It is amazing how we can spend 9 months preparing for the birth of a baby—researching, making decisions, creating birth plans—but as a first-time mom we never actually know what to expect until we go through it.
That’s why I love reading birth stories—every single one is so unique!
As I neared the end of my pregnancy with Charlie, I found myself excited, exhausted, and ready for our new adventure.
My biggest fear was not knowing what contractions would feel like, and not knowing when the right time to go was.
Sounds silly, but it was true. My mom’s longest labor was 4 hours, and I arrived exactly 9 minutes after they entered the hospital doors (and they only lived a half mile away!) so I was nervous about the 25 minute drive to the hospital.
I was tired all of the time, but was also working two jobs (teaching full-time and waitressing up to 20+ hours a week in addition). I continued waitressing until 38 weeks which was not fun, and planned to teach up until her due date.
At my 39 week appointment, my doctor (well one of them, my ob/gyn practice has a rotation so you never know who will deliver) said that he thought I would go anytime because she was low and I was already 2 cm dilated.
I was excited at the thought of that and made sure everything was ready! I decided to start my maternity leave the Friday before her due date (which was October 27th, a Tuesday) because I was just so tired and thought he could be right.
Except he wasn’t.
Photos by Mary Ware
After a confusing day of not knowing if I was in labor around her due date resulting in a disappointing trip to the hospital to be monitored, I spent the first week of a 6 week maternity leave at home, praying and attempting everything to get Charlie to come out. Long walks, spicy food, exercise ball, the works.
Nothing worked. That girl was comfy in there!
6 days later, I started having similar contractions to the week prior, consistently coming and only a few minutes apart. But they still weren’t really painful. I was frustrated and confused, and not sure how I could make it progress.
At that point it was already after 9pm, and so I told my husband to go to bed since he was still working.
I spent time on my exercise ball using deep hip motions I had found online, and after 15 minutes of deep figure 8, the contractions became much more intense. They were almost immediately 2-3 minutes apart and causing me to double up in pain.
But because of my first experience and false alarm, I didn’t want to be embarrassed again. I decided to lay in our guest bed and continue timing them, sticking to the on-paper requirement that they be a few minutes apart for an hour before calling.
I waited almost 30 minutes before telling my husband I might actually be in labor because I felt ashamed for not knowing and didn’t want him to stay up.
Seriously ladies. I felt ashamed that I wasn’t sure what labor was like. Because no one talks about feeling that way so I thought I was an idiot not to know!
Finally after an hour I called the on-call, and luckily it was the same doctor from the false alarm (my favorite doctor) who answered. She spent a minute with me on the phone and said “oh yah, you are in labor, come on in!”
I told my husband “hurry up and let’s get going”, and spent the next 5 minutes angrily waiting for him to brush his teeth and get ready.
Apparently my lack of communication about how painful the past hour was meant he had no idea it was that serious and that I was actually progressing (he also thought it might be another false alarm because I was saying I hope it’s real this time!).
Note to mamas—be sure to tell your husband how you are feeling and what needs to happen, they apparently can’t read our minds!
The car ride was excruciating—sitting up hugging a pillow and worrying about making it there on time. Once I started grimacing in the car it magically sped up—apparently hubby finally got the picture!
We made it to the hospital and he dropped me off at the ER entrance a little after 11pm (the only entrance at that time of night) and went to park the car. I was cursing him taking so long but in reality it was probably only a few minutes.
I remember wondering why he brought my hospital bag with him when all I wanted to do was deliver—good thing he was more on top of things than me!
We were immediately taken up to the maternity ward to be checked, and I was praying the entire time that I would be dilated to at least a 4, at which point they would let me stay. The contractions were painful while changing and waiting for the doctor to check, and when she arrived, we found out I was not only already a 6 but had been in active labor and was at the transition stage.
I was told if I wanted an epidural I had to get it then because I was going to deliver quickly. I had planned to have one but had also played with the idea of not if I felt like I could do it, but at that point it took one look over to my husband who was all for anything to lessen the pain for me and I knew I wanted it.
Actually getting the epidural was not fun—having to stay still while the intense contractions of transition stage was not easy, and I think I gripped my labor nurse’s hand until it was white.
I almost asked them to stop because it was so painful (due to contractions) to stay still while the needle was being inserted in my back.
After the epidural was inserted I waited for relief, but it didn’t come.
The contractions continued to be awful and I just wanted to get delivery over with. It felt like I had been there forever, but the truth was at this point it was only about an hour and a half after entering the hospital.
My doctor checked me again and I was fully dilated. My epidural still hadn’t kicked in.
At this point my water still had not broken on its own, so my doctor offered to break it so we could move forward and start pushing, to which I readily agreed. I barely remember her breaking it, but after that it was a whirlwind to get the room ready to start pushing.
Thankfully I think my epidural started working as I started to push as my body felt relief in pushing rather than tensing up with the contractions, and I was able to focus on pushing and breathing.
Pushing was definitely not easy—at times I thought I was fully pushing and yet I wasn’t moving her down as quickly as I expected. It took over 20 minutes (likely closer to 30) of actual pushing, and then there she was.
Our Charlie girl. All 8 lbs. 11 oz of her, at 1:30am, just 2 hours after getting situated into the hospital.
It was such a momentous moment. They laid her on my chest and I could hardly take in how exhilarating it felt to have this baby, whom I had carried for so many months, out and in my arms.
She stayed on my chest while the doctor finished up whatever happens after delivery—that was the last thing on my mind.
Skin to skin was important to me so they cleaned her up while on my chest, but so was having my husband hold her, so I told them to let him take her and do whatever was needed so he could hold his baby girl too.
They took her over to the table to get the measurements and weight (to which my reaction was Oh My God I just pushed that out?
Meanwhile, the doctor informed me that I had torn quite a bit and needed to be stitched up.
Guys, that was the second hardest part. My legs were so tired from pushing and the epidural made them feel so heavy that having to have my legs up in the stirrups for what felt like an eternity was so awful. I was grimacing and crying through that, with my legs shaking. I couldn’t will her to go any faster with the stitches.
After she was finally finished, and I got to see my husband’s complete adoration while holding his daughter, we resumed the golden hour to work for skin to skin and to start nursing. She latched quickly and both of us just couldn’t believe she was finally here.
I was told my father-in-law and sister-in-law were in the waiting lounge—apparently, she had started the hour and a half drive as soon as she heard I was at the hospital, and I was eager to have them come in to see the newest family addition.
The rest of our family made plans to drive from NJ the next day, and my parents bought the first flight out from California. I couldn’t wait to show her off!
*All photos from here on taken by Emerald Eye Photography*
It was so exhilarating to have her in my arms, and so fun to just stare at her. But I was also extremely exhausted from delivery in general, but also because it was the middle of the night. I think I finally got about an hour of sleep around 5:30am.
It is funny how immediately after delivering though my body already forgot what the pain of labor and delivery was though and all I could think about what our new life.
Yes, my body was torn apart and it was excruciating to walk and move around, but it was all so worth it (must be nature’s trick to keep us having more babies!).
The next day we had a fabulous photographer come in—Cathie from Emerald Eye Photography—to capture this precious time with a Fresh 48 session.
While I love birth photography and would have lept at the chance to have a photographer during labor and delivery, our hospital actually doesn’t allow any photography during birth (major bummer—but a great reminder to check the policies at your own hospital).
A Fresh 48 session was the perfect way to get amazing photos while she was still less than 24 hours old!
We absolutely loved getting these photos back and having such a special way to remember her first few hours.
Overall I was very lucky to have a smooth and quick delivery, with only minor issues (epidural not working during labor and extensive tearing).
There were definitely some challenges during my hospital stay but I hope my second delivery goes smoothly as well! Since it was my first delivery I wanted to stay in the hospital as long as I could (which later I was itching to leave after 2 days!) and I pretty much lived in nursing tanks and pj bottoms my entire stay.
I learned a few things that I want to do differently for future deliveries (like what to pack in my hospital bag) but overall it was good experience.
I can’t even imagine how hard it is for mamas who undergo days of labor and emergency c-sections, so I am definitely counting my blessings that my went so quickly!
Was your labor and delivery what you expected? What was the hardest part for you? I’d love to hear!