Here’s what I expected based on what my birth class taught me, what articles explained, etc:
First time moms will be in labor for a long time. That is the norm, so my expectations had me prepared for hours of painful labor, and no less than an hour of pushing. At 4 cm dialated, mothers will be allowed to get an epidural, be entered into the labor and delivery section, and that is when the father was allowed to join. The midwife assured the dads during our online class, “be prepared for lots of hours of supporting your partner.” They were instructed to grab a coffee and be well rested because us mothers would need lots of positive energy from them for a very long time. I would be induced and based on most of my friends’ experiences this meant that I would be dealing with the pain even longer than going into labor naturally. They assured me that there was a possibility that the induction might not even work, so to be mentally prepared in the case that my story ended with a c-section or at least multiple attempts.
We learned so many different positions and saw that in the room there was so much different equipment to go through labor together. The birthing chair was particualarly interesting. I played with the idea of a water birth, but that meant no epidural, so no thanks. Not to forget the biggest fear of most women, most women poop, you won’t realize it, but most women do. With all of this, I imagined my birth story being breathing through contractions with my husband by my side, finding different positions to ease the pain, taking a good nap once they give me the epidural, pushing while squeezing Alberto’s hand and cursing at him for doing this to me, probably pooping (waaahhhh), Alberto cutting the cord, and end it all with skin-to-skin contact with my baby who will latch on to breastfeed for the first time.
This is how it actually went:
This was the morning that I was supposed to be induced, the 3rd of August. Two weeks earlier than my expected due date, Noah was ready to make his appearence because he was a little smaller than the doctor would have liked. It didn’t feel real. We were both so excited and so nervous to meet our tiny-but-mighty baby Noah.
I got checked in, Alberto was given his visiting hours, he helped me settle and then was immediately asked to leave. I shared a room with another COVID-negative girl who had just had a c-section. Finally, on August 5th at about 8:30AM, after two full days of sitting in a hospital bed waiting, not so patiently, for them to call me down to get the “fettucina,” the first step of the induction, the midwife/nurse came to get me. They brought me down, inserted the little string and brought me back up to my room. More waiting… I imagined that this would go on for days like most of my friends’ and professionals had almost assured me it would.
That same night at around 7:00PM I started feeling some light pains. They started monitoring me more often and it was true, the very start of contractions. I had a LONG way to go.
At 9:30PM I texted Alberto that they started to get a little worse. They told me that these are just the beginning. I could tell that it we were ‘slowly’ getting there.
At 9:50PM I texted that I was going to try to sleep… HA!
This is where it’s about to get more graphic, so turn away now if you aren’t interested in the details
At 10:10PM, all of the sudden I felt and heard a huge POP! My lower back cracked. Normally, when I pop my tailbone it’s a wonderful relief. Well, this time it came with losing liquid and a lot more pain. I called the nurse, but they assured me that it wasn’t my water breaking. This was very strange to me. They left me with a pad to observe.
Around 10:30PM, I called them back in. This pad now had blood in it, they told me it was normal and the test said that it still wasn’t amniotic fluid. The pain continued to intensify.
At 11:15PM, everything was getting even more painful. I called the nurse back in, and it was finally confirmed: MY WATER BROKE. She didn’t understand why the test had been negative.
Aug. 6th At 1:00AM, I text Alberto saying that we’re not there yet, but maybe almost. Of course I meant “there” like almost ready to move down to the Labor and Delivery department to get my epidural and have him come join me for the long ride ahead of us. I was about 2 CM dialated.
Between 1:30AM and 2:15AM, everything intensified quickly. Laying down was impossible, so with the help if a nurse I put a pillow on the ground next to the bed. I was down on my knees. Every time a contraction came I pulled myself up saying the words “up, up, up, up, up annnnd down, down, down, down, down.” With each coming and going contraction, it got worse and worse. I was only dialated 3cm. ONE more centimenter to go. The thought of a nap after getting the epidural was my motivation and what kept me calm at this point. The nurse told me that it would be a while still since this is only my first child. “Up, up, up, up, up annnnd down, down, down, down, down.” I asked her to stay with me through this contraction. I just didn’t want to be alone. She held my hand for a minute, before leaving me to visit her other patients.
Then came the nausea. I hobbled over to the bathroom, past my sleeping roomate, since I didn’t want to do it on the pad they had placed in front of me on the bed. On my knees in the bathroom, “up, up, up, up, up annnnd down, down, down, down, down.”
I never had much time between contractions. I will say they were very similar to my period cramps in highschool. Pushing always helped me feel better when I had period cramps, so I tried that… I thought that would be a good idea. I cleared out my bowels then, “up, up, up, up, up annnnd down, down, down, down, down.”
I went back to my bed side. At this point, for the few minutes, or seconds, between each contraction my head fell from being so exhausted. “If this is just the beginning, how the hell am I going to do this?” I kept saying to myself and to the nurse when she came to check on me. “Up, up, up, up, up annnnd down, down, down, down, down.”
At about 2:15AM, hobbling between contractions back to the bathroom. I felt like I needed to push again. “Probably another bowel movement,” I thought, but I also thought that maybe this sensation was a normal part of the process, to help beat the pain. My body was basicalluy pushing by itself. Maybe I’m dialated to 4cm now? Well, while I was in front of the bathroom the nurse happed to walk by. I was pretty desperate from the pain and I asked her to check me.
She agreed, and did the visit. Her eyes widened and assured me that I wasn’t crazy. This was active labor. I went past the 4cm mark, but she needed to figure out by how much. Two or three other nurses came in to help. She told them that I needed to get down to a delivery room. They went to go get me a wheel chair because I was too far past to walk. I called Alberto, “you can come now.” Niether of us know the urgency. That’s when the nurse told me I was 7cm dialated.
My body was still pushing on it’s own. Another nurse made the call to roll me over to the delivery room in my bed; there was no time to wait for the wheelchair. They rolled me out to the hallway. I felt desperate and slightly out of my mind. I asked if we were going to get the epidural now. Then she gave me the news, “it’s too late for that now.” “I WANT THE EPIDURAL, I WANT MY HUSBAND!” I screamed through the hallways as they yelled at me to NOT PUSH. I told them that I couldn’t not push; my body was doing it on it’s own. “Don’t push, for your baby. Your baby needs you to not push.” It’s amazing what you can do when you’re told to do it for your baby. This was almost an out-of-body experience. This was absolutely NOT my birth plan. I wasn’t prepared for this.
Around 2:30AM, they rolled me down to the delivery room. I didn’t quite understand what was happeneing. Nothing was registering. They opened the door to the delivery room. “Is this the room where they give the epidurals?!” I asked desperately. They giggled about that. “No, this is where you’ll have your baby!” The nurses moved me onto the delivery bed. “NOW PUSH!!”
I slammed my legs together. I wanted to wait for my husband. I wasn’t ready. “Your husband doesn’t need your right now. Your baby needs you. He needs you to PUSH!” So, I pushed. I begged them to pull the baby out. I screamed at Noah to get the F out of me! Only one of the nurses understood English, so she laughed when the other nurse responded in Italian, “sì, sì. Siamo qui per aiutarti.” (Yes, yes. We’re here to help you.) I pushed for 10 excrutiating minutes.
At 2:49AM, NOAH IS BORN! I heard him crying. I was amazed, and so proud that his little lungs were so strong! I don’t quite remember the order of how things happened after this. I was only half there. One more tiny push, and there they were twirling out the placenta. Then checking to see if I needed any stitches – Nope! Thank goodness! I didn’t understand how I did that. How did I do it without the epidural?! How did I do it without my husband?! Noah was too small to do skin-to-skin.
While they cleaned him off, I called Alberto:
Me: “Where are you?!”
Him: “I’m right outside! I’ll be right there!”
Me: “He was already born”
I could tell he was crying and he started to run. The nursed asked where Noah’s clothes were. Here in Italy, they don’t provide the first outfit. Instead, you bring all of the baby clothes. I had a little bag with his first outfit ready for this moment. I wrote Noah’s first outfit. Thank you Daddy! on it, because it would be Alberto’s task to get his first change of clothes. I asked them to wait for Alberto and just a moment later he came busting through the door. He ran to me and made me feel like the most beautiful, strongest woman in the world. He ran to Noah with tears in his eyes. This was the most magical moment of my life. (or a close tie to the most magical proposal)
They took Noah just a little after both Alberto and I were able to hold him. Because he was so small, he needed to be put under a heat lamp and he was too small to breastfeed, so they gave him a bottle in the nursery. Alberto stayed with me as long as they would let me. We signed what we needed to sign, sat there together marvelling in the fact that we had a healthy, strong little baby boy, and loving on eachother. I couldn’t get enough of him in that moment. They brought me back to my room around 5:00AM-ish, let me fall asleep and he went home. At 8:00AM I would be able to go see our baby in the nursery. I couldn’t wait. Our family had grown by one, and we were officially parents!