Since I have shared so much of my pregnancy journey here, I thought it only fitting to share our little Harper’s birth story as well. I mentioned several times in my pregnancy updates that one of my biggest fears was labor itself (last post here). Not one to be partial to needles and pain, I feared that which was completely unknown to me. Yet, God has a way of preparing you for certain events, and I truly believe the timing of everything made labor more of a welcome event than one to be feared.
In order to tell about the actual day of labor, I need to go back to the beginning of December, when TJ and I headed on our last babymoon weekend to Santa Barbara. I was feeling rejuvenated at 36 weeks, and we decided to go for a long walk/hike around the streets of Santa Barbara. I made sure to drink lots of water and take breaks every now and then. Yet, later that evening, I began having mild cramps, that I had never had before, and thought a call to the doctor was warranted. She encouraged me to drink two bottles of water and to rest. I followed the orders and at my doctor’s appointment the following Monday was informed that I was 1cm dilated and 80% effaced.
At each subsequent appointment after that, I continued to dilated and efface. At my appointment the Monday before Christmas I was already 3cm dilated and 100% effaced… my doctor informed me it “could be any day,” and decided to strip the membranes. We waited. Nothing. We had a false alarm and were sent home. The holidays passed, I had another doctor’s appointment in which I was informed I was 3.5cm dilated… and still another weekend and no action.
At this point, I had been hearing “any day” now for two weeks, that I simply wanted that “any day” to be here. At my scheduled doctor’s appointment the following Monday, I was 4cm dilated, 100% effaced, and completely without any contractions. None. We scheduled a date to be induced. I had mixed emotions. Not that I have anything against being induced. In fact, I think it could be quite calming. Knowing when, without any of the guess work, would make the whole process very smooth. Yet, I had this small feeing that really wanted to experience spontaneous labor contractions.
I was scheduled to be induced on Friday morning at 12:30am (such an awful hour!). That Wednesday night I went to bed feeling the same way I had been feeling for the past month… which was basically nothing except my stomach hardening. Around 1:45 am I woke up with what I was fairly certain were labor contractions. I decided to time them for a little bit, just to see if there was any consistency to them. Sure enough they were the recommended 5 minutes apart, lasting for about 1 minute each, and increasing in intensity. I called my parents, TJ and I pulled ourselves together, and we headed to the hospital. We arrived around 3:00am at which point I was checked and encouraged to continue walking a little more to increase my dilation (at this point I wondered “can I get any more dilated to be admitted??”). We walked for 45 minutes and when I returned I was 5cm dilated and they prepared me to be admitted to labor and delivery.
My parents and sister arrived around 3:30am, at which point my contractions were definitely increasing in intensity. I had arbitrarily decided that I wanted to see if I could get to 7cm without an epidural (who knows why I picked that number, I just somehow decided on it en route to the hospital), so I decided to try to hold off a little longer. At this point it was around 6:30am. My nurse informed me that there was a shift change at 7am. If I wanted to have an epidural, she recommended I request it now so that I would not have to wait throughout the shift change… at which point it could take an hour. Opting out of that, I told her I was ready.
I’ve always hated needles. My entire life. I still close my eyes every time I get a shot. So the thought of the epideral was really what scared me most about labor. Yet, the anesthesiologist was wonderful. He was informative, gentle, and encouraging. I didn’t feel a thing, except pressure from the needle being inserted. I think what hurt more was TJ squeezing my hand as he watched the whole procedure with wide eyes. After about 15 minutes the little cocktail kicked in and my legs were warm and numb… and I was comfortable. Shortly after they informed me I was 7cm dilated and broke my water. After that, it was relatively smooth sailing. My family came in, we watched the morning news, had a few laughs, enjoyed the ocean view… I even took a short 30 minute nap. I ate jell-o (strawberry flavored) and enjoyed some ice chips.
Around 10:45am the nurse informed me that I was ready to start pushing. She warned me this could take up to 3 hours. My mom and Tj supported me through the entire process. Holding my neck (and of course legs), encouraging me, and helping me to stay focused. After about 2 hours, it was go time. After my doctor arrived she informed me that little Harper was face up and that she would need to use a vacuum to help her make it through the last phases of delivery. My thoughts were “whatever you have to do to get her out safely is fine by me.” The only thing I really remember from that last phase was pushing 6 times in a row (previously it had only been 3 pushes and then rest), the doctor saying that she had her head out and her eyes were wide open, and then she was in front of me… and of course the happy tears started to flow. I couldn’t believe it was over. The culmination of 9 months of pregnancy and a smooth 11 1/2 hours of labor and our little girl was finally in our arms.
I can’t say enough how blessed I feel to have had the experience I did. I had an amazing doctor and hospital nursing team… as well as the support of TJ and my family which made the experience so positive. I hope you’ll join me on this new journey in my life. Stay tuned next month for a 1 month update on my navigation into this new role as a mom.