A week before my due date I was determined to naturally get labor started. I had a built in fear of being medically induced if our bean didn’t come in a timely fashion, so I was looking to encourage things on my own a
lot little bit. I ate a strict diet of all things spicy, and each day I ate something in mass quantities that was said to naturally trigger labor. September 1st looked a like this in our casa…
On the 5th, Ryan and I went on a long walk in the park and attempted to get our annual Chinese take-out. We couldn’t get through on the phone so Ryan picked some up for dinner the next day on his way home from work (the 6th). He ordered me the spiciest stuff on the menu, but triggering labor seemed to be a no-go.
(TMI ahead… it is a birth story after all.)
The following day on the 7th, I got up to take out the trash and lost my mucus plug. Ryan and I did a high-five (like this could be it!) and he headed off to work. I ate Chinese leftovers and nested like crazy all day long. All the while experiencing backaches and cramping along with what I interpreted as bloody show (something I previously experienced at 34 weeks).
That night Ryan and I walked a mile and a half on a nearby trail. You know, just to really encourage things. Clearly feeling determined to meet our baby, we ended the night quadruple checking hospital bags. I took a long hot shower and we crawled into bed around 10:00 pm. We were halfway through whatever it was that we had streaming on the ipad when Ryan started timing my contractions. They were around 10 minutes apart and mildly uncomfortable.
While Ryan was catching what would prove to be much needed sleep, I was experiencing one restless night. By 2:00am (now the 8th– our wedding anniversary) I was up and walking through contractions. It wasn’t long before Ryan joined me and started timing them again. The pain was increasing and I remember leaning on the counter, swaying my hips as contractions wrapped from my abdomen to back. It was at this time I let a few tears fall.
In the midst of working through the pain, Ryan cut some strawberries up for me to snack on and I contacted my mom in Knoxville. I didn’t want her to rush down to Atlanta, but as part of my support team I wanted her to know what was going on. At this point my contractions were lasting at least a minute with a 3-4 minute break in between.
I had a fear and just downright gut feeling I would get sick during labor… and I did. Without Ryan by my side with peppermint essential oil in hand, I would have been hugging the bowl much longer. Contractions were increasing and so was my vocalization. Just imagine me slowly ‘running around’ trying to get everything perfect to come home to while dropping to my knees slightly yelling/moaning through peaks of contractions.
Since I wasn’t exactly in the best condition to be talking on the phone, Ryan called the hospital. It was recommended we come in as soon as possible. As much as I understood we needed to get out the door, I couldn’t stop nesting and grabbing last minute things for the hospital. An hour later at 5:43, Ryan was able to get me in the car. Comically enough, we had to stop for gas. I don’t know if anyone saw me clutching my peppermint oil, vocalizing, and practicing expressive breathing, but I didn’t care. Labor was already proving to be more than I had expected.
My water what?
Once we arrived at the hospital, got signed in, and began monitoring contractions it was well into the 6 o’clock hour. Initially when we were getting settled into our exam room, I was asked about fluid leaking. I swiftly responded with, “oh ya” having what I took as bloody show in mind. So when they wanted to test for amniotic fluids, I was taken aback. I let the nurse know I didn’t think my water had broken. She already had the test in hand, so we proceeded.
By 7:00am, I was back in contact with my mom letting her know I was only 2cm and that we were likely heading home. Minutes later, while I was working through constant contractions, Ryan was on the phone with my folks who were just making their way to ATL. Apparently my water had broken, and I was now being admitted. Due to risk of infection that can occur within a certain time of your water breaking, it was problematic we didn’t know when it broke.
It’s labor, baby.
Now in our delivery room things were getting realer than real. While persisting contractions were taking their toll on my mental state, my nurse was giving me tips on what moves worked for her when she gave birth naturally. My favorite position was on my knees, eyes closed, laying my head on the cushioned bench for dads to sleep on. With the warm sunshine hitting me through the window above where I was laboring, I was fighting nausea and praying my way through the pain.
Ryan had oils going in the diffuser, and I was on my knees swaying with the bottle of peppermint oil still clutched in my fist. Contractions were consistent and rarely forgiving at this point. With intense peaks I loudly moaned, groaned, and yelled my way through- just to paint a picture. Ryan and my midwife tried to coach me to breathe through the toughest moments, but for better or worse, I had long given up on that technique.
A couple times during this time my nurse had me attached to monitors to check Lula’s heart rate and measure my contractions. While I feel like being confined to the bed interrupted me from being in my labor zone, it was nice to see our bean was doing great. Plus, there was an advantage to being able to see contractions ebb and flow. Being told when I was at the top and coming down made it easier when they were kicking my tail.
My enemy, doubt.
I had been battling doubt of my ability to have a natural birth from the moment I heard I was just 2cm dilated. 14 hours from the moment we started timing contractions I was voicing my doubt. My midwife was wonderful with talking things out with me since she knew how badly I wanted to go natural. I just remember being so sick hugging the toilet in what I would consider the worst pain in my life. My mind was running on its own, and all the years of wanting to go natural went out the window. Affirmations weren’t enough to change my mind.
My mom came in at that time. She immediately jumped in rubbing my back and coaching me through breathing. It’s a moment that still makes me emotional to reflect on.
Finding peace in labor.
I was 5cm dilated when I received my epidural. It was slightly painful but mostly uncomfortable to get started. Not long after, temporary shivering set in as a side effect. It was a small price to pay for the immediate relief that washed over me. Each time Ryan or my mom would point out big contractions on the monitor, I was glad to be unaware. There was a point I apologized out loud to epidurals for hating on them for so many years. I didn’t recognize myself.
By 8:00pm, I was 7cm (alllmost 8cm) dilated and was given a half dose of Pitocin. A fever had crept in for me and the baby, so they had to speed things up. This time is all a blur to me. The memory that stands out the most is everyone leaving the room, the lights being off, and Ryan playing our wedding playlist we had made on Spotify. For hours, we held hands and tried to catch what would be our last zzz’s before becoming tired new parents. It was such a sweet and quiet moment on our 4 year anniversary.
Meeting our bean.
It was more than 24 hours after we started timing contractions that I was told to try and push. My midwife came in to check me and felt the baby was really low. When she told me to give a push it came across like ‘let’s just see what you can do.’ From there, the room started filling with people. We were doing this thing for real. The entire time I was pushing, there was a sense of urgency to get the baby out due to both of our fevers.
At that point, I had every drug I never wanted, labored in a position that I would have never entertained, and it was only going to get worse. As Lula was coming out, the midwife had to cut her umbilical cord that was tightly wrapped around her. This was heartbreaking since I had also dreamed of her going skin to skin until the cord cleared.
After less than 15 minutes of pushing, our baby was being placed on my chest. It was the most incredible and emotional experience. I had dreamed of this child for years, and now she was here.
With such a quick delivery, there were excess fluids in her lungs that she needed assistance clearing. Knowing she was ok as a small team worked on our girl, my mom and Ryan looked on telling me how perfect she was. “Kristyn, she has blue eyes!” They were tickled as it was something we had hoped she would inherit from me. Forever changing our lives and touching our hearts in ways that are hard to put into words, Lula Lee was born at 11:39pm on September 8, weighing 7 lbs 13 oz . She arrived just 20 minutes shy of midnight (her due date), making her the best anniversary present ever.
Leaving it on the field
I did not have the natural labor I had so desperately wanted, and it’s something that I struggle with from time to time. Yet I remain proud of what my body has done for me. I had a flawless pregnancy, my recovery has been absolutely amazing (emotionally and physically), and my baby has been in perfect health. Sometimes I express to Ryan how I wonder what would have transpired had I tried different water techniques, fought harder against my mental state, or just given it more time. He is always quick to tell me how incredibly proud he is of me and how I gave it everything I had.
Birth has been compared to a competitive game in our house for several months now. Before labor I was feeling pumped, ready to go out there and show ’em what I got. Now after labor and delivery, I have to remember that though my birth story is completely different from what I had planned, it is beautiful and perfect in its own way. It was a good game and a tough fight, and now I need to leave it all on the field. If ever I am blessed to experience pregnancy another time, I’ll fight for having a natural birth once again. It’ll be game on.
Psst- You can read about our special gender reveal and where her sentimental name came from here.