In the early hours of that warm morning in May, my mind was consumed with the task of birthing my baby. It didn’t matter what else was going on in the world because, during those intimate, seemingly unending moments, I could neither see nor hear anything besides the voices of my team, including my husband who never left my side. They were supporting me, encouraging me, and guiding me toward the ultimate goal of meeting my newest daughter.
It all started around 6am the previous morning, when my husband and I left our apartment to head to the hospital for an induction. My mother had flown in from Florida a few days prior to stay with our daughter when it was time. I will admit I was torn on whether or not to be induced. I really wanted my daughter to come on her own, but I ultimately decided to be induced to reduce the risk of tearing as badly as I did with my first daughter, Laurel. Read her birth story here. She was over ten pounds when she was born (almost a week past her due date). I was steadfast on my decision to forego pain medication, as I had with Laurel, whom I was also induced with.
We were checked into the hospital by 9am and Pitocin was started right away, at the lowest dose possible. I was already 4cm dilated at that point so that was encouraging. I requested intermittent fetal monitoring so I would not be confined to the bed. My husband made it clear to my nurse that I would be eating as I pleased, since he understands that my hanger (hunger = anger) is real. She obliged and actually encouraged me to order food from the cafeteria, reminding me of the meal times. The next 12 hours were pretty uneventful. My nurse would increase my Pitocin every 30 minutes but it didn’t seem to be doing anything. I felt no discomfort at all, a sure sign no “progress” was being made. I walked around my room, I walked the halls, I bounced on the birth ball, had plenty of snacks, lunch, and dinner, still nothing. There were moments I would feel nervous that other medications might be offered to speed things up and that I would ultimately be given a timeline and feel rushed. That didn’t happen, phew.
At around 9pm, my midwife started her shift and came to visit me. I was so happy to see her since she had been the person I saw during my prenatal appointments. She knew and supported my birth plan inside and out. I think she was sensing that I was getting tired. When she checked my cervix and discovered that I was still 4cm dilated, even with the max dose of Pitocin, she asked me if I wanted her to break my water. I had a feeling that would do the trick and boy, did it! I immediately started feeling contractions. I was actually pretty excited since I knew it was all happening now.
Over the next few hours, my contractions were getting stronger and stronger. I remember telling myself that I still had a long way to go and to save as much energy as I could. I was still able to converse between contractions but would have to breathe deeply, and occasionally moan, during them. My husband would “count down” each contraction. I found this so helpful, as it gave me something to listen to, something to focus on, and an endpoint. He would put my straw in my mouth and remind me to drink water every so often as well.
Eventually, the contractions were so powerful that I stopped talking between them. I was bent over the side of the bed at this point, with my face and chest on the bed and my feet on the ground. My husband and midwife were right by my side, encouraging me and praising my efforts the entire time. My midwife asked if I wanted her to check my cervix, and offered a cervical sweep in the process. When she did this, I felt a little gush of water and an enormous amount of pressure. She told me that I was now 7cm dilated. That news was encouraging since I was surely feeling progress being made and my baby getting closer and closer to making her debut.
After that cervical sweep, things moved rather quickly, (relatively speaking). After a few more contractions, I questioned whether my baby would ever come. I shed some tears and told my husband that I couldn’t do it anymore. I think my midwife was reading my signals and realized that I was probably fully dilated at this point. I announced to the room that I was pushing and she encouraged me to push as my body told me to. Pushing didn’t provide relief, as it had when I birthed Laurel, whom I pushed out for two and a half hours. Although it was painful, I realize now that it was likely because this baby came so much quicker.
During each contraction, I would push with all my might. I would roar into the bed and imagine my baby sliding out of me. She eventually started to crown and I remember comments about how much hair she had. I reached down and felt it. My legs grew shaky, I was still standing at this point. Ryan was on the other side of the bed, holding onto my hands so I could pull on them for leverage. After I would finish pushing, my legs would nearly collapse from under me. Someone in the room suggested we raise the back of the bed and I kneel on all fours. While on top of the bed, I begged for help. I pleaded with whoever was listening to pull my baby out of me. I pushed probably three times on that bed, each time belting out a low and deep groan, a noise I couldn’t replicate today if I tried. A slow and steady final push and her head was out, followed by her perfect little vernix-covered body. She was passed through my legs and placed on the bed right in front of me. Ryan caught this cherished moment on video, the moment I looked down and laid eyes on my new baby. With a voice of shock, amazement, and gratitude, I said, “Is that her? Oh my God.” I slowly lifted her up, gave her a kiss on the cheek, and snuggled her close to my body as I turned to lay on the bed. My sweet Gwendolyn Rose was born at 2:54am, weighing 9 pounds and 21.5 inches long.