Birth is different for everyone, and it can even be different for each child she has, but I wanted to share my own experience.
Note: because 99.99% of my readers are women who don’t mind, I will not refrain from details.
Coincidentally or not, pregnancy is 40 weeks. Jesus was in the desert for 40 days. The Israelites were for 40 years. Especially in my personal experience, it’s always 40 something of suffering.
At 35 weeks, we had our checkup with the doc. We did a cervical check to see if anything out of the ordinary was happening because I was experiencing some contractions. Turns out I was dilated 1cm. Then doc said that it’s possible that I could go into labor at any time.
So I waited in anxious anticipation for this suffering to be over. Any hour now. I even posted on Facebook that it might be time soon.
36 weeks. Another doctor’s appointment. 4cm. It just HAS to be any time now. I ate more pineapple. I ate a lot of food with tabasco sauce or salsa. I went on a lot of walks. No labor. 37 weeks. 4cm. More pineapple. 38 weeks. 4 cm. More walks. 39 weeks. 4.5cm. A lot more spicy food.
Then came the due date and the 40 week appointment that wasn’t supposed to happen. It was a Thursday.
I went in and Doc came in and said “We have two options. We could wait, or, we could do an induction. I think you and I both think you have suffered enough.” I was so happy and so terrified I almost barfed on her. I felt frozen and boiling at the same time. Peter and I agreed and she went to call the hospital to get me in for the induction. As soon as she shut the door I grabbed a magazine and started fanning myself.
Do I look like I’m going to barf or what?
Dr. Mary came back. She said they’re expecting us at 3:00 (an hour from now), and that we should pack our bags, eat my last meal for a while, and head on over there. The hospital will call her to tell her when it’s time for her to come over.
So we got in the car. Called our parents. I texted a storm of people for prayers. When we got home and I felt outside of my body.
My bags were mostly packed already. I had to grab clothes, my tooth brush, and the other things I use on a daily basis. I was not hungry. I was thinking about pushing a baby out of my hoo-ha. But I cut up a fresh pack of strawberries we just bought and put them in a bowl for the car ride. I also grabbed a freeze pop. I think it was blue, my favorite.
I posted on Facebook that it was baby time so that we could have more prayers.
When we took the tour of the hospital they showed us where to park and check in, so this eased my mind that we knew where to go. We took Grand Avenue to United Hospital and parked in the red ramp. We were moving somewhat robotically when grabbing our stuff. Do we need to grab the diaper bag now? What about my bag of clothes? Peter’s duffle? Will he even have time to go back to the car later? Let’s bring it all now. Except maybe the diaper bag. We found a wheelchair by the elevators in the ramp. So I hopped in and we put the bags in my lap and wheeled to the desk. I was getting more excited but felt like I either had to burp or barf, maybe pee.
The lady was super nice and said to wait in the empty lobby. So we sat down and just stared at each other. I think Peter grabbed water or coffee from the complimentary refreshments area.
Well, we’re here. I still look like I’m going to hurl.
Shortly a nurse came out and called my name. Yep, that’s me. Oh my gosh we’re going to push out a baby now. Well, not quite yet, but holy crap.
I was feeling lightheaded, but I had to get up and get my weight. 190 exactly. Well, we never went over my goal (it was 190). Then we went to the room that I would call mine for the next 24 hours.
I saw the bed and wanted to lay down immediately because my head hurt and I wasn’t able to stand very well. But I had a couple things they wanted to do first. I had to strip down and put on the monitors. This band went around my torso. Then they put one hockey puck to monitor the baby’s heart rate, and another hockey puck to monitor pressure (aka a contraction). The band was really tight to keep the pucks in place. I hated how tight it was. It made me even more nauseous than I already was. One weird pregnancy symptom I had was anything tight on me made me nauseous. So I wore shirts with lower collars and really baggy clothes. If I was home alone, I hardly wore anything so that I was more comfortable. I can’t explain why but it felt suffocating. So this belly band was not fun. Oh, and the hockey pucks each had a cord hooked up to a box next to my bed, so moving was limited, but I finally got to lay in the bed.
Next we had to do my next favorite thing, the IV. In the first trimester, I was barfing on average ten times a day…so I wasn’t keeping any food or water down and needed to go into the hospital to get nutrients…through an IV. Because I was so malnourished my veins would not cooperate and they had to stick me a lot because they would either miss or eventually my vein would blow and they’d have to try a different spot. I was also really sensitive to the touch (like the needy baggy clothes thing) and the IV was some of the worst pain I’ve ever felt. I would shake and cry uncontrollably. And the thought of something inside of my veins also freaked me out. So this IV I needed now brought back a lot of great memories.
While we waited for the IV, my mom and sister came by to visit and see how I was doing. At first I didn’t think I wanted anyone there besides the hospital staff and Pete, but I’m glad they were there. When the nurse came in to insert the IV I could talk to all three of them and not think about the needle being stabbed into my right arm. I explained to her my previous experiences and said that this is the part I’m least looking forward to. Yes, even more than pushing out that baby. Embarrassingly, I actually started tearing up while explaining, but I’m not sure if anyone noticed. I just had that little choke in the back of my throat and my tears starting to well but not break. She understood. It hurt, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I remembered. I think it’s because I was actually hydrated this time. The nurse looked at me so apologetically. My heart sunk. She missed. I remembered that there is a staff at the hospital whose job is to give people IVs all day, and they are known to be successful the first time. I said “I don’t want to offend you, but I would love the swat team to do it this next time.” She was not offended at all.
So the super IV lady came and I kid you not I didn’t even notice her do it. She said she was shocked they missed the first time because my veins were large and quite clear to see with my pale skin. So it was over. The IV was all over. I don’t have to think about it until my next pregnancy.
The nurse who missed my vein came. “I am so sorry but we have to do a blood draw.” I was furious, but I knew it wasn’t the nurse’s fault. It got missed in the paperwork. I requested the swat team again, and they came and left. So now is it baby time?
It’s now suppertime and I’m not allowed to eat. That sucked. But they’re coming in with the oxytocin (the induction) so we’ll get the show on the road soon. They got it started at a slow rate and then we just hung out with my mom and chatted.
Watching the monitors was really cool. I would start to feel uncomfortable, and then we’d see the pressure monitor go up, and then the baby’s heart rate go up, and then all back down again. This would happen every 2-5 minutes. It would interrupt the conversation for a sec, then we’d go back to whatever we were talking about.
Every once in a while they would do a cervical check to see how I was progressing. With my doctor, this was not a painful experience. Uncomfortable, yes, but not painful. I had a nurse who was newer…and I guess she hasn’t figured out how to make cervical checks not hurt yet. At each nurse shift shift there was a different nurse and thus a different experience, but again, mostly just uncomfortable. Each time a nurse made a cervical check, they would see I wasn’t progressing very quickly and would turn up the oxytocin. Then my contractions would get just a bit stronger.
Peter slept on the couch. It was weird not sharing a bed, but I’m glad he was there. We both didn’t sleep very well at all, but we were better rested. I woke up before him and let him sleep for another hour. He pulled an all-nighter the other day for school, just in time to have a baby. I don’t think he caught up on sleep until after graduation.
So now we’re up and starting to labor again. I feel contractions, but they’re still pretty light and don’t necessarily hurt yet. So we try a bath. It felt really nice but after not very long I was starting to feel VERY hot and wanted out like right now. But first the nurse came by saying that her shift was over and introduced me to the next nurse. (This whole scenario happened with me in the bath tub wearing only the monitor over my belly.) For it being like 7 in the morning this next nurse had so much energy and I loved it. I assumed that she would be the nurse to help me actually poop out the baby so this is exactly what I needed. While naked in the tub, she got out a little notebook from her pocket and asked me a bunch of questions about the pregnancy and what we’ve tried so far. She actually reminded me a lot of Monica from Friends, which is funny, because her name is Monica.
The next few hours were a lot of hanging out, walking, turning up the Pitocin, and chatting with Peter and Mom (who has stopped by again). Contractions started getting a lot stronger. I would have to stop during the conversation and just focus on them and breathe. They didn’t necessarily hurt quite yet. Around 9 Monica and I talked about my options because I just wasn’t progressing fast enough. We also got my doctor on the phone and we decided that she’ll come in and break my water and get the show actually on the road. My mom headed out to a room with coffee and chairs with my dad who just showed up. (Later I found out that sometimes they could hear me from this room. Awesome.)
Doctor Mary (a gem) showed up, we chatted, and then we decided to break my water. So Monica got a bunch of stuff. She had what looked kind of like a chop stick and towels to put underneath my bottom to soak it all up. Because there was a semi-sharp object about to go in my hoo-ha, I was nervous. I had to keep reminding myself that everything they were doing they have done before and is safe. They had me lay back and relax and Doc went for it, and I kid you not it felt like I was peeing, really. Except not.
I just realized most of the people that read this are students/not married/have never had a baby. A contraction is the uterus muscle squeezing the baby down, and to me, that’s exactly what I felt like. It kind of feels like period cramps, but different. It’s really hard to explain. When I was pregnant, people tried to describe what a contraction felt like, but I didn’t get it until I felt it myself.
My cute face as the contractions got stronger. Can’t you tell I’m enjoying it? Pete said this is my focus face. Anyway, look at the cool monitor behind me! The blue line is her heart rate and the green shows my contractions!
So the contractions were much stronger, with kind of a squeezed feeling and some sharpness in it as well. Monica moved all the towels (there was a lot to soak up) and I continued to labor in the bed for a while. Laboring for me was ouch ouch ouch ouch, rest, talk to Peter/Monica/doctor, ouch ouch ouch ouch. Doctor Mary suggested instead of breathing through the contractions or making whatever noise that I was making (yelp/squeak/moan) that instead I do a very low hum. Because I have a higher voice I really had to focus on having it be a lower tone, and that focusing helped my body relax and let the contraction do its job, which was push a baby down. One thing that I thought was cool and maybe only I think is cool, but the whole time Dr. Mary was just watching. Not in a creepy way, but in a science way. Let me explain. Doc was waiting for certain signs to see where the baby was. Based on how I was reacting to contractions (sounds, movements), she could tell what stage the baby was in. I thought it was super fascinating.
Laboring in the bed really hurt my back. According to Peter, I was laboring in the bed for about 45 minutes. Then the weight and movement of the baby was too intense on my back so I moved to laboring on the toilet so that I could lean forward and get the weight off. Being on the toilet also gave my body muscle memory to relax (since that’s what I’m used to doing on the toilet). Peter pulled up a chair and faced me and would emotionally support me, hold my hands, rub my forehead, let me lean on him, etc.
Again, the pain was a lot in this position so we changed it up again after (according to Peter) only 15 minutes. Dr. Mary suggested kneeling on the bed, and resting my chest, face, and arms on the yoga ball. It looked really funny, but it helped to rest on the ball, but still be up. Eventually, (30 minutes, according to Peter) I needed to change positions again. Monica to the rescue. She went to go get a peanut ball. I had no idea what she meant by a peanut ball, but I discovered it looks like a yoga ball in the shape of an hourglass, or a peanut. So I got back on the bed but laid on my side, with this pillow in between my legs.
I realize that at this time I was trying to poop out an 8-9 pound baby, but this peanut ball position was heavenly. I feel like I could have labored like that the entire time, but we just had to find that magic position. For baby #2, I’ll probably start off labor with this. Being on my side took the baby weight off my back. I was able to still be in a resting position. I was able to hold onto the bed railings. It was prime. After about (according to Peter) 30 minutes, I said the magic words, “I’m gonna shit my pants!” 1. I was not wearing pants. 2. I haven’t eaten in about 18 hours. I didn’t need to poop. This only meant one thing. “It’s baby time!” said Dr. Mary.
I just want to note that surprisingly this was the only time I swore. I thought I would be swearing up a storm.
After doc said what time it was it seemed like everyone was on fast forward and running. (There was a lot of sitting and watching me before this. There wasn’t much for them to do.) Doc and Monica took the peanut ball, were getting a cart of supplies they needed for delivery, taking the bottom half of the bed off, and putting up the stirrups. Another nurse I never met came in and got the baby bassinet ready. It had a big red light on top to warm it up and keep the baby toasty. It reminded me of the lights for keeping chicken eggs warm. She also had a bunch of supplies they needed after she was born, like a tape measure, a hat, the booger thing, and blankets/towels to rub the gunk off of her.
During all this running around, I was thinking “holy crap holy crap holy crap now we’re actually getting this kid out.”
So now the bed is angled so that I can sit up. The bottom half is gone. My legs are in the stirrups. Peter is on my left. Monica is on my right. They’re holding my legs so that they can push back when I push. Doc is right in front of me. She (obviously) catches, but also helps the baby out, making sure she isn’t stuck on anything, and helps stretch me so that I don’t tear as badly. So yeah, her hands are all up in my business.
So this next part is the scene everyone pictures in the movies. And here comes the contraction. Doc tells me to push my chin into my chest. I grunt and groan and it literally feels like I’m trying to poop. I feel like I’m using the wrong muscles, but the baby made progress and doc said that was great. I’m in a daze, shocked that those were indeed the correct muscles to push.
Each contraction and push was exactly like that. I can’t remember how many times I pushed, but it was only for fifteen minutes, and the baby made great progress each time. Yes, it did hurt. It’s actually how I imagined it would be, but it was not as bad. Though, I was also ready for it, and very determined to get her the heck out. Nothing was going to get in my way.
I remember when they said they saw her head. I looked at Peter to see his reaction. He was excited but very focused on the task at hand. Here was another contraction. Push push push push push push push push GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR, and I thought I was done until the next contraction but Doc said to keep pushing “push push push push push push push push” and I’m still pushing but I’m exhausted and wanted to wait for the next contraction, but this is it. This is the last one. When that idea clicked I put my chin down even more, grunted and pushed harder and
and there was a beautiful grey blobby baby girl named Zelie Louise Hilpisch, as dazed and confused as I was, held up so that I could see her and then put on my chest.
The nurse I didn’t know grabbed the blankets and started rubbing her to clean her and keep her warm. I couldn’t stop looking at Zelie. All I could blurt out was “Hi. Hi Zelie. I love you. I’m your mom.” She wasn’t crying at first but eventually she figured out how, but it wasn’t very intense. So then I just held her and kept saying over and over very softly “It’s okay. It’s okay.”
Because I was only paying attention to her, I didn’t even realize that I was still having contractions and actually delivered the placenta, and then I also didn’t notice that Dr. Mary was SEWING UP MY STITCHES. How did I not notice her sewing my hoo-ha with a needle, I do not know.
So here she is. Please give a warm welcome to Miss Zelie Louise Hilpisch! She is named after two new saints, Zelie and Louis Martin, also known for being the parents of St. Therese the Little Flower. Zelie (rhymes with “jelly”) was 8 whopping pounds plus 14 whopping ounces, and 21.5 whopping inches long. Another post to come on the rest of our hospital stay and these last seven weeks with a baby!