The Monday before Ada was born, I woke up at 2 am with intense cramping. I couldn’t sleep, so I rocked on my exercise ball, applied a heating pad to my back, and snacked a bit. The contractions were painful, but I could easily talk through them. They were happening regularly—about every 5 minutes.
I’m Irritable! Give Me Peace and Quiet!
The contractions slowed during the day on Monday. I was incredibly irritable and just wanted peace and quiet in the house. I spent some time upstairs attempting to nap between contractions, but this was very difficult. The contractions picked up again in the middle of the night, and I spent some more time on the exercise ball and in the bathtub. Even between contractions, I had terrible back pain.
To The Hospital and Right Back Home Again
By Tuesday at 4 am, I felt something shift, and things seemed to be getting much more intense. I woke my husband and we headed to the hospital. To my dismay, I was only at 1.5 cm despite very painful regular contractions. The nurse told me I was definitely in labor and complimented me on my breathing during contractions. (Guess I learned something in prenatal yoga class!) They sent us home, and I labored for 12 more hours in the tub, shower, and on the exercise ball. My husband helped by massaging my back and timing contractions.
Discouraged and Inconsolable
When I started not being able to talk much, we left for the hospital again—this time through rush hour traffic—around 4pm. Not a fun car ride! They put me in a room right away and strapped the monitors on me. My contractions were coming one minute apart. They checked me, and I was SO discouraged to find out I was still at 1.5 cm! They told me to walk around for an hour to try to progress. I think I lasted five minutes before I wanted to go back to the room and just sit down. It was here that I became inconsolable and said over and over ,”I can’t do this.” I felt no relief whatsoever between contractions, and I hadn’t slept in 36 hours. To think I had so much farther to go was extremely discouraging.
I discussed some pain relief options with the nurse and considered IV drugs but decided to get the epidural. Unfortunately, the anesthesiologist had just gone into surgery. Waiting an hour for him to come was excruciating. I remember gripping the pillow with all my might and being so uncomfortable on that hospital bed and in too much pain to try other positions. I also remember feeling like I had a broken rib in my back. The nurse kept pushing me to have Dr. Cobb break my water before he left the hospital, but I told her I really didn’t want this before having pain relief in case it really intensified things.
Happy To See The Anesthesiologist
Finally around 8pm, I was at 4 cm. The anesthesiologist, explained EVERYTHING he was doing and why he was doing it. Having the epidural put in was a total breeze, and it started kicking in after about 10 minutes. Having that pain taken away was soooo heavenly. It was really weird having numb legs, but I still had a tiny bit of control over them. Sometimes I felt pressure from the contractions, but it was totally manageable. At some point, they had me wear an oxygen mask – incredibly annoying! I let it fall off a few times and sometimes just removed it and hoped the nurses didn’t notice. Another frustration was having the blood pressure cuff on me at all times. It hurt my arm and made it impossible to get comfortable because it was so stiff, which leads me to another annoying thing—constantly having a nurse in our room watching the monitor.
Fully Dilated But Thrown A Curve Ball
My labor started progressing nicely, my water broke on its own, and I was fully dilated at 1 am. It was time to push! Dr. Cobb arrived, sleepy-eyed, as he had just done a C-section a number of hours earlier and had to turn right back around for my delivery. Nurses helped put my legs in the stirrups and instructed me to take a deep breath, hold it in, and push with all my might as they counted to ten. I would do this 3 times during each contraction, although at one point they were concerned about Ada’s heart rate and had me just do two pushes or alternate contractions. I started to get pretty exhausted and asked for water. My husband would help me sip it between contractions. Eventually the epidural wore off enough so I could anticipate each contraction and start to bring my legs up for pushing. I asked to try pushing on my side after a while. At one point, the nurse told me she could see that the baby had blonde hair. When I heard that, I felt super encouraged and that I could push for hours and hours and hours.
I pushed for 3 hours, but Ada didn’t descend any more after the initial hour of pushing. Dr. Cobb recommended a C-section, and I agreed to it. Despite this being an unfavorable outcome, I had peace about this route, knowing that he wouldn’t recommend it if he didn’t feel it was the wisest choice.
You’ll Be Parents In 10 Minutes – Surreal!
They told us we would be parents in ten minutes and wheeled me into the operating room. Crazy!! The room was so bright, and there were so many people there. They upped the epidural in prep for surgery, and I started to feel kind of weird, because it reached up to my chest, making my breathing feel sluggish and like I’d been given a narcotic. The screen they put up was so close to my face, and I kept wanting to push it away from me. I felt a bit of pressure from the surgical procedures but no pain. And then… a baby crying. They did whatever they needed to do to her, and this felt like it took FOREVER. They told my husband to come see her, but he said he’d wait for me. Finally…they put the baby on my chest, all swaddled up. I’ll never forget those dark little eyes staring at me above chubby smooth little cheeks. It was absolutely surreal. I couldn’t believe she was finally here and SO adorable. It turns out Ada was occiput posterior, which could explain my horrible back labor and may have made it hard for Ada to rotate and come out the birth canal.
Cesarean Recovery Was A Whole Different Ballgame!
The hospital stay was not fun for me. There were some really great nurses, some rude nurses, some really pushy lactation consultants, and various people coming into our room every 5 minutes it seemed like. I could not wait to get out of there. There seemed to be a huge lack of communication among the nursing staff, and this worsened when we were unexpectedly and rapidly moved into a separate recovery room.
I was completely unprepared for how difficult and painful the c-section recovery would be. The incision wound was very painful, and I was on meds for several weeks after the surgery. I could barely make it up the stairs at home. Trying to get situated in bed every night was a long, slow, painful process. I was constipated for a week. (These are the things no one tells you about!!). I also had some sort of allergic reaction to the tape used for the epidural and surgery, so I ended up with an itchy rash all over my back, stomach, and thighs. Recovering from major surgery while attempting to care for a newborn is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. The long recovery actually made my painful labor pale a bit in comparison. The pain of labor is temporary, but the pain of surgery, while different, lasts much, much longer! One year later, I still feel sharp twinges and itchiness at the incision site. It’s also still mostly numb around the scar. I so wish I’d had a doula there with me for extra support during labor. Spouses can be incredibly helpful, but I think a doula provides invaluable services—knowledge of comfort techniques and different labor positions, familiarity with the doctors and hospital staff, and wisdom from attending many different births. The epidural seemed to allow my body to relax enough to dilate fully, but I regret not being able to really feel my pushing. I am so glad to live in a time when we have the option of C-section when medically necessary, but I’m going to try for a VBAC with my next birth—and I’ll definitely have a doula!
by Megan Burdick