My entire pregnancy I assumed I'd give birth well past my due date. One, because I'm a first time mom and two, I figured it was karma. I was born 17 days late (sorry, Mom), so it'd only be fair if my pregnancy went late, too, right? Thankfully, towards the end of my pregnancy I wasn't a miserable mess for weeks on end as I hear many women are. But come a few days before my due date, I started to feel really awful — exhausted, uncomfortable, emotional, nauseous and dizzy. Dread started to set in as I imagined an extra two weeks of this state. Little did I know, our baby girl would be one of the few actually born on her due date.
I was due on Aug. 13, a Wednesday, and Sunday was when the "awful" kicked on. Monday morning I felt a few minor contractions and tried to fight any excitement — I knew irregular contractions could come and go for days on end before the real deal set in. Tuesday morning, around 7 a.m., I woke up after a measly four hours of sleep (thank you, tiny bladder and uncomfortable pregnant body) to the same irregular contractions. Since I couldn't sleep, I crawled into the bathtub to try and relax and started timing my contractions. Though the timing was still sporadic, sometimes 20 minutes apart, sometimes eight or closer, they were coming consistently and slowly getting closer and closer.
Screenshot from timing my contractions. Every time I had a contraction in the tub my belly would get lopsided and I'd be able to see the outline of baby.
By 10:50 a.m. my contractions were closing in at five minutes apart and I called Nathaniel at work and suggested he come home soon — just in case. They were still mild, though intense enough to give me pause as I started packing my hospital bag. Nathaniel brought lunch home and installed the carseat as I paced back and forth in the apartment. I felt pretty comfortable with the idea of laboring at home for a long time, as I was hoping to labor with as little intervention as possible, but I also wasn't sure how long to wait. By around 1 p.m. my contractions had been coming steadily, four to five minutes apart, for about two hours. So even though I could still stand the contractions — some more mild, some more intense — we decided to head to the hospital, just to be sure.
Quick selfie while we waited to be admitted. And a "this is happening...maybe" selfie!
We got to the hospital, I changed and a nurse gave me a cervix exam so painful I yelled and cried — only to discover I was only dilated at a lousy one centimeter. The nurses told me they'd give it a few hours, to see if I'd progress. If I progressed, they'd admit me. If not, they'd send me home to labor there. A few hours later I still hadn't made any progress so we headed home.
Nathaniel made us dinner, and turned on "The Birdcage" (in honor of Robin Williams who just passed away). As Nathaniel chuckled on the couch, I quickly paced in the living room, rocked back and forth in the fetal position on the ground and otherwise moaned and hummed through contractions. The contractions got steadily much more intense, but moving through them and making the guttural noises helped me cope with them.
Eventually I moved back into the bathtub and just laid in the bottom of the tub as the stream from the shower-head hit my mid-section. Contractions — which I mostly felt in my abdomen, and only sometimes felt it wrap around from my back — were much less intense in the shower and eventually stalled out a bit. A few hours later, literally, I got out of the shower and took some Tylenol PM, as suggested by the nurse at the hospital, in the hopes that I could sleep through contractions and make some quick progress.
Unfortunately, once I got out of the shower the contractions kicked back quicker and more intensely then before. There was no way I'd be able to sleep through them, even with the Tylenol PM. So instead of getting any rest, I labored in bed while feeling intensely drowsy and exhausted. By this point, I couldn't labor by myself anymore. Every time a contraction hit I would tearfully wake Nathaniel and ask him to help me through the contraction. After what felt like an unbearably long time, I filled the tub back up and crawled in again. This time it did nothing to relieve my contractions. By 1 a.m. my contractions were about three minutes apart, I was shaking quite violently, and felt dizzy and nauseous. My contractions weren't fitting the textbook profile for what the nurse told me was "active labor" and would qualify me going back to the hospital, but I was desperate. Nathaniel called my doctor and he said "It sounds like you're having a baby soon!" so we headed back to the hospital.
Thankfully, the hospital is only five minutes from our apartment and in the middle of the night it was a very quick drive. As we walked up to the ER entrance I had to pause several times to work through contractions. I was so focused on contractions I wasn't paying any attention to where I was stopping and Nathaniel had to pull me out of the street at one point. By the time they wheeled me up to labor and delivery I was having a difficult time talking or forming words.
When they checked my cervix I was only dilated to a two. I immediately started bawling and told Nathaniel I couldn't do it. I'd been laboring, off and on, at that point for about 18 hours, and on four hours of sleep from the night before, no less. And I was only a two. A TWO! I couldn't wrap my mind around how much longer it might take to be fully dilated, and I definitely couldn't fathom trying to push on no sleep. At this point the nurses weren't totally sure about admitting me since I wasn't progressed very far. I was terrified they'd send me home in the condition I was in! After a few minutes they came back in and let me know they'd be admitting me, and I felt relieved knowing sooner or later our baby would be here. The nurse then asked me about an epidural and I told her I desperately needed one so I could sleep, and she sweetly said "I think that's a good idea."
I was given a medication to help make me sleepy as I waited for the epidural. The medication helped me feel mentally and physically relaxed, and even helped me drift off for the few minutes between contractions. Nathaniel told me it was strange to watch because I'd be slumped over in bed and then wake in a start, my whole body stiffening as I gripped his hand or the bedrail and moaned my way through another contraction. After it passed, I'd instantly slump back over.
A text a friend sent me as I labored. Definitely made me laugh.
The anesthesiologist arrived around 5 a.m. to administer my epidural. I always imagined the epidural being incredibly uncomfortable to receive but it was a seamless process. Nathaniel said the anesthesiologist, an old man, was cheeky and flirty, but I was so out of it I had no idea. By the time I received the epidural, my pain level was probably an eight or nine out of a 10. It's difficult to describe the pain because mine were not quite like period cramps, as many describe them. The feeling was more of an intense surging then any other pain I've ever experienced. Sometimes I only felt it in my lower abdomen, and other times it would start in my lower back and radiate out towards my front. Though I hated the feeling of my lower half being numb, dead-weight, I was incredibly grateful to be able to get some rest.
Another selfie, because why not? I hated this IV. It was incredibly uncomfortable. With all the cords and things I was plugged into — IV, heart monitor for both me and baby, belt to monitor my contractions, epidural, catheter — I felt like a bionic woman.
What Nathaniel did the entire time. Poor guy.
Around 10 a.m. I was put on pitocin and the doctor broke my water. At that point, I had dilated to a four. I drifted off again and woke up again around noon. The nurse told me she'd check me again and go from there. We casually chatted with her as she gave me a cervix exam, and we were shocked when she said "You're complete!"
The nurse told me we'd start pushing soon, but she warned me for first time moms, especially ones who get epidurals, pushing can take a hour or two. I told her I understood, and she walked me through how to push and what pushing would feel like.
Around 12:50 p.m. the nurse propped up both of my legs in stirrups. She held one, while Nathaniel held the other. She told me we'd start working on pushing and have the doctor and rest of the medical staff come in later. She watched for contractions on the monitor so she could tell me when to push. Thankfully, I also had a "hot spot" from my epidural — or a spot very low in my pelvis where the epidural didn't take and I could feel the contractions. So though I was almost entirely numbed, I could still listen to my body's own cues.
With each building contraction I would take a deep breath and push long and hard, three times in a row with each contraction. By the second set of contractions the nurse was in shock that she could already see the baby's head and exclaimed "Look at that hair!" She told me to stop pushing, and pressed the call button. And even though I didn't have a strong urge to push, I could feel the baby sliding down my cervix. The nurse literally held the baby in with both hands, one hand on her head, the other on top of my abdomen as she called for assistance again.
As we waited for the rest of the medical team to come in, I was able to lean forward and see the baby's head. It was absolutely surreal and made me so excited to finish pushing her out. I loved being able to slow down and share that moment with Nathaniel before our daughter entered the world.
By the time the doctor and the rest of the medical team entered the room they were shocked to discover I was already crowning. The doctor made a comment about how he thought the nurse had just told him I had barely started pushing. She laughed, said she had and then bragged on my pushing abilities!
After another big push, I felt some pressure and her entire head emerged. One more push and the rest of her body came flying out.
Seeing my baby girl for the first time was exhilarating and unbelievable. I was amazed at my body's ability to grow, nurture and deliver her and I felt absolutely empowered. I was in awe of the entire process! Though my birthing experience wasn't what I had anticipated — I had hoped to go natural — I felt proud of my body and grateful for a peaceful experience. I had prayed throughout my entire pregnancy for a healthy, safe and peaceful labor and delivery and I am grateful that is exactly what I received. It's nothing like how I would have planned it for myself but in the end it was perfect — as was our daughter!
Nathaniel took this shot on my iPhone. It sums up how I felt so perfectly. When I saw the doctor holding her and heard her sweet little cries I started crying and laughing at the same time.
All in all, I pushed for 15 minutes — after 30 hours of on and off labor — before delivering Mercedes at 1:05 p.m., right on her due date, at 7 lbs. 1 oz. and 21 inches long. Right away we discovered this sweet girl is mild-mannered and cuddly. We are absolutely in love!