It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with my first labor and birthing process. I wanted a very natural, calm, and intervention-less birth. That was my ideal, at least. But I soon realized that my ideal was not to be and I had to relinquish control and all expectations, as hard as that was (for my Type A self). At the end of the day, the Lord blessed with a beautiful baby girl and we are so unbelievably thankful for a healthy baby and delivery.
My mucus plug came out around 2:30 PM July 21st and my contractions started around 5:30 in the afternoon—they were mild and inconsistent, about 10 minutes apart. By 11PM, they were about 3 minutes apart and lasting about a minute each. During this time, I washed my bed sheets, took a shower, and had Parker help me straighten my hair.
A lot of the time between 11PM and 5AM is a blur to this day. I called my midwife a couple times and she had me head to the hospital, after our second call—because when she asked me if baby was moving as she should be, I said she was less active than normal. So, around 5:00/5:30AM, Parker packed the car and we went straight to the hospital. I remember asking Parker what time it was and he told me it was 5AM, and I was so confused about what happened from 11PM-5AM.
Once we arrived at the hospital, we had to go through the main entrance because it was after hours. The security guard escorted us up to maternity. In the maternity unit, they put me in the initial “let’s check out how your labor is progressing” room. The nurse hooked me up with the thumb monitor, along with placing little stickies on my belly to time my contractions. My midwife then came to check everything and see how far I was dilated. At this point, I was told I was only 1 cm dilated and that they wouldn’t let me go home because Clara’s heartbeat had dipped twice. So, they hooked me up to an IV immediately, because we were both dehydrated, which was what was causing her heart rate to dip. I was SO distraught at this point because ONE. my baby’s heart rate was dipping; TWO. I was ONLY dilated 1 cm; and THREE. I was being hooked up to an IV (and all I wished for was a completely natural birth, free of any intervention). At some point during this time, my doula also arrived.
Beyond the check-in room, they transferred me to the delivery room. I liked how many windows it had and how massive it was. Here, I changed out of the hospital gown and into my own delivery gown. At this point, things were getting really difficult; and again, I was somewhat absent from what was happening, between the physical sensations of contractions and the various steps the hospital staff underwent with me: I know I tried walking, different positions, the peanut ball (I got a little relief from this), but it wasn’t until I got in the shower that I felt somewhat okay.
My doula and Parker told me I was in the shower for hours. The only mild relief came from hot water falling on my belly. (Thinking about this I LOL because the night before, I had showered, shaved, and washed my hair in preparation, and had Parker straighten my hair. Well, the hair straightening part was essentially pointless, because while in the shower, my hair became a hot mess). While in the shower, my doula and Parker kept bringing me juice to sip on, because they were afraid I was getting dehydrated. The shower was my only relief; however, I was so tired from not sleeping the night before that I kept falling asleep in the shower, in between contractions. So, there I was…standing in a hot shower, belly out, slipping and sliding around everywhere. At this point, it was mid-afternoon, July 22nd, and I was getting really frustrated (mainly because I was so unbelievably tired and getting crankier by the minute). I whispered to Parker that I wanted to talk about possible pain relief options so I could rest a little. In my mind, I was worried about having to get a c-section because I was so drained.
When the midwife came in to talk about pain management options, she mentioned two: an opioid-based drip or epidural. For some reason, they were pushing the opioid-based medication and this is where I got snappy with my doula, midwife, nurse, and Parker. I was already so tired and delirious from dehydration, and opioids make me feel really nauseous and groggy. So, it wouldn’t help me to get opioids, in any circumstance. I requested an epidural—I remember asking them if it was too late for an epidural, and my midwife explained that it wasn’t a matter of "too late" (it’s never too late), it’s a matter of me standing absolutely still during the process so the anesthesiologist can get the needle in properly.
Within 15 to 30 minutes, the anesthesiologist came in to administer the epidural. I don’t remember much about it whatsoever (zero pain). The thing I remember is I made the conscious decision to not look at what she was carrying (I HATE needles); and I remember being asked to sit up straight on the edge of my bed and to tell her when a contraction was coming. Parker was down in front of me and he had his hands on my knees, for emotional support. I do not remember feeling anything at all—compared to my contractions and being in labor for so many hours, this was a literal walk in the park.
As soon as the epidural kicked in, my water broke immediately and I dilated two centimeters. My body was finally able to relax and move closer to the real labor. I was told to be on one side for a while and then switch to the other side so that the epidural could kick in on both halves of my body. They also put in a catheter, which freaked me out, but was painless. After this, I fell asleep immediately. Let me tell you, this was the sweetest, best sleep of life. It felt like I was floating. I slept for about two hours and I remember the nurse coming in at one point, telling me my labor slowed down and that they would need to administer Pitocin, in order to keep my labor progressing. I dozed in and out of sleep for the next few hours until about 10PM, when I called my midwife to tell her I felt pressure. When she checked, she said I was ready to start pushing soon! As soon as she said this, my heart swelled with joy and anticipation—we would finally be able to meet our little nugget and see her sweet face! The joy and excitement I felt was indescribable.
The room got really busy at this point—more nurses came in, there was a lot of buzz around baby’s arrival. I think there were at least ten people in the room. Once everyone was ready and the room was prepared for Clara’s arrival, they told me to hold my legs up and be ready to push. After the first round of pushing, I was able to feel her head—such an unreal feeling. When my midwife told me to reach down and feel her head, it gave me supernatural strength; and after the second round of pushing, Clara was out! In just seven minutes of pushing, I was able to meet my little angel. She started crying immediately and they placed her on my chest and both Parker and I started crying.
Afterward, Parker cut the umbilical cord, with my insistent urging (he almost didn’t want to). I told Parker that once they take Clara to warm her up, clean her off and get all her stats, that his eyes should be on her the entire time. Meanwhile, we were still waiting to deliver my placenta. After a few minutes, the midwife saw that my placenta had no intention of coming out on its own, so she went to get the doctor. This part was intense. I was told that the doctor would need to remove my placenta manually. I felt this even through the epidural. My doula said she had only witnessed this one other time in all of her births. Let me tell ya, it was NOT FUN. My doctor reached in and basically scraped my uterus to ensure every piece was out. If I wasn’t so excited , I likely would have screamed. If I didn’t have the epidural, it would have been EXCRUCIATING. Thank the Lord for modern medicine! Once the whole placenta debacle was over and Clara got all her stats, things got pretty quiet in our room. We just snuggled her, did skin to skin, and got to work on latching & breastfeeding. Needless to say, we were on Cloud 9 and so overjoyed to be a family of 3. Thankful for the wonderful teams at Sentara Leigh and WomanCare Centers who took great care of me and Clara throughout pregnancy and delivery!
In the past year, Clara has brought so much joy into our lives and it just keeps getting better & better. It's our greatest honor to parent her and watch her grow and discover the world.