Today is Thursday, March 21st and I am sitting on my couch with sore boobs and a baby sleeping on my chest, and life could not be any more perfect than it is in this moment. I wanted to get this down while it is still fresh and raw, but I need you all to understand that nothing I could possibly type will ever do this story the justice that it deserves. The women, and the man, who were in the room when this miracle arrived are the only other witnesses who held the space with me, and who helped usher Della into the world and into our hearts. I am forever grateful for their love and support, and without them, I could not have done this amazing thing that is childbirth.
Alright, let’s back it up a few weeks. Last time I wrote, I was 37 weeks and 2 days pregnant, and I had made a little bit of progress on my own. I was 1cm dilated and 50% effaced and absolutely ecstatic that my body seemed to be heading down the right road this time (versus a preeclampsia induction at 36 weeks like last time). At my almost-38-week appointment, I was 2cm dilated and 75% effaced and got to have an “aggressive cervical check” because my practice doesn’t technically do membrane sweeps until 39 weeks. I had also already lost my mucous plug at this point and was having several Braxton-Hicks contractions a day. So, we arrived at my last scheduled appointment on Friday, March 15th at 2pm while I was 38 weeks 5 days. I got to see one of my favorite midwives at the practice (the last three appointments I had were with my three favorite ladies – and then one of them delivered my baby!!) and she stripped my membranes for me and announced that I was about 4cm. Woohoo!!!! Here we go!!! Things are going to start happening!! Obviously, this was what I was telling myself – there is no guarantee that this procedure starts labor, but I was feeling pretty positive and had felt a lot of pelvic pressure for the 3 days leading up to my appointment, so rest assured I was feeling very… hopeful. I had also gotten all of my ducks in a row at school, and was ready for maternity leave, so it kind of felt like the stars were aligning and my mind was at ease/peace. Lights… camera… action:
Nick and I decided to take Harvey to Pizza Inn (one of our new family favorites) for dinner. We always have pizza on Friday nights, and UNC vs. Dook 2019 (round 3) was going to happen later that night, and we were in an all-around excited mood because we knew one way or the other we were about to meet our baby, or settle in for a nice weekend enjoying some two-on-one time with Harv. Right after sitting down to eat at 7pm, I felt my first contraction. It was light, but definitely NOT a Braxton-Hicks, and I felt a flutter of excitement. I didn’t want to get Nick worked up, and I also wanted to try and maintain a level of calm so as to not run them away with an adrenaline rush. So, we finished our dinner and got home around 7:30, and by that time, I had had about 5 or 6 more in a 30-minute time span. I figured I should go ahead and tell Nick about this, right as he was taking a picture of the pink evening sky and saying that Della was going to be born this weekend. We started to get Harvey ready for bed, and as soon as I realized that the contractions were definitely coming consistently, we tucked him in, texted Lolli and Pop and called my mom so she could start driving up here.
At about 8:20 I went ahead and called the midwife, who called me back pretty quickly, and I let Nick talk to her because I was having a contraction at the moment the phone rang. It was Amy!!! One of my favorites!! This was wonderful news!! I had loved my prenatal appointments with her, and felt like we had a great rapport, and she told us that she was there until 7am, at which time Stacie (one of my other favorites, yay!!) would come on. She said that she definitely felt like I was in labor, and that when it got to the point where the contractions were getting too painful to talk through, we should come on over. She said since we were 5 minutes from the hospital, to give her a call when we were on our way. It became pretty clear at this point, that we were not going to sleep that night.
By 9pm, Nick’s parents arrived at our house and we turned on the basketball pre-game stuff. My contractions were 3 minutes apart by this point, and some of them were more painful than others. At 9:45, upon Lolli’s good suggestion, we went ahead and left for the hospital, which ended up being a GREAT decision, because I got the last available L&D room at Duke Regional that night. Pop stayed behind to spend the night with Harvey, and the three of us arrived in my room at 10:15pm, where we turned on the game and had Amy check my cervix – 4cm. I asked if she could break my water to “really get the party started” and she said she was happy to do that – right after she finished assisting with a c-section. She said she would probably be back around midnight and that we should settle in for the evening while she was gone. We called my mom to let her know which room we were in, and Lolli started pulling out her bag of tricks for labor (suckers, life savers, and massage tools). The nurse got my IV port in, and I started pacing around the room, trying to keep my hips open while I worked through the contractions, which were still about 3 minutes apart.
My mom got there before the game ended, which was a bummer since we lost… but I actually didn’t care a whole lot because I was about to have a baby… and Amy came in about 12:30am to break my water. We all got to chat for a bit and I introduced her to my mom, and she said that she was going to do her best to be in the room laboring with me as much as she could, but that there was a full house that evening, and 2 more women had checked in to the triage rooms that they have for “overflow” – which made me super grateful for the big L&D room I had. Once she broke my water, I remembered that feeling from the first time – the strange water trickling down your legs, which is pretty continuous throughout the rest of the process, and after this, things really started to pick up quickly.
For 2 solid hours, I was having strong, intense, contractions. They were 2 minutes apart, and really starting to hurt. I was doing a few different things to try and manage the pain, like walking, leaning over things, sitting on the toilet, sitting on a ball, etc. Mimi and Lolli were very patient while I was in pain. I can’t imagine what this process must have been like through somebody else’s eyes and ears… but I picture it as a bit unpleasant. They were so great at talking me through it, and helping me come back to reality after each contraction. However, Nick was the real hero of this portion of the labor. He squeezed my hips, let me lean into him whenever I needed it, and was a trooper when I really started to growl/howl in his ear. I would not have been able to do ANY of this without him, but it was this part that really sticks out in my memory. Babe, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I had made my mind up a long time ago that I was going to do my damnedest to have a natural labor and delivery. This decision had been made before Harvey was born, and reflected in my choice to go to a birth center with that pregnancy. However, that went out the window with my induction, and here we were, so far, so good… I was getting the second chance I had hoped for, after a healthy pregnancy and good start to labor. It was at 2:30am that I started to lose some wind in my sails. Amy had come in, and said the noises I was making were starting to sound like I was “bearing down” and I really couldn’t communicate with words anymore at this point, and I think I said something like, “I DON”T FUCKING KNOW!!” (whilst on my hands and knees on the bed). During the contractions, I couldn’t do anything but focus on getting through the wave. However, when they ended, things were ok and I remember specifically thinking that was different from the last time I was in labor (the Pitocin was making me have non-stop, long and continuous contractions). Once that particular rush was over, Amy suggested that she check my cervix because she didn’t want me to push too soon. When she did so, my heart sank a bit, because I was 7cm. But… this is when my competitive/determined personality kicked in, and I told myself that I was going to start getting through the rest of this “five minutes at a time”, which is exactly what I do at the end of long distance races. The next hour is a blur.
This part is going to be short, because it felt like time stopped and was elongated all at once, and it was the most surreal hour of my life. My nurse suggested that I use the peanut ball to put between my knees and lay on the bed for a bit. She said that I could try a few contractions on one side, and then a few on the other side, and that this trick was one that usually worked to get women to 10cm. I’m not going to lie, I pretty much spent the next 45 minutes screaming because the contractions were actually “coupling” which meant that I was having one big contraction, followed immediately by a smaller one… leaving me no real break in between. I was getting close to giving up. In fact, I did at one point. I told the nurse I thought I needed the epidural, and she said she would check me to see if I had made progress. Around 3:15am my L&D nurse checked my progress, and announced that she didn’t think I was much past 7-8cm. Damnit… not done with transition yet… I was crushed. I said I needed the epidural, and she went to call the anesthesiologist. The last hour had been spent with me howling, my moms taking turns holding my hands and rubbing my back, and Nick coaching me in my ear while I used him for physical support as well as emotional.
The nurse and my midwife came back into the room and said that relief was on the way. I, at one point, began to go from a deep groan into an all-out hysterical scream, and this memory is one that I am going to remember for the rest of my life. My L&D nurse got really close to my face, and took my hand in her hands and squeezed it and said very calmly, “Sarah, you’ve made it this far and you’ve worked too hard to lose control now… you’ve got this, come back to this.”
And then… all of the sudden… BAM!!! I felt the baby move down. I don’t know how to describe this feeling, other than exactly that… I could literally feel her body move down through my body, and it actually felt like the relief I needed. Nick said that was approximately 3:25am… and I yelled it out to the room, “I JUST FELT HER MOVE DOWN!” Amy then said, do you think you need to push? And I said “YES!!” So, she gently checked me because I was on my back at this point, and she said, “Sarah, she is right there, I can feel her head.” The room lit up… literally. I was so freaking elated. Amy then quickly got a gown on, while I pushed for the first time. I felt her head coming and I said to the room, “can you see her?!” and everybody said “yes!!” So, I pushed again and this time it started to burn a bit, and I could really feel her head coming out. I waited here for a minute while I panted a bit, and dang if that didn’t burn… but then with the next contraction, I pushed for a third and final time, and she was out at 3:36am!! HOLY SHIT what a feeling of release and accomplishment. I had done it… and I was in disbelief!! She was laid on my chest (after they unwrapped her chord from her neck) and she was absolutely perfect. The first thing I thought about her was that she had so much hair. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I remember feeling/thinking this when they laid Harvey on me, and I swear in that moment (just like the cliché Grinch story) my heart grew two sizes. What. A. Miracle.
Those first few minutes of Della on my chest were magical. I felt so alive and so present. I actually felt the oxytocin coursing through my body. The pain completely ended. I kept saying over and over, “I can’t believe I just did that… that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” It was true!! I remember being thirsty and feeling like the cotton mouth was intense, but Mimi kept the water and the straw close by – phew! Amy told me a few minutes later that my placenta was ready to deliver, and I pushed that out easily. We were actually doing it. All of the postpartum things I had wanted with Harvey… immediate skin to skin, delayed cord clamping, all of it. There was no rush. I felt like I was the one in charge of this whole process, and that my midwife and nurse were just listening and waiting for me to tell them what I wanted and needed. I truly cannot say enough good things about this hospital and this practice. They are absolute rock stars.
For the next 3 hours we were all on cloud 9, getting Della cleaned up a bit, weighing her, snuggling her, staring at her. She was so alert and sweet. She latched on within 2 minutes of being born, and continued to nurse throughout those first few hours. I was in complete awe. This next part, although it is an important part of her birth story, I want to write about another time because it happened after Harvey was born as well, and I want to have a conversation with Amy at my 6 week appointment about it – but I did have a postpartum hemorrhage. Long story short, it was 30 minutes of some quick maneuvering by the nurses, midwife, and doctor… and I am perfectly fine on the other side, but it was a bit nerve-wracking right before we moved to my postpartum room at 7am. More on that later!
Now, it has been five days of pure bliss. Harvey is very sweet and interested in his little sister, and she has been an extremely easy baby. She is eating like a champ, pooping, sleeping, and cooing. I feel like we won the lottery. How did I get so lucky? Just a short 31 hours after Della was born, we were discharged and on our way home. It doesn’t get any better than this.
I am choosing to share these photos with you all because although they are pretty intense and graphic, they are so important to me. I grew a baby in my body for 9 months, and then I birthed her in what were the most incredible 8.5 hours of my life. I hope you all can appreciate this story and our journey. We have been so grateful for the outpouring of love and support from our village, and we cannot wait to see what the future holds for our little family of four.
Love and peace,