I didn't have a birth plan written out, but I am a stubborn soul and I think I'm tougher than I really am, so I had my mind set on giving birth naturally. Well, that didn't quite go to plan!
It all started Sunday evening, nine days late. Here I am in the afternoon...looking back at this it's a miracle I didn't topple forward with that gigantic belly (and that soon to come gigantic nine and a half pound boy)!
Thomas and I went to the Life Teen mass, and I started feeling contractions. I noted that they were about five minutes apart and that they just kept coming. I had a hunch that it might really be time because they felt like bad cramps, as opposed to the Braxton Hicks which were just uncomfortable. However, I also had about 99 hunches during that week that didn't lead to labor, so I wasn't completely sure. We went to adoration after mass, and my contractions were still coming regularly. I sat there praying for our baby boy and his birth, filled with both eager anticipation and some hesitation since I didn't want to get my hopes up.
Once we got home for the evening, the contractions were worse and Thomas and I became really excited thinking it was certainly time for our baby boy to arrive! We started packing our hospital bag and cleaning up the apartment, and we didn't go to bed until around midnight. I slept on and off through the contractions and woke up around 4am to go to the bathroom. When I got up to go, it woke Thomas up, so he went to the bathroom when I got back in bed. All of a sudden I felt the strangest popping sensation, realized my water broke, and sprinted to the bathroom. I banged on the door and yelled "I need to get in there now! My water just broke!" (Poor Thomas!)
I called the midwife and she said to take a shower and head over to the hospital. I had to go when my water broke so I could get on antibiotics (thank you Group B strep), so that changed our plans of laboring at home for as long as possible! I savored every minute of that shower while Thomas hightailed it into action and packed up the last minute items on our list.
We got to the hospital around five in the morning and were sent to triage. Once they confirmed that I was in active labor and that my water broke, they moved me into a room where I was hooked up to keep an eye on the contractions and the baby's heart. We had an hour before the midwife would arrive, so after some time monitoring, the nurses told us we could walk around the hospital until she got there.
At that point, the contractions started getting more and more intense, and I know I was a quite a sight, dropping to the floor in pain in the middle of the hallway every couple minutes. Several people stopped to ask if I was okay - oh yes, just giving birth to a baby! I was so embarrassed having the whole hospital seeing me that we headed back to the room.
When we got back to the room, the midwife arrived and told me I needed to go on Pitocin because I wasn't progressing as quickly as they'd like. I am a passive person, so I agreed to take it even though I didn't want to. That drug was just horrible, and for future pregnancies I plan on adamantly saying no to Pitocin! The contractions came one on top of the other without any rest in between, and they made me stay in bed for the two exhausting hours I was on the drug. My midwife then decided it was too intense since I was having continuous contractions, and the nurses took me back off of it again. After that, my midwife told me I was quickly progressing and that I would certainly be having the baby sometime between 5 and 7 that night, which gave me such motivation to keep on trucking through (little did I know the hours and hours ahead...)!
The next few hours seem like such a blur, although they felt like they would never end at the time! For the hours that followed, the only thing I wanted to do was sit on the yoga ball and have Thomas push on my lower back as hard as he possibly could (I'm certain I yelled at him a few times to push and not rub, although he kindly recalls that I was very nice to him). My midwife convinced me to get in the bathtub for a while, and I'm so glad I did because it provided such sweet relief during the resting time between contractions. The next time she checked me, I was dilated 7cm, and I felt pumped up thinking our baby was coming soon (ha ha ha...). The contractions felt more and more intense and painful than I could have possibly imagined, but I still felt motivated.
I tried with all my might to focus on breathing through the contractions, and Thomas was such a helpful labor coach. He was so encouraging, and he constantly told me things like "You are in control of this," "You're doing so great," "I love you," and "we're meeting our baby so soon!"...all while letting me squeeze the heck out of his hands. Even the nurses and midwife commented multiple times on how fortunate I was to have such a positive and involved husband! I would have never made it without his support and encouragement. I don't think either of us expected to fall so much more in love with one another as we did in the middle of that small, dark hospital room.
Two and a half hours later, I was still at 7cm. And two and a half hours after that, still at 7cm. At that point, I was completely and totally exhausted and felt like I had nothing more to give. I was shaking for the entirety of those five hours, and my legs felt like jello. When my midwife told me I was still at 7 cm, I felt so defeated and asked for pain medication, thinking I might be able to avoid getting an epidural if I had something to keep me going.
I took Percocet, which was a trippy, trippy drug that made me feel like I was drunk. It didn't take the pain away, but it took the edge off and stopped my labor shakes. It made the time I was on it feel like a dream while I was experiencing it, which I suppose was a good thing! Thomas remembers saying "Look at me - you got this!" to which I replied "I can't! There's two of you!"
And goodness gracious, once the pain medicine started wearing off, I was still stuck at 7cm. My midwife encouraged me to get an epidural because I wasn't progressing, and at that point I felt total and complete defeat, and I knew I was going to get one. I have never been so exhausted and in pain in my entire life, and knowing that I had been at 7cm for over 5 hours made me feel so ready to give up.
The anesthesiologist came in, and although I was terrified at first, that epidural was heavenly. The labor at that point was the worst thing I've ever felt in my entire life, and the epidural was the absolute best thing I've ever felt. While waiting several hours to push, we tried to sleep, but it was just so hard when we were so eagerly waiting for our baby to get there!
My midwife told me most first time moms take an hour or two to push. Oh, I pushed and I pushed, and at 6:59 in the morning during the change of shifts, THREE hours later and 37 hours after starting contractions, our sweet Oliver took his first breath of air! I watched him come into the world with a mirror (which I didn't think I would), and it was absolutely astounding. A true miracle. I hate to say that my first words (through many tears) when he was born were "Oh my gosh, look at that head!!!" which got a good laugh out of everyone in the room!
They placed him on my chest and I couldn't stop looking at him and feeling his soft, squishy skin. He was so beautiful and so perfect.
Thomas cut his umbilical cord, that last piece connecting us together.
Holding him for the first time was surreal. I was in such awe and utter disbelief that he was all ours. Our precious gift from God. All those months of waiting and praying for him, and he was finally there. It's amazing how I looked into his eyes and felt like I'd known him forever.
Initially I felt disappointed with myself for getting an epidural, but that disappointment didn't last for too long. The whole birth seems like such a distant memory now, and even if it didn't go as I hoped, it doesn't matter. At the end of it all, I went home with the most beautiful, healthy baby boy that Thomas and I absolutely love and adore!
God has a different story for each of us, and it was a humbling experience to realize I wasn't strong enough to make it on my own. It stripped my pride to the very core. I'm sure I'll still try for a natural birth in the future because I want to know what it's like, but if all our next babies take that long to enter the world, I'll keep in mind how awesome that epidural was. ;)
Thinking back on it all, I am blown away with amazement. Labor and birth is a time of complete and utter vulnerability that forces you to fully rely on God. A time where you willingly experience pain and suffering that leads to life and overwhelming joy. It brings you to your knees and points you to the cross. It has given me a much greater understanding of all the pain our Lord experienced so that we might have abundant life. It's a beautiful gift!
And that is the story of how two became three.