A few weeks ago, a friend of mine was *thisclose* to giving birth. In one of our email discussions, she asked:
“How was labor???”
I answered first briefly with this:
“So when you ask how labor was, I’m taking that to mean you want to know what happened (I would!) so here’s a breakdown of how it went. If you don’t want to read all that, I’ll just say labor wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, and the epidural was a great choice…”
The breakdown I mentioned is what you’ll see below.
I must mention I had what was considered a normal pregnancy and a non-complicated birth. I’m sharing this because I did not find any non-horrible birth stories online (there must be some, I’m sure) and want to give you an idea of what could, possibly, maybe, perhaps happen for you.
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The idea of labor scared the hell out of me. At the childbirth class we took I broke down because I was watching all these videos of women going through labor pains and all the ways to help alleviate those pains, and all I could think of was how much it was going to hurt. I didn’t realize that those things were if you didn’t get the epidural. And, I wasn’t 100% on getting the epidural, so I was anticipating a lot of things that didn’t end up happening.
When I actually went into labor at 39w3d, the contractions felt different. Sharper. More defined. I wasn’t sure if it was pre-labor, but when I felt a type of contractions I hadn’t felt before I thought, ‘I wonder if I’m going into pre-labor?’ The contractions were more lower abdomen/lower back. I’ve read a bunch of stuff that says the uterus/belly contracts all over, and it didn’t for me. It just felt more like heavy period cramping. We went for a walk that day to see if we could help them feel better. Clearly that didn’t help!
The day kept on with these weird contractions, so I called the doctor’s office around 6PM. The nurse said everything I was telling her sounded like I was going into labor, but also that it could be dehydration. She said to take some Tylenol and give it 60-90 minutes to see if it got better. It didn’t.
We got to the hospital (my husband wasn’t sure I was going to make it based on how I sounded on the drive there – he kept offering to go to a closer hospital), and they checked me out to see if I was in labor or if I’d be sent home. I surely was in labor. Since I was in a pretty good amount of pain, I agreed to the epidural and anesthesia (localized to my groin) which made all the difference. The hardest part was holding still while the doctor put in the needle, but it wasn’t all that bad. They also inserted a catheter since walking to the bathroom wasn’t going to happen. That happened around 11PM.
I hung out in the hospital bed as my legs went numb, and they basically watched baby’s heart rate and my contractions for the next 9 hours or so. I alternated between sleeping and flipping around in the bed with their help and direction based on what was best for her heartrate. During this time, in order to progress the labor, they were going to break my “bag of waters” because I’d told them it hadn’t broken. Turns out when they got in there they discovered it had broken! Who knew?
Around 9AM I was dilated enough that they said I could try pushing because her head was sitting right there. She would come forward but then go back in, so they said she wasn’t ready. I also had a little bit of the cervix covering the birth canal, so they were waiting for that to go away on its own.
Then around 11:30AM I had a feeling like I wanted to have a bowel movement, and when I told them that, they said she was ready to come out. So my team and I started the pushing process. I had a nurse on either side of me, and I was holding my legs at the thighs, and every time a contraction would start I’d give three hefty pushes. Sometimes four. After about 45 minutes of pushing (it really didn’t seem that long), she came right out. I seriously didn’t feel it – it was a pretty good experience overall.
All in all, labor was 30 hours (6:30AM Monday-12:30PM Tuesday) with actual active labor only a few hours. It went quite well.
The recovery in the hospital was nice/easy. The nurses come in every few hours (4 or so?) to check on you and baby, push on your uterus, check your vitals, etc. so you’re not going to get a ton of sleep. They offered to take her to the nursery during the night so we could get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep and we let them do that. It’s easy to not sleep at all when you have new little baby sounds right next to your head that you want to attend to.
REGARDING RECOVERY AFTER HOSPITAL DISCHARGE:
Recovery has been all right – I tore a teeny bit so they put disintegrating stitches in there. Going to the bathroom and showering were fine – sometimes a little painful, but not unmanageable, so they said I could take Advil (which did a lot more than Tylenol for me). It hurt for probably 2 weeks.
If you have a vaginal birth, I suggest taking the stool softeners they offer you at the hospital, and also all of the witch hazel pads/overnight pads/etc. they give you. I brought home enough supplies for a few weeks which was great. Get a pack of overnight pads to transition you from the large hospital ones. The mesh underwear they give you is a lifesaver. AND they said to “take whatever wasn’t linens.” Bring home the little plastic bins, wipes, diapers, etc. They’re there for you. Don’t forget the water bottle. I’ve used that every day since she was born.
If you haven’t retained water yet (lucky), and you end up getting an IV, your legs/feet may swell. Mine did to some epic proportions and I was sure I was some freakish case, but my doctor said it was fine and it would go away on its own (and it did after about two weeks).
Also, something they didn’t tell me, which I’m going to share with you, is around 4 weeks postpartum it is apparently normal to have a hemorrhage of blood/clots come out of you. I was shopping with my daughter and my mother in law and it felt like I was peeing my pants. I knew it wasn’t that though, so the only other reasonable thought was ‘I must be bleeding.’ I checked in the bathroom and the entire pad was soaked, plus it was coming through my jeans. I called the doctor and they told me to go to the ER.
They did a pelvic exam and an intra-vaginal ultrasound to see if I still had things in my uterus that needed to come out. I had a little bit, so they gave me some pills to help clear it out and that was that. Nothing bad, just something that I wasn’t expecting.
(*Side note: Those pills did nothing.)
Update since I wrote this:
Turns out I had retained placenta (which those folks at the hospital should have just removed instead of having me bleed for another 7.5 weeks). My OB/GYN said to keep an eye on it, but to schedule an ultrasound for what would have been about 9.5 weeks post birth in case I was still bleeding. Since I was, I went to the appointment and saw the same bit of flesh on the ultrasound screen that I saw at the hospital.
That meant I had a really fun D+C (dilation + curettage) to remove it. It is an outpatient surgery procedure, and it really wasn’t that bad overall. Luckily my daughter was taking a bottle at that point because my husband was with her for a few hours alone, and I had to pump and dump one time after I got home.
Bleeding for 11.5 weeks made up for the 9 month break I guess!
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So there you have it – a relatively simple birth story (with a few hiccups). Obviously no two birth experiences are the same, but hopefully yours is even easier than mine!