My sweet little boy Noah arrived into the world at 9:11am on Saturday, September 7, 2013. I will never forget the moment I gave a final push and he came out of the womb with eyes wide open, looking right at me.
But, lets get to the beginning, 23 hours earlier on Friday morning. After a night of restlessness due to "strong & short" period-like cramps, I had a gut feeling it was time to go to the hospital. The pains weren't off the charts but I could not sleep through them, & they were happening every 5 minutes. But, just to be sure, I called my doctor, and asked if this sounded like the real deal (for some reason, I thought that it might have been false labor and I pictured a scenario where I would be sent back home once I got to the hospital.)
Sure enough, the doctor advised me to head over to Triage at Magee, which is the first stop in the Women's Birthing Center, and is where you checked to find out if you are indeed in labor. After discovering I was almost 5cm dilated and in active labor with contractions now every 2-3 minutes, I was wheeled up into a LDR suite (Labor, Delivery, and Recovery) that was absolutely beautiful. (If I have more babies, I am definitely having them at Magee.)
For the next twelve hours, I went through contractions with no pain medication. I didn't intentionally seek out a birth with no pain medication, but I wanted to wait until I needed the epidural before I actually got it. I used a birthing ball for most of my contractions (which is the only position in the room I wanted to be in) and listened to the Skrillex channel on Pandora while Dan massaged my back. I also walked the hallways at Magee after convincing the doctor to put me on wireless fetal monitoring. We were the ONLY people walking around during labor (my family & Dan's family were walking with me!) and we got a couple of awkward stares from the nurses, but I hated laying in bed with the contractions as it made them feel like they were being amplified.
Over the course of twelve hours, however, I only dilated another centimeter! I was lucky enough to have a doctor (Dr. Ari Heffron) who was willing to wait and let me try to do a natural birth. After a while though, he gave me an ultimatum-- we either had to start Pitocin or break my water.
I decided to start Pitocin simply because if I had my water broken, I would be stuck in bed (per this particular doctor's orders) but I would be able to continue to use the birthing ball if I started Pitocin. As I knew it would from taking a childbirth class at Shining Light Prenatal Education, my contractions felt more painful and it was almost midnight (we left for the hospital that morning around 9am) and everyone insisted that if I didn't get sleep, I wouldn't have any energy to push. So, I knew it was time for the epidural (which I was terrified of because I had heard so many horror stories from other women-- the epidural not working, pain equal to a nail being drilled into your spine, etc.)
However, I am so confident in my choice to get both the Pitocin and the epidural. I just have to say that when the anesthesiologist came into the room, it was like a scene out of Grey's Anatomy. You know, where one of the doctors saves a life and they play a cool indie track behind it to give you the chills. I had the nicest anesthesiologist (all I know about him is that his name is Michael- if you are headed to Magee to have your baby) who knew how to put me at ease as I nervously rattled off questions about the epidural while he set up. I also had the perfect nurse to help me through the process (which takes about ten minutes), who was actually just filling in for my nurse,who was stuck in the OR.
I just have to share with anyone who is terrified of the epidural (like I was)- it is NOTHING. The anesthesiologist even had to poke me in the spine several times before finding the exact spot and I still am blown away by how much it didn't hurt. Obviously, there was a little bit of pain, but they inject you with a numbing solution for the area first. I prepared myself for something similar to a chainsaw slicing into my back, so what actually happened felt soothing in comparison. I know a lot of people have strong feelings about epidurals, but for me, it was the most relieving and wonderful medical procedure I have ever had.
I asked the anesthesiologist if my lower back would be sore the next day and he said, "Listen, women who have a vaginal birth, or any birth, are going to be sore for a few weeks anyway. This won't matter." And, it didn't. I had a bruise at the spot where he poked around but it was the last thing on my mind.
After the epidural and Pitocin, I "slept"(or dozed off here and there) until about 6:00 am. By that time, I was up to 9cm. (I couldn't believe that I had so much progress without feeling the physical demands of the contractions!) The doctor broke my water and within an hour, I felt the most overwhelming desire to PUSH. The whole time I was pregnant, I wondered how I would ever be able to give birth because it sounded so impossible, but your body goes into auto-pilot and there is NO STOPPING your body when it comes time to push.
At about 6:45, I told the doctor that I had to start the pushing process and after one try, he said I wasn't ready so he ordered a stronger dose of the epidural so that I could "labor down." This was the only phrase I hadn't researched like a maniac, in fact I hadn't even heard of it, in the months leading up to this day. They numb your lower body with a double dose of an epidural so that you don't feel the pushing contractions and waste your energy while the baby works its way into the birth canal.
Dan and I realized later on that the doctor and the nurse both went home for the day at 7am, which might have contributed to the laboring down request, but it really worked wonders for my body, so I look at it like a blessing. At 7am, a new doctor and a new nurse came in and by the grace of God, they were the best doctor and the best nurse I could have asked for. They cheered me on as I pushed and knew how to cheer me on even when I insisted, "I can't do this!"
I pushed for 45 minutes like an animal in the wilderness (trust me, you will, too) because I had the time to rest before hand and BAM, I delivered a 9lb 8oz baby, with no episiotomy (which was another medical intervention I didn't want.) Afterward, it was all over and forgotten. I do have to say, even though it might be TMI, that delivering the placenta was the BEST feeling. After the baby comes out, you feel relief, but you feel like you aren't done. When the placenta finally comes out, you feel cleansed of all of the discomfort you've been through during labor and delivery.
I was not prepared for a 9 pound baby and my OB had not caught it either, but in hindsight, I'm glad no one knew because they would have probably would have been more likely to push for a C-section. I'm also glad I had a long labor because my body needed time to get ready to deliver a larger baby. Everyone asks me if I'm crazy for not getting Pitocin right away and having a 24-hour labor, but I truly think that if we (Dan and I) had jumped into all of the interventions right away, my body wouldn't have been ready to deliver and I would have needed a C-section. As I mentioned, the only thing on my birth plan (mentally) was that I did not want a C-section and I did not want an episiotomy. From doing research beforehand, it seemed as though having Pitocin in your system led to a C-section, so every time the doctor brought it up, we tried to hold off and see what my body could do on its own.
On a final note- I have nothing but good things to say about the Confident Childbirth class at Shining Light Prenatal Education. One of the things Deena said to us during the final class was that labor would be the hardest work you'll ever do, but that afterward, you will remember your birth story for the rest of your life. Taking her classes gave me confidence because I understood what my body was going through, as well as BOTH the natural way to give birth and each and every medical interventions that could pop up. All of this allowed me to be peaceful throughout the process of childbirth, rather than confused and feeling as though I needed to ask questions when I really needed to work through contractions.
Magee Womens Hospital is also such a wonderful place to give birth. In fact, both my sister and I were born in the same exact hospital. My doctors were willing to give my birth plan a chance and the nurses were SO helpful during my stay. The nurse that helped me deliver, particularly, was so encouraging and had such a talent for putting me at ease. I wish I could say I remembered her name, but I was too consumed with pushing and then meeting my new baby that I forget. I would love to send her a thank you note! The LDR room was beautiful and accommodating for both myself and my family members- Dan and my mother spent the whole night there with me until the next morning when I finally gave birth. The hospital just makes it a wonderful experience for such a happy time, which is nice because who really loves a hospital stay?
I feel so blessed to have had such a positive experience and an amazing little boy- I would do it all over again in a heartbeat!
I hope my story cancels out a few of those "horror stories" women will tell you throughout your pregnancy about childbirth! I know they had me worried, but if you are willing to go with the flow, I truly believe giving birth is nothing to be scared of.
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To take the "Confident Birthing" class at Shining Light Prenatal Education, visit their website here.