My estimated due date with Charlotte was June 29th. I really had expected her to come before that date because my first baby, Matthew, was 17 days before his date. When my due date came and went, I was shocked but I was really okay with it. I had a lot of peace about her choosing her own birthday, however, because of the rough birth experience I had with Matthew the longer she took the more time I had to think about the fears and anxiety that I had. I told my husband I felt like I was on a roller coaster, slowly ticking toward the top of that first drop… tick, tick, tick… and the fear was hanging over me, and I just kept thinking “Um, can I get off now? Do I have to do this?”
“Sorry ma’am, no getting off after the train is in motion!”
YOU. HAVE. TO. DO. THIS.
Most of our family and friends had also thought, like I did, that Charlotte would be as early as Matthew so they were also surprised to see my date come and go. While well meaning, I’m sure, the constant “baby yet?” texts, calls and emails started making me think to myself, “Okay, seriously, why isn’t she here yet?” and I wondered if I would be able to give birth without assistance. Would I need the Pitocin again? Could my body dilate without help? What if this birth took 2 days too?
I had been having plenty of pre-labor for weeks, especially at night. So, on Friday morning, July 6th, at 12:30am when I was woken by a contraction, I didn’t think much of it. About 20 minutes later, another. I tried to keep sleeping but around 2 am, after contractions every 20 minutes or so, I started thinking “This might be labor.”
Matthew woke up, which is abnormal for him, so I asked Scott to get him because I had been awake for a few hours. When he got up to get Matthew, I decided to have a snack. I came back to bed and tried to get Matthew to snuggle with me, but he wanted to play. We decided he needed to go back to his bed and he went right back to sleep. By this time, it was 3am and I was still determined to get some sleep.
By 4 am, I couldn’t lay through the contractions any more. I got up and took a shower. While I was in the shower, I called Scott into the bathroom and started crying. I told him I was scared and I didn’t want to do it. He comforted me, helped me out of the shower and back into bed. At this point, the contractions were about 8 minutes apart.
At 6, the contractions had been about 5 minutes apart for a while so Scott decided to call my sister, who was on-call for Matthew. We also called our doula, around 7 and told her not to come yet, but to be ready. We had made the decision not to call anyone else when we were in labor, especially not to make it public, like on Facebook, because of the stress I had during Matthew’s birth. Several times throughout the birth we mentioned how great it felt to be free from the curiosity and concern we had last time. I am extremely concerned with people’s feelings, in general, and knowing that there were people waiting, watching and wondering over me while I was in labor gave me a ton of anxiety. This time, knowing I was alone in my head was incredibly freeing.
When we got off the phone with Robin, our doula, the contractions started to come more frequently. They were about 4 minutes apart, lasting about 1 ½ minutes and I was really groaning to get through them. If I laid on the bed or sat in a chair, the contractions would start in my tail bone and it was really painful. I told Scott I didn’t think I could do it without the epidural. I spent the morning leaning over the birth ball or laying on my side in bed, trying to get some rest. I found that when I tried to sleep, the contractions were worse because I had to get up on all fours quickly to get through the pain. Matthew woke up around 7:40 and he did a good job of helping me. Scott showed him how to be loving to me while I had a contraction and he patted my back or stroked my hair. Scott kept telling him “Mommy is having a contraction so that Baby CeCe can come out!”.
We decided that Robin should come now, and we gave her the call. I had Scott prepare all the hospital stuff and put everything in the car. I was sure that once my sister got here, we were going to the hospital and I wanted the epidural immediately. We put Matthew down for his morning nap around 9:30.
Robin arrived at 10am. We still had to wait for Tina to stay with Matthew, but I was still sure I wanted to go right away. Tina arrived at 10:30 and I was ready to leave. I kept saying, “I want the epidural now, I can’t keep doing this.”
I think in my mind I was going to have to keep going for at least 24 hours. My contractions with Matthew were not this intense until I had pitocin so I was so scared about how much pain I was experiencing. Through every contraction I was saying “I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.” All I was thinking was “There is no freaking way I can do this. I can’t push a baby out. I want to rest. I want the epidural.”
Robin asked if I felt pressure down low yet, and I said no. Looking back, I really didn’t know what I was supposed to be feeling and she said that I would feel pressure when she was low enough and we shouldn’t go to the hospital until I felt that way. Since I didn’t feel that, I assumed that meant I wasn’t dilating. I got really discouraged. She suggested some different positions and we tried some things to get Charlotte down.
They talked me into taking a bath and I decided to get in. In the bath, I had another breakdown and I told Scott that I couldn’t do it. I was so scared to go to the hospital and be told that I wasn’t dilated enough. I told him I wanted to go right now and get the epidural. My memory of the epidural with Matthew was nothing but pleasant so in my mind it was relief and I wanted it BAD. I knew that my goal was to do it natural, and that I had wanted and worked for it, but I didn’t care anymore. My contractions were about 3-4 minutes apart and lasting between 1 ½ -2 minutes long. I was pretty vocal through them and I didn’t want anyone talking to me while I was having one. A lot of them were either right on top of each other, or just had a couple of peaks or “aftershocks” as I was calling them.
I got dressed and we left the house. I had three contractions in the car, and I remember because they were hell. I yelled “This birthing stuff is for the birds! What was I thinking?!”
We got up to Labor and Delivery and about 5 people on the way offered me a wheel chair. I could not even imagine sitting down so I turned down every one. I got to the check in counter, and had a contraction. A midwife walked into the hall and said “What number baby is this for you?” I held up two fingers… she said “Get in a room, you’re in labor.” I followed her into L&D Room 2 while Scott finished checking us in.
She told me to go to the bathroom so she could check me. I went pee and when I stood up, I heard a pop and my water broke. The midwife said my chart indicated I wanted an unmedicated birth asked if that was still the plan. I said “I am about to make that decision based on what you tell me right now”. She laughed and got me into bed.
She checked my cervix and I held my breath.
“You’re an 8. 0 station. 100% effaced. Let’s have a baby!”
I couldn’t believe my ears! I was sure I was going to hear 4. Oh how many times I heard 4 with Matthew!
I decided I could try to keep going without the epidural. About two contractions later, I cried “I want the epidural.”
Robin told me that it wasn’t too late and I could have it, but at this point it might not even work all the way and just to try to get through a few more. Every contraction was harder than the last and I just kept thinking that if this was the contraction, the pushing would be worse and I couldn’t handle it. Every contraction I would yell, “I can’t, I can’t”.
I know what the natural birth junkies are saying. “Don’t say I can’t! Say I can.” I know that when you’re having a contraction you’re supposed to be like “Hummmm… my body is amazing!” “Oooooo this is my own strength” but I’m telling you I was thinking “AHHHHHHHHHHHH! THIS. FREAKING. HURTS.” And there wasn’t one ounce of me that wanted to lie and pretend I was enjoying it. I was not. I felt like saying “I can’t” was just me getting out my feelings and being honest with myself.
I’ve said several times that Scott was my hero in my birth with Matthew, and I will say it over and over. Again, he rocked my world and was the best support I could have asked for. Instead of telling me to stop saying I can’t, he just said, “I know baby, I know” and just him acknowledging my fears and feelings was comforting. When I asked for the epidural over and over, he would say “I know you want it, and it’s ok but I don’t want you to give up if you think you can keep going.” At the very end, he asked me to remember why I didn’t want it and I said I didn’t know. He started going over the reasons why we had made that choice. I bring so much attention to what Scott was doing because having the right support while in labor is crucial. If you’re a first time dad thinking “What the heck should I be doing while my wife is in labor?” you should call my husband… seriously. He should teach a class. I think he can read my mind.
After a few more intense contractions, the midwife came in and asked if I wanted to be checked again. I was feeling a very specific “grunt” feeling during the peak of the contractions and I knew that meant pushing would be near. She checked me and told me I was at ten.
Then she looked at me and said, “This is the part where you do whatever you want. Do you want to shower? Do you want to get up right? Do you want to stay on your side? I can deliver on your side, that’s fine.” She then stood about a foot away from me and let me give birth. It might sound weird to some that this was so important to me, but with Matthew’s birth I had no freedom. I had the epidural which meant I had about 8 different cords/IVs/tubes coming out of my body and I was stuck in bed. The midwife on call was a drill sergeant and did the typical “drop the bed, feet in stirrups, bright lights on, goggles and counting my pushes”. This midwife stepped back and let me birth. She talked me through what to do next when I needed it, but she really wasn’t in control, I was. At one point, she was talking and I told her to stop (I get a little annoyed when having a contraction!) and she said “I’m sorry! I shouldn’t be telling you what to do, you know what you’re doing!” Having a care provider who trusted me and my own body was a huge change that made a big difference.
After about 40 minutes of pushing, it was time. The last few pushes were the most intense thing I have ever experienced. It was crazy painful and, of course, the body’s natural reaction to pain is to make it stop… however, every muscle in your body is controlling you keep pushing. I closed my eyes, put my chin to my chest and pushed with all my might. Everyone in the room was cheering me on, and I held my breath. The second her shoulders emerged everything changed.
It was the most beautiful feeling as I grabbed my little girl and held her to my chest. She was perfect. The pain that I had been going through turned into peace. My body did its job. I can birth. I can do it all by myself. I didn’t need synthetic hormones, I didn’t need pain relief, I didn’t need someone telling me how to do it. I just needed to let my body work and to rely on the support of the best husband in the world. I truly believe that was a crucial part of my ability to do this. It took both of us to make this baby, and it took both of us to deliver her –and we will continue to raise her into the woman she will be – together. Childbirth is incredibly bonding.
On Friday, July 6th 2012 at 2:47 pm my beautiful daughter Charlotte Claire Rippey was born into this world. She was 8 lbs, 10oz and 21” long, APGAR scores 9 and 9. She was a healthy pink color immediately and she has been a joy to our family since that minute.