I'll start the story the Saturday before she was born. I was working short shifts to get my hours in so my maternity leave didn't start until after she was born. (and what better place to work than the Labor & Delivery unit I'd be delivering in) Weston felt much better when I was at work too knowing I was where I needed to be if anything happened. We live 30 minutes from the hospital so he was getting anxious we would need to make a middle of the night or stressful, speedy drive in. At the end of my 4 hour shift I pulled the midwife aside to ask if she would check me to see if I had progressed from my 1-2cm dilation on my Thursday office visit. I was surprised to hear I was 3cm and my cervix was soft and thinning. So I went home for the weekend, hoping I would deliver before having to come in for my 8 hour shift on Monday morning.
Fast forward to Sunday night and I got a sense something was happening. I lost my mucous plug that morning (sorry if that's TMI) and was having contractions that felt like strong cramps about 10 minutes apart. They never got closer together or stronger and I was not going to be the nurse that went to the hospital thinking I was in labor only to get sent home. (This mindset made Weston worry I was going to wait too long at home) That night was a lot of tossing and turning, bathroom trips, and contractions strong enough to wake me up but not strong enough or close enough together to make me think I was in true labor.
Sure enough to 5:48am rolled around, my alarm went off, and to work I went. 7-3pm felt like a painfully long shift for the state I was in, but I got my assignment and tried to take my focus off my 39week pregnant self. My patient had a beautiful delivery around noon, of course it was a baby girl to help my patience! As I was standing at the computer charting I felt a subtle "gush" of fluid. I went to the bathroom and didn't see obvious fluid so I denied the fact that my water may have just broken. After sharing my confusion with a few coworkers and my husband via text the general consensus was : go to triage and get checked before you go home just in case! I was still having occasional contractions but in my head I always expected a huge gush and contractions that I couldn't stand or talk through. I wasn't feeling any of that and at that point was scared I would get stuck at the hospital before I was in active labor. My hopes of staying home as long as I could were being threatened and the nerves were setting in.
After my shift I went to triage and one of my favorite midwives checked me told me I was now 4cm, but there was mixed results over if my water broke. One test said yes, one test said no. I called Weston and told him to come in to the hospital because in the back of my mind, as much as I wanted to go home and wait it out, I knew if there was any chance my water was broken I didn't want to risk infection and let it go too long before I delivered. Looking back this was all an answered prayer that Weston could finish his day of work and take his time coming into the hospital with no stress!!
Another midwife saw me when Weston got there to do more testing and it was decided that I was slowly leaking fluid which still counted as my water being broken which meant: definite admission! I was staying to have a baby! (Ahhhhhhh) She said I was dilated 5cm which surprised me that I was still progressing despite not being too uncomfortable with contractions. I just told myself yes I have to stay, but by dilation Im halfway there!! (It's funny how after all the waiting and impatience the reality that "it" is actually happening is somewhat terrifying!)
I got settled in my room, my family arrived, I chose my nurse who also happened to be my coworker and friend. For the first few hours we laughed talked and watched the bachelorette finale (which also happened to be on TV the day we got engaged...coincidence or fate?) while I bounced on the exercise ball and waited for something to pick up. As fun as it was, nothing was happening and I knew time was ticking. The midwife came in the room at 10pm to recheck me and I was still at 5cm. I wasn't surprised but I knew what I was about to ask for would quickly change how comfortable I was, which was..well...scary. "I want you to break my water the rest of the way" Did I really just say that? I knew all too well what I was asking for, but it was my hope to stay on track for a natural labor.
I'll spare you the details of how lovely that felt other than that my contractions immediately changed. "Now THIS is what a contraction feels like" I thought. What happened next is somewhat of a blur but I got in my own zone, left my family and husband in the room and went into the bathroom with my worship music playlist to work through my contractions alone in the shower and on the toilet. I came back out to the room and sat on the birthing ball for a few contractions, breathing through and staying focused but they were getting worse and I couldn't find a "comfortable" position. (cause let's be honest nothing is anything close to the true meaning of comfortable at that point) It was jacuzzi time. In all of my experience as a nurse I knew the jacuzzi was the secret weapon to surviving a natural labor. I always encourage patients to save it until nothing else helps to get them through the dreaded transition phase of labor. I was praying that's where I was. The jacuzzi helped more than anything else had but the contractions continued to strengthen and as strong as I tried to stay mentally, I was getting close to my breaking point. In my mind I knew if I felt like giving up it probably meant I was close to being able to push, but what if I wasn't? Either way I felt helpless and pleaded with my nurse "I want to get checked and if I'm not close I think might an epidural" If this wasn't what everyone described as the out of body, crawl out of your skin pain that transition is, I didn't know what was. The slow controlled breathing through contractions morphed to moaning/humming or probably something that resembled a dying animal. All I know is I was no longer quiet through contractions and I know now that was the point my husband started praying and my mom had to leave the room. The midwife crouched down at the side of the tub, told me I was 8-9cm and gave me a pep talk. I could do this. I was doing it. I nodded wanting to believe her and realizing I wouldn't even be able to sit still through an epidural at this point. I just wanted to meet my baby.
Then the pressure came. It felt like right after the midwife left I was experiencing that pressure I had heard about so many times. Just as I managed to tell my nurse what I was feeling my body decided to join in and start pushing on its own. I knew what this meant. Baby was coming. I tried to breathe through contractions in fear that I wasn't fully dilated but my body continued to involuntarily push. "Well you just bought yourself a ticket out of the jacuzzi" someone said. I somehow made it to the bed and got the go ahead to work with my body and start pushing. It was 12:00am, just two hours after my water was broken. The pushing process was so much harder than I expected and I found myself eating my words of advice I gave so many patients. Easier said than done!! Weston was by my side encouraging me and helping me try different positions (let me tell you, you gain a whole new level of comfort with your spouse after you've squatted half naked bearing down like you're consitpated right beside them. It's glamorous folks.) There was a point her heartrate dropped and when I heard the monitor slow the nurse in me thought "oh no, I'm going to need an emergency c-section and because I don't have an epidural I'll need general anesthesia ao I won't even be awake and Weston won't be able to be in the room" (Yes my mind somehow went on that kind of a tangent in the middle of pushing out a baby without pain medicine) Luckily her heartrate came back up and behaved for the rest of the total 1.5 hours I was pushing. I used a mirror which I thought I wouldn't want, Weston watched the whole process which he thought he wouldn't do, and her 80th percentile head was taking its good old time coming out. Each set of pushes I heard "you're so close she's coming!"yet I pushed on. Finally, the infamous ring of fire told me it had to be soon, and just like that her body was on its way out. I reached down, grabbed under her arms and pulled her the rest of the way out and onto my chest. (Crazy, but true and THE BEST moment of my life) "I can't believe she's all mine" we're my first words afte her birth according to my nurse. I was part in shock part in pain and totally in love with this little screaming human that was on my chest. Annnd "Oceans", which is my favorite worship song ever, happened to be the song that was playing as she entered the world!
9 months of waiting, dreaming, anticipating & worrying, were finally over. Thank you Jesus! To see and hold our baby for the first time was so surreal I had to pinch myself to make sure it was real. Just kidding the horrible burning down below was more than enough of a reminder that this most definitely was not a dream. After all of the wondering and praying about how my labor would unfold, it had played out even better than I ever could have imagined. And what mattered most is that we were healthy.
Being the patient after being an L&D nurse for 2.5 years definitely gave me a new appreciation for what I do and I know will make me better at my job when I return. But for now I am going to enjoy my 12 weeks off staring at my baby girl.