Preparing for Labor-Mom Edition

I was about 7 months pregnant with my first baby when I started to seriously think about the fact that I had to get this baby out of me.  Of course, this baby had to come out at some point.  But the idea of going into labor was terrifying.  No one could tell me how my labor would be. No idea how long it would be.  When it would start. How much would it hurt. Would there be back labor? The realization that so many things were out of my control was too much.  So instead of dwelling on this things I couldn’t control, I decided to focus on the things I could.

1. Take a Birth Class // I signed Matt and me up for a 6 week natural childbirth class early on in my pregnancy.  I had been reading random blogs about labor, but I am certain Matt had done zero research on childbirth.  So by going to a weekly class together, we both were on the same page.  We had an arsenal of copping mechanisms to try.  We got to practice the labor management moves out (which felt sort of dumb but in hindsight, it was nice to have the practice).  The hardest part of the class was watching the video of a woman giving birth.  I had never seen someone give birth before. I don’t think I could ever be emotionally prepared to see an actual birth either. It shook me.  As Matt and I drove home that night, I cried. It was probably the closest feeling I’ve had to a panic attack.  But since Matt had seen the video too, he understood why I was so shook up. Anyway, after seeing that video, it was a big part of why I became so focused on controlling the remaining pieces of my upcoming labor that I could.

2. Get your nails done // I had no idea how disheveled I’d look after having a baby. But I knew that my nails would look good holding my brand new baby. Plus, getting a manicure and pedicure is wonderfully relaxing.  After carrying a baby in your belly for 9 months, there’s no question you deserve a mani and pedi.

3. Buy labor clothes // Guys, I took such care in figuring out what I was going to wear while I was in labor, you’d like I was picking out an outfit for the Oscars.  I spent an embarrassing amount of time online shopping for labor clothes. After hours and hours of window shopping, I ended up buying a floral robe off Etsy.  I bought a bunch of new underwear so when I finally did go into labor, I had a fresh pair of undies (even though I knew the joys of labor would destroy them). It was nice to have brand new clothes to wear and to not have the whole “what should I wear” debate in your own head.

4. Get waxed // This may not be for everyone but…there is no question that there are going to be a lot of eyes down there when you have a baby.  I am 100% certain that the midwives/doctors and nurses have seen it all so if you did nothing, it’s fine. But I didn’t get waxed for anyone but me.  I wanted it to be all neat down there.  I knew that the weeks following the baby would include quite a bit of care of my lower parts–using a peri bottle, spitz baths, witch hazel sprays. You have to take care of your vagina on top of your baby.  Being waxed before the baby arrived made me feel like I was already take a step towards my own personal care.

5. Get a new haircut and dye // What is it about a fresh haircut and dye that makes you feel like a brand new woman? Ok, this is not a recommendation to get the quintessential mom haircut (at what age does everyone cut their hair short?) But having a new haircut and dye makes you feel lighter.  I swear for the first couple of weeks post-hair cut, I am able to style my hair better.  Plus your hair will pop in photos with your new baby.  So it’s a win win.

And after all of this, I did feel a bit better about feeling out of control.  If you are pregnancy or know someone who is, I highly recommend you knock at least a couple of these things off your to-do list before the baby arrives.  Because when you really think about it, the to-do list before the baby arrives is just too baby-focused. Sure, the baby in your belly needs a lot of attention, but that momma building the baby is equally as important.  And I know this list is basically just a pamper/spa day.  But there should be no shame in wanting to take care of yourself and feeling your best when the baby does arrive.  You are about to go through a challenge.  Even the “easiest” labor is still tough and can leave you wiped. So grab yourself a pedicure as you prepare for the big day.

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Eloise’s Birth Story

It was Monday morning, and I woke up at 3:30 a.m. with a contraction. It was strong. I twisted around in bed and tried not to wake Matt up.  One, two, three.  I imagined myself walking up a hill.  When the contraction felt at its height, I made it to the top of the hill.  As the contraction waned, I walked down the hill.  It took about 40 seconds.  Ok, not a minute but certainly not nothing.  I drifted off back to sleep.  Ugh, it’s back.  I grabbed my phone and pushed the side button.  3:36 a.m. glowed back at me.  Seriously? Only five minutes had passed.  Ok, walk up that hill.  Then again at 4:48. And 5:00. By the time it was 6:30, I was exhausted and confused.  My water hadn’t broken.  I had never had any contractions until my water broke so what was this? I was already two days past my due date so chalking these contractions up to Braxton Hicks seemed patently wrong.  But this couldn’t be it, could it?  I texted our doula to give her an update and made my way to the bathroom.  The side of pants were a little damp.  Not enough to consider my water broke.  Or was it?  I immediately started questioning myself.  I mean, three hours of contractions, which had now mostly dissipated, maybe this was my water breaking. No matter what, I decided that I should work from home today.  If those contractions worked themselves back up again, there was no way I could drive home. I got ready for the day of working in the basement so I just tossed on a fresh pair of yoga pants and made my way downstairs.  Arg, maybe I should call the birth center just to be safe.  I dialed the midwife on call line and asked to be seen in the mid-morning.  The contractions. The damp pants. Two days overdue.  Probably a good idea to go in.

Matt woke up and immediately said, “we are having a baby today!”

“I don’t know.  I feel ok now.” I said.  I didn’t want him to be disappointed. Still, I wanted him to be right.  I wanted to have the baby today.

We grabbed breakfast at Panera and then made our way to the birth center for our 9:45 appointment.  From my initial call to the appointment, I had no more than two contractions.  They were minor.  Yes, they were not comfortable.  But since they were spaced out, having 20-40 seconds of pain was more annoying than anything else. It’s just a cruel joke to have this pain when I am two days overdue and it’s false labor.

The appointment was brief.  The midwife confirmed that my water had not broke and instead broke some rather disappointing news: it is very common for third babies to be “tricky.”  Having labor start and stop is common. Don’t get discouraged.  You are near the finish line.  But your labor may start up and stop again so get prepared for this.  I left crabby and discouraged.

Beyond telling work that I had some contractions, which was why I was working from home, for most of the day, I didn’t tell anyone until late afternoon.  Mostly, I didn’t want to give our family false hope that the baby would be born soon.  Like me, they too were getting anxious for Toastie Three to arrive.  With the sting of three hours of wasted contractions hanging over me, I couldn’t stomach fielding questions and comments about the entire situation.  So I told everyone I was at work and fine.  Neither were true.

I noticed that if I stayed sitting, I had no contractions.  But when I stood up, my stomach would twist a bit.  “Maybe that’s the secret.  You have to start moving around to get the baby to get out,” Matt said to me.  Maybe he was right.  I put on my workout clothes and pulled out my pregnancy workout guide to week 40, day two and fit in a workout.  No contractions, but it was nice to a solid workout in.  At least I accomplished something with my body today.

My work day ended, and we ate dinner together like we always do.  The boys were well-behaved and earned TV time, which meant Matt and I could watch the new episode of Shark Tank with no interruptions. It is a 40 minute show, and I had three contractions while we watched it.  Ok, so these contractions are coming back.  But is this another start stop false labor marathon?  We started the bedtime routine and the contractions continued.  Just like in the early morning, each contraction was 20-40 seconds long, coming every 5-10 minutes.  They were strong enough to make me stop doing whatever I was doing and focus on walking up the hill.  “Relax, your body knows what it is doing. This pain isn’t because something is wrong. It is a good sensation” I would tell myself as I walked up the hill.

I couldn’t help Matt get the boys to brush their teeth and into pajamas.  Instead I paced from the living room to the dining room and back. Once they were ready for bed, I grabbed Max and took him to his crib.  As I nursed him, a contraction came. I held him tight and waited for it to subside.  My water still had not broken.  This had to be this false start stop labor that the midwife had talked about, and I am not a fan.  I laid Max down to bed, went to JR’s room to tell him “The Little Boy Story,” and then headed out to the TV room to relax.  The contractions had started to die down again.  I was frustrated and needed to unwind.  I tossed on a mindless TV show.

It was 9:27, and I had only watched about 15 minutes of the show when I felt a gush of water. Holy hell, my water broke.  For real.  I immediately texted Matt, who was still in JR’s room waiting for him to fall completely asleep, “Water broke.”  “Just like Max” he wrote back.

I texted our nanny and asked her to come right away.  Then our doula.  Just then, my mom sent a text saying, “Any stirrings?” Funny she should ask.  Normally, I wouldn’t have told her until we were on our way to the birth center or if the baby was born.  But her timing was impeccable.  “My water just broke. I need to get stuff figured out. Talk later” I wrote back.

Matt came into the TV room and started to get bags packed for the drive over to the birth center.  I paced back and forth, waiting for the midwife on call at the birth center to confirm that we could come in.  It took 7 minutes for her to confirm that we could come in right away.

At 10:00 p.m., our nanny Zee showed up.  Matt had already tossed all our bags into the car.  I had barely left the TV room where my water had broke.  I was too nervous.  As I made my way to the kitchen to leave the house, I got a contraction.  It was strong enough that I stopped moving and talking until it passed.  We said goodbye to our boys and headed to the birth center.

The drive was quiet. With my boys, the drive was stressful.  But now, I wasn’t freaking out that I was going to have a baby in the car (Max) or that the contractions were too strong and I was confined to a seat (JR).  I felt fine.  Almost foolish that we were leaving so early to get to the birth center. I had 4 contractions during the 20 minute drive but there weren’t that strong.  I just squeezed Matt’s hand as he drove down the highway.

We pulled into the parking lot and to a dark building.  We were the first ones to arrive.  I texted the midwife, who said she was 5 minutes away.  I started to get anxious.  The birth center is in a neighborhood, and the neighbors had their lights on.  I could see them staring at me from the window as I paced.  I felt like I was on display, and it irked me.  I had one contraction as we waited.  It was stronger.  More present.  I leaned against the car, upset that we had beat everyone and that these random guys got to witness me labor from their window.

Finally, the midwife arrived and by 10:20, we were walking into the building. I had never been fully present when I walked into the birth center in labor before.  With JR and Max, I was so focused on the labor itself that I truly have no memory of walking in.  But this time, everything was so clear.  Watching Matt hurry to bring in our bags.  The tub starting to fill.  The bed nicely made with clean, white sheets.  I leaned up against the counter and stared at the clock right in front of me.  It glowed 10:25. I pushed my shoes off and a contraction started to come.  MOTHER OF GOD THIS IS TOO MUCH.  Matt was on my left, petting my back while he unwound the scarf so he could rebozo my belly.  He wrapped the scarf around my lower belly and began to rock it back and forth.  Nope, it didn’t help.  OMG TWISTING AND TIGHTNESS.  The contraction wrapped around my lower belly.  Firmly grabbing hold of stomach and twisting and turning it.  The pain was unbearable.  I told Matt to stop trying to rebozo.  No use for him to waste his energy. It wasn’t doing anything.  He tossed the scarf aside and told me that he was proud of me.  That I was going a great job.  I tried to get off my socks.  To bend over was excruciating.  I barely managed to toss them both off.  I couldn’t imagine myself moving from this counter.  But I wanted to get into that tub.  I could hear the water running, and the midwife said it needed at least another 10 minutes.  A second contraction came as the midwife rushed to pull out heating pads and pads to soak up blood.  She placed a cuff around my arm so she could take my blood pressure.  I twisted and curled as the contraction continued.  Nope. There is no way I can survive another contraction like that.  This baby is coming out now.  I started to push as the contraction waned.  A wave of relief washed over me.  Pushing felt so good.  As if I could control the rising pressure I felt.

I told the midwife to help me take off my pants and take me to the bed.  Matt and the midwife complied, and I shuffled to the bed as fast as I could.  The contraction was over, but another one would be coming.  I did not want to be on the move when that happened.  Plus, the pressure in my butt kept rising.  I had to get on the bed so I could push this baby out.  There was no way I was going to wait another 10 minutes so I could deliver in the tub.

Once on the bed, I felt misplaced.  With Max’s birth, the midwife ran the show.  She gave me a birthing ball and calmly coached me how to give birth on the bed.  But now, the midwife was scrambling.  She was still placing pads on the bed, getting things ready.  We’d only been in the birth center for 5 minutes at this point, and she still had quite a bit to get out.

“I need a birthing ball,” I said.  The midwife handled me a large, silver ball.  It was too big.

“Does this work?” She asked.

“No, smaller.”  I managed to get out.  The pressure was building.  I was in between contractions but I knew one would be coming soon.  She ran out of the room and came back with a smaller ball.  I placed my forearms on the ball.  Not perfect but it would do.

“I need a hot towel.” I said.  I knew I was being demanding but I didn’t care.  For Max’s birth, I had the birthing ball and the hot towel that the midwife pressed against my crotch for perineal support.  Those two tools were the things I needed for a birth on a bed.

The midwife grabbed a warm towel and found a place behind me.  Matt was at my head with his hand on my shoulder.  He rubbed my shoulder, whispering that I was doing a good job and he was so proud of me.

A contraction came, and I pushed.  It felt so good to push.  As the contraction waned, I continued to push.  “If you push a little longer, it’ll be worth it” I told myself.  I let out a sigh as a pushed longer and felt a wave of pressure release from me.  My baby was out.

The next thing I knew, I was moving myself from my knees to my butt, craning my neck to see if I had a girl or a boy.  I swear I could see a vagina, but I didn’t want to be wrong.  The midwife eased me to a seated position and handed the baby to me.  I took a second look.

“Oh my God, it’s a girl!” I cried.

happy tears.

I kissed my baby girl, still in disbelief.  Matt came beside me to get a closer look at our baby girl.  She was perfect.  10 fingers. 10 toes.  A full head of hair.  Everything we had prayed for.  I pulled out a boob to feed her and she immediately latched.  As we nursed, the midwife tended to my lower parts.  She gave me a shot of Pitocin to help bring the uterus down.  Then a second dose.  I was still bleeding a lot.  More than usual.   I needed more medicine. Unfortunately, that meant that the midwife shoving four pills up my butt. That was not great.  It wasn’t even the application of the pills that was the worst. It the fact that those four pills do not dissolve immediately. Instead, it feels like you have a finger up your butt for about a half hour.  It’s not great.

Still, I was losing blood so there was no room to complain.  I felt so cold.  Colder than I ever felt.  As if I was completely naked in ice cube. My bones felt like ice.  An entire liter of blood left my body, and it felt as if the blood was replaced with ice water.

But I didn’t care.  I had my baby girl.

our traditional going home photo.

a little out of it thanks to the blood loss and the long night.
the birth center makes you homemade bread with butter and honey to eat after giving birth.

We go home within 5 hours after birth so the nurse comes to us the next morning. The boys got to hear Eloise’s heart.

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