Elodie is one month and 12 days old, so I think it's about time I shared her birth story! Toward the end of my pregnancy I was absolutely obsessed with reading other people's birth stories (if you like them too I found the mother load here. Enjoy!), and found myself completely fascinated by how different they all were. Despite learning about what a "normal" birth is like in our baby prep classes, reading all of these stories reminded me that there really isn't such a thing as a "normal" birth. They are all different and unique and completely unpredictable.
I'll warn you now, this birth story is really long, and more for my memory than for all of you. But if you make it through to the end -- congrats! ;) Without further ado....
In the two weeks leading up to my due date I was already 4cm dilated and 90% effaced. I had actually been dilated since my bout with the norovirus at 32 weeks (only 1cm, but still!), and was up to 3cm & 80% by my 37 week check up. This is pretty rare for a first pregnancy (so I was told), so when my doctor checked me at my 37 week appointment, she confidently stated “this baby isn’t going past her due date!”. That must’ve been the moment she jinxed me ;) I had always prepared myself to go past my due date because that is so common for first time mothers, but after a preterm labor scare (in which I was admitted to the hospital and everything) at 34 weeks, I couldn’t help but think that there was a possibility our little lady would come early. But alas, April 3rd (my due date) came and went and still no baby. By this point I was off work and all those Braxton Hicks contractions I’d been feeling for the last few months? All of a sudden nearly non-existent! Wouldn’t you know it.
The day after my due date I woke up with a cold. Of course, I had to throw myself a pity party on instagram because I was now overdue and sick! How cruel! There were quite a few comments that being sick could actually be a sign of labor, but I didn’t take those comments to heart because when you’re 40+ weeks pregnant, you really do think everything is/could be a sign. That was the worst part of being overdue. Physically I felt totally fine, but mentally and emotionally I was starting to break down. It drove me nuts thinking every day could be the day, and every pain or weird symptom I had might be a sign of labor. By Sunday night (3 days past my due date) my cold was waning away and I had resolved that this baby was not coming on her own. I was mentally preparing myself for an induction (which we had tentatively schedule for that coming Thursday – when I’d be exactly 41 weeks).
That Sunday night we went over to dinner at Corey’s parent’s house. The whole gang was there – his parents, my mom, his brother and his girlfriend, corey’s cousin, her husband and their sweet baby. We talked a lot about how pregnant I was and how I was feeling, and to be honest I was probably pretty crabby about it all. I was trying to stay positive, but by that point I was pretty much just throwing my hands in the air in defeat. I told them I was expecting to be induced on Thursday, I didn’t feel like the baby was coming anytime soon and that I was fine with that. Period.
We went home and got right into bed – I fell asleep around 9:30 (hey, you go to bed early when you’re 40+ weeks pregnant!). I was fast asleep for an hour and a half when I woke up at 11PM with intense pain in my abdomen. But it didn’t feel like the Braxton Hicks I was used to. In fact, it was so excruciating and foreign to me I was actually convinced what I was feeling weren’t contractions. I paced around our house for 20 minutes trying to figure out what to do. I was sort of still in a sleepy haze and was feeling really out of it. I was standing on my side of the bed when Corey woke up and asked me if I was okay. My response? Whispering…“I’m not in bed, I’m standing up” (um hello weirdo! What was wrong with me?!). He told me he could see that and asked if I thought I was in labor. I told him no that this wasn’t labor but that I was just in a lot of pain and I didn’t know what to do. I laid back down in bed and told Corey I felt like I was hallucinating (still have no explanation for why I was being such a freak of nature!). Corey, being the smart and attentive husband that he is, was way ahead of me. He knew I was in labor. This was it. So he gently tried to convince me that we should finish packing our bags (all the last minute things like toothbrush, makeup,etc). At first I refused. What was the point? I wasn’t in labor and we weren’t going anywhere. Not 5 mintues later, still in so much pain, I decided that we could finish packing the bags if only to distract me from my pain – but still insisted this was not it. 10 minutes into walking around gathering my toothbrush, makeup, etc, I realize that maybe this is in fact labor.
We start timing the contractions and they are coming quickly. Every 3-4 minutes. And they are bringing me to my knees, literally. The only position that felt somewhat bearable to be in was leaning over the bed hugging a pillow and most of the time screaming into it. Wow, this was intense. I obviously knew labor wasn’t going to feel good, but this hurt so, so bad that I was actually convinced I was going to die before making it to the hospital. I mean, how was I ever going to get in a car like this?! After 20 minutes of timing contractions Corey wants to call the hospital. Me, being the stubborn wife that I am, tell him not to call because we’ve only been timing the contractions for 20 minutes, and I have to time them for an hour before calling otherwise they’ll just think we’re dumb and turn us away. Thank goodness Corey didn’t listen to me and called anyway. After answering a few quick questions (how far apart are my contractions, how dilated was I at my last doctor’s appointment, when was my last appointment, etc) Corey hung up the phone and told me we had been granted permission to come in anytime. Huh? I was so confused. Finally at this point I’m slowly starting to come to terms that we are going to have our baby very soon! Holy crap – this really is it!
All of a sudden I can think of nothing else than how scared I am to get in the car. I am absolutely convinced that there is no way I can make it through even one contraction anywhere but kneeled over our bed. I cry just thinking about having to labor in the car, even just for the 10 minute drive. This whole time Corey is being so helpful and so supportive through every contraction and he tells me that I will get through it and the car ride won’t take long. Short of calling an ambulance (also another form of a car…) I realize this is something I can’t avoid. So we finish up packing (me taking a break every 3-4 minutes to experience the worst pain of my life) and kiss Henry goodbye (I can’t tell you how much I worried about him seeing me in such pain. He was a little frantic and could totally tell something strange was happening and I hated leaving him behind in such a state).
In the car the contractions are pretty much just as bad as I thought they would be. Corey is driving like a bat outta hell – which I only know from feeling the acceleration of the car as my eyes are closed this entire time working through my contractions, which are often times coming one on top of the other and giving me no break (we learned later this is called “coupling”. It sucks big time.). I tell Corey I don’t want to die on the way to the hospital to give birth to our baby and he assures me he is being safe.
We finally pull up to the emergency room parking lot and I now realize I somehow have to WALK inside. But what do I do if I have a contraction? What if they make us sit at the desk and fill out papers or wait for someone to see us? I CANNOT DO THAT I tell Corey. I am paralyzed in the car, by pain, by fear, by emotion. He is standing outside the car while I am still inside, trying to get through my contractions and also convince him that I can’t go in there. Of course I finally do get out of the car and right as I do and am holding my belly crying about how much pain I’m in, two young guys walk out of the emergency room and past us. It felt like the movies! They probably thought I was nuts! Anyways, my fear was all for not. The moment we walked into the emergency room it was very clear to the staff what was going on and that I was in no condition to be waiting around. I got a wheelchair immediately and before I knew it we were being wheeled up to labor and delivery, right into our very own room where I’d be giving birth to our daughter! Hallelujah!
By this point it is 1AM and the first thing the nurses do is check to see how far dilated I am. I’m 5cm. Yay! Progress! Clearly still working through the intense contractions they ask what my preferred method of pain relief is. Corey responds “early and often”, which is funny, but I wanted to make sure it was clear – I wanted that epidural and I was ready for it right.now. They got the message loud and clear and ordered it up. It takes a while to get the anesthesiologist in, so in the meantime they hooked me up to an IV (first they blew out a vein in my left arm, but I didn’t feel a thing) and then gave me something to take the edge off a bit. By 2AM I was getting my epidural and by 2:30 it was in. I heard a lot of people say the epidural didn’t hurt – which I will completely agree with. And that the only part that hurt was trying to stay still and in a certain position while it’s being administered – which I will also agree with. But overall… OMG EPIDURALS ARE THE BEST THINGS TO EVER BE INVENTED. Major props to all you mamas out there that have given birth naturally. There is seriously no way I would’ve been able to do that. No way. My epidural was especially amazing because while I couldn’t feel any pain I could still feel the pressure of the contractions and I could even move my legs (I mean, it’s not like I could get up and walk or anything, but I could wiggle my toes and lift up my legs enough to maneuver myself slightly).
So now it’s just past 2:30AM and the nurses check me again and I’m 7cm! Holy moly, things are moving fast! We hadn’t even called anyone yet to tell them we were in the hospital because one, there was just no time, and two, we didn’t want to ring any alarms in the middle of the night because then what? We’d just be waking people up to tell them to wait for more news! Once I had the epidural and was settled in for a bit (the nurses told us to get some rest and Corey passed out within minutes, me on the other hand was definitely not sleeping, way too anxious) I did make one phone call to my older sister Cristina in LA. She gave me specific instructions that she wanted to know when we got to the hospital no matter what time it was. So she got the call. It was really nice to be able to talk to someone, it put me at ease and made me even more excited. The epidural made me shaky, so that made it a little hard to talk, but other than that I was so happy to share the exciting news with someone that our baby girl was on the way!
By 6:30AM (and a few hours of sleep for Corey and absolutely zero for me) I’m already at 9CM. Everything was happening so fast despite my preparing myself for a long labor. Everyone talks about how first time labors are long ordeals, so I was preparing myself for that. Of course mine was just whizzing past me and at this point I start to get a little panicky. I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t know if I can push, I’m really scared of tearing, I just don’t know! Knowing that the way I’ve been progressing 10CM is just around the corner, I ask our nurse if I have to start pushing when I’m at 10, or can I wait a little bit? I might be the only person in the history of labors that is actually asking to NOT get this over with :) She tells me that I can let my body “labor down” on its own for a bit, which means that we can let my body just do its thing and push the little lady down into the birth canal (sorry is that too graphic? Not sure how else to say it!) for a while before I need to actively start pushing her out. I’m happy with this answer and feel a little more at ease.
Just over an hour passes and the doctor on call that morning (not my OB unfortunately) shows up in our room at 7:45AM. As she walks in she sees that Elodie’s heart rate is dropping during contractions as she settles into the birth canal. They help me change the position I’m laying in to make sure it’s not an issue of her chord being wrapped around her neck, etc. and decide that because of her heart rate dropping that there will be no “laboring down” – they need to get her out of there. The doctor breaks my water (but there wasn’t actually any water that came out because apparently Elodie’s head was acting sort of like a cork holding that bag of waters in there!) and then leaves to get ready for delivery. Before she leaves she tells me confidently that she can tell I’m going to be a good pusher. Now the pressure is on! I’m actually not very athletic and didn’t work out much during my pregnancy (pretty much stuck to walking and yoga) so I’m feeling like I might disappoint her! And did I mention she had a c-section scheduled for 8:30AM? No pressure….
The doctor comes back around 8ish and starts setting me up for pushing. She gives me a quick run down on how you’re supposed to push and then we waited for a contraction to come so I could get started. At this point I’m full on in the stirrups (great visual, eh?!) and Corey is instructed to help hold my leg back for each contraction as I push. Going into it I was sure that I didn’t want to have a mirror to watch the birth – just not my thing – and I knew I didn’t want Corey “down there” either, but he seemed cool with holding my leg, so we went with it. I wasn’t sure if he would be looking at what was going on, but I was just totally in the zone as I started to push and my eyes were closed the entire time so I didn’t think anything of it. Until it became very clear that he was definitely watching what was going on. You should’ve heard the excitement and amazement in his voice as he helped coach me with each contraction that came. That is actually what brings tears to my eyes. He was so thrilled to be there and to be watching this miracle happen! I can still hear his voice in my head and I hope I never forget what that sounded like.
Well, apparently the doctor was right about me being a “good pusher” (whatever that means?) because 4 rounds of contractions and only 15 minutes later miss Elodie Elizabeth Denfeld was born at exactly 8:30AM! What can I say about that moment I first laid eyes on her? I was in sheer shock and amazement. She didn’t cry right away and neither did I. I was speechless. She came right up onto my chest for the next hour or so and the nurses told us we had a perfectly healthy baby girl. You have no idea the relief you feel when you hear those words. After worrying for 9 months about this sweet life you’re creating, hoping and praying she will be healthy, that is the best moment ever to hear that she is just that! My heart was so full and so happy. And it’s only grown fuller and happier every day since.