I began my journey toward parenthood as an individual who had neither held a newborn baby, babysat nor ever interacted with one for long periods of time. I didn’t know how to swaddle a baby or that you had to have your baby nurse from both breasts in one feeding session. I was not familiar with the art of burping a baby. After carefully planning the potential pregnancy with my husband, I reluctantly became pregnant very quickly and knew I was pregnant a mere three weeks after conception. I felt the tenderness in my uterus and had a serious, hearty appetite for over a week. After a blood test two days after my missed period, my husband and I were overjoyed at the discovery of my pregnancy.
Before I knew it, I began to experience morning sickness. Before I had begun feeling sick, I automatically had assumed that you just feel sick in the morning and go about the rest of your day with no symptoms. Was I ever wrong. It was now Memorial Day Weekend, and I could not bear to get out of bed to kick off the summer season. I was sick all day and through the night. I couldn’t keep down anything: ice cubs, popsicles, water, chicken stock, nothing at all. I was soon diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum after becoming severely dehydrated and feeling weak and dizzy. The severe morning sickness lasted well into the first month of my second trimester, but the nausea finally subsided halfway through my second trimester.
I was able to get through those difficult months, which included a month of bed rest and very little exercise, just moderate strolls outside. I progressed well through the rest of the second trimester and most of the third trimester. That is until my 35th week of pregnancy when I once again began to experience similar symptoms to my morning sickness. I was only sick at night and had difficulty sleeping because my right leg felt so uncomfortable with feelings of numbness every now and then each time I put any pressure on it. On December 27th, now 37 weeks pregnant, I went to go to work when all of a sudden, I began to feel cramping and severe discomfort, almost like a contraction. I was very concerned that it was constant pain rather than being spaced apart like I had heard contractions should feel like. I went to my OB/GYN office and learned I was two centimeters dilated. The midwife made the swift decision to have me go to the hospital for labor check.
By this time I could hardly stand up and doubled over in pain. I was more nervous about why I was having the pain than anything else. My daughter was still early, and I was worried about the last sonogram I had, which read that she was only five pounds with the fear of me having placental insufficiency. I had a second sonogram scheduled for the 31st. I was at the hospital for six hours, severely dehydrated, with my baby’s heart rate at a very high 180 beats per minute. I was reluctant to learn that after the time spent in labor check, my baby’s heart rate decreased to a steady 150 beats per minute and the pain subsided. I would not be giving birth that day, but instead just under three weeks later on January 13, her gestational due date.
I knew I would do anything for my daughter to make sure that I had safe and successful childbirth. I told myself I would have a completely natural delivery; which meant no pain medication and no epidural. Hardly anyone around me believed I could withstand labor and delivery without any sort of pain medications. I not only wanted to prove to myself that I had the strength and stamina to handle childbirth but do what is best for my daughter. My husband, who is a physician and has delivered babies, warned me about the potential complications with epidural needles and the persistent back pain one could endure after childbirth. I asked those who had given birth what the pain is like but I still could not grasp exactly what it would potentially feel like. I chose not to think about and set those thoughts aside.
At around 2 a.m. on Monday, January 13, my daughter was ready to begin her trip into the world. I felt what I instinctively knew to be a contraction, increased tightening then relief, about fifteen minutes apart. By 4 a.m., I told my husband that they were getting closer, now about seven minutes apart. At 4:30 a.m., and at five minutes apart, we decided to get ready to go to the hospital. I didn’t have my hospital bag packed, but knew what I wanted to bring on the fly. I was so used to packing light for weekend trips, it took no time at all. I showered, shaved, and got dressed through the contractions and we left for the hospital, twenty-five minutes away. I packed less than half of what “they” say to bring with you and it turned out I only needed a small selection of what I wound up bringing. My hairbrush, toothbrush, cell phone/camera and notepad were my most important items.
I arrived to the hospital and went to head right up to the delivery room. My husband and I were so excited, that we had forgotten to check in at the emergency room. I was the second one to arrive at the hospital for child delivery. One person before me had a scheduled C-section for 8:30 a.m. It was now 6 a.m. The nurses on duty set me up with the fetal heart rate and contraction monitors. Everything looked great. However, I didn’t feel my contractions as being five minutes part. According to the machine, the contractions were twelve minutes apart. I was two centimeters dilated at 6:45 a.m. when the doctor arrived and 3 centimeters dilated at 8:45 a.m., the time when I was officially admitted into the hospital. I was more than excited to know that I would more than likely be delivering Sarah that day. I called my close relatives, friends and my in-laws. My family was on their way out to Long Island from Connecticut and my father-in-law arrived at noon. In between shifts, I chewed on crushed ice and attempted to drink some ginger ale. I was able to stay mobile and walked around the halls of the labor and delivery section for about ten minutes every forty-five minutes, hoping it would speed up labor.
At around 1 p.m., I became very nauseous and threw up from the pressure on my cervix. I then took a break from walking to be monitored and received visits from very friendly nurses in training who took the time to give me positive encouragement about the delivery. At 1:45 p.m., the doctor who would ultimately deliver Sarah arrived to check to see how dilated I was. I was now 8 centimeters dilated and was now waiting for my water to break, which I thought had happened before I arrived to the hospital. He notified me that he would be in surgery for the next hour or so and would check on me again at 3:30 p.m. At that time, I was 9 centimeters, contractions were four minutes apart, but I was not ready to push. Two hours later, I was 9 1/2 centimeters and my water was artificially ruptured. My father-in-law had now left and would return after the delivery was complete. There was no doubt that my little one would be arriving sooner rather than later.
At 6:15 p.m., the contractions increased to three minutes apart with very intense pain. I would start pushing twenty minutes later. The nurse asked if I knew how to push and replied with a simple “no.” She explained that I should tuck my chin into my chest, bring my legs way back and bent and exhale deeply through each push. With my contractions now less than 90 seconds apart, I would push then feel the contraction. The pain was beyond excruciating, but I pushed right through (pun intended). To help alleviate this, I thought of my daughter cheering me on, telling me that she would be here soon. When the contractions were at less than one minute apart, now 7:20 p.m., I pushed through the contraction. Between each contraction, my nurse told me to “go to my happy place” or have a short resting period. It was my husband and the nurse pushing back on my feet, aiding the delivery. My husband stayed with me throughout it all, telling me to stay strong and confident.
I screamed so loud that I attracted more medical staff into the room. Two nursing assistants, medical students and another nurse did their rotations in and out of the room during the last half hour. I had never screamed out in pain so loudly in my life; it was unreal. I had never cried because of pain before either. I was doing both: screaming and crying. The nurse reminded me that I was only stressing the situation more by screaming. I couldn’t help it. I had no other choice. The doctor had arrived briefly who told me he was delivering another baby in the room next to me and that I would be next. The pain became so excruciating that I did not have any more energy to scream.
My doctor arrived with more stamina than I could imagine, just finishing four births in day. After one perineal massage and one very long push, I all of a sudden was engulfed with a surge of pain that caused me to lift my hips up off the bed. Without hesitation, my husband grabbed my leg and pushed it so far back that it caused me to have a bit of pain walking the day after. I gained self-control and gave it one final push: long, hard and intense with a mix of side-splitting pain. It felt like my insides were being split open, condensed and shoved in and out. Before anyone knew it, Sarah was resting on my stomach and our eyes met right away. I was in such awe that I didn’t see or hear anything else around me besides her. I didn’t even hear her cry or see the umbilical cord being clamped and cut, but I knew it all happened. The pain of delivery went away instantly and was traded with the ever more beautiful first sight of my Sarah. It was 8:04 p.m. when Sarah entered the world.
I was instantly given a shot of pitocin to help deliver the placenta. It felt like a heaping clump of jello. In fact, I hardly felt it and when I asked to see it, I was surprised by how large it actually is, almost the size of my seven pound two ounce little one. I could have sworn that I tore, but I didn’t! The doctor briefly examined me, exclaimed there were no tears, shook my and my husband’s hand and was off to his next delivery. It must have been those perineal massages twice a day for two months leading up to the birth. In total, I learned later, there were seven births that day!
The nurse and a medical student cleaned Sarah and brought her back to me so I could hold her for the next hour. Next, she was weighed and measured. I guessed her weight to the exact ounce! During her weighing and measuring period, the nurse pressed down on my belly just below my stomach area to make sure the uterus was shrinking and descending. I squirmed a bit because of the discomfort and because I was so exhausted. I fell asleep for an hour and was brought to my recovery room at 11:30 p.m., falling right back to sleep as elated and content as ever.
On the day of my daughter’s delivery, I was able to accomplish a moment in my life I feared I would never be able to get through. I delivered an adorable, healthy baby, who I love and cherish forever. My little darling and my new best friend. I learned that a woman’s body can do incredible, monumental feats. Just days before, I remember thinking of what Sarah would look like. Whose eye color and hair color would she inherit? What shape nose, ears, feet and hands would most resemble mine and/or her dad’s? When I held her in my arms, I spoke to her for the longest time, telling her about everyone in her family and all of the little facts of life. My mind was bursting with stories to share with Sarah. As she rested in my arms, I gave her a kiss goodnight, looking ahead to all of the many future moments we will share together as she grows big and strong.
Send us your birth story! Whether you had a home birth, hospital birth, 37-hour labor or emergency C-section, we’d love to read the tale of your little one’s grand entrance. Write up your birth story (click here for tips on getting started) and email it, along with a few photos, to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll share it on our Birth Day blog and may even print it in an upcoming issue!