I'd been having Braxton Hicks contractions for weeks, and at my last appointment my doctor had said I was dilated to 2 centimeters, and 90% effaced. Since this was my first baby, she still wasn't convinced that labor would start soon. In fact, since my Mom had been 10 days overdue with me, the doctor had informed me that late babies tend to be hereditary, and that there was a good possibly I would go late with this one too. Since my official due date was March 12, we were hoping for a special "late" baby that would come on my Dad's birthday - March 16th.
Fast forward a few days ahead, to March 10th (my niece's birthday), and I had been having lots of Braxton Hicks contractions all day - but still nothing really unusual. Nate and I decided to go to dinner that night, and on the way there, I called my niece. After birthday wishes, she handed the phone to my sister, who joked "Am I going to get a phone call later tonight?" since she was planning to attend the birth (and lived 5 hours away). I laughed, and assured her that this wasn't the beginning of labor.
After dinner, I thought I had an upset stomach from something I ate, and continued to ignore the more frequent, but still painless contractions. Finally, around 9 pm, they started getting more "serious" and Nate decided that it wouldn't be a bad idea to start timing them. "Just in case". I had expected labor to feel so different - and painful. This felt more like stomach pains. I commented to Nate that I would feel better if we packed a bag (since we'd put that off with the false assumption that we had "plenty of time") for the hospital.
Nate suggested that I call my Mom, and let her know what was going on, since I'd wanted to have her present at the birth. By this point it was getting late, and I knew she'd already be in bed - with a workday before her the next day. I really wasn't convinced that this was labor, and I didn't want to be one of "those" moms who ended up in the hospital only to be sent home later. I commented that we should wait a little longer, until we were sure. After all, it was going to be a three and a half hour drive for her, and I didn't want it to be in vain. "Well, would you be more sad if you called her for a false alarm, or because you waited too long to call, and she missed the birth?" my wise husband admonished me . . .
I decided to take a shower, since my lower back was bothering me, and I thought standing under the warm water would help. By this point, Nate was following me around the house (in between throwing stuff, literally - into a suitcase) timing the contractions. They were coming every 5 minutes, and getting more and more intense. At around 11:30, I called the hospital with the "I think I might be in labor, but I'm not sure" speech. The kind nurse was so helpful on the phone, and encouraged me to stay at home as long as I was comfortable. She said that as long as I could still talk through contractions, it was probably okay for me to wait to come in, since this was my first. Also, we live 5 minutes from the hospital, and we weren't anticipating much traffic at that time of night if we needed to make a dash for it. ;)
At midnight, I called my Mom, and apologized profusely for waking her. "I think I'm in labor, but we're still at home". We had plenty of time, right? This was my first baby, after all - I really wasn't feeling in a hurry. Thankfully, she already had her bag packed, and in the car. All she had to do was get dressed, and she was on her way. I also called my sister, much to her amusement. We had finished packing, and then I started, um, cleaning. Haha! I figured if we had called my Mom and Sister, even if this was a false alarm, they'll still be staying with us for a few days, and I wanted my bathroom to be clean! By this point, it was taking effort to breathe through the contractions, and Nate was getting awfully nervous. I remember leaning over the bathroom sink, encouraging him, "I can still talk! It's okay, Honey!" Looking back, this seems ridiculous, but I wanted to put a little make up on before we left for the hospital, because if this was true labor, I wanted to feel pretty. So silly.
By the time I had cleaned, and put a little make-up on, my contractions were coming every two minutes, and Nate was really *strongly* suggesting that we head over to the hospital. I finally agreed that yes, that sounded like a pretty good idea. Unfortunately, by this point I was also starting to feel pretty nauseous, and the car ride to the hospital, short though it was, was pretty unpleasant. By the time we got there, I had to lean on Nate for support and breathe through another contraction before we even entered the hospital. It was close to 2 in the morning, and as it was in the wee hours of a Friday morning, both of us had been up since the weekday morning before - so we were running on sheer adrenaline.
By the time I had been checked in and settled into a room, they informed me that I was 6 cm dilated. I was relieved that I really was in labor (I obviously wasn't thinking clearly anymore, haha!) and that I had labored so far on my own at home. Things kept rolling along at a good clip, and soon I was in "transition." The nurse had observed that I had a LOT of amniotic fluid, and that each time she checked me, my bag of waters would probably break. It never did, so she offered to go ahead and do it to get me closer to pushing. By that point, I wanted to do anything that would get the delivery there sooner! Nate had been calling/texting my Mom updates the whole time, and she was starting to panic that she would miss it! By the time she arrived, I was 8 1/2 cm dilated, and as she had never been to the hospital, she had actually parked near the ER entrance, and had to run, with all her heavy camera gear, across the hospital campus to the Labor and Delivery building for fear of missing the birth. My Mom is a trooper!
Nate was the perfect coach through the whole thing. He never left my side, even to use the bathroom. We had taken one of those "labor prep" classes, so he knew all sorts of different massage techniques, and then I didn't even want to be touched. We had prepared some music to listen to during the birth, but then when it came to it, I decided I wanted absolute quiet. I had always known I wanted to at least attempt labor with no pain meds, but I underestimated the amount of concentration I would need to focus on getting through the contractions without them.
Also, I think I was far too worried about my surroundings. I was too afraid of what the nurse would think of me if I groaned, etc. Speaking of nurses, ours were absolutely amazing. We were assigned one labor/delivery nurse for the duration of her shift, and she was incredible. She was cheerful, encouraging, and pretty much stayed out of the way unless I asked for her, or something needed to be checked, etc. She informed us that she used to be a truck driver (I know, right?) and she'd seen pretty much everything. She kept reassuring me that she was so thankful for a nice, normal couple! ha! I couldn't have asked for a better nurse. She really was more like a doula.
Finally around 6:30, I was dilated enough that they told me I could start pushing. This part, for me, was the worst. By this point, I was just so exhausted, and my pushing wasn't very effective. Again, first time, and I had no idea what I was doing. Also, I know that for a lot of Mamas, pushing actually makes them feel better. For me, with every push, it increased the pressure, and therefore pain. I was never one of those Moms who felt the "urge" to push. My sister finally arrived around this point too, and the poor thing had the same parking/running snafu that my Mom did! The only difference was, she was 6 months pregnant herself! I think she came into the room while I was in the middle of a contraction/pushing, and she was a little bit terrified. ;)
The nurses changed shifts at 7 am, but ours was kind enough to come back in, because she knew I was so close, and had been with me all night. She said she wanted to see the baby! Also, my doctor was part of a large practice, so when you are admitted to the hospital, you usually just have whoever is on call. God in his kindness that night had arranged for MY doctor to be there! It just so happened that her shift ended at 7 am also. Do you know, she was so awesome that she actually stayed late, to be there for the delivery? :)
Finally, I got to that point where I felt like a total failure - my pushing wasn't very effective, I was exhausted, and so discouraged; in spite of the fact that Nate, my Mom, and the nurses were so encouraging! I just felt like I couldn't do it anymore . . . and four minutes later:
My beautiful, perfect, sweet and sassy Olivia Grace was finally here!
She was so tiny, and so absolutely perfect. And do you know, I felt AMAZING. I just didn't want to let go. It was so different from any feeling I'd ever had before.
They put her on my chest, and Nate and I prayed over her, and thanked God for giving her to us.
At last, she was finally here. All those months of waiting and anticipation, of praying that her heart would beat strong, and her bones would be straight, and now here she was: in my arms.
They left her on my chest for a long time, and also helped me to try to nurse her right away. Have I mentioned how amazing the staff were? At last, it was time for her to get her big "welcome to the world" once over.
Daddy stayed with her the entire time. She didn't have any trouble letting everyone in the room know she was NOT pleased with being poked and carted around!
When Nate stood by the incubator and talked to her, stroking her hair, she stopped crying. I couldn't stop, though. ;)
Much as they might try, no one can ever describe for you, or prepare you for what happens to your heart when you become a mother.
Nothing can prepare you for the moment when you look into the eyes of the perfect miracle that is your child.
Though I'm writing this nearly four years later (how has it been that long already?!?), the emotions are still fresh. The memories vivid.
God has taught me to hold my children loosely. He holds their hearts, and their lives, and I have the privilege of stewarding them for a time. Yet - there is not a day that goes by that I don't thank him for this precious gift. This awesome responsibility of shepherding little souls, and watching his beautiful creations grow.
There is something so profound about labor and delivery: sacrificing my comfort, and my body - being willing to lay down my life for another - and knowing that God is using me as a vessel, however weak and frail, to bring forth new life. Birthing Olivia was not an easy road, but I am so thankful for the privilege I had to travel it.
All photos are by Today Everlasting Photography
All photos are by Today Everlasting Photography