The first time I gave birth, I was induced one week past my due date. I was 0cm dilated, my cervix wasn’t softening, I hadn’t felt one single contraction, and it was a miserably hot end of July—I was DONE being pregnant. We spent 49 hours in the hospital before our baby was born and it took Cervidil, a foley bulb, Pitocin, an epidural, sleeping pills, 3.5 hours of pushing, a 3rd degree tear, and a vacuum to get her out. We were thankful to go home from the hospital with a healthy baby, but for weeks I would lay in bed, when I should have been sleeping, replaying the whole scenario over and over (and over) again. I knew that I wanted the next birth to be different.
Our first daughter was 13 months old when we found out I was pregnant again. I went to Target and bought both a pregnancy test and a big sister t-shirt. We had always dreamed of having two babies close together, and it was early enough that I didn’t even feel sick yet—just excited. Right from the beginning of my pregnancy, I was committed to doing whatever it took to avoid being induced again. Do you know how many articles are on the internet about inducing labor naturally? I have read every single one. I walked our one-year old to the park nearly every day of my pregnancy; I went to workout classes at the YMCA weekly. I spent basically all of my third trimester sitting on an exercise ball, I drank red raspberry leaf tea before bed, I begged my OB to tell me what I could do to avoid being induced at every single appointment. She promised me that even if I had to be induced again, it would be easier than the first time. I still went home and googled “ways to induce labor” for the thousandth time anyway. We contacted Rachael, our doula, at the end of the first trimester (after convincing my husband that, yes, it would be worth the money). I still joked to everyone that the baby’s due date was April 28th…or you know, the middle of May!
I am pretty convinced that there is some magic that makes the end of pregnancy last an eternity: If you have ever been overdue, you know that it’s true—somehow the days get even longer. I told everyone throughout my whole pregnancy that I was going to wait the full 42 weeks that my doctor would allow, even though every single person I know thought that was totally crazy. I had an appointment at 39 weeks where they did an ultrasound to check on the baby, and she was looking healthy and happy—she was not planning on coming out anytime soon. I was trying to come to terms with the idea that I was going to have to be induced again (apparently I have the gestation period of a giraffe) while also trying to delicately balance believing that my body was capable of going into labor naturally.
Since I was committed to trying everything to naturally induce labor, as my due date came and went, I asked Rachael for some recommendations. I called an acupuncturist, and she told me that every pregnant client of hers (except one) went into labor within 5 days. I immediately made an appointment. Five days later: I was still very pregnant (although, for what it’s worth, I would 100% do the acupuncture again, even though it didn’t put me into labor. It was the most relaxed and in tune with my body I have ever felt).
Next, I made an appointment with a chiropractor, and made her promise at least 12 times that it was safe for both me and the baby before she did any adjustments. Then I made another appointment. And another. I tried EVERYTHING. Acupuncture. Chiropractor. More pineapple than any one person should eat. Spicy food, teas, essential oils. Walking and walking some more. Relaxing, exercising. Sex. Packing a hospital bag and unpacking a hospital bag. Pedicure. Making plans that I didn’t want to cancel because surely the baby would come then! Two membrane sweeps. Every night I would go to bed thinking, “Maybe tonight is the night!”. Then I would wake up in the middle of the night and think, “Maybe my water will break on the way to the bathroom!” But every morning I would wake up just as pregnant. And disappointed.
We scheduled an induction for two weeks after my due date. I was bummed. My mom came into town to stay with our one-year old. My husband and I went out for one last dinner and went to bed early to try to get some sleep. We woke up early the morning of May 11th, the day of my scheduled induction, to call and see if there were any labor rooms available. They told us to come in at 8:30am, so we went to Starbucks to get a “light breakfast” and made our way to the hospital—each minute felt like it was the equivalent of at least ten. It is such a unique feeling to know your life is about to change…but just wait 20 more minutes. We arrived at the hospital, calmly carried in our bags, and made our way to our room.
After getting an IV and filling out some paperwork, they immediately started with pitocin. I was 2cm dilated, and had been for the past couple weeks; so while I was thankful to jump right in with the pitocin, I was gearing up for a long day. We turned on Moana and I paced around our little hospital room. After 3 hours, my doctor checked my progress— I was a measly 3 centimeters. One centimeter in three whole hours!! She suggested breaking my water, and at that point, I was willing to do anything to get the process moving. I knew that during my first birth, once the doctor broke my water, the pain intensified quite a bit. but I was prepared for many, many more hours. After all, at this point I was still casually texting friends about House Hunters, not getting ready to push out a baby.
Once my water fully broke, about 30 minutes after my doctor left the room, the contractions became quite painful. My husband thought we should have Rachael join us, but I was so worried that we would have her come too early. I texted her, and she arrived at the hospital about an hour later, around 2pm. By the time Rachael got there, the contractions were much more painful. I was holding on to my husband, still trying to stand and walk around, but during the peak of contractions I was unable to walk or talk. I didn’t take any classes during either of my pregnancies that talked much about pain management, so Rachael offered suggestions for more comfortable positions. She was calming, knowledgeable, and exactly what I needed.
I didn’t want to get an epidural yet because I was afraid of doing anything that might slow down labor, but by 3pm the pain was too much to bear. My husband asked me for the epidural code word that we had picked weeks prior, but in the moment, I couldn’t remember. I’m pretty sure yelling “EPIDURAL NOW” made it pretty clear that I wasn’t joking. The nurse told us that the anesthesiologist had just gone in for a C-section and couldn’t be there for 45 minutes. After spending a couple minutes in our room, she went to find another anesthesiologist from another floor.
By this point I was laying on the bed: I could no longer stand because my legs were too shaky and I was worried I might fall. I felt like I had to go to the bathroom, but I couldn’t walk there. Really I was barely able to communicate anything at all because I was in so much pain. The contractions felt continuous and my entire body was overcome with pain. I felt tense and out of control and the idea of relaxing anything to let the baby come out felt completely impossible to me. I was desperately asking everyone to fix it. I started to feel the baby descend and I was involuntarily pushing, but I couldn’t communicate to everyone in the room what was happening. I was moaning “the baby, the baby,” to which my husband kept sweetly responding, “The baby is totally safe, you are doing a great job.” I couldn’t communicate more than more moaning, but internally I was yelling “The baby is coming out NOW!!!”
The nurse came back in and realized what was going on. She checked me and I was fully dilated—I hadn’t been checked at all since I was 3cm— and the baby was right there. They called my doctor, brought in some other nurses in case the doctor couldn’t be there in time, and I yelled/screamed/very loudly declared that someone else had to push the baby out—I couldn’t do it. My doctor ran in the room, told me to stop yelling, to focus, and that I most definitely would be the one to push out the baby. Six minutes later at 3:56pm, our precious 9lb baby was born, looking around calmly as if to say “What just happened?!” I laughed, started apologizing for all the screaming, and drank the most delicious apple juice of my entire life.
I always hoped and dreamed I would give birth without an epidural, but I rarely said it out loud because I didn’t believe that it was possible for me while also getting induced. I still hope that one day I’ll go into labor without pitocin, but for right now, all I know is that May 11th was one of the most wonderful, magical, and redeeming days of my life.