February 24, my due date, had come and gone. Instead of welcoming a new baby into the family that day, we had to say good bye to dear Grandpa Roger. After a brief hospital stay, he was taken to be with the Lord. Needless to say, the next few days were very emotional. I had been praying for our baby to arrive and now suddenly I was asking God to hold off a little bit longer. I wanted to spend time with Peter and his family. I wanted the focus to be on Grandpa, not on us and a new baby. And although I know that everyone was excited for our little one’s arrival, I wanted to at least wait until the funeral was over. And wait we did. In fact, we waited for four more days.
Grandpa’s funeral was on Tuesday, February 28. The afternoon, Peter and I went in for my doctor appointment. The plan was to strip my membranes in hopes of naturally inducing labor. Up until this point, we had been trying all other “natural” methods. The procedure was much more painful than I had anticipated, due to my posterior cervix. My doctor was hopeful this would do the trick, and told me to go home, walk, and wait. For the next three days I walked and walked and walked. I would feel contractions, but they would be mild and short-lived. Every night I went to bed discouraged. On Thursday night, as we talked and prepared for my appointment the following morning, I knew in my heart I would be induced. I knew my doctor would not want me to go any further and I knew I would agree. I felt at peace with this decision even though it was definitely not part of my original plan.
The next day, Friday, March 2, Peter left for work with the car seat installed and his hospital bag packed. Just in case things happen today, I told him. (Although my plan was to hold off induction till Saturday). My mom drove me to my appointment with all of my bags and we waited to see the doctor. After the exam, and discovering my cervix was even more posterior and my dilation was the same (2-3 cm), my doctor recommended induction. As soon as possible. She would be on-call at the hospital that day and stepped out to call and see if they had any openings. They did. And suddenly, I was on the schedule. The realization that I would be scheduling my own labor hit me, and I admit, at that moment I was more sad than excited. My expectations of how this experience would be went out the window.
I called Peter at work to let him know this was it. Go time. His excitement perked me up at bit. I still couldn’t believe (or admit) that I was just going to walk right into the hospital, without any contractions, be hooked up to the bed, and start labor. But that is exactly what happened.
By the time I was all checked into the hospital, placed in a room, and gowned, it was after 12:00 noon. After a couple failed IV attempts, they started pitocin (to induce contractions) and antibiotics (for Strep B) around 2:00 pm. My cervix was still very posterior and my dilation was unchanged. We spent the next few hours visiting with friends and family, watching tv, eating ice chips, navigating trips to the bathroom with an IV stand, and patiently monitoring contractions. The nurse came in every hour to bump up the pitocin level (which started at a 2). I was worried because although the pain was increasing, it was pretty minimal and manageable at this point. In my head I was thinking the pitocin was not working, and it would have to be increased by a lot to start anything real, which only increases my chances of a c-section, which is what I really wanted to avoid all along. Little did I know, things were about to get serious.
At about 8:00 pm, my contractions started to get much stronger. The pain was hitting me from the front and back. I remember at one point, my room was full of friends and family. Then, suddenly, I felt that everyone needed to go. I needed the quiet to focus and try and stay in control. Both my mom and Peter helped me through the contractions. I would lay on my side, with my mom in my face cooling me off and Peter applying strong pressure to my back. I was trying to focus on relaxing, like what we had been taught in our Bradley classes, but at that moment all I could do was moan through the contractions. It was quickly becoming unbearable and I was losing control. The nurse (Nina- a God send) came in to check me and I was only 4 cm. I was devastated, of course. 4 centimeters?! In my mind I told myself to hold off a bit longer before asking for an epidural. My plan all along had been to have a natural birth with no pain medication, but I knew that with pitocin, that would be even harder to do. I was not going to beat myself up over having an epidural. I had surrendered to that being a part of my new birth plan. The contractions continued to grow stronger over the next few hours. I tried to manage the pain by switching sides, trying different breathing techniques, and standing up and swaying with Peter. It was overwhelming and I was definitely losing all control. The pain was unbearable and I cried for the epidural. Nina checked me again and I was a 6. Ok, good. I felt proud of myself for making it that far. She told me the anesthesiologist was busy at the moment (there were 4 other women in active labor at this point) and he would be here in about 15-20 minutes. In the meantime, they turned the pitocin down (which had peaked at a level 16 by this point) and increased my IV fluid to prepare for the epidural. Looking back, I think asking for the epi was the best decision I made all night. For some reason, after turning the pitocin down, my body started to kick in high gear.
Shortly after, I felt intense pressure in my bottom. Like I had to go to the bathroom. My doctor happened to stop by my room at this moment and she checked me. I was 8 cm. I had progressed from a 6 to an 8 in a very short amount of time. I was still waiting for the epidural and was told again that he was still 15-20 minutes out. During the next few contractions the pressure just increased. I begged the nurse to check me again, knowing that my Dr. had checked me only 10 minutes earlier. She obliged. I was a 9.5. I couldn’t believe it. A little bit later, the anesthesiologist was waiting at the door, and I was being checked again. 10 cm and completely effaced. Although my Dr. still recommended the epidural (because the possibility of pushing taking a long time) I declined, knowing that unmedicated, effective pushing was the best way to get this baby out.And I knew I could do it.
The pushing phase happened soon after. Dr. Lopez, along with four other nurses, came into the room and began to set up. Peter was narrating the scene to me as my eyes were closed most of the time. I could sense the energy level in the room raise dramatically. It was time to meet my baby and that was all the motivation I needed. Pushing was challenging. Considering I have never done it before, I really didn’t know the proper technique. Dr. Lopez was a great help, coaching me through the pushing. After about 40 minutes, and multiple “We see her head!” exclamations from Peter, he finally told me Dr. Lopez was suctioning out the baby’s face. I knew it was only going to take one more push and she would be out. I have never felt more adrenaline in my life at that moment. One big push and I felt the baby slide out. Such an amazing feeling. Instant relief and overwhelming anticipation.
And then Peter finally said, “It’s a girl! She’s a girl!”
And I knew it. Deep down, I always knew who she was.
And they laid her on my chest and this part of my journey was complete. I had been pregnant. I had gone through labor with no pain medication. I had felt every contraction, stretch, and tear of my body. And here she was. And in that moment my life changed.
Kate was alert and crying immediately. She latched on and nursed right away. She laid on my chest, with Peter and me watching her in amazement. Instantly in love with our Kate Annmarie.