I love birth stories. I remember scouring the internet and birth boards trying to get my hands on as many as I could before I delivered. I simultaneously love and hate that each birth is a complete surprise. I love that some women have two hour long labors or push for three seconds and have a baby. I hate that some women have 36 hour long labors and near-death experiences. But really, you don’t know what you are going to get. Maybe birth #1 was horrifying, but birth #2 is serene. You just don’t know. My mom HATES when people tell their traumatic birth stories to pregnant women. She thinks it is cruel and unnecessary. I am one of those people who will soak up every detail of your story, good or bad, and have 3,000 questions for you afterwards.
With that said, I am going to share my birth story. Some parts of my story I think are encouraging and empowering, but other parts were really scary and traumatic for me. If you would like to shield yourself from the trauma part, it would probably be best to skip this story. I admire people who can do that, and I think it is a great way to stay positive. But I have found writing this story and reading other stories incredibly therapeutic, so I share it for that purpose. And also for the morbidly curious people like me who practically beg complete strangers to tell me the details of their births.
Here I go:
I woke up at midnight on my due date to go to the bathroom. This was not unusual, as I had been waking up every night to go to the bathroom since around week 8 of my pregnancy. However, this time I realized I was slightly bleeding. My heart skipped a beat – first with excitement that I may be going into labor, and then with fear that I might be going into labor.
I tiptoed back into the bedroom and attempted to quietly drag my giant pregnancy pillow out of the bed and into the living room without waking Will. No such luck. He asked me what I was doing. I said as nonchalantly as I could manage “oh, just going to lay out in the living room.” He quickly asked me why? Was I not feeling good? I told, “I think I might be going into labor” only half kidding. I told him what was going on but reassured him I wasn’t having any contractions besides my normal Braxton-Hicks.
Ok, I knew there was a good chance this wasn’t the beginning of labor, but deep down, I knew I would be going into labor that day. I called Labor and Delivery for the first time in my entire pregnancy, and since I had an 8 am appointment with my OB that day, they weren’t concerned.
You know how everyone tells you when you think you are starting labor you should go back to sleep? Because you need your strength for the real stuff, not the early stuff? Yeah, I yelled at my brain to turn off, but it had a mind of its own. So, I camped out on the couch for about an hour, watching BRAVO re-runs and telling myself “FALL ASLEEP. DO IT NOW.” Then around 1:30 a.m. I decided there was no way I was falling asleep, and decided to get in the shower and finish packing my hospital bag.
That really freaked Will out. I reassured him again I wasn’t in labor, but just wanted to be “ready”. I had this fantasy that I would be beautiful before, during, and after labor. That I would have my hair curled, so I could put it up in a cute updo while I pushed, and then take it out and have blonde, cascading curls in all my post-baby pictures. I wanted my make-up done, and I had all kinds of “outfits” planned for both Gia and myself. HA!
Anyway, neither Will nor I got any sleep the rest of that night. He went to work early, since he was already awake, and he picked me up for what would be my final OB appointment. I had been offered a membrane sweep to potentially “induce” labor at my last two appointments, and Will and I had decided I would finally say yes at this appointment, because I wanted to do everything possible to avoid an induction. There was a looming “induction date” circled in red on my OB’s calendar that would be scheduled if I hadn’t delivered by 41 weeks. At my appointment I changed my mind and declined again. My OB examined me and said she thought I would probably have Gia that weekend (this was a Wednesday).
After my appointment, I decided to take the day off from work to try and sleep. Because even though my doctor thought it would be a few days before I went into labor, I just knew it was coming a lot sooner than that. I was still convinced I would go into labor that day. So I tried to nap and eat good food to give me energy. I got zero minutes of sleep and I think I ate like a cup of plain angel hair pasta with shredded parmesan.
Then it happened. Around 3 pm, Will texted me to see how I was doing. I had been having contractions all day, but I had been having Braxton-Hicks actively since I was around 16 weeks pregnant. For some reason, all of a sudden I was scared. I was about to cry and didn’t know why. So I text him something like, “I’m scared. But not in labor yet.” He said he was coming home, and I didn’t stop him. By the time he got home, I had decided to time some of my contractions. And I started to feel reeeaaaaalllll not great.
Over the next two hours my contractions started to become regular and increasingly painful. I think by around 5:30 they were five minutes apart. I told Will I needed to eat something, as I hadn’t all day. I felt like throwing up but I was determined to get some food in me. My bright idea was fries and chicken nuggets from Wendy’s. When he got back, I had maybe half a chicken nugget and 1.5 fries before I determined eating was not happening until this baby was out.
I spent the next four hours on my couch, timing contractions and breathing through them like a freaking BOSS. Will took over the timing at some point, he could tell when one started and ended. I didn’t do anything else. I didn’t watch tv, I didn’t talk to Will, didn’t text or play on my phone, just straight up concentrated on breathing. I tried sitting on a yoga ball for one contraction and quickly decided NOPE that wasn’t happening. At one point my contractions were at times two minutes apart. I can’t remember if that was when I finally said “lets go” or if Will gently said “we are going now”, but, we went.
I was always afraid that I would be terrified on the drive to the hospital, or that I would have a moment where I was profoundly moved as I realized we were leaving our house for the last time as a family of two. Well, that certainly didn’t happen. I was in so much pain I don’t even know if I had a thought at all except for maybe “breathe”.
When we got to Labor and Delivery around 9:30 p.m., a sweet nurse greeted us in triage and gave me a gown to change into. She was so so sweet, and so so sure I was definitely not in labor. She tried to reassure me that it was ok if I wasn’t in labor, they would just send me home for a couple hours to walk and then maybe when I came back I would be far enough along they could admit me. I think this means I was doing a great job of hiding my pain, I was still silent and breathing through each contraction.
Will had texted our parents, and for some reason the hospital let them walk right on into the triage room. I guess this is normal? I don’t know, I was expecting a little more privacy, since it appears anyone who knew my name could have waltzed right in and had a chat with me as I lay there with my feet in stirrups, getting ready to be examined. I think I was probably very rude, because at that time I was NOT READY FOR VISITORS. I was terrified and in the most pain I had ever encountered in my life.
The nurse finally checked me, and I was terrified to hear that maybe I wasn’t in labor. I pictured her telling me I was one centimeter dilated, and to come back the next morning. Instead her face changed to surprise. “Oh honey!” she said. “You are five centimeters. You aren’t going anywhere!”
Ok, so here is where things started to get kind of icky. I have written about my experience before <HERE> so I am going to attempt to tell this story without a lot of those details that involve a very poor experience with the delivering OB. I am going to try and leave him out of this story as much as possible, but he is necessary in a few spots.
In the triage room is where Will told the nurses and OB that I did not want an epidural or any pain medication. He also told them I didn’t want an IV unless I needed it for a specific reason. We had planned that he was going to do the talking, since I was going to be a little preoccupied. At the time I was under the impression I would be allowed to move around and change positions and I didn’t want an IV in my arm unless it was necessary. I had told my personal OB about this decision and she warned me that the IV was something they would probably fight me on. And, they really did. The nurses were great about it, the doctor was decidedly VERY annoyed with me for this. So, after WAY too long fighting with this man, I very reluctantly and through intense pain gave up my wish to be IV-free and let them just do it, even though *surprise* they never used it at all.
I walked to my birthing suite around 10:30 p.m., and once I lay down in that bed, I didn’t get up again until hours after Gia was born. My progress was checked what felt like every five minutes, by every single person wearing scrubs in the near vicinity. Good news was that every time I was checked, I was progressing. Around 11 p.m. I was 8 centimeters, and had started gripping the bed with white knuckles and moaning/whining/making unhappy sounds in pain with each contraction.
Then my water broke. It was EXACTLY like you see in the movies with a huge gush and I swear an almost audible “pop!”. I sat straight up wide eyed and terrified and the nurses looked at me and one said “Did your water just break?” I said I thought so (thought so?? What else could that have been??). She confirmed it did and we had to change everything that was under me to get some dry bedding. Then she said one of the scariest things I had heard up until that point: “Okay, things are about to get a lot more intense. So let us know if you change your mind about wanting something for the pain.”
That was terrifying. I couldn’t imagine how it could get any more intense. About twenty minutes later I started to feel that urge you always hear about from moms in labor. I felt like I had to push. In fact, I felt like with each contraction I had no choice but to push. Around this time was also when I started getting a little loud. I told the nurse through gritted teeth that I felt like I needed to push. She calmly told me I couldn’t push yet. I told her I felt like I couldn’t help it. Another nurse decided to check me again and said I was at 9.5 centimeters. Then she asked me to push “just a little” and determined I was close enough to “allow” me to push.
I looked at the clock. It was 11:45 p.m. In my head I was starting to get excited. I thought I was less than 15 minutes away from a baby in my arms, born on her due date. I was through the worst of it and now was the fun part! Because that is one thing I was SURE of. That was one thing every mom could agree on, and every birth story assured me of – pushing is the FUN part. I heard it FEELS BETTER to push. And I had in my head that I would push for 15 minutes. That was the exact number I was envisioning. I was sure in 15 minutes, I would be a mom.
Well. That is not EXACLTY how it worked for me. They had me start pushing. From the very first push, it felt completely wrong. They had me flat on my back with my knees straddled wide. I said a couple of times it didn’t feel right. I had thought I would be pushing in all kinds of positions. I wanted to sit up. I wanted to be in a squatting type position. I had no epidural so I had complete sensation and was more than capable of pushing in a position besides flat on my back.
And it. Felt. Awful. It felt way worse than the contractions, except this time I was holding my breath. I knew I was doing it all wrong. Finally the nurses let me sit up a little and things felt slightly better. Things start getting hazy here. I don’t remember the passage of time. I remember sweating so profusely my IV kept falling out and they would frantically try to replace it. I think I got stuck around 5 times in three different spots. I remember screaming through each push. It was completely involuntary. I couldn’t hold it in if I tried. I apologize if you were in the vicinity of my room the night I gave birth. And our poor parents were just outside the door. My mom told me she had to leave at one point because it was too upsetting to hear me scream through the door.
Then finally the doctor came in. He told me I was “getting tired” and they wanted to use a vacuum to help get Gia out. He asked if that would be ok. I said no. I said I wanted to keep trying. Although I can’t remember much, I knew I wasn’t ready to need help yet. I felt I needed more time. I had been pushing for about an hour and a half at this point. He stood by and let me push for five more minutes and then told me they were using the vacuum, like it or not.
Well, if things were hazy before, they were about to get to the level of pain where my memory stops working. All I remember was screaming at the top of my lungs for the doctor to stop using the vacuum. It was a pain so far above anything I have ever even dreamed of. I was screaming and screaming and sobbing and still pushing as hard as I could and things started to get frantic. The doctor was yelling at me and the room started filling with people. Two nurses began pushing with all their weight on my belly, one on each side. There was a whole group of nurses on stand-by waiting around the warming bed for the baby. There was someone monitoring my vitals and a nurse down by the doctor.
As soon as she came out, I don’t remember what happened. I didn’t pass out or anything, but I have no memory of it. I know they never held her up for even a second for me or Will to see. I didn’t get to touch her or hold her, Will didn’t get to cut the cord, and there were no cheers of “you did it!” or “she’s here!” or anything like that. I think from the use of the vacuum until they finally handed Gia to me were some of the most traumatic, surreal moments I have experienced. Nobody told me that her shoulder had been stuck. That she came out in a strange position. Nobody told me they were afraid she may have broken her neck. Nobody told me (until later) that babies can die in situations like she was in. I am thankful they didn’t, but the eerie silence after she was born was haunting.
I got those terrible whole body shakes that (thankfully) I had been warned about by my other mommy friends. I still asked “is this normal?!?” as I basically convulsed. The OB told me I had torn “badly” (the next day I was finally able to ask a nurse what “badly” meant – it was a 3rd degree tear) and asked me coldly if I wanted to be wheeled into surgery for the repair or if I wanted to just do it there. This was literally within seconds of Gia being born, before I even saw her or heard her cry. I was so confused and just wanted to know what was going on with her, but he was annoyed and I said to just do it there. He asked me if I wanted pain meds for the repair, and I figured it couldn’t be worse than what I just went through so I did it without.
Every time I flinched he stopped and glared at me and let out a dramatic sigh. But those sweet nurses, they held my hands with Will and let me squeeze them as he stitched. They were patient and gentle and apologetic, and exactly what I needed. Finally while he was mid-stitch I asked Will and the nurses – “is she okay?” They said she was, and I finally heard her cry from across the room. I was worried there was something wrong, because nobody was super reassuring about the whole situation. A nurse called out “8 pounds 15 ounces! 22 and half inches!” from the other side of the room. I looked at Will with wide eyes – we were expecting a little 7 lb 2 oz-er, not a 9lb-er! And that length! At the time 22.5 inches meant nothing to me, but now I realize that was one super long baby!
After the stitching was finally over, the nurses had Gia all swaddled up with a little hat covering her bruised head. They brought her over to me, and I can still vividly remember exactly how it felt to hold her for the first time. The blanket was stiff, but I could feel her softness and warmth through it as she slowly squirmed around, like she was cuddling deeper into the fabric. I stared at her little face as she blinked her eyes with those gorgeous long, curled baby lashes. Her skin was perfection, smooth and pink and plump. I didn’t cry or say anything of importance. I think I was still in shock from the whole situation. I took off her little hat and saw her locks of hair and the massive bump from the vacuum. They told me it would go away in a few days. Then when it was still there they said it would go away in a few weeks. After a few weeks, we heard maybe it would be a couple months. Finally, we realized it was always going to be there. Physical proof of her journey into this world.
I just realized I wrote this whole story without mentioning how wonderful Will was. He was strong and quiet and supportive and CALM. I don’t know how he was able to stay whispering in my ear that I was doing well when all the chaos was happening and it looked like something serious was going on, but he did. He never left my side for one second. One of the many, many reasons he is the best thing to ever happen to me.
So, after ten hours of labor, four hours in the hospital, and two hours pushing, Giavanna was born, and I stood in awe of her perfection and with a deep sense of pride in my body and more appreciation for its strength. And really, the hard stuff and the amazing stuff was only just beginning.