Here is Joelle’s birth story, written so I don’t forget any of the wonderful details. And there’s a lot of details.
This birth went completely med-free (by choice). I still can’t believe I did it. I have to think back to that night’s events and double-check sometimes because it doesn’t seem real.
And as a result, this birth was much more, um, VIVID than my first. With Josiah, I did not appreciate how much the Stadol had subdued me. I don’t even remember the “ring of fire” with him. Things were fuzzy in retrospect, but I thought that was normal. Nope.
This was pretty much my dream labor. I (unintentionally) labored at home for the majority of it, and it went very quickly anyway. From check-in to birth was three hours and about six hours of labor total. No complications and a healthy baby. I was incredibly lucky to have this experience. A lot of women do everything “right” and it still doesn’t go the way they want.
I went to my 40 week appointment on my due date, Friday, April 11. My doctor suggested scheduling an induction in case baby girl didn’t come soon. I agreed only because the baby was lying on some nerves in my hip and often while walking my left leg would painfully lock up and I would get “stuck.” Not fun (and embarrassing in public)!
So an eviction date was set for Wednesday, April 16. I had been walking around at 3 cm dilated for weeks and was 4 cm at the appointment, so I was hopeful the induction wouldn’t be needed. My goal was a medication-free, intervention-free birth as long as we were both safe.
The weekend passed uneventfully. On Monday night, I took a Benadryl around 11 to help me sleep, but it only knocked me out for about 30 minutes and I woke up wide awake with contractions. I played around on my phone, hoping I’d get tired again soon. I was skeptical the contractions were real, and since I didn’t feel as “in labor” as I did when I had pre-term labor back in February, I mostly ignored them. I half-heartedly timed them, but gave up.
I had heard that a good thing to do early in labor is watch a funny movie because a) laughter gets the endorphins going, b) it distracts you from contractions and c) kills time. My husband graciously had taken to the couch to give me the whole bed, but the TV is in the living room and I didn’t want to wake him. Instead, I laid in bed and watched some newer Jenna Marbles videos I hadn’t seen. After a while they stopped being funny and I realized this could be something, so I ate some snacks and bounced on an exercise ball.
A couple more labor-y things happened (TMI to share, sorry) and at 2:30 a.m. I woke him up. He didn’t have a bag packed (men!), but we got out pretty quickly. At this point, I was contracting every two minutes and couldn’t walk through them.
The crazy thing was that I actually felt 100 percent normal between contractions. I could talk and walk, but when that contraction hit, I stopped dead in my tracks. So I wasn’t convinced I was in labor.
I had been following the “blood moon” lunar eclipse (remember that??) on Twitter as it peaked an hour earlier, but seeing it in person was totally different. Pictures did not do it justice – seriously creepy and not the kind of omen you want to be looking at while in labor in the middle of the night!
We got to the hospital at 3 a.m. and into triage. I brought the exercise ball almost as an afterthought. I felt silly bringing it in and shudder to think that if we had arrived in the middle of the day that I would have been too embarrassed to bring that big old thing inside. It saved my labor – SO glad I had it!!!
I changed into a gown, got a cervical check and BAM – best news ever! I was 8 cm, y’all! I would have jumped up and down if I could have. I think the nurse was amused. I had dared dream of maybe being at a 7, so this was awesome. I was already 80 percent done!
I got wheeled into a delivery room at 3:30 a.m. and made it clear I wanted nothing to do with the bed, if possible. I got an IV started (can’t remember if it was hooked up) and I labored on the ball for the next hour. My nurse, Kim, came back pretty frequently as my fetal monitor kept slipping off. By 4:30 a.m., I was much more uncomfortable and felt my bag of waters about to bulge out, but it wasn’t broken. Another check, still 8 cm. I was not happy about that. She offered to have the doctor break my water, but I said I’d rather wait and see what happens.
For the next hour, I knelt over the ball and rocked back and forth, side to side. I breathed and hummed and moaned – all that lovely Ina May stuff. 😉 My husband applied counter pressure to my lower back with a tennis ball, but it didn’t seem to help enough. I inquired about pain-relief options, but Kim said I was past the point where I could get Stadol and it was either an epidural or some hot or cold packs on my back. Talk about two extremes. I think I chose a cold pack.
By 5:15 or so, I was pretty miserable. I dreaded having to get on the bed for cervical checks. The contractions were absolute agony while lying on my back. For like the third time, I was offered a manual water break.
I was hesitant to go this route because it was a gamble. I was told it could speed things up, or not, but either way the contractions were going to get really intense. Now, I’m the kind of worrier who assumes that any intervention is going to eventually result in an emergency C-section. But since I (and my labor coach) had been up all night, I was mainly worried about exhausting myself since I was already getting pretty tired and still 8 cm.
I asked to speak to the doctor, who was a kindly, older woman. I asked her what I should do and she explained again what could happen. Seeing the indecision on my face, she said with a nod (and maybe even a wink?) in her kindly, I-have-caught-thousands-of-babies-and-know-what-I’m-doing kind of way, “Why don’t I break your water?” I nodded back and with much relief said “OK.”
She broke my water at 5:39 a.m. It did not hurt (actually felt kind of good?) but the first contraction made me feel like I had been thrown against a wall. I wasn’t allowed off the bed and endured these blindingly intense contractions for about 15 minutes, the longest minutes of my life. I would have screamed for an epi if I hadn’t been so close to pushing her out.
I was at 9.5 cm and with every contraction felt like the baby was about to fall out. The doctor said I could start pushing soon because she thought I’d get to a 10 in the process. A team of nurses came in and furiously began prepping and moving the stirrups and turning on blinding lights.
Kim then went into turbo delivery nurse mode and I was grateful. She barked out orders for me to get myself into position and push. My first two pushes were awkward and ineffective but I got into proper position for the next two, and with much cheerleading from my husband and the staff, out Joelle came, screaming. Someone called out 6:01 and I got super excited because that’s exactly when my son was born!
Words cannot describe the immediate relief felt after birthing a baby.
I have to note that something came out that felt like a beaded necklace. Pretty sure that was the umbilical cord. Just going to leave that image for you. My husband got to cut the cord this time. The doc said it was too short to delay the clamping or something.
The placenta felt oddly slimy, but once it was out, the relief was complete. I had it encapsulated. Jury is still out on whether it helped with recovery.
I ended up with a “jagged” second-degree tear (thanks, doc, for that description) but it didn’t feel any better or worse than the episiotomy I had with Josiah.
Right away a nurse set Joelle on my chest for skin-to-skin. She was thoroughly explaining why she was doing it and I was like, “Um, I’m OK with this, you don’t have to talk me into it!” It was funny to me, because three years ago in the same hospital I requested immediate skin-to-skin and a nurse looked at me like I had three heads. “Before his bath?!” she asked. Um, yes. And now apparently it’s standard procedure.
I bled more than they liked afterward, but the word “hemorrhage” was never used, so that’s good. I was in my recovery room not long after.
Recovery was much harder than I anticipated. I literally could not put one foot in front of the other to use the restroom. I couldn’t even get out of bed – someone had to pick up my legs and swivel me so they could help me out. (That was fun on my fresh stitches.)
That lasted a day or so. I wanted more help but some nurses kind of pushed me to help myself, which might have sped my recovery. Still, I didn’t think I was leaving without X-rays. I was sure something was broken. Turns out the ligaments in my pelvis were severely irritated by the delivery.
Joelle nursed well, but a bad latch on the right stung pretty badly. Still, I found breastfeeding came a thousand times more naturally with her since I already knew what to do. Proud to say she is well over her birth weight and also takes a pacifier – win win!
That’s about it. Thanks for reading.