Ellie Hope arrived Friday, August 19th at 12:34 am weighing 8 pounds, 10.9 ounces and measuring 21.75 inches. We couldn't love her more.
Short version: contractions started around 1 am Thursday, went for a few hours, then stopped, then started back up again in the afternoon, got more intense, we went to the hospital, labored a few more hours, then I pushed (involuntarily at first), and out she came! And Jason was the most amazing coach helping me all along the way.
The long version (and it IS long). Don't read the pushing section if you're uncomfortable with those kinds of details. :)
On Wednesday night we went to sleep fairly early, and I woke up at 11, 12, and 1 am with a contraction that felt different from the Braxton Hicks I'd been having. At the 1 am waking, they started coming every 5-6 minutes, lasting about a minute, and were a little painful in my lower back and abdomen but easily manageable. Jason woke up shortly after that and I let him know I was having "real" contractions. We both tried to keep sleeping since it was the middle of the night and I figured we had a long way to go. I couldn't sleep, though, so I got up and puttered around, sat on the birth ball for a bit, snacked, etc. Between 4 and 5 I got in the tub to try to ease some of the back pain and Jason got up too to get ready for the day. Soon after that, though, the contractions started getting shorter and less consistent, finally going away completely, and I was able to sleep for about a couple hours.
Contractions stayed pretty sporadic and shorter for a while after that. Jason and I went for a walk, then a friend of mine came over as planned. We went for a walk too to try to get things moving, and towards the end of her visit (10:45 or so) contractions started back up again, though still short and 10-12 minutes apart. Jason and I just hung out at home, watched a few Walker Texas Ranger reruns, I ate lots of "mini meals", and we waited it out. We tried some different techniques and pressure points to get labor moving along, and some time in the afternoon things started progressing a little more. Still, though, contractions were pretty manageable. Jason kept asking if they really hurt because I was pretty calm and had to tell him when one was starting. The back labor started getting a little harder and Jason massaged during contractions with his hands or tennis balls, which was really helpful.
By 4 or 5 pm, the contractions were getting more intense and were consistently 5 or 6 minutes apart. A little after 5, Jason laid down to take a nap and I ate my last little meal (spicy food to keep things going!), but I had to stop eating when a contraction came. He hadn't been asleep long when I woke him up to let him know I needed help with the contractions because I was pretty uncomfortable and close to tears. We labored at home a little longer, and Jason got stuff ready to move to the hospital.
When I felt like the time was approaching that I wouldn't want to move anymore, we decided to go. Contractions just a little less than 5 minutes apart, though, so we were a little concerned we were going too soon. We got there around 7 and by the time we got to L&D, contractions were 4 minutes apart, I was 6 cm dilated, almost completely effaced. Our wonderful nurse Renea let us know we would definitely be staying. :) She asked if we wanted to sign consent for epidural and promised to never mention it again after that. I hesitated, but Jason, knowing I really didn't want one, declined for us. She kept her word and never suggested pain meds and we never heard the word "pitocin" the whole time we were there. Jason let our parents know we were at the hospital, but I didn't give him much break to use his phone anymore after that. :)
Contractions intensified pretty quickly after that, seeming to be right on top of each other (they were probably a few minutes apart in reality). I was trying to labor on my side, and was having a really hard time relaxing through the pain. The nurse suggested getting on my hands and knees to help with the back pain. I resisted at first because I didn't want to move, but finally got in that position and stayed there for about 4 hours. (My forehead was tender the next day from having it against my hands as I leaned into my elbows for that long!) I only moved to go to the restroom and tried standing up through one contraction on my way back to the bed, but quickly ruled out that option. Jason was massaging my back still that whole time.
I had a lot of "I don't want to do this anymore, I wish I'd gotten medication, just get her out any way possible" thoughts. Jason was really encouraging, and I definitely could not have done it without him. He recognized that I was in transition as I started telling him (pretty regularly, I think) that I couldn't do it. He kept encouraging me that I could, and the nurse reminded me that I WAS doing it, and, since I didn't an option to just not be in labor anymore, I kept going. I also had this incorrect assumption that transition was a really quick process, so I thought it must be almost over.
At some point (probably between 10 and 11, but I had no idea it was this late) I thought my water broke. Turns out I'd just gone to the bathroom, but I really didn't care at that point. A little while later my body seemed to be starting to push a little on it's own. I asked to be checked again, and the nurse said they were planning to check me again at 11:30, which was only a half hour away. That was my first indication of how long I'd been laboring. I knew they were putting the fetal monitors on me and taking my blood pressure every hour...and that had happened a lot...but it hadn't clicked that I'd been there for that long. Jason said he purposefully didn't tell me the time because he didn't want me to get discouraged about it being so long. I let her know I felt pushing motions, so she checked and I was a 9. (I had been checked a few hours before this and was an 8...but I don't know where that was in the sequence of events.)
I switched back to my side, and the involuntary pushing kept happening. It was actually really amazing to feel (and Jason says, to see) as my whole belly contracted from the top down. They even made me grunt and my legs would come up, but I wasn't putting any effort into it. Those started getting harder and one of them broke my water. It literally sounded like a water balloon breaking, and it all shot out at once. The involuntary pushing kept happening, so they got my doctor and they started setting up for pushing stage. I was sitting up in pushing position around midnight.
This stage was what I was most nervous about, but it was actually way easier than I had imagined. I had a lot more breaks between contractions to rest, and the contractions didn't hurt much at all. In fact, Jason and my doctor were chatting pretty nonchalantly between contractions. It was pretty chill. I started pushing too fast, and my doctor reminded me to push only when I felt contractions (I'd been pushing when I felt pressure...which was almost all the time). Jason reminded me to put my chin to my chest when I pushed, and that reminded me to breathe a few times before pushing with the contraction. I think that helped. I felt like I might be tearing a little at the top of my opening, so I tried to slow myself down. I did feel the "ring of fire" but not a whole lot of pain besides that. The baby started dropping down, and they could see that she had lots of hair! After her head came, I gave maybe one or two more good pushes and she popped right out! I watched the doctor catch her, and they put her right to my chest. She pinked up pretty quickly, and Jason cut her cord. She was bigger than I expected (and really silppery!) but absolutely beautiful, with a full head of hair, really long finger nails, and very alert. We tried to nurse, but never did get a good latch so we just had some bonding time.
My placenta came out really quickly after she was born, and they let me check it out (I was just curious what it looked like). I had a second degree tear in my perineum (which I didn't feel happen at all) and a smaller tear near my urethra. Stitching that one up was more painful than the birth!
I remember thinking right after she was born about how people always say once the baby comes out, you forget the pain, or are already ready to do it again, or something to that effect. I didn't experience that. My thought right afterwards was, "I might just have one. I don't want to do labor again." But, I can honestly say that the pushing and delivery part was a really amazing and even enjoyable experience (though not pain-free). And now, a few days later, seeing how absolutely precious Ellie is, I would go through the laboring part all over again a hundred times.
And I have to say, too, we had a great experience with St. Joseph hospital. Our nurses were very supportive. I had trouble nursing at first (Ellie had swallowed some stuff on her way out and kept swallowing it down when her body was trying to spit it up, so her stomach was pretty upset the first few days). There's a great nurse/lactation consultant who is only at the hospital one day a month, and our one full day there was her day! That was such a huge blessing. She probably spent 3 hours with us over the course of the day, showing us different tricks and even helping me manually express into a spoon so Ellie could get some colostrum. We were very thankful for her and the others.