Levi’s due date was May 2. I knew that date was really a benchmark – he could come anywhere from 2 weeks early to 2 weeks late. I also knew that as a first time mom I was likely to be late (though I hoped he would come early!)
Justin and I did our last minute baby preparations the weekend of April 19-21. We installed the car seat, washed baby clothes, watched a sleep training course, and packed most of our hospital bag. By the end of that weekend I felt mostly ready for Levi to arrive. I went to bed Sunday and Monday night feeling like it was Christmas Eve – what if tonight was the night?! I woke up in the morning still pregnant and slightly disappointed. I couldn’t wait to meet my son!
On Tuesday, April 23, I came home from work and lounged on the couch, deciding whether or not I had enough energy to go to the gym. I decided to stay on the couch and feel my baby kick, as he usually wasn’t active at this time of the day (also I just didn’t want to go to the gym…)
Justin was supposed to cook dinner that night (per usual) but ran out of time and wasn’t able to, leaving me to a bowl of packaged ramen noodle soup instead. I joked with him about how mad I would be if I went into labor that night and only had a bowl of crappy ramen noodle soup to sustain me. Little did I know…
Around 10:30pm my pregnancy heartburn started flaring up. It was already past Justin’s bedtime but he offered to get me more Alka-Seltzer (I had recently run out.) He ran to the store, I took the Alka-Seltzer, and we both went to sleep. (I use the term “sleep” loosely because at 38 weeks pregnant you don’t really sleep… instead I tossed and turned from side to side in a half slumbered state.)
At 1:06am I woke up feeling like I had just peed my pants, though I knew for a fact I didn’t pee my pants. I got up and checked the sheets to see if anything got on the bed. The sheets were dry, though my underwear needed to be changed. While I was in the bathroom taking care of things I Googled, “how do I know if my water broke.” I didn’t receive any clear answers. I assumed my water didn’t break because when my friend’s water broke it soaked the bed. I went back to bed, feeling what I assumed was a Braxton Hicks contraction (false contractions.) I knew real contractions are consistent in timing and get worse as they go on, so I decided to write down the time just to see if there was any consistency. The first one I wrote down was at 1:11am.
10 minutes later I got up to use the bathroom again (because 38 weeks pregnant…) but when I looked down I saw a stream of blood. Thankfully, I knew this was a normal pre-labor sign. I Googled “mucus plug” and “bloody show” to try to determine which one it was. Again, I didn’t find any clear answers. (Turns out it was the bloody show if anyone is wondering…)
I went back to bed, feeling more Braxton Hicks contractions. After timing my contractions at 1:11, 1:19, 1:29, and 1:37, I Googled “contractions” and sent a friend (who was sleeping) a text that said, “might be starting labor” followed by “I know this is so silly but if this really ends up being it – I haven’t washed my hair since Sunday!! lol.”
I had another contraction at 1:47 – this one felt more painful. Justin woke up around this time. I told him I might be in labor, that my contractions were around 10 minutes apart, and asked him to download a contraction timing app so he could time them for me. He timed the next one and said, “that one was only 5 minutes apart” which was confusing to both of us because how did it suddenly jump from 10 minutes to 5??
I’ve heard you know when you’re having contractions and by the next contraction I KNEW. I started gripping the bedsheets and saying ‘OW OW OW OW OW OWWWW!’ At the same time, Justin was doing his own Googling about contractions and said to me in a studious voice, “It says irregular contractions are a sign of false labor.”
I was like THIS IS NOT FALSE LABOR.
My contractions continued to worsen, leaving me writhing on the bed with tears streaming down my cheeks. I thought I must be weak because I was crying. My ‘ow’ turned into a curse word. Each time I had a contraction more fluid gushed into my underwear, which was annoying on top of the pain.
Soon after that I vomited all over the bedroom floor. (This is when Justin was like oh dang… I guess this really isn’t false labor!)
The next 30 minutes were a blur of contractions that barely gave me a break as Justin and I scrambled to get dressed, throw last-minute items in the hospital bag and get out the door. I still made sure to put on earrings and grab lipstick from my work bag, which I think is hilarious considering the amount of pain I was in (priorities, am I right?) After grabbing the lipstick I dropped to my knees and banged my fist on the hardwood floor as I practically screamed through a contraction. I was grateful we didn’t live in our townhouse anymore because our neighbors (who we shared a wall with) would have been like ‘what the heck is going on over there???’ I wondered about the possibility of our current neighbors hearing me from their house.
I thought about how I had wanted to post Instagram when I was heading to the hospital. What a joke that was to think about now! That list of friends Justin was supposed to text when I went into labor? Also a joke.
When we were in the car I didn’t buckle my seatbelt because the contractions were so intense. When Justin pulled up to the hospital parking lot I almost asked him to stop driving because every added movement hurt. We pulled up to the ER (where you’re supposed to go in the middle of the night) and I waddled in with tears streaming down my cheeks. A handful of bored-looking ER workers were sitting around. “Labor?” they said nonchalantly. “That way,” they pointed down a hallway. I started painfully waddling that way when one of the workers jumped up and gave me a wheelchair. GOD BLESS HIM.
I was wheeled to a desk where a man held a phone out to me and asked if I could talk on the phone. I was in the middle of a contraction and Justin was standing right next to me – I was so confused. Why was the person in the wheelchair being asked to talk on the phone? I wondered if this was a test because I read that not being able to talk through a contraction means you’re truly in labor. Welp, I passed that test. I waved my hand at him like NO, SIR, I CAN’T TALK ON THE PHONE RIGHT NOW. (Was this his first day on the job?) Justin took the call, which I later learned was a conversation with the labor and delivery nurse.
We made it to the triage room where I was told to put on a hospital gown in the bathroom. While I was changing a contraction made me drop to the floor. I clung to the handicap bar for support. After that, I got on the examination table and a nurse, Lisa, stuck her hand ALL THE WAY UP ME. I was already in pain from contractions and this just made it worse. I was writhing like a wild animal on the table – at one point I cried out, “I don’t like this!!!!” I honestly don’t know how Lisa was able to keep doing what she was doing and remain so steady. Mad props, Lisa.
I’ll never forget the tone of her voice when she said, “do you feel like you need to push?” Her tone was full of surprise, as if she was truly caught off guard. “I don’t know,” I responded. “You’re 9.5 centimeters dilated.” she said. “This baby is coming soon!”
She pushed me in the wheelchair to the delivery room. I asked her about an epidural. To my horror, she told me it was too late.
I got on the bed and someone hooked me up to an IV (my first time having one.) When I had a contraction I would lean over the left side of the bed to the point where I was almost falling off. I remember thinking, “I don’t know why I’m doing this but I can’t stop.” I was glad no one advised me not to do that – they just let me do my thing. With each contraction I said something along the lines of, “Jesus please help me. Please Jesus!!! Pleaseeeeee.” I was also squeezing Justin’s hand HARD. In between contractions I saw him shake his hand out but I didn’t even care.
Lisa offered me some kind of pain-relieving gas which I gladly accepted – only to discover it did nothing for me. I was supposed to breathe it in during a contraction but I ended just gripping the nozzle instead.
My hair had been in a ponytail but somehow it kept coming loose and falling out (was I pulling at my hair? I didn’t even know.) I thought about my friend who pulled out some of her hair during labor. I asked Justin to redo my ponytail for me. I also asked him for my chapstick. Many times. (All that heavy breathing + dry hospital air make for chapped lips.)
It wasn’t long before I felt like I needed to push. I tried pushing in the position I was in but didn’t like that so I asked Lisa if I could turn around and lean over the back of the bed (the bed was propped up.) I always knew if I couldn’t get an epidural this was the position I wanted to push in. I frantically scrambled around to my knees and leaned over the back of the bed.
I had become less and less vocal during my contractions – now I was grunting through gritted teeth. The contractions weren’t as sharp or all-consuming anymore (the worst ones were at my house) but I still really really didn’t like the feel of them. Now they felt like immense pressure where the baby was in my birth canal and pain through my lower back. I asked about an epidural a few more times but Lisa kept telling me it was too late, that the baby would be here before I could get one. I finally told myself, “Don’t ask again. You’re embarrassing yourself.”
I kept hearing God say “it’s going to be okay,” the same thing He said to me a few weeks prior when I thought my cat had died/run away. He was right, everything turned out to be okay in that situation. That sentence was on repeat in my head. “It’s going to be okay, it’s going to be okay, it’s going to be okay…”
I wondered if God was trying to teach me a lesson about pain, about how it’s worth it and I can do hard things and yadda yadda.
I was also thinking about how I felt like this whole experience wasn’t really happening, as if I was in a movie or having an out of body experience even though I could very much feel what was going on in my body.
At one point I thought, “I’m so tired, I need a nap. How can I take a nap? All I want is a nap RIGHT NOW.”
I also heard myself say, “I can’t do this,” which felt incredibly cliché. (It seems like every woman in labor has a moment like this.)
Justin was handing me ice chips and told me I was doing a great job. “Don’t say anything!” I snapped at him. When Lisa asked if there had been a birth plan, Justin responded by saying “the epidural was the birth plan…” followed by a dry laugh. “Stop laughing!” I snapped again. He remained quiet from there on out.
Lisa, meanwhile, was trying to help me breathe through my pushing – which apparently means to NOT breathe when you push. You’re supposed to hold your breath and use that force to push all the energy down into your body. But I kept accidentally breathing out instead of holding my breath. Lisa was also telling me to lean back while I pushed which felt really awkward to me.
Finally, the clouds lifted, the heavens parted, and Lisa said I could get an epidural. Apparently, my poor pushing skills and how tense my body was slowed the baby coming out, leaving time for an epidural after all. (Lisa also said she felt bad for me when I was crying out to Jesus…)
I never saw the anesthesiologist’s face, but I don’t doubt she was an angel. I could tell she was working quickly, carefully and thoroughly. After the epidural was inserted I leaned back on the bed and waited for the drugs to kick in (around 20-30 minutes – this is when Justin says the evil spirit left me.)
Lisa asked if an intern could watch me give birth (it would be her first time watching a birth.) I was like sure!
Then I did a practice push. Lisa was holding my right leg, Justin was holding my left. After my practice push, they both gasped.
“What? What is it?” I asked.
“He has a lot of hair!!”
“He does?” I said excitedly. I really wanted a baby with hair but expected him to be bald.
“Yeah… a LOT.”
Then I was worried he had too much hair and would look like a troll.
After my practice push the midwife on call, Jack, came in for the delivery. I was happy it was Jack – I had been hoping to have him or Sally. I pushed through three contractions with all my might. I could feel everything that was happening – when a contraction would come, his head coming out, his body coming out – but there was no pain. It was amazing. During my final push to get his head out, Jack, Lisa, and Justin were cheering me on as if I was a marathon runner about to cross the finish line. Their encouragement made me feel motivated and empowered.
As soon as Levi came out they put him on my chest. My first thought when I saw him was, “Oh my gosh, he’s cute!!”
And then I wept.
The moment was surreal. From trying to get pregnant to the morning I saw that faint pink line to getting in a car accident a few hours later to the fear of miscarrying to my first anniversary trip being ruined by morning sickness to the first time I heard his heartbeat to crying when I found out I was a cystic fibrosis carrier to telling my family I’m pregnant over Thanksgiving to announcing the news online to feeling that first kick to thinking he was a girl and finding out he’s a boy to peeing all the time to feeling insecure about my body to feeling loved at my baby shower to being out of breath all the time to barely sleeping at night to my maternity photo shoot to mood swings to weekly bump pictures to contractions that made me pound my fist on the floor to pushing him out of my body to this very moment when I was holding this living, breathing, beautiful baby boy on my chest.
It’s a moment I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.
While Levi was on my chest Jack pushed the placenta out of my body, let Justin cut the umbilical cord, and stitched me up down there. Again, I could feel everything but it didn’t hurt. (I was grateful to have Levi as a distraction…)
Lisa’s shift ended so she introduced me to the new nurse attending me and said goodbye – I was sad to see her go. We had been through so much together.
The next hour or so consisted of breastfeeding, the nurses weighing and measuring Levi (6 pounds, 7 ounces, 19 inches long) and me going to the bathroom for the first time. All I saw was blood.
After that they brought me breakfast – I didn’t even feel hungry but I scarfed down the food like I hadn’t eaten for days. French toast, eggs, sausage, fruit, and orange juice. It was hospital food but I felt like I was in heaven.
When I was done eating they took me in the wheelchair from the delivery room to my hospital room. I held Levi in my arms and beamed proudly whenever we passed someone.
From the time I woke to my water breaking to the time I pushed Levi out was less than 5 hours (4 hours and 50 minutes to be exact.) More than one nurse made a joke about how I needed to be careful or I’d have the next baby in the car or on the side of the road!
The entire time I was pregnant I had open hands when it came to giving birth – I knew anything could happen from an emergency C-section to 40 hours of labor to a labor so fast I couldn’t get an epidural. I always said I would prefer the latter — turns out I got the best of both worlds, a quick labor with an epidural right before he came out. For this I’m extremely grateful 🙂
Now I just need to make sure I don’t have high expectations for my next delivery…