I wasn't sure if I'd share Eleanor's birth story publicly, but I've decided to do so because I very much enjoyed reading others' posts on this topic when I was nine months pregnant (and SO nervous about labor and delivery). Also, I think putting this story online is a good way to preserve it for Ellie as the years go by. :)
It all started Friday night, October 4 (which happens to be my mom's birthday...she was sure her granddaughter would be born that day, I was just hoping it would be sooner rather than later as the days ticked past E's Oct. 2 due date). Brad and I went for a late dinner at The Great Dane in our neighborhood and I didn't have any inkling that things were about to get interesting. I had a tasty turkey club sandwich and some tomato bisque soup. I remember feeling so huge and being grateful we found a place to sit down near the bar while we waiting for our table.
When we got home, I started having some weak contractions. I wasn't sure if they were Braxton-Hicks or not, and in retrospect I wish I had just gone to bed and tried to sleep through this early labor. Instead, Brad and I both went out to the living room to see if anything would develop. The contractions were pretty far apart (like 15 minutes), and I told him he could get some sleep. But he said, "Nope, I'm a storm chaser," and settled in on the couch with me and some DVRed episodes of The Mentalist. The contractions started getting closer together. It's funny, I had been so nervous about what contractions would feel like, but at this point they were unpleasant but bearable and very similar to the BH contractions I'd been dealing with for weeks. I tried to do some breathing exercises and I also sat on the yoga ball to cope. I think I also used ice packs and took tylenol. I was anxious about labor starting at night and neither of us getting any sleep before Go Time, but I realized we had no control over it and to just have faith everything would be fine.
We basically spent the whole night trying to decide when to go to the hospital (when it became obvious the contractions weren't stopping). My major fear was that we would wait too long and I'd have a very rough car ride, or difficulty during the part where they administer the epidural. A few people had mentioned it was possible to get to the hospital too late to receive the epidural and I was NOT going to let that happen to me. :) So, of course, we went in too soon.
The car ride to St. Mary's was very calm and even peaceful. It was about 4:30 or 5 a.m. and the beltline was almost totally clear. I had three contractions on the way and breathed through them, clutching the car door handle. When we got all parked and gathered our bags, I was able to easily walk to Labor and Delivery. It struck me as a little surreal, and I proudly announced to the security guard at the Information Desk, "I'm in labor!" It was so different than on television, where the woman is in a wheelchair and screaming. I think I even said so. I was calm because it was such early labor.
In triage, I think they wanted to send us home. The first nurse to check me felt that I wasn't even three centimeters. The exam hurt and I was a bit tearful about it, which turned out to be a good thing. When a second person checked me--a young male resident--I think he felt so bad about my (truly mild) distress that he gave me a pity centimeter, pronounced me four centimeters dilated, and admitted us. YAY. I'd had it in my head that the hard part was over and I'd be fine as soon as the epidural arrived. Still, I wanted to hold off just a little bit and make use of the gorgeous St. Mary's bathtub. I got in, had a few contractions, and realized the tub wasn't helping with the pain super-much. Epidural time.
They got me hooked up to the IV, which was unpleasant but not painful, and brought in the anesthesiologist. The epidural went in fine (no pain), and afterward I felt great. I could no longer feel my contractions, and I felt I could get some rest. Unfortunately, I decided to lay on my side to do so, and some of the drugs slid to my left side, leaving my right side less than totally numb. This was an ongoing problem throughout my whole labor, which ended up lasting about thirty hours. I wish I hadn't turned on my side that early on. We called the anesthesiologist back to my room three more times to either talk to me or dose me again. The nurses were great, and tried everything they could think of to make me more comfortable when I was in distress, including partially deflating a big yoga ball and putting it between my knees to keep my hips open (which really helped, as I couldn't get out of bed at all). I tried to eat some jello and threw it up. My system was working with little sleep and no food, yet somehow it powered through. Though the epidural wasn't quite as magical as I'd hoped, I was was still grateful for it as the hours dragged on.
Saturday evening was rough. I thought I'd be done by then! I cried and experienced the typical Transition phase self-doubt, saying "I can't do this." Fortunately, though this part was the most stressful for everyone (I call it the Dark Times), we had learned in birthing class that it was very normal. I got more drugs around midnight and the green light to push at 6:30 am on Sunday. Being able to start DOING something after lying around waiting for so long was awesome. I immediately gave it all I had and pushed hard. It was wonderful to hear the encouragement of my nurse and husband. Progress. Finally. The sun was coming up and the end was in sight. I finally felt all of the labor and delivery cliches...I felt fierce and like I could actually do it. Pushing made the lingering pain I'd been feeling recede and when people could see the head, it was a great feeling. I turned down the mirror, but I could feel the progress. I pushed for two hours, but it didn't feel that long to me.
Finally, when Eleanor was very close to arriving, the nurse called in a whole team to deliver her. A doctor, a resident, and more nurses appeared. It was exciting and I felt good. The doctor recognized Brad as the teacher of one of his kids, so that was an odd moment for everyone, but we got over it and focused on the main event. I pushed with all my might and Ellie was born! They handed her up to me right away and she was very slippery and gorgeous. Her eyes were open, and if she cried, it was only a little (I can't really remember). My first words about it all: "She's so big!" And she was...8 lbs, 4 ounces. My OB had guessed she'd be a seven or seven and a half pounder, so her size was a nice surprise. I shaded her eyes from the sun now streaming in the window and crying the happiest tears of my life. Brad also cried and we were SO HAPPY.
I felt pure adrenaline and joy. Partly it was the joy of finally meeting Ellie, partly it was joy at being done with such a long labor, and part of it was pride at having accomplished it all. I'd never thought of myself as the type of tough person who could handle pregnancy and birth with grace, but in the end, I did (more or less). And we have the world's most perfect, beautiful, and wonderful daughter. I feel so lucky. Welcome to the world, Eleanor. Your dad and I love you so much.