Feed on

Labor and Delivery

Now that we’re home, I thought I’d write about the actual labor and delivery while I can still remember any of it.

The short version is that it was great–easier and shorter than I expected and a positive and empowering experience. As Matt wrote earlier, I delicately woke him at around 5:20 a.m. Monday with the declaration that my water had broken. It felt and sounded like a water balloon popping, and I knew immediately that I was going to become a mom that day.

I was slightly disappointed at this turn of events, though, as I also knew that I’d have to go directly to the hospital and would not be allowed to labor at home as I had planned. I also knew that it was common for there to be a long delay between water breaking and the beginning of contractions. If that time stretches too long, you are likely to go on a pitocin drip, a labor intervention I was fervently hoping to avoid.

Sure enough, when Matt called my OBGYN’s office with the news, they instructed us to go to the hospital right away. But before I could get too upset, my contractions began. And to my surprise, they started off at 5-6 minute intervals, each lasting about a minute. By the time Matt and I made it out the door to go to the hospital, my contractions were about 4 minutes apart and lasted 60-80 seconds each. Things were moving!

At triage, I was assessed at 3 cm. dialated. Active labor is usually reckoned at 4-7 cm, transition runs from 7-10, and pushing begins once you hit the 10 cm. mark. Based on those numbers, I assumed it was early days yet when I hit the labor and delivery room with Matt and Brenda (my doula).

Wrong again! By 10:00 a.m. the contractions were getting stronger and closer together, and Brenda kept having to remind me to look at something other than the clock. Having my membranes broken meant that I had to stay in my room, preferably in bed. These restrictions cut down on my mobility greatly, but it turned out that I was less interested in moving than I expected. For the most part, I just wanted to sit on the edge of the bed, lean forward, and squeeze Matt’s hand to get through a contraction.

By 11:45 or so the contractions had gotten long and painful, many had dual peaks, and sometimes one began before the previous one had completely stopped. I knew I could handle the pain if I had to, but I had decided that I didn’t want to. There were many aspects of having an epidural that I found unappealing, but at 11:45 the prospect of pain cessation trumped them all. My only fear was being told that I wasn’t far enough along to get one yet.

Turns out I was nearly 8 cm. dialated–halfway through transition and quickly nearing the pushing and delivery phase. I could get an epidural if I wanted one, but it would be around 30-40 minutes before the procedure was complete and would therefore probably only buy me an extra 20 minutes or so of pain relief before it was time to push. And for those 20 minutes, I’d have to contend with having a catheter, having my blood pressure drop, losing some control over pushing, further restrictions on moving, having tape all over my back, and–oh yeah–having a needle in my spine.

For me, this tradeoff wasn’t worth it. So much to my surprise, I realized at around noon that I was going to deliver my baby medication free.

I’ll be honest that the next hour was rough. The contractions hurt a lot, and before too long I felt an urge to push but wasn’t allowed to. The way around this is to take in a deep breath and blow it out in short, hard puffs. On a good contraction I did this well and was praised for my control. On a bad one I pushed a tiny bit, squeezed Matt’s hand like a vice, and yelled loudly. According to Brenda, the yelling was wasting my energy and was not productive. I knew she was right, but I couldn’t always stop myself.

This was the time Brenda was worth her weight in gold. Somehow, she knew that reassurances would do nothing for me and instead took charge and gave me orders. She forced me to look at her, she modeled the correct breathing pattern for me, and she was firm with me when I got off course and started to yell. In short, it was like having your mom yell at you if she knew an awful lot about labor. Perfect.

By 1:00 p.m. or so it was time to push, by far the most satisfactory part of labor for me. First of all, the pressure of the baby interrupted nerve signals and prevented me from feeling any significant pain. Secondly, after fighting the urge for so long, it was a huge relief to give in to my body’s urges. Last but not least, it was immensely more satisfying to do something with each contraction rather than passively experience it; I relished the chance to exert myself and actively participate in birthing my baby.

That’s nearly the whole story. With my small cheerleading squad urging me on, I pushed as hard as I could for 30-40 minutes. At around 1:48, p.m., the baby’s heart tones dropped slightly, Gigi (the OBGYN on call) cut a small episiotomy (for which she apologized profusely), I pushed one final time, and then looked up to see the doctor holding my baby and announcing I had a son.

It was an amazing experience. And while I’ve heard other women say they’ve never experienced pain like childbirth before, for me that was simply not the case. I’ve had mystery stomach ailments that hurt as much. I’ve had food poisoning that hurt as much. I’ve had menstrual cramps that hurt nearly as much. And I had a bout of muscle pain in my second trimester that hurt as much. The difference? None of those other pains were for anything good, whereas after 8 relatively short hours, this one gave me my son and a new respect for my body’s strength and engineering.

3 Responses to “Labor and Delivery”

  1. Dad Unit says:

    Dad Unit = Malcolm, I probably should have picked a better name but I was trying to be clever…

    Hey we’ve got our PC up and running again so I finally had a chance to check oot your site. Glad to hear Simon is doing well. Once he’s home let us know when we can come by and see him. Hopfully you’ll have S-man home tomorrow.


  2. jimsusan says:

    Congratulations, jessica and thank you for writing all this. It was exactly what I wanted to hear about and as usual, you write beautifully, clear and concise. I love your “new respect for my body’s strength and engineering.” perfectly put. I miss you all so much and I wish we were out there to see you now, but hopefully we’ll meet Simon in person sometime in the near future. Take care and know we are thinking of you. xoxo Susan

  3. dgoodwin says:

    Wow. Thanks so much for this account. It’s fascinating reading, since I’ve never experienced childbirth myself. I feel almost like I know what you went through! Congratulations, and well done!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.