Let’s be really real here for a second: birth is traumatic AF.
It’s not like I was expecting a spa-like experience with freshly-plucked rose petals scattered across my hospital bed.
But I sure as hell was NOT expecting the physical arrival of our child to play out how it did.
Of course, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into; we’d taken the hospital classes and read the books, after all.
I’d heard other birth stories, and crafted my birth plan meticulously, so naturally, I felt pretty darn prepared. Enter reality.
Sure, birth is incredibly special and life changing. But it’s also terrifying, horrifically painful and incredibly embarrassing. There is no dignity in childbirth.
And before you jump into the comments and yell at me for the aforementioned statement, just hear me out. Because I’m not here to rip on women. My goal is to simply be open and honest, because there’s nothing wrong with being vulnerable about birth – I only wish more women had been that way towards me in discussing their birth stories. I would have been A LOT more prepared.
Every mother I’ve spoken to about their birth experience (save for one of my husband’s aunts, who was the only woman honest enough to describe her C-Section as “traumatic”), has categorized it as “magical” and “beautiful.”
I would not use those words to describe what I saw and experienced on Aurora’s birth day. Not even close.
Now don’t get me wrong: I am not talking about that moment when I first saw my beautiful baby girl open her eyes, or take her first breath. I am strictly discussing the actual labor and delivery.
Obviously, the emotional experience was magical, and more beautiful than words can convey.
But the physical part of it was horrific. And I’m told that I had a fairly easy L&D.
So if you want an honest account of what it’s like to push a tiny person out of your hoo-ha, read on, and maybe grab an air-sickness bag, too.
If you’re expecting some sweet, sentimental bullshit about birth, keep it moving pal.
Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018.
I woke up at 3 a.m. on the nose, the thin green digits on the cable box beaming out into the darkness.
As had become quite common, I woke up with an intense need to pee, for like the sixth time that evening (pregnant ladies, can I get an “amen”?).
I groaned, utterly exhausted and half debating whether I’d rather pee myself than get out of bed again. I rolled over, attempting to ignore the demands of my bladder, and suddenly felt a small rush of fluid between my legs.
“Fuck,” I thought, annoyed by the fact that actually peeing yourself is never as convenient as you imagined during your earlier negotiations.
But I realized that I hadn’t lost control over my bladder, because I was still holding my pee.
Confused, annoyed and still exhausted, I sat up to investigate further. Immediately, another small rush of fluid greeted me, followed by a giant surge (that I can only describe as similar to a dam breaking) when I stood up.
I turned back towards my husband, sound asleep beneath the covers, and said very matter-of-factly: “My water broke.”
He sat up instantly, and asked what to do next.
First, I calmed him down, because his nerves were clearly in overdrive. I told him to go take a shower while I called my OB.
Our bags were already packed and waiting in the car, so I knew we had some time. Plus, we’d had a false alarm earlier that week, so we’d already been through the whole drill of heading to the hospital “in labor” once before, and I wasn’t worried this time around.
The OB on call asked a few questions, and I assured her that it was real this time; there was no mistaking that giant rush of fluid.
She said that we should eat something and then make our way to the hospital in the next hour.
At the hospital, triage performed a cervical exam to see what kind of progress I had made. Zilch.
In fact, when we had our false alarm earlier that week, I was 1 cm dilated. This time, I had reverted to only 1/2 cm.
Because my water broke, there was some pressure to start labor and delivery, because if the baby isn’t born within 24 hours after your water breaks, it poses a major infection risk.
It was recommended that they start me on Pitocin, a labor-inducing medicine that is administered via IV. The IV is attached to a little monitor that measures how much medicine you’re receiving – they have the ability to turn it up (pump more meds in at a faster rate) or turn it down (the meds drip into your IV slower and less frequently).
By the time 7 a.m. rolled around, I hadn’t progressed (was still 1/2 cm dilated) and I hadn’t experienced ANY contractions. They decided to turn the Pitocin up a bit, and by 10:30 a.m. things still weren’t moving along.
At this point, I was pretty comfortable. Like I said, I hadn’t experienced any contractions whatsoever, so I gave my husband the go-ahead to go home and grab the dog, so he could bring her to boarding.
Almost immediately after he left, they turned the Pitocin up again, and all of a sudden, WHAM! I started feeling a fuck ton of contractions, followed by the most intense cramping pain I’ve ever experienced.
Sidenote: I have endometriosis, so my periods have always been extra painful – like constantly being stabbed in the stomach to the point that I feel like I’ve gotten the wind knocked out of me. No fun. But the point is, I’ve felt pain. And the contractions were 10,000 worse.
I was in such intense pain, and the only thing that brought me some relief was standing. But, whenever a contraction rolled through, it would knock me to my knees, and I’d find myself keeled over on the hospital-room floor on all fours, gripping onto the legs of the guest chair as if I were holding onto the side of the sinking Titanic.
Meanwhile, the contractions were pushing more amniotic fluid out, so not only was I laying on a hospital floor, but there was also a puddle of human fluid coating said floor.
I was wailing in pain, hysterically crying, and all alone. One of the amazing nurses came in and sat with me on the floor, rubbing my back and whispering reassuring thoughts. I have never been so embarrassed in my whole life – having a complete stranger see you in such a vulnerable state is very difficult.
But at the same time, I was eternally grateful for her company.
My OB came in and offered me some pain management options, and I had already decided I definitely wanted the epidural. But, I am TERRIFIED of needles, and I just couldn’t go through that process without my husband present.
So I told my OB that the second he got back, I wanted the juice.
She laughed and said that she’d have the anesthesiologist start setting up now, and making his way to my room.
“You don’t want to wait any longer than necessary,” she mentioned, pointing out that you have to sit completely still for the insertion of the epidural, and it takes about 20 minutes or so. When your contractions build to an unmanageable pain level, it can be very difficult and dangerous to try and insert the epidural.
My husband walked in the door at noon, and so did the anesthesiologist.
Fun fact: The epidural isn’t just an injection (I thought it was like one quick shot and you’re done). It’s kind of like an IV, that gets threaded into your spine and stays connected the whole entire time. They can then turn up the medicine, or turn it down, at any point.
The insertion felt like a needle prick followed by that sensation you get when you hit your funny bone, and the introduction of the medicine stung, like being given lidocaine at the dentist.
The effects of the epidural take about 30 minutes to kick in, but once it did, I felt amazing. Magical. Spectacular. Happy as a fucking clam.
I felt nothing at all. My legs were numb, my abdomen was numb, and life was freakin great.
At this point, we were simply waiting for things to progress – I was still only 1 cm dilated. So there was nothing to do but kill time.
Our birth photographer had shown up by this time (check out this post on why you should hire a birth photographer) and the three of us were essentially just chilling, trading stories and cracking jokes. Good times.
At 5:30 p.m., an internal check indicated I was 10 cm.
“It’s time!” my OB said.
I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it.
So they pulled a lever here, and a switch there, and quickly converted my hospital bed (which we kept joking was a Transformer, and could someone please use it to make me a damn Pop-Tart?!) from a typical bed to some crazy seat-like contraption with stirrups.
Up went my legs, off went my hospital gown, and out went any last shred of dignity I had.
One nurse held my left leg, the other nurse held my right leg, and my OB was staring right into my vag. My husband was given strict instructions by me to remain near my head, and look away!
“Because you can’t unsee certain things,” I told him.
Truthfully, he doesn’t give a shit about stuff like that. He’s not easily grossed out, and he’s not some uber-douche who would never look at me the same again. Having him standing by my head was my preference, not his. I mean, how could I relax with him staring? Anywho, I only recently found out by his admission, he did look. Asshole.
The room started filling up with other nurses, the pediatrician and a few nursing students too. In total, there were about 10 strangers in the room, plus my husband and our birth photographer.
Now is the time when I had to start pushing. Basically, you’re told to “bear down” like you’re taking the biggest, most uncomfortable shit of your life. And that’s pretty much what it felt like.
But after that first push, it was clear that something was wrong. I FELT EVERYTHING.
My legs were completely numb, and I couldn’t feel the contractions, but my vag was not desensitized whatsoever. Every little push was immensely painful.
A quick check from the anesthesiologist revealed that the epidural wasn’t hitting all the right places, which I’m told is very common. Typically, they can reposition it a smidge and then you’re good to go.
But in my case, I was too far along for that to take place. So basically, I had to suck it up and push anyways.
Meanwhile, the OB has her hands inside my vagina, moving up and down along the sides/opening, helping to stretch things out.
Sidenote: Major props to the natural-birth mamas out there. I respect you more than I could ever convey.
The further down the birth canal the baby got, the more intense the pressure and pain in my vag became. Every single push felt like my whole hoo-ha was being shredded apart, sliced and diced.
And when the baby’s head was crowning, that pressure and pain began in my asshole too. Not fun.
As I was giving the final few pushes, everyone was shouting “you can do it! Push, push, push!” In hindsight, that was pretty cool. It’s like you’re running a marathon and you have an entire block of people screaming and cheering you on, wanting to see you succeed.
In turn, I screamed, “My fucking asshole is ripping open! This fucking sucks!”
Thankfully, I had an awesome OB who totally got my sense of humor, and she responded, “Your asshole is fine! It looks great!”
And with just a few more pushes, Aurora was born at 8:38 p.m.
The moment she exited my body, I felt immense physical relief. No more pain, no more pressure, no more full belly. It was exactly like you’ve just taken a giant shit that you’ve been trying to take for a few days.
I ended up with a second-degree tear, so she was whisked away while I was being stitched up.
I remember just laying there, legs apart, being put back together by a needle and thread. That was pretty strange. But I’m happy to report that my vag is better than ever – I like to refer to it as the New & Improved 2019 Model.
I looked over at the nurses and doctors crowded around my baby, cleaning her off and inspecting her. From a distance, I could see her beautiful little face and her full head of black hair. Her eyes were absolutely enormous, and she was undoubtedly the most beautiful little girl in the entire world.
It was absolutely surreal to see her for the first time.
I cried and cried and cried and cried. I wailed in agony, insisting, “I just want her! Give her to me!!!”
But she had some meconium present at birth (a poo-like tar substance) which needed to be cleared out of her airway. Having her in the care of her medical team was important during those first few moments of life, and I definitely understand that now.
By the time I was sewn back together, and Aurora was cleaned off, I wanted her Dad to be the first one to hold her. I was just so freakin exhausted at that point, and overwhelmed with emotions, I didn’t want her to look up and see what a mess I was; I wanted her first interaction with us to be joyful.
After they bonded for a while, he placed her on my chest for some skin-to-skin contact. I can’t even explain how magical that was, just holding her and loving her in real life, not in my belly. It was amazing.
A few hours later, we were moved to a suite in the hospital, where we quickly passed the fuck out. The nurses came in and wheeled Aurora off to the nursery for the night, which was incredible; we were able to get a full night of very-much-needed sleep.
Overall, I felt that the labor itself was fairly easy and quick, but the delivery was a nightmare. However, it could have been so much worse. I am incredibly thankful that things were not complicated, and that despite the slow progression, I was able to deliver vaginally.
And of course, it’s cliche AF, but, all that pain was 100 percent worth it! Our beautiful baby girl is happy, healthy and absolutely wonderful in every single way.
Some comfort measures that helped during L&D:
- Inhaling essential oils – I used lavender oil (relaxing) during labor and orange (uplifting + energizing) during delivery.
- Listening to music – I listened to calming, spa-like music during labor and EDM (Electronic Dance Music) during delivery. I highly recommend listening to EDM during delivery because of the incredibly fast pace and heart-pumping sounds; they definitely help you push. Aurora was born to Avicci’s “Levels.”
- Laughter. Honestly, if you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m a complete jokester. I love to laugh. I love to make others laugh. It’s just in my nature. So being able to joke around with my tribe throughout the whole day/night, was dope. I give it a 10 (in my best Billy Bob voice).