Birth stories are not for everyone, and that is totally okay. However, many of you have asked for details about how labor and delivery happened for me, Andrew, and our little Caleb, and I thought I would share our story here. It is truly a miracle, as every single birth story is. All glory to God for His incredible design. Please be warned that some of this may be medically graphic; read with caution. =)
One more note: I want to make it clear that I do not think epidurals are sinful, foolish, selfish, or any other such thing. It is quite possible that I will opt for one in future deliveries. Please do not read into any of my decisions as being convictions I think other people should maintain.
On Friday morning, November 14, I went to a routine doctor’s appointment. I was excited to be 3cm dilated and 70% effaced already! But I also learned that my blood pressure was high for the second appointment in a row, and this time it was worse and it wasn’t coming down with repeated tests. My doctor sent me to labor and delivery so they could monitor it over a few hours. Andrew left work immediately and stopped by the house to get our bags in case I went into labor before heading my way.
After a few hours of having my blood pressure taken every 10 minutes, the doctor came in and gave us news we did not expect: she was concerned about my levels and wanted to induce me. I was really nervous at this point. I knew that induced labors usually meant stronger contractions, and I was so wanting to have a natural birth. But I was also excited–we were going to meet our baby! Naively I thought it would probably be that night, especially given the progress I had already made without any real labor!
We were moved to our delivery room around 4:30. Andrew brought us take out and we enjoyed the incredible view of the Hollywood sign and LA hills before they started pitocin at about 5:15. My wonderful doula, Rachel, had also joined us by this time. For a few hours, we all chatted between my mild contractions. At about 9:00 PM, in the middle of visiting, I heard and felt an intense “pop” inside me.
“Wow,” I said to Rachel and Andrew, “Something just popped inside me!”
“It was probably your water!” Rachel said optimistically.
Next thing I knew, water was literally gushing onto the bed. We’re talking what felt and looked like gallons. I’m not kidding. I started laughing uncontrollably as the nurses came and began cleaning up while the water continued to spill out in heavy bursts. I was crying, I was laughing so hard!
And then it hit me. The first real contraction. And that was the last time I laughed or smiled until 4:06 PM the next day. My doula later told me that she had never in almost 200 births seen such dramatic water breakage and such a sudden onset of hard contractions.
What ensued was hours and hours and hours of intense back labor. Yes, the dreaded back labor I had read about and wanted so much to avoid was unfortunately my lot. Caleb was in a posterior position, meaning his back was against my back, and thus, the greatest intensity of the contractions was in my back and not my abdomen.
This meant that the comfort measures we had learned did not work because they were based on counter pressure. Andrew had planned to rub my back and put pressure on my hips and back to counter my abdominal pain, but since my contractions were in my back, trying these techniques just increased the already excruciating pain.
One of the worst things about back labor for me was the insanely intense pressure on my tailbone and rectum, which gave me the strong urge to push from 5cm on and also made it entirely impossible to sit down. I can’t describe how hard it was to labor with the constant urge to push but know that my body was nowhere near being ready to do so.
I spent hours upon hours in the shower, on all fours over my exercise ball, while Andrew ran alternating hot and cold water over my back. With every contraction, I took a sip of water when it was over from a straw he always had ready right in front of me. I dozed off in 60ish second intervals between the contractions. (Getting awoken by a new wave of a contraction is the worst thing in the world.)
If I had to guess, I would say that I had my eyes closed for about 90% of labor. I also had zero sense of time. All I knew for sure is that I was in misery, that I was going to meet our baby eventually, and that Andrew never left me.
After what felt like forever in excruciating pain, the nurse midwife on call (who was horrible) checked me and reported that I was 4cm. I was devastated. After my first round of throwing up, I had been sure that I was in transition and must be at least 8cm. I can’t even describe how discouraging it was to know I had gone through all that for one stinking centimeter and no change in the baby’s station (position). Andrew and Rachel were incredibly positive, insisting that I was amazing and that my progress was wonderful! So I kept going.
Slowly, one centimeter at a time, I progressed. The snail-pace progress brought me down every time I was checked. But each time Andrew kept telling me how amazing I was and that he knew I could do it. And he stayed by me, holding me, comforting me, coaching me, and soothing me every second. I threw up only four times during labor, and each time I literally enjoyed it because it was such an incredible break from the back pain. I looked forward to the heaves. But each time I also thought surely I must be in transition.
Andrew and I prayed out loud throughout labor and I tried to hold onto knowing that God was in control of my baby’s well being and my body’s ability to bring the baby into the world. During some contractions, I transported my thoughts to holding my baby or being at the beach with Andrew. For a few seconds I could sometimes feel a little removed from the pain.
Sometime in the morning on Saturday, my doctor came in. She explained that I had been 8cm for several hours, that I wasn’t progressing, and that my contractions were starting to get more spaced apart. She told me that she was concerned that the baby was big and I wouldn’t be able to deliver him vaginally without an epidural, and she also said that I needed to restart the pitocin to get my contractions to pick up again. She said that if I didn’t do the epidrual, I would likely end up with a C-section. (Also, with back labor, babies’ heads are not positioned ideally for the birth canal, making the fit bad and vaginal delivery less successful.)
I began bawling and pieced something like the following together between sobs. “I am already in so much pain, I literally cannot imagine how these contractions could be any more intense. I just don’t think I can take any more pain and I don’t see how pitocin is going to work.”
Andrew held my hand. “I think we need to do the pitocin,” he said gently. “It’s going to help the baby get here. You can get the epidural if you want to, and then you could rest. There is no wrong decision here. It is totally up to you and I will support you no matter what you decide. But I know you can do it without if that’s what you want to do!”
An epidural sounded beyond amazing at this point. The thought of being able to rest while my body worked to fully dilate and then having energy to push was so appealing. Instant relief was within my reach. All I had to do was say the word.
But somehow the words that came out were, “I don’t want the epidural. I know I can do this. Let’s start the pitocin.”
During the next several hours, my delivery team helped me get into positions on the bed to try to make the baby turn and get me out of back labor. Somehow these positions made the contractions I already thought were unbearable even worse. I tried to squelch my writhing to keep from getting out of position, but it didn’t’ always work.
At some point during this time, I called my mom and whispered between contractions that I was doing okay and that I was going to be able to have the baby. I felt so bad that she was waiting out in the waiting room all these hours. She encouraged me and said she knew I could do it and that she was praying.
Around noon, the doctor returned and checked me. “You’re 10cm!” she announced.
No words had ever sounded so amazing. I began sobbing tears of joy and relief. I had made it to 10cm! It was time to start pushing! We were almost there!
For the next three hours and 45ish minutes (I can’t remember the exact total my doula recorded), I pushed with every contraction. I’m sure the entire hospital could hear me yelling/groaning/grunting with every push, and I couldn’t have cared less. It was utterly exhausting and really painful, but I felt more in control than I had when I just had to wait out the contractions.
Eventually, I got the exciting news that the doctor could see our baby’s head. And guess what…he had hair!
With each contraction, I always gave one more push than I thought I could. I would push until I thought I surely couldn’t give one more, and then I would muster everything in me and push one more time. In my head, I thought, “This will get me there a little bit faster.”
After each contraction, I would groan, “I can’t do this anymore,” and Andrew would respond, “Yes you can! He’s almost here!” Andrew held my hand and was my biggest cheerleader the entire time I pushed. He was so thrilled to see the baby’s head and all the hair. He kept telling me Caleb was almost here.
Added later: I forgot to mention that at the last minute, while in the birth canal, the baby turned so that he was not born sunny side up! This is a miracle in my mind!
And then it happened. I felt the ring of fire. An intense, crazy, burning sensation and tightness and pain. And I knew, “My baby is coming out!” It felt like it lasted maybe about 30 seconds. Then I felt a sudden relief as his head slipped through and my doctor said, “He’s here, take him!” and I reached down and pulled my squirming, gray, slippery baby the rest of the way out and drew him onto my chest.
Sobs. Joy. Relief. Love. The strongest emotions I have ever felt in my entire life. Andrew standing over me crying and looking at our baby’s face. Nineteen hours of active back labor over. The pain I was feeling faded into the background as I clung to my baby boy. I couldn’t see him, but I could feel him snuggled against my skin and I knew he was mine.
That day, a miracle happened. A new little life came into the world and I got to be a part of making it happen. I know I never could have survived labor without God’s amazing grace, Andrew’s constant, undying support and encouragement, and the prayers of so many friends and family. The prize I got after all the pain was worth every second of it, 100 times over.