Warning: This is a long post without any images 😉
I’m a first time mom, so naturally, I was preparing myself with books, birthing classes and asking every single mom I knew about what to expect when THAT time came. I felt very calm and zen throughout my entire pregnancy and also did not look up anything about the birthing process until around week 36. My doctor told me that I could give birth before my due date – I was almost 1 cm dialated and already 60% effaced by week 38. Then came my due date, week 40, and still no sign of labor or any sign that the little one was ready for the world. When you’ve reached week 40, the doctor will have you come in for another anatomy scan to get an estimate on how big and heavy the baby currently is (and what position he or she is in).
Because my baby seemed heavy and big then, and the fact that I had only dialated to 2 cm and no more than 70% effaced, my doctor and I decided to induce labor sooner rather than wait it out. The most doctors will let a pregnant woman go past due date is 2 weeks. I scheduled my induction for the 4th day after due date.
I tried every form of home remedy to induce labor naturally – I took a bath in clove and lavender oil, I drank fenugreek and chai tea, I walked for almost 4 hours each day, I climbed stairs, I even tried the nipple stimulation. Nothing. I then went in for acupuncture the day before and on the day my induction was scheduled. I can’t say if it’s true that acupuncture helps get contractions going, but it sure worked for me. I was having super light contractions every 15 minutes.
So there I was checking in at the hospital at 5.00 pm. The moment you’re either in the car or entering the hospital is when shit gets real and it hits you. It’s happening and there is NO backing out of it. I will admit, I was scared.
First, the nurse took me to an exam room to assess my progress or labor – in NYC the space is limited, so they’ll most likely give the LDR (Labor, Delivery and Recovery) room to a woman who is basically about to give birth. If you’re being induced then it means you have time which the other woman doesn’t.
I was taken to my LDR room and asked to change into the hospital gown (see image above). They put a band around my waist and then I was hooked up to a contractions monitor (those are called Cardiotocography, or CTG) and they also inserted an IV into my left arm. Because I tested positive for Group B Strep, I was given antibiotics through the IV to prevent the baby from getting the infection when going through the birthing canal. My doctor came in at about 6.00 pm to do a check up. I was 2 cm dialated, 70-80% effaced and having contractions every 8-10 minutes. At 6.30 pm, they gave me Cervidil, a vaginal insert to help with the ripening of the cervix. Then it was just waiting, waiting, waiting. In hindsight, I should have enjoyed those 2 hours before my membranes were stripped, because those (light) contractions were nothing compared to what they become when your water breaks. I think my husband and I were trying to figure out the contractions monitor and just hanging out, chatting while we were waiting.
At 9.00 pm, I was dialated to 3 cm so my doctor decided to strip my membranes. I cannot even describe how weird that felt – something like a regular pelvic exam, but so uncomfortable, also because you don’t know what’s going to happen. Despite how weird it felt, it wasn’t too bad and took less than a minute before my water broke. That, however, felt like someone popped a balloon filled with warm water on me. I was told that if your water breaks naturally, if feels like you’ve peed yourself, the water does not come gushing out like in the movies, it is more like a leak.
I started having stronger, painful contractions which were still tolerable though. The contractions became stronger and the time in between them was getting shorter. I still felt somewhat calm, but it was no fun. My husband stood by the contractions monitor and was able to predict when I would feel the next one (it reminded me of a seismograph). I tried to endure the pain for as long as I could because I thought I could tolerate the pain and not get an epidural.
After two hours, I was nauseous, thirsty, numb, freezing (and shivering!) and I was experiencing sharp back pains every time I had a contraction. Yes, I asked for the epidural. When you ask for the epidural, keep in mind that it takes about 30-45 minutes before someone comes to give it to you and for it to work. I waited for about 30 minutes (which felt like hours) before the anesthesiologist came to give me the epidural. You are asked to sign a few documents and then everyone but the anesthesiologist and a nurse are asked to leave the room. I sat up on the side of my bed, was given a pillow to hold and was told to not move. The nurse stood in front of me to give me support in the case that I might move. The needle the anesthesiologist inserted into my lower back looked scary – the needle was about 4 or 5 inches. When it was inserted, the quick stinging pinch gave me a little scare and I moved but was held back by the nurse. Within 10 minutes after receiving the epidural, I felt less pain and so much relief! They leave a little box next to you that continuously dispenses the anesthesia into your spine to keep you numb.
The best choice I ever made was to get that epidural. I was so relaxed that I managed to fall asleep! I slept for about two hours before my doctor came back at 2.00 am to check on me. I was pretty much fully dialated and effaced. My doctor gave me an extra hour to sit back and also to see if my little one would attempt to get out by himself. At 2.30 am, my doctor and the nurse came in to prepare the room for delivery. The lower end of the bed was removed and the stirrups were pulled out.
I started to push at around 3.00 am. We waited for a contraction (via the monitor) and then I was told to push for as long as I could hold my breath. When you’re pushing, it feels like you’re about to push out your entire gut. After my push, I was “resting” until the next contraction came along. Between contractions+pushing I felt extreme nausea, like throwing up, so they gave me an oxygen mask. Not sure if that helped, but it calmed me down and distracted me.
I pushed for about an hour and Avery was born at 4.05 am. My husband announced that it was a boy just as the little one cried for the first time in his life. They placed the little boy on my chest to hold. He was so tiny, warm and still covered in blood. Those first few minutes were such a mix of feelings. I was over-the-moon happy, in love, but at the same time overwhelmed and in shock. It was like waking up from a dream not knowing where you are. The first attempt at breastfeeding went surprisingly well (even if there was probably nothing much for him yet). It’s amazing how babies are born with the ability to suck. I snuggled him for a few more minutes before he was taken to get cleaned up, vaccinated and checked up.
I was given Pitocin to help my uterus contract again so my doctor could deliver the placenta and continue to clean and stitch me up. I not only had an Episiotomy that lead to a fourth degree tear, but I also tore on another spot. Being numb from the epidural made everything easier as I did not feel any pinches or burns throughout the entire time.
At around 6.00 am, I was left to rest. I was so utterly exhausted and tired, relieved and still oblivious to what just happened (and that I basically now had a baby).
I am beyond grateful for the amazing medical team I had throughout the entire night, my doctor and labor nurse were supportive, understanding and there for me the whole time. My husband, who at first was so worried he would not be “enough” support for me, turned out to be the best one I could have asked for. In those hours he was the greatest husband, the best friend, the perfect doula and now the most loving father to our baby boy. My entire labor and delivery team, my OBGYN, Nurse O. and my husband, helped me get through it all and made sure I had every opportunity, and most importantly time, to stretch my mind and body to avoid a C-Section. THANK YOU!
For those wondering, I gave birth in New York City at Lenox Hill Hospital.
In a separate post, I will write about the things that nobody tells you about Labor and Delivery. I wish they did, because I would have felt less stressed and helpless in some moments. I am also working with my friend who will let me publish her story on how she experienced her labor and delivery via C-Section.
Please feel free to comment or ask me any questions.
Disclaimer: This was my labor and delivery experience. This is NOT a medical advice or in any way a guideline to how labor and delivery happens. Every woman will experience it differently and should always work with her doctor(s) and nurse(s) or midwives to make sure she receive the full support she requires.