Pushing through: The birth of Carter
It was Wednesday, July 9. Carter’s due date was July 6, so I was already three days overdue. I’d had four acupuncture appointments to try and start labor. We had discussed inducing labor in the 41st week. But if I did it then, it would be elective. (My doctor doesn’t require inducing until the 42nd week.) I didn’t want to induce unless it was absolutely medically necessary. I was very, very uncomfortable. It was hard to sleep, go up and down stairs, and I pretty much couldn’t get comfortable no matter what I tried. I was also so hot, and it was extremely difficult to breathe. I weighed about 177 and my prepregnancy weight was 137.
That Wednesday night my husband, Charlie, was out somewhere, and I thought I felt my first contraction at about 8:30. I took a shower and tried to relax. Contractions were not painful at that point, and I wasn’t even sure that’s exactly what I was feeling. I was so excited to tell him I was having contractions. I think I texted him. He got home and made dinner.
I was awake all night until around midnight when the contractions started to really hurt. We had been timing their frequency, and all of a sudden (it seemed) the contractions were four to five minutes apart and VERY painful. We decided it was time to head to the hospital. My contractions seemed to be more frequent at this point and definitely more painful. This part is all a blur to me as I was in so much pain and just trying to get through contractions.
When we got to the hospital the triage nurse checked me and—to my dismay—said I was only 1.5 centimeters dilated. I was shocked. The pain was so bad; I was convinced I was having the baby right then. She went to check with the doctor to see if I should be admitted and came back with a firm no.
I had a choice. I could go home, try to get some rest and come back when my water broke or contractions intensified. (Because my contractions were already less than five minutes apart—when you’re generally advised to go to the hospital—and your water doesn’t always break, I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to know when to come back.) My other option was to walk around and try to dilate more. If I got to 4 cm I could be admitted.
I was in such terrible pain that I couldn’t imagine trying to walk around, so I went with the first option. I had thrown up all the dinner I had eaten earlier. I decided right then that the very moment I came back, the first thing I would demand would be an epidural. They gave me some morphine before I left to try and help me sleep at home. It did not help at all.
So we went home, and I kind of dozed in and out of sleep for about two hours. It’s kind of hard to sleep, though, when you feel like your body is being torn in two. At around 4 a.m. I got up and thought I felt something running down my leg. I was sure my water had broken, and the contractions were still terrible and frequent. Charlie called the hospital, and they said to come in. So, back we went. I was in so much pain that this time we were NOT leaving no matter what they said.
When we got there, they checked me in triage and discovered I had progressed to 8 centimeters! I could sense their surprise that I had progressed that much, that quickly. There seemed to be a sense of urgency in the air to get me to a room. I remember thinking that if I was already at 8 cm and was progressing that quickly, that maybe I could bear the rest of this without an epidural. I was almost done, right? That was my mentality.
I had rented a labor tub, and we were supposed to call them to deliver it to my room. Everyone made it seem as though there wouldn’t be time for that with how fast things were going, so we didn’t worry about it. We could try and get a refund later. Plus, I was going to have this baby any second! Or at least that’s what I told myself.
My nurse, Monica, was absolutely amazing. I couldn’t have done it without her and Charlie. She was definitely an important factor in me being able to make it through the entire labor without any drugs. For the next nine hours I labored in the bath tub, on my back in bed, squatting on the end of the bed with a bar as support, on all fours and on this little thing that looked like a toddler toilet training tool.
The tub really helped to ease the pain, but they had a fetal heart rate monitor on me—and Carter’s heart rate started dropping in the tub so we had to switch positions. On all fours was horrible. They kept offering me a birthing ball, but I didn’t think it would be comfortable so I kept refusing it. Squatting on the bed felt OK, but again his heart rate dropped so I wasn’t able to stay in that position. It felt kind of like a marathon of changing positions—like I couldn’t just stay still and relax.
I was exhausted, I had thrown up all my dinner, and it was the middle of the night—I should be sleeping. Toward the end I had to pee and couldn’t go. It was the oddest feeling. Monica said maybe Carter was on my urethra and was blocking me from being able to pee. They broke my water. It had definitely not broken earlier. I still don’t know what dripped down my leg at home.
Charlie and Monica rubbed my feet. I was very, very thirsty, so Charlie kept giving me my water bottle. Half the things I packed in my hospital bag never even got used. I kept asking if I could still have an epidural, and Monica kept telling me yes—all I had to do was ask for it. But I didn’t actually want it. I just wanted to know if I could have it if I wanted it.
After nine hours enduring horrible contractions, I was finally at 10 cm. It was now time to push. I remember that during pushing, Charlie was doing the counting-to-10 thing, and he was counting too slow. I could never get a full enough breath to be able to exhale for the full 10 seconds. I wanted to scream at him that he was counting way too slow. But I was so out of my mind in pain that I couldn’t remember his name.
My friend Samantha had just given birth three days before, and she told me that her son came out in six pushes. So I had that in the back of my mind. Pushing was even worse than the laboring. It was enduring all the horrible contractions PLUS have to do major work pushing.
It was now late morning. I hadn’t even gone to bed yet and never actually had any dinner the night before, as it had all come back up in triage. I was exhausted and had no energy left. I would push and make some progress, then Carter’s head would creep back up and the progress I had just made was for nothing. They kept telling me I needed to push harder.
Monica held a mirror down there, so I could see what was going on. But in all the chaos I had not been able to put contacts in and was wearing my glasses, which by this time I’d taken off—so I couldn’t see anything. She kept telling me to look down to see my baby’s head and his hair! Toward the end I started swearing. I started to scream that I just couldn’t do it. Every time we could see a contraction coming on the little monitor I would just dread it and wish I could skip it and have a break, but it would keep on coming.
Finally after three hours of pushing, Monica told me that they were considering trying a vacuum extraction. If they tried that and it didn’t work, they would have to do a C-section. You can’t just go back to pushing. Have a C-section was the No. 1 thing I wanted to avoid with this birth. Not only that but I had just done 12+ hours of labor with no drugs. I was not going to get them now just because I needed a C-section. I think maybe Monica wanted to scare me a little into pushing harder, so Carter could come out without vacuum assistance or a C-section. And her tactic worked! I was NOT going to have a C-section.
They called the doctor in, and with all my might I was able to get Carter out after three hours and 15 minutes of pushing. When Carter was crowing I could feel what they call the “ring of fire.” It was definitely very painful. My actual doctor was not on call that day. But the doctor on call was amazing, and I was really happy.
Carter Joseph Marza came out at 1:20 p.m., and Charlie cut the umbilical cord. They checked him out and wiped him off and placed him on my belly while they delivered my placenta. I remember I kept asking, “Did you get the placenta yet?” The doctor kept patiently saying, “Not yet.” Finally they told me to push, and the placenta came out easily. Then I kept asking if I tore and how badly I tore. She kept saying that they didn’t know yet. It seemed to take forever. I think I was delirious and just so relieved that it was over.
Finally she told me she was going to stitch me up. She put a numbing gel on me and got to work. I don’t think the numbing gel did much. I felt every stitch as I held Carter on my chest. I remember Charlie cried. I was too tired. Monica told me afterward that had I had the epidural there was a really good chance that I would have ended up needing a C-section. In hindsight I am SO glad I did not opt for the epidural.
Carter weighed 8 pounds, 12 ounces. He had a full head of dark hair. I couldn’t believe he was really here. I nursed him a bit. But the mood was so surreal, and I was so exhausted. We napped a bit, ate a little. Monica helped me take a shower. My mother-in-law, PJ, had been at the hospital waiting for hours, so she came in and met Carter.
We spent that night there. A nurse took Carter for a few hours at night, so we could try and sleep for a bit. The next day a big group of friends came to visit us. It was a very happy celebration. People brought cards, flowers, balloons, candy and one girlfriend even brought my favorite—Prosecco! We checked out around 3:30 p.m. It felt very sad to leave Room 29 where Carter had come into the world. The whole experience went by in the blink of an eye, and then we were going home with a newborn!
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!
By JoAnna Marza