Before I Forget…
I’m not sure if they’ve isolated an exact chemical yet, but I’m fully convinced there is a chemical that is released into a woman’s body after giving birth that makes her forget almost the entire childbirth experience and romanticize it into something other than what it really was: probably long, definitely painful, potentially scarring. In an effort to give a totally accurate account of my experience to friends and family, both now and in the future, I thought I’d take a minute to share exactly what happened–the good, bad and the ugly–during my labor and delivery.
For those of you who have not yet had children, please remember, this is only one person’s experience. For every story like mine, there are ten stories that are WAY worse and ten stories that WAY better out there. Each woman is different and each woman’s body handles childbirth differently. This is merely my account of how my body handled my son, Holden Matthew Prentice’s, arrival into this world:
Labor: 23 hours
Pushing: 3 hours
Total time spent: 26 hours
I started laboring at 12 a.m. Sunday morning. My contractions were 10 minutes apart and lasted for one minute each. I figured that things would go on like this for an hour or two and I’d be contracting every five minutes and heading to the hospital to have a baby in no time. I was wrong. The ten-minute-apart contractions continued until about seven in the morning, at which point they were gracious enough to come 5-7 minutes apart, thus giving me a glimmer of hope that my baby might come soon. Again, I was wrong.
At 8 a.m., I went to use the bathroom and found some unsightly things coming out of my body. I’d been asking God for a sign as to when I should go to the hospital. I took blood and other gunk to be as good of a sign as any.
By 8:30 a.m., Hubs and I were at the hospital, and a nurse had her hand up my…well, you can guess where. She told me I was 3-4 centimeters dilated and 90% effaced. If you know anything about childbirth, you know that’s not exactly the best “diagnosis” you can ask for, but it’s not the worst either. In the nurse’s words, “We’re definitely going to keep you here. At 90% effaced, you should dilate pretty quickly and have this baby sometime today.”
Oh sweet nurse: You meant well. I know you did. BUT YOU LIED TO ME.
Rather than give you the play-by-play of the next seven hours–some of the longest hours of my life–I will sum it up by saying this: When your nurse asks you what level of pain you are at on a scale of one to 10, UNDERESTIMATE. Because just when you think it can’t get worse, it does. That being said, every time I thought I couldn’t make it through the next contraction, Hubs and I would pray and God would, in fact, grant me the strength to make it through.
At 4 p.m., the nurse came back to check my progress: Still 3-4 centimeters, but 100% effaced. Looking back, I think the Lord allowed me to progress just enough at each “check point” to give me enough hope to make it through a few more hours of labor. But, by 4 p.m., I was exhausted, and I was worried that if I didn’t get some rest I wouldn’t be able to push should this child decide he ever wanted to come out of me. So, I asked the nurse for some Fentanyl–a pain relief drug many of my friends have used to get some rest while in labor. Because I am a good friend, I am glad that the Fentanyl worked for my friends. Unfortunately, it did nothing for me.
Post Fentanyl, I labored for another two hours before reaching a breaking point. As I stood in the shower crying BETWEEN contractions because I was dreading what was to come, I remembered something my childbirth class instructor said: “There is a difference between pain and suffering. If you are in pain, push through it. If you are suffering, get an epidural.” I don’t know about you, but I consider mental anguish to be one of the worst types of suffering. So, while my pride told me to “DO IT WITHOUT THE DRUGS,” my common sense told me to “GET THE EPIDURAL.”
Fortunately, common sense prevailed.
If marrying Hubs was the best decision I’ve ever made, getting an epidural was the second best. It not only gave me the ability to rest, but it helped my body relax enough to finish dilating to 10 centimeters. Unfortunately, while my body had finished dilating, my water still had not broken; so my doctor came in and broke my water for me. Within an hour of the water breakage, I began to feel the urge to push.
(A note on water the urge to push for ladies who have not had a child yet: Said urge feels like you need to use the bathroom. A number two to be precise.)
The next three hours of my life are a bit of a blur. Lots of pushing, lots of pressure, lots of screaming (Yes, that’s right. Contrary to the way I thought I would be, I am apparently a labor screamer.) After 2.5 hours, I felt Holden’s head come out. Naturally, I assumed the worst was over and the rest of him would slip out effortlessly. For what felt like the 20th time that day: I WAS WRONG.
My doctor continued to tell me to push, and at one point I heard him say “Can we get John in here for a shoulder removal?” But by the time John arrived, so had Holden. The continued pushing had worked and out he came. Granted, he did a little damage along the way, but nothing a few stitches and some Tuck’s medicated pads can’t fix. Holden’s face was a bit blue when he came out and he wasn’t crying enough for the doctor’s liking, so they took him away almost immediately and gave him some oxygen. While this should have made me panic a bit, I felt the Lord telling me not to worry. Holden would be ok. And for the first time that day, I WAS RIGHT.
As of today, Holden is nine days old. I’ll share my initial thoughts on motherhood in a week or so. (First impression: It’s harder than you think it is before you have kids.) Before I close out this post, I thought I’d share some of the things I found helpful in managing the pain of contractions during labor. As I said earlier, every woman’s labor experience is different, so what worked for me may not work for you. But for what they are worth, here they are:
- If you are planning on a natural childbirth, see about getting a room with a tub and/or a shower. Your body is more relaxed in warm water, and therefore, the contractions are a little less painful.
- Buy an exercise ball, blow it up and take it to the hospital with you. Most hospitals have exercise balls in their labor and delivery rooms, but some do not. I found bouncing on the exercise ball or circling my hips in a Figure 8 on the ball to be very helpful ways to alleviate some of the pain of contractions.
- Watch the numbers on the contraction monitor. This is something you can do whether you are doing things naturally or getting an epidural. The number on my contraction monitor peaked at 127, so once I saw that number, I knew the worst part of the contraction was over and I could start to relax.
I sincerely hope that those of you reading this who have not had a child yet–or those of you who are on baby number two, three, etc–will have a slightly easier labor and delivery experience than I did. That being said, I can assure you that what people say is true: the minute you hold your newborn in your arms, you do start to forget all the trauma your body just went through. And I can honestly say–even at only nine days after giving birth–that it was all worth it.