I'm writing this for a few different reasons, one of which is for me to be able to look back and recall all the details, and another reason being to perhaps prepare other women for situations they may encounter during their own birth experience.
Let me be clear by saying this up front: I'm not writing this to be dramatic and act like I'm the only woman on Earth who felt unexpected pain during labor. At the end of the day, I delivered a healthy baby and everything I experienced was non life-threatening, which is all I cared about in the first place.
But it still hurt like a bitch! haha.
I'm also including my pre-labor experience and sparing no details. If you get grossed out by the term "mucus plug", a lot of people do, go ahead and skip to the labor section :)
I wanted to include these details because I personally became fascinated with other mom's labor experiences, especially the signs right before they went into labor, so I could maybe know what to look for when my day came.
I went into labor at 40 weeks and 4 days. Looking back, there were very few "pre-labor" signs that happened, other than the fact I was over-due and he had to come at some point.
At my 36-week appointment I was 3 centimeters dilated and stayed at 3 centimeters for the whole month up to my last appointment, three days before I went into labor.
A week before labor I started to lose my mucus plug. I say "started" because I would end up losing more and more throughout the week. That was exciting to me because it was the first obvious pre-labor symptom that I experienced.
Other than that, the only other symptoms I experienced was dull cramping in my lower abdomen and lower back and an increase in Braxton Hicks contractions the closer I got to my due date.
Leading up to the day I went into labor, there were a few days I thought would be "the day" for various reasons, either I was extra crampy that day, or I just felt "off", but nonetheless they all turned out to be false alarms. The actual day I went into labor, however, I felt completely normal. So much so, that night when I showered I decided not to wash my hair because I figured I'd be able to do it the next day (it was VERY important to me to have clean hair when welcoming my first born into the world, haha). So I took my nightly bath, got into bed, and it wasn't ten minutes later I experienced my first contraction.
The cramping started out pretty mild and it wasn't until the third or so that I realized they were actually contractions; at that point I began timing them on an app.
* If you've never felt a contraction before, they feel exactly how they are described. It's a cramp that slowly builds in strength for a several seconds, peaks, then decreases in strength.
The contractions consistently came on average ten minutes apart in the beginning and after thirty minutes or so, I decided I better get up and wash my damn hair just in case they turned out to be the real deal. While showering I noticed that they were getting a little stronger, to the point I wouldn't be able to sleep through them, so I went ahead and started getting ready while riding them out.
For the most part, my contractions were getting stronger, lasting longer, and coming more frequently. There were a few that made me think they may be lessening in strength, but then the next would change my mind. A little after 2 a.m., I had laid down to try and rest and a contraction came on so strong that I couldn't lie still- so I decided to call my doctor to see if I should go to the hospital. After hearing the contractions were close to 5 minutes apart and getting stronger, plus the fact I was over-due, the doctor on call told me I should probably go ahead and head to the hospital.
Once checked into the hospital they put us in a triage room first to determine if I was actually in labor, before they admitted me into a labor and delivery room. The nurse checked my cervix, told me I was dilated 5 centimeters, and as soon as she was finished my water broke.
* I was not prepared for how much freaking water there is. It leaks for HOURS- just a slow seeping of water- basically like you're constantly pissing your pants. Every time I moved, laughed, OR DIDN'T MOVE- more water would come out. It drove me crazy!
Finally they moved me into our labor and delivery room at about 4 a.m., got me hooked up to IVs and the monitors, and at that point it was a waiting game for my cervix to dilate fully to 10 cm.
They asked when I wanted to get my epidural, and I decided I was going to wait a little longer until I was more dilated that way I didn't get it too early.
Also, some hospitals, mine included, now offer nitrous oxide (laughing gas) to help get you through contractions before or in place of an epidural. My husband and I decided I would try that first, then, if and when the contractions became unbearable, I would receive my epidural.
* In my personal opinion, the gas did nothing for me and I wish we hadn't purchased it because it was a waste.
Around 10 a.m., 12 hours into labor, my contractions had strengthened to the point I was starting to consider unbearable, plus I was going on 28 hours with no sleep and was exhausted. Around that time they checked my cervix and I was only at 6.5 cm so we agreed to administer my epidural, as well as Pitocin, which is used to speed up and strengthen contractions, thus dilating a cervix more quickly.
Let's talk about the epidural for a moment.
Going into it, I was really nervous about getting the epidural because all I knew was that it was a massive needle that would be going into my spine. And although that's basically true, the experience wasn't bad AT ALL. The worst part was the build up, honestly, and the shot they gave BEFORE the epidural to numb the area- which was a brief sting, then after that it was a piece of cake.
And after THAT, once the epidural kicked in, it was HEAVEN.
Within a few minutes, from the waist down, I felt NOTHING. Not a contraction, not my annoying water continuing to seep out, NOTHING. It was glorious and I was finally able to take a nap while the Pitocin did its thing.
Also, while in labor they do not let you eat/drink anything other than clear liquid (jello, popsicle, chicken broth, sprite, water, etc.) just in case you have to have an emergency c-section, they don't want you to throw up and choke while under anesthesia.
About 18 hours into labor, I was desperate for anything other than water so I ordered a popsicle and chicken broth and vomited twice after trying to eat both- which is a side effect of Pitocin.
* Being starving during labor was something I stressed about beforehand, you know, being a large pregnant woman and all. But honestly it wasn't bad. Whatever they give you in the IVs keep you from getting weak and I don't recall feeling very hungry at all throughout the entire process.
FINALLY, a little after 8pm, after laboring for 22 hours at that point, I was fully dilated. At 8:30 I started pushing.
After so much build-up throughout the day, this part seemed very anti-climatic for me.
It was just the nurse, my husband, and myself in the room with a basketball game on and the nurse told me to prop my feet up in the stirrups and when she said "push" I had to push as hard as I could while she counted to 10.
And that's what we continued to do, for almost two and a half freaking hours.
My contractions were 2-4 minutes apart, and I was able to get two good 10-second pushes in during each, until the last 20 minute stretch, where I tried my best to fit in three pushes during each contraction.
* Part of the reason why it took so long to birth Crews was because he was faced upward, which makes it more difficult for him to navigate the birth canal.
For the first hour and a half of pushing, the challenge was to keep up my strength and continue pushing as hard as I could, even though it seemed like we were getting nowhere.
Eventually, I started to notice a build up to immense pressure, which was due to him moving further and further down. The only way I can explain it, and I wish there was a better way, I really do- but it felt like I was constantly about to go #2... like, an 8 pound #2. And this is the point where my experience started to go south.
As Crews was getting further down, the immense pressure started to become painful, which I thought was just part of the process.
Unbeknownst to me, around this time Chris had noticed my epidural bag had emptied because the machine was beeping. Our nurse was busy with my pushing and had not called in anesthesia until after Chris asked her about it- I was so focused I didn't even catch this conversation.
Eventually anesthesia switched out the epidural bag, then a few minutes later had to come back and re-do something because there were bubbles in the IV (not sure if this has anything to do with anything, but figured it was worth mentioning.)
Unfortunately for me, this was right before the point that Crews was crowning and the pain became what I would describe as excruciating. They were coaching me to push as hard as I could, because he was "RIGHT THERE", but I knew if I did push any harder, I would tear- I could feel it.
By this time, I was crying and saying I couldn't do it. I was in so much pain, no matter how hard I tried to get my mind right and tell myself just a few more pushes and I would finally get to hold my baby, I simply could not push as hard as I could into the pain.
Then my doctor grabbed the scissors and administered an episiotomy, and again, I felt it.
At this point it's all a blur. I don't know if I was in shock or my mind went into fight or flight- I don't know. But I think the episiotomy relieved some pressure, allowing me to really push again, and at 10:50 p.m. I had finally given birth to my son.
At that moment, it was instant relief. All the pressure and pain disappeared the second he was out, and that, combined with the feeling of the nurses placing him in my arms for the first time was euphoric.
Then I was brought back to reality very quickly because my doctor had to stitch me up- and again, I still had plenty of feeling down there. It was awful.
The next day, Chris told me about the empty epidural situation and it all finally made sense. Before knowing that, I thought the amount of pain I felt was normal, even with an epidural, but it turns out I shouldn't have felt any of it. CLEARLY a rookie!!
Regardless, I'm thankful Chris didn't bring it to my attention while in the moment. If I had realized all the pain was unnecessary and due to error, I don't know what I would have done, but I don't think it would have been pretty.
Reflecting on the situation, I'm not angry about it, nor was I ever. The hospital, the nurses, my doctor, and all of the staff were incredible- and besides that particular incident, the rest of our experience was fantastic.
My advice for mom-to-be's. Whether you're planning on a medical-free birth or not, get your mind right for both scenarios.
I went into my birth experience super chill. I didn't have a "birth plan" or any magical scenario in my head that I hoped would play out- as long as I left the hospital with a baby, I was good.
However, I was not prepared for the pain that I felt and I believe wholeheartedly my negativity and lack of tolerance for what I was feeling made the experience so much worse.
Coincidently enough, in the birth class I attended, they discussed ways of coping with pain during labor; for example, breathing exercises, having affirmations ready to say to yourself or out-loud, different positions to get into, etc.- but I didn't pay much attention because I assumed I wouldn't need any of it with an epidural. That was a decision I regretted.
At the end of the day, would I do it again? Of course. Especially knowing it probably won't be as traumatic of an experience knowing what I do now *God willing*.
My hope is that this blog doesn't freak anyone out, but instead prepares someone to avoid what I went through altogether.