The story of Eleanor’s arrival is very precious to me, and I am sharing it here because I gained so much–emotionally and mentally–by reading other women’s birth stories online in the months leading up to my own delivery. It was a very spiritual and personal experience for me and for Nate. If you’d rather not read about some of the more intense details of labor and delivery, stop here! (By the way, Nate took these pictures, with the exception of the last three.)
Early in the morning on Tuesday 6/3/14 I started feeling miserable contractions. I had been having contractions for about seven weeks already and they had been really painful the past ten days especially (I was now 41 weeks 1 day). The pain was so strong that it woke me up from a weird dream at about 3am. I had two contractions, so I decided to try to go back to sleep sitting up. I had a bi-weekly OB appointment scheduled for 9 am that morning, so I didn’t bother calling the doctor. I slept sitting up til I felt another really painful contraction at 5:09. I felt one again at 5:17, then 5:25, then 5:31. At that point I woke Nate and told him I thought I might be having labor contractions, but I didn’t feel optimistic, because I was so overdue and knew I would be getting induced on the ninth day. I had convinced myself my body wasn’t going to be able to do this on its own. I was in very poor spirits.
I kept having the contractions every seven or eight minutes, and they were bad enough that they made me kind of gasp/moan. So in order to help Nate stay asleep, I went out and dozed on the couch. They kept coming, some at five minutes, some at eight or nine, and by 8:45 when it was time to walk to the doctor, I was so deeply uncomfortable that I told Nate we needed to just drive there. I walked in while he parked and told the receptionist I needed to go into a room right away because I could NOT labor in the waiting room in front of all those pregnant people. She didn’t really understand what I meant but I didn’t have time to explain so I kind of ran right into the nearest room and just laid down. One of the doctors at my practice came in and talked to me for a little while, and saw on the monitor that my contractions were getting closer. She confirmed that I was officially in labor, though still early. I asked her if I should call my mom and tell her to get on a plane and she said definitely. She told us to go home and call her when they got so bad that I couldn’t bear it, or when they were three minutes apart. She off-handedly mentioned that she bet I would be in the hospital by lunchtime. I was at 2.5 cm.
We left the doctor and I was now in great spirits (though still considerably uncomfortable). We were having a baby today! Nate called work to let them know he was starting paternity leave. I called Mom, who was dropping my brother Danny off at school (it was 7:55 in CA) and told her it was happening. She hurried and got herself onto a flight leaving just about two hours later. We stopped at the little farmer’s market outside the Modern Art Museum and bought a little bouquet of peonies from a very nice farmer, for baby girl’s birthday. Walking made the contractions much more intense and frequent. I had to stop and lean against a building and count every time I had one. By the time we got to the car, I was having them less than five minutes apart. We timed them and they were over a minute long (as they almost all had been all morning). When we got home, Nate ran around and got all the stuff together in the bag. He made me eat (I had had a bowl of cereal and a banana at about 7 am) and I could hardly choke down a granola bar. We were home less than an hour (about 10:30 am to 11:15 am) and I was in such pain that I was howling with every contraction. So I finally decided it was time to go. Once, I screamed at Nate to call the doctor and then I started crying because I felt horrible for being so mean. He was extremely patient.
We were planning on walking originally (the hospital is only five blocks away), but I was struggling too much so we got a cab. I about died while I was having a contraction in the backseat and trying not to scream. When we got to the hospital, they took a few minutes to get my paperwork done and finally got me in the prep room around 11:30. It was only ten minutes but it felt like hours. Once we got in there, I quickly became very grumpy with the nurses–they were poking me, checking me, sticking needles in me, and putting on those horrible itchy bands that held my heart monitor and baby’s heart monitor, while expecting me to hold still and be quiet. The pain was so intense and unbearable that I asked Nate to give me a priesthood blessing as soon as the nurse stepped out. Finally, finally, after I straight up begged them to get me the epidural, at 12:35 they wheeled me to the elevator and took us up to Labor and Delivery.
I went into a room where a wonderful nurse started coaching me through the pain. She taught me how to slow my breath and not scream with each contraction, and after about ten minutes the anesthesiologist came in– I had never been so happy to see a doctor. They made Nate leave, which was kind of scary, but I was so distracted by the pain that I didn’t really have time to freak out. Also, my nurse was helping me breathe through each contraction, looking me right in the eye and breathing with me, holding onto my hands and counting out my breaths. My anesthesiologist was very kind; he answered all my questions and explained the whole epidural to me as he was working and only had to try twice, but it was so intense I couldn’t help but cry. As soon as the medicine kicked in (within about 60 seconds), I felt immediately overwhelmed with relief. And started crying again, of course. It was exactly 1:00. Nate came back in and he was so obviously relieved that I wasn’t in pain anymore. It was like a dream. It was a total miracle. All hail the epidural.
Around 5:30, my epidural started to wear thin, and I was getting really really uncomfortable with each contraction. They sent in another anesthesiologist around 6:15 to redo the dose or something. Nate told me Mom was really close. Around 6:30, I was facing the window and I saw Nate’s face light up and I knew Mom was here. I felt her arms around me from behind and I twisted around to grab her and hold her. We both started to cry–I was beyond relieved and overjoyed she was there. I had been missing her so much.
Within about a half hour of her arrival, Dr. Buscher came in and said it was about time. I was SO excited that it was finally here. I started pushing around 7:40 I think. It was really hard because they were telling me to do all these different things: push, pull your legs back, relax your legs, lift your elbows, hold your breath, now deep breath, now push again, now stop. By the time I had remembered to do everything they were saying, the contraction was over. It was sort of frustrating because I felt like I wasn’t making any progress. Nate was standing on my left, next to my shoulder, counting out the contractions. He was so, so good at just coaching me through each moment. Mom held my left leg and a new nurse (Joy went home) held my right.
After an hour or so, I was kind of starting to have more pain, which was a good thing, in a way, but also kind of sucked. The doctor seemed kind of unimpressed with my efforts of pushing, so I was having a hard time feeling like I was really getting anywhere. But then Mom suggested that I feel the baby’s head. I didn’t want to. Too weird. But after a few more pushes, she explained that yes, I was progressing, even if it didn’t seem like it, so stop beating myself up about it. And that it would help a lot if I could feel her head and realize how far I had come. So I did. It was the strangest feeling. But it helped a lot. Then over the next hour I focused harder and tried to go above and beyond with every single push. I was starting to feel like I was really doing it. The very end is a little bit of a blur because of the pain. I just remember that I was so determined to not have to use the vacuum. It had been 2.5 hours and I knew Dr. Buscher would do it. So I used all my might and took all their cheering and concentrated harder than I ever have on anything in my life, and finally I felt her leave my body and they told me she was born. I heard her voice and I knew she was my daughter. It was 9:53 pm. I had done it. I had succeeded. I have never accomplished something like that in my life, and it was an incredible feeling.
Nate cut her cord, and I couldn’t help but say “I know you!” as soon as I heard her voice. Immediately they kind of dumped her on my chest and were rubbing her down to get all the guts off and get her blood flowing. She was just so… familiar. I held her on my chest for an hour or so, and I didn’t really even get a good look at her in her entirety until the next day! She started nursing immediately and was very good at it. I was so proud! She was amazing. Nate and I were just completely stunned by what had just happened. But it was such a good feeling. After a little while they did all the footprints and shots and all that stuff. Then finally, after almost two hours!, Mom got her turn to hold her. I was so happy for her. Nate handed El to her and she was clearly overjoyed. Her first grandchild! I took one of the proudest photos of my life from my bed about ten minutes after they finished her shots–Nate holding her and smiling at me like he just won the lottery (just as he was giving her to Mom).
We decided on her name officially sometime on Wednesday around lunch. They kicked us out on Thursday at 11 am. Everyone was very nice to me and helped me so much. I felt great in there, emotionally, and the pain was actually a lot less than I was anticipating. Probably because they were giving me lots of good pain meds :) Nursing was very painful, even though she was great at it, they said. Mom told me it would hurt really bad for two weeks and then I would be fine (which of course came true). Lanolin was my best friend! When I left, I thought I would get to leave in a wheelchair, but I didn’t! I had to walk out, and I really didn’t want to. Mom thought it was weird too. There was a lot of postpartum stuff that I experienced following her birth that’s mundane and normal and boring, but one thing that was so clearly present in my mind over and over in the hospital was how incredible my body is and what a gift it is to have been able to deliver a baby into the world. It was just the most surprising and empowering feeling.
I didn’t feel the overwhelming wave of so-in-love-with-my-baby-the-second-I-met-her that people talk about; I was mostly just amazed by her and her presence. Every hour I loved her more and more, and now she’s already been here for seven weeks somehow. I love her more today than I did yesterday.
Keep an eye out for Alex’s inspiring mum interview coming soon…