our birth story
** disclaimer ** this post contains all the raw deets -- proceed with caution
My pregnancy was pretty hard. I was constantly uncomfortable, and frequently in pain. My energy level was at an all-time low. I suffered from nausea, and also extreme hunger... rib pain, hip pain, you name it. About 2 weeks before my due date I actually fell down while walking down the street. That was more embarrassing than anything else.
I was convinced Milo would arrive early. It was just a feeling I had. So imagine how surprised I was when 5 days past my due date - no baby. So I did what any cosmo girl does and went to the spa. I figured, this might be my last opportunity to get my toes done for a while, and if I go into labour I'm sure I'll have time to get home.
I snapped some Insta stories from the big comfy massaging chair and captioned them with, "Okay baby, mama's ready for you!", assuming at this point I would have a few more days to wait. Well, I guess somebody realized I had a fresh blowout because that night at 11pm I went into labour. Now, I have to clarify - I didn't really know I was in labour at the time. I didn't have the dramatic water breaking everywhere that they show in literally every movie. I just felt kind of nauseous. I felt like, this isn't exactly normal and something might be happening. But I was tired as hell, so I went to bed.
I woke up at 4am in the most intense pain I have ever experienced. I smacked Alex in the face yelling, "BABE!" (he's a heavy sleeper). We timed a couple of contractions the way we were taught at our birthing class. "4-1-1" is the magic combo -- when your contractions are 4 minutes apart, last for 1 minute, and repeat this pattern for at least 1 hour, you're in active labour. Of course we were told women are generally in early labour for 12 hours or more before reaching this stage, so you can imagine my surprise when my contractions came in at around 3-1-1. I timed several more in disbelief. "I think this is happening", I said to Alex, "Can you get me a banana?"
I called my mom first. My parents live a couple of hours away and mom was very concerned about missing Milo's arrival. I then called our midwife. She told me to get in the bathtub and continue timing my contractions for the next hour, then call her back. I think she thought the pattern would change. In our birth class we learned that sometimes labour can progress, only to slow down again. But not for me.
I got in the tub and turned on a playlist heavily populated by Ed Sheeran and Maroon 5. I told Alex to get my makeup, that I would make myself pretty between contractions. LOL - what a joke. The contractions continued to get worse as the hour passed, and I was becoming increasingly stressed trying to keep track of how long they were. Hubby, genius as he is, downloaded a contraction app. (I know I'm living in the age of technology, but I'm continuously impressed at how there's an app for literally everything. Also I highly recommend downloading such an app if you're pregnant - total life saver.) I called our midwife back and gave her the update. She said that she would be over soon and asked if she could bring a student with her. I said sure. The more the merrier?
As the moments passed, I became increasingly aware that people were about to arrive and see me naked in the tub. As I tried to remember to breathe through the pain, I concluded the nakedness was the least of my concern. Our midwife arrived and started setting up her gear. I met the student and filled her in on my fresh pedi. She said it looked great.
I was in a world of pain, so I decided to go back to bed. Our midwife checked me out and announced I was only 3cm dilated. "So...how much longer do you think it will be?", I asked, mildly horrified. "Oh, 12 hours at least", she replied.
I thought I was going to die. I could not possibly survive this pain for another 12 hours. With each contraction I gripped the sides of the bed like my life depended on it. When I had imagined how painful birth would be, I knew it would be up there, but I figured getting shot (or murdered in some way) must be worse. Wrong. So wrong.
We had rented a birth pool in preparation for this day, because I thought a water birth sounded kind of nice. At the very least, I figured the heat would be soothing. What we didn't count on was the pump being defective - so while I was gripping the bed, Alex and my mom were running back and forth from the kitchen sink to the pool trying to fill the thing up in time. I yelled out for Alex.
"HOLD. MY. HAND."
Labour is one of those things that requires a big, solid partner's hand. My mom tried to fill in at one point and I was like, "Mom, I'm sorry, but your hand is too small and bony."
After the pool was filled everyone was very concerned about me getting in it.
"Are you going to get in the pool?"
"Why aren't you in the pool?"
"I thought you wanted the pool?"
I'm like, "Yeah, I wanted the pool, and now I'm in labour and it fucking hurts and I just want to lay here, capiche?!"
"But don't you think you should try the pool? Maybe it will help!"
OK I'M GOING. JESUS.
The thing about contractions is... it's like you're being smushed in a garbage crusher. Like if your body were the crusher and it was crushing itself. I mean, that's basically exactly what's happening. You're squeezing a baby out. It hurts.
I waited for a break between the body-crushing contractions and I hobbled to the pool. The pain is so bad, that the time in between contractions feels like you've just been released from prison. It's awesome. Then another one hits and you're like fuckmylifefuckmylifefuckmylife. I got into the pool just in time for a contraction to hit and I just held my breath waiting for it to be over. (For the record you are absolutely not supposed to hold your breath but that's just how I cope with things.) At this point I was getting about 1-2 minutes of sweet sweet relief in between. As I felt the contraction ending, another one came on immediately. In my head I was like, "NO. NOPE. WRONG. I'M SUPPOSED TO GET 2 MINUTES NOW." That was the damn worst. Your body doesn't always play by the rules.
As I floated there in the tub I became increasingly agitated with each passing moment. I wanted to like the pool. I had rented the pool. The pool was the zen option. But I hated it. My natural reaction was to brace myself when the pain hit, and in the pool I had nothing to brace against. I was quite literally floating and the floating sensation coupled with the mind-numbing pain was the absolute fucking worst. I wanted the drugs. Everything felt amplified and I couldn't deal with it anymore. I wanted the pain to be done and as soon as I arrived at that conclusion, I realized that drugs would mean going to the hospital. I couldn't even walk from the bed to the pool - how the hell could I go to the hospital? I decided to go back to bed.
Now this is where it gets gross. There's still time to turn back!!!
I got into bed and I had the overwhelming sensation that I needed to poop.
"I'm gonna poo!!!", I yelled at our midwife, looking for some sort of solution. "Okay, why don't we check you?", she responded. Not exactly the resolution I was looking for.
"Um, Jenn... you're fully dilated", she announced, sounding shocked. "You're feeling your baby!"
My baby is poo?! Such confusion.
I told her I felt like I needed to push, and she said to go for it. I didn't exactly know how at first, but when my next contraction came my body kind of just did it. That's the thing with childbirth - there's a lot of work involved and it's hard as hell, but your body is like your partner. You work together naturally.
Before I knew what was happening there was another midwife in the room. I found out afterwards that our midwife had called her in for backup, which I think is the standard procedure, but because they had thought I had more time, it all happened pretty fast. The new midwife got onto the bed and started yelling at me to push harder. In my head I'm like, "Who the hell are you?! I'm pushing as hard as I can!" *fierce eye roll*
That was the only part that was just like the movies -- people shouting at you to push harder. Aside from that, the movies are a lie and I want a hundred refunds.
My water had yet to break and I was pushing with no success for what felt like an eternity. I was in an uncomfortable, weird position on the bed and our midwife was shoving her hand up there trying to break my water.
so. much. pain.
They brought out a mirror to try to motivate me. They showed me the top of Milo's hairy little head bobbing in and out. I was too exhausted to really understand what I was looking at. I pushed with every ounce of energy I could gather and suddenly everyone started freaking out. They were checking the baby's heart rate through my stomach every minute.
"Okay Jenn, his heart rate is dropping, we gotta get this done."
Umm, what do you think I've been doing here??? Like I'm not trying?!
They made me switch positions. First onto my side, then my hands and knees. I was so exhausted I couldn't even hold myself up. I was basically laying on my face with my butt in the air trying to push this kid out. The struggle is frigging so. real.
"Okay, get out of bed."
"Get onto this", our midwife gestured towards this metal device I've since learned is a "birthing chair". It looks sort of like a small walker but without wheels. At this point I think I was half asleep and half on another planet because I was really not understanding any of what was going on. I sat sideways (aka completely wrong) on the walker, and she told me to swing my legs around. I could feel a contraction coming and I was psyching myself up to push as hard as I could. I started to push and she told me to lean back into Alex. I didn't even know he was behind me. I leaned and I pushed with everything I had. I felt Milo's head pop out and I was relieved, but terrified because I'd heard the shoulders were the hardest to pass. But just as his head passed through I felt his shoulders, followed by unbelievable relief. He was out. Before I could register what had happened our midwife said, "Pick him up!" - as if it was the most obvious thing to do. In the movies, they always rush the baby away to clean him up and swaddle him and everything, so I literally just didn't know I could do that.
I picked him up, stunned. We got into bed and I cuddled him into my chest. My baby was here. It was over. I did it.
Once I came back down to earth I realized his umbilical cord was still... coming out of me. That was unpleasant. I tried to ignore it while Alex cut Milo's end. They then weighed him and diapered him and measured him and all was good. Until I started having contractions again. All I could think was please, no. I was so done with pain. Our midwife told me it was time to pass the placenta. I was so exhausted I felt like this was nature's cruel joke. But of course, the placenta was much, much smaller than Milo so it was much easier. But it was disgusting. It felt warm and squishy and Alex said the blood that followed was copious. I'm glad I didn't see that part.
Now that the birth was really over, it was time for stitches. Oh, yay. Our midwife strapped a flashlight to her head (yes, really), froze the area, and got to work. Because she had a student with her, she was instructing her on how to, ahem... sew me. That I could not deal with. It was enough knowing that there was damage enough to fix. I did not need the play-by-play on how to fix it.
"Um, can we not talk?", I begged. They obliged.
At this point Alex and my mom had taken the baby to show my dad. I was alone with 3 midwives, splayed on the bed, with a flashlight up my bits, and it was taking forever.
"So, how's it going?", I inquired. "Well, I stitched this part, but I took it out and I'm re-doing it to make it more aesthetically pleasing."
"MOM?" I needed someone to come and distract me from this hell. My mom came in and brought me some orange juice which was my first taste of nourishment in about 8 hours. It was so good.
Our midwives stayed for a few hours to make sure everything was fine and then they left. We were already home which was amazing. My parents went out to grab us some essentials which was a great help. If someone offers to help you with groceries or errands, let them! You'll need all the help you can get.
The first few days with baby were pretty crazy, but I think that's another chapter for another day. If you would like to hear about my recovery, please let me know! I may write a separate post about it.