Is it baby time?
I guess you could say Finley’s labor story started 9 days before she was actually here. That Sunday night I had my first hint of contractions. They were pretty short-lived but made me feel like SOMETHING was happening.
The next day was my 38-week appointment and they asked if I wanted to be checked (for dilation) and I did. They confirmed I was 3cm and made me an appointment for 2 days later to check on my progress. I won’t lie, I left that appointment feeling prettttttty amped. With Miles (my first), I left my 39-week appointment 2cm dilated and he was here the next morning. So naively, I was sure I was only a day or two away from baby girl.
That afternoon and the next day I took two long walks, determined to get baby girl moving. Then, that night I had my first actual contractions. They lasted 45 seconds and were coming every 3-4 minutes. I was sure it was happening! The contractions weren’t very strong, so I just sat timing them, waiting for them to increase in intensity or last at least an hour. After about 45 minutes I got up to walk around and kind of start preparing to possibly go to the hospital. But, after a few minutes of being up on my feet, the contractions totally had faded. I faced the realization that it was not baby time.
The next day I had my follow up appointment and was still only 3cm dilated (and now 75% effaced). They suggested scheduling an induction for that Monday (I’d be 39 weeks.) I wasn’t too sure. I had gone into labor naturally with Miles and really felt sure she would come on her own time, too. But, because I had labored very fast with Miles (went from 4cm to 10cm in less than 2 hours), and because I lived about 45 minutes from the hospital, their concern was if I would make it to the hospital on time.
They scheduled me an induction and told me to sleep on it.
By the next morning when I still had no signs of actual labor on the horizon I realized I needed to have a mindset shift. I was so dang sure this baby was coming that every hour she didn’t arrive felt like an eternity. I reminded myself I was still only 38 weeks and could have a few more weeks in front of me.
So that day I focused on not letting all my energy go into trying to will this baby into coming and instead started doing things every day that had nothing to do with the baby. I planned video content, worked on blog posts, made plans for the following week. I really focused on letting go of the urgent desire I had for her to be here RIGHT NOW. I also canceled my induction. While I wasn’t against the idea of being induced if necessary, 39 weeks just seemed to be rushing it.
Honestly, I believe some of going into labor is a mind game. We all say “the baby will come when she wants,” but I also think a lot of it has to do with our bodies needing to be ready, too. I figured spending all my energy trying to force my body into labor was almost doing the opposite. So, besides my daily walks, which I think are good for inducing labor but also good just for helping with delivery and postpartum, I let go of all the labor induction wives’ tales and just focused on my day-to-day. If anything, it allowed me to let go of the anxious feeling of thinking “today is the day!”
The weekend went by with pretty much no signs labor was coming and we unknowingly spent our last weekend together as a family of 3. Monday moring arrived, still with no signs that labor was near.
Time to head to the hospital
Monday evening, around 6pm I had this weird feeling wash over me. I don’t exactly know how to describe it. It was a mix of anxiousness, exhaustion, nerves, and anticipation. When Michael got off work I had to go lie down for a bit because it made my entire body feel off. All I can think is that it maybe felt like a very subtle panic attack, though I didn’t feel panic. It was just this overwhelming feeling I can’t describe.
That night around 12:30am I woke up. I felt restless and got out of bed. I don’t know how to describe it but I just knew something was happening, although no contractions had started. When I got downstairs I ate a piece of cake our friends had brought over, quite certain I might need a little something extra in my stomach the next few hours, and what is better than cake, right?
Within about 10 minutes some contractions started and I began to time them. They were coming every 5-8 minutes and lasting 30-40 seconds. They weren’t too strong yet so I waited to wake Michael until I was sure.
To pass the time I decided to put on a little makeup. I know this seems kinda random, like who needs makeup to deliver a baby? No one. But for me, it’s more about the habit of doing it. It’s something I do every morning and helped me sort of prepare to leave the house and helped take my mind off the contractions so I didn’t just sit there obsessing over the length of each one. After about 40 minutes of contractions, they had increased in strength. They still weren’t super strong, but because I labored so quickly with my first pregnancy, my OB had told me to plan to call as soon as I had an hour of consistent labor contractions to ensure I got to the hospital on time.
I woke up Michael and he called the person who was coming to stay with Miles. (Because of COVID we couldn’t have family come stay with us. Our friend’s mother-in-law watches Miles 3 mornings a week and is part of our “COVID bubble.” She also only lives about 3 miles away, so we were so thankful she was able to come stay with Miles.) I also called my OB to let her know I was on my way to the hospital. When I told her I’d been having active contractions for about 40 minutes she told me to “get in the car immediately.” Again, they were sure I’d labor quickly since I labored so quickly with Miles, and typically your second pregnancy goes even faster. Her immediacy made me a little nervous, but I also felt pretty sure I still had time. The most interesting thing I learned from my first pregnancy is how much you can trust your own body during labor and delivery. You assume OB’s know best, and they sure know their stuff, but you’re the only one who can feel exactly what your body is going through. I felt OK that we were going to make it to the hospital on time.
While Michael got dressed I got out my headphones and put on my labor playlist I had made. It’s not a life-changing playlist by ANY means, just a bunch of songs that kind of pump me up and make me feel upbeat and happy. Within 20 minutes, just after 2am, we were in the car and on our way.
The drive was actually really easy and uneventful. I definitely was having active contractions but they still weren’t so strong that I couldn’t endure them sitting in the car. I listened to my playlist the whole way and when we got to the hospital they brought me up to labor and delivery. Michael had to stay behind in the waiting room, because of COVID they didn’t let him up until I was officially admitted. They brought me into the labor and delivery triage and hooked me up to a few monitors to check contractions and check on baby. It was a pretty quiet night at the hospital. No one else was delivering. My contractions had seemed to slow slightly when we got to the hospital and were coming every 6-8 minutes now. I started to wonder if I was going to be there a while and maybe have one of those longer labors with hours of contractions I hear everyone talk about.
After about 30-40 minutes they told me they were admitting me and brought me to my room. Our hospital has one room for everything so you deliver and stay in the same room, which is nice. Everything that’s needed they bring straight to you, including everything for baby. After delivery, they don’t take the baby from you until the 30-hour tests. So, once I was admitted that was the room I would be staying in for at least the next 30+ hours. A few minutes later they brought Michael up and we were able to get some of our things settled.
They also hooked me up to a portable monitor so I could move around. Since my contractions still weren’t that bad, I wanted to walk around as much as possible. I couldn’t leave our room, because of COVID regulations, but the room and bathroom were fairly spacious so I started just doing laps back and forth and back and forth. Within about 15 minutes of that, I felt my contractions begin to increase in time and strength. I had my labor playlist going on full blast and just sort of vibed through them. I honestly can’t tell you how much I appreciated having that labor playlist. It allowed me to just sort of check out and focus on the feel good music and just kinda jam through everything.
At about 5:20am my doctor came in to see me and check my progress. I believe she said I was about 6cm dilated at that time (but honestly don’t even remember exactly.) She then told me she was going to sweep my membrane, which I’d heard of before but never had done. I don’t remember it even feeling like anything. I did feel a rush of liquid afterward, however, which I assume was my water breaking. Immediately after she left the nurse on staff told me that, particularly with second babies, sweeping the membrane can make things start to move very quickly. She asked if I was going to want an epidural and I said I thought I would, but that I didn’t need it yet. She said typically they like to get a full bag of IV in you before they administer an epidural so she hustled to get one going on me and pretty much put it at full blast to get the IV in me as quickly as possible so that I could get the epidural when I was ready. She looked at the time and said, “well I think you’re going to have a baby before lunch!”
Let’s have a baby!
They brought me in an exercise ball and I sat on that with my arms on the bed, which was a very comfortable position to endure the contractions though. Over the next 30 minutes, my contractions really took off. She wasn’t lying about it going even quicker the second time around. Every 4-6 minutes a contraction came and each was stronger than the one before. By 6am I was VERY ready for the epidural. They had the anesthesiologist called and within a few minutes he was outside the door getting everything set up. Right at this point and the contractions were extremely intense and I was starting to feel a soft urge to push. The anesthesiologist rolled in his cart and began the process of putting in the epidural. Then, about halfway through him getting everything placed I had this intense urge to push which I boldly announced to the entire room.
“Oh boy” the anesthesiologist nervously replied. I don’t think he was about to hang around while I had a baby (not really in his job description LOL!) He said he was able to insert the catheter but there wasn’t enough time to administer the full medicine. An epidural typically takes 20-30 minutes to take effect and this baby was coming (like right now.) He basically explained he was going to be able to give me a small dose of medicine which would give a little bit of relief. I don’t remember feeling any actual relief like I did with my first pregnancy. With my first, I felt the epidural take effect as each contraction got less and less painful until I felt nothing. This time, I still very much felt EVERY contraction. Possibly it took some edge off the pain, but at that point, the urge to push was so overwhelming I wasn’t really thinking about anything else.
The nurse told me it was ok to push against the urge as the contractions came and I probably did that for two rounds of contractions as all around me they transformed the room for delivery. Doctors shifted in and out, they dropped the bottom half of my bed down and put my feet up in the stirrups, and by about 6:25 they were ready for me to push. I remember feeling a little overwhelmed at the thought of having a baby without the full epidural. But, I had also mentally prepared myself for the fact that I might not get to have an epidural since I knew I would labor fast. So, while I was a little nervous to endure it, I’m glad I had sort of prepared myself for the fact that it could happen. My best advice with labor (besides trusting your body) is that it’s OK to have some wants but to also be aware and open to other ways your labor could go. So many people have this vision of labor and if it doesn’t go that way it can be quite upsetting and traumatizing. At the end of the day, my only real want was that baby girl arrived safe and healthy.
The first contraction came and I gave it my all. I remember them telling me they could see her head and her hair. At each contraction, you push for 10 seconds 3 times, then stop until the next contraction. The next contraction came and I pushed my three times again. Each contraction COMPLETELY wiped me out. With my first, pushing was exhausting but because I had the full epidural there wasn’t any real pain associated with it. So, I was able to push for over 4-1/2 hours. This time around I felt it all, and after only the second round of pushing, I remember thinking I wasn’t going to be able to do this for very long. So, as the next contraction neared my OB said, “this time you’re going to give it your all, you’re gonna push harder than you’ve ever pushed.” And in the back of my mind I was like “F yeah, I am,” because I was ready for this baby to be out.
In juxtaposition to my first delivery, it’s crazy how much more I had the urge to push without the epidural. I’m not against epidurals by any means, and if we ever decide our family should continue to grow, I don’t know if I’ll get one or not. But, I will say without the full epidural, although more painful and intense, it did seem much easier because my body literally just took over. I couldn’t fight against the urge to push and I could really feel each contraction which I could use to my advantage to push.
So, on that third contraction, I gave it my all, and at 6:34, and on the second push, out she came into the world. Immediately they brought her up and placed her on my chest. I was totally overwhelmed. Because I pushed for over 4-1/2 hours with Miles, by the time he was on my chest I was so out of it I was barely cognizant of what was happening. This time it was less than 10 minutes of actively pushing with basically no drugs and so I was so much more present and aware. I honestly couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe she was here, and I couldn’t believe she was here SO quick. From 6:00am to 6:34am was honestly the most intense 34 minutes of my life, and then, suddenly, just like that, there was peace.
I remember she was so much noisier than Miles was when he was first born. She cried out quite a bit and the nurse told me typically babies who come out so quickly will cry a little more because they have more fluid (or something along those lines, don’t quote me). Her first hour of life was on my chest just holding her and kissing her little forehead and slowly she quieted. She even latched in the first hour of life.
In some ways, this delivery was similar to Miles’ birth story, and in so many ways it was so different. But, in the end, you always have the same magical results. Finally, the life you’ve been carrying is placed on your chest and it’s hard to explain that feeling. It’s a mixture of relief and joy and happiness and a little bit of uncertainty. Just like that, in almost an instant, your life has been changed forever.
(Also yes, I did have to labor and deliver with a face mask. Honestly, it wasn’t that bad. The labor went so fast and was so intense I didn’t even realize it was on.)