Someday I will fondly look back on Arbor’s birth story with a happy full heart. I hope you enjoy part one of how our third daughter came into this world.
On the morning of December 6, 2021, I was jolted out of a deep sleep by a little voice shouting, “MOMMY!” I rushed to Annabelle and Ailey’s room to make sure everything was okay, but found them fast asleep. In that moment I presumed one of the girls had been sleep talking, so I headed downstairs to make coffee. It was only 4:00am and I needed to wait until 6am to call the labor and delivery floor.
Looking back on the events of that day I truly believe it was my subconscious alerting me that I was about to go into labor. Or perhaps it was Arbor herself, waking me up to let me know she was finally ready to be born.
Feeling a little out of sorts from my wake-up call, I put on a pot of coffee. Then I turned on the Christmas tree, sat in the recliner, and hoped to zone out until I could call to find out if I was on the induction schedule. Within minutes I started feeling short of breath and like my heart was racing. The last time I felt this way I ended up in the ER in preterm labor.
Maybe I was actually going into labor? I grabbed the birthing ball and decided to bounce for a bit while watching some new show called, “Styling Hollywood.” As I sat on the ball, I hoped to open my pelvis and encourage the baby to drop into the birth canal (because that’s what Google says happens when you bounce). I started feeling some tightening, little tiny contractions, and continued to experience a shortness of breath. I got up to go to the the bathroom and had a lot of mucous-y discharge. I had had a lot of discharge since my last membrane sweep which was most likely my bloody show – so perhaps something was happening?
What’s it like to actually be in active labor?
I have only ever been induced while pregnant – so going into labor never seemed to be a possibility. However, the tightening started to become consistent and I also felt a little bit cramp-y. The cramps were different than anything I have ever felt. They were dull but heavy, and radiated from my pelvis around to my lower back. Walking around the house started to feel more appealing than bouncing on the labor ball.
The question “Am I in labor?” crossed my mind again. I started texting my support people – my Mom and sisters, my best friend Claire, and my cousin. I downloaded a random contraction app to start timing the tightening of my stomach – it was happening every 5 minutes and lasting for 1 minute. Then I waited for Brandon to wake up to tell him what was happening.
Time to Call the Midwife
I decided it was time to call the on-call midwife based on the recommendations of everyone in my support circle. It couldn’t hurt to describe my current symptoms and get a professional opinion. The midwife on call was not from my practice, but said if I was having consistent contractions it couldn’t hurt to come in the hospital to get checked out. After all, I was 40 weeks + 2 days, 4cm dilated and 75% effaced just four days earlier and had had an aggressive cervical membrane sweep.
I called my OB-GYN for a second opinion and was told the hospital would send me home if I wasn’t dilated enough. There just wasn’t any room in labor and delivery. Thankfully I was able to secure an appointment in the office – so we called my Mom to have her come watch Annabelle and Ailey.
Brandon and I packed the car with everything we would need if I was going to be admitted to the hospital. We hugged and kissed the girls goodbye and quickly rushed out the door. At the OB office, my midwife first checked my cervix. I was still only 4cm, but almost completely effaced – this was both good and bad since I needed to be dilating with contractions to be admitted. I was hooked up to a fetal monitor next.
The fetal monitor showed consistent contractions, some were starting to feel a bit more like something than nothing too. The baby was moving around great and her heartbeat was wonderful. Since my contractions were rhythmic and growing with frequency and intensity, my midwife called the hospital to say we were coming. She gave me a huge hug when I left the office knowing how long we waited to have the baby!
Check-in was brief once we arrived at the hospital. We brought all of our belongings to our room on the labor triage floor. At this point I thought I was being admitted… but I was sadly wrong.
The nurses in triage were in no rush to examine me – one actually hooked me up to a fetal monitor and disappeared for awhile. I had Brandon take photos of the contractions so I could see how close and intense they were on the screen. I was feeling a lot of pressure in my lower back, so I presumed I was dilating more and more. Jemime, one of my favorite midwives, came in to examine my cervix. I was still only 4 centimeters dilated. My heart sank – no progress meant I would have to go home.
Thankfully Jemime had a plan! She told me and Brandon to take the next two hours to grab lunch in the cafeteria and walk around to get myself more dilated. Walking can help with dilation if you’re in active labor! As we walked circles around the atrium, I began to feel more and more pressure in my back and pelvis. I noticed the pain came in waves – once again I whispered to myself, “I have to be in labor.”
After a quick lunch I told Brandon I wanted to go outside and walk around New Haven. At first I was energized, doing squats and lunges. But the longer we strolled, the intensity and frequency of the waves of uncomfortable pressure and pain intensified. I asked Brandon to tell me funny stories, sing me songs, and recite parts of different movies. He held my purse and entertained me for over an hour while I paced up and down the street outside of the hospital.
At some point I told Brandon we had to go inside before I delivered a baby on the sidewalk. My pelvis was starting to feel like it was going to separate with every contraction. As we re-entered the hospital, the front desk guard wished me luck and I paused to listen to a live piano player in the lobby. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” washed over me and I became overwhelmed with emotion. I said a silent prayer the Christmas song was a sign I had dilated more.
Note: I have an extreme obsession with Christmas and using my love of the holiday to stay centered and calm during my labor/deliveries. With both Annabelle and Ailey I watched Elf, Home Alone, and The Santa Clause on repeat.
YOU DID IT! YOU CAN STAY!
For the sake of this becoming the longest labor and delivery story ever, let’s fast forward to my cervical check. I was 5, almost 6 centimeters dilated! I didn’t have to go home! Jemime shouted, “You did it! You can stay!” as I held Brandon’s hand and cried.
While the labor and delivery floor prepared for our arrival, I paced around the small triage room. Brandon then reported some amazing news – Freeform was having a Home Alone and The Santa Clause marathon! The news of my favorite movies playing on repeat while I would be in labor was helpful as I tried to figure out ways to power through the contractions. They weren’t so intense I couldn’t speak, but I was very uncomfortable.
Pretty soon two amazing nurses showed up to take us to our labor and delivery room. They helped us carry our bags and pushed me over in a wheelchair. I was SO excited to officially be on our way to have a baby.
Just Give Me The Epidural
I knew I wanted an epidural as soon as I could have one, but it took a bit of time. The nurses made sure to get the anesthesiologist over to my room quickly since I was having even more frequent intense contractions. Brandon aggressively rubbed my feet and calves during each contraction – which helped distract me from the pain. I cannot say this enough – I am very thankful the contractions didn’t become so intense I couldn’t speak before the epidural kicked in.
My anesthesiologist and her attending doctor were incredibly kind and gentle. I ended up feeling a bit too much while they put in needle and they quickly administered more local anesthesia. Both doctors talked to me about my job, my daughters, and my love of Christmas to distract me from the pain. I actually sent Brandon away for a walk while they gave me the epidural because he becomes more stressed about needles than I do. It seemed like the procedure took forever, but before I knew it, I felt warm and fuzzy all over.
Unfortunately my right side took a bit longer than my left to go numb (just like my last two epidurals). I also needed a few pumps of the medication as my contractions began to pick up. Once everything was calm, I settled in to let my labor progress, sip apple juice, and watch my favorite Christmas movies.