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Worth waiting for: The birth of Leo Unmedicated

Worth waiting for: The birth of Leo

"By the time I had mastered my breathing, I had a new challenge: pushing."

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Leo Robert Coghill entered this world Tuesday, February 25 at 10:09 p.m. He was 8 pounds, 21 inches long and the sweetest baby from the instant they laid him on my chest.

But let’s start at the beginning …

I didn’t have to work Monday, so I spent the day deep cleaning the living room—wiping down baseboards and washing windows—the whole nine yards. Sometime that afternoon I lost my mucus plug. Even though my husband, Lee, told me I probably wouldn’t even notice … I totally noticed.

I Googled 50 different things about the mucus plug, and lots of websites assured me it could still be two weeks until I went into labor. My friend, however, knew better and said, “I bet you go into labor tonight!”

Waterworks

Around 1 a.m. I rolled over in bed and felt quite wet. I attempted to ignore it, and then more and more wetness came. I put my hand down, and the sheet was soaked! I shot up, hit Lee and said, “I think my water broke!”

I ran, leaking all the way, to the bathroom. Lee followed making comments like, “Are you sure? Is it possible you could have peed? Only 10 percent of women have their water break before contractions start.”

I continued to leak for several hours but no contractions. Going back to bed proved to be impossible, so I finished some cleaning, painted my toenails and fingernails and repacked my bag.

Around 3 a.m. I had a few mild contractions—not regularly spaced at all, sometimes 12 minutes, sometimes six. I ate breakfast and had a big drink because I knew when I got to the hospital they wouldn’t let me. Then around 6:30 a.m. we called our parents to let them know we were having a baby soon.
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The waiting game

We probably decided to go a little prematurely since my contractions weren’t regular, but I was losing a ton of fluid and a little blood—so I was slightly freaking out. (You know, first-time mom and all that.)

I was taken to triage to be checked before being admitted. Apparently a lot of women come in thinking their water broke when it really hasn’t. A quick check and they were positive my water had in fact broken, but I was only 2 centimeters dilated.

I was taken to a birthing suite, and we settled in. Lee brought all the stuff from the car, I watched “The Today Show,” and I continued to have contractions that in retrospect were not even blips on the radar.

My doctor came by, and I told him again that I was not interested in receiving any medication. He said that was perfectly fine, but around 7 p.m. (18 hours after my water broke) he said he’d like to talk to me again about using Pitocin if my labor wasn’t progressing.

Breaking point

Around 3 a.m. the contractions picked up. I was having a difficult time getting comfortable and switched from pacing, sitting on the birthing ball, rocking in the rocking chair and lying in bed. Soon, however, I was pretty much only in bed except to go to the bathroom.

As the contractions got worse I started to get very nauseated, and at the peak of every contraction, I was puking. The nurse said my vomiting was probably moving the baby down. Whatever works, right?

I asked for someone to come check me, but I was only about 6 cm. That, combined with the fact that I was still vomiting and the intense pain, made me hit a breaking point.

I looked Lee in the eye and told him there was no way I could go on and absolutely had to have the epidural. I’d told him before if I asked for it to talk me out of it, and he did. He did such a good job explaining my options and being supportive but still gently avoiding the epidural.

I did get medicine for the nausea. I really wanted to go medication free, but vomiting wasn’t something I’d anticipated. It pushed me over the edge.

In the zone

Soon I found a zone, as Lee called it. For me, I needed to avoid any sensory stimulation at all. I had to have my eyes closed. Quiet. No touching. I was pretty much lying completely still in bed and breathing very deeply and slowly through the pain.

Those breathing exercises they taught in my birthing class were crap. There was no he-he-has or hee-hee-hos or whatever. It was more like deep breaths in through my nose and long sighs out my mouth … for hours and hours.

Anytime I opened my eyes and allowed myself to focus on what was going on in the room, I lost it again. This was pain like I’ve never experienced. It hurt so much more than I expected, but, like they say, the human body is amazing. Somehow I was able to focus on my breathing and survive.

DSC_0710Ready or not

By the time I had mastered my breathing, I had a new challenge: pushing. I can vividly remember the moment my doctor announced that on my next contraction I could start pushing. I was overwhelmed with fear.

I expected to feel different by the time the pushing stage came around. I expected to somehow feel more … open? For things to be looser or something?

I think I let at least five contractions go by without pushing. I was so afraid. I was in so much pain and yet my body felt no differently than it did the day before, and now I was expected to literally push a human being out a very small space.

My nurse held my hands and talked me through some different pushing techniques. I ended up pushing for two hours. It felt like an eternity; I don’t know where that strength or energy came from.

A head start

From what I’d seen on TV, I was pretty convinced that once they could see his head it wouldn’t be much longer until, you know, he came out—not so much.

His little head was crowning forever.

It’s such a bizarre feeling. I could feel him coming out, but once I’d relax after a push, I’d feel him sort of go back in. It was so frustrating!

I was pushing with every single fiber of my being. Every single muscle was strained beyond anything I have ever done—muscles I didn’t even know I had but would realize existed the next day.

I felt a release when Leo’s head fully emerged, and from how I was sitting I saw it all. I saw what I thought was a huge head, and I saw the doctor move the umbilical cord and wiggle his shoulders out.

DSC_0699Hello, Leo

They laid him on my chest, and I was just overcome. He was so perfect. I remember feeling bad for Lee because there was no way I was letting Leo go. Lee didn’t get to hold him for more than an hour.

We just studied each other. I inspected his long fingers and big feet. I traced his tiny ears and kissed his squishy cheeks.

Then the nurse came and helped Leo and I get started with our first nursing experience. He just knew exactly what to do. He latched on instantly! I was blown away! He nursed for 40 minutes, and he wasn’t even an hour old!

That hour and a half after Leo was born was such an amazing time, and I have been living on cloud nine ever since. Being Leo’s mommy is the most amazing feat of my life.

Read more of Kelsey’s motherhood adventures at kelseycoghill.blogspot.com

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 birthstory@pnmag.com. We’ll share it on our Birth Day blog and may even print it in an upcoming issue!