So...the birth story. Here it is...for those of you who would like to know. (I won't be offended by those who choose to not read this!)
On Friday (March 20th) I had a OB appointment and learned that not only had I already dilated to a 3, but that the baby could come at any time. However, despite that information, I really didn't believe that it could possibly be any day - let alone the following day...
Later that day I was working as a judge in a Fine Arts Festival for teenagers. The judging went late into the evening, and I felt strange. I kept feeling a little "pushy" - and kept making trips to the bathroom about every half and hour or so. I didn't really think anything of it, because I had resigned to the fact that weird things happen to you during pregnancy. Ha ha. I've gotten used to it.
I wasn't able to get home and go to bed until around 11:30 PM later that night - pretty late for a pregnant lady. That night (morning really) I woke up around 3 AM because I could no longer sleep. I kept having cramping feelings in my lower abdomen. At that point I realized that labor may actually be a possibility...and then realized that I didn't have an overnight bag packed yet. (What can I say? I'm a procrastinator.) So I got up and walked around the house, setting aside items I thought I would need to pack in my bag while Joel slept. I spent the rest of that early morning trying to get everything in order so that we could go to the hospital (We even had to put the car seat in the car too...seriously, we had nothing ready yet). With every moment, the possibility of having a baby become more and more of a reality.
Sometime during those early hours my water broke without any warning and let me tell you - wow, those contractions started coming fast and hard. I hardly had any time to adjust to the quick progression. They definitely didn't increase gradually like the contraction that my friends had during labor. We ended up going to the hospital as soon as we had gotten our stuff together (overnight bag, car seat, showered, dog fed, etc - we had a lot of details to get into place)(probably around 9 AM).
After we had gotten to hospital, checked in, and confirmed that I was actually in labor (duh - that was quite apparent to me), they moved us into a delivery room. I spent the next several hours working through the contractions without any medication. I got several compliments from the nurses, telling me how good I was doing working through the contractions. But I was running on about 3 hours of sleep since I had spent most of the night awake with contractions and each contraction came on so fast and hard, I hardly had time in between the contractions to relax and prepare for the next one. Fatigue was quickly setting in, and with every contraction my energy level and ability to mentally work through the pain began to dwindle. On top of that, every time I changed into a different labor position, it brought on a new contraction - and it was always stronger than before. And what made things even more frustrating for me was the fact that I was intensely thirsty this whole entire time. I desperately wanted a drink of water, but all I was allowed to get was ice chips. (boo)I was wearing out quickly. Eventually I consented to a mild pain medication (I don't remember what it was) but it did very little to ease the experience. With every contraction, the idea of an epidural sounded better and better. Finally I reached the point to where I could no longer work through the contractions. I was physically and mentally exhausted. A nurse came in to check my progress. I had dilated to a 6. She said at this rate, I was dilating about a centimeter and hour - so that meant I had to deal with 4 more hours of this before I was ready to push. That did it for me. There was no way I could possibly handle four more hours of this AND have enough energy left to push this baby out. I was worried. I caved - and I did it. After about 10 hours of unmedicated labor (well - except for the useless pain medication I got), I asked for an epidural! I didn't want to do it, but I was at the point to where I felt that I didn't have another option. I desperately wanted to do a natural delivery, but was overwhelmed by fatigue.
Joel got sent out of the room. The anesthesiologist came in with the nurse, I signed consent forms, and they told me I was then required to stay in my bed (that was not a problem. I didn't want to move. Every time I moved, it brought on another contraction. No thank you). The hardest part of the epidural was holding still through a contraction that spiked into the triple digits while the anesthesiologist was sticking a needle into my spine. Oh the pain! My nurse was nice enough to allow me to squeeze her arms through the contraction. She was so nice. Once the medication had worked through my body, I felt much better. Let me tell you - I REALLY didn't want to get an epidural, but that was THE BEST thing I could have done for myself. I really don't regret it. At that point, I was finally able to relax and ended up sleeping until it was time to push. I needed it. It felt good.
Sometime after around 7:30 PM, the nurse informed me that I was ready to push. So the doctor and nurse came in, and the doctor said, "Are you ready?" My response was, "Uhhh, I guess so." She gave me a concerned look and asked, "What's wrong?" I said, "Well...that's a really big thing to push through a really small opening!!!" They laughed. I wasn't trying to be funny. Just honest.
I began pushing as the nurse coached me along. The time moved quickly. I didn't even realize how much time passed as I was pushing. Every once in a while I would stop and ask Joel how much of the baby was showing. Eventually when he crowned (meaning the biggest part of the baby's head was coming out) the doctor came in to catch the him as he came out. I asked Joel to see how much of the baby he could see. The doctor asked me if I wanted a mirror. "NO!" I said in horror. (Gross! I don't want to see what was happening. That would be horrifying. No visuals, thank you very much). I will never ever forget the feeling of discomfort as Levi was crowning. Never in my life have I felt such discomfort from an extreme amount of pressure in my lower extremities. My thighs, lower back, and lower abdomen almost felt like they were on fire and being pressed to their maximum capacity...and that was with the epidural (I did allow a lot of the epidural to wear off while pushed, and increased the levels conservatively). It was not fun. Finally after about 2 and a half hours of pushing, Levi came out at 10:03 PM.
They immediately put him on my stomach as the cleaned him up. Everyone in the room paused as they waited for him to take a deep breath and let out a scream. When he did, everyone let out a sigh of relief and continued what they were doing. I held him for the first time. I couldn't believe I was finally holding the baby that I had carried inside of me for almost 9 months. I didn't hold him for too long. I started to shake uncontrollably. I couldn't hold him anymore because I was too unsteady. I was shivering, and yet I was told that my body felt hot. No matter how hard I tried to control the shaking, I couldn't stop. I was freezing cold too. I begged to be covered up. It took a long time for me to warm up - I ended up running a fever for a while after that, it lasted for a couple of hours, but eventually went away.
For the next couple of hours, Joel gave me glass after glass of water and fed me jello. (It seemed like a good idea at the time). Let me tell you, I was so stinkin' thirsty by that time, I could hardly stand it - especially since I had been thirsty since about noon earlier that day. I remember being so exhausted afterward. The nurse and doctor were around me talking, and I would fade in and out of coherency. It was the weirdest thing. All I wanted to do was sleep but they kept talking to me. I had to think really hard to answer their questions. Labor and delivery was truly exhausting and the most physically demanding experience I've ever had. Completely and totally surreal. It wasn't fun, but totally worth it because now I have this amazing baby, who I am in LOVE with, and it gets better and better every day. Sometimes I look at him in amazement and just think - I can't believe that I pushed you out of me! How in the world did I do that?
So that's my story. I was in labor about 17 hours and pushed for about 2 and half (I sympathize with women who have been in labor longer than that). He was born on March 21st at 10:03 PM and weighed 7 pounds, 9 ounces and was 20.5 inches long - and was 3 weeks early. I'm glad he came out when he did. 7 pounds and 9 ounces felt gigantic coming out - I can only imagine what a 9 pound baby would have felt like! By the way - today was his due date!