If you don’t know me, I’m Olivia. I’m a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach. And, after my own difficult postpartum experience, I became certified in pregnancy and postpartum exercise.
Over the coming weeks I’ll be sharing pieces of my own story, frustrations of my own postpartum healing journey, and my 2023 plans for helping postpartum women in their own healing processes.
Warning, this is a raw and unfiltered story. So without further ado….here’s my birth story.
2am: I had the “bloody show”. This can be a good indicator that labor is ever closer, so naturally I was excited. I couldn’t really sleep from 2-6am from a mix of a little bit of excitement and a little bit of contractions, Braxton Hicks, but they were still stronger than they had been for sure. I felt like in the next day or two she would likely be coming. When I got up that morning I texted Melinda Ring our doula, and she said it sounded like it would be happening soon also. I prepared some things- like laundry, rechecking our hospital bag, etc. Nothing much changed that day until about 3pm. I was waiting on Hunter (my husband) to get home from work. Contractions felt stronger- still not sure if they were real ones or stronger Braxton hicks at this point- but I was eager for him to be home just in case. When he got home we went for a mile walk with O’Malley, our golden doodle.
6:00pm: We started watching a movie while eating dinner and somewhere about halfway in, (7pm or so) contractions were getting to where I couldn’t really concentrate on the movie. I was on the stability ball and just trying to breathe through them. These were the real deal. O’Mallley curled up at my feet while I was sitting on the ball. The contractions were coming about 5-6 min apart and lasting for 45-60 seconds. We texted Melinda and she said if they held steady we might consider heading to the hospital/birth center.
9:00pm: We headed to the birth center. When they checked my dilation- I was at 3 cm. We decided to head home and labor some more from there as that would be more comfortable. We were hoping we might get some sleep before heading back to the hospital/birth center, but I could not and Hunter basically had none- he did doze off between contractions, but I woke him for each one. They were certainly getting stronger and more unbearable. I tried laying on my side in the bed for awhile but that wasn’t working for me. I tried sitting on the stability ball and for awhile that helped- until it didn’t anymore. It seemed that standing up /hunched over a bit was the better position even though they were still very painful there.
2:30 am: We decided that we would head back to the birth center. We told Melinda we were headed back and wanted her to meet us there. When they checked my dilation again, I was still only at 3cm. I was crushed. To go to the birth center I had to be 5cm. I knew I couldn’t tolerate waiting much longer without getting settled somewhere- so our first “off plan” decision was to take a hospital room and forego the birth center. Melinda said she really felt confident I would feel better if I could get in a hot shower to labor.
3:30am: We got into a room and I was literally stripping within seconds of entering the room, ready for that shower- any kind of relief. She was right, that shower was instantly helpful. From 3:30 to about 7am, I labored mostly in the shower. I tried the tub but sitting was painful and there were no jets in it. So I went back to the shower. I could only stand in the shower and that was getting very tiring after a couple of hours of standing up. It also got so hot in there that I had the shower curtain partially open and Melinda and Hunter would take turns fanning me. The bathroom was definitely flooding but nobody seemed to care- for which I was grateful. Melinda suggested trying to lay on the bed, which I did, but it didn’t feel good. The last time I got in the shower, I actually was able to sit which was such a relief and I found myself falling asleep between contractions.
7am: I could tell I had reached a point, where we needed to make another decision. I was exhausted and the pain was wearing on me. It had been 12 hours of laboring at this point. When they checked me again, I was only at 5cm. I was crushed yet again. Because we had no idea how long, it would take to get from 5 to 10 cm, and I knew I was weary, I decided that I wanted an epidural. I felt relief very shortly after that. I couldn’t feel a thing.
From 7am to about 2:30pm we were playing the waiting game. I tried to get some naps a few times and we killed time with conversation and TV. Throughout the day, they checked me and I was still 5 cm, so at 2:30pm, we discussed my options, breaking my water or giving me Pitocin. Because Nora seemed sunny side up and the way she was positioned, Brooke (my midwife), was concerned that breaking my water might not be the best move just yet. We decided on Pitocin to speed up my dilation/contractions. Also I was so hungry. I broke down around 4pm and had a small snack. (I could have cared less about hospital rules at that point). The Pitocin did speed up my contractions but not my dilation, I was still 5cm.
7pm: they broke my water. This is when things started to progress.
9pm: I was dilated to 7cm.
11:13pm: I was 9.5 cm. The epidural had really worn off at this point- I knew several hours earlier that my legs felt much different- I could actually feel them and I wondered if that was a bad thing. I could feel the cervical checks, which I had not been able to feel earlier.
2:00 am: This is about the time that I was dilated enough and I had the urge to push. I pushed off/on for about an hour. The pushing itself felt like a relief but the pain in between pushes was terrible. I really, really felt it. I was shouting between pushes, the shouts were completely involuntary and reflexive. I was growing really weary and asked if we could rest for a bit. After about two hours of attempted rest, but not really as I could still feel the contractions and the pressure in my back and my butt was very high. During the “rest” time, I had a few different anesthesiologists come and give me more pain meds but they didn’t seem to be helping. I could still feel it all.
5:00 am: Brooke had come to check on me and we discussed options- I was at the point where I was ready for a c-section- I just wanted to pain to end. She mentioned other options were to continue pushing- she really felt like we hadn’t given pushing enough time. And she said we could use forceps or a vacuum in addition to my pushing to help get her out quicker. We had discussed these options in our birth class and they were both something that I never wanted to do. Melinda reminded me that these options still had their place and benefits over a C-section. We decided to have the doctor come take a look at baby’s position and see which of those would/could be a good idea. In the meantime, waiting on her to come, I kept having urges to push. So I would push, but I knew my muster was wearing very thin.
7:00 am: I knew a C-section was what I absolutely wanted to do. I was exhausted and could hardly stand the pain anymore. I was ready to get that baby out. I told the doctor and then she had to explain the risks of C-section- all of which I didn’t care about at that point. I could barely focus with the pain of contractions. I just answered yes to everything and that I was ok with it. Then there was some waiting on different people coming in to ask me questions and prep for the procedure.
Finally people came in to get me on a stretcher. I remember praying that each contraction from that point on was my last one- that I could feel anyway. They wheeled me down the hall and I kept focusing on my breath because that seemed to help me avoid yelling uncontrollably with the contactions when they would come. I made it to the operating room without having one but ended up having 3 or 4 while waiting. They tried to get me to help them roll from the stretcher to the table but I was incapacitated by the pain. I was basically deadweight. Then they tried to get me to sit up to do the spinal block, but, I was in so much pain that movement, let alone that position seemed impossible. They tried to the spinal block on my side, but it didn’t take. I was trying to be as still as possible but between my body shaking and having contractions it was very difficult. They told me I would have to sit up for the second attempt. I managed to get up to sitting. But they struggled with me sitting straight up and not sitting to the side or shrugging my shoulders. Sitting on my butt hurt so very much. They finally got it done and I literally felt almost instant relief. I told the team that I could “do cartwheels right now”. And they asked me not to, haha. They got me to lay down and shortly after that Hunter came in the room. From there on, it was all a blur. I was so exhausted that I was fighting sleep while they were slicing me open and the entire time we were in the operating room.
I couldn’t even hold Nora because I could tell I was SO sleepy and my arms felt like lead. I did hear her cry. And I did see Hunter holding her and he sat next to me. I kept fighting hard to not fall asleep, I didn’t want to miss this. As I reflect back, the hardest part of everything, was that I was looking forward to the moment of her being born, holding her first skin to skin, and watching Hunter lay eyes on her for the first time. All of which, I didn’t get to see or do.
I was and still am really proud of myself though. We set out to have a natural birth and while we didn’t, I do feel like I truly made the best decisions possible for me and baby girl every time I had to make one.
My baby girl is two years old now. And September 25th, 2020 was just the beginning of our story. Stay tuned for next week’s post: struggles of my postpartum healing journey.