I think I can sum up my first birth experience by quoting my husband: “I am reduced to tears over the birth of my daughter, Bellamy.” We experienced tears of joy, tears of pain, of fear and relief. Every moment of waiting for her to arrive was part agony and part anticipation. I went through the different emotions of feeling I wasn’t actually ready or prepared, that I wished we could wait longer and stay husband and wife only, that I was afraid and that I was unsure. I have never had to have more grace with myself than during the hours of labor I spent waiting with so many thoughts running through my head.
The Friday afternoon before she was born I noticed some blood when I used the restroom. I was a week overdue, and she was so, so low in the birth canal—but my water still had not broken. Being a first-timer, I was constantly analyzing what my body was doing or feeling because I worried I wouldn’t know when labor was actually happening. There is security in your water breaking because it’s very obvious labor is on the way. Without that indication, I was all in my head. I called the doctor who said to monitor the bleeding for increase or change in consistency and color—and to start timing contractions. If the 5-1-1 (five minutes apart, one minute long for one hour) rule couldn’t be applied, then it wasn’t time to come in. That felt like an eternity away!
Matt and I went to pick up our hospital bags to be prepared and decided to stay the night with my family. He didn’t want me to be alone the next day, while he was at work, in case I needed someone. I went to bed having to breathe through some pain, but I was eventually able to drift off until 3:30 a.m. when my contractions woke me up. I started timing them, and they were averaging three to five minutes apart. They weren’t unbearable, but I was told to go off of time and not pain. I was still bleeding at this point and was an anxious mess over it. I wanted to be checked out and know exactly what was going on, so we went ahead to the hospital.
After being admitted, our first RN came in to do the routine questions and check my cervix. I had a very easy pregnancy and felt very able and strong walking into labor. I had pretty high expectations for myself and was hoping my pain tolerance could keep up with the challenge of labor and delivery. I guess I viewed it as another type of workout to push through. I was excited to see what my body was capable of, especially since I felt I was in touch with it. She checked me mid-contraction, and delivered the worst news ever.
“You’re only about 1, maybe 1.5 centimeters dilated.”
I think I actually gasped. I was so disappointed! I thought I was in legitimate pain that meant something a little more substantial than 1 centimeter! A flood of embarrassment fell over me as my eyes filled with tears and I looked at Matt. I wanted to hide in a hole at that point and not face the reality that we may be sent home. Being a week overdue, it was just sad to think about! She gave me hope and encouraged us to walk around instead. We did 45-minute stretches of walking for the next few hours. The walking and squatting really intensified the contractions, but they were still pretty far apart. It’s amazing how the cycle of contractions can change. I kept telling everyone I wasn’t fabricating my story when I said they were three minutes apart driving to the hospital. I was assured it happens “all the time, especially with first time moms.” When my doctor arrived she came to see me. She checked me again and delivered the second blow.
“You’re 2.5 centimeters.”
At this point I was feeling like a total letdown. I couldn’t believe I had wimped out so early in the game. I asked her about the continual bleeding (one of the initial reasons I was wanting to go to the hospital), and she said it was probably just cervix related. She then gave me the proposition I was half dreading and half hoping for.
“She is very, very low and has been for weeks. I can either send you home and risk you coming right back, or you can be induced. You have the option!”
She said this in a way that seemed very positive … I guess a lot of people are sent home at that low of a reading, but my baby had been chilling low for so long it could happen at any moment. Matt and I talked it over and decided to go ahead with the induction. We were far from home and had spent all that time there already. Rather than be readmitted later on, we decided it was worth it to us to have some sort of plan set in stone. We were being induced that following Tuesday no matter what, and it felt good to know she would arrive sooner rather than later.
Pitocin is absolutely no joke. My RN called it pain in a bag. They didn’t sugarcoat what was going to happen, and neither did my doctor.
“You may experience 9-centimeter contraction pains without being at 9 centimeters. This is why Pitocin gets a bad rep. It’s not that the contractions are worse, but there is no gradual increase. It’s just the increase.”
Exciting! The IV was placed, the drip started dripping, and the contractions got realer than real. Matt would watch the screen that measured the intensity of each contraction and hold his breath while I held mine, too. I could tell by his facial expressions when one was about to hit. We both got wide eyed at the really bad ones, too! Five or six hours later, I had had enough. I got the epidural, which was surprisingly one of the scariest parts for me, and I gave in to the pressure of being a super woman at birth. I was truly disappointed in myself. I was buying into the guilt of wanting to experience the ideal birth where I felt empowered and alive. Instead I felt defeated and exhausted.
The great thing about the pain medication was my body was able to relax. I was able to get to the 5-cm mark more quickly and was told the last five would probably not take as long. They were right! After breaking my water, it wasn’t long before the RN came in to check me yet again and announced, “We are about to have a baby!”
Matt quickly perked up and rushed to my side. All of a sudden I experienced the most peace and ease I had felt since the start of the birth process. I felt so excited and able. I was looking forward to pushing her out. It took all of two minutes to deliver her. I was able to feel exactly how they wanted me to push and zero in on the right “spot” if you will.
My doctor’s eyes lit up as she said, “You did it!” She pulled out the tiniest little baby I had ever seen! Matt and I let out un-human noises as tears poured from our eyes and our hearts broke for the life we witnessed coming into the world. We have never felt more united. It was truly amazing, and I thank God I was sane and available enough to experience and remember it. Bellamy was 6.6 pounds and 19 inches long. She was very alert and came out trying to eat. She was so, so beautiful and claimed our affection immediately.
Since giving birth I have experienced enough emotions to write many books on feelings. One thought I continually come back to is how grateful I am for Matt and having a supportive partner. There were many times I wept with overwhelming gratitude for having him by my side. He was always, always by my side coaching me and reminding me I was capable. He denounced the guilt and disappointment I spoke over myself and encouraged me to be proud of the amazing accomplishment we had experienced! He made me feel I was the most amazing woman on earth. I needed him so much during that time, and it brings me to tears now thinking about how wonderful he is to our family. Birth brought us closer together. I couldn’t be more thankful for him. I know I say that all the time!
Back to my baby … she is so loved! I find her more beautiful every day, and even though she might yell at me a lot and always pees when I am changing her diaper, I am so in love with her. I’m so glad birth is behind me, and although it was exactly opposite of what I expected (I pictured walking into the hospital almost ready to pop a baby out and impress everyone with my pain tolerance), I’m glad I can share my experience with other women. Birth is a truly life-changing event, and I am forever changed.
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 email@example.com. We’ll share it on our Birth Day blog and may even print it in an upcoming issue!