Part 1: The Plan and The Backstory
Going into labor a 5th time my birth plan was: healthy baby who comes into this world safely and yes, I’ll take that epidural, thank you very much.
I’ve had a natural birth
I’ve had a water birth
I’ve had births with epidurals
Of all these experiences, my births with epidurals were not only my most peaceful experiences but they were also my best recoveries.
Ideally, I pictured coming into the hospital around 3-4cm, getting an epidural, then baby would be born! At least that sounded like a good idea. But I was well aware that with labor, to expect the unexpected.
To give context to how my labor unfolded, I need to share a little back story.
Around 36/37 weeks, my old friend named anxiety decided to become reacquainted. Despite using my tools for kicking anxiety to the curb, it started to affect my body – namely, my blood pressure.
You know that infamous question, which came first, the chicken or the egg? I don’t know what the right answer is to that question but it’s the same with my blood pressure and anxiety – I’m not sure which one came first. After 8 months of a healthy pregnancy (and low blood pressure), my blood pressure reached the point where my dr told me to go to the hospital.
Tests for preeclampsia came back negative, but my pressures were still high. Most likely it was anxiety induced white coat syndrome, but when you’re pregnant, it doesn’t really matter what’s causing it, you still need monitoring.
So twice weekly NST’s were ordered. No matter how much I tried to relax and keep calm, my pressure readings were high which resulted in more monitoring, more tests, and more “what if” thoughts imagining all the worst case scenarios. The mind is such a battlefield sometimes.
I’ve never had a baby early, but I prayed and begged God to allow her to come early. Not only for the mental relief, but because being monitored twice a week, while juggling the schedules of four other kids would have been tough. I never expected that it would actually happen.
Maybe it was an answered prayer, or maybe it was just her time. Probably both. But on the afternoon of March 21st, at 38 weeks pregnant, I started to wonder if labor had begun.
Part 2: Is this Labor? Yes it is!
(This is where you should stop reading if you don’t like to read about birth and birth terms.)
It was a Thursday afternoon and throughout the day I noticed my mucous plug had slowly been coming out. I wondered if this could be the start of labor, but I also knew it meant labor could be weeks away.
I decided to rest so I put a show on for my 2 youngest kids, and went to lay down. After about 45 minutes, I went to the kitchen and as I was standing there, I looked down and noticed two big drops of water dripped out. Hmm, I don’t think that’s my mucous plug, but maybe it is? Maybe it’s nothing. Or maybe it’s my water breaking? But with my heart pumping fast I dramatically texted Ryan anyways, “My water broke!”.
I texted 2 friends to see what they thought and even though it wasn’t really clear what was happening, it was exciting to talk about potentially being in labor with friends.
Ryan reminded me that the nurse during one of my NST tests said if I notice any leaks, to go lay down for about 30 minutes because if it’s my water, it would pool up and come out when I got back up. So that’s what I did – and when I got up 30 minutes later, nothing happened.
Ryan decided to come home from work early and decided we should pack our things for the hospital. At this point I told him maybe I was being a little dramatic earlier and since there had been no new changes, there probably wasn’t a need to go to the hospital.
But he insisted we pack and go because of my blood pressure. I was a bit surprised by this as he’s usually the one who likes to wait things out at home. He was rushing around the house packing as if we would be at the hospital for a few days, and I kept telling him, “I don’t think you need to pack so much, we’ll probably come home tonight.”
One of the things that are tough when you have a lot of kids, and don’t have family nearby, is figuring out what to do with your other kids. Thankfully some of our best friends, who graciously watched our kids during my last 2 births, were planning on being available again. I texted my friend to let her know I *might* be in labor. But probably not. I asked her if she was free, but assured her if she wasn’t, it was fine since I’d probably be coming home anyways.
Turns out, she was just a few blocks away from where I live! Within 5 minutes, she rolled up to my house in her sprinter van, with her 7 kids, ready to pick up my 4 kids. I remember feeling comforted by her presence – I think there is something about being in labor and seeing a trusted girlfriend that helps calm the nerves. I was also comforted by the promise of her prayers, and knowing that my kids would be happy and well taken care of.
Ryan and I headed to the hospital and when we got there, I went to check in and said, “this is our 5th baby, and I have no idea if I’m in labor or if my water broke. I think I need to get it checked.”
I had imagined that with my 5th labor I’d walk into the hospital like “don’t worry about me, I got this!” LOL again because instead I was more confused than ever and felt like we were most likely wasting everyone’s time since this wasn’t real labor.
We got in our room and I had to explain to the nurse my fiasco/history with blood pressure, and sure enough, the first check was high which meant being tied to the blood pressure machine and tied to laying down in the hospital bed. It also meant anxiety and the flooding of all the “what if” thoughts.
The next step was to confirm if my water broke, which I learned there is a test for! I don’t think that’s anything new, but to me it was!
In the hour that we waited for the test results, The Office was playing on the TV and can I just say how much seeing Michael Scott and Jim and Pam made everything so much better! I started to become less anxious and my blood pressure started to lower. Forever one of the best shows of all time and happy I can say The Office was part of Evie’s birth story!
Right as the nurse was walking in the door to confirm the results of the test, I felt a huge gush of my water breaking. At that moment, I knew what the nurse confirmed: it was the beginning of labor. I couldn’t help but smile.
It was around 9pm at this time, I was 1.5 cm dilated, 80% effaced, and having absolutely no contractions.
Here’s what made this labor different from all my others: I couldn’t get up and walk around to help encourage contractions to start because my blood pressure was still high. Walking around would have raised it more and my only option was to stay still in bed, try to rest, and stay tied to the blood pressure machine.
We waited another hour to see if contractions would start, but again, nothing. Discouraged with my body’s refusal to start labor, and frustrated that my blood pressure was still high, I started to say a prayer of surrender. Up until this labor, I haven’t needed any interventions in past labors (except my choice to have an epidural), but it was looking like this labor would need them and I knew I needed to let go of wanting to control what happened and trust.
I placed my labor in God’s hands and asked him to protect me from any unnecessary interventions, and surrendered to the fact that I would need to trust the nurses and dr’s to make decisions about what would be best for me and the baby.
I remember receiving text messages at this time from friends assuring me of their prayers and feeling at peace with whatever was going to happen.
The goal now was to get contractions going, and since they weren’t happening naturally, I knew I would be given medication. Thankfully the first course of action wasn’t pitocin, but a medication called cytotec. I took the first dose and they told me to “get some sleep and relax”.
I’m sure you know how this story goes – everyone but me got sleep. Ryan of course can fall asleep within seconds, meanwhile I’m wide awake, wishing I could sleep. So instead I watched the only movie that was playing: Knocked Up. The irony.
I watched the clock pass midnight, then 1am, then 2am. Still, no contractions. I got a 2nd dose of cytotec.
I got my headphones out and tried to close my eyes to relax. I played Lauren Daigels album and felt close to God. I prayed a rosary and I also remember thinking the room was really cold.
But there was good news! My blood pressure continued to lower. Not enough to where I could get up and walk, but watching it drop on the monitor was encouraging.
Finally around 3 or 4am (I can’t remember the time!), the contractions started to become regular and slowly gained strength. I let the nurse know and she told me to try to sleep and she’d be back around 7am to check on things.
Well, about an hour went by and the contractions picked up with intensity! I thought if these are early labor contractions, I don’t think I’m going to last without an epidural until 7am! I remember thinking “wow, I must have become a lot less pain tolerant in my old age”. Feeling somewhat embarrassed about my inability to handle these contractions, I called the nurse and when she checked me, I was 4.5cm. I remember her happily asking, “ok, do you want your epidural now?”
Yessss! I very much do!
The anesthesiologist came in, did the epidural, and at first there was a little part on my side where I could still feel the contractions but he assured me to give it a few more minutes, and he was right, it worked! And it was a very very good epidural!
The whole process from beginning to end took about an hour and once the anesthesiologist was gone, I laid back down for about 10 minutes and started to feel funny. At this point there were a few nurses in my room and I told them I started to feel “off, like I couldn’t breathe”.
They assured me all my vitals were good and that I was ok, and then I started to shake.
The nurse said, it was transition! The dr on call happened to come in to introduce herself and when she noticed I was in transition, she checked me and I was 9.5cm. So in the span of about 10-15 minutes, I went from somewhere around 4cm to 9.5cm! That epidural came right in time because I didn’t feel any of it.
I remember shaking a lot more than I had in my other labors and the nurse encouraged me to let my body shake and to not try and stop it! She said my body was doing the equivalent of “running a marathon ” Cool!
As the early morning overcast light started to come though the windows, the Dr. on call who was cheerful and bubbly, said it was time to have my baby. I don’t have a history of pushing for very long, and hoped it would be the case this time.
A few pushes later, and all was going well until I heard the words, “her shoulders are stuck.” The expression on a few of the nurses faces had me worried, but looking back, I don’t think they were actually worried – it’s just that they knew they needed to be ready should the baby stay stuck. I think I stayed somewhat calm because the same thing happened to Annie and it was all ok.
The last thing I remember was them telling me I needed to push as hard as I could, and so that’s what I did! I don’t think I’ve ever tried that hard in any previous labors to get the baby out NOW!
And out she came! My sweet girl! I think one of the best human emotions we can feel is the feeling of relief! And that is what I most remember feeling – sweet relief that she was here, she was safe, and she was beautiful!
My first thought was that she reminded me of Annie with all her dark hair and that she was big being 2 weeks early. I also remember hearing one of the nurses say, “she has huge feet!” I laughed because that definitely meant she was a Seeley.
Looking back, the “shoulders are stuck” moment probably only lasted a minute, but it felt so much longer than that. When you think something could go wrong with your birth, it’s like time stops but you also find a strength you didn’t know you had to deal with it.
I’m still so grateful!
Evie was 9 pounds 3oz, 21 inches. And She is perfect!
My blood pressure has thankfully returned to being low, the anxiety has subsided, and this has been my best postpartum recovery yet (thanks to a few things which I hope to share more about).
I read a few days ago from another mom with a big family that the reason having a lot of kids gets easier is not because there is any less work, but because you become more relaxed as a parent! And for me that has been 100% true! I’ve learned to better let go of all the undone chores, and all the things I “should” be doing, and rest in the present moments with our new baby girl. She has been the very best gift to our family and nothing else has really mattered except loving her and welcoming her to the family!