Here is how our baby girl made her way into the world. It's a little wordy, click at the bottom to read the rest if you are still interested at that point ;)
I had been 2cm dilated and around 50-75% effaced for about three weeks. The doctor had predicted that I would have the baby by the 30th of May, since she had turned and dropped when I was 36 weeks and Olivia was born at 37 weeks. By the 3rd of June, I had felt for a couple of days that my body was really close. The night of the 2nd I had contractions, but nothing too consistent. Plus a couple of other tell-tale signs that I won’t gross you out with. The night of the 3rd I put Olivia to bed at 7, Jack went and got Café Rio to bring home, and we watched The Office and ate. I felt super uncomfortable because the baby was so low and I was getting contractions off and on. I had debated on whether or not I should try the induction shake and see if my body really was ready and it could get things moving more quickly. I didn’t want to rush things though if the baby really wasn’t ready (I’ve posted before about my feelings on inductions), so I texted my sister-in-law about it. She’s the one who gave me the shake recipe and knows dozens of women who have tried it, she included. She assured me that if the baby wasn’t close anyway, the shake wouldn’t do anything. With one of her babies, she had drunk it and nothing happened, so she tried it a week later that’s when it made things happen. I felt better about this, so I mixed me up a chocolate shake.
I went to bed around 11 and then woke up at 2 to a pretty long contraction. I timed a couple of them: about 7 minutes apart. I laid back down to rest, but they kept coming and I couldn’t go back to sleep. Not because they were painful, but because I couldn’t help but get a little excited. I sat up in bed, drank some juice, browsed online, made a hospital playlist, and wrote in my journal. By 5:30 they were consistently 5 minutes apart and a little more intense, but still not painful. I decided to wake Jack up. I went upstairs and crept into the guest room, where I roused him and told him I thought maybe we should go to the hospital. It took him a minute to wake up fully and decipher what that meant. “Really?” he asked, “tell me about it.” He knows how much I’m afraid to go in and be sent home for false labor. I gave him the rundown and he agreed that I should stick to my gut. I told him to take his time and get his things together. We had a bag already packed, but there were last-minute things we needed to put in it. I then went downstairs and made sure my bag had everything I needed. The contractions got stronger. I went back upstairs and informed him that maybe he shouldn’t take his time after all. He called his sister Amanda to come over and stay with Olivia we got in the car, passing Amanda on Pioneer Crossing. In the car the contractions lessened and I stressed about false labor. Jack reminded me to trust my instincts.
It was barely light when we got to the hospital, we took the elevator up to Labor and Delivery and got checked in. I was escorted to a room and changed into a hospital gown, then hooked up to monitors. It was 6:30am. They asked me about my pain levels and contractions and I felt sheepish giving them a pain level of 3. The nurse checked me and told me that I was already dilated to a 5 (which was the same as when I got to the hospital in labor with Olivia!) She assured me that I was, indeed, in active labor and our baby would be there that day. Whew!
Our doctor (the same one who was absent for Olivia’s birth) was scheduled to go out of town on Wednesday, so we were relieved that the baby would be there Tuesday…until the nurse called him and was told that he was already out of town! Dr. Jones from his same clinic came in to break my water, and told me I was still at 5cm, it was 7am. True to form, I got the shakes pretty bad. I told the nurses that I was planning on forgoing the epidural since I was already at a 5 and but that I would play it by ear. At 8am the real contractions hit. They built upon each other until I had only a matter of seconds to recover in between each one. I had never felt pain like this before. Even labor with Olivia, where I had progressed to an 8 before getting the epidural, hadn’t felt like this. I felt like a truck was backing over my pelvis. I couldn’t breathe or even see straight. Twenty minutes into this, I gasped for Jack to get the anesthesiologist. I didn’t think there was any way I could endure this pain long enough to dilate to a 10 when I was only at a 5. Jack came back to say that he would be right in. I sent him out again 3 minutes later and my wonderful husband came back with the nurse’s anesthetist, who calmly proceeded to pull up a chair and sit down, produce a pen and clipboard, and commence asking me mundane questions about allergies and my medical history. After two questions I couldn’t talk anymore, I could only dig my nails into Jack’s forearms and bury my face in his chest. The anesthetist took the hint and told me to sit at the edge of the bed and hunch over.
This is where things got really intense. The contractions continued to get worse and I couldn’t bend over far enough to open up a space in my spine for the epidural tube, or even hold still very well. They made me hug a pillow and the nurse kept prodding my stomach with the baby monitor, trying to hear her heartbeat. I’m pretty sure I shoved her hands away more than once, (oops). The tiny shots that come before the big needle didn’t numb my back very well, and the big needle and tube only added to the pain. Since I couldn’t hunch over or hold still well enough, he had to keep re-inserting it and trying different depths. I was clinging to Jack and sobbing and screaming, while mascara ran down my cheeks and Jack later said there was a lot of blood running down my back. At this point, I had been sitting on the edge of the bed for about 20 minutes and screamed “What’s taking so long?!!” It was a surreal experience, being almost frantic from pain and having no control over what your body is putting you through. The nurses had to keep reminding me to take deep breaths instead of holding it. After a while the only relief I got was when I bore down a little.
Then Dr Watabe walked in. He was the doctor that had just gone on call from our office. The anesthetist finally informed me that the line was in and it would only be a short time before the numbness would kick in. The doctor said to rest and that he would come back in a bit. Between gritted teeth I told Jack I felt like I should push. He asked the doctor if he wouldn’t mind checking me before he left. The last thing I wanted was anyone touching me down there with so much pain going on, but I managed to lay back down. The doctor checked me and immediately threw the blanket off the bed and ran into the hallway to tell a nurse that the baby was coming. I understood now that the reason the pain had been so far beyond what I had experienced at 8cm with Olivia was because I had progressed from a 5 to a 10 in only about 50 minutes. This was also why I felt relief bearing down while I was sitting at the edge of the bed.
The anesthetist took the epidural line out of my back and the doc positioned my feet in the stirrups and instructed me to pull my knees back. “Wait!” I said. I was suddenly scared and started to panic, “I can still feel everything! The epidural hasn’t kicked in!” The doctor informed me that the baby was coming right now and I had to push. So I did. It was such a relief to finally be working with the contractions. I felt her little head push out and then had to do a big push for her shoulders. The pain was super sharp, but bearable because I could feel the progress. Only two and a half minutes of pushing, and I was looking at my baby girl. “I did it!” I exclaimed, as tears slid down my cheeks. She had a mass of dark hair that stunned me, and gave a healthy cry. Jack cut the cord, the nurse rubbed her down with a blanket, and they set her on my chest for some skin-to-skin contact.
Oakley Berlin Austin was born at 8:30am. Only two hours after we had checked into the hospital. Dr Watabe said I had a small-ish stage 2 tear, and at this point I was just barely starting to get fuzzy from the epidural, so the doctor put some numbing cream on before he started to stitch me up. I don’t remember much about that, just holding Jack’s hand and him bending down to kiss me and us staring at our new baby girl.
She nursed like a champ right away but the epidural had kicked in at that point, making it difficult to hold her up to nurse. Once I was sure she had experienced it sufficiently and maybe gotten a little colostrum, I handed her to the nurse. She weighed 7lbs 12oz and was 20 inches long, a full two inches taller than Olivia! Jack followed the nurse down to witness our baby’s first bath and I was numb and immobile. I couldn’t go down to Mother/Baby yet and settle into my room because I couldn’t move to get into the wheelchair. After about an hour, Jack came back up and helped get me into the chair, then we went down to our room. It ended up taking 4 hours for me to have most of the function and feeling back in my legs. We ordered breakfast, texted our families, and took a thousand photos of our little Berlin.
I don’t regret getting the epidural. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was scared, and knowing that relief was coming was like the feather in my trunk. I think everything went the way it was supposed to for me, even though it was crazy and difficult, and next time I will know with certainty that I can do it on my own if I choose to.
When I tell people about the experience most of them say it sounds awful. It actually wasn’t though; it was completely amazing. I found out that I can be brave. I found a new space in my heart for my husband. During those most painful, out of control moments, he was the only one in the room that I could see. He was my anchor and as long as I could hold onto him, I knew I could do anything. I’ll never forget that feeling for him and I will carry it with me through all of the hard things to come in my life. It was reaffirmed to me that the hardest things are always the most worth it. In this case the reward was immediate, as I was handed our beautiful little dark-haired girl. I love our experience and would do it a hundred times for her.