As a labor and delivery nurse, I fully realize how lucky I am to have such an INCREDIBLE birth experience. I can truly say I loved it and it was everything I imagined it to be and more as I gained new perspectives. It would be erroneous to give myself all the credit by saying I did all the right things and that is why everything happened the way it did. No, labor is too unpredictable; babies have their own agendas, things happen we cannot explain and often time’s things are even out of our control. Did all of my pre-planning including my education and practice in labor and delivery help? Enormously! Otherwise, I would say, “Forget all this education and just go in blindsided!” I must also add, I had one incredible delivery team!
Accurate perinatal education (as found on mommytobeprep) gives parents the ability to be a key player in their labor process by knowing their options and having the power to make evidence based decisions.
My Birth Story as a Labor and Delivery Nurse
I tried to keep this video as real and authentic as possible … while also not grossing anyone out and keeping my modesty! I hope you can also feel the enormous anticipation and elation leading up to the delivery after the three years we struggled with fertility and underwent the IVF process. I feel as though sometimes life is like a pendulum, the further it swings in one direction- hurt and despair, the higher it may go on the upswing with love and gratitude. This is our greatest upswing, our greatest miracle.
March 6th, 2018.
I was 39 weeks and 5 days, we had anticipated an early delivery due to my unicornuate uterus but had surpassed all my doctors expectations! My mom had already been in town two weeks, anticipating me to go into labor and had a flight to go home that day- she postponed! I was only dilated 1 cm at the beginning of the week so we decided to kick some things into gear! I tried all the tricks, intercourse, running, lunging, bouncing, and lots of pineapple!
I woke up to my husband saying he was leaving to the gym. I tried going back to sleep but noticed I was contracting regularly. I figured the contractions would stop after I got up and moved around, had something to eat and drink, and emptied my bladder – just like many times before.
The contractions continued. I went to the bathroom and noticed a good amount of bloody show! I literally shouted for joy sitting on the toilet! This was much more than a bloody, stringy mucous plug. Instead it was the amount that labor and delivery nurses get excited over, as this indicates the cervix has probably made significant changes – but not enough to be concerned! I was thrilled and hoped my contractions would continue to get both closer and stronger. I continued to get ready for the day as I had my 40-week appointment at 9:00 am. I called my husband and told him I felt like I was in early labor and to come back home!
We cleaned the home, went on a walk outside, and woke my mom. By now I was unable to walk or talk through the contractions and needed to stop and breathe. Yet, my excitement was through the roof as the vision of holding my baby girl on my chest felt even more tangible.
I ate a light breakfast (avocado spread on toast- thee best), continued to sip on water, and tried bouncing on my yoga ball. I discovered that made the pain significantly worse so I did some yoga stretches including hands and knees. The cat-cow combo felt really nice at this time. We packed the bags and headed to my OB appointment. I tried keeping my expectations low on the way to the hospital and told myself I was probably just 2cm. I continued on this train of thought and planned to come back home after the OB appointment to continue to labor more at home. I was, of course, hoping for much better news than 2cm! My mind was playing a game similar to just starting a race, telling myself to breathe easy and to conserve my energy as I was just at the beginnings.
I was excited to tell my OB I thought I was in early labor. When she checked me I was 6cm, 80% effaced, -3 station. WAHOO, I was so relieved! We again discussed my wishes for the labor process and she sent me to my second home – the Labor and Delivery Unit to be admitted!
I was admitted and placed on the monitors. My baby girl Magnolia looked a little sleepy on the monitor because of the lack of variability in her heart rate. My awesome labor nurse Rachel started an IV bolus (ran the IV fluid in as fast as possible) to hydrate me. Magnolia perked up right away and I was able to come off the monitors. I was then monitored every hour for 20 minutes. In-between being monitored I bounced on the ball (which now felt better) and walked around the unit. My husband applied pressure on my coccyx and hips during contractions, just like we had practiced and I utilized my hypnobirthing recordings.
At 12:30 my doctor came to check me, I was now 8 cm and asked my doctor to rupture my bag of waters. At 12:48pm my doctor broke my water! I now knew it was about to get very real and intense! In anticipation, I got in the tub as we filled it. My husband and mom took turns spraying the hose of warm water on my back, which seemed to be my favorite pain management technique.
Labor continued to get more intense, especially in my back. In response, I deepened my breath and meditation. I mostly stayed on all fours or leaning over. I got out of the tub a few times, once to try the TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) unit on my back. I found no relief with this and quickly returned to the tub. I no longer wanted to be touched and even had a difficult time discerning if someone was touching me on my back or not because the heaviness and force was so intense. As I started to feel more pressure, my body began shaking more, and I sensed a little panic starting to creep in. My pain management techniques were beginning to slip. I felt like a wide-eyed, spooked horse trapped in a corral. I continually shifted my body in the tub, no longer being able to find any physical relief. However, the level of pain reminded me I was close to meeting my baby and I knew I must be in transition!
My doctor came to check on me and encouraged me to make sound if I needed. I began moaning. I felt more pressure and even the urge to push! I got out of the tub and utilized the squat bar to squat and bear down. I pushed there a few times and then moved into the lithotomy position (reclined and holding my legs back) to continue to push. My Doctor completed a vaginal exam at 2:50pm. I was 10cm, 100 percent effaced, and +2 station. We were so close!
I used the mirror to see her head slip in and out; with each push I was getting closer. We listened to Magnolia’s heart beat in-between contractions. She was tolerating the pushing, but was also feeling the pressure (as noted in her heart rate)- it gave me even more strength to push harder. I started feeling light headed and tingling in my hands- I reminded myself to breath deeper. I could no longer watch as it took all my strength to bear down with my eyes squeezed shut. I found myself climbing up the bed in response to the fiery sensation- just like I had coached many delivering women not to do! I told myself to move towards the extreme burning and pressure, I continued to push.
Her head and body emerged tangled up in the umbilical cord. My Doctor skillfully unwrapped her as I reached down to hold my daughter for the first time. She let out her first cry, setting off a biological cascade, adapting her body to live outside of me. As her heart was literally changing with the new increase in pressure in her lungs and her circulation rerouting, my heart also too changed forever. My life rerouted. I was a Mom – this angelic newborn’s mom. Our hearts swelled with pure love as gratitude flooded over our entire beings and spilled out of our eyes. Our baby was finally here! She was really ours and we were hers – forever, an inseparable connection. Everything felt complete and right in the world. I held her on my chest as I then delivered the placenta and was stitched up. 7 lbs 10 oz, 21 inches long, this long awaited, tiny human being felt as though she had always been a part of us.
Preparation for My Own Un-medicated Labor and Delivery
Usually when we feel pain it can be frightening because we do not know the reason, thus even heightening our sensitivity to the pain. The most helpful knowledge that I had culminated through my experiences was that I could fully understand that the pain I was feeling was progress.
Yoga has taught me how to quickly, yet effectively relax my body and mind and to deep breathe through discomfort. My friend and labor nurse Rachel, who knew my love for yoga would use the term “corpse pose!” This was an effective way to remind me to completely let go and let loose when it was becoming increasingly difficult.
I found Tracy Holloway’s meditation/ hypnobirthing on YouTube. I practiced with these three videos linked below. Honestly, I did not practice everyday but probably 2-3 times per week after 32 weeks. I saved these three videos on my phone and listened to them throughout my labor until transition.
I had shared with my OB and co-workers what my ideal labor would look like. We also shared the understanding that my biggest goal was to have a healthy baby girl in my arms and whichever way we needed to do that would be perfectly fine. I had conversations with my husband and mom, as well as typed up a document of reminders of what they could do and say to help me in labor.
My awesome nurse brought in every labor toy we had on the unit into my room! I had the tub, a yoga ball, a squat bar, a labor stool, and I think a peanut ball, although I never did use the peanut ball. I also had the TENS unit and wireless monitoring available if needed. The tub I found most beneficial and was in it for the majority of time after my water broke. I enjoyed having my husband spray the warm water on my back as I leaned over the side and rocked back and forth.
New Perspectives Gained as a Laboring Patient and New Mother
I had been waiting to be on the other side of labor and delivery for 3 years, so when my moment came to slip the hospital gown on instead of my scrubs, I was elated. I had pictured how my own labor and delivery experience would go since becoming a labor nurse 4 years prior. Yet, some things still surprised me!
A Loss of Control
I peed the labor bed – on accident of course! Let me explain… I had asked my Dr. to artificially rupture my membranes (break my bag of waters). After that happened, warm fluid filled in-between my legs. Most all the patients after having their bag of waters ruptured state, “I think I’m peeing on myself, but I cannot tell!” My response is something like this, “Amniotic fluid has baby pee in it, so if yours is mixed in, it’s no big deal!” But usually, the fluid is actually clear, indicating it’s just amniotic fluid and not the mom’s urine! But when I looked in-between my legs it was yellow- sure enough my urine was mixed with my babies! I am sure this will just be one of the many moments in mommyhood when I realize I do not have as much control in life as I would like.
The Painful Fundal Exam and Massage
I felt I was well equipped for the level of pain I would feel during labor and delivery. However, I was in denial regarding the level of pain I as a nurse was inflicting on my patients when pressing down on their abdomen after delivery. It isn’t as painful as delivering, but I would rate it the same on the pain scale as a contraction during transition! Although painful, fundal exams are extremely important in a vaginal as well as a C-section delivery. When we complete a fundal exam we are making sure the uterus is doing its job of clamping down to prevent the mother from hemorrhaging. I knew this part was uncomfortable, but “Oh my goodness!” I owe all my past patients a further apology because this pain is real!
The Extent of Exhaustion and Emotional Instability
I knew mammas were tired, but until I experienced it, I could not fully comprehend the level of fatigue. When this worn out, it is difficult to stay logical or retain any information given by medical staff. For example, my husband (my rational, reasonable rock) had just left my side for the first time in the hospital. Magnolia began crying the most intense I had heard her yet, but when I put her to the breast, she would not latch. I had just recently introduced Magnolia to the pacifier a few hours earlier and was horrified that now Magnolia could have nipple confusion. My friend and nursery nurse walked in at the perfect time, swaddled Magnolia, bounced her, and soothed her with some shushing. I am usually not so emotional, but I couldn’t help the tears trickle down my cheeks as I saw my colleague sooth my own baby when I could not! My co-worker then talked some sense into me stating babies are not always hungry when they cry. She told me sincerely how great I was doing- exactly what I needed to hear. Thank goodness for great nursery nurses, who not only calm down babies, but also new mammas!
A New Level of Love and Responsibility
Although I teach new moms to sleep when their baby is sleeping, I could not even follow my own advice #majorhypocrite. Bryce and I both spent the entire first night in the hospital gazing at our new daughter. She was finally here and it was up to us to take the best care of her. It was magical… yet exhausting and not recommended. It is a little paradoxical how enormously and fiercely you can love something so tiny and fragile that you automatically will do anything and everything for this new, unique extension of the both of you. The overwhelming feeling and responsibility that comes with this love was something neither of us had experienced before.
The shift into motherhood is an everyday adventure. You may think you know what it is going to be like, and with good perinatal education, your mindset may be pretty close! But no matter how prepared we come, there will always be surprises. This is just one of the reasons motherhood is so beautiful.