Warning: this post is ridiculously long
I woke up on Saturday morning July 3rd at 8am with some pretty uncomfortable hip pain. I didn’t think anything of it at first because at 38 weeks pregnant, I always had some sort of achiness or discomfort going on. I figured I had been lying on one side too long, switched sides and went back to sleep. However, this pain would subside and then return, again and again, regardless of how I positioned myself. So I decided to time the pain just to see. Sure enough, it was coming about every 5 minutes. However, I had never heard of hip pain in labor before, so I was not convinced it was labor. I got up and googled “hip pain labor,” and I found a discussion board with a few women who claimed to have experienced hip pain in labor before, so I texted Tim and told him I thought maybe I was having contractions (he was at a men’s theology breakfast) but not to rush home because I didn’t think it would last.
By the time Tim got home, they were still coming every 5 minutes. The only way to describe the pain was that it felt like someone was trying to twist my hips apart. It wasn’t unbearable or anything at that point, just really very uncomfortable. Tim asked if I had called our doula (a birth coach/labor assistant). I hadn’t because I really thought it was false labor. Well, by about 10:30a, with the contractions still coming consistently, Tim called our doula. She said she thought it might be the real thing because of the consistency but was also confused about the hip pain, so she came over the check on me. Meanwhile, Tim called my parents and asked them to come over and help with Eliza so he could focus on helping me with the contractions.
While we were waiting for our doula and my parents, I was trying all different labor positions to relieve the pain. At one point, I was on my hands and knees on the bed, rocking my hips back and forth. Eliza came in and wanted to get on the bed with me. Tim put her on the bed, and she crawled right underneath me, laid on her back, looked right into my eyes, and with this big grin on her face, tried to put a cheerio in my mouth. It was like she was saying, “Here, Mommy, eat this. It will make you feel better.” It was so adorable. Even through the contraction, I had to laugh.
My folks arrived and took over Eliza duty and a little while later our doula came in. She checked me, and I was only 3cm. After making sure the baby’s heart rate and my blood pressure were all fine, she suggested a few positions to try to get the baby to move (thinking maybe the hip pain was being caused by the baby sitting on a certain nerve or something). She also encouraged me to eat something, since up until that point, I had only had juice all day. She said she’d come back after lunch.
Well, I ate a sandwich, walked around the house, tried different positions and did my best to rest between contractions. I also figured I better take the chance to take a shower while I was still at home. That felt amazing. The shower helped so much with the pain, I didn’t want to get out! By the time I did get out though, our doula had returned and checked me again. Still 3cm. And the contractions had actually stretched out- they were about 5-7 minutes apart now. We tried everything to make them kick up a notch- walking, squatting, pumping. Nothing.
Finally, our doula regretfully informed us that this looked a lot like false labor- regular contractions with no cervical change. After checking the baby’s heart rate and my blood pressure again (all was well), she left, advising us to just eat some dinner and go to bed early, taking something to help us sleep if we could. By now, I was pretty discouraged. I had been texting “my girls” all day, keeping them updated and asking them to pray, so I sent out one more text asking them to pray that the labor would either pick up for real or stop completely- I was getting annoyed with the consistent hip pain, especially since it didn’t appear to be accomplishing anything. A little while later, a friend called and was so sweet and encouraging. She told me all about her experience with false labor during her fourth pregnancy and gave me some good advice on how to deal with it. Mostly, hearing her story gave me the second wind I needed- I had been getting grumpy and annoyed and wanted it to be done.
We ate dinner with my parents and Eliza- I ate another sandwich since it was all I thought I could keep down. We put Eliza to bed around 7:30pm and explained to my folks that we were just going to take Benadryl/Tylenol PM and go to bed ourselves. We told them we thought it was false labor, so they were free to go home if they wanted, or they could sleepover in Jude’s room if they wanted to. They decided to stay “just in case” (which I was fine with, but I was convinced by now that nothing was going to happen, so I thought they were just being too concerned). So, Tim took 2 Tylenol PM, I took a Benadryl, and we went to bed. Tim was asleep in minutes. I lied there and tried to sleep/rest as much as I could between contractions.
Eventually, around 9:30pm, I had a contraction unlike any of the others all day long. It was still concentrated in my hips but was WAY more intense. I figured it was a fluke, but a few minutes later, I felt it again. Then another one. They were so intense, I could barely breathe through them. I knew I needed help. I woke up Tim and asked him to call our doula and then help me with counter pressure and focus on breathing.
Our doula said this sounded like it could have finally kicked into the real thing and asked if we wanted her to come over or meet us at the hospital. I figured we might as well know for sure if it was real before we went to the hospital. So Tim woke up my parents to let them know what was happening, and he helped me with breathing and counter pressure until our doula got there. She checked me, and I was 4cm! Finally, the cervical change we had been waiting for! We quickly changed and left for the hospital at around 11pm.
On our way to the hospital, Tim called the on-call doctor to let him know we were on our way. I was doing my best to breathe through the contractions, but sitting in the front seat made the pain in my hips even worse. I remember looking at the clock and asking Tim if he thought the baby would be born before midnight. Tim kind of chuckled and said, “I doubt it.” “Well,” I said, “looks like we’re gonna have a 4th of July baby after all.” (My refrain for the previous several weeks had been, “I don’t care when he comes, as long as it’s not the 4th of July.” Well, surprise, surprise 🙂 Isn’t that the way it always goes?)
We got to the hospital at 11:30pm, and I walked up to the maternity floor. The nurse who greeted me asked me to get on the scale then said, “Now, honey, are you here for a c-section or normal delivery?” I remember thinking she was totally insane. Did she really think I would have let the contractions get so bad if I was planning on a c-section? I remember squeaking out, “Normal,” between contractions, so she took me into triage, had me change, etc. Then the doctor came in to check me- I was 6cm! From 4 to 6 in less than an hour!
After a seemingly endless list of questions, the nurse took me into a labor and delivery room and told me my nurse would be in a minute. When my nurse came in, she explained that she wanted to get the heart rate monitor on me in order to get a 30-minute strip with the baby’s heart rate, and if all was well, I could get up, walk around, get in the shower, etc. I looked at her all confused and said, “You know I’m a VBAC right?” She said she did. I explained that my doc had said I would have to have continuous monitoring. She said she would just do the 30 minute strip and if all was well, she would just check every 15 minutes. I wasn’t about to argue. I didn’t want to be confined by the monitor anyway.
I sat on the birthing ball for 30 minutes while they monitored the baby’s heart rate. Our doula was so helpful in reminding me how to breathe, and Tim was praying and whispering to me encouragingly. After 30 minutes, baby’s heart rate looked fine, and my nurse said I could get in the shower or whatever. The hot water felt so good on my back and hips. I just sat there, breathing, moaning, taking each contraction as it came. Tim was standing right there, and I kept hearing him say, “You’re doing great, babe, you’re doing great.” Our doula would tell me what I should be feeling, ie. “Tell me when you feel…XYZ.” Then when I would feel it, she’d say, “OK great, tell me when you feel…XYZ.” It was so helpful in breaking the labor up, kind of like setting smaller goals throughout. Throughout the time in the shower, though, the contractions kept getting more and more intense. I finally looked up at one point and told our doula and Tim, “I don’t think I can do this anymore.” Just as I said this, our doula told me the nurse had just come in to let me know that my doctor was going to come in to deliver once I was at 8cm, so she wanted to check me and see where I was. This was the boost I needed- I had been thinking this whole time that my OB was out of town (it was fourth of July weekend after all), so it was a real pick-me-up to know she would be there to deliver after all!
Getting on the bed to get checked was the worst part of the whole thing. I kept begging to get up- the hip pain was unbearable while I was lying on my back. I had two contractions while she was doing the exam, and it was awful. However, after she was done she said simply, “You’re complete.” I was so confused, “Huh, what? What does that mean?” I will never forget the kind of joyful, half-laugh that our doula did when she said, “Sarah, that means, you’re 10cm, you’re done, you made it, you’re there!” I could NOT believe it! It was just before 2am, we hadn’t even been at the hospital 3 hours yet, and I was ready to push.
Now, it gets crazy: I had to wait for my OB. She asked to be paged when I was 8cm… and here I was 10cm, ready to push. My nurse went to call her, and I asked how long it would take- by now I was feeling the urge to push. My nurse said, “Oh, she lives really close by, it usually only takes her about 20 minutes or so.” I remember thinking, “There’s no way I can wait that long!” I kept telling our doula, “I have to push!” And she just calmly kept breathing with me, helping me to cope with the urge. Finally, my nurse came back in and said, “OK, let’s do a few practice pushes before the doctor gets here.” And I’m so glad she did- pushing is hard. I didn’t realize there was a right or wrong way to push until we started practicing. I was so bad at it at first. First, I let my breath out in a scream. Then, I held my breath the wrong way, up in my cheeks. Then I was pushing toward the wrong point. Our doula kept coaching me with the breathing, and my nurse kept helping me understand what I should be feeling during pushing, and I finally I got the hang of it.
After a bit of practice pushing, my nurse was like, “OK, hold it, we have to wait for the doctor.” Apparently, he was getting close. Just then, my OB walked in. She quickly observed the situation and left to get scrubbed in. It couldn’t have taken her more than 5 minutes, but the whole time, I was just begging for them to let me push. They kept telling me to wait for the doctor. When my OB walked in all scrubbed up, my nurse told her my water had not yet broken. The doc said that was OK, she’d break it. Well, she didn’t have to- almost as soon as she said it, it broke.
Finally, doc said I could push when I was ready. I was more than ready to be done with this by now, so I closed my eyes and concentrated on all the instructions I had been given/was being given. The doc directed me to push harder/softer/faster/slower, etc. After about 10 pushes, maybe fewer than that, she said, “Mom, open your eyes.” As she said it, I opened my eyes and saw my son being born. She took him and immediately put him on my belly. The baby nurse scrubbed him furiously, and he cried and cried. I couldn’t believe I was holding him, staring in his face, watching him cry.
With Eliza, I remember hearing her cry and being so thankful for the sound, but because she was delivered by c-section, I couldn’t hold her right away. They took her to the baby station to work on her and then Tim had to hold her while I was being closed up. With Jude, he was immediately in my arms. I was cuddling him, holding him, staring at his sweet face so close to mine, when he had been inside me just seconds before. It was amazing.
In the days that followed Jude’s birth, I would often just stare at him and another wave of awe would wash over me as I remembered how he had entered this world. God is so kind; it was all by His grace.
There are so many things I am thankful for when it comes to this delivery, there were so many answered prayers:
- Most obviously, I had prayed for a healthy baby and healthy mom, regardless of the manner of delivery.
- I had prayed that I would be able to have a successful VBAC. While I was grateful for my c-section with Eliza (in that it provided a way for her to be born safely when she was in distress), I wanted to avoid another major surgery if I could. I am thankful God provided a doctor who would allow me to try a VBAC and that by His grace I was able to delivery normally.
- I had prayed that Jude’s heart rate would stay strong the whole time and that my water wouldn’t break until the very end (Eliza’s falling heart rate was the reason I ended up with a c-section, and it fell even more once my water was broken). BOTH of these things happened!!
- I had prayed I would be able to handle the pain of labor. I’m not really in the pro-natural childbirth camp. Really, truly, I’m not. Until my pregnancy with Jude, it was something I had never seen myself doing. Never, never, EVER. I admired women that went drug-free, but I had always said I wanted the drugs. As far as I was concerned, there was no reason to go through that much pain if I didn’t have to. However, as Tim and I discussed VBAC and everything that was riding on it being successful (finding a doc who would let me deliver normally after two c-sections would be pretty much impossible), I just felt that I wanted to do everything within my power to make sure it “worked.” I didn’t want to end up back in the OR and wonder if it was the epidural or any other intervention that had put me there. So… that left me with the natural childbirth option. I was scared of the pain; I didn’t think I could handle it. But God provided a fantastic childbirth class with an amazing teacher (who was also our doula!) to help prepare me for what I would experience. He provided some sweet friends who had done the natural thing who talked to me about their experiences and their ways of coping with the pain. And then He provided me with a wonderful birth team in Tim and our doula. There’s no doubt it was the worst pain I’ve experienced in my whole life (I definitely had moments of shouting, “help me, someome please help me” … and I think I yelled at Tim once “you have to DO SOMETHING!”) but mostly the tools I had been given, coaching I received, allowed me to make it through. I did it, and I could never have done it without them!
- I had prayed Tim would be able to handle seeing me labor. My husband is wonderful. He loves me and cares for me so well. As such, he hates seeing me in pain. Even something as small as a headache causes him to feel bad for me, want to help, want to “fix” it. I was afraid he would not be able to handle seeing me in pain for hours and not be able to “fix” it. But, he was amazing! He was my rock and my encourager for all those hours that we labored at home together- helping me breathe, get in different labor positions, applying counter pressure, encouraging me when I got discouraged. Once we got to the hospital, his whispered prayers and encouragements were incredibly helpful as I concentrated on getting through each contraction. He did an amazing job!
Honestly, it really just could not have gone any better. God is so good; it was all truly only by His grace. And I am so grateful.