Disclaimer: This is long and contains several instances of TMI. Read at your own risk.
Labor (once I knew it was labor) was about 8.5 hours long. Thank God for whatever made things move right along!! Our goal was to labor at home as long as possible, and boy did we.
On Sunday afternoon, March 15th, I texted my mom that I felt “like one big Braxton Hicks” because I was having pretty much constant light contractions, occasionally crampy, that at the time I thought were Braxton Hicks. In retrospect I’m pretty sure that was my early labor. I was texting my sister-in-law, Halli, on and off throughout the afternoon asking questions about how her labor had started, and when those light contractions went away for a couple of hours I said to her “I’m pretty sure she’s staying put for a while longer.” Little did I know!
Contractions started to creep in again around 10pm, and by 10:30 that crampy feeling was definitely back, Nathanael was asleep, and instead of being “one big Braxton Hicks” there was a definite start and stop to each one. Contractions were about 5-6 minutes apart from the start. I remembered learning that if they’re Braxton Hicks they will go away if I change positions, and if it’s labor they’ll stay, so I woke Nathanael up enough to tell him these thoughts and said I was going to go downstairs and pace around for a bit to see if they went away. I asked him before going downstairs “Do you think this could actually be it?” and he said, pretty assuredly, “No.”
Pacing around downstairs, the contractions were less noticeable but didn’t go away and were gradually getting stronger. I went upstairs, filled in Nathanael, and we decided he should sleep as long as possible while I was handling the contractions fine on my own.
I took a shower, drank a 4oz glass of wine to help me relax (I actually measured it because I didn’t want to drink any more than what I had read was ok), and managed to fall asleep. I woke up feeling like that was really great sleep and figured it had been a few hours, but when I looked at the clock and saw that it had been 45 minutes I was like “Are you kidding me?”
Lying down was the least comfortable, which was disappointing since I wanted to keep trying to rest, but then I remembered that my midwife had told me to stay upright anyway to encourage Ella to be facing my spine. She had been facing my side at my last three appointments. So I piled pillows on my lap and slumped over them in hopes of snoozing a little while I wasn’t in a whole lot of pain.
Just before 1:30 I felt what I would describe as a water balloon popping inside me, but it also felt kind of like Ella had jumped, so I lifted up my head and sat there thinking “Was that my water breaking? But I’m not leaking… That felt weird.” I must have shifted my weight just a little in that split second because I felt a little liquid squirt out, and I thought “Oh crap! Get off the bed!” but as soon as I moved at all (and shoved the pillows away from me to keep from soaking them) fluid gushed all over. I said “Oh! Babe?” and he sat partway up, awake faster than I’ve ever seen him, said “Yeah?” and I told him “My water just broke. Can you get some towels?” then scurried to the bathroom as fast as I could, dripping amniotic fluid all over as I went. While he cleaned up in our room I noted that the liquid was clear (not green, which is bad), cheered a little that we didn’t have to go to the hospital right then, and carried on.
Nathanael said something like “Ok, this is real. I guess you are in labor” and we both made comments like “We’re having a baby today!” Those were really exciting moments :o) We were both smiling and full of adrenaline. Nathanael started to wonder aloud how he would take care of the last few things he had to do for work because his computer was still at the office, and he had expected to work at least one more full week. He said he didn’t expect to go back to the office once Ella arrived, and I asked if he could get into the building that night if he were to go get his computer then. He said he could, there’s always a security guard, and asked if I would actually be ok with that. I said yes, and I really meant it; I felt comfortable with that plan. I told him I’d rather he go get it now while I was still coping fine on my own than wait at all. So he hurried off to the office while I continued to labor.
I called my mom at about 2am and told her what was happening, as much to fill her in as to help time pass until Nathanael came home. When he got back I was in the rocking chair in the nursery looking through what I had packed for the hospital and checking the list I’d written to see what still needed to be packed. He ran around the house gathering those last minute things after installing the car seat (that had been on the list to do that week, but here came the baby!) and loaded up the car.
We called the midwife at the hospital around 3am. She talked with me through a couple of contractions and then said that although my contractions were only about 2 minutes apart they were also only about 30 seconds long and needed to be longer. She explained that short contractions like that aren’t able to be effectively dilate the cervix, and that their being close together was just going to exhaust my uterus. She said I needed to get myself really well hydrated to lengthen the contractions. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure she was wrong to a certain extent. My contractions were definitely productive because labor was so short. But oh well, we didn’t know it would be so fast then. Nathanael refilled my big cup over and over from there on out and I guzzled water through a straw between and during contractions like it was my job.
From that point until we left for the hospital I labored in the shower because the warm water was relaxing and only got out long enough to let the hot water tank refill when necessary. At some point I threw up all that water I’d been guzzling. My dear husband didn’t even blink about cleaning up after me. He rocks.
Around 4:30 I started to feel like I needed to take the most painfully huge poop of my life, and I told Nathanael this. He was unfazed and continued trying to help me relax. I learned later he thought we were about halfway through labor. I probably should have told him I was envisioning having the baby in the shower, but words weren’t really a thing I did at this point. By 5am I had told him I was trying not to push enough times and said I think we should call the midwife back that he got my phone and dialed. When I told her I was trying not to push (which by the way was the absolute most painful feeling of labor, resisting that urge! Don’t try that at home) and she very calmly and sweetly said “Ok well it sounds like you need to get yourself dressed and come on over.” That part about getting dressed was so not easy! A wet writhing woman focused on not having a baby in the bathroom… Anyway, between the two of us we managed to get ready and get out the door. It only took about twenty minutes, and I remember thinking that was a great sign because I had read if it takes you less than ten minutes to get out the door you’re going to the hospital too early. I was also still having visions of delivering a baby everywhere I paused along the way to the car: on the bed, on the floor at the bottom of the stairs (where I laid down, no I didn’t fall down the stairs), on the floor just inside the door, and finally in the car throughout the whole long, slow motion drive to the hospital.
We ran lots of red lights and rolled through every stop sign, with me, the typically overly-cautious passenger-side-driver, saying “go, just go, it’s clear, go,” at each one. We got off at the wrong exit, got back on the highway with me convinced we were going the wrong way (we weren’t), and finally arrived in the front loop of the hospital where a beautiful wheelchair was conveniently available to get me inside. It was about 6am. Nathanael sprinted us inside pushing me in the wheelchair and as we went by, the security lady was like “Hello? Oh, you’re having a baby! Congratulations!” He ran the wheelchair into the wall of the elevator and the wall outside the elevator upon exiting. After he pushed the call button outside the labor and delivery ward I experienced a sort of tunnel vision where everything seemed slow motion and dreamlike as doors automatically opened in front of us and nurses were inside each door holding a hand out to show the direction we should go.
When we got into our delivery room nurses were trying to do different things to me, I think they just wanted my vitals, but I was basically just like get out of my way and let me push this baby out now that I can finally stop trying to hold her in! Except I don’t think I said anything like that if anything at all. I just got on the bed and maybe asked if I could push now. The midwife confirmed that I was fully dilated, much to Nathanael’s surprise, she told the nurses to get my vitals after the fact, and we went to work getting Ella into the world. It didn’t take very long. Remember we arrived around 6am? She was born at 6:24. 6 lbs 15 oz, 19.5 inches long, a full cute head of hair, big beautiful eyes, and the softest skin I’ve ever felt.
I was handed the baby immediately to enjoy skin to skin, to rub in the vernix, and to try breastfeeding as soon as Ella and I both wanted to. I got to lay there with her on my chest for at least an hour which was pure bliss.
At one point I felt bad for not sharing her with Nathanael right away, but by later that day I was really glad I had just held her for that first long stretch because afterward I didn’t see her for several hours. When they first tried to get me up to use the bathroom, I passed out, and while taking care of me the nurses also decided that was a good time to take Ella to the nursery for their routine newborn stuff. While she was there they became concerned that her temperature was a little low and her white blood cell count was a little high. They eventually admitted her to the NICU to monitor both of those things and put her on antibiotics in case of infection. I didn’t get to go see her until 4:30 that afternoon, which was torture, but by the end of our hospital stay things got much better and we were even able to bring her to our room when it was time to feed her. Overall the hospital stay was not the happy experience of rooming-in, feeding on demand, frequent skin-to-skin, getting to know each other that we had planned on, but we got to come home on the regular day of discharge and have gotten to enjoy our awesome baby girl every day since. More on life with a new baby another day. The nutshell version is we’re sleepy, delirious, and totally in love with this snuggly little cutie.