(I've finally posted it! Just a little warning- I'll be talking about gross blood and guts and feces stuff. Birth is beautiful and also really gross.)
I was feeling more fatigued than usual the weekend before Gwen was born. Standing and walking became a little unbearable. It was the first time during the pregnancy that I felt absolutely done with it all. Saturday was the Arizona blogger conference and many people commented on “how soon she’ll be here!” The same happened on Sunday at church. One member even said, “I better see a baby here next week!” With which I replied, “If I have the baby soon, I won’t be here next week!” I felt like I had started to dilate late Saturday/Sunday, and some of my mucus plug had started to come out. I kept in mind this wasn’t necessarily a sign that I’d go in to labor soon, as I remembered all the stories I heard of women being dilated for weeks before giving birth. So I relaxed on Sunday. (I usually take the bump update photos on Sundays, but as you can tell, I was much too tired and achy to even consider it, which is why I never documented week 38.)
I went to bed pretty late, as usual, and lulled myself to sleep scrolling through my phone (Typical.). It was around 1:30 am when I rolled over to get in a comfy sleeping position when I heard it start to rain loudly outside. I then felt the urge to use the bathroom, accompanied by cramps. I had diarrhea, oh boy. And bloody show, from the mucus plug! I was still a little hesitant as to whether this was the beginning of labor or not (again, because of all the stories I’ve heard). After my second trip to the bathroom I asked Ryan if he was awake, to which I already knew the answer since there was a heavy, loud storm right above our apartment. I told him what was up and then went to the bathroom again. I was sure this was it by that time. My phone beeped with a flash flood warning until 4:45am. I tried laboring while lying on the bed and could only stand that for a few contractions. I opted for the toilet again. The bathroom really is a pretty good place to labor! When I wasn’t on the toilet, I “slow danced” with Ryan. It felt so nice to lean into him for support and sway from side to side through each contraction. I threw up at one point after Ryan tried to feed me a cracker. I was all kinds of glamorous.
I heard my phone beeping again with another flash flood warning, this time until 6:30am. I had no concept of time; all I could think about was moaning through the next contraction and letting the pain take over my body instead of fighting it. Each contraction meant that my baby would be here sooner. I remember my transition, where I felt absolutely defeated and wanted to quit. We were taught that this transitioning usually happens near the end of the first stage of labor, so I was surprised for having those feeling “so soon” and fought to shrug it off. I remember saying, “This is so hard” and “It hurts so much” to Ryan by this time. I believe that it was important for me to admit how much pain I was in- I knew that I was no hero.
I was back on the bed when I just felt like pooping, a sign that my body wanted to start pushing. This scared me a little because I felt like I just went into labor and I was expecting it to be an all day event, anywhere from 12-24 hours. The contractions were closer together and I just wanted to be in the birth center. I urged Ryan to page the midwives. Mary called back within the same minute. She talked to me for a bit and I can’t really remember anything I said. She heard me having a contraction and advised us to get on the road. There was another Emergency Alert on the phone- “avoid flooded areas until 10:30am.”
Ryan began to load the car. We were so unprepared, we hadn’t installed the car seat yet and there were a few things that still needed to be put into the bag. I remember being in the bathroom alone with the contractions and absolutely hating it. I didn’t realize just how much I needed Ryan with me until he had to leave my side to get everything in the car. Ryan walked back inside, drenched, with bad news. He said that Mary had called again saying that we might want to go to the nearest hospital instead of the birth center (the birth center being a 20-25 minute drive via the freeway from us) due to the rain/flooding and depending on how far into labor I thought I was. I was devastated. I had absolutely no birth plan prepared for a hospital birth and we never took a tour of any hospitals. Ryan informed me that the flooding outside was bad, but I still thought it would be best to head over to the birth center and maybe just avoid the freeway. Ryan continued to load the car and that’s when I decided to look out the kitchen window. The tires of all the parked cars were hidden beneath the water. I just stood at the window feeling betrayed by the weather.
We still decided to head to the birth center. Ha, we crazy, but that’s how much I wanted to avoid an unplanned hospital birth. Ryan informs me that each time we’d try to leave, another contraction would start and I’d stall. We finally got in the car, after walking through a huge puddle, and after maybe 20 minutes (again, I had no concept of time) of awful traffic (it was so terrible!!) we went ahead and braved the freeway. I barely remember the ride, my eyes were mostly closed as I concentrated and moaned through each contraction. I know that we took the carpool lane the whole way. It took about an hour to get there, and what a relief it was to exit the freeway and pull into the parking lot of the birth center! I was so happy that we made it!
We walked in but had to stop in the entryway due to another contraction. I hung on to Ryan, so grateful that he was there, and I remember both of us simultaneously saying, “I love you,” which gave me a boost of confidence. Mary appeared and led us into the suite. I stripped down so she could check my cervix (ouch). I was 7-8 centimeters dilated!!! That was so exciting to hear. Mary started filling up the birthing tub and Ryan changed into his swim trunks. I got into the warm tub (the best feeling) and they turned on the jets. I ended up denying my black tank top that I originally planned to birth in- it’s completely true that you lose all sense of modesty by this point. Mary knew that I haven’t eaten since labor started so she made me a smoothie while Jacqueline (one of the birth assistants) tended to me. I labored in the tub for the next 2-3 hours, reluctantly sipping on smoothie and water all the while. That smoothie was delicious, but I wasn’t interested in food by this point.
I listened to my body and started to push whenever I felt the urge. I began on my hands and knees, but Mary suggested that I changed my position to make my pushing more effective. While pushing, I was able to touch baby’s head with my fingers a couple of times before she came out. The pain was more intense by the time she started to crown. I remember hesitating because it started to sting and Mary told me that I needed to expect that pain. Once I accepted that, I went ahead and pushed, pushed, pushed, remembering to do it at my own pace. The “ring of fire” is intense, but I hear that water births are less painful in that aspect, so I guess the pain could have been worse. I looked down at my misshapen belly in awe. It was so cool to see how it had changed now that the baby and I were working together to get her out. I thought to myself that my screams with each push must have sounded so unearthly, but later Ryan reassured me that I wasn’t as creepy as I thought, haha.
And Gwendolyn was born(!) at 10:44 in the morning. She was plopped onto my chest, screaming. Ryan was right behind me, saying how beautiful she was. I don’t remember what I said- I may have just said “Oh, baby” over and over again as I studied her little body. The water surrounding us was pretty icky- I was losing a lot of blood. I was told to hold tight to my baby as Mary and Ryan carried me to the bed. Ryan cut the umbilical cord and to my surprise, Mary explained that she was going to give me a shot of pitocin to help with the delivery of the placenta and to stop the bleeding. After delivering the placenta, I had to get some stitches, which seemed like took forever to get taken care of. All this time I held Gwen close to my chest. I was given lots of water and orange juice and postpartum tea afterward since I was dehydrated. Then I was fed breakfast- waffles, strawberries, and eggs- yum. Ryan held Gwen while I was resting but I couldn’t really fall asleep- how could I?? I was so excited and nervous and overall happy that everything went well. I knew that I was capable of a natural birth, as I believe most women are, but it was still pretty magical and surreal that I had done it. I had accomplished what I set out to do and was praised and supported the whole way. Ryan did such a great job at coaching me through labor. He was always so nervous about this big day, but all I really needed was for him to constantly be by my side. He gave me so much strength.
(First selfie on her first day on the outside) I loved this moment of laying in the bed with Ryan and our baby.
It was such a whirlwind experience, you guys. I was so grateful that it all worked out, mostly according to plan. We were not expecting Gwen to be born a week early, hence the unpreparedness on our part. We left the birth center around 8pm, after all the paperwork and instruction on breastfeeding was given. I couldn’t believe how fast it all happened. I was so nervous on the car ride home- she was outside of my body, in the back seat! I now had to focus on feeding her every two hours and keeping track of diapers and remembering to take it easy and lay down as much as possible so I could heal. After that initial shock, a visit with the lactation consultant, and Ryan home to take care of me all week, I felt a little more confident about motherhood. I still have no idea what I’m doing, but I’ve been told that’s A-OK.
Here's a puffy-faced/swollen photo of the both of us shortly before leaving the birth center. Can you believe that little girl was inside of me??
Ah! I’m a mom! Now take a look at these cute pictures.
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