December of 2002 found me nine months pregnant with a baby girl. I had had a routine pregnancy. I had horrific morning sickness that got worse during the second trimester and I was treated with medication, finally by the third trimester I was feeling better. Any time a pregnancy book suggested I could have a symptom, I did. Bleeding gums? Check. Bloody nose? Check. Swollen ankles? Check.
I was in my final year of college, and was due a week before finals for the semester. But baby was nice and cozy and had no problem staying put through finals! I was getting to the point of really being done being pregnant. I could not put on my own shoes, did not have a coat that fit (and with all the snow and ice that winter it was a problem!) and I wanted to meet my baby girl.
At 41 weeks the doctor sent me in for a non-stress test, which showed that everything was fine with me and baby, so the pregnancy continued. My OB was very happy with me continuing to 42 weeks, and inducing if necessary then. However, I did not want to induce at 42 weeks exactly. Why? Forty-two weeks exactly was December 24th. Yep, the day before Christmas. Which would then mean I would be in the hospital for Christmas, as well as my birthday on the 26th. I was told that the induction slots were full, but if one opened up they would let me know. They called me on December 19th, they had an induction slot open the next morning on the 20th! It was time to have a baby.
Sleeping was almost non-existent ahead of the induction, how could I sleep knowing I was about to meet my baby? We woke up very early in a cold and dark world. I got dressed, did my hair, and ate breakfast. I was not going to labor without food in my stomach. We got to the hospital by 6:30 a.m. and were admitted into labor and delivery. By 7, it was time to start pitocin.
The beginning of the induction went well and I remained comfortable for a couple of hours. I was blessed with an amazing nurse that day. She kept the lights low in the room, and she suggested position changes. She got me out of the bed and had me bounce on a birth ball. I used the ball for quite awhile. Birth balls are so versatile for bouncing, squatting, swaying, leaning on, they can do it all. By 11 a.m. I was uncomfortable, the pitocin was doing its job, and my water had been broken once I was past 4 centimeters. I had back labor. Back labor is no joke! Having your back feel like it is being hit with a sledgehammer over and over is very difficult to deal with, especially when accompanied by a contraction. I laid on my side in bed and had my mom rub my back. Having her rub my back kept my mind off of the discomfort, and also it was just really nice for my mom to be there close to me.
By this point I was asking when I could have an epidural. Thankfully I had an OB that was honest with me. It was a Friday, she was in the office and ran over to check on me as often as possible. When I started asking for an epidural, she called and talked to me on the phone. She simply asked me, “Do you want a c-section?” “No,” I said. “Then you can’t have an epidural, yet,” she said. Okay I thought, I have to wait. She was wise to help me realize that I was not yet in active labor. The point of no return for labor. I needed to get to 6 centimeters before I went with an epidural.
With the help of my nurse I tried sitting up in bed, getting on all fours and rocking, anything to help the pressure in my back. This also would hopefully help baby be in the best position for birth. Finally, I asked if I could try an IV medication. The option was stadol, an opioid narcotic. While the stadol knocked me out, it did nothing to help with what I was feeling. In faced it made it worse in my head. Because it made me fall asleep, I could not prepare for a contraction. I was sleep, sleep, sleep, PAIN, sleep, sleep, sleep, PAIN. But what my mom and husband saw was me sleeping and occasionally moaning. It was easier for them, but it was worse for me, I was no longer in control of my body, my experience, nothing.
By 2 p.m. I had progressed to the point of being able to receive and epidural. Once it was in, I was able to be comfortable and rest. It did not completely relieve the back labor, but because it took away the sensation of the contractions in the front, I was able to tolerate the pain in my back. By 4 p.m. I was 10 centimeters! They chose to let me labor down, basically allowing my body to help move baby down into the birth canal while my epidural kept me comfortable. This is very helpful for first time moms, as it can shorten the pushing phase of labor.
At 5:30 we tried some trial pushing, and I was doing it! I was pushing my baby out into the world. The amazing nurse had me in an almost seated position in the bed, and brought in a squat bar that I could use to pull myself up with my arms, and therefore curling around my uterus to push. They had also reduced the epidural beforehand so that I could feel how and where to push. My mom requested that a mirror be brought in so I could see the progress of my baby crowning. While I originally did not want to look at what was happening, curiosity eventually took over. When I looked in the mirror while pushing, I could clearly see what was working, and what wasn’t. This changed the way I pushed and made me much more efficient.
Then baby girl began crowning. I was not prepared for the “ring of fire” sensation. I kept thinking that something had to be wrong for it to hurt in that way, so I would back off. Then in my head I realized that unless I pushed through the feeling, baby would not be born. So I gathered my courage, and Pushed! Baby’s head was born! She had her cord wrapped around her neck twice, the OB so quickly moved it that I didn’t even know until my husband told me later. One more push... Baby!
There she was! Purple and red and screaming on my chest. Was this real? I looked into her face and I held her little body and I cried. I’m a cryer, always have been. My husband cut her cord, my mom took pictures, and it was just a beautiful moment in life.
Once the cord was cut and she was taken to be weighed, measured and assessed, the OB gave me a couple of stitches, and then we could have a chance to breastfeed for the first time. Talk about a weird feeling! I don’t think anything prepares you for a very hungry baby to attach themselves to your nipple for the first time. It definitely takes some getting used to, even if it is comfortable, it is strange at first.
Gabriella was born on December 20, 2002 at 6:28 p.m. after 12 hours of induced labor and 45 minutes of pushing. She weighed 9 pounds and 7 ounces and was 22.5 inches long. She had a head full of black hair and dark blue eyes (that would turn chocolate brown in time).