Preface: This is a super intimate and detailed post about my birth experience. I not only want to be able to remember the experience for myself (as it’s already getting a bit foggy), but I also want to share it with those who are interested.
[40 weeks, 3 days] I was standing in the hallway just outside our bedroom when I felt a little “gush” of liquid. The best way to describe it is as if you were to turn on the faucet and then immediately turn it off. Since I had done a ton of research leading up to delivery, I knew there are many different sensations a woman can experience when her water breaks; it is not often a “fire hose” sensation like you see in the movies. Because only 8% of women have their water spontaneously break before labor, and since I was having no *noticeable* contractions, I wasn’t confident my water had broken.
The liquid was colorless and odorless so it was definitely not urine. There was a very slight trickle of liquid following the “gush” sensation but it eventually stopped which again, made me question if it was amniotic fluid. Looking back, I should have just called the nurses right away! I did some research and decided to try a test where you put a fresh pad in, lay down for 30 minutes and if upon standing up, your pad is dry it most likely means your water did not break. However, if the pad is wet, you can suspect it may be your water. After getting up, my pad was dry and again, since there was no longer any trickle or leaking, I figured my water did not break. I went about the rest of my day with no contractions and no other signs of labor.
At about 7:30 PM that night (Wednesday, January 20, 2021), I was washing my hands when I felt the gush again. It was such a specific and unique sensation. Now that I had experienced it twice, I started to really think maybe it was my water breaking! To be completely honest, I was exhausted! We were planning to go to bed in the next hour or so and I knew if I called the nurses they would want me to come in to get checked. I gave myself a pep talk and knew that ultimately it was better to be safe than sorry. I called and they wanted us to come in as soon as possible. We finished packing our hospital bags, called my sister (who was coming to stay with Vivian), and headed to the hospital. This was NOT going as I planned! I was not having noticeable contractions and if it really was my amniotic fluid, we would need to stay at the hospital and I would not be able to labor at home.
After a couple of simple tests in triage, the doctor verified that my water had indeed broken and we would need to be admitted immediately. My water had actually broken that morning when I felt the initial gush, but they think it was a small hole that Indie ended up covering with her head when she moved and prevented the fluid from continuing to leak. When she shifted enough later in the night, it started leaking again and I felt that second sensation.
By the time we were admitted, it was around 11:00 PM and my water had already been broken for over 12 hours. Due to an increased risk of infection, babies ideally should be born in 24ish hours after a woman’s water breaks. Additionally, I had tested positive for Group B Strep earlier in the pregnancy so we were already at an increased risk of infection. Needless to say, we were on a tight timeline to get Indie out and still … no noticeable contractions. I was 2 cm dilated and 50% effaced at this point.
Over the next few hours, Caleb slept and I worked with my nurse to try to naturally induce labor. We tried nipple stimulation, a movement circuit, and I had the doctor further break my amniotic sac. Now that was like a fire hose — I could not believe how much liquid came out of my body!! Contractions started picking up after that and at around 7:00 AM, I was 3 cm dilated and 70% effaced. The doctor gave me another hour but started discussing the importance of getting things moving along more quickly as we were already reaching the 24 hour mark and I had a ways to go before Indie would actually be with us. After that hour, I was still at 3 cm so I took a cervical ripening agent (Cytotec) as a final attempt to hopefully avoid induction. Ultimately, that didn’t work either and I started Pitocin around 9:00 or 10:00 AM (neither of us remember these exact details / times!).
The contractions became very intense almost immediately. The only laboring position I could tolerate was standing / squatting and leaning against the raised bed. I labored for a couple of hours like this but was so exhausted mentally (from no sleep for 36+ hours), physically (from standing the entire labor thus far), and emotionally (I was experiencing a lot of fear that I was not expecting). I was stuck at 3 cm for hours and was not progressing. The discomfort became extremely challenging and I requested a half dose of the narcotic Dilaudid to help provide some relief. I immediately felt super drowsy and my nurse had me lay down and labor on my side, with a peanut ball between my legs, for 15 minutes on my left and 15 minutes on my right. I could still feel each contraction but would fall asleep between them. In this time, I progressed from 3 to 5 cm and I’m convinced it was because my mind was taken out of the equation as I was able to “relax” and sleep between contractions.
Active labor (from 5-8 cm) was normal; very intense and unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Still, the only position I could tolerate was standing while leaning against the bed (thank goodness for all the Expecting and Empowered squats I did during my pregnancy!). Transition (9-10 cm) was fairly normal as well, with my strongest memories being having the sensation that I needed to push Indie out but not being able to since I wasn’t yet at 10 cm. I really tried to focus on “breathing her down.” It was …. crazy. 9-10 cm was the most challenging part of the labor for me, both physically and mentally. Once I was able to, I pushed for about 30 minutes. While this was incredibly intense as well, it was different in that I knew we were so close to meeting her and I was very motivated.
In the final moments of labor, the doctors felt her head and asked if I wanted to catch her coming out. This was in my birth preferences but I was so out of it that I said, “No.” Caleb got my attention, looked me in the eyes, squeezed my hands and said, “You WANT to catch her.” I ended up being the first one to welcome our girl at 3:30 PM, catching her and holding her while the doctors quickly cleaned us off and Caleb cut the umbilical cord. She was very vocal and definitely let us know she had made her big debut : )
I want to finish by talking about something that not many people do (or not that I’ve experienced anyway). After labor, I was truly so exhausted in every sense of the word that I felt no real emotion for several hours. I felt like a zombie. I was grateful Indie was with us and appeared to be healthy but I did not feel that overwhelming sense of love or awe or excitement that is commonly talked about when you meet your baby for the first time. It took a couple of hours before I experienced any of the emotions I thought I would feel upon first meeting her!
Ultimately, I was able to have the birth experience I longed for even though most things did not go as planned. My top two priorities were that Indie would be safe and healthy, and I would be safe and healthy. After that, I was really hoping for a vaginal birth and to avoid an epidural. All of these things came true and I am able to look back on my experience with gratitude, confidence, and joy. I am also truly in awe of what the body is able to do; grow a human (this is still mind-blowing to me), birth it, and then nourish it … absolutely incredible.
I am most grateful that our girl is here with us. She is more amazing than I ever could have imagined.