When I was pregnant with my oldest, I was fixated on and petrified of labor and delivery. I had no idea what to expect – would I know when it was happening? Would my water break first? What would real contractions feel like (especially after weeks of Braxton Hicks)? How long would it take? The truth is, every single labor and delivery experience, even for the same mother, can be different. In most cases, the baby will go from being on the inside to being on the outside over the course of 24 hours or less, and then, the real work begins! To give you first time expecting moms a little insight, here are the tales of our first two birth stories.
Big M’s Birth Story
Big M was due in mid-September. The whole summer, my Grandfather kept telling me she was going to be born on my Grandmother’s birthday, at the end of September. My Grandmother helped raise me, and we were very close. When she passed away from pancreatic cancer shortly after my husband and I were married, I was devastated – both to lose her and that my children would never get to meet her. As endearing as my Grandfather’s premonitions were, I also had no desire to be 42 weeks pregnant, and laughed his prediction away.
Fast forward to August, when coastal Connecticut was hit with its first major hurricane in decades. I was paranoid the significant change in a barometric pressure would induce early labor, and packed my hospital bag in preparation. The hurricane hit, our beachside neighborhood was temporarily evacuated, and even 5 days with no power and ice cold showers wasn’t enough to bring Big M into the world.
Mid-September came and went, and Big M seemed perfectly content inside my belly. Babies run late in my family, and having read too many induction horror stories, I told my midwives and OBs, barring any medically necessary reason, I wanted to wait and let her come naturally. They agreed up to 42 weeks. So post 40 weeks, I visited the doctor 2-3 times a week for stress tests and to check fluid levels, and they let me carry on. On the Friday of week 41, they scheduled my induction for the following Monday morning, the day after my Grandmother’s birthday, at exactly 42 weeks.
For the last month of my pregnancy, I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions with some regularity almost every evening. When they got really consistent, I would stay up timing them, eventually giving up and going to sleep. On Saturday night before my scheduled induction, I strangely had none, and went to bed. As soon as I laid down, I started having contractions – but this time, I could tell it was different. All experienced moms will tell you that you will know when it is the real thing – trust me, you will. I could tell this time was the real thing. I tried to go to sleep, knowing early labor could last hours, but by the time my husband came up to bed around midnight, I told him I didn’t think he should go to sleep. He kindly reminded me that I was scheduled to go to the hospital the next night… I don’t think the baby was listening!
I went downstairs and began timing my contractions – they were getting closer together and felt more intense than just the Braxton Hicks belly tightening. At 1AM, I called my doctor’s service… the midwife called me back, and since I could still talk through my contractions, she suggested I stay home and call her back in an hour. I woke up my husband, and at about 2:30AM, we called the midwife back, and she met us at the hospital at 3:15AM.
They hooked me up to the fetal and contraction monitors, and confirmed I was definitely in labor, but not dilated enough to be admitted. She told us to walk around the hospital for a few hours. At first, this was fine… we walked around the Healing Garden on the rooftop of the cancer ward, we read the entire history of Yale Hospital on the mural timeline in the main hall, we sat in the hospital chapel a while and even wrote a prayer for our baby and in memory of her Great Grandmother, who at that very moment, I realized she had decided to arrive on her birthday after all. But soon, I was more than uncomfortable, and as all the nurses and staff began coming on shift at 7AM, it became even more awkward. At 8AM, we returned to Labor & Delivery and were finally admitted. At this point, we also decided we should call and let our parents know where we were.
While I had planned to see how things went before deciding on an epidural, by the time I was admitted, it was my first question. After grimacing through ever more painful contractions until about 11:30AM, my midwife said I was definitely in active labor and dilated enough to receive an epidural. Let me tell you, anesthesiologists are one notch below God in my book. After that, I was able to sleep off and on, after being up for about 36 hours. My husband’s favorite part of the story – I even checked in on my Fantasy Football line-up, while he watched the Giants game. While I slept, my contractions did their job. I woke up once when my water broke, and again around 5:30PM, when I felt like it was time. The midwife agreed and told me it was time to push, but to wait for her to return with the nurse and delivery gear!
Big M was born at 6:33PM, after about 30 minutes of pushing and about 20 hours after the first ‘real’ contraction hit. She shares her birthday with her Great Grandmother and Great Great Grandfather. She weighed over 8 pounds, and was less than 24 hours away from induction at 41 weeks 6 days.
Lil’ M’s Birth Story
My second pregnancy, I knew better… I knew labor and delivery was a 24 hour cakewalk compared to the first few weeks at home with a newborn. This time, I obsessed about how Big M was going to react to the new baby, how our relationship would change, and how I would possibly love another baby as much as I had my first.
We had learned a few things the first time around too – like how to lie to everyone about your due date and just give a due month. Lil’ M was due at the end of July, and given Big M’s tardy arrival, we told everyone the baby would be here in August. We also decided to keep the name choice to ourselves, and only revealed it AFTER Lil’ M arrived. And if we hadn’t needed help watching Big M, we would have also not told anyone we were at the hospital until the baby actually arrived too!
Lil’ M was also breach until nearly 34 weeks. I was willing to do anything to avoid a c-section, since I was already stressed enough over handling a toddler and newborn without also recovering from major surgery. At the recommendation of my midwife, I started putting a bag of frozen peas at the top of my belly every evening (sparking quite the inquiries from Big M!), and doing inversion poses from SpinningBabies.com. It worked!
After that, my only question for my midwife about Lil’ M’s upcoming labor and delivery was if she would be as late and if my labor would be as long. I was also concerned because this time I had tested Group B Strep positive (25% of all women do), and would require antibiotics prior to delivery. Her response was second babies usually come earlier and faster, but that it was all relative. After a 20 hour labor, I likely wouldn’t have a 2 hour one. She told me to call when my contractions were 5 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute for at least an hour.
Like her sister, Lil’ M was very comfortable on the inside, and took her time making an appearance. Again, I was overdue and making visits to the doctor’s office for stress tests and fluid checks every other day. Grandma came to stay to watch Big M for these doctor visits, and my parents were scheduled to arrive the weekend after Lil’ M’s due date. We decided to order a car service to pick them up from the NYC airport, since I didn’t want to make a 3 hour round trip (longer with traffic) in my very pregnant state, and didn’t want my husband stuck in traffic while I was potentially in labor either. It was a good decision, since I was in Labor & Delivery when they arrived!
In a series of events almost identical to Big M’s labor, after days of Braxton Hicks contractions, I had a fairly quiet evening, went to bed, and was woken up at midnight with real contractions. This time, I let the hubby sleep, went downstairs by myself and started timing (by the way, there’s an app for that: Contractions Counter). They were already 5 minutes apart and lasting a minute, but since I wasn’t too uncomfortable, I waited a few hours, calling the doctor service around 3AM. My midwife said she would let the hospital know to expect me that morning, but to feel free to stay home for as long as I was comfortable.
Around 4:30AM, I took a shower, dried my hair, packed my bag and finally, woke up the hubby. Fortunately, Grandma was already staying over to watch Big M, so we left, stopped for a bagel and a banana on the way, and arrived at Yale Hospital around 6AM. Again, I was not dilated enough to be admitted, despite my waiting, and they sent me off to walk around the hospital. Three hours later, I still was not ready for admission (or L&D was full), so they told me to GO HOME! I felt like such an amateur – this was my second time, shouldn’t I know when it’s time by now? So home we went, where I locked myself in our bedroom to suffer out of sight of Big M, who knew something was not right with Mommy. By lunch time, I couldn’t take it anymore – I told hubby I was ready to go back to the hospital, NOW! He asked if I was sure, and Grandma took one look at my face, and told him not to argue with the laboring wife.
There was traffic this time on the way, and it took a very uncomfortable 45 minutes to get back to the hospital. When we arrived, L&D beamed at me and said they had been waiting for us, admitted me right away, and I requested an immediate epidural. My babies like to give me back labor, and for me, my body cannot relax enough through the pain to dilate. While for some, an epidural may slow progression, in my experience, it’s the only way I relax enough to progress.
Post epidural, I took a killer nap, after again being up for a full day and a half, woke up once when my water broke, and again around 6PM, ready for delivery. I pushed for 15 minutes, and Lil’ M was born just a few minutes earlier in the day than her sister, after just over 18 hours of labor. So much for faster second deliveries! While not as fully baked as her big sister, she was born at exactly 41 weeks, and weighed over 9 pounds – shocking us all.
Other Tips to Prepare for Labor & Delivery
The best preparation I had before my first delivery was a childbirth preparation class at our hospital. Ask your OB if something similar is offered where you will deliver. It was a 6 hour class that covered in detail the stages of labor, all your different potential pain management options, and best of all, a tour of the labor, delivery and postpartum units at the hospital. Even if you don’t know exactly what your specific labor and delivery will be like, understanding what the potential complications or options are well in advance of labor, will help you make an informed decision when the time comes. Hubby was also grateful to know exactly where to go when the big moment arrived!
The Childbirth Class will help educate you about your options to help you form a birth plan. My advice with regard to birth plans – it’s fine to have one, but it’s more important to educate yourself as to all the available options in advance of the pain and chaos of the day. The reality is, this is one time where only your body is in control. You can plan all you like, but you have no way to know whether you will have a 6 hour labor or a 36 hour one, whether or not there will be any complications (hopefully not!), how painful it will be for you or how your body will handle the pain. Make plans for things like who you want in the room with you, what you want to pack in your hospital bag, and what pain management options you want to pursue (if any) and which you do not. The good news? It can’t be that bad, for so many of us to willingly do it again, right?!?!
What was your birth story or stories? My third baby’s birth went anything but according to plan! Did you do or wish you did anything differently after your first time? Share your stories with us, and help educate expecting mothers with what to expect! Check out all our Pregnancy and Baby posts, and find all our favorites from around the web on our What to Expect board on Pinterest.