Throughout my pregnancy I would constantly find myself in awe at what my body was capable of doing. I could grow and nurture another human being within my womb. My stomach stretched further than I could have ever imagined and I could feel my hips and ligaments bowing under the weight of my growing baby.
It wasn’t until the end of my pregnancy that my body began to succumb to the rigors of growing a child. It wasn’t only my belly that was swollen but also my hands, feet, and ankles. I had trouble drawing a full breath and was constantly tired. I attributed all of these ailments to being at the end of my pregnancy so I was shocked, when at my 38 week appointment, I was told that my typically low blood pressure was alarmingly high. My blood pressure, coupled with the swelling of my hands and feet, lead my midwife to order me to get some lab work done.
I immediately knew what they were looking for. I had read up about preeclampsia early on and knew that it was dangerous for the mother. If gone untreated, I could be struck with seizures and even die. It was May 17th, two weeks before his due date, and I went to the lab for blood work. It was early in the afternoon and while my midwife thought that it might just be a fluke, she assured me that she would contact me as soon as the results were in.
I got home and immediately went over our birth plan. I looked over what we had recently added…
-We would prefer not to be induced and don’t want to have to use Pitocin.
-Intermittent fetal monitoring (I want to be mobile while in labor)
-Able to labor in the tub
-Delayed cord clamping
If I were to have my dream labor it would be a very quick, non-medicated vaginal delivery. I mean, it sounds great, right? I would pray at night for a six hour natural labor with minimal trauma to me or baby. Seriously.
At nine o’clock that night we got the call. My labs came back and I had mild preeclampsia. The only cure for preeclampsia is to deliver and since I was far enough along, they wanted to induce me. Our midwife informed me that the hospital was full but as soon as a bed opened up they wanted me to come in. I asked when she thought I would be in, thinking that it would be in the next few days. She responded with, “Probably in an hour or two.”
As soon as she said it I was dumbstruck. We were going to have a baby. And soon. I hung up the phone, told Chris, and immediately ran through a list of things we needed to do before we left for the hospital. I sent Chris to the store to buy snacks for himself so we wouldn’t starve during labor. I started vacuuming and cleaning the bathrooms. I went over our packing list and made sure to slip my bathing suit in my bag so that I could labor in the tub. Yes, I packed like I was about to go to a vacation resort. It’s laughable now.
At ten thirty we were told to make our way to the hospital. After checking in and getting to our room, our midwife began running triage. I already had a blood pressure cuff on me and an IV in my arm (so much for being able to be mobile) and as our midwife’s assistant was listening to my heart beat she stopped and asked our midwife to listen. It was determined that my heartbeat had a regular irregular beat to it. It was unlike anything anyone in the room had ever heard before. It was then that they called in for an EKG.
The EKG involved even more wires. As the results from the EKG came back, even more people entered the room. The cardiologist said that the EKG reported that I had a heart attack. Everyone was perplexed. Obviously, I was fine but apparently my pregnancy was throwing my body out of whack.
Once it was determined that I was okay, I was told that I was going to be given a cervix softener before I was given Pitocin. I asked if I had to have the Pitocin and was told that was how labor was going to be induced. I was disappointed but also knew that we had to get the baby out. The night nurse assured me that everything was going to be okay but that I should also prepare myself for a long labor. She quoted that it could be two or even three days before our little man arrived.
I was given the cervix softener at 1:30 in the morning. Chris and I then passed out for the night with the hopes of resting as much as we could before labor started. I woke up at 6AM on my own and thirty minutes later my water broke. I called the nurse who checked me and she excitedly exclaimed that I was already 3 centimeters dilated and it looked like labor was going to start all on its own. No Pitocin needed! Thank God!
The contractions came on fast and strong. It took all of my effort to breathe through them. The next few hours seem like a blur. By 9AM I was in so much pain that I pleaded for an epidural. At that point, a natural labor was the furthest thing from my mind. I was already 6 centimeters and I didn’t see how much longer I could endure the contractions.
At 9:30 the anesthesiologist came in. By that point, the pain was blinding. I remember grasping the rail of my bed as I tried to make it through each contraction. Our nurse noticed a shift in my demeanor, looked at the anesthesiologist and said, “I don’t think she’s getting an epidural. I think the baby’s coming.” All I remember after that is the anesthesiologist saying “Good luck and congratulations” as he left the room.
Immediately after he left I looked at our nurse and told her that I wanted to push. Her eyes were wide and I remember a whirl of movement as the midwives and nurses began to prepare for the arrival of our baby. They kept telling me not to push but my body completely took over. Women in baby blue scrubs were running around the room frantically trying to set up everything they needed for the birth. He was coming whether we were ready or not.
The midwives told me to push whenever I felt the urge. I know it’s going to sound weird, but pushing actually brought a sense of relief. I preferred pushing to the intense pain of the contractions. And at 10:05, after thirty minutes of pushing with Chris by my side, we welcomed sweet Holden Brave into the world. He was immediately placed on my chest and it was just like the movies. I cried, Chris cried, Holden cried.
My entire world changed in that moment. We spent the first hour of Holden’s life with him on my chest, skin-to-skin. Everyone quietly exited the room leaving Chris and I with precious moments to bond with our new baby. I now understand why it’s referred to as “the golden hour.” We spent an uninterrupted hour (probably a little more) studying his little toes and the soft tufts of hair on his head. He looked nothing like I expected him to but he was perfect in every way.
While my labor and delivery ended up being nothing like I expected it to be, I wouldn’t change a thing. I ended up getting the quick, drug free labor that I wanted and most of all, I had a healthy baby. I feel so incredibly blessed and can’t believe that Chris and I are parents. What a sweet and wild ride.