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(Just a heads up, this story involves long labor and an intended natural birth that ended with interventions and an epidural. Feel free to stop reading if this isn’t a helpful story for you.)

I was late in my 39th week of pregnancy and very ready to be in labor. On Tuesday, I started having the very first things I could call contractions that weren’t Braxton Hicks—they had a thin kind of pain and I would sometimes need to stop talking to concentrate. I went to bed that night ready and impatient.

On Wednesday morning, I woke up around 2AM with contractions that really hurt. They were spaced far apart, but were strong enough that they would wake me up when they came. I tried to sleep a bit more, but found without time to prepare it was easy to start panicking in the middle of the contraction. I ended up getting myself up and sitting on the exercise ball or chair to work through them. My spouse woke up a bit later, and made me some breakfast, and we tried to figure out how to plan the day (Was there enough time for a load of laundry? We decided yes.)

Around 9AM contractions were coming about 7 minutes apart, and I called my parents who are out of town to let them know that today might be the day. The rest of the day continued in a blur—moving between the ball, chair, walking, having spouse rub my back while I leaned over something—I think I took a shower in there? The contractions would get closer together and then slow down. In late afternoon, my parents arrived. They tried to get out of the way by taking the dogs for a walk and getting some food options for dinner.

It was late afternoon and the contractions were becoming more painful, if not closer together. They were still six minutes apart, but it was getting harder to deal with them without someone rubbing my back—it took all of my work to keep breathing, keep relaxing my shoulders, keep telling myself I could do this. At some point there was a call to the OB who said we were doing all the right things and could go by the hospital if we wanted. Sometime around 6PM, with contractions still around 6 minutes apart, I decided it was time.

At labor and delivery, it was a blur, but I couldn’t believe how many questions they were asking me. Really—how many times do I need to tell you my date of birth, and isn’t this what preregistration is for? They kept saying things like “if you are admitted,” until it finally came time for me to be checked. I was 5-6 centimeters dilated. I found out later that based on how I was handling the contractions, they didn’t think I was really in labor. I am not sure what they are used to labor looking like, but apparently it wasn’t what I was doing!

We got into a labor and delivery room and I got in the jetted tub, which was wonderful. At first, it was like the pain had just gone away. Over time, things progressed and even in the tub my contractions were enough I needed to make some noise through them. The doctor needed to check me at one point, and I was at 7.

The rest of the night is a blur. At one point in the late night, I decide to take a narcotic pain medication to get some rest—I was able to sleep for about an hour. They check me afterwards and I am at 8. I get up to get through contractions on the ball, with spouse rubbing my back. I am hopeful that transition is around the corner—and that we are nearing the end. At some point, we decide to have them break my waters to move things along. I labor in a rocking chair for a time, with a towel pushing on my back.

As the evening wears on, we have a number of nurses who care for us (one in particular was just wonderful). Everytime they enter the room they comment on how quiet it is. I just keep breathing and trying to keep muscles relaxed. My spouse is fabulous, staying with me through one thing and the next, rubbing my back, and keeping watch with me as one hour leads to the next. I alternate between mantras, of course none of the ones I thought I would—but “I can do this,” “It’s ok,” “Let it go” and “I am a woman of the present”. The last one we tried to say when it seemed overwhelming or endless—just try to stay in the present.

It’s finally sometime around 4-6AM (my spouse and I can’t remember the time), something like 26 hours after I had woken up with labor pains. A new shift nurse comes on and she offers to check where I am at. I first am hesitant, worrying I will get discouraged, and then agree with her that facts can be helpful sometimes. She checks and I am still at 8cms, where I was hours earlier. As I try to picture several more centimeters dilation ahead, and needing to have energy to push at the end, I don’t think I have it in me. I ask for an epidural. After coming so far and for so long, this is my low point.

Thankfully the epidural comes relatively quickly, as every contraction after the decision becomes mentally harder to deal with. With the epidural, it is such a relief to have some time off from the pain and the energy needed to go through one contraction after the next. I am able to sleep and they pull in a cot to allow spouse to sleep a bit too.

A few hours later, I feel more rested and they start me on pitocin. I can see the contractions on all the monitors now hooked up, but they feel for me at a distance—I am so relieved. They check me throughout the morning to see how dilation has continued, and around 12:30PM I am given the go-ahead to start pushing. It feels so good to be making progress, and I can feel through each contraction my baby moving through. It feels so good that the end is almost here.

The nurse tells me that she can see that the baby has brown hair, and I start to cry. Things are moving and the nurse calls for the doctor to come. Then she calls for more nurses, with a certain sense of urgency. But I can feel the baby is almost here—and no one has arrived in the room! They tell me not to push, and I ask if there is anyone in the building that can deliver the baby. My doctor arrives, starts to say “don’t worry about tying that thing, just get it on me” and jokes that she was held up at the one stoplight between her office and here! One push later and the baby is born.

They put her up to my chest and I start crying, I am so overwhelmed that she is here. I am so overwhelmed that they have to keep reminding me to have my legs in certain places as they are stitching me. I can’t believe that she is here and real—those kinds of tears you get with something too beautiful to be true.

She was born just before 2pm on Thursday—her due date.

I intended an unmedicated birth, and on paper it looks like I got just the opposite. I ended up having narcotics, my water broken, an epidural, pitocin—and lots of monitors and things hooked up to me while giving birth. But I am grateful that at each step along the way, I felt at peace with the choice. The medical staff was supportive and helped to give options, and at several points, we decided “not yet.” Perhaps with a doula, or someone to help me into positions that would help progress more quickly, things would have continued differently. But each choice was the best for us at the time, and in the end I was profoundly grateful for the relief and the rest of pain relief, that allowed me to welcome my daughter with a sense of peace.

One of my pregnancy books recommends repeating those memories from labor that you want to remember in your mind—that the repetition will help them last over time. Here is what I want to remember and hold onto from labor:

  • I was able to work through labor for more than 24 hours, including hours of back labor at 8 centimeters before deciding to have an epidural—I am trying to remind myself that’s pretty bad ass. I don’t need to be afraid of pain.
  • When being admitted to the hospital, they didn’t believe I was in labor. This is particular to me, but in my life folks often have trouble telling my emotions—I can be a bit stoic and often need to use words to let folks know what I’m feeling. And if I can be working through contractions like that and have folks not know it—well it’s a reminder to me that sometimes it’s ok to show some vulnerability.
  • My husband who was with me, hour after hour—we went through this together as a team, and I am so grateful for him. He supported me through the long journey and with every step along the way. I am grateful to have him as a partner as we begin this journey of parenting.
  • The moment that they put her on my chest and I couldn’t help but cry. I feel so grateful to be a part of this miracle. I look at her now and can’t believe that she was inside me. I look at her now and can’t believe that I get to be her mother.
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It has been an exhausting week of doctors appointments. Two weeks ago, I took the 1 hour glucose screening and didn’t pass. Last week, I had the 3 hour test which can I say, was a profoundly unpleasant experience–make a pregnant lady eat nothing for 12 hours, and then drink pure sugar to watch her blood sugar spike and fall in a enclosed waiting room, while taking blood every hour? Ugh. I also didn’t get food quite soon enough afterwards and had a bad reaction of vision blurring and cold sweats. 

And after all that, as you might have guessed, I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. 

Ugh.

I had my follow up appointment today, complete with my new meal plan for the rest of pregnancy and blood sugar meter lesson. I still have some to learn, because I have yet to successfully stick myself in one go–I have had to try 3-4 times each so far because I wasn’t able to get enough blood. I was feeling so much like a human pincushion that I nearly lost it when I learned I needed a TDap booster at the Ob’s office later. In retrospect, a completely different thing, but when you don’t like needles or blood in the first place, and have been spending a lot of energy honing your “out of body” needle skills, apparently things become hard.

My thoughts about Gestational Diabetes have been vacillating. I’ve been going between this plucky can-do, “It’s ok, you got this! You were already eating healthy and lots of snacks, so this is more of the same! It’s only for 11 more weeks, you will be great!” with occasional bouts of “What do you mean for 15 carbs you can only get half an apple!?! What on earth am I going to eat? My life is difficult despair!” 

I’m also trying to keep in perspective, that in the scheme of pregnancy complications, this isn’t that bad. It looks like they mostly are concerned, not about my health, but the baby’s weight and how that might affect birth and post-birth blood sugar. Which considering the wide range of things that can go wrong, this is ok and we have a plan. I am not in any of the risk categories for GD–which is odd in some ways, but also means that from here on out I can keep an eye on diabetes risk, when I might not have known to otherwise. 

That last paragraph is my rational brain talking. The other parts of my brain also chime in with things like “But why?,” “A summer with no ice cream?” and “How the hell am I going to eat a breakfast with only 30 g of carbs when eggs sound gross in the morning? Why do you take all of my cereal and toast?!?” and other whiny and despairing thoughts. 

I’ll keep you updated, and try to let you know if I actually do figure out what I’m going to eat. 

Being on the edge of the 3rd trimester, I had a moment of anxiety that we had bought nothing for this baby. Literally nothing. We have several baby blankets that folks have given us and an umbrella stroller hand-me-down, but other than that there really was no practical object in our apartment so far for an upcoming baby. I don’t know if it is a combination of “I hate making decisions,” “I am not very fond of shopping,” or some sort of not-being-sure-if-its too early, but we finally decided that being less than three calendar months from a due date was time to start getting serious.

The first purchase was angst-y, but went pretty well. I decided that purchasing a crib would make me feel like we had actually done something. So we ordered a subscription to Consumer Reports to try to learn what I should be looking for in a very-safe-crib. I am a professional woman: when in doubt, research! We didn’t really like any of the ones we had seen in our window shopping at a local baby-store, so we ended up ordering one of the ones CR liked, that conveniently we liked the look of and also got good reviews from short parents. Done! Over-researched purchase #1 complete and here’s hoping that we like it as much in person!

Ok, well what comes after a crib? A carseat. I figure if we have a place for whippersnapper to sleep, and a way to get her home, then we are starting to get real here. Like, in case of emergency, the fella could run out for diapers and some packs of onesies and we wouldn’t be totally negligent parents. Baby-steps.

So after consulting the trusty Consumer Reports, we went out to the baby store to see things in person. We knew exactly the one we wanted to look at, we located it in the store, and then we spent a lot of time feeling like idiots. There were so many buttons! We knew we wanted to remove the carrier to see how heavy the it was without the base, and there the two of us stood, three masters degrees between us, completely baffled by baby equipment. We kept pushing buttons and pulling levers that did something else: this one tilts the car seat, this one moves the handle. There’s straps that move and are tightened. We try looking around to see if someone else has made this work. We try pushing buttons at the same time while lifting. At one point, we start wondering if maybe they have connected the carrier to the base to prevent theft, and put the whole thing on the floor to see what it feels like, while making comments like “how much heavier can the base be than a baby?.” Finally we have returned the whole thing to the display shelf and are trying to look at the different models and covers, when a woman walks up and in a single fluid motion, removes the carrier to test it out on a stroller base. The fella and I exchange knowing glances. This clear baby-expert is here with two other friends, and is demonstrating for them the things they should care about in a stroller (“Because you aren’t going to want to lug something heavy around just to run in for something in Target”). We subtly try to mimic her magic on the adjacent carseat, while simultaneously listening in for any wisdom this guru is sharing. She wheels around the car-seat on the snap-n-go with ease (“I actually think I like the same brand name version better. These weren’t available when I was in the market.”) Lo and behold, we push the button that she had pushed while lifting and like magic the carrier releases. How is this possible? We had tried that several times before to no luck! One of her friends, at that moment, looks to us with pity and says “First baby?”

So this is what I have learned from shopping so far. Despite all attempts to play it cool, we are going to be ridiculous first-time parents. I will read all of the reviews and probably pay too much. I am going to be baffled by simple objects. I am some baby-producers dream because in my bafflement, I have very little way to judge what is necessary and not. And as much as I would like to use my research to cover my inadequacies, a pinch of experience trumps a pound of research any day. Sigh.

I shouldn’t be whining. I promised not to whine after the first trimester was done. But my head hurts. And the doctor says keep drinking water, which I swear I do (the 6 cups of tea yesterday on top of water and juice, led to many a trip to the potty). But I think the flying messed with my head/hydration/sinuses. And now my head hurts. And all of my lots of water/head compress/reasonable amounts of tylenol are not cutting it man. 

So since I’m having trouble making other thoughts for the day, there’s my update! You’re thrilled, I know.

Anyone have a brilliant headache remedy to share?

Yay readyformaybe! I’m so delighted for her and her spouse. And rather delighted to get to walk this journey with her. Seriously, how often do you get to be in the same life stage as a good friend? I feel like that’s rare in the scheme of life, and I feel pretty darn lucky. Thinking happy, healthy pregnancy thoughts!

And now, for some milder good news…. I think I’m feeling better? As in, I think this is what better feels like? I’m still nauseous, but it’s a milder form of nausea–it’s mostly when I pay attention to it that I notice it. I double check to see if I still have pregnant symptoms, and yup, still some nausea there and still feeling lightheaded from time to time. But (knock on something..) it’s not feeling as overpowering or debilitating. And I seem to be able to contemplate food without wallowing in despair or thinking that I will be forced to live on applesauce for the rest of my days.

I document this as either a source of hope, or even of respite, if things get worse as the week continues. I was in the grocery store today, realizing I was feeling better, and asking myself “Does this mean I should try more foods? Cook something?” And then reality came back, and I decided that feeling mildly better wasn’t actually a reason to start trying for food like meat or onions (Ugh). I’ve decided not to push it, but it’s rather nice to eat my oatmeal/yogurt/apple/peanutbutter/pasta diet and not feel awful. It’s like this pregnancy thing keeps changing, which is really hopeful for me. This first trimester is no joke man, and I’ll feel kinda like a rock star to make it through it. Plus you know, closer to creating a new human. Which is also pretty neat.