photo cred: Alma Alvarado
I was terrified of giving birth. I prepared myself as best as I knew how: I read lots of books and blogs. You would think that the more you read during pregnancy, the more knowledgeable you become. False. You only become more acutely aware of all the things you are doing wrong and how behind you are in preparation for you child’s arrival.
My husband found me in tears, or close to tears at least once a month. ‘I can’t do this!’ I wailed. I would then bring to his attention whatever my latest discovery was: ‘We’re supposed to have a midwife! We need to sign up for Lamaze classes! The books say having an epidural or getting drugs is bad for the baby! I want to try hypnobirthing!’
Something of note, for anyone choosing the whole hypnobirthing thing: do NOT start during your third trimester. I was future-mommy guilted into buying the book by a blog that I read. This person had been seeing a chiropractor, a masseuse, going to hypnobirthing classes, had a midwife, and was doing pre-natal yoga all throughout her pregnancy and I felt like I was doing my baby a disservice by not being as natural/organic/ awesome preggo as she was. I convinced my husband that we needed to buy the book and look into it. I bought the book, finished it, and tried to get my husband to read the relaxation scripts to me so we could practice it. He just about fell off the bed laughing every single time. Our baby arrived one week later. So really, any method of birthing you want to try, start reading up/ taking classes in your first or second trimester.
In an effort to ease my mind about labor and delivery, we did go to a ‘Preparing for Childbirth’ class offered by the hospital we delivered at. My husband actually learned a lot, because he hadn’t been reading all the books I had, so he found them quite helpful. Plus he got to learn fun phrases like ‘relax your perineum,’ that he would recite to me at random because they made him laugh. The class also did a lot to ease my mind about the whole birthing process.
You would think going into labor is an obvious thing, right? Well not in my case, at least not in the beginning. Very early in the morning April 28th, (when I was 36 weeks pregnant), I struggled to get comfortable in bed. This was really not anything new, so I didn’t think anything of it. I did seem to be having some sort of fluid down there, but all the books I had read said this was your bodies way of preparing for childbirth. They said it’s normal and just put on a pad. So that’s what I did. My back was killing me, so I got up, told the husband I was going to sit downstairs with a hot water bottle. I fell asleep in the chair for an hour and then tried to lie down on the couch, but my back felt worse when I did that. That was when I thought to myself perhaps something is going on. I got out my ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ book and looked at the signs of labor page. Much to my utter shock and disbelief they were telling me that the period-like symptoms I was experiencing were indeed signs of early labor and my water quite possibly was broken!
I decided to wait an hour until my husband’s alarm went off at 7am to tell him, because I still couldn’t believe I was in labor. I wasn’t experiencing “contractions” like I thought I would. I just felt like it was during the first two days of my period where my lower back kills me, and had low abdominal cramps. When I told Emile, he was equally shocked, but didn’t believe that my water had broken. I was scheduled to have my weekly visit with my OB later that afternoon, but we called and asked if they wanted to see us earlier. Come on in, they said, but were also skeptical because I sounded too calm.
Anytime you go to the OB when you’re pregnant, you have to pee in the cup, a task that is trickier and trickier the bigger you get. It was in the bathroom that I noticed I had leaked onto my skirt. I was embarrassed because once I got to the waiting room I saw it was a little bit on the chair. ‘See??’ I told my husband. ‘I think my water is broken!’ He still wasn’t buying it.
The jig was up the second they examined me on the table. Water gushed out all over the table. Sorry, but this is a birth story. The doctor helped me to sit up and asked if we were ready to have a baby. I said ‘I guess so,’ he gave me a funny look, said some other things that I wasn’t paying attention to until my husband and I heard, ‘We have to get you to the hospital!’
‘What?!’ My husband and I said at the same time. We were expecting to go back home, do our laboring there with all our coping methods, finish packing our hospital bag, and then go to the hospital. The doctor made it very clear that I was to proceed to the hospital posthaste, only stopping at home to pick up our bag if it was on the way. They freak out on you if your water has broken and you don’t immediately go to the hospital.
We drove home, I got the hospital bag together while eating PB&J (I knew they weren’t going to feed me once I got to the hospital), and we were off to the hospital. I started texting family and friends that baby was on the way and they all thought I was joking, because it was so early. Ok and maybe I like to mess with them from time to time, so it took some convincing. All the while I was still experiencing my period like cramping and pain, so I was thinking I got this! I can totally be a rockstar mom and not have an epidural! Ha.
We checked into the hospital around 11am and I was around 3cm dilated. Everything was still peachy keen, but as the afternoon wore on the pain got worse and worse. I believe I was chanting something like ‘ow! ow! ow! ow! owwwww!owwwwwwww!!!!! ow! ow! owww!’ every 3-4 minutes because lucky for me, my contractions came at closer intervals than your average lady. They also lasted longer than usual. Double score. This became a problem when I was 5-6cm dilated around 4 or 5pm. The contractions were so painful I had searing pain that started in my low back, wrapped around to my stomach, and shot down the back of my legs. They were so close together that my body wasn’t getting sufficient time to rest and relax in between, so I wasn’t dilating further. Everything they taught us in the classes had already gone out the window. The only thing that helped was sitting in their rocking chair, under blankets, with my hot water bottle on my back. That and squeezing Emile’s hands until they turned purple. Sorry husband.
So they suggested giving me a drug that would help me to rest and hopefully relax so that I could dilate further. I acquiesced. I was still determined to do what the books told me and not have the epidural. If there were people out there breathing out their babies, then by golly I could do it too.
I hated whatever they gave me. I feel like it was Demerol? But I’m not 100% on that. I just felt like an elephant was sitting on me, and like my body was very, VERY heavy. I couldn’t sleep because my heart was racing, but couldn’t really move much to do anything about it. I was so happy once it started to wear off an hour later. I was back to being in excruciating pain, and was crying and I finally told Emile, ‘I can’t do it! I can’t do this anymore! PLEASE go get the anesthesiologist!’
So at 11pm, after 12 hours of active labor we got the epidural! I slept. It was magical. I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner. I was fully dilated by about 3am on the 29th of April. Unfortunately they dial back the epidural when it’s time to push. Booooo. On the plus side, because I had waited so long to get my epidural, the pushing part was very short, only 45 minutes.
At 4:16am on April 29th, 2014, Esmé Valentine van Rensburg was born.
Would I do it all over again? Yes. Was it the hardest thing I have ever done? No. That would be the first 3 months with a newborn. But that is another post for another time :). If I could go back and give myself some pointers before hand they would have been:
-Don’t be afraid!
-You won’t even be close to feeling alone. Your husband will rock your world with how supportive he is, and he won’t leave your side. Unless you demand more popsicles. Then he will be gone for 0.2 seconds, but he will return with the best popsicle you’ve ever had in your life. So it’s ok.
-The nursing staff is not going to scoff, judge, or try to convince you to do anything you don’t want to do.They are behind you 100%. If you want an epidural, they will get you one. If you want to do it without an epidural, they are there for you. You have only to ask.
-Listen to your husband/mother/friend when they tell you that you are going to be just fine. They are not being insensitive to the task ahead of you. It’s not because they don’t understand where you’re coming from. They are just expressing their faith in you. Because they know that you are going to rock it!