“Hello, is it too late to cancel my take out order? Yeah…. Hold on… I’m having a contraction… yeah… I’m sorry but I can’t come get it…. I’m going into labor”…..
It was March 18th, my due date. Shawn and I had decided that, despite the fact that due dates are basically arbitrary guesses at when your baby may arrive, we were going to make the day a celebration. I had taken Spencer out on a special “date” that morning to our local donut shop, followed up by a special lunch trip to Chic-Fil-a, with plans that evening to go to one of our favorite restaurants (Grub) as a family. We had been on a pretty tight budget, so being out and about was quite a big deal for us.
This day was one of the first days where I felt like I finally looked fit to burst. I had maintained a pretty
steady walk as my belly got bigger, but this day I was waddling worse than a penguin. I made everyone so uncomfortable at chic-fil-a, that despite the fact that I was there during the lunch rush everyone insisted I cut to the front of the line so I could sit down sooner.
That afternoon I found myself in a cleaning frenzy. I was turning tables over to clean the underside of them and taking toothpicks to the cracks to remove any gunk. Perhaps this should have been a sign, but I had been in “nesting” mode for weeks, so I didn’t think much of it.
The closer it got to the evening, I found myself feeling incredibly uncomfortable and ancy. It was like ants were crawling slowly under my skin and I could only shake them off by moving. I feared the moment I’d stop because I could tell I needed the movement.
It was at this time that I started to rethink our dinner plans. I dearly desired to have a family date night with just the 3 of us on this special day, but the idea of sitting in a restaurant for an extended period of time made the ants under my skin seem to pick up their pace.
Shawn still had an hour or so left at work, but I decided to call him to let him know I didn’t think I could handle going out and that I wasn’t quite feeling right. Of course, those words triggered my husband into immediately deciding he was coming home. I fought him for a moment and then realized I wanted, no, needed nothing more than for him to come be with me.
We decided that dinner didn’t have to be thrown out the window, and Shawn asked if I wanted to call in our order so that he could pick it up and take it home for a night in instead. I called our restaurant and placed the order. Then I sat down.
Perhaps I had been having these contractions all day and the forward motion just kept me out of my head about it, but suddenly I was incredibly uncomfortable and the waves of contractions were washing over me. I tried not to get my hopes up.
We had discovered, over the course of the last few weeks, that I was having something called “Prodromal labor”. This kind of labor is a cruel beast. It basically means that for days, sometimes weeks, you have real labor in bursts of time. Every pregnant woman experiences false labor at some point. There are contractions called “Braxton hicks” and they are basically practice contractions. They don’t hurt, but you can feel them. These Braxton Hicks contractions aren’t really labor though, and a lot of women can get confused thinking they’re having the real deal. With Prodromal labor, however, you go into spontaneous full on labor. The contractions are real and incredibly painful. The only thing is, rather than your labor continuing to completion, you just stop laboring randomly and then pick up again at another hour. (sometimes days go between these labor sessions) The difference between prodromal and real labor is that real labor produces a baby at the end of it whereas prodromal labor just stops like a light switch being turned off to leave you wondering when it will mysteriously turn back on.
I had already experienced three “this is it” nights of labor at this point. I was incredibly frustrated. I had labored each time for about 8-12 hours only to have my contractions suddenly stop. At a certain point I had lost hope in my ability to birth. There is nothing that will make you question yourself more than hearing things like “Oh, you’ll know when it’s real labor” and then feeling like you know, only to find your arms empty in the morning instead of wrapped around your sweet baby. I felt like I must be the biggest hypochondriac, or that I was trying to “will” myself into labor. However, once I realized that Prodromal labor was a thing, and read some women’s stories, I felt much better.
The biggest issue, it seems, with Prodromal labor is that it creates a huge sense of self doubt. Women keep feeling like they’re in labor only to continue to have things start and stop over and over again. Many women who labored like this lost there sense of confidence in their ability to determine, “This is it” and I read crazy stories of babies being born on sidewalks, in cars, and on the side of the road on the way to the hospital.
I found myself having, once more, what felt like real contractions. I was irritated at this point. I didn’t want to do another labor session, and I was convinced that I was just making things up. Nonetheless, I decided to turn something on for Spencer to watch and hopped into the tub.
We had made every effort during this pregnancy to keep me as un-anxious as possible. Part of that meant that when I had been checked at my weekly doctors visits to see my progress I asked not to be told how dilated I was. The doctor told Shawn, and I felt confident knowing that he would be able to lead me with that information. Which is why, I didn’t know that I had been 4 cm dilated for several weeks. Apparently my doctor had told Shawn that if I had another bought of labor hit me that we needed to get to the hospital ASAP. She was concerned that because I was so dilated, and Cora was so low, that I would start laboring and we wouldn’t make it in time.
That is why, when I texted Shawn shortly after I had called him saying I was having pretty intense contractions and was getting in the tub he asked me to time them. I hadn’t previously done any timing, but I guess since he wasn’t there he wanted to know what kind of time frame we were talking about.
For 15 minutes I had 2 minute long contractions that were about 1 minute apart. The “it’s time to go to the hospital” cue we had been taught to look for was 1minute contractions, every 5 minutes, for an hour. Clearly I had surpassed this. I was in agony. I probably didn’t get the timing right because I couldn’t focus on much other than breathing.
The rest of that hour is a blur to me. At some point someone called my mom and told her to get Spencer. I do remember calling the restaurant I had placed our order at and crying during a contraction to cancel our order. (in hindsight I should have let Shawn do this, but I was clearly not thinking straight) Mom showed up and disappeared with Spencer at one point, and despite the fact that I could barely move because the contractions had me locked up, I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that Spencer had left some crackers out on the table I had meticulously cleaned that afternoon. Nonetheless, I was in full on labor and I couldn’t manage to leave the bathroom let alone try and fulfill the last of my nesting needs.
Shawn got home and rushed me into the car. At one point he joked that we could still go eat dinner if we wanted to. I don’t know what look I gave him, but he said to me “Yup. You’re in full on labor. You just gave me a look that says you want to murder me.”
I don’t remember the drive, but I do remember crying in the waiting room because I had to wait to be admitted. I was surrounded by families who were clearly anxiously waiting on the news that their loved one’s baby had arrived, and here I am moaning and trying to relax in the midst of pain in the middle of the room. I just kept burying my face into Shawn so I couldn’t see them anymore and tried to go to my happy place.
We got to our room to find that the doctor I loathed was the attending doctor. She was the only doctor at the practice that I had insisted would not deliver our baby. She had made me cry after lecturing me about gaining too much weight (which, in the end, I only gained 25 lbs… completely in the ‘normal’ range). She checked me and said I was pretty far along and that she could tell by my face that things were serious. She also let us know that her shift was almost up and that a new doctor I’d never met before would be on.
Cue the hallelujah chorus.
We settled into our room, and sure enough, my body slowed down. I turned to Shawn as I felt things stopping. I could not handle yet another night of hopes being crushed. When we were alone in the room we discussed our options. I told Shawn that I had lost all faith in my ability to determine when to go into the hospital and that if we left now I don’t think I’d ever choose to come back, no matter how serious the labor was. We had been told that my favorite doctor would be on at 8AM the next morning, and together, we decided to stay the night and see what happens.
I barely slept that night, not for lack of trying. I continued to have some pretty strong contractions throughout the night, but nothing as patterned and structured as I had experienced that evening. It was enough to keep me up though.
The next morning my doctor came in with a huge smile on her face. I was equally excited to see her. She had started to feel like a sister to me, and I was immediately relieved when she walked in. I loved her for being so understanding and complimentary of our desire to birth as naturally as possible. When she came in she did not offer me medication or anything to try and speed the process. She simply checked me and asked what I wanted.
I had barely made any progression in the night. I was tired and frustrated, and I asked her if she’d be okay with breaking my water. We talked through the options and the process of that, and she was overly cautious about committing to do it. She wanted to be sure I was okay with her intervening since we had said we didn’t want anything. I was sure. Labor had stalled, and I didn’t want to leave that hospital without Cora in my arms. Call me impatient, but I was emotionally and physically exhausted at this point.
She broke my water.
Things started back up again and it felt just as intense as the night before. Despite the pain, I was thankful that things were in motion again.
Shawn held me. He squeezed my hips. He walked all around our room with me as I went in and out of contractions.
The contractions were strong, and brought me to all fours several times. But I could tell they weren’t coming in the consistent waves they needed to be. I’d have a bunch of contractions on top of each other and then nothing for a while. Contractions are supposed to be somewhat consistent waves, building and releasing in patterns. Mine looked more like a polygraph test.
My water had been broken at 10 AM on the 19th. This was 14 hours after I had arrived at the hospital the night before. At 1 PM my doctor checked me to see how I was doing.
I love my doctor, but she is NOT good at hiding what she’s thinking, and I knew immediately that things weren’t going well. At this point I told her just tell me what was going on, and she explained that I hadn’t progressed any since being taken in the night before. Despite the fact that I had been laboring hard, my body was not progressing.
She suggested we keep at it for a few more hours and see how things were going then. She really wanted me to do this naturally as I had originally planned. Bless her.
I kept at it, or more like, my body kept knocking me over with contractions. I cried, I moaned, I bounced on a birthing ball, I walked, I kneeled, I did it all. Shawn was there the whole time giving me any love and affection I needed, and I needed so much. I felt incredible though. I had done so much to prepare for this day. I had practiced mentally releasing as the pain came. It is an abnormal process to relax in spite of pain, but I genuinely felt like I was doing it. It was such a change from how I labored with Spencer. It felt beautiful, and cruel at the same time. I could endure each contraction because I knew each one was bringing my daughter closer.
Then, around 4 my doctor came to check on me.
I should have looked away from her face but instead I read it clearly: this is not good.
I still hadn’t made any progress since she had checked me 3 hours earlier. In the 20 hours I had been laboring I had only progressed half a centimeter.
With tears in her eyes she told me that she thought I needed to get on Pitocin.
Oh. Pitocin. You evil mistress. How I LOATHE thee.
I had done 19 hours on Pitocin without an epidural during my first labor with my son. I was not about to spend one second on that evil drug without also getting pain meds. Once more, we talked through the options and she left Shawn and me alone to discuss it.
Perhaps we could have fought for more options. But, I trusted my doctor. I knew she had been a huge advocate for me and my desires and she would not be suggesting anything that she didn’t genuinely believe was best for me. We prayed. We asked for help. And we invited the doctor back in.
I asked for an epidural first. No way I was going to do Pitocin again without one.
When the anesthesiologist came in I immediately hated him. I felt like I had been laboring so well. Managing my pain so well. I could continue to do this for as long as I needed. That’s why I scowled when he came in pretending to play the trumpet and saying “here I am to save the day! Aren’t you SO happy to see me??”
No. No I was not. You are here for a preventative measure, not to be my savior.
Regardless he did his thing and left. I got some sleep.
Around 6:30PM a nurse came in and checked me. I had made some progress! I was about 6-7 cm dilated. She told me she would send the doctor in shortly.
Around 7:15 my doctor came in to see me. She explained that since I had just been checked she was going to leave me be. She told me that she was going to take her dinner break, but should be back by around 8:30 to check on me again. She also asked if I was feeling any pressure, but at that point I hadn’t been thinking about my body at all so I said I didn’t know.
I had been missing Spencer all day. I had cried with longing for him. Shawn showed me videos and photos of him to try and encourage me in the process. When the doctor said she would return at 8:30 I thought “Spencer’s bedtime is 8. He needs to be here before then! We have to do this before then!”
My doctor walked out and I took a minute to assess my body. She had asked me if I was feeling any pressure and I honestly had been in such a ‘rest’ mode that I hadn’t paid attention to the fact that there definitely was pressure building. I turned to Shawn and told him that I did, in fact, feel some pressure. I asked him if he could grab the doctor and let her know. She had only left our room a minute or two prior.
Apparently Shawn ran out into the hall to find her and let her know. She determined that where I was at 6:30 left plenty of time to go before I’d need to push and that it would be fine. She really did not want to re-check me again because she knew frequent checks can cause infection so she preferred to wait.
While Shawn was in the hallway, I felt a panic start to rise in me. There definitely was pressure, how had I not noticed it before? When he came back about 5 minutes later without a doctor or nurse I felt even more panicked. I told him I was definitely feeling some pressure now and it was making me really nervous. He tried to keep me calm and we talked through a few things, and prayed some more. Despite all the efforts to keep me calm I insisted that he ask a nurse to come check me. Things weren’t feeling right.
Again, he stepped into the hallway. Apparently there was much talk amongst the nurses about how I was an “anxious mom” and that I didn’t need to worry. Things had been so slow all day. There wasn’t any way (in their minds) that I would be needing to push soon.
Shawn returned, once more, alone. At this point it was 7:30, only 15 minutes since my doctor had left. I felt the pressure rising, and despite the fact that for the most part my lower half was numb I felt an irresistible need to push. I remembered my Bradley teaching and started to pull my head back to try and fight the urge. I started to panic and was begging for a nurse. At this point Shawn was fed up with trying to politely convince people they needed to check on me, and he slapped the call button on my bed.
“Can I help you?” the intercom buzzed.
“Yeah, I was just wondering if someone wanted to come in here and catch the baby, or if I needed to do it because my wife is about to push”
Suddenly a nurse arrived at our door.
Man I love my husband.
The nurse walked in slowly, with a deeply condescending look on her face. Again, I felt resentment rise. She made a show of putting her gloves on and walking over to check me. Her face was not as easy to read as my doctors, but as soon as she checked me I saw the flicker or panic hit her face too.
Her body stiffened and she looked me straight in the eye and said, “Okay sweetie, I’m going to go call your doctor to come back. Give me just a second”
It was 7:45 when my doctor walked in and at that point I was doing everything in my power to resist pushing. This was it. I could not hold it any longer.
I pushed, listening to their direction so as to not rush things.
At 7:59 Cora Belle Richardson entered the world, at a towering 21 ½ inches tall weighing 8lbs 2oz.
Just in time to beat Spencer’s bed time. 😉
And as a fun after thought, on our way home from the hospital with Cora, we stopped and picked up a to-go order from the restaurant we had planned to have dinner at on my due date.