I was tricked into thinking I was in labor on Monday the 17th... 6 days before my due date. I'd been feeling more Braxton Hicks than normal that day, so I decided to time them that evening just for fun. I discovered that they were coming on average about 10 minutes apart and lasting up to a minute each time, so I got very pumped and excited because that's how far apart my contractions were at the beginning of my labor with Nicole. After timing them aaaaaall evening, I had to grudgingly admit around midnight that this was not the real deal. Just my body practicing.
On Wednesday morning at my midwife appointment, I had my cervix checked and was told I was dilated to almost 3 cm and was 70% effaced. Those were my stats the day I went into labor with Nicole, so I was once again convinced I would go into labor that day, especially when I started spotting about an hour after my appointment.......... but the spotting stopped, I went to my Barre class as usual, my contractions that evening were slightly closer together for a while, but then went back to being as sporadic as they were on Monday (but still averaging 10 minutes apart).
Lesson to be learned: no two labors are alike. AT ALL. So don't compare them. ;)
I forbade myself from timing any more contractions until I could noticeably tell they were painful. I drifted through the next several days working on projects. "Murphey's Law of Labor" states that if you start a big project that HAS to be finished, you'll go into labor before you can finish it... right? Ha. Didn't work. I got the freezer meals, Nicole's costume, and last-minute cleaning done by Saturday and still nothing! We celebrated our final evening before my due date together with Café Rio and a long walk over to the park to let Nicole slide and climb and play. It was a great send-off to our life as a family of 3, little did we know. I was expecting to go past my due date. Only 5% of babies come on their due date, and I even had a 40 week bumpdate post typed up to share on the blog because I was certain I'd still be pregnant the next day.
I woke shortly after 5:30 AM on Sunday morning to a contraction that felt a little different. A while later, another one. I allowed myself to get out my timer... 8 minutes apart. 8 minutes apart. 7 1/2 minutes apart. I alerted Doug so he could call his sister and tell her to come get Nicole, because I was absolutely sure this was the real deal. Then I got in the shower and washed my hair because I wasn't going to the hospital with 5-day hair, dang it!
Nicole was awake by 7:30 for breakfast, Doug's sister arrived shortly after 8 as I was finishing up straightening my blow-dried hair between contractions (when a contraction hit I would go over to the bed and sit and bounce/breathe until it was done) and she was out the door with Nicole by 8:30.
The next 3 hours were just me, my exercise ball, and a bag of Reese's miniature peanut butter cups. Doug meandered around and cleaned some things and got on his computer... I wanted to get in my own personal "labor zone" for the time being, so he left me alone. I would bounce on the ball, or lean over it while on my knees, or rock on my hands and knees, or even go into a deep 2nd position plié squat and pulse there (thank you, Barre! Calves of steel!) I lay down on my side at one point to try sleeping, but the contractions got twice as far apart when I did that, and that wasn't going to help labor happen faster, so I got up again.
But yeah, 3 hours. The contractions were about 4 minutes apart this whole time, but they weren't strong enough or long enough for me to feel like I should go to the hospital yet. Finally, at 11:30 when the contractions were about a minute long each and I couldn't walk or talk through them, I told Doug, "I guess we can go now..."
We got to the hospital shortly before noon. They checked me and I was only at 4 1/2 cm. I say "only" because I expected to be a bit further along than that after 6 1/2 hours of labor, and was a little bummed. At this point, the contractions were fairly painful, but they were nothing I couldn't handle as long as I did some steady breathing. It took about an hour before my midwife got there, and by then they had officially admitted me, hooked up my IV, asked about my birthing preferences, and got me transferred to my official delivery and recovery room. I was the only patient in the labor ward that day. There was one other girl who had a C-section a couple days before and was still recovering, but that was it. They put me in their best room and gave me all their attention, and I felt pretty special.
By now it was shortly after 1 PM. My midwife came straight from church and arrived in the room in her Sunday best to make sure I got settled. She checked me and told me I had progressed to 6 cm in the past hour. Yay! After some deliberation, I had her break my water in hopes that things would progress faster and I wouldn't be stuck laboring for several more hours.
Side note: You guys. I hope my water never breaks on it's own when I'm out in public or at home because I don't know if I'd make it to the hospital and get checked in on time! And definitely not without making a scene!
My midwife left to get changed into her scrubs, and my nurses put a birthing ball nearby for me to use and told me before exiting the room that they could fill up the Jacuzzi tub any time I wanted. It turns out that I did not want to get off that bed. Things got very intense, very fast. Within 15 minutes I was hitting "transition stage" (which is when you're dilating the last 2 cms and it's the most painful part of labor, in my opinion) and within 10 more minutes my midwife was back and ready to help... but after just a couple contractions, I started shrieking at her that I wanted to push. You guys, the urge to push is real! And it is SO hard to resist. My midwife checked me at the end of that contraction, and sure enough... I was fully dilated! She asked me to breathe through the next contraction instead of pushing so they could get all the delivery stuff into position, and that was the hardest thing ever! I wanted to push so badly. I actually cheated and pushed a tiny bit, and that was relieving.
Then... show time. I had that baby out after about 6 or 7 rounds of pushing, which took less than 20 minutes. Austin James Kelly was born at 1:59 PM, just 2 hours after checking into the hospital and about 45 minutes after my water was broken. Going from 6 cm to 10 cm in half an hour was pretty intense, and even though there was definitely a crazy burning sensation when the baby was crowning and I tore again over my old scar from Nicole, I still prefer that over the "transition stage" contractions. Yowza, those were intense. I'm a silent laborer, but not during transition stage! Haha!
Hooray for an epidural-free labor! That was my goal, and I'm SO glad I stuck to it. I definitely think I'll do that again for future babies; the differences in my ability to push and my recovery afterwards were enormous. Also, this labor was just over 8 hours, compared to 12 the first time. Part of that is thanks to being able to feel what I was doing during the pushing stage!
We let the cord pulse a bit before clamping and cutting it. They put Austin up on my tummy as they wiped him off; his cry sounded so quiet but you could tell he was giving it all he had. He was so little and perfect and squishy! The nurses took him away briefly to get his vitals and measurements while my midwife delivered the placenta, then he was back in my arms and tucked against my skin, no longer crying and very alert. After getting my tear stitched up, I nursed him for the first time (he caught on very quickly) and then he got sleepy, so I took the opportunity to get up and get cleaned off. Up and moving within one hour, what a difference! And I felt great. I didn't even feel tired or hormonal.
Things have gone pretty smoothly since then. We checked out of the hospital the next afternoon, just barely over 24 hours after Austin was born. Hey, I missed Nicole and I felt great, so why stay longer than needed? Austin is a good sleeper and eater and we're already developing a schedule. I had one very hormonal day on Tuesday the 25th, and have been feeling great emotionally since then. My mom came to help for a couple days, so I don't feel like a sleep-deprived zombie and it's awesome. Nicole ADORES her brother. I know that there will be hard days, but my goodness it melts my mama heart to see the sibling love already developing (at least... on Nicole's side of things. Austin often just sleeps through all her prodding and poking, haha!)
I would rate this labor experience as... fantastic. The hospital staff were great, no interventions, no baby trapped in the NICU, a better post-labor recovery (thank you, exercise), and I feel like I'm treading water instead of drowning in it. Austin had to go back to re-do his heel prick test twice, which was annoying, but oh well. I love my little family, I love my squeaky newborn, and I love this chance I have to be a mother. I wish every worthy woman could have the opportunity because it's truly a miraculous experience, even with the hard parts mixed in.
And it's true: there's nothing quite like a newborn. (Or the smell of a newborn, for that matter. Mmmmmmm, newborn smell... I'm in heaven!)
Now for a couple hospital pictures:
Also... you guys. He has dimples. Dimples!!!!! The handsome little devil...