This is primarily a writing blog, though I haven’t used it for much besides posting story publication announcements lately. But today, I want to share with you Estelle’s birth story. Mostly this is for me actually. It’s something I want to remember all the details of, and what better way than by sharing them with all of you. I’ll try not to get too graphic, but it’s going to be rather long-winded and overly detailed. If birth stories aren’t your think, skip this post, dear reader! For the rest of you, here we go…
In the weeks leading up to Estelle’s birth, we had a bit of a roller-coaster at every doctor appointment. I had been at 1cm dilation for quite some time with no change in week to week appointments. Estelle was sometimes down low and sometimes not. I worried constantly that she hadn’t dropped yet.
As 40 weeks approached, my nurse practitioner, Shelly, started talking about inducing. That was scary to me. It wasn’t what I wanted, not how I saw things going. I felt torn though, because Bo had a limited amount of time off work and I wanted to make sure he was able to be home with Estelle and I for as much of that time as possible. Then I felt selfish for being willing to induce just for our convenience. I wanted things to start naturally, on their own. I felt a bit judged for even entertaining the notion of inducement.
But I came to terms with it. We were all set to go to our 40 weeks appointment on Thursday, July 21st and induce that night. For this appointment, we saw my actual doctor. My blood pressure was high when I went in–I was really nervous, planning on being induced that night. Then he checked and I was still not dilated, cervix still not ripe, and Estelle–he said–wasn’t engaged in my pelvis. He could push up and she’d just float up away from my cervix. He said her head was likely too big and seemed pretty sure that we’d have to have a c-section.
The very LAST thing I wanted to hear. I broke down crying right in front of him, as much as I tried not to. He said we could wait until the following Monday (July 25th) and check one last time. He said we could try induction then and he’d let me try vaginal delivery, but that if I was laboring too long and it wasn’t productive, they’d do a c-section.
I cried more.
And they needed to do a stress test in the office because my blood pressure had been so high. So they hook me up to the machine and I’m lying there crying and trying desperately not to and using all the techniques they taught us in birthing class to try to relax. Bo was so sweet and stayed with me and tried to keep me calm.
Eventually, I managed to calm down enough so they could see my blood pressure drop and they let us go home. Where I cried more. Off and on all day as I researched c-sections. I could come to terms with most of the negatives of a c-section (the longer recovery time, inability to lift things, etc), but I was devastated by what I read about how some doctors/hospitals don’t let you do immediate skin-to-skin with your baby after a c-section. I read stories about moms who didn’t get to hold their babies for hours after delivery. And that…crushed me.
Bo, once again, was super sweet and tried to get me to relax and not worry about it. We had the weekend, he said, and who knows what would happen.
So I tried to relax. The next day, I went out and bought an exercise ball because some friends recommended it for getting Estelle in a good birth position. I spent most of Friday evening on the ball, bouncing, rolling, you name it.
Saturday morning at 5:55 am I woke up to a contraction. I hadn’t had a single one up until that point. I had three more, all within seven minutes or so of each other, so I woke Bo up. We went downstairs, all sleepy, and the contractions let up. We didn’t really know what to think. When almost an hour passed without another contraction, we decided to go do something to take our minds off of it.
So we went and saw Star Trek: Beyond. Which I didn’t enjoy very much. Granted, I was pretty distracted waiting for another contraction. At this point, I was passing what I’m pretty sure were parts of the mucous plug. This, I tried to tell myself, was good. Any progress was better than none. It was a weird state to be in–wishing desperately to have another contraction, and then whenever they did hit, struck suddenly by fear of the painful delivery I could see coming. “This is really gonna hurt,” I remember realizing. As if I didn’t know that already–but in the middle of a contraction I KNEW it in a more visceral way.
Saturday afternoon and evening, the contractions became a bit more regular. Bo laid down to get a little sleep while he could and I tried, but lying down made the contractions MORE painful, almost unbearably so, and also more regular. Which I liked–but whenever I’d sit up or stand or sit on the exercise ball, they’d get all irregular again–ten minutes, then twenty minutes apart, then fifteen, etc.
Those few hours when Bo was asleep and I was alone, downstairs, were utterly miserable. It was past midnight. I was talking to a few people on Facebook, but most everyone else, it felt like, had gone to bed. I felt so very alone. And the pain and fear made the contractions worse. I was tensing up–exactly what they told us not to do–and it was becoming unbearable. I didn’t want to wake Bo up. I was worried he’d be so exhausted, especially as it looked like we were going to have Estelle that weekend after all.
But at last, I was too scared and in too much pain to do anything but wake him up. He told me I should have woken him earlier (and he’s probably right). Then we spent another three or four hours of the late, late night in labor. I sat on the exercise ball and he rubbed my back, which was hurting more and more. I tried different positions, but that was the most comfortable (thank GOODNESS I bought that exercise ball!!).
As it got close to 5:00am on Sunday morning (July 24th), the contractions were getting closer together. 5 minutes, 7 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes. They were so irregular, we didn’t know what to do. I kept asking if we should go to the hospital. I was afraid we’d be too early, that they’d send us home. I kept waiting for the contractions to get more regular but they wouldn’t.
At last, we decided to just go. The worst that would happen is they’d turn us away. So we loaded up the car and headed out. I think we arrived at the hospital at around 5:00-5:30am. I had another contraction between the double doors of the ER (the only open entrance–we were told to go there if it was after regular hours). I had to stop, it hurt so bad. Just inside, we checked in (or whatever the term is, thankfully we’d pre-registered) and a man (a nurse maybe?) wheeled me up to Labor & Delivery.
When the double doors opened on Labor & Delivery, I started crying again. It wasn’t all that long ago that we’d walked through those doors for our hospital tour and now I was HERE and it was REAL and I was scared and shaking and in pain.
Bo had to wait in a little waiting room while they did triage to see if they needed to keep me. When the nurse checked, I was dilated to 7cm. “You almost waited too long, sister,” she said. I couldn’t believe it. 7cm. I’d planned on being there well before then, because they told me I could get an epidural at about 5-6cm.
A great and wonderful relief is what I felt when I realized they were going to keep me and I didn’t have to go back home and spend more hours in pain.
They put us in our delivery room and rushed through the paperwork. Two different nurses were asking me questions at the same time, entering information in computers, while simultaneously one nurse drew blood and another hooked up the IV. It was a bit of a whirlwind. They wanted to make sure I could get enough fluids in time to get an epidural–plus antibiotics because I was Group B Strep positive.
I was still having contractions, but I was much calmer at that point. Just happy to be in the hospital really. Bo stayed nearby the whole time and refused to eat anything, no matter how much I urged him. “If you can’t, I can’t,” he said.
We took this silly selfie and posted it. Because why not. I promised on Twitter not to live-tweet my delivery.
A little while later, they put the epidural in. That was…weird. They numbed it first, which was just a pinch and a little painful–but nothing compared to the contractions–and then they threaded the catheter in and it was this really weird pressure. So strange to feel something sliding down your spine. I had to do breathing exercises, not so much because it hurt but because it felt so weird.
Then blissful numbness spread through my body. I had a contraction and didn’t even feel it–the nurse had to tell me. They adjusted it after that so I’d feel pressure when I had a contraction, but no pain. It was glorious. I relaxed. I was happy. I couldn’t sleep, but it didn’t matter.
Bo’s parents visited for a bit as we waited and waited for me to get from 7cm to 10cm. After awhile, my doctor arrived and broke my water. More hours passed. Eventually I reached somewhere between 9 and 10cm. My doctor, however, was in surgery on another patient and they told me I’d have to sort of hang tight until he was done.
So we waited. For about an hour. By that point, the epidural was wearing off and no matter how many times they pushed it for more, it wasn’t helping. I was feeling contractions and pain again. It was getting worse each time. But still, thankfully, not as bad as what I’d felt at home.
Mom and Dad were on their way down. I told them I didn’t think they’d make it before she was born, but I guess Estelle decided to wait for them. That and the doctor being away.
As the contractions became more painful, my amazing nurse (I can’t for the life of me recall her name, but she was SO awesome) let me start pushing. This was a whole new experience. I tried it a few times, pushing when contractions hit. It was funny because when I was pushing I wouldn’t feel the pain from the contractions. The nurse told me to hold my breath through each push, three pushes to a contraction. She made me hold my breath so long each time, I thought my head was going to explode. Bo said later that I turned purple every time.
It felt so ineffectual. She kept asking if I felt pressure from Estelle’s head, but I didn’t.
But the nurse always sounded so optimistic with every push. I didn’t FEEL like I was doing anything, but she made it sound like I was so very close. We pushed and pushed, I don’t know how long. Bo held one of my feet and the nurse held the other and I pulled on my legs with each push. Eventually they raised bars for me to pull on instead and braces for my legs/feet.
Pushing eventually became more effective. The first few times I cried with the strain of it. But the nurse helped me calm down between contractions and eventually I got the hang of it. She said she could see Estelle’s head and the first thing she said was “oh, she’s got a lot of hair!”
Finally my doctor arrived. I barely remember him entering the room ’cause I kept my eyes closed through most of the whole thing. More pushing, this time with the doctor there. On the last round of pushing, I heard him say something about maybe needing to cut me and I was like “oh hell no!” (Okay, I didn’t say that, but I thought it!) So I pushed as hard as I could (I swear they should say that just to motivate ya, haha), even after the contraction was over and that’s when her head came out.
Another massive rush of relief. I thought her whole body was out. It wasn’t, of course. They wiggled her shoulders out and let me rest for a second before giving another small push and then another surge of relief as she came all the way out.
It was 1:33 pm.
He set her up on my stomach, on a thing that looked like a tarp, and I wept and touched her as the nurses wiped her off. She had so much hair. I could hardly see through the tears, but she didn’t look as creepy as I imagined. She still didn’t look ‘normal’ of course–all discolored and sticky and cone-headed and strange. But she was out. And I couldn’t stop crying. And I think Bo said “You did it. You did it.”
They took her to a table to clean her up while the doctor got the placenta out and put a few stitches in. I stared at her, across the room, as they did the painful pushing and massaging on my stomach to get my uterus to contract. It hurt a lot, but again, I kept comparing everything to the laboring at home so it hardly fazed me.
Once they were finished up with me and with checking Estelle, they brought her back to me, all wrapped up, and I got to hold her again. We took pictures.
Lots of pictures.
Just Bo and I and Estelle after the nurses left.
She looked more human then, all cleaned up. So tiny. So very tiny looking. Bo seemed hesitant at first to hold her, afraid he’d hurt her, but he took her and, let me tell you, seeing the man I love holding our baby was just… all the feels. I feel the same way every time.
She stuck her tongue out at us, of course, just like she had in her ultrasound. We fumbled through the early steps of trying to breastfeed. Eventually, when we’d had enough alone time, they let our parents in. Mom started crying, so I started crying again. And it was just lovely.
I thought, when she finally slipped free of me, that it was over. I’d done it. But it wasn’t over. It isn’t over. It was just the beginning.