Early in the morning on the 4th of July, I awoke to some painful contractions.
After having some mild contractions the previous day and two days prior and after my doula explained to me that melatonin at night and oxytocin are best buds, I was hopeful these were the real deal!
I snuck out to the living room and sat on the couch, waiting for the next contraction to arrive. Ouch. But only enough ouch to get more excited that baby might be on the way.
I got out my contraction timer and began timing. It felt surreal to be doing this naturally since my first birth with Abigail had gone so wacky so early (here’s that story: She Was Born Three Weeks Early! My Bradley Birth Story (Pitocin, Preeclampsia, And Birth Plans Awry)!)
Another contraction, still ouch–a promising sign!
This went on about 30 minutes before my mom (who was staying the week to help out with new baby and postpartum me!) heard the rustlings I was making and walked in to help.
I set up my lavender essential oil diffuser while she timed my contractions. I leaned on the couch and swayed–not particularly interested in talking through them, but not incapable either.
After about an hour of this swaying and attempting to cope, I called my doula. I let her know my contractions were all over 1 minute long and less than 7 minutes apart. I also informed her that I was *not* feeling strong enough to labor at home as long as possible as I had previously asked to do. . . She said she would head over!
At 2 a.m. I woke up Caleb who was trying desperately to get in some final zzs before the main event. Things were getting more painful (it was getting harder for me to walk), so I told him we needed to grab the hospital bag and skeedaddle to the hospital!
In the car, we listened to some favorite jams: The Hillbilly Thomists’ “Good Tree” and “Holy Ghost Power.”
One lyric stood out to me during a particularly rough (at this point) contraction:
“You got to change things up if you’ve heard the word
You’ve got to die inside and serve the bird”
Well, I thought to myself, I *do* feel like I’m dying inside. So must mean I’m serving Our Lord!!
Arriving at the Hospital (the most frustrating part of Elizabeth’s Birth)
By 2:45 a.m. we arrived at the hospital. And oh brother did I almost lose my mind on a nurse.
I have a passionate dislike for cervical exams (they hurt and they’re invasive and increase your risk of infection AND they don’t give you all that much information early on in labor).
The nurse informed me it was hOsPiTaL pOlIcY to hook me up to the contractions monitor and do an exam before I could be admitted.
I calmly assured her that I didn’t need to be checked and knew I was in labor. I informed her of my contraction timing and that I would like to be admitted without an exam, thank you very much.
She was being a total *word that I will not be sharing here* and would not accept no for an answer. Mind you, during all of this arguing with the nurse, my contractions are frequent and painful enough that I need to cling around Caleb’s neck, focus, and sway to breath through the pain. I wasn’t exactly in the mood to argue.
What I KNEW I needed was counterpressure from my doula. And some chewy ice. And I was only getting that once I got admitted. So I consented to the stupid exam.
And it was incredibly painful. So much so that I couldn’t breathe (laying on your back during a contraction is pretty much the worst in my experience). This lack of breathing caused Elizabeth’s heart rate to decelerate. And to add insult to injury, I was only 1 cm dilated.
The nurse smugly informed me that they don’t admit moms until 4 cm dilated. So we could either go home or walk around outside. SHE SERIOUSLY SUGGESTED THIS TO ME. IN LABOR. AT 2 A.M.
NO. Thanks. I replied. Trying (and failing) to contain my frustration with her. I want to be admitted this instant. And if I don’t have the baby by the morning, I’ll leave. Pinky promise 🤣
She begrudgingly did her job by admitting us and showing us to our room. Then (praise the Lord) a patient and kind nurse took over and started me on some fluids to help keep me hydrated.
Now we were in it for the long haul. My doula, Emma, was finally allowed to be in the room and she immediately helped me find a position that I returned to time and time again in this labor: what I’m calling ‘the Raggedy Ann.’ It’s basically flopping your upper body over the top of the hospital bed and clinging to whatever is over the edge for dear life during contractions. Oh *and breathing.* Can’t forget to breath.
I turned on some lovely Gregorian chant that reminded me throughout labor to pray and pray. Unite my suffering to the Cross. Pray for the souls in purgatory.
Progress Feels Slow Yet Quick? Childbirth is Weird
The time flew by but also remained stagnant. Contractions this time around ramped up to just about the same intensity as last time. (I’d sort of hoped my natural contractions wouldn’t be as unbearable as the pitocin-induced ones . . . oh well).
But the HUGE AMAZING LIFE-CHANGING difference was the time I had to relax in between them. I felt more in control of the pain. If I couldn’t handle the more intense contractions, I could remain in the same position and the next one wouldn’t be so bad.
If I felt mentally and physically ready to get this labor thing going (and the baby out!) I would switch positions. And it would really get things going.
Raggedy Ann. 4 a.m. Cling to Caleb. 5 a.m. Bathroom break. Hot shower. 6 a.m. Oh look at that: the sun. Raggedy Ann. 7 a.m. Cling to Caleb–oh he’s napping–medicine ball bounce. 8 a.m.
Somewhere in there, I felt discouraged. I couldn’t handle the pain anymore. I asked the nurse to check how far along I was in case I wanted an epidural.
I was 7 c.m! Aaaaand an epidural would take about 40 minutes to get there. My laboring lady logic told me there was no way I’d be in labor for that much longer.
By this time in the morning, I was pretty desperate to get this baby out. I had been avoiding the bathroom for a while, because movement and sitting on the toilet would trigger super painful contractions. But my doula suggested that might help my water break, so I went. And my water broke!!
I knew that meant two things: one, I was getting close to the end and wouldn’t need an epidural and two, the contractions were about to get a whole lot more intense.
And they did. I’ll spare you the descriptions of the pain and assure you that they’re super bad for me.
My Happy Place Featuring a Dolphin
In our Bradley Birth classes we took to prepare for my first labor with Abigail, she told us about how helpful it is to practice breathing and thinking of a happy place.
My happy place this time around was a memory from a week previous when Caleb, Abigail, and I got some pizza and picniced by the bay at sunset. It was a beautiful evening with a cool breeze off the water. I had my favorite type of pizza, BBQ chicken, and then the MOST magical thing happened: a dolphin jumped through the water.
When in the most painful moments of labor, this memory kept coming back to me. I’d think about Abigail’s tiny hands triumphantly picking up her pizza. I’d hear Caleb laughing and telling me he couldn’t see the dolphin. I’d see the sun glint off the dolphin’s wet, gray back as it slipped back under the water.
And then the contraction would be over. I would hear the Gregorian chant again . . . Kyrie Eleison . . .
Before I knew it, it was time to push.
This time around, I didn’t have the clear urge to push as with Abigail. But my nurse assured me that I could try if I wanted to and BOY did I want to get Elizabeth outta there!
So I got on all fours and tried to push which was a fail for me. On the back it was!
My OBGYN arrived and encouraged me in my pushing. Bad news, it wasn’t as easy this time . . . Elizabeth came out weighing 8lbs 7oz and Abigail was only 6lbs 7oz! Good news, it was just as quick as Abigail taking me only about 20 minutes to push her out!
They placed Elizabeth on my chest and man oh man the relief of seeing a perfect little baby girl is simply the best.
“When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world.
So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16: 21-22).
Giving birth is one of those experiences you’ll never forgot (for better or worse). The pain makes you wonder how you could ever do it again . . . and then you get pregnant again! I’m not ready for that yet, but what a blessing that God gives our bodies a natural way to regulate our cycles through breastfeeding.
That’s all I have to share about that! I hope you enjoyed reading about this. Future Grace (if you’re reading this) I hope you remember how lovely and easy Elizabeth is!
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