Warning: the following story may contain too much information, gross details, or things you may not want to hear. But if you've already had a baby yourself, you will probably be okay with it.
My due date was on a Thursday - July 8th actually. You may recall that I was all geared up for this baby to be way overdue like Elijah was. So when, on the day before my due date, my doctor told me we were seeing some progress I was both hopeful and surprised. The next 48 or so hours were a blur, so before I forget the details I better take a minute to write them down. And since I know you're waiting anxiously to hear all about it, I'm going to tell you the whole story of Ezekiel's birth. (or almost the whole story)
So on Wednesday the 7th I saw my OB for my 40 week check-up. She reported the happy news that all those "pre" contractions may have been working after all. When she checked my progress I was at 4 cm! She stripped my membranes and informed me she'd be leaving town for vacation on Friday. So if it worked, one of her partners would be delivering the baby. I decided not to get my hopes up, but started mentally preparing myself for the possibility that he might come sooner than later. I tried drinking some raspberry leaf tea to hopefully kick things into gear too. It's pretty bitter tasting if you want to know.
That afternoon I spent some time with my Grandma watching my cousin have swim lessons and trying to relax and stay as cool as possible. I could tell pretty much immediately that stripping the membranes had made some difference because what had been barely a noticeable tightening of my abdomen turned into fairly uncomfortable cramps. Not the kind that make you stop in your tracks - just a little like cramp cramps. You know? This went on all afternoon but slowed down after we got settled in for the night. I never did time them because when I spoke with my doula she said they aren't the real deal until they become too intense to ignore, which these were not. Plus from what I could tell they weren't coming in regular intervals.
The morning of my due date brought an even bigger surprise. When I went to the bathroom I discovered the dreaded... duh duh duh... mucus plug. Yuck. It sounds way grosser than it actually is. But still just saying it makes me feel icky. It was then that I started to believe maybe the time was getting close. A few hours later I noticed what they call "bloody show", which after checking again with my doula, is just a nice way of knowing labor could be soonish - but with no guarantees. So again, I spent the day with my Grandma. She came to my Mom's house to help me with Elijah while I tried to rest. We had Chinese food for lunch, then just sat around for the rest of the day. During lunch I realized that some of the contractions were taking it up a notch, enough to make me stop and take notice, but not enough to disrupt what I was doing.
That evening after getting Elijah off to dreamland was when I really started to have some decent ones. I went ahead and took a nice long hot shower, shaved my legs, cleaned up the house, and made sure everything we needed for the hospital was near the back door.
Around 10 pm I decided to start timing them and came to discover they were about 6-7 minutes apart, consistently. We "went to bed" (aka, layed there while timing contractions and having Manny rub my back in various positions) around 11ish but didn't actually rest. Around midnight we called our doula again to let her know how things were moving. She suggested I try to labor at home as long as possible and when they get 5 minutes apart for 1 hour or when I have 12 in a row that are difficult to talk through that's when we should head to the hospital.
An hour later they were still 6 minutes apart and not increasing in intensity (I would give them a 3 on the pain scale). However Manny was becoming pretty anxious at this point so we decided to pack up the car and head over to my Mom's house (where Elijah was to spend the night) just in case things were to start progressing faster. I really just didn't feel an urgency to go anywhere once we were settled in. So we tried to go to bed and wait it out. The contractions kept coming but at that point were too sporadic to time and just didn't hurt enough for me to consider them the real deal. Although I will say that there was no doubt in my mind that this was indeed the beginning. Around 4 am I finally dozed off.
On Friday (the 9th) we woke up to a big break in the action. No hard contractions to speak of. I was just DEAD tired from being awake most of the night. I felt like cooking so I made a big breakfast and stuffed my face... I WAS FAMISHED! Afterwards we let Elijah veg out in front of Nick Jr for a while (I know, I'm a bad mommy) so I could rest. Then my brother was over there so he volunteered to watch him while I caught a nice long nap. I ended up sleeping from 10 am - 1 pm.
It was when I woke up from that nap around 1:00 that I finally recognized a shift in the labor pains. I can now say with confidence that's when the "active labor" began. Where they had been only a small nuisance before, I really started to notice them then. I figured it couldn't hurt to start timing contractions, so that's what we did. For a solid hour they were exactly 5 minutes apart. Then about 15 minutes later we noticed they had started to come every 3 minutes. At that point they still weren't more than a 3-4 on the pain scale. But I was pretty sure they wouldn't be letting up this time. I tried walking, stretching, and changing positions, and nothing seemed to make them lessen.
It was then, at almost 3:00 we decided it's time to go ahead and drop off Elijah with my Grandma and head to the hospital. I remember noticing the time when we got in the car was 3:11 pm. So at that point I kind of started to get nervous. I realized what was about to happen and for the first time I didn't feel ready.
By the time we got half-way through the 20 minute drive to my Grandma's house I noticed another shift in the pain. This time the intensity was increasing and I was having to stop talking and concentrate my way through each contraction. We didn't bother timing them much, but when we did they were ranging from 2-3 minutes apart.
I cried when we dropped off Elijah. I knew it was the end of his world as he knew it. I knew I would see very little of him over the next 48 hours. And I knew that life was about to change for all of us. It was like the closing of a chapter that I wasn't quite ready to end. I have LOVED loved loved being just Elijah's Mommy. And I couldn't wrap my heart around the idea of sharing myself with another little person. I just felt like I'd be cheating him out of some measure of love.
Anyway, back to the story. It took us another 30 minutes to drive to the hospital from there. Traffic was terrible with construction and the fact that it was almost 4:00 on a Friday. On the way we made the "you'd better meet us at the hospital ASAP" phone calls to my parents and doula Mary. By the time we hit the Lloyd my contractions were 2 minutes apart and probably a 5 in intensity. I was starting to get kind of anxious that we made it there in time judging by how quickly we were moving from one stage to the next.
At last we got there and checked in. I'm not sure exactly what time we arrived, but I remember looking at the clock in the triage room once I was in the bed and noticing it was about 4:20 or so. A nurse checked my progress and told me I was at about 4.5 cm at that time. But then things really started to move quickly!
2 contractions after she checked me my water broke. And dang it if there wasn't meconium. I was so worried that this would mean I needed antibiotics or something. But it didn't. Turns out Zeke was fine. Right after that happened my parents and Mary arrived. It took me a minute to gain my composure and let them in the little triage room because by that time the contractions were less than 2 minutes apart and getting more painful each time. I'm not sure how, but we managed to stop and smile for a photo or two.
The nurse went ahead and called Dr. Reisinger (she was on call for Dr. Brown that day) since they could tell I was progressing VERY fast.
About 4:40 she checked my progress again and reported that I was at almost 7 cm. Dang! No wonder it hurt - in 20 minutes time I had dilated 3 cm! It seemed like a hundred years later they moved me to my delivery room (but it was really only about 20 minutes). We opted to have them just roll the bed in stead of having me get out and into a wheelchair. There was no possible way I would have been able to move my legs at that point - I was so close to transition.
My doula, bless her soul, was such a calming influence. She kept encouraging me that I was doing great and things were moving really fast. But I didn't feel like I was doing great at all. In fact I didn't feel like I was doing anything. Labor is one of those things that just happens to you. You have no control over your body or your pain. You're just along for the ride and praying that God would deliver you soon and very soon. I am so serious about that last part. I tried the relaxation techniques as Mary coached me through... breath deeply, visualize a happy place, hum, moan, rock back and forth (FREAKING IMPOSSIBLE). But finally I settled for squeezing the living tarnation out of Manny's hand, praying, and whining... no make that screaming. It started out as whining/ moaning and progressed to higher decibels as labor intensified. Manny was such a trooper. I know it was pretty crazy for him too, seeing me go through the ordeal. But he was there for me and supportive the whole way.
To be honest the whole thing was a whirlwind and there are only pieces that I recall clearly. I don't really remember what my parents were doing. Except I did look up a few times to see my mom excitedly peering over the doctor and nurses' shoulders to catch a glimpse of the action. I remember my Dad holding the camera and sitting in a chair on the far side of the room. But I don't think either of them spoke to me. Maybe they did and I've forgotten.
Once we made it to our delivery room things were so intense I kind of blocked out most of the activity around me. I know that it wasn't too long after we got in there that Dr. Reisinger arrived and checked my progress. Her first check indicated that I was at 8 cm already. It was right about then that a cocky little red-headed nurse named Erin came up and said "You know, nobody wins a prize for refusing pain medication. Are you sure you don't want that epidural?" My first thought was "ARE YOU SERIOUS? Didn't you read my birth plan? I specifically put in there DO NOT OFFER ME ANY MEDICATION for a reason! Get out of my freaking face you jerk!" Then after that I thought "Even if I wanted one now it would be too late, so shut the heck up and get away from me!" But what I actually said was "no." Yeah, I was a little angry with her. When that particular contraction died down I called Mary to my side and asked if she could keep that woman away from me. I don't know if she said anything to her or if the she just got the hint.
Anyway, it was obvious to everyone, including myself, that I was experiencing pretty much the most overwhelming pain in the entire world. Each time another contraction came (which by then was about every 90 seconds) I would concentrate with all my might to keep the screaming down to just moaning or something else. I tried to bite down on a wash cloth, putting my hands over my mouth, my pillow over my face, whispering prayers for help, humming, blowing long breaths out, but nothing could keep the inevitable "aaahhhh" or "nnnnooooo" from escaping my lips. Then each time I would apologize profusely to everyone who had to witness it. I can't believe I acted that way. Look at all the times I've said that making noise during labor is a waste of energy. But come to find out, sometimes verbalizing the pain is the only way a body can release it. At least that's the only thing that worked for me. And no, it didn't help the pain go away at all. It just gave me something to do I guess. No, really. I simply could not keep myself from it. So strange. I think about how many times over the course of that hour I had said "I can't do this. I don't want to do this. Why did I say no medication?" But then I would come right back and repeat to myself "I can do this. I can do this. I MUST do this!"
There was one point where I was sure I was having an out of body experience. The fetal monitor had slipped down too far and they were having trouble hearing the baby's heartrate. So the nurses insisted I roll over on my side to get more oxygen to the baby. Meanwhile they also insisted I put on an oxygen mask. All the mask did was suffocate me during the contractions. I would try to suck in a big lungful of air, but all I got was plastic stuck to my nose and mouth. So there I was... I could not open my eyes and I felt like my body was literally splitting in two, and to top it off I was being asphyxiated. So not cool. Finally I ripped the darn thing off myself.
While I was on my side I started to notice something really crazy happening. At the height of each contraction it felt like I was pushing. Like when you throw up and your abs contract on their own to force the stuff up. It was like that, only the opposite end of the body. The contractions were pushing the baby out on their own. I remember reading that you're not supposed to push until the doctor says. So I was focusing on not pushing. I didn't have the urge to really. It's just that my body was doing it and I couldn't stop myself. Next I felt a HUGE gush - like tidal wave - even though my water had already broken, I guess it didn't totally leak out or something. Then once that one was over they moved me over to my back and poured something freezing cold on... you know... the area. (I think it was antiseptic.) Then it started to burn like crazy. They call it the "ring of fire" I'm told. And yeah, it really does burn. Plus the doctor was helping to stretch the skin to avoid a tear, so that added to the burning.
Then the doctor checked me again and informed me I was complete and ready to push whenever I wanted to. They hoisted my legs up into these holder things and told me to go for it when I was ready. I figured the sooner I pushed him out the sooner the pain would stop. So I pushed. I think I pushed 5 times. Could have been 6. And that's it. Just like that. His head was out. They told me to stop while she sucked out his nose and mouth. Then they told me to go for it again. His body was much easier to deliver than his head. Probably because the doctor was kind of helping pull him out. But looking back the pushing was the easiest part. It was almost a relief after the other stuff. Just knowing the end was near. Frankly I was surprised at how quickly he came. But believe me when I say it was not a moment too soon!
And so, at 5:22 pm, emerged little Ezekiel Joseph into this world. One hour after we arrived at the hospital.
He cried a nice big cry right away. They placed him on my chest while they cleaned him up and waited for the cord to stop pulsing. From my angle I couldn't see his face, but I was able to reach down and put my hand on his slimy little body. He was covered in goo but I didn't care. I held his tiny hand while Manny and I shared our moment. I can't remember exactly what we said to each other, but it had something to do with "I can't believe I did it." I know he was proud of me. And I was proud of myself. I still can't believe I did it.
Manny cut the cord, then they moved Ezekiel over to the warmer to be weighted and measured. Then I delivered the placenta (which the doctor said was "really a big one"), got a few stitches, and got cleaned up. The room cleared out and then it was just our family left to enjoy our new little one.
Yes, that scale does indeed read 8 pounds, 11 ounces! This boy is a whopper! No wonder I felt so huge... I WAS so huge! We all kept saying "Wow, I can't believe he's so big!"
But he was worth all of it... the discomfort, exhaustion, swollen feet, labor, and all.
Every. single. bit.