***Disclaimer #2: I am not a medical professional. My opinions are exactly that - opinions - and should not be taken as medical advice (duh).
***Disclaimer #3: My son's real name is not Piglet (duh, again).
I had a wonderful pregnancy. I was never sick, I felt great, and it was overall an enjoyable experience. If you are interested in hearing more about it, you can read my short reflections on my first trimester, second trimester and third trimester. I was healthy and the baby was healthy so we had no complications going in.
Also, I think it's important to share a little bit about my birth expectations/hopes. I think it's really strange when people ask you "are you going natural or having an epidural?" Here's the deal, it's really no one's business and yet some how we have created a birth culture around "my way is better and I am judging you if you don't do it the same way as me." Silly. All that to say, I DO think it is really important to be informed and not go into the birth process blindly. Obviously you have to be flexible because the baby runs the show (something my doctor constantly reminded me of!). I read a lot of literature, talked to a lot of friends, watched documentaries and felt really good about it. None of it scared it me, it just made me feel empowered.
So, my expectations/hopes: I had an OB in a hospital, so that obviously limited my options somewhat. As far as pain management goes, I really wanted to try to not have an epidural, but I wasn't going to be really disappoint if I ended up having one. My goal was to have as natural as a birth as possible. I REALLY did not want to be induced. Emergency c-section rates are really high with inductions, plus from what I had heard, the drug they give you to induce labor (pitocin) causes really intense, painful contractions that are really difficult to manage without an epidural.
So. My due date was November 20th. My mom was two weeks late with all four of her kids, so I fully expected to go a little late. At 36 weeks I was dilated to a 1, so I kind of thought "maybe I'll be early!" but then, when my due date came and went, I wasn't too concerned. My doctor tried to get me to schedule an induction before thanksgiving but I declined and we scheduled my induction date at 13 days past due (I was allowed to go 14, but my doctor was on-call for day 13 so that's when we made it). Thanksgiving came and went, and at 10 days overdue I was starting to get frustrated. I wasn't really even nervous anymore, it was just like "let's get this over with!" I tried every single thing I possibly could to bring on labor (walking, teas, supplements, etc) but nothing worked. I never even felt a contraction. BUT, the baby was doing great - lots of movement - I think he was just really really cozy.
On the eve of my induction date, I was still really bummed that I hadn't gone into labor naturally, but I was also relieved that the birth would finally happen. I prayed really hard that I would go into labor that night, but I had also been meditating on Psalm 27:14 "Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord" for the few weeks leading up to my due date and even though it was hard, I really trusted the Lord's timing.
They started the pitocin drip around 10am. At that point, I would tell Eric, "oooh I think I just felt a contraction!" We sat in the hospital room and watched HGTV (thank you hospitals for having cable). After the first hour, things started to get a little more intense so we turned off the TV and I started using some pain management techniques. I bounced on an exercise ball, Eric rubbed my back, I walked, etc. It hurt pretty bad - I had to concentrate through each contraction - but I still felt like I was doing okay. I wanted desperately to hold off on getting an epidural as long as possible (the epidural can slow down labor). Then, the next hour or so. Oh man, what can I even say. I can't even communicate how horrible the pain was. If you've ever had pitocin without an epidural, than you know. I essentially had no breaks between contractions so I couldn't regroup or refocus. It felt like my brain was on fire. I didn't know who was in the room, what was happening... it was rough. I held out as long as I could until I finally whispered to Eric "epidural." He later told me he was completely relieved. I'm convinced they were waiting for me to ask for it, because the anesthesiologist came in the room within five minutes. He introduced himself but I literally have no idea what he even looked like. Getting the epidural might have hurt, but I have no idea because the pain of the contractions were all I could feel.
So, I got the epidural. Unfortunately, it took about 15/20min to kick in and I had to lay on my back to wait. That was honestly the most painful part of the whole experience. Moving around, doing different breathing techniques, etc helped with the pain a little, but just lying on my back was pure torture. I just concentrated on the fact that the pain would subside soon. I got checked again at this point and they told me I was only at a 4. I was so disappointment because I had really hoped that all of the pain had been worth more than 2cm. While I was laying on my back waiting for the epidural to kick in, my OB came in and expressed concern about the baby's heart rate. She told us that if it didn't normalize soon they would take me back for an emergency c-section. I couldn't talk at this point (I was still in so much pain) so I just started praying and begging the Lord to calm the baby's heart rate. This was exactly the situation that I did not want. They turned the pitocin down (the contractions were coming too fast and strong for the baby) and I focused on breathing deeply to get more oxygen to the baby (I was wearing an oxygen mask at this point). It took about ten minutes, but the baby's heart rate finally normalized and my OB said things were okay. I was so, so relieved. The also checked me again at this point and I was at a 6, which was so encouraging to hear.
So. All of that was pretty intense. After that, things were a lot calmer. The contractions slowly became a lot less intense. I was able to communicate with Eric again (it felt like I hadn't even seen him in an hour - it was so nice to be able to hold his hand and feel comforted by him). The contractions still hurt - I had to stop talking and breathe through them, but it was nothing like what I had experienced so I was fine with it. I could actually still move my legs a little bit (I think I essentially had a low dose epidural - the anesthesiologist mentioned that since I am tall, the standard dose wouldn't be as strong), which was nice. My nurse (whom I later found out was also a doula - she was incredible!) helped me lie in some different positions with a peanut ball that supposedly help speed things up. It was nice to actually feel like I was doing something to help that labor along, but I didn't actually expect it to work. About an hour after having the epidural, my doctor came in, checked me and announced that it was time to push. Eric and I started freaking out! We absolutely did not expect things to go so fast (it had been less than 5 hours since we got to the hospital).
All photos taken by the wonderfully kind, thoughtful and talented Photos by Esther. Love you, friend.