My 32-Hour Birth Story -- and the Two Questions Every Pregnant Mom Wants to Ask
Updated: Jul 18, 2019
In honor of the birth of "Mom Needs Merlot," I'm sharing an unfiltered account of my own birth story. What follows is the real deal -- and, yes, I'll answer those two questions I know you want to ask.
Let's take it back to the beginning.
My pregnancy with Everly was relatively uneventful and by the book. We had no trouble conceiving, I felt sick during my first trimester, great during my second, and majorly uncomfortable in my third. That final month everyone talks about? Brutal.
During week 36, I began feeling intense Braxton Hicks contractions that came in perfect four-minute intervals. They were strong enough to stop me in my tracks and relatively painful, but never escalated to the point of true and active labor. Still, my doctor ordered me to stop working two weeks before I planned to at the risk of prompting early labor. Any day now was the motto, but as it turns out, Everly was quite comfortable in there.
After 37 weeks had come and gone, and we were facing number 38, I was going stir crazy and trying every old wives tale in the book to help labor along. (To that end, I hope to never eat another raw date as long as I live.) Nothing worked. Each week, I visited my doctor and my cervix remained unchanged: dilated about a fingertip and barely effaced. At my week 39 appointment, I cried.
Then the induction talk began. I had been suffering from high blood pressure for weeks, but tests for preeclampsia came back clear. I was due on Sunday, Aug. 19, and I (somewhat jokingly) asked if we could induce early. To my surprise, with my high blood pressure persisting, my doctor agreed that we could induce on the Friday before my due date. When I came home that night, my husband, Mike, remarked that now that we had a plan, I would probably go into labor on my own that week.
On Tuesday, Aug. 14, around noon, I was watching TV on the couch ("Vanderpump Rules," of which I binged five whole seasons during this time) when my heart started pounding out of my chest for no apparent reason. I planned to check on my blood pressure with my at-home monitor once it calmed down and decided to take a shower in the meantime.
Shortness of breath and more heart palpitations forced me to cut the shower short and go lay in my bed. My blood pressure was dangerously high, but I waited to call the doctor until I gave it some time. An hour of rest later and with no change, my doctor advised me to go to the hospital and bring my bags just in case. I snapped this final bump photo before leaving the house.
Mike and I arrived at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles around 2pm, and I was hooked up to an IV and fetal monitor. Of course at that point, my blood pressure results came back normal. But the monitor tracking my contractions proved exactly what I’d been complaining about for weeks: strong and perfectly timed Braxton Hicks contractions, which even the nurses marveled at.
We waited for a few hours as my lab results came back and I was deemed fit for release. “The Notebook” was on TV. We watched the whole thing.
As we waited on one final test, my doctor arrived at the hospital and insisted that we move forward with an induction that night rather than wait for my blood pressure to get worse again. And off we went to my labor and delivery room.
The room was big and beautiful with lots of windows, for which I was grateful as we expected to spend the next 24-48 hours being induced. We took a break for some dinner and at 9pm on Tuesday night, the nurses administered Cervidil to dilate my cervix. The medicine required 12 hours to do its job, so we watched “Orange Is the New Black” and we slept.
At 9am on Wednesday, I was allowed to eat one more meal before we really got the show on the road. Cervidil got me to about 3 cm dilated, but we had a long way to go. Next up, we began a Pitocin drip and inserted a Foley Balloon to speed things along. The entire Foley Balloon process was highly unpleasant, so the nurses recommended that I have a dose of Fentanyl to offset the pain of insertion. After a short 45 minutes of what felt like a pitcher of margaritas (wheeeee!), it was back to reality and those contractions were painful. I powered through them, unmedicated, for several hours until the balloon was ready to come out. My reward was… 4.5 cm dilated.
At that point, the only thing I could do was let gravity do its thing. I bounced on my yoga ball, I danced, I walked around, I did everything I could on my feet for as long as the pain in my back would allow. By the time the nurses changed shifts at 7pm, I was feeling desperate, defeated, and full of lemon shaved ice and bone broth.
Hubby brought me some red Jell-O to switch up the snack game and I spoke with our new nurse, Kristin, who was incredibly sweet and supportive. She assured me that they would break my water once baby was ready, but it wasn’t time yet. When it was, she said, everything would change.
Not 10 minutes later, around 8 pm, I went to sit on the toilet when I felt a pain and heard a loud, audible pop. My water had broken on its own! By the time I shuffled back to my bed, my contractions -- which continued to come and go in perfect four-minute intervals -- became extremely painful, while my water continued to come out in sporadic gushes on the bed.
I breathed through the contractions, but I knew that the best thing for me to do was have an epidural. I was running a marathon, not a sprint, and I knew that I needed to conserve my energy for when it counted most and it was time to push.
As I sat on the side of the bed, lined with what were, more or less, like puppy training pads, I began to feel more and more fluid pouring out. Those cute "Push" socks in the photo above? Goners. Soaked in amniotic fluid immediately.
I asked the anesthesiologist to pause what he was doing because a small lake seemed to be forming on the bed. My water was still coming out, and it flooded the entire bed. “Did I pee…?” I asked the nurse. Nope, she told me, just an absurd amount of fluid.
In what was the most comical and deeply traumatizing part of labor, she attempted to clean up the puppy pads and managed to splash herself in the face with the lake of fluid in the process. It was horrifying for all parties.
In the background, "Coco" was on TV. That sweet little movie will never be the same again.
Once the epidural kicked in, I lost all feeling from the waist down. My contractions continued, but I required assistance to shift from side to side or do anything at all, really. The best part? The catheter. It was great to no longer have to stand up and drag my IV stand into the bathroom constantly.
At this point, baby girl’s heart rate was dropping with every contraction. Because I had lost so much water, there was significant pressure on her umbilical cord. The nurses then performed a procedure where they inserted a small amount of water back into my uterus to cushion the baby. Now it was time to let the contractions do their job until it came time to push.
I managed to sleep for the next few hours, with the nurses coming in to check on my dilation after every hour. By 3:30 am on Thursday, Kristin came to check on me and was surprised to find baby’s head fully in the birth canal. Ready to go. My doctor was called and we waited to push until she arrived around 4 am.
After a few pushes, doctor left the room and asked the nurses to continue working with me until she started crowning. Mike held my left leg and Kristin my right, and we pushed for about an hour. I pushed while laying on my back and I pushed while laying on my left side, all without much progress. When I was moved to my right side -- the baby practically came flying out.
Once she was crowning, I was encouraged to reach down and feel her head. For some reason, this possibility had never previously occurred to me and I was wholly unprepared for it. I don’t know what I expected it to feel like, but it was soft, warm and goopy, and it felt so fragile under my fingers that it made me nervous to touch.
The delivery team re-entered the room, I was offered an oxygen mask, and Everly was born at 5:30am on the dot.
As I pushed and squeezed my eyes shut, I heard the nurses yelling at me to open and look down. What I saw was Everly's face and torso was being pulled up from my body. The next thing I knew, her tiny little body was being handed up to me. I looked to my left and Mike, who watched the whole thing, was sobbing like a baby, proclaiming it to be the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. I was crying, Everly was crying (and pooping), and it was the most wild and perfect moment of our lives.
Now, I know exactly why you expectant mamas showed up for this post. So I won't let you down.
1. Luckily, Everly's head didn’t rip me apart, I only needed one small stitch and recovery was pretty uneventful. I snagged some of that hospital grade pain relieving spray, a daily dose of Motrin, and was on my way. (To all those mamas going through postpartum physical therapy, I recognize how fortunate I am... and I feel for you!)
2. At a birthing class during my pregnancy, a nurse declared that anyone who says they didn’t poop during labor is lying -- or, more likely, they don’t even realize they did it because the nurses clean it up so quickly and quietly.
One more time for the people in the cheap seats: Vaginal delivery = Guaranteed poop. BUT YOU WILL BE OK!
It stands to reason that as the baby makes their way down the birth canal, everything else in your system gets forced down along with it. So what did I do? I asked the nurse every few minutes about the No. 2 situation down there. She continuously tried to avoid the question, but I badgered her relentlessly.
In preparing for this not-actually-that-horrific moment, my husband and I joked about it for months leading up to delivery. It lightened the situation and made any embarrassment go right out the window. I was performing the miracle of life! Bodily functions, be damned!
After 32 and a half hours of labor (51 and a half hours since I arrived at the hospital, if you want to get technical), the first thing we noticed was her mess of dark hair. No surprise there, as I was born with a full head of hair myself, and we had already seen her little locks floating around during our final ultrasound.
We were not expecting to see those long fingers -- which she clasped together in prayer as soon as she was born -- and toes. She had a red mark on the left side of her forehead from delivery. I noticed her tiny pointy chin, beautiful long lashes, and the shape of her ears, the same as Mike’s, which were adorably accented with downy hair along the outside edges.
Everly came out weighing 7lbs 6 oz, measuring 20 inches long — perfect, healthy and with great skin tone.
She’s an incredible baby who hardly fusses, loves cuddles and sleeps soundly. We are savoring every second, even the sleepless ones, of this newborn stage since we know it will pass way too quickly. We try to remember that there are so many more beautiful moments to come in her life, but we can’t help hoping to freeze time and enjoy this sweet tiny bundle of joy as long as possible. Everything has changed, but somehow it feels like Everly was always a part of us and this family.
We love you, Everly Antoinette, and you will always be our baby.