Not so long ago, Saturday, October 15, 2016, in a delivery room far, far away (jk Kaiser Irvine, CA), Olive Noelle Raya was born. My labor and delivery were very smooth and not very cinematic of a story, but I’ll tell it anyway.
I remember still vividly: waddling to the bathroom in the early morning to pee and waddling back feeling what felt like menstrual cramps, then laying in bed feeling what had to have been a contraction. Don’t panic, I thought, this is normal, and I am 10 days away from my due date. When John, my husband, awoke shortly after, I told him first not to be alarmed, but that contractions have begun and are reoccurring every 30 minutes or so. We carried on. We went to breakfast at Norms with my mother-in-law (I ate an entire Bigger Better Breakfast *side eye emoji*), we went to Target to grab miscellaneous things for my hospital bag (I wanted to leave because contractions were every 15 minutes at this point and getting stronger). I laid in bed and attempted to take a nap. The remainder of the afternoon and early evening I, at a sloth’s pace, packed my hospital bag. The last week or so I had already begun throwing things on my bag but hadn’t actually packed it. Contractions were closer in length and stronger. As doctors advise you, wait until contractions are 3-1-1 (it varies by hospital/doctor). What they mean is wait until you are contracting ever 3 (or less) minutes, for 1 minute and that pattern has to repeat for an hour. I was at that point at 8pm. I call the hospital, the nurse tells me, I could wait at home longer and GO TO SLEEP. She told me to go to sleep…. as I have contractions every 3 minutes….. As a first time mom, delivery nurses and doctors are very unlikely to believe you. You’re in a lot of pain, you’re excited and nervous about labor and they just don’t think you really know what going into labor is like.
I listened to the many voices in my head of all of the advice I heard from so many moms I know. Take a shoooower, one friend’s voice called. Which is good advice; you don’t know what could happen, if you’re in the hospital 1 night, 3 nights or a week and you want one good shower in your familiar shower. So in I went, with John sitting across watching me and talking me through my contractions. After a quick scrub down (thanks John), I decided to call the hospital back. I couldn’t imagine falling asleep and I felt ready. They gave us the green light to go to the hospital, so we were off. It was 11:15pm. The car ride was so hard, contractions feel so much worse in a sitting upright position. We waited to be checked in the triage room and indeed, I was 5 cm dilated and was going to be checked into the delivery room. If you’re less than 4 cm dilated, you are sent home to
suffer wait longer!
At around midnight, I was in my delivery room bed. With my IV in tow, we tried to take a little walk in the halls. I couldn’t hang… so I went back to laying down. From midnight to about 3 am, I panted through my every minute apart contractions. At around 3am, while my primary nurse was on break, I decided it was time for an epidural. I was exhausted and all I wanted to do was sleep, how could I with contractions 1 minute apart? Getting the epidural wasn’t scary, I couldn’t see anything happening behind me. I sat up as the anesthesiologist was prepping my back, I contracted, cramped up and toppled over. “You can’t do that” the nurse said as the next step was setting the epidural needle in my back. The time between contractions of course wasn’t long enough for him to finish, so when I had a contraction, I was so incredibly still and took long, deep breaths with the nurse holding my shoulders and John at my feet. Having a catheter put in was painless, a weird feeling but over in an instant. Within minutes of having the epidural placed I felt no pain from the contractions. John watched the monitor and noticed the peak on the graph (a contraction). He asked if I could feel anything, while I lay peacefully, finally with some relief. I slept, I snored even, just ten minutes after the epidural. My parents arrived at 3:30am and I was fast asleep. They remained in the room until Olive was born. My mother-in-law joined when I was pushing and was present for Olive’s birth too.
The relief didn’t last forever. A few hours later I woke up to pressure. It wasn’t painful like the contractions, and it wasn’t constant. I would feel the pressure when my body was contracting but I wouldn’t feel the contraction itself. Every 20 minutes or so the nurse would turn my body from side to side to prevent numbness from the epidural. She asked if I felt my water break, I hadn’t, but as she turned me she said she noticed fluid so my water had broken! They would check me and check me, until about 7:30am they said I would start pushing soon.
8am, there was a shift change, so I had to wait until then to start pushing. At this point, the pressure is strong and I just want to
poop, push this baby out. The new midwife says hello, she was actually the midwife I had seen for my last few appointments.
8:15am, the nurse asks the midwife if she can begin assisting me with my pushing. YES. The midwife says it’s a race between me and another mom as our labor was at the same spot. The midwife has to go between both rooms to see which of us will “win“.
8:17am, I start pushing. It was weird at first and I did it wrong, I barely remember. But corrected myself with the nurse’s direction. I am pushing every-other contraction and breathing through the contractions between pushes.
8:45am (estimate), John asks, “Is that the baby’s head?!” “Yes” DUH, the nurse says. “Do you want to see”, the nurse asks me. She placed a mirror at the foot of the bed and I watched as each push brought Olive’s head nearer and nearer to exiting. I really liked seeing what was happening, most women can’t believe I wanted the mirror there. For me, it was a motivation to see her head crowning and push harder and harder at each go.
8:55am The midwife says I win and she’s there to complete my labor with me. A few final pushes. They were so incredibly painful.
9:10am Olive slides into the world. And after just a moment in the midwife’s hands, my baby girl is placed on my chest.
The immediate aftermath of birth is not fun. Birthing the placenta is tough as the midwife pumps and pushes on my abdomen I cringe while holding Olive for the first time ever. Expelling the placenta was SO relieving. As the epidural has probably left my system, I feel as the midwife places two stitches on my minor tear. Now looking back at this moment, it is really symbolic of motherhood. It was an incredibly beautiful moment (holding a brand new baby on your bare chest) coupled with excruciating pain. Motherhood is really hard and really beautiful.
I spent the next hour or so with Olive on my bare chest as she latched on my breast for the first time and we bonded. After which, they did the necessary after birth procedures of weighing her, vitamin K shot, etc.
It was time to move to our postpartum room, where we would stay the night. My nurse wheeled us down the hall where new parents push a button on a painting which signals a lullaby throughout Kaiser for all to know a baby was born. We continued to our room. The entire waiting room had been full of our family. Upon hearing news that Olive was born and healthy, and after congratulatory hugs and kisses, they left the hospital and would return later to meet her.
John and I stared at our baby girl, ordered our new parent meal and tried to relax. Nurses come in every 30 minutes or so to check my blood pressure, to ask how I’m doing, to check on baby, etc. They were so attentive and so kind. In the evening my nurse offered to take the baby so we could sleep, but Olive had also been sleeping so I told her we were fine. She kept offering to help with Olive, but we were managing just fine. She told us we were the easiest parents she’s had in a long time and I took pride in her esteem.
Until the next story time,