My pregnancy with Elijah was both very similar and also worlds apart from my pregnancy with Gia. They were similar in the facts that they were both extremely healthy pregnancies with zero complications. My belly was about the same size in both pregnancies, I never got stretch marks, and I had tons of Braxton Hicks contractions with both pregnancies.
My pregnancy with Elijah was planned this time, and I found out I was pregnant extremely early on. Morning sickness kicked in at five weeks on the dot, hard and fast and horrible. It lasted until around my 15th week of pregnancy and was one of the worst periods of time I’ve had health-wise perhaps my whole life. The nausea was intense and all-consuming and made me feel angry and depressed and miserable. I prayed hard that this pregnancy would be a healthy one because after experiencing that sickness I was certain I could never do it again.
However, after the morning sickness passed, this pregnancy was a breeze. In comparison to my first pregnancy I slept much better, had very little heartburn, far less hip and back pain, and didn’t have to wake up to pee until the third trimester. I carried him lower, which meant my stomach didn’t feel constantly crowded and I didn’t have the never-ending rib kicks I had with G. I never had the dizziness and passing out that I had with G. My skin was a million times better and I only gained 26 pounds versus the 40 I gained with G, and I had zero swelling at all this go around.
I spent a long time mentally preparing for this delivery – those of you who have followed my blog know what a deep impact my first delivery had on my life. After a traumatic first birth that I couldn’t seem to “get over”, I started counseling last year at this time to prepare myself for our final baby’s delivery. Counseling was hands down the best thing I could have done and it makes me get a little/a lot weepy with gratitude for all the ways my life has changed since taking that step. One of the most important things I worked on in counseling was learning to trust myself and listen to myself rather than the million outside voices that try to tell you what to do, how to feel, how to act, what choices to make. I believe this had a huge impact on my pregnancy and delivery.
Since this pregnancy was planned, I had spent some time before I found out I was pregnant imagining how I wanted this birth to go. I gave birth to Gia in the middle of the night and spent most of my time laboring in the dark. In my vision of this birth, I saw myself giving birth during the day. I wanted the sun shining and mild weather when this baby made his appearance. I told my mom and husband that I wanted to go into labor around 10 am and deliver around 3 pm. They sort of laughed at me and I sort of laughed at myself for how specific my vision was, but I would envision it this way anytime the thought of birth entered my head.
As the third trimester progressed, my mom told me she had a strong feeling I would deliver on February 28th. I was due March 12th. I had a strong feeling I would deliver early. My daughter was a 9lb baby and there were concerns that if I went the full 40 weeks that this baby would be even larger. Given the problems Gia and I had during delivery, I wasn’t too excited about going to 40 weeks, but I told everyone I wanted to get to 38 weeks before delivering. Through each prenatal appointment I focused on trusting my body and was very much supported by my doctor. She offered a 39 week induction and I said no, that I really wanted to trust that this baby would come when he was ready and that my body would know the right time. She was completely supportive.
On Sunday, February 28th I woke up to my daughter singing “5 little monkeys” in her sleep at 4:40 am. She used to do it all the time, but hadn’t in many months so it surprised me. I got up to go to the bathroom since I was awake, and found out I was bleeding ever so slightly, just as I was the morning I went into labor with Gia. I instantly knew that would be the day I would deliver and I was thrilled. I learned my lesson first time around about being too excited and not sleeping, so I promptly forced myself back to sleep. I woke up again at 7 am and went to the bathroom again and saw I was still very lightly bleeding. When I came out of the bathroom Will was starting to wake up and I told him “I think we are going to have a baby today!” He later told me I was glowing when I came out. I text my mom to let her know what was going on and she said she had been lying in bed wide awake with a very strong feeling the baby was coming that day, just as she had predicted weeks earlier. I called the hospital and talked to the doctor on call, who said she was positive I was having my bloody show but didn’t need to come in until I was in labor. This was exactly what I was hoping to hear.
That morning we all cuddled in bed together and Will made Gia and I rainbow waffles. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, sunny and bright and unseasonably warm – just how I had envisioned. We ate the waffles and decided to go on a Sunday morning drive. Will had planned to go golfing that afternoon, and when we got home from the drive I told him I wanted to try and take a nap before he left. He was going to golf around Gias nap time, so normally I would have been able to just relax then, but I had a strong feeling labor was going to start sometime that day and I really wanted a nap, so I called my mom and asked if she would take G for her naptime so I could for sure get some sleep. She said of course and I planned to head over after my nap to get in some Vanderpump Rules binge watching at her house before labor started. Will and Gia were playing outside, and I lay down in our bed and turned on a Hulu episode of Shark Tank to relax. Side note: A couple weeks earlier I told Will I had this strong feeling my water was going to break before I went into labor. I couldn’t shake that feeling, even though I knew statistically I had a 90% chance it would not break before labor.
Maybe 5 minutes in to the show, at 12 pm, I felt a *pop* and instant massive gush of fluid. I jumped out of bed as fast as I could and ran to the bathroom where water continued to gush everywhere. I panicked. Amniotic fluid drenched my sweat pants and pooled all over the bathroom floor. I sat on the toilet and it just kept coming and my mind went a million miles an hour. Every step I took, more would gush out, a fact that was deeply disturbing to me on a clean-freak level thinking about what a mess I was making. I hobbled over to the window and yelled out to Will that my water had broke and to get inside right now.
I called my mom immediately and told her to come right away as my water had just broke. I called the hospital who told me to come in right away. “But I’m not having contractions yet,” I protested. “Shouldn’t I wait until I do?” and they firmly said NO. Get here now. I was very upset. I knew the 24 hour rule that some hospitals have that after your water breaks you must deliver within 24 hours. Instant thoughts of a c-section and interventions filled my head. This wasn’t the way I wanted things to go.
When my mom arrived Gia refused to go. She began throwing a massive fit and I stood frozen in the door of our bedroom, afraid to move and gush fluid everywhere. I kept asking her for a kiss, knowing our lives were about to change forever. I was heartbroken, this wasn’t the way I wanted to leave her, I was scared and so was she. She had fallen outside and scraped her knee and was yelling for me to kiss her leg as Will carried her away. I had no idea she’d been hurt so we all thought she was just thinking of an excuse to stay longer. As she was carried sobbing down the stairs she was wailing “I need mommy! I NEED her!” and I stood in the door frame sobbing. Just writing this right now its making me cry and cry. It was so awful. I think that memory is going to haunt me for some time.
I threw what I could think of into my halfway packed suitcase (and ended up forgetting a lot of stuff) and Will and I got in the car and drove to the hospital. It was an eerie drive for me. When I was in labor with Gia I was in so much pain I could barely remember the drive at all. I certainly didn’t have any time to think about anything other than breathing. This time, I was having some real contractions but nothing very painful. So I spent the drive silent and scared, thinking about how this wasn’t the way I wanted my labor to go. About halfway through the drive I suddenly told myself to STOP and trust that this was exactly the way my labor was supposed to go. To trust my body and my baby just like I had been practicing throughout my pregnancy. I had to trust there was a reason my labor was beginning this way, even if I didn’t know it at the moment. This didn’t erase my fear, but it did calm my mind and allow me to refocus my thoughts in a more productive direction.
When we got to the hospital, a woman saw us limping along, not because of pain for me, but because gushes of water were still coming out of me with every step. I had no idea so much water was in there! She brought us a wheelchair which I was so thankful for as my pants were visibly soaking wet and I was sure I would leave a trail of amniotic fluid wherever I went.
We switched hospitals from the one we delivered our daughter at after our experience there, so Will and I had only been to the hospital we would deliver at this time around once, a couple weeks before. We came on our date night just to see where the labor and delivery department was, but we parked in a completely different area that day and were informed that we would need to park in a different lot when we came for delivery. So obviously, we got completely lost. Poor Will was pushing me and my suitcase as well as holding my purse and giant pregnancy pillow, trying to go as fast as he could but having no idea where to go. Eventually we found someone to point us in the right direction and we made it to Labor and Delivery. They already had a room all ready for me and took us directly there. When I stood up, the wheelchair was soaked and a puddle formed beneath me on the ground when I stood up. They gave me a gown and our nurse came in to meet us. She was wonderful and calm and a really good match for me. By the time we were all checked in and in a bed it was around 1pm. I was checked and was only 3 cm dilated. They hooked me up to the monitors and I was contracting every 3-4 minutes very regularly, but I really wasn’t in any pain. We were able to calmly go through all the paperwork and intake information and talk about our preferences. It was so different than my experience with Gia where I was already unable to really hold a conversation by the time I got there.
We met the doctor on call, and I instantly liked her. She asked me to tell her about my previous delivery and I did. She really listened too, and I felt like she cared about what I was saying. We talked about the shoulder dystocia that was never 100% confirmed and how there were no notes from my actual delivery and the chart that was in my file from that hospital contained incorrect information. She was very validating and calm and I felt safe with her being the doctor to deliver my son. I asked if I could eat – I was starving – and she encouraged me to eat as soon as I could because once labor started she knew I wouldn’t be hungry any more. She told me about the Jacuzzi tub and birthing ball and rocking chair and encouraged me to get up and move around as much as I wanted. They only did intermittent monitoring, so I only had to be in bed 20 min of every hour. She left and the nurse came back and placed my IV. We turned on the TV to distract me, and that’s when we realized it was the Acadamy Awards that night, and I commented that it was a good time to have a baby since we didn’t have cable at home we could watch it in the hospital. We watched the pre-show coverage and I commented that wouldn’t it be nice if we could have the baby before the awards started so we could watch the whole thing. I called my mom and requested that my step dad bring me some lunch. He left immediately and I was taken off the monitors and got up to move around.
At 2:30 I had Will take one last picture of me with my baby bump – in the picture I am smiling and giving a thumbs up and I was having regular contractions but nothing too painful. However, within a half an hour I was back in bed as they had begun to get stronger and I was having to close my eyes to concentrate on breathing through them. Sometime in this time frame Bruce arrived with my food but by then it was too late – food sounded awful. I had a half a bite of one French fry and said no way, and stuck to water only.
At 4 pm the doctor came in to check on me. They discussed that they wouldn’t check my dilation unless I wanted them to, since I was going to have a natural, drug-free delivery again I would know when the pressure was beginning and they could check me then. The doctor left the room and said she would come back at 5pm to see how things were progressing.
Maybe 10 minutes later I started to have contractions that were requiring me to breathe heavily. I was still silent and still but they were starting to pick up much stronger. Through each contraction my mantra was “release resistance” and I would remind myself I was one step closer to my final contraction EVER and to being done with labor for the rest of my life. These were immensely helpful for me to meditate on through each contraction and I think a big reason I was able to tolerate the pain so well this time around.
Ten more minutes later, around 4:20, I started having very intense pain. I could no longer keep silent and started moaning with each contraction. About five minutes later I told Will he needed to call the nurse because they were getting super strong. When she arrived she said she thought we better check my progress to see where I was at. I said ok, but could we wait until the next contraction? She said of course, and I was curled up on my right side gripping the bed rails and couldn’t imagine laying flat on my back for a cervix check.
The next contraction started almost as soon as the other one ended and I recognized the feeling of pressure immediately. I told the nurse through my moanings which were progressing quickly to screaming (I really wish I wasn’t a screamer, but it is seriously involuntary. I couldn’t hold these screams in if I tried) and she ran outside the room to call for the doctor. The doctor and nurses rushed in and the nurse checked me while I was lying on my side and said I was 8cm. I couldn’t believe it and felt like there was no way I was going to make it through the pain this time around and survive. I cried “I can’t do this!” and the nurses all chimed in at once forcefully “Yes you can!” As soon as she removed her hand from checking me I instantly felt the baby move down and begin to crown – literally within seconds of her checking my cervix.
I yelled “He’s coming!” through my screaming and they took a look and must have seen his head right there. They told me to get on my back and move to the end of the bed and I said “I can’t!” and I truly believed I could not physically move a centimeter, so they physically pulled me down to the end of the bed and one of the nurses said “give me one push and your going to have this baby!” I pushed once and his head came out and the doctor calmly announced that we were having a shoulder dystocia and I needed to get him out. As soon as I heard those words come out of her mouth I gave the biggest push of my life and with the nurses pushing on my pubic bone to assist, he was officially born.
The feeling of accomplishment and relief and joy in that moment I literally cannot put into words. After such a tough, traumatic first birth where I felt I had failed, being able to push my son out in two pushes on my own was incredibly empowering for me.
They placed him directly on my chest and I cried “I did it! I did it!” over and over while Will cried and cried and was able to cut the cord. He was warm and beautiful and perfect and I wanted to hold him on my chest forever. They took him away after a couple minutes to check on his Apgar score, which was almost perfect. His face was so purple they were concerned he was having trouble breathing but it turned out his face was just terribly bruised from the crazy speed he arrived at.
I was in complete shock. I had gone from 8cm to a baby in my arms in less than 3 minutes. It was so so different than what I expected. It turned out I only needed a single stitch which absolutely blew my mind after having a 3rd degree tear with Gia after 1.5 hours of pushing.
It turned out Elijah arrived in plenty of time for us to enjoy the entire Oscars. He did great from the very beginning, with zero signs of any shoulder injury from his dystocia. He arrived at 38 weeks, 1 day and weighed 7 lbs 15 oz and was 20 inches long. From water breaking to baby in my arms was 4.5 hours. From the first strong contractions to baby in my arms was 1.5 hours.
I quickly realized that everything definitely happened for a reason. Had my water not broke, I wouldn’t have left for the hospital until close to 4pm based on pain levels and contraction timing, which means I would not have made it to the hospital in time to have Elijah. With a shoulder dystocia, it makes me extremely thankful I delivered in the hospital with an experienced, calm team as that complication can cause extremely serious consequences.
This labor and delivery was literally a breeze compared to my first. There was a bit of a struggle keeping my bleeding under control post delivery – I had several bags of Pitocin, a huge shot in my butt, and a manual extraction of blood clots from my cervix – which sounds exactly as awful as you would imagine. Overall though, I had so much more energy and felt generally great right after delivery with the exception of the cramping from all the Pitocin to slow my bleeding. We were able to discharge at 24 hours and even got some sleep our first night home.
Its hard to convey in a birth story how powerful the experience of Elijah’s birth was for me. I know for some, birth is maybe not so significant, but for me it was truly life-changing. I will forever be thankful for my experience birthing him and what it taught me about trusting myself, my body, and the plan of God/the Universe. I could not have asked for any better experience, and I will be forever grateful.