When I thought about how I expected birth to go, a lot of scenarios played out in my head--most of them worst case. What actually happened had never once entered my mind.
To give some context, on Friday Peter went on vacation with his brother, cousin, and friend to Vegas and was planning on returning Sunday night. I had a sushi and sleepover night planned with my girl friends for Friday and then I was going to get last minute things done for the baby ( car seat install, hospital bag, type out birth plan, thank you cards). I was looking forward to both of us having a relaxing last weekend.
So Friday night, my three friends and I had dinner, grabbed some snacks at whole foods, chatted for a bit and of course joked about how funny it would be if I went into labor. I was 37w1d and I knew my chances were slim to none so at that point, it was still safe to joke about. We went to bed and I breathed through a few Braxton hicks like I'd done for the past few weeks and then fell asleep. I vaguely remember a large contraction right before I woke up to a feeling of water trickling at 5:45. I would repeat this thought over the next few hours: there's no way that I'm going into labor and even if I am, I have hours of mild labor ahead of me. I then released a ton of fluid and changed my mental state to: ok I'm in labor technically but I know that doesn't mean that I need to rush to the hospital. So I went to my friend's room to calmly announce I'd be going home and not to worry about me when a contraction hit me with enough force that I couldn't speak. After it subsided, it hit me that Peter was gone and I was going to have to go it alone and I wasn't prepared for the baby and I started to shake uncontrollably. By that point all my friends had woken up and were freaking out too. So ironically, that calmed me down enough to focus on what I'd do next.
I called Peter and told him he would probably have to fly back but to wait to buy the ticket until I knew I was for sure going to have the baby (totally still in denial). Then my friends and I caravanned up to my house to pack the hospital bag. I showered, we bought Peter a ticket (plane ETA was 12:15), and was still proud of how I was handling my contractions; they were coming a bit erratically but generally every few minutes and lasting a little under a minute long. I thought I might even have time to do a load of laundry and bake the nurses some cookies when they started to become really intense and last longer than a minute. My doula had told me that I would know it's truly progressive labor when they last about a minute and fifteen seconds and so I decided I should probably go to the hospital. I called her at this time but she didn't answer and I decided to call her again once I got settled in at the hospital. This was around 8am.
My friend drove me to the hospital while the others grabbed some breakfast and met up with one of my coworkers to get my birthing ball I had been sitting on at work. We get to the hospital around 8:30 and the contractions intensified. But I was still able to work through them up until I got on the bed to get monitored. All of a sudden they started hitting me super hard and fast with hardly any break in between them and became REALLY INTENSE. I was bewildered. It felt like how people had described transition. I couldn't breathe and I couldn't recuperate between them. The nurse told me I was 3.5 cm dilated and I knew that generally, first births take around 12 hours to get through active labor, so I had no idea how I would be able to do 10 more hours. I was especially lost without Peter there. I decided to get an epidural and felt pretty bad that I was abandoning a natural birth at only 3.5 cm and worried that it would slow me down too much. They gave me the epidural around 10 and shortly afterwards, the nurse declared I was at a 6. So on the one hand, it was like no wonder I was in so much pain. On the other hand, I thought, without the epidural slowing things down Peter might not make it back in time.
For the next two hours, my friends and I chatted and napped. My in-laws came down and said hi and then left to go pick Peter up at the airport. The nurse had told me that she would check me every 2 hours and to expect another centimeter for each 1-2 hours. Around noon I began feeling the contractions again but nothing like they were before. I waited a half hour and then asked her whether I should be feeling them. She checked me and surprised, said that I was at a 10.
I called Peter and told him as soon as he arrived, I could start pushing even though I could hardly believe it. I felt like it was way too soon and I wasn't prepared and once again, I was blessing the epidural for giving me a few more minutes to mentally prepare. Peter rushed in the room at 12:45 and we did a few practice pushes with the nurse and then waited again for my doctor to arrive. She got there a little after 1:00 and at that point, things became very real. I was laughing because my three friends were perched on the sofa to my left, just watching like it was a movie. My MIL filmed behind me and Peter was holding my leg. So then I mentally prepared myself for maybe an hour of pushing since I couldn't feel anything but apparently the baby wanted OUT. At 1:27, she exited my uterus for good. Hooray!
Basically I never expected to have a fast labor. I also never thought Peter wouldn't be there. And I especially wasn't prepared to have my friends there. But it was really a great birth and I felt so amazing afterwards. I was super happy that I was able to use my breathing to stay in control for as long as I did, I LOVED the epidural, I loved that I had a few hours to laugh and talk with my friends, and then I was happy that she came out without me needing to go on pitocin or undergo surgery. And I'm loving these sweet calm first few days (praying that they continue!) with just her and Peter and me. It is hard to tell her personality right now but she calms easily and you can't ask for more from a newborn :)
I am also loving post partum recovery. I know that sounds weird but it's been so awesome to start to feel like my body is back. I told Peter that even before I started showing, I was always acutely aware that there was another person inside of me.
Also awesome is how light she is. I am currently holding her cradled in my left arm while typing with both hands. I am pretty sure I won't be able to do this for more than a week :)
I am going to print and bind this blog into a book for her so this will likely be my last post. It has been the best 9 month project though and when I print these, I will include everyone's comments. I have appreciated all the advice and love and want her to be able to read them when she's older.
Anyways, you can find me posting on our family blog now http://tewfamily.wordpress.com/