On July 31st, 2019, my beautiful daughter Cassidy was born. It was the most beautiful, scary, and intense experience of my life. Now, about 6 months later, I’m ready to share my story!
*This post discusses pregnancy, labour, and birth in detail.
My due date was July 29th. I was born early and was hoping that my baby would do the same. I was so sick of being pregnant at the end. I was huge and had a hard time moving around. I was tired all the time, and every activity took way too much effort. It was so hot during the month of July which just added to my exhaustion.
I saw my OB-GYN on the 22nd, one week before my due date. I had been having some Braxton hicks contractions, but otherwise no real signs of impending labour. The baby was still sitting a little high, and my cervix was only about half effaced and barely dilated. To help move things along, he did a membrane sweep and told me that if I happened to go into labour that weekend, he would be the OB-GYN on call. This was on Monday, so I thought there might be a good chance that could happen. I made an appointment for the next week on Wednesday and was told they would see me then unless the baby comes before then. Funnily enough, she was born about 45 minutes before that appointment time.
That entire week I did things to help move things along. I did a lot of walking, bouncing on my exercise ball, and eating spicy foods and pineapple. But, Cassidy was pretty content to stay in there! By the time my due date came, I was so over being pregnant. People were constantly asking me for updates or if I had the baby yet. I wanted to tell them to calm the hell down. I was anxious for the baby to come enough, I didn’t need other people pestering me about it.
On the evening of my due date, I was having some Braxton hicks contractions but they would stop if I drank some water and laid down. The next morning, I woke up bleeding a little bit and still had the odd contraction here and there. Then a few hours later I lost my mucus plug. I know you can lose it long before you go into labour, but with all the other things going on, I knew I was heading in the right direction. By around 12:30 pm my contractions weren’t going away with rest and water, and they were starting to come more frequently.
I texted my doula that morning to let her know about the symptoms I was having, and then again in the afternoon when the contractions became more regular. She recommended a few things to me like resting as much as I can, having a bath, and if I felt up for it, going for a walk. I did not feel like going for a walk! It was way too hot out. But I did have a nice bath in our big soaker tub which really helped.
By around 4 pm the contractions were coming every 6-10 minutes, lasting about 30-40 seconds. The pain was still tolerable at that time. My doula told me she was going to take a nap then so she will be awake at night because it’s very likely I will need her overnight.
My husband was working from home that day. Which was nice because we didn’t have to worry about him having to come back home when I went into labour. He kept coming to check on me in between working. It worked out pretty well that my contractions started getting intense after he was done for the day.
Around 8:30 pm I texted my doula and told her I needed her soon now as the contractions were getting harder to deal with and a lot closer together. She came over and she helped me breathe through the contractions which were very quickly becoming more and more painful. We left for the hospital when my contractions were sitting at about 5 minutes apart for almost an hour. During the ride to the hospital, my contractions started coming much closer together, and I cannot stress enough how uncomfortable it is to be sitting in a vehicle with a seatbelt on while in labour.
By the time we got to the hospital, I was in so much pain from the trip that I didn’t feel like I could walk. I stood just outside the car leaning in onto the seat for a little bit. Then with my husband and doula’s help, I walked to the front door of the hospital and we picked up a wheelchair from the front to take me to the OB triage.
They checked me and I was 5cm dilated. Which meant I was well on my way and they could admit me. Now despite the huge amount of pain I was in, the part I was really nervous about was about to happen. I had to get an IV placed to receive antibiotics because I was GBS positive. (GBS stands for Group B Strep, it’s a kind of bacteria that is present in some women’s vagina that is harmless and normal, however, it can be harmful to babies if they come into contact with it) I have been terrified of needles my entire life, and never had an IV before. The idea of a needle going into my body and basically staying there just freaked me out! Finding out that the needle comes out and it’s just a little tube made me feel a bit better though. I closed my eyes and breathed while they placed it, and shortly after, I was way too distracted to worry about it.
Right before I was to be moved from the triage room to a labour/delivery room I felt a huge gush. I was certain my water had broken. I got up and moved over to the wheelchair and the nurse said it wasn’t my water, just blood, so that was lovely.
When we got to the room, they put wireless monitors on me so I would be able to move around and they could check the contractions and heartbeat on the computer anytime. I then got into the big tub they have in the bathroom and we dimmed the lights. It was relaxing in between the contractions, but the water wasn’t helping as much as I had hoped. The pain started getting really bad and I started feeling nauseated and then started vomiting. That really took me to a whole other level of misery. The tub wasn’t helping anymore even between contractions and I was starting to feel kind of cold, so I decided to get out. When I got out, I was freezing, in pain, and still occasionally vomiting. All I wanted to do was lay down on the bed and curl up under a blanket.
I stayed on that bed for the rest of my labour. My doula tried to encourage me to get up and move around, bounce on the birth ball, or try a different position, but I really couldn’t do it. I felt stuck and didn’t want to move at all. After a little while, I started feeling absolutely horrible and decided I would try the nitrous oxide gas to help take the edge off, so I called the nurse and asked for it. Unfortunately, they only had the gas hookup in one room, and that room was in use by someone else. I was suddenly feeling so helpless and vulnerable. That was my plan for pain relief if I needed it. I didn’t want to do an epidural because, as previously mentioned, needles freak me the hell out! On top of that, the possible side effects and having to have a catheter made it something I absolutely didn’t want. So now that the gas option wasn’t available to me, I started to freak out and ask what other pain relief options other than an epidural there were for me. There was nothing. IV drugs weren’t going to be possible because of the effects it could have on the baby.
At that moment I was feeling completely distressed because I felt I had no options anymore, but I didn’t think I could handle going the rest of my labour feeling this pain. They checked me and I was at 7cm dilated. So I began to think about how I had only gone up 2cm since getting to the hospital and had 3cm to go still. My mind went wild thinking “maybe I should get the epidural,” “what if the pain gets so bad that I get too distressed and I need an emergency C-section?” “I am absolutely not doing this ever again,” “what if I get the epidural and it doesn’t work?” “If I get the epidural now, then I should have gotten it hours ago to save myself from this pain I’ve felt so far. So getting it now would mean I suffered all that before for no reason.”
I was so overwhelmed, but the thought of a needle going into my spine still freaked me out enough that I said no to the epidural. At this point, my contractions were coming so frequently that I wasn’t getting a rest in between them. By the time I took a breath after a contraction ended, the next one would start. The nurse in my room must have thought I was headed for trouble, so she brought up the epidural again and said she could answer any questions I have to help me feel more comfortable with the idea.
So conflicted I kept going back and forth. I really didn’t think I could keep going, and I knew it would just get more painful. I asked my husband and doula what I should do. They both kept telling me it’s my decision and to do what I think is best. I really wanted one of them to just say yes do it, I don’t know why, I guess I thought if someone told me to do it, I would feel better about doing it. I ended up saying yes. The moment I agreed to do it, I felt weirdly relieved and panicked at the same time.
The anesthesiologist came pretty quickly. He told me where to sit, and I leaned forward to arch my back. My doula asked if I wanted what he was doing explained to me as it happened or not. I said no, I didn’t want the details, I just wanted them to do whatever they had to while I closed my eyes and breathed. Hearing details would just freak me out more. The initial poke to freeze my back was painful, but definitely nothing compared to the labour. Luckily I couldn’t feel anything they did after that. But unfortunately, I could still feel the contractions that were coming on top of each other at this point. The epidural was taking a little while, I was sitting there wondering what was taking so long, but afraid to ask because I didn’t want to hear anything that would send me into a panic. After it was done I found out that he was having a hard time getting the epidural placed because there’s a bit of a curve in my spine. After it was placed, I got myself comfortable on the bed and the anesthesiologist started adjusting the strength of the epidural. It felt really weird at first, like cold liquid running down my spine. I felt the next contraction, so they did another adjustment, and after that, I didn’t feel any contractions anymore. But my right butt cheek felt kind of weird. They gave me a button I can press to get a surge of medication through my epidural if needed.
Now that I couldn’t feel contractions anymore, and it was the middle of the night, we decided to try sleeping. My husband and doula were able to fall asleep, but as hard as I tried, I could not fall asleep. I was happy to be able to just relax in a quiet dimly lit room though. My nurse came in one time to check the computer and saw that I was awake and we talked a little bit about how hard it is to sleep when you’re in labour, even with the epidural because of how much is on your mind. I really liked the nurse that I had overnight, she was really comforting and friendly.
My water broke sometime after the epidural. My husband wasn’t in the room, at the time, he had left to get something. I was chatting with my doula, in the middle of telling her something when all of a sudden I felt a pop and gush. It was such a weird feeling, and it was a much larger gush than I had felt before when I thought my water broke. We told the nurse when she came in and she got me all cleaned up.
Finally, around 5 or 6 am, the doctor came in to check and I was 10cm dilated and I could start pushing anytime. The epidural had made it so I couldn’t feel the contractions at all, even the “pressure” that some women can feel. Because of this, I never felt the urge to push. The nurse said I could start trying to push and she would tell me when a contraction comes. When a contraction came, I would push for 10 seconds, take a breath, push for 10 seconds again, take a breath and then push for 10 seconds one more time. It started out very slow, I didn’t really feel like anything was happening, but I kept at it.
Not long after we started pushing, my nurse’s shift had finished and I got a new nurse. I continued pushing during contractions, but they were now starting to come further and further apart. It got to the point that they were 6 minutes apart. It was very annoying that the reason I got the epidural was that they were coming so frequently. I could have handled 6 minutes apart without the epidural!
My new nurse seemed to get frustrated with how things were going. She was saying over and over again how I shouldn’t have started pushing already when I did because I was tiring myself out. She said they should have waited until I felt like I needed to push. This wasn’t helpful commentary at all. It’s not like I could go back in time and start pushing at a different time. She was also mentioned that there was meconium in my water when it broke. (Not something I remember anyone telling me before.) So because of this, she was also saying that the baby needed to get pushed out as soon as possible because she could have swallowed some of it. She mentioned this over and over again, which was stressing me out and made me feel like I wasn’t doing a good enough job pushing her out.
Despite saying the baby needs to come out quickly, she had me stop pushing for a bit so I could rest and then lay on my left side to help blood and oxygen flow to the baby easier. Her heart rate had started to drop. She then told me that they were going to bring in the doctor to check on everything and see what they think we should do. The nurse then said they will likely give me something to help get the contractions going again. The way she explained it was a little confusing to me at the time, I was so tired, scared, and delirious, plus, this nurse wasn’t the clearest speaker in the world. My doula asked me if I understood, and I said sort of, but I wanted to know how they were going to give me whatever it was they would give me. Basically I wanted to know if I would be getting yet another needle. I don’t know if the nurse misunderstood the question or what, but she kept saying “you know how it works, don’t worry.” So I just waited and asked the doctor when she came in to tell me what they were going to do.
The doctor made me feel a lot better when she came in to talk to me. She explained that the contractions slowed down and that it’s something that can happen with an epidural but otherwise its nothing I did wrong. I wonder if she could tell I was starting to feel discouraged and like I wasn’t doing a good job because of how many times the nurse kept making her comments. (She was honestly like a broken record reminding me about the meconium and that I started pushing too soon in her opinion.)
After the drug to help move contractions along was administered through my IV, my epidural was turned down a little bit, to help me be able to feel contractions enough to know when to push. I did still have the little booster button that they gave me in case I felt a lot of pain and wanted a bit extra going though my epidural for relief.
When I resumed pushing, it was still slow going, but much better than before. In total it took about 3 and a half hours to push her out. She was stuck in the birth canal for a long time, and it was taking everything in me to keep going. I wanted to give up so many times. I didn’t think I could do it, but being terrified of having a C-section is what really kept me going. It was, however, so discouraging when it felt like she was almost out, and then she would go back in a bit. I wanted to tell the doctor to just pull her out with something, I’m done, but I knew I didn’t want that, so I just kept on pushing. I found out much later that her umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck, which was pulling her back in as I pushed. Once I got her out enough that the doctor could move the cord, things went much faster.
The few minutes after she came out went by like a blur. I almost didn’t realize she came out when she did. I was in the zone, and then all of a sudden everyone in the room got really loud saying she’s here and I opened my eyes and there she was! I don’t remember the cord being cut, but my husband did do it. This is something I wish I had been more alert for. I felt like I wasn’t a part of that moment in a way, and I was looking forward to watching him cut the cord.
She wasn’t put up on my chest when she came out as I had hoped. Because of the meconium, she wasn’t breathing very well. When she first came out, I did touch her arms, but she was quickly whisked away to the warming station for them to use the c-pap machine on her. I didn’t know at the time what they needed to do with her and was trying not to look over. I did glance over once while I was being stitched up which I wish I hadn’t done. The machine they were using on her looked like a pretty big deal and no one was saying how she was doing. I asked my doula if she was ok and she said that she was going to be fine in a relaxed tone, so that calmed me down.
One thing I was really nervous about was having a tear that needed stitches and feeling it while being stitched up. I did have a 2nd-degree tear, and because of the epidural, I didn’t feel a thing when they gave me the stitches. Once the stitches were done, and they were done working on Cassidy, my husband was able to bring her over so I could finally hold her for the first time.
They say that once you see your new baby, you forget about it all. How miserable you were during the end of your pregnancy, how painful the contractions of labour were, and how scared you were when pushing out that baby.
I don’t know how accurate that is, and it certainly wasn’t the case for me. I know every woman is different and experiences pregnancy and birth differently, but not having that instant moment of bliss where I forgot about it all the moment I laid eyes on her was disappointing. Everything still hurt, I was still mentally drained, and swearing that I would never do this again.
That being said, holding her for the first time was an amazing experience. Finally getting to see this little person I’ve been excited about for the last 9 months was wonderful.
It has now been months since giving birth and my memories of the experience are still there, just not as vivid. Every day when I look at my daughter, I am thankful that I was able to bring her into the world, and for her, I would go through it all again. It’s truly amazing what a woman’s body is capable of doing to make and nurture a baby.
But, will I do this again? Only time will tell!