Birth Story: Riley Hazel
*Disclaimer: This is written from my perspective. Times, durations, and sequence may be out of order. I was definitely not in a mindset to be a perfectly accurate reporter.
After having a week of prodromal labor, I woke up Monday, February 8 certain that I'd be pregnant for at least another week and a half (or maybe forever). I was 3 days past the 40 week mark, and anyone who has hit that 40 week mark knows that every day past 40 basically feels like forever. Shortly after waking up I had a wave of pain that started in my low back and traveled to my front abdomen. I was sure I had hit a nerve doing something. I hadn't felt anything like this before, and it was so intense that I thought I must have tweaked something. Over the next couple of hours, I had a few more of these waves, and started to wonder if a pattern was emerging.
I texted Russell and said I hoped he left work early because not only was I hungry but I thought I might be actually experiencing labor pains. Shortly after I texted him, I experienced nesting.This was so different from previous nesting urges I had. This was a compulsion. I NEEDED to do it. I cleaned all of our master bedroom and organized my scarves and sock drawer (yes. Scarves and socks. Very important, amiright?). I was SO relieved when Russell got home.
By that time, I was having about three of these "terror pains" (as I called them) an hour. I was craving a burger, so we went to Five Guys and Fries and I scarfed down my meal and sat through two more "terror pains". Quickly after I finished eating, I told Russell we needed to hurry up and get me home. Sitting in the car was so uncomfortable. While I desperately wanted to be home, I also wanted to move. Badly. As soon as we got home, I suggested we go for a walk.
We walked. It was sunny and snowy and beautiful. I remember looking at our neighbor’s yards and talking about what we wanted to do to our front yard to add to our curb appeal. Throughout our walk, I had more “terror pains”, but walking was a great distraction. When we got home from our walk, we napped. I slept for a few hours, only waking up to ask Russell to give me counter pressure to my, now regular, waves of back pain. We woke up and started timing these pains and they were about 14 minutes apart. We contacted our doula and she told me to eat a big meal and go to sleep. (Ha. I was way too excited and hungry to sleep!)
I made my way to the kitchen, and decided I wanted comfort food. I wanted tomato soup with noodles and toast, but I realized we were out of milk. My contractions were coming regularly at this point, so we waited until I had one, and then Russell left to get milk. I had two contractions while he was gone, and then he came home and as he walked through the door I had another one. I still can’t believe I cooked my way through a handful of contractions. And I made a pretty delicious labor meal, if I do say so myself! We ate dinner and watched tv. I can’t remember if it was Friends or Baby Daddy or Girl Meets World (my taste in television shows while pregnant was cheesy and happy. I wanted nothing to do with dramas!), but I didn’t make it through the show. My contractions were to the point that I couldn’t distract myself away from the pain; I had to breathe through each one.
By the time I finished eating and got upstairs to lie down, I couldn't lay down through the pain anymore. I tried laboring on all fours and that was too painful. The only thing I could do was sit on my yoga ball, leaning over the bed with pillows, while Russell provided counter pressure for my contractions. Finally, I said we needed to call the doula. I was hardly aware of the time, but it was about 10:15pm. While we waited for the doula, I got in the shower (which helped with my contractions) but I was still moaning and very vocal throughout them. I still had my sense of humor, though. While I was showering I heard Russell chuckle. He told me my doula had asked if I had started moaning through my contracations. I had now been “moaning through my contractions” for over an hour. He responded as such. The rest of the evening is a blur, so bare with me.
My water broke at 11pm shortly after I got out of the shower. I was mid contraction and felt a drizzle of water go down my leg preceeded by a small “pop”. I remember saying “Oh shit. My water just broke!” And Russell responding “How do you know?” and I said “Look at the floor” and he looked and said “Yep. Your water just broke. Wow!” I still had my sense of humor and chuckled a little. I remember thinking “That wasn’t like the movies. Weird!”
Our doula arrived at 11:50pm, and at about 12:30am on Tuesday Feb 9th, she suggested we make our way to the hospital. I remember her and Russell planning out how they would get things ready to go, and I walked down the stairs and said to my doula “I feel funny. Surreal. Like a blur. I feel like I don’t even know what’s happening or what has happened. My head is fuzzy.” She replied that that was a good sign, and it let her know that my labor was moving along nicely. I remember thinking “Weird. This is all so weird.”
Russell loaded up the car and we were on the road before 1am. It's a long straight shot of country road to the hospital, and it normally takes us between 35 and 45 minutes. I was on all fours in the back seat howling into the sky like an animal. We made it to the hospital in 24 minutes.
When we arrived at the hospital, Russell asked if I wanted to get dropped off at the ER entrance. I didn’t want to make a scene, so I decided we should park and all walk in together. I had a contraction on my way in, and screamed into my pillow. So much for not making a scene. We got into the ER and the admitting nurse asked me to write down my name and address. She said Russell could write it for me if that was easier. I wrote it myself and I remember looking at my handwriting. It was shaky and messy – not at all like my normal handwriting.
A woman (I will get to know this nure later- and I really liked her!) came down to meet us in the ER. She first asked me if I thought I was in labor and before I Could answer she said “you look like you are in labor!” Next, she asked if I wanted to take the elevator up to labor and delivery and I said "let's walk the stairs! It's supposed to help." To be honest, I still wasn't totally convinced I was in labor, despite regular contractions, my water breaking, and not being able to focus on much else besides getting through the next moment. I made it up the stairs and probably woke up everyone in the hospital with my next contraction. Needless to say, they had me skip triage and got me settled into the room right away.
The hospital provided me with a yoga (birthing) ball and I continued laboring. I remember hearing the door open and my midwife walking in and I thought “Okay. I’m safe now. This is really happening”. I was struggling and yelling “help!” and one of the nurses suggested I labor in the tub. In a moment of clarity, I remembered that a friend of mine had loved that, so I agreed. It turns out the labor tub was not for me. I just could not get comfortable. I was begging for meds and finally, while in the tub, I said to my midwife "tell me what my options are” (very diplomatic for a woman in labor, if I do say so myself!).
I was having a difficult time relaxing between contractions and they were starting to come one on top of the other. I begged for an epidural. My midwife told me that she thought she had a better solution, and that what I was experiencing was back labor, and that Riley was probably not in an ideal position. She had not checked me yet to see how far I had progressed (love this about working with my midwife), so she suggested we start with a deep hip massage and a ½ dose of a medicine (Fentanyl) that would allow me to relax through my contractions. She warned that it would only provide me about thirty minutes of relaxation between contractions, and that I would still have all the pain of the contractions. I told her I didn't care. I just needed to relax. As soon as I stopped being able to relax between my contractions, labor was not just hard, it was miserable. I needed to get my edge back. My midwife declared, "let's do it”!
I couldn't walk back to my room from the labor tub (I thought I could) and I couldn't sit on my butt in the wheelchair, (we will later learn that during the labor/delivery process I fractured my tailbone), so I kneeled on the wheelchair and my midwife wheeled me from the labor tub room (named "the spa") to my labor and delivery room, all the while with me backwards. Apparently it was hilarious to everyone else- it was a lifesaver for me!!!
Once I was back in the labor & delivery room, they administered the IV and gave me the ½ dose of Fentanyl. My midwife then gave me an amazing hip massage (that she later told me I would never have made it through without being able to relax through the contractions). Apparently, she was also working to flip Riley into a better position. About 30 minutes later, when the meds were beginning to wear off, I started panicking about how long this (labor) could last. All I could say through each contraction was "HELP ME. HELP!!" My midwife took charge and said "let's check you." A few seconds later, she announced proudly "you are 9.5cm dilated." Everyone in the room was saying "yay! Ohy my God, you are gonna have a baby soon!".
I looked around wide-eyed (I had labored almost exclusively with my eyes shut). I noticed Russell was crying and that they had transitioned the room to prepare for delivery. Everyone was smiling and saying "you are awesome. You are amazing" and I just remember saying "FUCK. It's too late for the meds isn't it???" - everyone erupted with laughter and my midwife said "you can do this. You have already done it. Let's meet your baby girl". And then I was back to contracting and yelling "HELP!" #iainttooproudtobeg.
My midwife told me that I might feel pressure and that if I felt it, to push. She was right. It was time to push. So I pushed for what seemed like forever, and each time in between pushing contractions (which were very different from my other contractions) I looked around the room like a crazy person- looking for cues that I was close. I noticed they had a table of tools, that my midwife had her hands in a plastic sheet type thing and was just waiting. At one point someone said "you can do this! You are going to have a baby!" And I said “I can do this. And then I'm going to order food. I'm SO HUNGRY!" Apparently, no one has ever heard a laboring, crowning, mom say this- which just makes me think most ladies are being too polite.
I remember hearing my midwife say "call the nursery! We are having a baby" and I just felt like goddamn Britney Spears must have felt during her first performance of Toxic. I felt amazing and so happy that I was close to having survived labor and delivery. The nurse called the nursery and said "please send a baby nurse, we are having a baby in room 255!!!" And then I got a huge urge to push and the next thing I knew a few people were singing happy birthday and my midwife was telling me to look at my daughter!! The first thing I said to Riley was "I love you so much! We did it!!". Russell was crying and I just couldn't believe we had done it. It was 5:21am. They think I arrived at the hospital in transition.
I want to share this next part with all the mamas (current, past, or future):
Some of the nurses congratulated me on "having an undedicated birth- no epidural!-just like what you wanted." I finally said something. You see, before I was in labor, I thought that's what I wanted. But as it turns out, when I was in labor, I just wanted labor to end and to have my baby. Had my first cervical check come back at 6 or 7, I'd have had the epidural. There is no shame in the medicine; it serves a purpose for many mamas!!! In fact, I spent so many hours yelling "help" that, really, how "strong" am I? I'm as strong as every other mommy out there who has brought a baby into this world. After having our experience with Riley in the NICU (I’ll write more about that later) I have seen moms who are recovering from c-sections being wheeled into the NICU to spend every possible moment with their baby. When they aren’t with their babies, they are trying to recover and furiously pumping so that their babies can have the opportunity to have Mom’s breast milk. Those women are STRONG. During our stay, we heard about a teen mom being admitted to Labor & Delivery, who was rumored to be delivering at 33 weeks. That mom is strong, too. The moms who walk the halls trying to speed up labor? Strong mamas. We are all strong. Medication. No medication. Vaginal, c-section. We all did it or are doing it or will do it. And we should all be feeling like a damn rockstar when we are seconds away from bringing what we created into the world. And if you didn't feel that way or don't feel that way, don't worry. Because I THINK YOU ARE A ROCKSTAR.
Labor & Delivery Photos Courtesy of Caroline Colvin Photography