I was not one of those women that just wanted the pregnancy to be over. I was still feeling pretty good at 40 weeks. I hadn't been able to run in a while, but I was still walking and staying active. I knew my baby boy was comfortable below my heart, and told him I would just prefer that he get here before Christmas (he was due December 18th), so that I could enjoy a mimosa that morning.
I went to work on Thursday the 18th, his due date. I hadn't felt anything that made me think labor was close, so I figured I would work until my mom flew in that day. On Friday the 19th, I went to a doctor's appointment to schedule the day that we would induce labor, which I hoped we wouldn't have to do. I was dilated to 2 centimeters, 80% effaced. The doctor did a membrane sweep, and I immediately started feeling more uncomfortable and more regular contractions (I had been feeling braxton hicks for weeks).
We went to bed that night, and at 3am, I woke up with more painful contractions, 5 minutes apart. I waited until I was sure I was getting them regularly, and then woke up James. He woke up my mom and got things ready for the hospital, while I started using some of the methods I had learned to get through the pain. I sent out one text to my best friend "we're on our way to the hospital. I think I might be having a baby today."
We checked in to the family birth center at the hospital early that morning and things were starting to get pretty uncomfortable for me. They checked me and I was 3 centimeters dilated.
I had planned for the birth to be completely natural. My mom had 3 c-sections, because she never dilated past 2 centimeters, and I hoped that a natural drug-free birth would prevent this from happening. My husband and I had a birth plan all typed out. He had read a book called "The Birth Partner" to prepare to be my support during the labor. He even decided that our code word for if I decided I really needed pain relief was going to be "Millenium Falcon."
James was fantastic. We "slow danced" through many of the contractions, he rubbed my back and applied pressure during some terrible back labor, covered me with a towel in the labor tub while I was still feeling self-conscience of being naked in front of nurses, and prayed over me. My mother was also there and put it upon herself to make sure I was hydrated by offering me water to sip in between contractions. The contractions got closer and closer together and more and more painful. In our birth plan, I said that I wanted minimal cervical checks. The nurse said some encouraging things that made me think my labor was progressing rather quickly, so I thought the end was in sight.
At some point (I think around 3pm), I agreed to a cervical check. I was sure that I had to be at least 7 or 8 centimeters because my contractions were so close together, some of them "double-humped" contractions. Then the nurse told me I was only at 4 centimeters. Heartbroken, I rolled into the pillow and sobbed. It was at this point that I really started to question my natural labor plan.
I don't really remember very much during this time, but I remember that I was breathing very strongly to the point that I was almost hyperventilating through each contraction. I was crying and told my husband that I didn't think I could do it and that I really needed something. I think I complained like this for a little while, without actually meaning it or ever using the "code word." Several hours later, I got another check and I had progressed, but I was only at 5 centimeters.
I do remember feeling embarrassed when I said in front of the nurse, "James... I think I really need the epidural. I... Millenium Falcon... need the epidural." (I mumbled this so the nurse probably thought I said that I m***** f****** needed the epidural.) The nurse suggested we try Fentanyl first, which we did. After a while, it was clear it didn't any affect on me, besides making me feel a little dizzy. So we decided on the epidural. I asked James if he thought I was making the right decision, because I was terrified that it would slow down my labor. He assured me that he thought it was, and told me later he would have considered it sooner except that I hadn't used the code word. The anesthesiologist came in and James told him about my fears. He very gently assured us that he thought I was far enough along that he didn't think I had to worry about that. A few minutes later, he was my favorite person in the hospital. Instead of intense pain, I felt just a small amount of pressure. I looked at the clock and saw that counting from when I woke up at 3am, I had make it through 15 hours of labor.
Now, I was actually able to get some sleep. My mom, and especially James, were able to get a break too. The nurse checked me a few hours later and told me I was still about a five. From there, we made the decision to break my waters to help me progress. This worked very well, and by 1am on the 21st, the nurse told me it was time to push.
I remember feeling excited and thinking "this is actually happening. Right now. I'm about to have a baby." It sounds strange, but in all the pain of labor, you forget why you're there sometimes. It hit me right then. I had been in labor for 21 hours, but it wasn't until that moment that it felt like something was truly about to start. This was that breath of air before the plunge. Like when the race official says "on your mark," or like when the song started that signaled that I was about to walk down the aisle with my dad toward my husband-to-be.
I remember there were a lot of hospital staff in the room. James held one of my legs and my mom held my head while I pushed. At one point, my doctor asked me if she could put a fetal monitor on my baby's head, because she was concerned about the baby's heart rate and wanted to be able to see it during the contractions. I told her I would rather she didn't (who wants a monitor screwed to their baby's head unless it's absolutely necessary?), and waited to see if she would insist, which she never did.
After a couple more minutes of pushing, she told me that my baby's heart rate was continuing to go up, showing distress, and that he needed to come out soon. That was absolutely terrifying to hear. Let me tell you, if I wasn't pushing my hardest before, I was definitely pushing my hardest now. The doctor then told me that she wanted to use the vacuum assist to help me. James and I had both read about the method and agreed. After she started pulling while I was pushing, things started happening a lot faster. The nurse told me "you're doing so well! You are so strong!" I don't know if she tells every woman that, but it was definitely encouraging to hear. I started to feel the "ring of fire" and at one point, I was sure that the baby's head had to be at least half-way out, but then someone said "we can see his hair!" Finally, I felt a huge relief of pressure as Jensen was born into the world at 1:41am on December 21st, 22 hours after I had woken up in labor at home. He did cry a little bit, but it took a little while for him to make a lot of noise, because he had a little meconium in his lungs. They put him on my chest and James cut the cord. I had only pushed for about 40 minutes. I suffered a second degree tear, but I still consider this a huge win, considering how quickly he had to come out (so I had less time to stretch) and how scared I was of a c-section.
It is a strange thing to finally see and hear the tiny person that was hidden inside me for 9 months. He was 8 pounds, 12 ounces and a chubby little thing, but he felt so little. By the time he was placed on me, he was already a beautiful healthy pink color. His breathing was a little labored, but after a few minutes, he let out a huge yell that made us all feel better about his lungs. The back of his head did have a small round part sticking up a little from the vacuum suction-cup (which disappeared within a few hours to a bruise that was gone within a few days), but other than that, he looked absolutely perfect. I thought that I would cry, but I didn't. I was full of adrenaline and paying close attention to everything the doctors and nurses said to make sure he was okay.
James went with Jensen to the nursery. His breathing was still a little labored and he had a slightly raised temperature, so the head nurse recommended that he get checked out. His breathing ended up quickly getting better, and his temperature was gone. We think in hindsight that he only had a temperature because he was placed on top of me right after I had worked so hard to push him out.
I got through 15 hours of drug-free labor, and 22 hours of labor total. I don't have any regrets about getting the epidural, because I don't think I would have had the endurance to push at the end like I had. I also don't wish I had gotten the epidural sooner, because I don't know if my progression would have been different if I hadn't held out so long. I think I inherited from my mom a cervix that just doesn't keep up with the intensity of the contractions. Maybe, with a future pregnancy, I'll be able to do a natural labor for the whole time. But for now, I feel incredibly blessed and thank God that my labor went the way it did. Having both my husband and my mom there as support was such a huge blessing. I avoided the c-section that I hoped so dearly to avoid and our baby is perfectly healthy. We thank God every day for him, and we couldn't be happier.