I can’t believe it’s taken me almost three months to find the time to sit down and write Bennett’s birth story…whoops! I am definitely blaming that under the fact that we now have TWO babes under the age of 2, and finding any “alone” time in my schedule is proving to be quite the challenge. Both the boys are napping and it’s a quite Friday afternoon, though, so…I better get to writing!
My pregnancy with Bennett was the most “normal”, easy pregnancy. Definitely more “normal” than Judes, as we weren’t dealing with a potential marginal cord insertion this time around. I experienced a bit more morning sickness (which made me swore I was having a girl…sorry, B), and acid reflux and indigestion hit super early on, which was such a bummer. But aside from textbook pregnancy symptoms and annoyances, everything was going amazingly and we could not wait to meet this baby boy!
One of my biggest hopes this time around was being able to go into labor naturally. I did NOT want to be induced like I was with Jude. That process was exhausting and a bit disappointing, even though it did end with a wonderful birth experience. You can read about Jude’s birth story here, if you’d like!
When I hit 36 weeks, I started praying every single day that I would not have to be induced. I was constantly watching for signs of impending labor and would often text friends asking what they symptoms of “early” labor were, what real contractions felt like, how it feels when your water breaks, etc. I definitely had a few false alarms, but I was able to dismiss that it was labor before we made the decision to head to the hospital. The next few weeks dragged on, and I of course started doing ALL THE THINGS to try and get labor started. Every midwife and doctor I talked to just reassured me that he will come when he is ready, and that there is no magic trick for getting labor started if your body isn’t ready for it to happen. Sigh. I did enjoy the spicy chili and pineapple, though!
My due date was nearing and I started to get incredibly anxious about the impending induction. At my 39w5d appointment, the midwife discussed what options we would have and what was needed before scheduling the induction once I hit 41w. I left the office so disappointed, and I just felt in my heart that we would be waiting at least another full week before we’d know when we would be meeting our little guy. This was Thursday, January 31st, and I had scheduled the “last” appointment for the following Tuesday, February 5th.
Matt, Jude, and I had an awesome weekend together, doing all of our favorite things (like shopping and Chick fil A dinners). My due date came and I no longer felt anxious…I just felt peace. I knew that we would be meeting Bennett any day now, and that even if I didn’t go into labor naturally, we would still have a great induction experience like we had with Jude. I was really trying to soak up every last second we had as a family of three.
That Sunday evening was the Super Bowl, and we watched it at Matt’s parent’s house. I was feeling pretty good all day aside from some annoying lower back pain. I remember asking Matt to massage my lower back and dig his knuckles in to apply counter-pressure. I was sure it was from how I was sleeping the night before, because let’s be honest, it’s impossible to sleep comfortably at 9 months pregnant! After a trip to the bathroom I quickly (and quietly!) summoned Matt, since I thought that my water had broken and was slowly leaking. I was texting one of my best friends, asking her if this could be IT, and if I should go to the hospital now or wait awhile. She encouraged me to go, even if it was a false alarm. We left Jude at his parent’s house and headed over to Women & Babies, which was a short 10 minute car ride away. I wasn’t experiencing any contractions, but my back was still hurting, so I truly had no idea if this was “go time”.
After waiting around in triage for a couple of hours, the midwife checked and let me know that I was *not* leaking amniotic fluid. HUGE BUMMER. I was also embarrassed, but that’s kind of a right of passage for pregnant women right…going into triage because you’re leaking various fluids and you thought your water broke? No? Just me?
She offered to “sweep my membranes” before we left, since I was already overdue and that can sometimes get the process started if your body is already preparing to start labor. I was so skeptical and anxious, since I had read so much about it…i.e how painful it was, how it’s only affective like 25% of the time in starting labor, how it sometimes needs to be repeated several times before “working”. Something in me told me to go for it, though. I just looked at Matt, kind of shrugged and said, “Ok, let’s do it”. It was WAY less painful that I imagined it to be. After it was done, the midwife explained that she thought she had ruptured the membrane (aka broke my water) while attempting it, but had actually broken the outer membrane…what?! She leaned back, smiled, and reassured me that we would be coming in again soon.
That night I barely slept, wondering if I would go into labor at any moment. The next morning Matt went off to work like normal, and I had to head back to Lancaster to pick Jude up from Matt’s parent’s house, since he had stayed there the night before. When we got back home around 11:00am, I started feeling lower back pain again. It was mild and mostly annoying, but since I was waiting for labor to start, I was willing this pain to be a sign that Bennett was on his way. To “test” this pain, and to see if this was actually the start of labor, I took a quick hot shower and waited to see if the back pain died down or increased in pain and/or frequency. It absolutely increased, almost immediately after stepping out of the shower. I called a close friend to ask about her own labor started, more specifically, her back labor. What I was experiencing sounded pretty similar to her own story with back labor, and I wanted to know what I should be looking out for and when we should head to the hospital.
By this point Jude was taking his afternoon nap and I was bouncing on a big yoga ball to relieve some of the back pain. Whenever I was sitting, the pain the tolerable. As soon as I stood up, the pain would hit my lower back and spread down my butt and thighs. My friend urged me to start timing when this pain would hit, to see if it was happening in intervals. At this point the back contractions were hitting every 6-7 minutes. Jude woke up from his nap around 3:00ppm and I was rushing around the house, in between back contractions, to get everything together. I called Matt and told him that as the clock hit 4:00pm he needed to come home because we should probably head into the hospital.
The back pain was hitting now every 3-4 minutes, and I had to stop, lean against the bathroom counter, and breath through the pain until it peaked and lowered again. THIS WAS IT! I was in labor. This was happening…holy crap, this is *really* happening! I called May Grant to let them know what was going on, and they encouraged me to come in as soon as we could. For us, that meant waiting until Matt was home from work. The next hour felt like it was dragging waiting for Matt to get home so we could head to Lancaster. The pain was amplifying and by this point I was in tears, gritting my teeth through the pain. We made arrangements for my MIL to meet us at the hospital to get Jude (she was such an amazing blessing!) and the 35 minute car ride to the hospital felt like it was taking HOURS. We, of course, hit rush-hour traffic (thanks for the excellent timing, baby B!) and the pain was still increasing.
Once we made it, I was examined, and was measuring at only 3cm. Talk about discouraging. At this point I could barely walk through the pain, and was sobbing when it hit. The only thing helping was Matt literally digging his fights into my lower back and using counter-pressure. It felt like my lower back was breaking when a contraction would hit every 3-4 minutes. So to only be at 3cm was the biggest discouragement. It didn’t help that the midwife (who shall not be named but is most definitely *not* my favorite person) told me that “We usually don’t admit you until you’re in active labor but it looks like you’re in a good bit of pain”…UM, ya think? And to be told I’m not even in “active” labor yet?! I wanted to curl up and cry. It was about 6:00pm at this point.
I was then sent to triage where I labored completely alone, in a stiff bed, for another hour until a room opened up in labor and delivery. Being stuck on your back is the absolute worst position to be in for back labor, but here I was…and without Matt, who was providing the only relief I could find. After an hour or so in triage, they finally let Matt join me. I was checked again and was now at 4cm. Officially in “active” labor, woo! A room opened up in the labor and delivery wing and I got into my room around 7:30.
The pain was excruciating, now, and I was openly bawling in front of my MIL, SIL, niece, and Jude, who came to see us before going home. I could tell my crying scared my niece, so I was trying to mask the pain I was feeling but I was in so much pain and SO uncomfortable, I couldn’t even pretend to be “okay”…I probably scared the poor girl for life, ha! They left, and I asked for the nurse to draw a bath so I could see if water would provide any relief. With Jude, I received my epidural SO early on in the induction process that I never actually experienced labor contractions…I had no idea what they felt like! At this point the pain was still only in my lower back, and dear Lord, was it horrific. No mama can even begin to describe the pain of back labor unless you’ve experienced it yourself. And trust me, I wouldn’t wish it on my worse enemy.
I told the nurse that as soon as I got out of this bath, I wanted, no, I NEEDED my epidural. I couldn’t labor on naturally any longer. To know that the sweet, sweet relief of the epidural was coming so soon lifted my spirits for the 20 minutes or so I was in the bath. I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat after getting the epidural, so I shoved pretzels and crackers into my mouth while I was in the bathtub and prayed I would have the energy to push once I hit 10cm. Once I got out of the bathtub, I decided that my best option for pain management until the epidural came was bouncing on a ball while Matt applied counter-pressure to my back. He would squeeze my hips while I rocked on the ball, and for awhile, it was providing some relief. I was trying to channel all of my energy into staying calm, and knowing that my epidural was on the way.
The anesthesiologist was delayed and called into emergency C-section surgeries two times before finally entering my room around 9:30pm. With Jude, I wasn’t having active contractions when they gave me my epidural. With his birth, it was easy to stay still and calm while the anesthesiologist threaded the catheter into my back. With Bennett, I screamed when he first inserted the needle. I couldn’t help but withdraw into myself, when I needed to be curling into myself and pushing my back toward him. I was using every last bit of strength I had in me to remain completely still during each contraction so that he could successfully place the catheter. After what seemed like hours, but was only minutes, he was taping up the cord and rolling his cart out of my room. With Jude, my epidural took within about 10 minutes, and I felt completely numb to the pain within 20 minutes. It was BLISS and this time around I was so proud of myself for having made it this far without it. I couldn’t wait for the pain medication to kick in so I could get some rest before it was time to push.
At this time our birth videographer, Vanessa, arrived and we spent the next 45 minutes chatting and laughing while I re-applied some of the makeup I had cried off earlier in the evening. Priorities, right?! I noticed, though, that my pain wasn’t completely going away…on the pain scale it had maybe gone from an 8 to a 4. It was nagging and annoying, and I could talk through each contraction. I wondered when the epidural would fully “kick in”…and I was a bit worried and wondering why it wasn’t already. They had felt that Bennett was turned sideways, and his head was pressing against my tailbone…aka why back labor even happens. Skull pressing against sciatic nerve = no good. We decided to try and help him turn by laying on my side with a peanut ball in between my legs, switching sides every so often. At this point it was 11pm.
The midwife came in to break my water and start a pitocin drip (which, looking back, I’m wondering why was I given pitocin in the first place?! I was laboring and progressing fine on my own?) and assured us that after my water was broken, this was baby was going to come quickly. Within minutes after my water was broken, any pain relief I felt from my epidural was fading away. The contractions were hitting more quickly, now, and increasing in length. I barely had time to breath before the next one would hit. The pain was now starting in my lower abdomen and rolling back toward my spine. I informed my nurse that my epidural wasn’t working anymore, and that I was no longer having any pain relief. I knew my epidural had failed and I asked for the anesthesiologist to come back. She called the anesthesiologist, who came back and assured me that I would feel complete relief within 20 minutes, and that he was now administering HALF of the amount of medication that he would give a c-section patient going into surgery. This HAD to work, right?! I knew what an epidural felt like, I knew what it’s relief felt like, and the fact that it was failing felt soul-crushing to me in those moments. My last dose of pain meds were administered at 11:30pm.
Well, it didn’t “work”, I never felt any relief, and I was now experiencing one of my biggest fears…natural labor and delivery. I was terrified. I was begging Matt for them to wheel me back to the O.R. for a C-section. Which, now, that sounds dramatic, but I cannot even begin to describe the amount of pain I was feeling in those moments. I felt weak and exhausted and just DONE.
I was experiencing back labor (the most painful kind of labor, I’ve read), I was stuck in a bed, on my BACK, due to the epidural that wasn’t even working (worst position to be in with back labor), and I was experiencing PITOCIN contractions on top of that, which any induced mama knows are way more painful than “natural” contractions. During the transition part of labor I truly, honestly thought I wasn’t going to be able to do this. I could only yell my way through each contraction while gripping the side of the bed with all my might. My MIL, who was dropping off our pillows for the night, happened to make it to the hospital just as I was going through transition and could hear me scream all the way from the front desk…whoops. Sorry to all of the other laboring mothers who had to hear that.
Just as I thought I couldn’t go on any longer, I was checked for dilation and I was at 10cm! HOORAY!!! I was terrified to be pushing with no pain meds, but this baby was ready and it was go-time!! I texted my sister at 11:56 that I was going to be pushing soon. The end was in sight and I was so beyond ready to finally meet our son!
I pushed for less than 4 minutes, and only 3 big pushes (with a minute of rest and catching my breath before the next contraction) later he made his arrival. He was born at exactly 12:00am on February 5th, 2019. I couldn’t believe how quickly everything had happened and I was in shock. Literal shock. Our baby Bennett was here, he was perfect, and we were both overcome with so much emotion! Matt’s face in these photos seriously says it all. After about an hour of skin to skin Bennett began to nurse beautifully and has been a champion eater ever since. I didn’t sleep at all that first night, and Matt went to Sheetz to get me a much-deserved celebratory Sheetz sub, fries, and slushie at 3am. I held my sweet boy all night long, in disbelief over his birth story, reliving it over and over in my mind.
While I didn’t choose a natural birth, part of me is glad everything happened the way it did. My body felt amazing even hours after his birth. I experienced so much less pain this time around with recovery, and I definitely think it had to do with the meds not taking the way they were supposed to. I truly had to listen to my body and give in to the pain during the process. I let my body do what it was made to do, even in those moments it seemed impossible. I also know now that I AM a bad-ass mama who can literally conquer anything. It sounds cliche, but I know that I am way stronger than I ever thought I could be when it comes to labor and delivery. Who knows, I may even choose to go med-free if we ever decide to have a third. Mostly kidding…
Baby B’s birth, the hour after it, as well as our first morning at the hospital as a family of FOUR was all captured by the incredible Vanessa of Vanessa Joy Films. She is seriously incredible and I highly recommend her to any mama who want’s her birth experience documented. I will cherish our video, as well as the photos, forever…