The first 17 weeks of my pregnancy were filled with non-stop nausea.
But luckily, once I hit that 17-week mark, I started to get a little more energetic. I stayed pretty active with power walking, and that helped me feel pretty good.
Near the end, though, there was no signs that my baby girl was going to arrive any time soon. I assumed she’d be late, like I heard first-time babies tend to be, but I was so wrong.
Three days before my due date, I got a backache. It was just a dull pain in my back, so I brushed off because, hello, there’s an eight-pound baby in there! Of course my back would hurt! But as I was cuddled up on my couch watching an episode of Friends, I suddenly felt like I wet my pants. That’s weird, I thought. As I stood up to go to the bathroom to check out the situation, it felt like a balloon had popped, and I started gushing water. My water had definitely broken. My husband wasn’t home, so I called him to tell him the news. That was around 3 p.m.
We really wanted to deliver without any pain medication, so I had that goal in mind the entire time. One thing they say helps is to labor at home for as long as possible.
However, I was group B strep positive, which means I carried a bacteria that could be passed to the baby during delivery, potentially causing life-threatening complications in a newborn. Getting antibiotics during delivery lowers that risk, so I knew that once my water broke, I had to go to the hospital soon.
The only catch: My contractions hadn’t yet started. I called the woman who ran our breathing class and told her my situation. She gave us tips on how to get contractions started naturally (like by making out with my husband). She also said that I had to be at the hospital in eight hours.
Well, there was no make-out sesh needed! Contractions started on their own 15 to 20 minutes after my water broke. At first, they were so mild, I didn’t even know if they were contractions or not. I started frantically cleaning to distract myself. By 5:30 p.m., though, they were three minutes apart and very strong. It was time to go to the hospital.
I don’t know how women can be chill during labor, because I was very dramatic. Maybe the car was uncomfortable, but when I got in the passenger seat, the contractions felt like they were coming on stronger and stronger. It took 25 minutes to get to the hospital, and I was struggling.
When we got there, I had to stop in the parking lot, and again in the elevator to take a breather. It was hilarious when we got to the front desk. They asked calmly “Can I help you?” and I said, “Um, I’m having a baby!”
When we first got to the hospital, I really felt like the baby was just going to come, but they told me that I was only about five centimeters dilated. Then, things got uncomfortable because I was so cold I was shivering. My ob-gyn gave me the okay to labor in a tub, which was a lifesaver. Baths are my self-care love language. They filled the tub and kept the water running, a sound that was so soothing.
Even though I wanted to go drug-free, there was a point when I did ask for an epidural. They told me that if I wanted one, I’d have to get out of the tub to start the IV, and then I couldn’t go back in. There was no way I was doing that—I was staying in that tub. Being in that bath helped me stick to my birth plan, which I’m so grateful for. With dimmed lights and music playing, the labor room was a very calming environment.
At around 9 p.m., I had been in the tub for about two hours. I told the nurse that I felt the urge to push, so they checked me. Only eight centimeters, which was a bummer. Even worse, I was told I couldn’t get back in the tub, something that made me so upset.
I didn’t have time to be upset for long because I went from eight to 10 centimeters dilated in 10 minutes. That was by far the most intense part of labor. And I was wet and cold on the bed.
The birth was a roller coaster. In between contractions I could rest, but pushing was hard, and at times, I didn’t want to do it anymore. Even though I was really worried about tearing, there was honestly so much pressure from the baby moving downward that it overpowered any other sensation. Pushing her head out was the hardest part. I was scared and started giving lazy pushes. My doctor told me with a bit of urgency that I had to push. I gave it everything I had. After bit of a burning sensation and a lot of pressure, she was born. As soon as she came out, a flood of relief washed over me. I was surprised, though, that my body still hurt—I expected that once she was out, all the pain would be gone. Not true!
The feeling of her being placed on my chest and meeting her for the first time was amazing. I didn’t think I could have a drug-free birth, and I did it. I was amazed at what my body had just done. It’s a surreal moment, like you’re in another world.
That said, the afterbirth contractions were real. They were so intense for the first 12 hours after birth. Luckily, Motrin was a lifesaver. It’s not something they prepare you for.
Go in with an open mind because whether you’re wanting to have a drug-free birth, an epidural, or a planned C-section, those plans may have to change day-of. I was lucky in that I got to stick to my birth plan and had such a wonderful birth experience, but the most important goal is to have a healthy labor. We may read birth stories and get an idea of what we want, but your story is going to be your own and different from anyone else’s. This is one of the most precious memories you’ll ever make.