birth plan. I told him my plan was to go unmedicated but I was throwing out the plan and needed to get an epidural because I couldn’t handle the vomiting with each contraction part. He put in orders for that and we just took labor one contraction at a time while we waited.
At 3:45am I was checked again and was 5cm dilated. I was ready for the epidural. When the anesthesiologist came in to do this, Brenden and Evan had to hold me to keep me very still. While he was inserting the needle into my spine, I had another contraction, and ended up throwing up into Brenden’s hands. Lord bless L&D nurses because the things they do for their patients are incredible!
It only took moments for the epidural to start working and once I had it, I had ZERO regrets. I could hardly feel my contractions at all and could finally relax. I stopped vomiting and could finally keep liquids down. I was encouraged to have some popsicles and gatorade to give me some caloric energy because I was pretty spent from all the violent vomiting early on in my labor.
For the next few hours I asked a ton of questions about my contractions, what was happening, and Brenden was super patient and helpful with all of that. Evan and I had far too much adrenaline to rest at this point so we just stayed up and talked a ton.
At 6:30am, the Doctor came in to check me and break my water. I was 6cm at this point. There was some meconium which meant that we would have to have NICU nurses in the room during delivery to make sure Anna was okay. Skin to skin contact would have to be slightly delayed because of this as well.
Only 2 hours later at 8:30am, I was fully dilated!!
We had to change my laboring positions a few times at this point to get Anna in a position where she was comfortable. She was in a little bit of distress and her heart-rate was abnormal. They monitored us for about 2 hours while I labored down. She finally stabilized when I was semi upright and on my right.
At 10:30am I started pushing. Learn from my mistake here. Just before I started pushing, I’d pressed the button for more meds from my epidural. While I felt nothing, this was troublesome because I could not feel at all what I was doing. While you’re pushing, you do want to feel your contractions so you know when and how to push. Lesson learned and I will not be making this mistake next time.
I ended up pushing for 2 whole hours when our sweet Anna grace finally made her appearance into the world at 12:40pm. Her first cry was everything.
As I mentioned, they had to take her right away to clean up the meconium and make sure she was okay. Evan got to cut the cord and was with her the entire time as they cleaned her up and took her measurements. She was 7 pounds 7.4 ounces, and 19.75 inches long. She was perfection wrapped in the tiniest package. As Evan was doing this, I was delivering my placenta and getting stitches for a small perineal tear.
Seeing the way Evan looked at her in that moment made me want to have a million babies just to see him look that way again. It truly was an instant and magical connection they had.
They then brought her to me and we got to be skin to skin. Anna loved it so much she peed on me. Hah! She was beautiful and I just kept repeating “I just had a baby”. The nurses laughed and celebrated right along with me. Anna was ready to nurse right away. She started rooting and searching for milk. My nurses said not to nurse Anna until I had food in my system because it had been so long since I’d eaten, and I lost everything early in labor. They thought nursing would be more successful after I ate.
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We got to be moved to a room only an hour and a half later and our family came to meet her. This was an amazing moment for everyone with her being the first grandchild to be born on both sides.
I was one of the lucky mamas who didn’t bleed as heavy or as long as some do. Praise the Lord for that. I was able to walk to the bathroom a few hours later. The first pee postpartum, especially post epidural is apparently a big deal. But they had my bathroom stocked with all the goodies and dinosaur pads a girl could need. It took awhile for the epidural to wear off my left leg. That one stayed numb for quite some time. The nurse and tech assisted me and showed me what to do the first time, but by the second I was on my own.
I am constantly amazed at what the body can do and those first few days postpartum I watched as my body changed from housing a whole human to going back to “normal”. I say “normal” because my body will never be what it was. I have scars and stretch marks, and I’m still holding on to that last 15 pounds. It’s completely amazing and awe striking still how women’s bodies are. And normal now looks completely different than normal before motherhood. That’s okay, and something it’s taken me this long to accept myself. That is also okay.
Anna’s first year of life has been different than I expected. But I’m grateful for the life we’ve been given. She’s the ultimate blessing. A week after she was born shut downs started happening and the world got scary really fast. To think of what could have been reminds me of what a blessing her birth really was. It may not have gone according to plan. Her first year may not have gone according to plan. But, what actually unraveled was much better than anything I could have ever imagined myself. God is really amazing in that way. He knew she was what we needed, when we needed her. He knew that she would be the light in our darkest year. That’s exactly what she is.
Happy Birthday, my sweet Anna Grace.