To be frank, my labor and delivery took far less time than it’ll take you to read this birth story.
But of course, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
Late Sunday evening, on February 10, I went to bed much like any other night. Uncomfortable – as is expected at 39 weeks and a day – I tossed and turned for a while.
Really, no surprise there. I hadn’t been able to sleep for months.
Around 12:15 AM I finally relaxed just enough to start dozing off. In one last (albeit futile) attempt to find a more comfortable position, I once again slowly turned from one side to another – when I suddenly felt an unfamiliar popping sensation between my legs. It felt like a cork flying off a champagne bottle but far, far less glamorous.
“Hmm…,” I thought.
No sooner had I finished thinking that oh-so-eloquent thought, when I felt excessive moisture (I know, I know: It’s everyone’s favorite word!) between my legs and immediately knew something unfamiliar was happening to my body.
“Was that my amniotic sac?” I wondered as I made my way to the bathroom to inspect the aftermath.
Still confused as ever, I came back to bed and casually told the husband that maybe, possibly my water just broke – but that I wasn’t really sure because with Mila, my water didn’t break until the very last minute, after 4 hours of laboring the last of which I spent writhing in the bathtub.
Besides, I wasn’t contracting… Isn’t water supposed to break when active labor starts? Or was it the other way around? Did active labor start after the water broke?
I was clueless because, again, my first experience was completely different.
The husband and I continued chatting for about an hour in between my frantic Googling for answers. Panic started rearing its ugly head.
How long could I wait safely at home before heading to the hospital? Was it 12 hours? Or 24? What if labor didn’t start before then? What if I had to be induced? What if the baby wasn’t quite ready to come out? What if I had to have an emergency c-section?
What if, what if, what if…
I am nothing if not level-headed during a crisis, ha!
My cool and collected husband was likely growing weary of my borderline hysteria, so we agreed to get some sleep (ha!) and call the midwife in the morning.
Before returning to sweet, sweet slumber (right…), I needed to make one last trip to the bathroom (because, hello, pregnant). But when I stood up, what literally felt like gallons of water came out of me – so much water, in fact, that there was no longer any question as to whether my water broke.
It exploded – quite violently, if you ask me.
Now, imagine trying to fall asleep while Niagara Falls gushes out of your nether regions. Needless to say, very little sleep was had – at least by me, anyway. Other than that, my uterus and I had quite an uneventful night.
Approximately at 5:00 AM I finally felt one teeny-tiny contraction.
“Here we go!” I thought, relieved, beyond excited, and hopeful for a fairly quick labor like with Mila.
Contractions were 7-10 minutes apart but somewhat regular. I, however, continued to lay in bed, not wanting to wake up the rest of the house prematurely.
“It could be hours…,” I reasoned with myself.
Because our hospital is in a different city, my midwife had advised that once contractions were 4 minutes apart to go ahead and make our way to the hospital. So, that was the number I was aiming for.
Within minutes, contractions were 3 minutes apart.
Then suddenly every 2 minutes.
Before I could even say, “We’re about to have a baby,” my contractions had progressed from level zero to level insanity.
I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t even focus on simple tasks like waking up the husband or changing out of my pajamas.
Somehow – divine intervention is the only plausible explanation – I made my way to the bathroom, brushed my teeth and called out to the husband, who immediately notified my mom so she could come and stay with Mila.
I didn’t even change out of my pajamas.
The next 20 minutes were a fun little waiting game called, “Who will get here first: My mom or this baby?”
Shortly before six, Mom arrived, and we took off. The drive to the hospital, as you can imagine, was nothing short of adventurous, the details of which I don’t quite remember because contractions were so strong and so constant I couldn’t see straight.
At one point I do remember biting the back of the cold leather seat, which didn’t necessarily relieve any pain, but at least it gave me something else to focus on than the insane, constant pain. I also remember chanting Mila’s favorite lullaby over and over and over, as if my life depended on it (it certainly felt like it did!)
In retrospect, my mind was likely desperately trying (and failing) to remember proper breathing techniques. A rhythmic chant was the next-best alternative.
After what felt like an eternity but was probably no longer than 20 minutes, we arrived at the hospital. As we made our way to the front desk, another massive wave of excruciating pain engulfed me, and without much contemplation, my body fell into a crouching position right there in the middle of the hospital floor.
It was 6:15AM.
In the midst of my dramatic entrance, a literal angel brought over a wheelchair and without properly checking us in, wheeled me off to the Labor and Delivery ward, thank goodness.
There, nurses swarmed around me, but I couldn’t really understand what was happening. I did notice, however, that everyone was focused on something other than me, which filled me with such inexplicable rage that I must’ve roared louder than usual because suddenly everyone was looking at me.
“You have to get on your back if you want me to check you,” said an older nurse with a kind face.
“Well why didn’t you say so?!” I angrily thought to myself. (My guess is that she probably did – multiple times – but I was likely a little too preoccupied by the current events.)
Upon examination, it was declared that I was at a seven and that I should probably be taken to a labor & delivery room right away.
“Why in the world are we not there already?!” I wanted to scream.
Let me pause and point out that in just under an hour my body went from virtually zero signs of labor to being dialated 7 centimeters. That would certainly explain this hour-long contraction I was experiencing!
Once in the delivery room, the exact sequence of events is a blur, but at some point I must’ve changed into a hospital gown. I also remember digging my nails into the back of the hospital bed, one of the nurses attempting and failing to attach a baby monitor to my stomach, and another nurse gently encouraging me to lay on my back instead of the all-fours position.
My response to her request was a casual, “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!”
I also remember someone rubbing my lower back, and my husband saying that with my first labor a firm massage seemed to help (bless his heart…and his great memory!).
Well, there’s really no way to describe the pain. In fact, though less than two weeks have passed, I’m not so sure I myself remember the pain – I just remember wishing someone would give me an update on the progress because if I had to deal with this level of pain for a few more hours I might literally die.
Oh! I also recall far, far too much discussion amongst the nurses about whether or not someone called my midwife and if she was coming – even though that was the very first thing we told them at arrival. At one point, while continuing to discuss the whole “Is she coming?” debacle, they even lowered their voices down to a whisper – which would piss off any rational human but especially one currently trying to push a child out of her you-know-what.
Spoiler alert: My midwife didn’t come until after I delivered, but that’s a story for another day.
Anyway, I realize it’s probably taken you half a day to get this far into the story (succinct and to-the-point is not my forte), but the reality is that less than 20 minutes had passed since our arrival at the hospital.
So, let’s recap a bit: My midwife wasn’t coming to birth the baby, and no one was updating me on whether I was even making any progress.
Side note: The husband later told me that the on-call OB arrived shortly after this point in my story, looking like she had literally just woken up. But I didn’t know this until later.
So, I decided to take matters into my own hands (both figuratively and literally). I stretched out my arm down to where all the excitement was and immediately felt the top of a head.
I found this discovery quite encouraging. The end was near – I could feel it!
Then, two more pushes and, my goodness, what a surprise! She was here!
It was 6:44 AM.
Exactly 29 minutes after arriving at the hospital, our Polina was born. She weighed 8 pounds and 8 ounces and measured 19.5 inches long. We are utterly, completely, totally in love with her – especially big sister (contrary to what the photo below may lead you to believe, ha!).
Despite my colorful commentary and at-times dramatic retelling, both of my labor and delivery experiences have been very positive. I feel that God has shown me incredible mercy in regards to childbirth, for which I am very, very grateful.
“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” Psalm 126:3