I decided to split this up into two parts because this story spans 25 days. In my head though, even now, it’s hard to separate my labor from all that unfolded after he was born, but here goes.
My pregnancy was fairly easy, as far as pregnancies go. (Okay, all pregnancies are hard. Birthing babies is hard.) But I didn’t have any complications. My symptoms were all pretty normal. I was hormonal as hell, and toward the end, I was HUGE but compared to what other women have gone through, I can’t complain too much. At 39 weeks though, I was so over being pregnant and ready to get him OUT.
On Sunday, January 15th, Dallas and I headed to see an 11:30 a.m. showing of La La Land and then to his dad’s house for football and family dinner. It was two days before my due date, so I already had the car packed in case I needed to head to the hospital. Sure enough, right about kick-off, my water broke.
My OBGYN told me a million times that my labor wouldn’t happen like it does in the movies, that my water most likely wouldn’t break first, if at all. I’d been having some really small contractions here and there for a few days, but nothing regular or worth timing, so I definitely didn’t see this coming. I’m not going to lie, I thought I peed myself right there on my in-laws’ couch (#thirdtrimesterproblems). I got up to go to the bathroom and more came out, but I still wasn’t convinced that it was my water leaking, so I tried to play it cool and quietly asked Dallas to get me new underwear from my hospital bag in the car. Other important, embarrassing details: I was wearing a maxi skirt and a maternity thong because that’s literally all I could fit at 39 weeks and 5 days pregnant. So yeah, it was not pretty.
But because it’s impossible for me not to worry, I decided to call the after-hours number my doctor gave me and let a nurse know something might be happening. Try calling up a total stranger and saying “I’m not sure if I peed myself or what but…” without laughing. She told me to go the hospital to be checked just in case. We live south of Austin (closer to San Antonio really) but when I became pregnant I was working in Austin and had been seeing my doctor there since I was 21, so I decided to stick with her for delivery. It’s about an hour drive to the hospital without traffic. Dallas was so excited, he got us there in 40 minutes!
The whole way there I told him, “They’re going to tell me I peed myself and send me home. Stop freaking out.” Although I was starting to feel light contractions in the car, I was still in denial. Once we got there and registered, I could feel the contractions getting stronger. Dallas was helping me change into a hospital gown when the rest of my water broke all over the bathroom. This time I was sure that I wasn’t peeing myself. I looked at him and the nurse and finally admitted, “okay…maybe I’m in labor.”
At this point, I made Dallas go back to the car to get the hospital bag (I really was convinced that I was going to be sent home) and called my mom so she could meet us there. I was only 1 cm dilated (and had been since my doctor checked me two weeks earlier). Since my water was broken, I was given 12 hours to go into active labor on my own or the doctor was going to put me on Pitocin to speed things up. With my water broken, I was at a greater risk of infection so the goal was to get the baby out within 24 hours.
My birth plan was slowly unraveling. I had planned on an unmedicated birth, ideally laboring at home for as long as possible. I wasn’t completely opposed to an epidural, but my goal was to try to do without. My water had broken at about 3:45 p.m. so I had until 3:00 a.m. to make some significant progress. The doctor suggested trying Cervidil first, a vaginal insert (much like a tampon) with time-released medication that helps to gradually soften, thin, and dilate the cervix. I agreed, they inserted it and set up external fetal monitoring. Fun fact: my belly was so large and Emerson was curled up in a little ball right in the middle of my abdomen, so the monitor kept slipping off. He also kicked and moved away from it, so the nurses had to keep adjusting. He was so not ready to come out yet!
In the beginning, labor was actually kind of fun. The contractions felt more like PMS cramping, and I was just super pumped that it was finally happening. I watched so many birthing videos on YouTube in my third trimester that I was more excited than scared at this point. We listened to music (of course I had a birthing playlist), watched football, and talked about finally meeting Emerson. Eventually, the contractions got stronger and closer together, so we started timing them on our own (even though the hospital’s monitor was also tracking them). At some point, a nurse came to check me again and the fun stopped. I was barely making any progress, even though it sure felt like I was.
Things get a little blurry for me after that. Eventually, I couldn’t talk through the contractions anymore. Dallas and my mom took turns holding my hand and coaching me through them. At some point, I couldn’t stand the football game being on anymore. The sun went down and it started to rain, and that became my focal point. The only way I could get comfortable was laying on my side facing the window. I watched the lightning dance across the sky while the trees swayed to the beat of the thunder. I tried to sing along with my labor playlist. I remember hearing Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car,” “Beautiful Boy” by John Lennon, “Naked As We Came” by Iron & Wine, and of course, “Blue” by the queen herself (Beyonce). I still have this playlist and every time I listen to it, all the emotions come flooding back. (Comment below if you’re interested and I’ll post it sometime.)
Eventually, the playlist ended and I couldn’t focus on it anymore anyway. The contractions kept rolling closer together until it felt like they were crashing into one another. I asked a nurse about it and she said I was having double-peak contractions. Because of the double-peak, they were lasting about 2 minutes long and only about 90 seconds apart.
Now my memory is really a blur. The pain was definitely taking over. I remember Dallas holding my hand and my mom rubbing my head, playing with my hair the way she did when I was young and had a bad dream or when I was a teenager and was broken-hearted over a boy. I kept envisioning the sweet face of a little boy I wanted to meet so desperately.
Three a.m. crept up on me and it was time to check my progress. At this point, it had been almost 12 hours since my water broke. My hope shattered when they said I was only 3 cm dilated. The doctor wanted to start me on Pitocin no later than 5:00 a.m. Had there not been the looming threat of Pitocin making my labor pain more intense, I probably would have soldiered on at least a little longer without pain medication, but shortly after 4:00 a.m. I asked for an epidural. I hadn’t slept at all since the night before and still had 7 cm to go before I could begin pushing. I’ll spare you the details of having a large needle inserted into my back while I’m shaking from contractions. Oh, and the catheter insertion (fun stuff).
I spent the rest of the night attempting to sleep. I could still feel my abdomen tightening with each contraction and I was shaking, but the sweet relief of no more pain was wonderful. I don’t really know if you could call it sleeping, but I laid still with my eyes closed listening to the storm rage on outside and Dallas’s soft snores next to me.
When I woke, the morning shift nurses came in to introduce themselves. They helped me position myself to guide Emerson to drop a little more. That’s right, that sweet baby boy of mine was still not ready to come out, even after I was fully dilated and effaced. (If you know how much of a stubborn mama’s boy he is now, it makes total sense.) When it came time to push, it was a little before 11:00 a.m. I was exhausted but more than ready. I had Dallas and my mom on one side of me, and the sweetest delivery nurse coaching me on the other side. I heard so many stories of women who said that once they had an epidural they couldn’t figure out how to push, but that wasn’t my experience. I don’t know how to explain it exactly; I didn’t feel pain, but I did feel an enormous amount of pressure. And I could feel the top of my abdomen contract so I knew when to push.
Twenty-five minutes of sweaty groaning and a room full of people cheering me on, and suddenly he was outside of me. I distinctly remember the nurses saying “He just keeps coming!” and “Oh, those feet!” Dallas told me later that he looked like a little baby elephant coming out.
A room full of faces smiling and crying with relief and all I wanted to see was his face. A moment later he was on my chest, crying his sweet newborn cries, his head tucked under my chin, my arms finally wrapped around him. 10 pounds, 5 ounces, 22 and a quarter inches long. A full head of hair. Button nose. Beauty mark on the inside of his ankle. Little potato feet and the chubbiest cheeks I’ve ever seen. He latched onto my breast like a little pro. (He still loves his mama’s milk more than anything.) I looked at Dallas with tears in both of our eyes and said, “Look what we made.”
We were all in shock at his size, including my doctor and all the nurses. At 36 weeks he measured well over 7 pounds. The sonographer checked and double checked, thinking that couldn’t be right. My doctor was not at all concerned and reassured me that those measurements weren’t always accurate. She said she wouldn’t schedule a C-section unless he was measuring over 10 pounds…
Y’ALL. I carried and pushed out a 10-pound 5-ounce baby. And afterward, I ate the greatest cup of tomato soup, grilled cheese sandwich, and brownie I’ve ever had in my life. Honestly, it’s the most badass thing I’ve ever done.
I’m ending this post on a positive note because it’s the ending this story deserves. (It’s the ending I deserved.) Stay tuned for Part 2, when I’ve emotionally recharged enough to recount it.