Cullen’s Birth Story: Part One.
Of all the stories and posts I’ve written, I find this one to somehow be the hardest. I know that no words can possibly capture the experience of this past week, but I will do my best to do it justice. It will be long and it will be detailed. I personally found that when I was pregnant, reading birth stories was one of my favorite ways to prepare for my own delivery day. It was intense, it was a struggle, and yet it was somehow the best 55 hours of my entire life. I hope that by journaling it here, I’ll be able to relive it over and over again, as it’s an experience I will cherish forever.
I already told you how birth story began, with contractions starting around Tuesday night at 10pm at home. At the point where I left off, we were back at home Wednesday afternoon with intense contractions still happening, but spaced a bit further apart. Determined to get my body moving in the right direction, Casey and I went for a walk on the trail in our neighborhood. It was very surreal to be out walking knowing that it would be my last time there pregnant, and our next walk would be as a group of three. We walked for short bursts, and then stopped and fought through each minute-long contraction as they came – I can’t imagine what the other walkers and bikers must have thought.
By early evening on Wednesday, my contractions had continued with no relief other than during my brief period of sleep on Tuesday night (aided by the sleeping medicine). Casey and I camped out in our bedroom while my mom took care of the dogs downstairs (who were really anxious because they could tell I was in pain). I asked Casey to take some pictures, because I knew that as much pain as I was feeling, this was something special that I would want to remember.
I tried all the different techniques for pain management and fighting through contractions that I learned about in classes and read in books. Casey grabbed The Birth Partner book and a tennis ball and did anything he could to help me get through each one. I bounced around on my exercise ball and worked through each one with eyes closed and focused breath.
For hours and hours and hours we did nothing but live in 4 and 5 minute intervals. I would feel each contraction coming on and tell Casey, who would immediately hit start on my phone’s contraction timer app. Funny how technology has truly become part of every process now, but it was a huge help to us to not have to time things and write them down.
Finally at midnight, the contractions were once again to an unbearable pain level, and getting closer to 3 minutes apart. All along I had been told to head to the hospital when the pain was too much to talk through, and I was most definitely to that point. We arrived there around 12:30am Thursday morning, and I was checked by another midwife, Maggie, only to find that despite almost a full day of pain and laboring at home, I had only dilated from 1 to 2 cm.
To say that I was frustrated is a gross understatement. I felt so defeated and wondered if I was actually just a huge wimp, and that this early labor was something most people tolerate with no problem. The midwives and nurses assessed me and told me I was going through something that happens to some women but is not common – my uterus was contracting at a pain level of someone dilated around 6cm, but my body was not moving past 2cm. Even though it wasn’t good news, it made me feel better to know that I wasn’t imagining how intense each contraction felt.
The midwife told me that I couldn’t officially be admitted until I reached 4cm, but that based on the strength of my contractions, they would let me stay for a few hours to see if I made any progress. In the middle of the night in a dark empty hospital room, Casey and I paced the room together working in 4 minute intervals, praying that each one would bring us closer to an ending. Next door, we heard a woman screaming followed by the cry of a newborn, and I burst into tears – a mixture of both jealousy and of disbelief of the magic of the birth experience.
A few hours later Maggie came back to re-check me, only to tell me that I had made zero progress despite an increase in pain and frequency of contractions. She suggested the exact same route we had taken the night before – sleeping meds to help me rest through contractions and hopefully relax my body enough to progress. I was devastated. I felt so psychologically defeated to feel that close to the end, and yet to be sent home again because my body wasn’t doing it’s job. I reluctantly followed their advice, and expected to have the same experience as the night before.
We went home and I laid down, hoping to be groggy enough to fall asleep and get some much needed rest. But unlike Tuesday night, this time there was no sleep and no relief. My experience just continued to intensify and after 3 hours I found myself calling the hospital again in tears. I was told that a different midwife, Mia, would be coming on duty at 8am. This was exactly what I needed to hear.
Mia was the midwife that led all of my childbirth classes, and I already felt so close and connected to her – almost like friends. It was 5:30am at this point, and I made it my goal to tough it at at home for a few more hours. At 7:45am, we packed up our bags for the third time, and headed out the door hoping this was finally it. Going through contractions seated in the car was literally unbearable by this point, and I told Casey that if I wasn’t admitted we were going to walk the parking garage until something happened.
I got to the hospital for the first time during daylight, and said hello to the familiar faces who had watched me come and go for the past 30 hours. I nervously got prepped to be checked once again, and the whole room let out smiles and cheers when Maggie announced that I had made it to 4cm on my own, and was finally ready to check in and made the process official. She smiled and said, “Congratulations mom, you’re going to have a baby today!”
Famous words…to be continued in part two!