I’ve always enjoyed reading other women’s birth stories to hear about the struggles, joys and unexpected scenarios during labor. Reading others’ stories helped me be aware of all options and outcomes. Hopefully my son’s birth story is helpful to readers and can be respected for the vulnerability I feel as I share a very personal day in my life. Thank you for reading.
On Thursday July 26th, after a normal freelance work day at home, I took a nap around 5pm. At 8:30pm, I woke up and shortly thereafter, around 9:30pm, started to have contractions. My due date was the 27th and I was in shock that the baby might arrive on the due date! I always thought that I would deliver late since it was my first baby. To pass the time, I made dinner. After I ate, the contractions were occurring frequently but not lasting very long. To be totally honest, the contractions felt like I had imminent diarrhea, like an uncomfortable cramping. After some googling, I guess this can be a common symptom of labor! I never would have guessed! I texted Tom to tell him that, guess what, “I think I’ve started having contractions." He was out at an after-work-drinks-thing and quickly wrote back “I’m headed home."
Tom came home and at that point I had been counting my contractions. They were happening about every 5-7 seven minutes and lasting around 30-45 seconds. We decided to finalize packing our hospital bags, shower, and I also stuffed my face with lots of food. I was planning on receiving an epidural and I knew I would not be able to eat after receiving it. Around 10:30pm, I decided to call the doctor and he said I was in early labor. He suggested I wait at home until my contractions became 5-1-1, contractions occurring every 5 minutes, lasting for 1 minute for at least an hour. After showering and finalizing my hospital bag, I tried to get some sleep in bed, but ultimately came outside to lie on the couch. I was in and out of sleep and felt more comfortable on the couch. Around 3 am, I called the doctor again saying my contractions were getting more frequent, every 2-4 minutes and around 44 seconds long. He said I was probably still in early labor, but if I felt like I needed to come in, to come in. In hindsight, I should have stayed home longer, but being a FTM, I was nervous and unsure of the typical labor progression.
Around 3 am on Friday, I woke up Tom and we took a Lyft to the hospital. It was a surreal moment while heading out -- thinking that when we came back, our lives would be totally different. The ride over the Williamsburg Bridge and up the FDR was so bumpy that I wish I had worn my belly band to hold my belly in place. Our driver was super nice and tried to make the ride as smooth as possible. I mostly kept quiet, braced my belly close, and practiced my hypnobirthing breathing/visualization. Tom held my phone and I pressed the start button to log each coming contraction. As we arrived at the hospital in Manhattan, our driver dropped us off and wished us well. He mentioned something about having twins and saying a joke that didn’t land very well on pregnant me. Ha!
We arrived at the hospital and took the elevator to the L&D floor. I’m guessing it was around 4-5am at this point. Tom filled out the paperwork while I tried to go to the bathroom. Like I mentioned, this labor started with diarrhea, so yay (!) gotta love contractions and running to the bathroom. Also, the weight of baby on my bladder was making it really hard to pee. There was too much pressure! Anyone else feel this while in labor?
After we checked in, we were moved to triage where I changed into a gown and wore this belly band so they could monitor the baby. Afterwards, a resident came by to take my information and shortly thereafter, my doctor stopped by to evaluate me. He told me I was round 1-2 cm dilated. I was at 1-2 cm at my last doctors visit, so it was disappointing that it wasn’t more advanced with all the contractions that were happening. Since we came from Brooklyn, he suggested staying for another 2 hours and to walk around instead of heading home. So I stayed and walked up and down the hallway of the L&D floor. My contractions were strong but not totally consistent at this point. I would hold the railing on the hallway and grit my way through each contraction.
Around 7:30 am, the new doctor on call evaluated me to see if I had progressed. At this point, I was around 3cm dilated. I was so disappointed because I thought I would have been further along. My doctor provided me with two options. I could either stay, be admitted, have my epidural and potentially have my labor artificially started with pitocin. Or, I could go home and labor at home for awhile. Feeling a bit overwhelmed, I asked if we could have a minute to talk over the options. I talked things over with Tom because I really didn’t know what to do. I really wanted to avoid pitocin, but I also didn’t want to go all the way back home. Ultimately, we decided to stay, be admitted, check into our room and get started with an epidural.
After feeling so uncomfortable and uncertain about how everything would happen, I was happy we decided to be admitted. We moved to our room where I met my L&D nurse, Angela. She smelled like clean soap perfume and was my angel during this early phase. The bed was super comfortable and I settled in to be more relaxed. Angela was so sweet and helped put on those grippy socks on my feet.
Around 10:30am, I had my epidural. I remember feeling at ease because Angela stayed right in front of me while the anesthesiologist and his team set up and administered it. I held on to the back of Angela's arms as they numbed my back and inserted the catheter. All in all, the epidural procedure was not bad at all. It was over before I knew it. It soon took effect and my contractions were gone. I couldn’t even feel them as they happened. It was pretty amazing. After that, I was able to relax and zone out a bit and get some sleep!
Around 12pm my doctor came in and broke my water to make my labor progress. I was a bit disappointed that I never felt that ‘gush’ or ‘my water broke!’ moment. While she was trying to break my water, I could feel pressure, but that was about it. I couldn’t really feel much because of my epidural. Maybe that was a good thing because I’m not sure if the pressure and manipulation would have been painful? I don’t know.
Around 3:20pm, my doctor returned, examined me and informed me that I had progressed to 5 cm with steady contractions. This period of my labor was relaxed and comfortable, albeit hungry! I was so hungry. I hadn’t eaten anything since 10:30am. Angela snagged me some orange jello to try to satiate my hunger. To get my mind off of my hunger, as well as conserve my energy for pushing, I mostly slept during this phase. Aside from the hunger, my labor I was progressing very well with steady contractions. Because of the consistent progress, I didn’t need pitocin. This made me really happy.
At 5:30pm, I was at 8cm. My doctor was really pleased with how I was progressing. She said she would check back in two hours to see how I was doing and that we would start pushing soon after. What? Could this be happening? It was hard to think that the fun part was still going to happen. I think it was at 7:30pm that I had progressed to 10 cm and they said that we could start pushing around 8:30. By 8:30 I felt like I had to take a poop, which I knew meant the baby was making his way down. I kept telling Matt, my new L&D nurse, that I really had the urge to poop and felt like it was time to start pushing! He told me to keep hanging on and soon enough it would be go time!
Around 8:45pm, I started the pushing phase with the help of my doctor, Matt and Tom in the room. I seriously never imagined how hard pushing would be! It took all my energy to push. In reality, it took a few rounds of pushing to figure out how to even ‘push'. It was a coordinated effort of pulling up my legs, ‘pooping’ out the baby and bringing up my head into a crunch. My contractions were further apart in timing, so I would push four times with each contraction. I was trying so hard, but I guess the baby was not moving down very effectively. I knew going into labor that the baby was probably 7-8 lbs and that he had a massive head from the growth scan I had at 38 weeks. I definitely think that his size made the pushing phase last so long with so much effort. With every push, I felt like my eyeballs were going to pop out of my head. Luckily, the baby handled all the pushing really well because his heart rate stayed steady while pushing. After about 2 exhaustive hours of pushing, at 10:30pm, I had become so fatigued, so hot and so frustrated. My doctor said since we had been pushing for about two hours and that I was getting so tired that we could do a vacuum delivery but it would require me to push as hard as I could. What? I had been pushing as hard as I could already! It was a bit defeating. I didn’t love the sound of that delivery, so I tried to rally and regroup my thoughts. I was going to keep at it. What I didn’t realize at the start of the pushing phase, was that as the epidural slightly wore off, I could better feel which pelvic muscles were the most effective for pushing. Before this I couldn’t really feel what was working and what was not.
At one point my doctor asked if I wanted a mirror. No thanks! I knew I didn’t want to see it. But I did reach down and I could feel his head and his hair. It was a bit disappointing because I felt I had done all this work and thought more of his head would be felt. I felt so exasperated and exhausted and hot and irritable. I had tried and tried to push effectively and it just wasn’t resulting in good progress.
A few more contractions and I knew that I had to get the baby out. I think it was maybe two to four more sets of pushes and the last one, I just kept pushing. My doctor said to stop pushing but I kept going because I got it in my head that I had to get this baby out now! It was really all a blur of pushing, exhaustion and then a dull but sharp pain. “Oww”! Looking back at that moment, I realized that was when I obtained a third degree tear from pushing the baby out. But Noah was here, finally, at 10:44pm on 07/27.
The rest of the post-delivery was such a blur. I remember hearing Noah cry, he was put on my chest and I held him and couldn’t really believe that he was my baby and that he was here. After Noah was on my chest for some time, Tom cut the cord. Honestly, this whole time was a blur and I held my baby, but what I mostly remember is my legs being so wobbly. I was looking at my baby but my brain was thinking about what my doctor was doing. TMI, but my doctor kept telling me to keep my legs open so that she could stitch me up from my tear. It was so hard to keep them open after an epidural and two hours of pushing. It probably was an involved repair because it felt like it took forever. During this time, I was looking at Noah and kissing his head. Time felt to be standing still but in hindsight it was probably an hour or two. After we were able to hold him for a good amount of time, they took Noah over to be weighed, measured and have his footprint taken.
After that, I don’t remember much. I was so tired. It was probably midnight. We hung out in the L&D room. And then transport arrived. I held Noah in my arms as we moved from the delivery room to our postpartum room. It was such a surreal moment. I was a mom, holding my baby, that I just delivered, and I was holding him as we took the elevator up to the postpartum floor. Ah! After that, we settled into our room and that is when the real physicality of the birth was becoming more apparent. I won’t get too detailed, but I was sore from my delivery, exhausted because it was 1 am, hungry, and a hormonal mess.
The next two days were a blur of pain, hormones, tears, constant interruptions from nurses, discovering that my right leg was numb from a femoral neuropathy, seeing lots of neurologists, eating gross hospital food, taking long bathroom breaks, trying to breastfeed and more tears. It was overwhelming and exhausting to have constant nurses and doctors in your room, all while trying too take care of a baby who you are just meeting. On Sunday, we were discharged and made our way back to Brooklyn to start this new chapter. I was ready to get out of the hospital.
If you read this far, thanks for sticking it out. I hope I didn’t bore you or scare you. I wanted to mention that I was so appreciative of my doctor and L&D nurses at Mt. Sinai East for making me feel supported during such a vulnerable time. Lastly, what I ultimately learned from my delivery is that, no matter how you deliver, each new mom has gone through so much and should be applauded for her hard work.