Valentine’s Day 2017 went a little something like this (9 days past my due date):
I woke up and began my day just like normal -- I started to respond to work emails. However, by 9:30am my Braxton Hicks contractions were turning into something more regular. By 10am they were coming every 6 minutes and becoming more intense (I could no longer speak through contractions). By noon they were happening every 5 minutes and I was really focusing on trying to let my body move in a way that felt good (for me, leaning on a table and swaying my hips worked best). At 12:45, I got in the bath, on all fours, hugged a yoga ball with a towel under my knees while my husband, Mike, kept the shower head on my lower back...at 1pm most of my water broke (luckily in the tub). It was a little brown which meant that meconium was present so I knew I couldn't labor at home too much longer.
Mike had been in constant communication with Neelu and Jessica that morning; Neelu was now on her way up to our apartment. After my water broke the contractions became even more intense and were happening every 3 minutes. At this point, I seemed to be making low deep moaning sounds to get me through the contractions (the moans seemed to just happen instinctively). The moans helped me get in “the zone” (a place where you need to be mentally to take on each contraction). Once Neelu arrived at 2pm, we took a cab to Weill Cornell (my contractions were less than 3 minutes apart and about 1 minute long at this point). I had three contractions in the 10 blocks to the hospital -- we tipped our cabbie well. While waiting to get registered, the rest of my water broke...in the lobby.
I went straight to triage where the nurse placed fetal heart monitors on me for ~30 min. I was 3 cm dilated. It's at this point where the nurse in triage wanted to put an IV in me. We made sure to tell her that I was trying for a natural birth and wanted a heplock (a port in case they need to give you anything later) instead of a constant IV. The heplock is a way to allow yourself not to be connected to an IV machine. With the heplock, I knew I had to drink lots of water in between contractions. I had discussed getting a heplock with my OB/doctor beforehand; the triage nurse asked me if I had done this which reassured her to comply with my wish.
I was finally brought to my delivery room where I continued to labor with the help of Mike and Neelu. The nurse that I first had was really nice. We told her that I was trying to have a drug-free/ natural birth; she never asked about an epidural. (Side note: The only person to ask about an epidural was the cord blood representative who unsuccessfully tried to discuss cord blood donations to me.) To appease the nurse, I wore fetal heart monitors for at least 45 minutes before I could take them off for intermittent monitoring. I was still able to labor by standing up. I swayed a lot and pushed my head and weight into Mike's chest during each contraction -- he was so supportive, both physically and emotionally. Neelu was there to remind and coach me to relax into each contraction.
When the new nurse (who was equally as supportive as the first one) came in for her shift we asked if I could labor in the shower (this was Neelu’s suggestion and one that I think played an important part in my successful labor). Because the fetal heart monitors didn't show any distress with the baby and possibly because my doctor happened to be the one on call that night at the hospital, I was allowed to labor by standing/holding the rails in the shower for one hour. This was crucial because I wasn't hooked up to anything for a good chunk of time. While in the shower, active labor kicked in...this is when it feels like the baby is starting to descend. These contractions made my knees buckle. They were rough...but I was able to get through each one by breathing slowly and deeply, groaning through them, and moving how I wanted to. It was really about trying to force myself to relax and take control at the beginning of each contraction.
Eventually, I moved back to the bed. I was on all fours, the back of the bed was tilted up and I held onto the top of the mattress and pretty much buried my head into the mattress for each contraction over the next 2 hours. I’m pretty sure I frizzled the hair on the top of my head with all the friction. Neelu and Mike made sure to talk me through each contraction. I was getting to the point where I was instinctively starting to push. My body was shaking and I was experiencing the most intense surges of pain I have ever felt...but they were just surges. I tried to let my body go limp in between to regain some strength.
At 8:15pm my doctor came in, took a look and said, "ok, lay on your back I see the baby's head". At this point I was screaming in my head “OMG it's happening, it's happening!!”. With Mike holding one leg and Neelu holding the other, it took me three hard pushes to bear down but in 12 minutes my little Ian was born. After Mike cut the cord (we chose to have a delayed cord clamping), Ian was placed on my chest, the nurses rubbed him with a towel, he let out a cry and instinctively tried to breastfeed. I was given a shot of Pitocin to help push out the placenta which happened within a few minutes of giving birth.
One thing that happened, that in retrospect I wish hadn't happened, was that my doctor gave me Lidocaine shots in my perineum right before the baby came out. I ended up tearing a little and had to be stitched up, but I didn't feel it bc of the shots. I suppose it was nice to be a little numb but everything felt rushed and there was no pause between when his head emerged and when his shoulders came out (I believe the Dr typically applies a warm compress and lets you regroup before the shoulders come)...which is why I think I tore. I think my doctor was just trying to help but I wish I had been more aware of what was going on to have said “no” to the shots.
In any event, I had a healthy 8lb 2oz baby boy! The memories of labor pain and exhaustion were quickly thrown aside once Ian was in my arms and tried to nurse, just seconds after breathing his first breaths of air.
As far as pain over the next 1-1.5 weeks, I will definitely say my vagina hurt...and back. Every time I nursed, my uterus would contract which felt like intense period discomfort. Even sitting hurt a lot so I did a lot of side lying. I had lots of swelling and took a combination of Advil and Tylenol, ice packs, used numbing spray and occasionally used a topical lidocaine gel for the first few days (which I came home with from the hospital). It’s been two weeks and I feel much better. I haven’t taken Advil in a few days and the blood seems to have tapered off.
Naps are life savers.