I have to admit, while there’s no way to be completely prepared for labor and delivery, I did feel fairly relaxed about the experience. This was largely due to the fact that I had a fairly uncomplicated birth for which we’re very fortunate, but there’s a lot to be said for doing your homework and reading as much credible material as you can.
Rupturing Membranes: My water broke around 1:30 in the afternoon but I didn’t start labor that I could tell. Rather than go straight to the hospital, I opted to see how things progressed on their own. I was close to both my doctor’s office and the hospital in the event I did go into active labor but I was much more comfortable and was able to eat a good meal before being admitted.
Once your water breaks, our hospital has a policy of not letting you go 24 hours past that point without delivering. While I didn’t know this at the time, it was to my benefit that I didn’t hang out at the hospital all that time and was able to relax and do things at my own pace. I would definitely recommend asking your doctor and hospital about any policies such as this so that you’re prepared.
Hospital Admission: While we had been pre-approved by our insurance and had submitted some paperwork to our hospital, there were a whole slew of forms I had to fill out. You can do this ahead of time if you call and ask your hospital. I can’t imagine having to do all that while in the midst of labor!
Medication: I went into the birth experience wanting to try for an unmedicated birth, but I also wanted to keep my options open. Once we arrived and it was obvious that I wasn’t in active labor, our doctor gave us his opinion as to how things would go. While we had a choice to wait longer before choosing to be induced with Pitocin (we waited 4 hours to see if I would start active labor on my own), he did encourage us to make a decision within a reasonable time frame so as not to compromise the 24 hour limit.
In the end, we chose to start Pitocin which immediately kick-started my labor. This also had the added effect of making my contractions more intense and closer together than they might have been without the pit. After four hours of labor, I had progressed about 2 more centimeters but my body was fighting the contractions despite my best efforts. I simply didn’t have enough time between contractions to relax and prepare for the next contraction. At that point, we opted to get an epidural. This procedure takes about 20 minutes (once the anesthesiologist is in the room, keep in mind he might be otherwise occupied!) so definitely plan in advance if you want to choose this option. The epidural brought immediate relief. However, my body relaxed so much that it affected the baby’s heart rate. There were a few intense moments but she recovered quickly and all was well.
Approximately 20 minutes later, I was closing fast on 10 centimeters. In my mind, this was a huge benefit of waiting as long as I did for the epidural. My body was working hard on getting ready for delivery and the epidural allowed me a short recovery period where my body was able to move the baby into position and get ready for the next phase. One hour after having received the epidural, I was ready to push!
Delivery: Even with drugs, this can be an intense and painful process! Everyone responds differently to the meds, I was very fortunate in that I still felt intense pressure during pushing. Some people have reported being completely numb and having no idea when to push, this was definitely not the case with me. While I’m sure that pushing was much less painful than it could have been, I still felt entirely connected to the process. It was a ton of work and felt like an eternity, but 17 minutes later…Adelena was born. My husband had to tell me to open my eyes and look because I was still so locked into the pushing!
Post-partum: I had requested that the baby be handed to me right away and even though she was a slippery mess, it was so amazing to hold her in my arms that first time. It also serves as a great distraction from the delivery of the placenta and any stitching you might have to endure. Keep in mind that, even with a vaginal delivery, you’re going to be in a fair amount of pain for a while.
Take advantage of your time in the hospital! While it’s not exactly restful, it’s a wonderful feeling to know that you and your baby have help at a moments notice if you need it. Between feedings, meals, nurses checking in, babies crying in neighboring rooms or visitors…there’s constant activity. Catnaps are key!
Also take advantage of the expertise around you. Ask all your questions and don’t think anything is too silly to ask. Believe me, they’ve heard it all!
Final Thoughts: Overall, we were relatively relaxed throughout the entire process and I think that played a large role in how it all transpired in the end. There are always complications that may occur and every birth is different. Being prepared for many different outcomes and trusting the experts to guide you in the right direction is invaluable. Remember…at the end of your journey is a huge reward that will change your life forever!