Our firstborn turns FOUR today. I can’t believe it. She’ll be starting school this fall, and pre-K enrollment is two weeks away. Cue all the feels. Since I’ve never shared it publicly before, and in honor of her birthday, I thought I would take this opportunity to tell you about her birth story.
Let me begin by saying I had a fairly ordinary pregnancy, physically speaking. Though our personal lives were in an uproar at the time, my overall physical condition was good. So, as my due date approached, I felt very anxious not knowing what to expect. I hadn’t experienced any Braxton Hicks, so I didn’t even know what a contraction might feel like. People said things to me like, “oh when you’re in labor, you’ll know.” But I remember thinking, yeah but how will I know?
Though I do struggle with some anxiety, it’s not significant most of the time. However, my pregnancy hormones left me feeling apprehensive about giving birth. On top of that, the episode of Downton Abbey where Sybil gives birth aired during my last few weeks of pregnancy. I was a royal sobbing mess as I watched it. Then, because I’m a crazy person, I decided to catch some episodes of TLC’s A Baby Story. So what I’m trying to tell you is that my frame of reference for giving birth was entirely shaped by television. My state of mind wasn’t exactly in a good place.
Since this was my first baby, I didn’t expect her to come by her due date. I’d heard countless stories of first pregnancies going long, so that was my expectation as well. I hadn’t shown any signs of labor coming soon in my weekly prenatal checks. My 39-week appointment was just 2 days before my due date, and I had barely dilated and had very little effacement. By all appearances, she was going to stick it out for a little while longer.
Is this a bad backache, or…..?
So when my back was aching at around 4 AM the morning of my due date, I didn’t think much of it. As most of you moms know, back pain during pregnancy isn’t exactly unusual, and especially so for me because I had serious sciatic nerve issues with my first pregnancy. I just thought my back was hurting from sleeping in an awkward position or something.
By about 4:30, I realized that the back pain was a little unusual because it kept coming and going. It was a rhythmic pain. Cue alarms and signals firing in my brain. I began to suspect I might be experiencing labor pains, but I thought it was likely false labor. Again, I fully expected to carry her for at least a few more days. So, around 5 am, thinking I was likely experiencing false labor, I decided to go take a shower. I’d heard or read, I can’t remember, that I should take a shower if I thought I might be having contractions, and if they persisted afterward it was a good sign I was in real labor.
So, I swung my legs over the side of the bed, planted my feet on the carpet, and stood to head for the shower. That’s when it happened. My water broke. I won’t go into the gory details, but let me tell you it was something straight out of the movies. And after my water broke, that casual back pain turned full throttle and it was on.
Eastbound, loaded up and birthin’
Ryan was awake because I had told him I thought I might be feeling contractions and I was heading to take a shower. So after I stood and the floodgates released, I said, “uh Ryan…..my water just broke.” He bolted upright and I think he said something to the effect of “seriously? are you sure?” I can’t remember now. Nevertheless, he quickly got out of bed, and we both started getting ready to head to the hospital. We woke his parents (we lived with them at the time, long story), gathered our things, and loaded up into the car.
In hindsight, we should have grabbed trashbags or something to cover my car seat. I think we grabbed towels, but they were practically useless. Since my water broke, every contraction released a fresh gush of fluid and we lived over an hour from our hospital.
Ryan and his offspring are all members of the Cherokee tribe, so my prenatal care was managed by them and our children were born at the tribal hospital in Tahlequah. I had to ride in that car for over an hour, having contractions every few minutes. I truly thought we weren’t going to make it. I learned later after we arrived that I really hadn’t dilated all that much. Ha! It felt otherwise.
We arrived at the hospital and checked in. By the time we got there, filled out the paperwork, and I got hooked up to all the monitors and machines, it was approaching 7 am. Of course, they immediately asked if I wanted an epidural, and at this point, the labor was painful but not unbearable. I decided to pass on the epidural for now.
Bedlam Basketball and a Birth Story
A few hours go by. My midwife comes in to check on things, and I thought for sure I’d be getting close to time to push. My contractions were strong, coming closely together, and I’d been laboring for about 6 hours. I was certain it was time to get this show on the road. Imagine my disappointment when she told me I’d only dilated to a 6 (you need to be at a 10 to start pushing, in case you didn’t know).
Since little missy was apparently going to take her sweet time, I told them to go ahead and load me up with the drugs. Regardless of your position on epidurals vs. natural birth, let me just tell you this: getting an epidural is a scary experience. As the anesthesiologist instructed me to hold very still while he inserted the needle, I thought (and may have even said aloud), um are you kidding me a tiny human is taking a jackhammer to my pelvis and you expect me NOT TO MOVE!?
Anyway, so I got the epidural. Labor was pretty smooth sailing from then on. I texted and checked Facebook to bide the time. I remember one friend texting back, “you’re texting in labor?!?!” Listen, y’all….those epidurals don’t play. I didn’t get one with my second (that’s a whole ‘nother story), and regret it in hindsight.
I labored for another few hours. I tried to get some sleep, but that didn’t happen. Finally, the Bedlam basketball game came on TV so I had something interesting to watch. Then, around 2pm, my midwife came in to do another cervical check. It was time!
So, while the Sooners went on to the lose to the Cowboys in overtime, I gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl.
Altogether, my labor was about 10 hours. It would likely have been shorter without the epidural, but I don’t regret getting it. It’s interesting the things I remember about the experience now, four years later, and the things I don’t. They say you forget the labor pains, and I guess I have to an extent (I still remember every bit of them from my second child, though). I remember watching the Sooners. I remember the look on Ryan’s face at the sight of his newborn daughter. I remember the love in his eyes as he watched me labor and give birth. I remember the sensation of her leaving my body, the feel of her tiny body on my chest, the flood of relief that washed over me at the sight of her.
I know this post is too long, but I didn’t want to split it into two parts. This story is just the beginning of our adventures with Sweet Baby Ray. She has changed our lives in innumerable ways. I’m thankful for four years of being her mom and the many adventures we have ahead of us. Happy birthday, Sweet Baby Ray!