I love reading birth stories and when I was pregnant I always wondered what Ruthie’s would be like. I didn’t really spare any of the details for this blog, so if you don’t like reading about birth then this may not be the blog for you. Overall I really feel like I had a great birth experience with Ruthie and I think I owe a lot of this to the great hospital staff and my midwife. There were definitely some hard moments but it was not a traumatic birth and I would do it all over again for Ruthie in a heartbeat!
The Sunday night before Ruthie was born (she was born on a Thursday) I started to have some contractions. I had pretty regular Braxton Hicks contractions towards the end of my pregnancy, but these felt different because they were more painful and closer together. I wondered if I was going into labor and I even shaved my legs that night in preparation – haha! I was totally prepared to wake Dave up in the middle of the night and drive to the hospital.
However, the contractions were totally gone by morning. I was so disappointed because I was SO DONE being pregnant, but the next day (May 1st) was my last day at work so I was also kind of glad that I wasn’t in full on labor yet. I kept joking with people that I couldn’t go into labor yet because my nails weren’t done (I definitely did get them done after my last day of work and my labor nurse even complimented me on them!) The next few days passed by pretty uneventfully without any more signs of labor
On Wednesday night May 3rd, I started to have more painful contractions again but they were still pretty far apart and not getting any stronger. I assumed it would be like a few days before, kind of like a “false labor” which never progresses. I didn’t want to get my hopes up! I told Dave that I was still having contractions but he was in a pretty deep sleep and wasn’t a huge help – it’s ok, he was when it actually counted!
I continued to have the contractions for several hours, so at midnight I called my sister who is a labor and delivery nurse in Minnesota to ask for her advice. I told her I didn’t want to have my baby in my kitchen! It’s so hard to know for your first labor when to go into the hospital because you don’t want to get there too early and you also don’t want to leave your house too late. She told me to walk around for a while and if the contractions decreased, then it was probably not something to worry about. I got out of bed and walked around, doing laundry and cleaning all my drawers (the nice part about this was I got to come back from the hospital to a really clean house). I sat on the couch for a while and watched a few episodes of Friends – the ones where Rachel goes into labor! My contractions seemed to disappear so I got back in bed.
The next morning was my 39 week appointment with my midwife. I woke up and still noticed a few contractions here and there, but they didn’t seem strong. I was comparing all of them to the intense period cramps I used to have and honestly the cramps seemed a lot worse than what I was experiencing. I’m not sure if I have a high pain threshold or I just experienced pretty mild contractions, but I feel pretty lucky about this part of my labor.
Dave met me at the appointment with my midwife, Kim. During the appointment, I was explaining my contractions to her and she said it was probably pre-labor and my body just preparing itself since I didn’t seem to feel an increase in the length or severity of the contractions. She asked if I wanted to be checked (so she could tell me if I was dilated or not). My plan was always to wait to be checked until my 40 weeks appointment because I really don’t think that being checked means anything. I know some people who were at 3 centimeters for weeks before they actually delivered and I know other moms who were not dilated at all and then had their baby the next day! However, because of my contractions, I did ask her if she could check me. Also I’m just a super impatient person and I didn’t think I could wait any longer to know what was happening.
While she was checking to see if I was dilated or not, Kim looked at me in surprise and asked me if I was in pain. I said that I was kind of in pain, but more uncomfortable. She told me then that I was at a 5!! (5 centimeters dilated! That’s halfway where you need to be to start pushing). I definitely swore out loud when she told me that and everyone in the room was laughing! No one could believe I was at a 5 since I seemed so calm.
Kim told me that maybe we could still go home and go out to lunch before having to be admitted into labor and delivery. She wanted to make sure my contractions weren’t super regular first though so she hooked me up to the monitor. Twenty minutes later, she came back in and told me that my contractions were 4 minutes apart and she was going to call labor and delivery right away to admit me. I asked her if I had time to go to the café and get a snack (I am always ALL ABOUT FOOD) and she said that was ok as long as our next stop was labor & delivery. My women’s care practice is in the hospital that I was delivering in, so it was just an elevator ride up to the labor rooms.
While I was getting a snack, Dave ran back to work. He works just five minutes away from the hospital so it was really easy for him. He grabbed his computer and said goodbye to his work team since he was going to start his two weeks of paternity leave then. Earlier that morning, I had made Dave and myself pack our hospital bags in our car before the doctor’s appointment, just in case we needed them. Thank God!
As I was eating my snack, I first called my parents and told them that they were going to be grandparents today! They were so excited and were literally on a flight from Chicago to Denver in the next hour and a half. Then I called my sisters. THEN my contractions were finally getting stronger and Dave was still no where to be seen so I called him in a panic and told him to HURRY UP. Poor Dave was in such a rush carrying our hospital bags into the hospital that he dropped his phone in the parking lot and his screen shattered. He looked hilarious when he got in the hospital though because he was holding like seven bags and a giant 6-pack of Coke (when I told him to get everything from my trunk, he thought I meant e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g). We ended up leaving the Coke on a bench next to the hospital elevators because we were in such a hurry – hopefully someone found it and took it!
We were admitted into labor and delivery at about 11am, which was such a surreal experience because I had rehearsed it in my mind so many times. Our awesome nurse introduced herself to us. Luckily her shift had just started and she was working until 11pm that night so we never had to change nurses.
Kim came back in about an hour later on her lunch break and asked me if I wanted her to break my water. The other option was to let me progress naturally and see how I was doing by the end of her work day at 5:30 that night. I told her to just break my water now to get it over with so she did. This didn’t hurt at all, but felt so weird. There was some meconium in my water, which isn’t super concerning but it did mean that NICU had to be in the room during delivery and it meant that I always had to be hooked up to the portable monitor during labor.
After my water was broken, the real pain started! The contractions felt a thousand times stronger and more painful than what I had been experiencing before. Dave and I walked laps around the hallways, which were lined with rails. I leaned on the rails when I felt a contraction and also leaned on Dave (although I told him not to touch me… I hated being touched during contractions). After about an hour and a half of this, I asked the nurse if she thought it was a good time to get an epidural. She told me she could check me and if I was at a 9, maybe I didn’t even need an epidural (so Boulder! At my hospital they really love natural birth, which I think is great but I also think medicine is great too). My next contraction was so painful that I told my nurse to not even check me – just please call the anesthesiologist. It took about 45 minutes for him to come – the longest 45 minutes of my life! The contractions were so painful and I was dilated to an 8. To those mamas to go through the transition period without meds, you amaze me!!
At my hospital the give you the epidural while you are lying on your side curled into a ball. It was extremely painful to have a contraction while curled up into a ball and this was probably my lowest moment of the whole experience. I cried during this contraction and told my nurse that I couldn’t do it. But then about one minute after I got the epidural (which by the way doesn’t hurt at all – they numb that part of your back and you don’t even care since what you are feeling hurts way worse), I felt so much better. ALL HAIL THE EPIDURAL AND THANK JESUS FOR MEDICINE. I loved getting an epidural because I felt like before the epidural I was just trying to survive the next contraction, but after the epidural I was able to take a nap and really look forward to Ruthie coming soon.
After I got the epidural, my nurses did a good job of making sure I was rotating which side I was laying on. She put a beanbag (like a big one that you can sit on) in between my legs. After rotating to the other side once, I started to feel a lot more pressure. You can press this little button that gives you more epidural medicine, but I never pressed it and I think that was a great decision because by the time it came to push I could start to feel the contractions again. I paged my nurse on this little remote they have next to your hospital bed. Instead of my nurse, Kim came in! I was so happy to see her. It was around 5:45pm so she must have been done with her appointments for the day. I told her about the pressure I was feeling and she checked to see how far along I was. She told me it was time to push.
I didn’t feel nervous at all, I just felt relieved that this process was hopefully nearing an end. My nurse came back in and coached me through my first pushes. Dave and the nurse held my legs and I pushed with each contraction. (This is why I was glad the epidural was wearing off, because it’s more effective if you push during contractions and I could start to feel all of mine again). After a few minutes my nurse asked if I wanted to watch the baby’s head in a mirror and I said YES! I’m always so interested in stuff like that and I really wanted to be part of the process. She wheeled in a full length mirror and for the next hour while I pushed, I watched Ruthie’s head come out! Honestly this was the best part of the birth experience for me and it was so motivating. I could watch in the mirror and focus on pushing in a specific area. I kind of kicked it into overdrive and even though they tried to get me to push 3 times for every contraction, I always tried to do 4 times. Kim laughed and told me that I could teach a class on how to push! I was so ready to meet this baby. One of my favorite parts of this story is that around 6:30pm, our nurse told Dave that if we wanted dinner he should order some food from the café now since it closes at 7. I took a little break from pushing and he ordered a cheeseburger for himself and a baked potato with bacon for me. I have no idea why that sounded like the best post-labor meal but it sounded amazing. I kept referring to my baked potato all throughout pushing which made all the nurses laugh.
When I could see a good majority of Ruthie’s head in the mirror, I started crying. I had waited so long to see any part of her in real life that I couldn’t believe that I could see her head – her hair! The rest happened so fast. I could see in the mirror when her whole head was out and then Kim was telling me to reach down and grab my baby. Ruthie’s cord was wrapped around her neck once, but the nurse quickly unwrapped it. This scared Dave and I could see it in his face when she came out. The nurse helped me put Ruthie on me and I was so stunned finally getting to hold her. It was hard to even know what to say. I remember it being weird to finally say her name in front of other people since Dave and I had only said it to each other.
My hospital does delayed cord clamping by default (again, Boulder) and when it was finally time to cut the cord, Dave got to cut it. I was too mesmerized looking at Ruthie to realize what was happening in the next hour. They helped me deliver the placenta (ouch – so painful when they press down on your stomach) and then Kim spent a long time giving me stitches. I had a second degree tear and she seemed to be working down there for kind of a while. The epidural had pretty much worn off by this point so they gave me some numbing medication.
Ruthie did not come out crying, but I wasn’t worried since I could feel her breathing. The NICU nurses listened to Ruthie’s heartbeat a lot and then after about an hour and a half of skin to skin time with Ruthie, the NICU nurse took her to the warmer in our room to weigh her and measure her. 7lbs4oz and 21 inches long! Dave and I are both not very tall so I was surprised by how long she was. And I was only 5lbs14oz when I was born (but I was 3 weeks early) so it was so nice having a baby who was bigger than me! I thought she was the perfect size. Finally, they gave Ruthie to Dave so he could hold her. This moment was as amazing to watch as I thought it was would be.
Our food came and I ate my amazing baked potato and also some of Dave’s cheeseburger. I felt pretty nauseous for a while so my nurse gave me some saltines and ginger ale. After eating, a new nurse came in who got me ready to go into our new post-labor room in the Mother & Baby section of the hospital. I held Ruthie while I sat in a wheelchair and they wheeled me into our new room. I got wheeled past the waiting room where my parents were waiting and they got to see Ruthie!
My last favorite moment of this day was watching my parents and Dave’s parents meet their new granddaughter. I’m so glad my parent’s could time it out perfectly so that they were able to make it to Boulder early enough to meet Ruthie on her birthday and I’m so glad that Dave’s parents live close and were able to come to the hospital late that night.