By 39 weeks, I was very much over being pregnant. Don’t get me wrong, up until that point, I loved every minute BUT the summer heat and swollen legs/feet got me desperate to meet our little lady! I was 39 weeks and 2 days when the Braxton Hicks became more regular. These practice contractions would come and go more often than they had before so I knew delivery day was close!
On Friday, July 21st, Ian and I took our usual evening walk around the neighborhood when the contractions started getting a little bit more uncomfortable. The next day, we went over to our friend Cindy’s house and when she saw my swollen feet, she offered to massage them. Pause. Yes she is forever family, especially after doing that. And hello, acupressure for labor induction. I was all about it. This is one of the reasons why I think I went into labor the next day because…come Sunday morning at 5am, I woke up to a contraction. I thought it was another Braxton Hicks but another one came less than 10 min after and then another. That’s when I woke Ian up to start timing them.
From the get-go, I prayed for a textbook labor – I wanted to go through every stage completely aware of what was happening and be in tune with what my body was doing. We had the goal of an all natural labor but we knew if that didn’t happen, we’d still end up with a little bundle of joy in our arms, which trumped any birth plan we could create. We took an amazing birth class with our doulas in Virginia before moving and they walked us through everything we could ever learn about labor. It was honestly the best thing we did for ourselves in preparation.
Back to Sunday – so since my contractions were regular but weren’t getting more intense, I knew I was in early labor. From our class, I also knew that women can be in early labor from hours to days so I took it easy and let the day go as normal. We decided to walk around Manhattan Beach and pick up some juice for Ian, myself and our doula, Katie, to bring to the hospital just in case we went in that day. By the time we got home that afternoon, my contractions got closer together but didn’t change much in intensity. Coincidentally, Katie was going to be in the area that afternoon, so she stopped by to give me a TENS machine to use when the contractions got more intense (sidenote: I literally used this thing until it was time to push, it was AMAZING).
Towards 11:30pm, I knew it was time to call Katie to come over. My contractions were about 3-4 min apart at that time it was getting harder to breathe and talk through them. When she arrived 30 min or so later, she suggested we go to the hospital. I was GBS positive and my midwife said I could labor at home as long as I wanted before my water broke, so I didn’t really want to go until then but I’m pretty sure if we waited any longer, I wasn’t sure if I could make it through the car ride.
We got to the hospital around 1:30am and the guys at the ER check-in desk didn’t take us seriously because I guess I was the 10th person to come in that night during active labor. Once I got up to the triage room, they told me I was 5cm. To most people that may be great news but truthfully, I was kind of annoyed that I had only progressed to 5cm! After much waiting and laboring in the delivery room, towards 5:30am, my water broke and then I decided to go into the shower until it was time to push.
I’m not a total clean freak but I am pretty close to a germaphobe, especially when it comes to hospitals. But let me tell you…my face was all the floor in the labor room! On top of the shower drain, on the couch, on the stool, e v e r y where. When you’re in labor, you do not care! We heard stories like this during our birth class but I didn’t think I’d actually be one of those women.
My support team was amazing – Ian sat in the shower with me while I powered through each contraction and Katie took up a seat on the other side, making sure I stay hydrated. They encouraged and coached me throughout the entire process. We could not recommend going through a birth class and having a doula enough! Those transition contractions were thee most intense part of labor. During our labor prep weeks prior, Katie told me to envision a feather on my nose and to blow it away each time I felt the need to push when it got to this point in labor. When that didn’t work, I had to make myself see that feather go over a snow-covered mountain – not sure why that worked but it did. By the time the feather went over, my contraction ended.
My midwife would come in periodically to see how I was doing, and each time I asked if I should get out for them to check me, she told me to keep doing what I was doing in the shower. Katie said as long as I could be in the shower, to stay there laboring. At that point, I didn’t really think I could go any longer. If we’re being really honest, sleep was a huge motivator for me. Baby could stay in and as long as she wanted – this mama just wanted to sleep! So after what felt like 30 min was actually a couple of hours later, when I knew it was really time to push. I asked Katie to call the midwife in to check me and it was about 8:50am when she said the baby’s head was already so far down that I could go ahead and push. At this point I was like YESSS! All that waiting brought the baby closer, which also meant less work for me at this point was really great news. Up until then, the contractions I had were intensely uncomfortable. Like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. Even though I didn’t have an epidural, I didn’t feel actual pain until the moment that ‘ring of fire’ came around and boy, did I feel that burning pain. I expected the contractions to be even more intense during this stage but I remember them being a bit more mild. Never thought I’d describe a contraction that way. After a few slow pushes, at 9:35am our baby was born.
Rhona was born weighing 7 lbs 8 oz and was 20 inches long. The greatest reward to an almost 30-hour natural labor and delivery. I got to hold her for only a few moments before the nurses noticed that she was grunting. They took her over to the bassinet and soon after, more doctors and nurses came in for a second look. Before we could even call her by name, Rhona had to be taken to the NICU department for testing. Ian went along to make sure she wasn’t without one of us, even for a second. All the while, I was being cleaned up. It took a whopping 40 min for my placenta delivery. This is where the rest of the pain came in. My experience with this part of delivery was unpleasant, especially since I didn’t have a sweet baby in my arms to distract me. Thankfully, I ended up with barely a first degree tear, which I think it was mostly due to my awesome midwife using warm compresses, mineral oil, and lots of coaching during my delivery. While Ian was with Rhona for those first hours, Katie stayed with me up until we moved to the postpartum room. I’m so so so grateful for her company and emotional support throughout the entire time. Also, a huge thank you to her for taking down the times of all these events. Doulas are everything.
Later that evening, I got to see Rhona for the second time. My heart sank when I saw my little girl hooked up to a breathing tube and countless wires. It was difficult for me to see these machines keeping Ro alive and stable when just hours ago, my body was her safe place. After numerous tests, we learned that Rhona’s condition had greatly improved and that she could be moved to pediatrics to begin antibiotics for her neonatal pneumonia. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough room at our current hospital so she had to be transferred if we wanted to room with her. We learned this around 10pm and at midnight, we trailed behind the ambulance a few miles away to the other hospital. When we arrived, she was already getting set up in her room and we made this place our home for the next 7 days. During our stay, we got to partner with an incredible team of nurses and doctors which made all the difference for a not-so-ideal experience. We were blessed with surprise meals and darling gifts from family, friends and even others whom I’ve yet to meet. Sure, there were many minuses but the handful of positives outweighed them all.
Fast-forward to July 31st, when we got to take our baby home. BEST DAY EVER.