Here it is…my labor story! A story that in my nine days of overdue glory, I was completely terrified of. A story that in my earliest of postpartum days, I missed and reminisced on…all the time! I never thought that some of the best, most beautiful moments of my life would take place when I was in a hospital gown, but they certainly did! My doctor shared with me that women’s labor stories are like men’s fishing stories…they get bigger and more elaborate as time goes by. What I’ve tried to do is capture the moments I remember the most so that I can look back at them with the beautiful blessing that came from this story…Hadley Grace. In the meantime, I’m happy to share my story with you. Here we go!
April 5th, 2013…the estimated date of which my daughter was going to make her debut. The two strongest instincts I felt in my pregnancy: that my baby would be a girl, and that she would likely be [well] overdue! The week around April 5th, I was so scared and completely unprepared for what I imagined labor to be. I was perfectly fine with my baby staying put as long as she wanted. Aaron and I would take walks nightly, and I’d cry tears of how afraid I was; I didn’t think I was going to be able to handle the pain. (Sidenote: I got crazy, awful food poisoning on April 6th and had to get checked out at the hospital…too bad I thought it was labor at first, so disappointing!) At my 41 week appointment on Thursday, April 10th, my OBGYN told me that it wasn’t safe for me to be pregnant more than 42 weeks, so she told me the three options of induction, as well as their risks for needing a cesarean. That was a pivotal moment, as she scheduled me for an induction for Wednesday, April 17th. I never imagined being induced and suddenly my fears completely shifted. I wanted my baby to come out when she was ready, not be forced out. I wanted to experience what it felt like to go into labor, not be put into labor. This turning point inspired me; I went from being afraid of labor to wanting it!
From that point on, I was a walking machine. I walked at least 2 miles, twice a day. I was bouncing on the big exercise ball. Anything to make it happen! By Saturday, I felt discouraged and was a total grouch. That morning, I visited with my sister-in-law; we prayed together, that my baby would come out in God’s perfect timing, and that I would feel peace and strength throughout this experience. When I got home, I growled to my [sweet] husband, “I am going for a walk…and I am not coming back until I am in labor!” This was at noon. To keep my mind happy, I called my grandparents and caught up with them, all while I was trying to induce labor on my walk. Sure enough, I felt my first real contraction! “YES!” I was thrilled! Sure enough, they kept happening for over 20 minutes. I decided at this point to turn around, as I was already over 2 miles into the walk and knew it’d be safest if I headed home.
When I got home, I let Aaron know that I was beginning to feel contractions, but I didn’t want to get our hopes up, so I went upstairs to take a shower. I was still having regular contractions every 5-7 minutes. Each time they happened, I was excited! To me, it meant my baby was going to come when she wanted to, not be forced out! After my shower, I went to lie down and rest, as my doctor said to do intervals of activity and rest if I felt I was going into labor. I kept track of my contractions with an app I had downloaded on my phone. It turned out to be so helpful seeing the length of each contraction! We had plans that evening, first, to go to my parent’s in East Sacramento as my sister and brother-in-law came into town to show us a trailer of their wedding video. Our plans after that were to meet up with some of my closest friends to celebrate a birthday. I continued to do my hair and makeup through the contractions, as I didn’t want to get my hopes up that I was actually going to finally have my baby. If I had to describe the contractions, I’d just say it felt like a drawn-out cramp…nothing too bad.
When we left to go to see my family, it was 5:00. We decided to bring Penny with us, as my family always loves when I bring her over. On the half-hour drive from Roseville to East Sacramento, I went from a mild cramping, to a “Aaron, I can barely talk, but keep talking to me” kind of feeling. As we got into the house, I was greeted by my family, but I was aware that I gave them the most awkward smile, as I was experiencing a full-on, intense contraction. I gave my hugs but then waddled straight to the bathroom. I saw what I needed to see to know that I was definitely in early stages of labor, but I still wanted to wait things out. We got to watch the video of Nicole and Ben’s wedding and happily visit with them, until they had to say their goodbyes. As soon as they left, Beth and Aaron were talking, when suddenly my body made a “pop!” noise! Beth even heard it and looked at me, when I cried out, “I think my water broke! Eew! Eew!” and ran my way back to the bathroom. Sure enough, it had! This was when Aaron guided me and told me we needed to head back towards the hospital. We gave our hugs and kisses to my family, and got back in the car. I called the Birthing Center, asking them how long I should wait if my water broke. The nurse told me I needed to come in immediately. As Aaron was driving, Penny sat on what little lap space I had left, as my baby-belly took up a great portion. During the painful contractions, Penny would stare at me with an expression that showed empathy and concern. Aaron even laughed, as when I finished a contraction, I would look at Penny and give her a squeeze, telling her how much I love her. I feel like she knew what was going on, as she was very soothing and cuddly.
We finally made it home, with the surreal feeling this would be the last time we were at our house as just the two (well, three counting Penny) of us. Aaron grabbed all of our bags, while I contemplated that we should probably eat something considering it was now time for dinner, and I could foresee a long night ahead. I had also heard that women in labor aren’t allowed to eat at the hospital, so I wanted to make sure I had at least a little something to eat. The thought of laboring on an empty stomach was not something I looked forward to, but I wasn’t sure what my body would be able to handle. I opted for easy but semi-healthy (it’s from Trader Joe’s,) so I heated up an Annie Chun’s teriyaki noodle bowl, and Aaron and I split it. We called up our friends, Matt and Rachael, who were kind enough to take care of Penny when they got the green light that I was in labor. At about 7:00 PM, we headed to the hospital.
As Aaron drove, there would be a few minutes I felt completely normal, but in the moments the contractions would happen, I would need to be quiet, calm, and breathe the pain away. He was encouraging to me, telling me how beautiful I looked and that I was already doing such an amazing job experiencing labor. I was proud of myself at this point for not being the angry, stressed out, in-labor person you see in movies. I tried my best to keep it together, for my sake, Aaron’s sake, and of course, Baby Reason’s (she was unnamed for quite a while!) When we got to the birthing center, Aaron parked in the area where parents are only intended to quickly park and re-park, but apparently he stayed there for much longer than that! Making our way to the lobby, I was asked to give my information as well as explain what I was feeling so far. In my heart, I knew I was in “real deal” labor, but I didn’t want to come off as a pushy or whiney woman, so I stayed calm while I was directed to wait for what was at least fifteen minutes. I had several contractions in that span of time, with people coming to visit their loved ones seeing me, a very pregnant woman doing quiet breaths and closing her eyes trying to be as calm as possible sitting on a rocking bench.
At 7:45, I was finally admitted to triage, where I put on the hospital gown that I would be wearing while giving birth. It all seemed so amazing to finally be happening. I went to use the restroom and experienced a contraction in that time…not fun. When I got to the hospital bed, I felt a sigh of relief, even if I was not yet in my actual birthing room. My nurse, Valerie, introduced herself and asked me everything that had happened up until that point. She then checked how dilated I was, while simultaneously breaking the rest of my water. (Just a note: the biggest discouragement of being so overdue, is that I would not dilate, the effacement was full, but every check-up, there was no progress in my dilation.) I was thrilled to hear I was between 3-4 cm dilated! Aaron asked her if he should call family members, but Valerie told him that most likely, with this being a first time birth, I would not actually have our baby until the morning. She encouraged him to wait, so he did. She then broke even more of my water, and told me that the baby had recently had a bowel movement, so there would be respiratory therapists in the birthing room just in case the baby didn’t cry when she was born. For some reason, I didn’t worry about this. I felt in my heart that everything would be okay so I continued to focus on making it through the contractions. I asked Valerie how long I needed to wait until I got an epidural, she told me I could have one as soon as I wanted. I decided I wanted to wait until as long as possible to get one, as I wanted to experience as much of a natural childbirth as I could handle. Upon breaking the rest of my water, my contractions began to happen in full-effect. They were long and gut-wrenching. I’d compare it to being on a treadmill, and being forced to sprint 30mph for at least a minute, only getting a few moments to catch your breath. They’re exhausting! It wasn’t the kind of pain I anticipated, as it was far more tiring than I imagined it to be. We were only supposed to be in triage for 15 minutes, but we ended up in there until 9:45! I had monitors on me that caused a computer monitor to blink yellow, saying, “Admit Patient.” Aaron began getting concerned, as he knew my labor had dramatically progressed, but we were told that this was a night unlike any other, as a typical day at the birthing center has a maximum of 10 births, while just in this evening there were 8 women in labor. Valerie came back in, telling me it was time for us to go to our birthing room, it was ready!
Walking to the birthing room was not easy. My legs felt so weak, and I was experiencing contractions at least every 2-3 minutes, so I had to get through one in the middle of the hallway. Again, I kept quiet when having these happen…no yelling, no crying, just quiet wincing. I really wanted to stay as calm as possible, reminding myself that my body could do this! Making it to my final destination of the hospital bed was a relief. I told Valerie right away that I wanted to have my epidural, that I was getting so tired I just wanted a break. I had to get my blood taken and get the IV put in. Would it amaze you to hear that this was one of the most painful parts of the entire experience? Oh, I think IVs hurt terribly! I cried little, tears of sadness when the phlebotomist took my blood, and then when Valerie put the IV in my hand.
At 10:00PM the anesthesiologist arrived and I felt relieved. My contractions were getting so close together I almost thought it’d be too late to get an epidural. He had a great sense of humor and did not make me feel nervous in any way. I said, “I’m so scared I am going to have contractions while you’re doing the procedure.” He calmly replied, “Oh, you’ll probably have at least six while I am doing it.” WHAT? Oh no! I was so nervous! I had always imagined flinching with a contraction while having an epidural. This is not the case. Contractions are like long, painful cramps that start out tiny but get more and more intense with each passing second. It kind of reminds me of an ocean wave, coming in slow, crashing, and then digressing. He told me everything he was doing and what I’d be feeling. Cleaning the area, “a bee sting” (to numb my back) and then the tube going in. He made a comment about my back being a little sunburnt (from my walk, I wore a tank-top, it was irregularly hot for a mid-April day.) I remember saying, “Oh, I promise I wear sunscreen all the time, I just went on a walk in an angry haste and forgot to!” He made light of the situation, assuring me that he wasn’t judging me; after all, he’s an anesthesiologist, not a dermatologist. Back to the procedure…I can honestly say that none of it hurt in any way. He was done with all of it by about 10:30. It was kind of an out-of-body experience, as I could feel a tube going into my lower back, but it didn’t hurt at all! As he was finishing up, I told him how thankful I was for his help, and that he was an angel. I called a lot of people angels that night—that’s just what I do when I am in labor, I guess! The craziest part about all of this, was that as he was packing up, Valerie told him that the three rooms all near me needed him…I got my epidural just in time!
By 10:45, I was still feeling intense contractions, but only on my left side. Valerie told me to lay on that side, as that could help move the medicine to there if need be. She said if I were still feeling pain in that part after 5 minutes, she would have the anesthesiologist come back in. Sure enough, I still felt pain; in fact, the pain I felt was a sudden, almost jerking like movement from my left side to my pubic bone. Valerie decided to check my dilation, since a few hours had passed. This is the moment I will never forget…the look on her face after checking me…disbelief! She looked astonished as she said, “Aaron, you might want to start calling family members…your baby is ready to be pushed, Christie is fully dilated!” In that moment, I cried tears of joy. I couldn’t believe that I had dilated so quickly, as I was anticipating being up all night in labor. I couldn’t believe how quick this whole experience had been. The best part: I was no longer in an ounce of discomfort or pain, the epidural kicked in, and my baby was ready to come out!
Valerie expressed her uneasiness in the fact that the on-call doctor was currently delivering another baby, so she wouldn’t be coming in for at least a half hour. I assured her I couldn’t feel a thing, so I wouldn’t be eager to push or do anything I wasn’t supposed to. I even said this with a sense of humor! In that time, my in-laws came in to see us, hear how everything had gone (so far) and pray for the baby and for us. I was in a great state of mind, and even in those few minutes of not having painful contractions, my body felt strong again.
By 11:30, the OBGYN came in…it wasn’t the doctor who I loved and had by my side my entire pregnancy, but I felt completely at ease regardless. This doctor was calm and had a sense of humor (a trait which I really appreciate in medical professionals…it makes me feel good.) I had an additional nurse, Jan, that would be keeping an eye on the baby. Jan said to me, “That baby is mine, I am not going to let those two over there (the respiratory therapists) get to take her, she’s going to come out crying, I just know it!” (Crying meant that none of the meconium had reached her lungs, so she would be perfectly healthy.) I appreciated her positivity and comedic relief…she even complimented my pedicure!
As they prepared my body for labor, they told me I was ready to push. “Really?” I asked! I just couldn’t believe it was time. It was a moment I’d imagined so many times in my life…giving birth to my baby…and I had never thought I’d feel so calm and focused. They had me push for three sets of 10 seconds, and then rest. Aaron would smile and tell me how good of a job I had been doing; such a supportive, loving and wonderful husband he was throughout all of this. I can honestly say that I didn’t feel anything as I pushed, I couldn’t believe I was making progress! Well, apparently I had! On my third push, the doctor and nurses said, “Push, Christie, push as hard as you possibly can!” Well, I am someone that puts 100% into anything I am supposed to do…so I did! And at 12:18am, out came my baby (much to everyone’s surprise, as everyone anticipated a few more pushes than a total of three.) All I waited for in those moments was to hear her cry, in which she did…the most special sound I had ever heard. They quickly wiped her off and handed her to me, our baby girl. Many times I wondered what the happiest moment of my life would be, and I can say, with all of my heart, it was having Aaron by my side, and us looking at Hadley for the first time. The first things I noticed were her long eyelashes, and her adorable little dimple chin. She opened her eyes at us right away, and we were instantly captivated. Our baby, who was lovingly made, lovingly grown, lovingly anticipated; was now with us… able to be seen and fully experienced.
PS: It took us two days to decide on her name because we wanted it to fit her perfectly! Hadley means “a field or meadow of flowers” which was wonderful for our little springtime baby, while Grace means “a favor or blessing” which she most certainly is to us!