After writing about my second child’s birth story I realized I should share my first experience as well, especially since during Maryn’s story I referenced my first birth often.
We knew Ollie was going to be a girl and she was named pretty much since before she was conceived. I was 4 days past my due date with her and hoping to go into labor naturally since I had an induction scheduled but I did not want to be induced. With everything I’d heard and read about the chances of c-section being higher with inductions, I was scared.
At 12:38 pm on Saturday, January 28, 2017, my water broke. I was laying on the couch, literally just waiting for this exact thing to happen. I had even put on my “Feel Good Labor List” playlist on Spotify about 20 minutes before. We went out to breakfast that morning, and when we got home I cleaned the toilets. We were ready for things to start moving! It’s funny to think back on because when you’re overdue, you typically haven’t made any plans and it’s kind of nice. For the first (and last) time in years, I was bored.
I felt this gush- not forceful- more like a release. I could feel fluid coming out and I jumped up off the couch (faster than I’d moved in months). I ran to the bathroom, managing miraculously to not get the couch wet. I knew this was it, though I realize now that labor doesn’t start immediately for everyone whose water breaks. My husband, Chaz, was right there and we talked about our plan. I texted my mom, brother and sister “Don’t freak out, but I think my water just broke.”
My plan was to try to labor at home as long as possible. I went upstairs and took a shower with Chaz standing right outside the door, timing my contractions using an app. It was hard for me to tell when a contraction was beginning and when it was really over, but I was trying. By the time I got out of the shower, Chaz said “they’re 5 minutes apart- the app says to go to the hospital.”
We called and they told us to come on in. I was trying to dry off and get dressed but I was taking forever because I kept stopping to have a contraction. I was managing them okay by getting on all fours, but Chaz was getting nervous and encouraging me to get to the car. The car ride SUCKED. I don’t think I opened my eyes the whole way there. I was in pain but the contractions were not easy to define because I wasn’t getting a break between them. I had heard you are supposed to get time to catch your breath between each one, and I was still experiencing extreme cramping all the time (and I had never done this before so I had no point of reference). I was breathing hard and trying to practice the mindfulness and breathing tips from the books I had read.
When we pulled up to the hospital I thought it would be impossible for me to use my muscles to get out of the car. Chaz went and got a wheelchair from the lobby and brought it right to the car, and I managed to get into it. Inside, there were nurses who tried to ask me questions but I really couldn’t open my eyes or speak besides short responses. They decided to let me skip triage and admit me just by how i was acting.
They helped me transfer to the bed so they could check me, and to my dismay I was only 4.5 centimeters dilated. I was expecting more. I had wanted to hold off on an epidural for as long as I could, but after hearing my lack of progress I started to panic a little. I wanted to be on my side- where the pain was more bearable- but they wouldn’t let me. They said the monitor they strapped to my belly wasn’t going to work correctly if I was on my side and that I had to stay on my back. To this day I resent them for this, because I don’t believe it had to be this way, and it led to quicker interventions in my opinion. They started to place an IV for fluids and said I would need a liter of fluid in me before the anesthesiologist could do the epidural. My sweet husband started to tell them my preference to forego the medication, but I stopped him saying, “I don’t think I can do it. I’m not getting a break at all.” I wanted relief. My contractions were 2 minutes apart with continued severe cramping in between.
It seemed lightning fast that the anesthesiologist arrived, if you can believe it. My incredibly sweet nurse Nicole held me from the front so I would stay still as they did the procedure. Everyone says they’re afraid of the big needle they use, but I hardly noticed it with the contractions. I could feel the little tube going into my spinal column, though. It didn’t hurt, but I will never forget that weird feeling. Once it was over and I sat back in bed, it was instant relief. This epidural worked like magic. I opened my eyes and introduced myself to everyone in the room for the first time, suddenly a completely different person.
From that point on I was relaxed. I was free of pain, but could still feel my feet and move my legs a little, so I wasn’t too freaked out by it. My mom arrived shortly after and we just hung out for hours, listening to my labor playlist and sneaking jolly ranchers. My mom was amazed because she had never had an epidural with her 3 kids, so she didn’t know labor could be so calm and social. My contractions stayed 2 minutes apart, but I imagine they dampened in intensity with the epidural. I think it was about 7 hours from the time I got the epidural to when they said I was 9.5-10 cm dilated, and it seemed like the time flew. By that time, my brother and his girlfriend had arrived and we were all just hanging out. I started to feel increasing pressure downward, like I had to poop. It wasn’t pleasant, but not too painful. That’s when they said I should start the pushing phase, so everyone but Chaz left the room. This was around 9pm.
At 9:15 I started pushing. I remember because I asked the time and the nurse thought it was a very strange question. I didn’t like her. My sweet nurse from before had left at 7pm and I was left with this bossy lady. She tried to instruct me how to push, but with the epidural I wasn’t getting the hang of it very quickly. Honestly, I feel like they should have waited longer for the baby to move down further on its own before having me push. So for the first 45 minutes of pushing, nothing much was happening and the nurse kept telling me I was doing it wrong. I was told to hold my breath and push for 10 straight seconds at a time when a contraction was starting. She’d tell me when to start since I wasn’t sure when they were happening. It felt unproductive for a long time. After that, I started to get better at it I guess and the pushes were more productive. The nurse would walk away at times and leave Chaz to coach me, which was really nice. The lights were dim, the music was on and it was just the two- well, three- of us. The nurse actually said I pushed better when Chaz was coaching and counting for me vs when she was- Probably because she was bringing negative energy into the room!
Finally the head made its appearance. It would start to crown during a push and then go back in a little when the contraction was over. They tried to tell me to keep pushing so that wouldn’t happen but it was exhausting. The epidural was still working but I could feel the “ring of fire,” which feels just like what it is- stretching skin. They had me reach down so I could feel her head. After a total of an hour and 45 minutes of pushing, her head came out which felt like a huge relief. The body came out easily after that, and I barely pushed for the placenta a few minutes later. What really hurt was when they pushed on my belly to get as much of the gook out as they could.
They wiped her off just a bit and laid her on my chest. She seemed enormous, and later she weighed in at 9 lbs 5 oz. She looked like a sumo wrestler! She had jet black hair and full cheeks. She cried but only for a minute. She was here.
Olivia Joy Spofford
born at 11:01 pm on 1/28/17
9 lbs, 5 oz
I just referenced my journal in order to get the details I may have otherwise forgotten for this story, and there is an unedited excerpt I want to include here about early motherhood (transcribed from handwriting):
“Tuesday, 3/7/17 *Ollie is 5 weeks old
It’s hard to believe I haven’t written since before little Ollie was born. I had so many questions and concerns then about the birth, and now that it’s over I need to focus on how to be a parent and get through this initial period sane and with a child who is healthy (and alive).
Chaz and I still look at her with wonder, like how did we create a being so complete and perfect, who has all the right body parts in the right places, whose body functions like it’s supposed to and who is already showing signs of a personality? How did we get so fortunate to be her parents, to live this miracle? It truly is miraculous what has happened. I used to wonder, “how does a woman get through childbirth?” and “How do people know how to care for a newborn?” And the most basic of answers has revealed itself to me: They don’t have a choice. Giving birth isn’t something that’s achieved, it just happens and you can’t stop it. That’s how I “got through” it- I went into labor, Chaz drove me to the hospital, I got medication for the pain and 10 hours later I pushed like they told me to and she finally came out.
Now, people react to and handle the situation in different ways of course, but you do it because time ticks on and the baby must come out, simple as that. And once she’s born, they tell you what to do in the hospital, and you change the diaper when the line turns blue. You use a wipe to clean up the poop you can see and before you know it you’re a diaper pro, wiping in the right direction and everything. You wipe their mouth when they drool or spit up. You keep ‘burp cloths’ everywhere. You wash their neck folds in the bath once you realize their neck smells like puke. You get bodily fluids on you and your clothes but you realize you don’t care like you once thought you would. You just accept that laundry will be done frequently in your house from now on. You get used to interrupted sleep and, if you have a supportive partner and family, try to sneak naps when you can. And it’s not so bad. You call your baby a monster in the middle of the night to your spouse when she wakes up and it’s “not time yet.” And you let her cry for a few minutes to see if she really means it. And then you get up and you say “Aw, sweetie, Mama’s here” and you feed her and love that she needs you. And you wait patiently for those intentional smiles to come. And you watch her cry and think she’s so damn cute at first, and then you try to figure out what calms her the best, like a riddle. And you feel so good when you successfully calm her, like you’ve figured her out- for now. We are getting through it and I think we are off to a great start.”
It brought tears to my eyes to relive this. And with a toddler in the “terrible twos” right now, it’s nice to reflect on a time when we were just so grateful to have her here that we didn’t mind the crying or the interrupted sleep. It’s also nice to recall that I didn’t try to romanticize birth too much. It is a rite of passage for women, of course. But it’s not something so exclusive that the average person can’t “achieve” it. There isn’t a secret password to be discovered. It happens. And then you’re in the club. Congrats! The dues are high. But the perks are worth it.