It’s hard to believe that Luke’s already been in our lives for nearly two months now! I’ve been fairly quiet online these last few weeks as our family has adjusted to our newest addition, but wanted to take the chance now that we’re somewhat (but not really) getting the hang of life with ababy to share his birth story! If there’s one thing that’s really helped us through the sleep deprivation and near constant uncertainty of the last several weeks, it’s been our community — our families and friends have been so supportive and helpful, and none of that would have been possible if we hadn’t shared this special time with them. From flying in for 2 week stays or even just a quick dinner, to bringing us regular meals and coffee, we (and definitely I) would be in a very different place (read: losing my mind) as a new parent without everyone.
My due date was October 6th, and I don’t think I had any thoughts or expectations about whether Luke would be early, on-time, or late. Turns out, he was a week late, which apparently is pretty normal for first pregnancies. For the most part, I think I took him being late better than anyone else — I was pretty clear on the fact that my life would be very, very different once he arrived, so I figured the best thing to do was to be really present during that last week, rather than wasting my time by freaking out about when I’d go into labor.
On the Thursday before he was born, I woke up at 3am with what felt like really strong menstrual cramps. I hadn’t had any Braxton Hicks contractions so I didn’t know if this was that, or if I was experiencing the early stages of real labor, so I just sort of waited it out for a bit. I got up and walked around our apartment, tried to find more comfortable sleeping positions in bed, and when it became increasingly clear due to their regularity that this was the real thing, I woke Nate up.
We’d known ahead of time that our doctor generally wouldn’t tell us to head to the hospital until we were about 6cm dilated, so we began timing the contractions and made a game plan: We’d call my mom a little later that morning and let her know that she should start to make her way from Hawaii to California for the birth, and we’d call my doctor to see if I should keep both my standing doctor’s appointments that day. In the end, we kept both appointments — a Non-Stress Test in the morning, and my weekly check-up with my OB in the afternoon. By the time that afternoon appointment came around, I was only 4cm dilated, so we opted to labor a bit more at home before heading to the hospital. So we went and got burgers, because why not?
Fast-forward to 3am the next morning (Friday) and it’s deja vu except we’re 24 hours in and my contractions are way more painful. I’d told Nate to get some rest while he could and spent most of the night in the living room watching TV since laying down was really uncomfortable. Once the contractions were much closer together and, more importantly, I needed to take some sort of action or go crazy, I woke Nate, we called my doctor, and they gave us the green light to head to the hospital.
Cue a 15 minute drive at 4am while having contractions and ohmygod this labor thing is no joke.
We got through triage fairly quickly (5cm!) and met up with our doula once we got to our delivery room. By 9am, I was at 8cm dilated and we were all pretty excited that this show was on the road. Then 2 things happened: 1) the contractions got way more painful, and 2) everything else stayed the same.
I think the biggest takeaway for me from those long hours of daytime labor that followed was to be flexible. Be so, so flexible. I had a birth plan, you know? We’d talked with our doula and doctor about our preferences, and everyone was on the same page about trying for a low-intervention birth. And then I came face to face with the unexpected, like stalling out at 8cm dilated after 30 hours of labor.
It seems like a minor thing now that Luke’s here and healthy and I’m not in the throes of it, but deciding to ask for painkillers felt like a really big deal to me — and to everyone else in this part of the U.S.— and is something I'm not sure a lot of women are comfortable talking about without feeling judged if things don't necessary go as naturally as you may have wanted. So here's how it went for me: I asked for the intravenous narcotics first, at about 31 hours in, since I didn’t want to be immobile for the rest of my labor, and because there’s a higher chance of needing a cesarean section once you have an epidural. Still, I remember feeling a bit like a failure when I asked the nurses for the drugs. Why couldn’t I do this naturally? Women had been doing this without drugs for as long as humankind has existed. Was I that weak? It’s not rational – it’s not even something I believe. Have drugs, don’t have drugs, it’s completely up to each woman and doesn’t make one person weaker or stronger than the other. At the end of the day, we’re bringing a life into this world. There are a lot of very strong opinions about this (and every other aspect of motherhood, like breastfeeding) but eff that noise. As long as you and the baby are healthy, do whatever you need to get through.
At the time though, and as things seemed to get more painful without any real progress, I went back and forth on whether to ask for stronger drugs. And I cried a lot. Like, a lot. In the end, I promised myself that I’d try everything my doula suggested before asking for an epidural so that I’d know I gave it whatever I could, purely for my own peace of mind and because that seems to be the way I do everything in my life — try whatever you can to make something work, then if it doesn't you'll know you tried your best and should have no regrets. I used the jetted tub and shower as comfort measures, tried sitting, bending over, hip rotations, walking, everything we could think of that would help with the pain and get the baby to drop. I was exhausted. Like, falling asleep in between contractions while sitting up kinds of exhausted. At a certain point, I was on the floor trying to breathe through a particularly vicious contraction while bending over a medicine ball, and I remember thinking that I wanted to be anywhere but inside my body. That thought was followed quickly by the realization that that was physically impossible, at which point I hit new levels of despair and promptly vomited. Then, I looked at Nate and said I wanted the epidural. Shortly after, and with no further progress in my labor even with Pitocin, my doctor advised us that a c-section was probably best for both me and baby, which in essence took much of the drug-related decisions out of my hands.
And you know, birth plan or not, when it was all send and done, Luke's birth happened the way it was supposed to happen — they all do, and you sort of just have to surrender to it. That's when you're able to find the joy in it, at least that's how it was for me. So now, when I look back, I remember my mom arriving and this sense of happiness and relief. I remember how amazing and kind all the nurses and doctors were. I remember everyone in the surgery room singing along with George Michael's "Careless Whisper" on the radio as Luke came into the world. I remember being exhausted — so, so exhausted — but thinking only about how his cry sounded, and how amazing it was to see Nate and my mom holding him.
I remember the speechlessness of finally having him here. He's here.
And now we are three of us.