I started having contractions every 8 minutes apart from 3pm on Saturday. I was at the Rigpa Center in Boulder so I had my husband come and pick me up while I took a walk to see if the contractions would go away. They continued a bit into the evening, then eased up before I went to bed. The next day when I woke up they were 5 minutes apart for close to two hours. I also expelled my mucous plug which was exciting and a little scary!
I debated whether to call the doctor and decided against it. Instead Kyle and I went to Chipotle for lunch and had my car cleaned. We were planning to go back to Boulder and go for a hike then bring Kyle’s car back, but decided against it when the contractions didn’t ease up. So we went home and I took a nap and rested on the couch.
About 1 am we tried to lay down to sleep but ended up talking about the baby for a few hours. It’s so hard to rest when you think you might be in labor and might have a baby soon! I was getting annoyed that everything was starting and stopping and starting and started jumping up and down to get things going again. Still restless I tried to wind down and take a bath for an hour. Towards then end my contractions shot up to 5 minutes apart again for a few hours.
At 4:30 am we called the doctor and he told us to come down to the hospital. We called our doula, Karen Voss, and told her we were on our way and she came to meet us at the hospital. It was such a warm beautiful night for February! Everything was so still and peaceful as we drove to the hospital. It was hard dealing with the contractions in the car though.
We arrived at the hospital at about 5:30 am and already I was pretty exhausted. We waited around with our doula until our doctor came and examined me around 9 am. He told me I was 80% effaced and 2-3 cm dilated at about -1/0 station (so I was already carrying her a little low). Then he said, “I think you’re probably in labor.” In hindsight I think we went to the hospital way too early. We had never been through this before and didn’t know that I was still in early labor and not very active yet. But we thought we had come to the hospital when they had told us to (5 minutes apart, 1 minute long, for 1 hour)
That’s when we started calling friends and family to tell them baby was on her way! My mom came over as soon as she heard and waited in the waiting room (per my request). Meanwhile, Kyle and I were making laps around the maternity floor. I would always stop at the nursery to keep things in perspective!
Whenever I had a contraction I would lean over a rail and groan while Kyle rubbed my back and Karen put warm compresses on my lower back. Periodically we would go back to the room to get checked but it seemed like I was dilating slowly. I think the move to the hospital had disrupted the flow of my labor a bit. It took a while (like 12 hours) to get back into a good rhythm.
When contractions got stronger I got into the jacuzzi and was able to rest for a while (what I wouldn’t have done for a nice long nap!). Karen fed me some (illegal) trail mix and juice to help me keep up my energy. (Sidenote: Decades of research have found that it is better for a laboring woman to eat and drink on her own during labor as she feels comfortable, than to fast or be given a routine IV) When I wasn’t in the tub I was sitting on the birth ball rolling around and looking out the window. I really wanted to go outside and walk, it was such a nice day, but they wouldn’t allow it.
I got back in the tub around 2 pm on my hands and knees during contractions. Then I felt a gush and said “Um, I think my water just broke…..but it might have been a jet???” I stood up and was still leaking so yes, it had broken. It was a pretty high tear because the fluid would trickle out intermittently. After that, much to my dismay, my doctor wouldn’t let me get back into the tub because of an antiquated view of infection. (Sidenote: Some babies, if the bag is left alone, will be born in the sac or “in the caul.” Water birth, when used appropriately, has no increased risk for infection or aspiration of water by the baby)
I also had a bit of bloody show and was dilated to 4 cm. Afterwards the contractions really started spiking and coming frequently, mostly when I was getting checked which was horrible or when I had to go to the bathroom. It was so hard to maintain any sense of normal body functions.
I had a few visitors off and on but mostly it was Kyle and I and Karen. Kyle was absolutely wonderful, so intuitive, relaxed, calming, nurturing, supportive, and encouraging. Everyone was so impressed with him! I never could have done it without him!
Despite that, the contractions were getting incredibly strong and it was harder and harder to keep focus. We hadn’t had any sleep for more than two days and spotty sleep before that with days of early labor. We started talking about other options and I decided to have a little fentonyl to take the edge off and try and regain my composure. But after it wore off my body had stopped making natural endorphines (they were replaced by the narcotic) and I was right back where I was before.
I had been stuck at 6 cms for such a long time and was completely exhausted. Slower dilation is pretty common for first time moms, but after Haven was born we would discover what was taking so long. I really needed to rest so I decided to get an epidural. Afterwards I felt better and was able to relax a bit. I had some visitors and snuggled with Kyle. The two of us took a much-needed hour long nap. As far as epidurals go, I didn’t have a bad one. I could still feel the contractions but they were more round, less jagged, and I could still feel the pressure.
As the baby moved down I could feel more pain and pressure so they upped my dose of medication with the epidural and started me on pitocin to boost my contractions. When we woke up from our nap I was almost completely dilated with a little lip of cervix. (In hindsight that just might be what my cervix does since it was the same with Lyric’s birth) They pushed the lip over baby’s head and called for the doctor. I started pushing around 10 pm.
I don’t remember much about the pushing stage, just that everyone wanted to move and jostle and change the bed around. I was so annoyed, I just wanted them to go away so I could have my baby (“Lift your butt, we’ve got to push this up, put this under you…etc”).
I got a little overzealous with the pushing and was pushing for too long. I got really light-headed and nauseous so they gave me some oxygen and told me to push for lesser amounds of time. With the mirror I could see the top of Haven’s dark hairy head!
At 10:44 pm, after 40 minutes of pushing, Haven was born! As her head came out, so did her hand. So THAT’S what took so long! Compound presentations like that can be hard since there’s an irregular pressure to the cervix and a bigger diameter to the baby’s head. They had to pull Haven’s arm out with her head and her elbow caused me to tear in four places. It was pretty intense. Haven came out, thrust her arms out, gave a short cry and then was placed on my belly (after our doctor said, “Hmm, might be a little short…” because of a short cord that just barely let her reach me).
When she opened her big, dark eyes I swear I have never seen a more breathtakingly beautiful human being in my entire life. She calmly surveyed her surroundings and looked from me to Kyle with a gaze more intense than most newborns. I got her to nurse and just held her, mesmerized, while our doctor stitched me up. I couldn’t take my eyes off her! It’s incredible to think that that tiny little baby was what I felt moving around in my belly for months!
They left us alone with her for over an hour, then took she and Kyle went to the other side of the room to have eye drops, vitamin K shots, PKU heel stick, and bath (Sidenote: Eyedrops are primarily necessary only if you have chlamydia or gonorrhea, which I didn’t have, and you can do vitamin K orally if you wish to be less invasive. You can also refuse a bath since it can dry a baby’s skin out).
Kyle stayed with her the whole time and took his shirt off so he could carry her skin-to-skin. Then she pooped meconium all over him, super fun. After they were finished stitching me up they gave me a few minutes to try and urinate before I could me moved to the recovery room. When I couldn’t and they were impatient to get me into the next room so they put a catheter in which was the most excruciating thing I’ve ever experienced. Then we were moved.
Even though I was beyond exhaustion, I couldn’t sleep! I just wanted to look at her. I couldn’t get enough! Kyle on the other hand was completely comatose. The next day we just spent time getting to know her. We had some visitors and decided to name her Haven Aria Dae. Haven becasue she was so peaceful and calm. Aria because she was “singing” with this breathy sigh all day. And Dae is “greatness” in Korean to honor her heritage.
At 10:30 pm we left the hospital after two days and she felt the outside air for the first time. It was a beautiful warm night. She fussed a little bit when we put her in the car seat. Then we took her home. I introduced her to her new home and it struck me, I have a brand new immediate family!
To be honest, for a while after her birth I would still feel phantom “kicks” in my belly, like she was still inside. I loved being pregnant and feeling her move inside me and sometimes I wish I could just tuck her in, warm and safe, like a mama kangaroo. A part of me misses us being the same flesh, sharing the same warmth and fluids and air. She will always be a part of me in the deepest and most profound way. When I hold her in my arms I have to resist the urge to squeeze her so hard I absorb her. I never imagined it was possible to love someone so much!
My children are the greatest thing I have ever done in my life, and I can’t wait to see what they will do with theirs!