I’ve been meaning to publish this for weeks, but that’s taken a backseat because newborn. Anyway, here you go!
It was the coldest day of the year…
I’m really tempted to start my birth story this way, because alas, my baby girl was indeed born on the coldest day of the year, during the height of the “polar vortex”, when the temperature in Georgia dropped to a bone-chilling 7 degrees. But I’ll start at the beginning.
The first sign…
The local school system had already decided to call off school the next day because of the ridiculously cold weather forecast. So my husband and I decided we’d better go to the grocery store to stock up on some things in case the weather took a turn for the worse.
We went to Kroger around 6 p.m., but couldn’t find a single thing on our list — mostly because it seemed like everyone else in our county had the same idea. My husband suggested we instead go to Walmart — further away, but where we knew we’d be more likely to find what we needed.
As we made our way back to the door, I stopped dead in my tracks with what I can only imagine was a look of utter shock on my face. My husband, obviously worried, wanted to know what had happened. And I told him. Either I had just peed my pants or my water broke.
It really did come out in a gush, just like you see it in the movies, and I stood there frozen in the aisle for a few seconds. I felt like I was in some romantic comedy and someone was going to hustle me straight to the delivery room. Then I came back to reality and ran/walked to the bathroom to see if what I thought had happened had really happened.
It had. And my husband looked like a deer in headlights.
I, on the other hand, was slightly more level headed. I wasn’t in any pain, and at my OB visit a few days before, I was only 2 centimeters dilated. So while I waited for a call back from my doctor about this new development, I suggested we go to Walmart anyway, because broken water or not, we still needed groceries.
Change of plans…
Of course, my doctor called back when we were halfway to Walmart and told me to go ahead and check in at the hospital. Not exactly what I wanted to hear since I knew I was nowhere near active labor, but I took her advice anyway.
You see, with my older daughter, my water never broke. In fact, that was the only intervention the doctors had to perform. They broke my water during active labor. So I really had no experience in how to handle my water breaking. If I had, I would’ve gone home and slept in my own bed for the night.
In my inexperience, though, we turned around and went home so I could grab a shower and my hospital bag (which was only half packed), and to pick up the kids. Still, no pain. Not a single contraction. But I wasn’t nervous. Not really. Everyone else was, though. So I threw the rest of my necessities in the bag and we got moving.
We checked in and went up to labor and delivery. They didn’t check my cervix right away, but they did test the fluid, which was still leaking, to see if my water really had broken. It felt like forever when the nurse finally came back and said it was indeed amniotic fluid. My doctor wanted to admit me.
She wanted to wait overnight to see if I would go into labor on my own. If I did not, she said they’d give me Pitocin early the next morning to get labor started. I was not a fan of this idea, because I really didn’t want to be induced. But I after doing some reading while I waited, I realized that with my water bag ruptured and in a hospital environment, the longer it took to go into labor, the higher the risk of infection.
So my husband and I spent a nervous, restless night at the hospital hoping I’d go into labor on my own. The problem? Nothing happened. Nothing. At. All. Which is why I wished I had just gone home and slept in my own bed.
Around 8:30 the following morning, the nurse gave me the Pitocin, and contractions started almost immediately. Those early contractions were really irregular and manageable. So while I did tell the nurse that I wanted an epidural, I wasn’t in any real hurry to get it. She said to let her know when I was ready.
I labored for several hours without pain medicine, because I liked the autonomy of being able to walk around, go to the bathroom, etc.
But that’s when things got real…
Within a few hours, the contractions started to get good and strong. When I could no longer talk through them, I called for the anesthesiologist.
What happened next was a real indication of how my entire birth experience went. The doctor inserted the catheter that would deliver the pain medicine to my spinal fluid. But when she pulled back on the attached syringe, she was getting a tiny amount of blood back. She said it was nothing serious, but she’d feel better if she removed it and reinserted the catheter. I wasn’t happy about this, but I didn’t want to take the chance that those few drops of blood would create complications later. So she took it out and did it again. No problem the second time.
However, that wasn’t the first time since I’d been admitted that a nurse or doctor had had to redo something. My first nurse had to insert my IV twice, because my veins wouldn’t cooperate. The second nurse — after the shift change — came in to draw blood and had to poke me a couple of times because, again, my veins wouldn’t cooperate.
It would’ve been fine if that were the end of it. But alas, they were just a precursor to the epidural, which didn’t cooperate either, though it took a while for that to be apparent.
During the hour after I got the epidural, I was basically numb from the waist down. I could still feel the pressure of the contractions, but they weren’t painful.
That only lasted for a sweet, brief time though. Soon (like maybe within another hour), I started noticing that I was feeling some real pain in my lower right pelvis. Like the epidural just decided to skip that area. My legs were numb by that point, but it didn’t matter. I was still feeling very definite pain on my right side. The nurse recommended I lay on that side, in hopes that gravity would help the epidural medicine migrate to the right area.
Yeah. That didn’t work.
In short order, I was literally screaming my way through consistently longer and stronger contractions. It was all I could do to catch my breath between them. The anesthesiologist returned to try repositioning me and gave me another type of pain medicine, but it didn’t even take the edge off. So I labored for the last couple of hours or so (don’t even ask me what time it was) feeling Every. Single. Contraction. In spite of the epidural. That had to be inserted twice. And it sucked. Hard.
I could only feel pain on my right side, but that was more than enough. I was grabbing my husband’s shirt and twisting it just to get through each pain. Because remember, I’m freaking allergic to pain. I will not soon forget the way these pains felt, and I’m in no hurry to feel them again. Anyway, I soon felt the overwhelming urge to push.
The nurse checked me, and I was fully dilated, but Juliza’s head had not yet descended. So for at least 20 minutes — maybe longer, because it felt like an eternity — the nurses urged me NOT to push with each contraction.
I repeat. They told me not to freaking push. And I swear, that was the most difficult part of labor. Because I didn’t just want to push. It was an instinctive, primal urge that took every ounce of concentration to fight. I was almost in tears because I wanted to push so badly.
Time to push!
My doctor walked in the room and I swear I heard angels singing from on high. She couldn’t get ready fast enough! But — irony of all ironies — when she finally did and the nurses and my husband managed to get my very numb legs into the stirrups, I went limp. Seriously.
After all those super painful contractions, my brain wouldn’t talk to my muscles. So instead of effective pushes, all I could muster at first were some weak attempts and screams. My doctor looked me in the eye, and said, deadpan, “Jennae, please stop screaming.” Her calm in that moment was such a stark contrast to the chaos I was feeling that it almost made me laugh. Almost.
Still, that brief interruption worked. Or maybe it was the look in her eyes that told me it was time to focus. Either way, with my husband and a nurse each helping me brace a leg, I tucked my chin to my chest and really pushed.
And lo and behold, it took only two good pushes for the baby’s head to emerge. My doctor told me to look down (yes, really) through one more push, and Miss Juliza was out! Three pushes, y’all! Even before I heard her cry, I heard angels sing. The relief from what felt like hours of constant pain was immediate.
The first thing I saw was a full head of jet black hair. And then the fact that she was really small. It took a few seconds for her to cry, and they felt like an eternity. But finally, she let out some good wails, and they suctioned her, wrapped her up and let me hold her for a bit. I felt delirious snuggling this small, warm bundle in my arms, but she immediately felt like mine.
I wasn’t happy when they took her away to clean her up, but I did still have to deliver the placenta and get a few stitches. Not the most enjoyable part of my afternoon, but by comparison to everything else, it was completely bearable. Plus, I just wanted my baby back.
The nurses weighed and measured her, and my initial impression was spot on. She looked a lot like Ja’Naya as a newborn, but born at 37 weeks, Juliza was considerably smaller. Just 6 lbs. 12 oz. (Ja’Naya was 8 lbs. 5 oz.) and 20 inches long (her sister was nearly 22 inches long).
When they gave her back to me, I mentioned that I wanted to try breastfeeding but had no clue how to get her to latch on properly.
The nurse laughed and literally popped Juliza on my boob. She latched on so quickly and naturally that I almost missed the moment. The nurse reminded me that babies know what to do even if we don’t. And there was no pain. It was definitely a new sensation, but not a painful one.
That very first, successful feeding session was the perfect way to cap off my birth experience.
All told, it took about 7 hours from the time I received the Pitocin until the moment I saw Juliza for the first time, and I wouldn’t change those 7 hours for the world.
Ok. I lied. If I could change anything, I would make the doggone epidural work the way it was supposed to, because those pains were no fun. But maybe — just maybe — I’m willing to believe that, pain and all, my birth went exactly the way it was meant to go. And I do have a healthy, gorgeous baby to show for it.
He’s in love. We all are