If you missed part one, click here.
What did you do to get through contractions?
For the first few hours, contractions were not difficult. I mean, they didn’t feel like kitten kisses but it was definitely tolerable. They were maintaining 3-5 minutes apart and only lasted for about 30 seconds so I could plan on its consistency and mentally brace myself to breathe through it. We had time so Andrew set up my diffuser, applied some of the oils I had prepped, we landed a birthing ball and I used that to bounce & alleviate some of my lower back/hip pain. Funny enough, more water came gushing out when I got out of bed to use the birthing ball…so another bathroom run and another revealing gown.
For the record, this is why everyone raves about L&D nurses. She was the one helping me to the bathroom, wiping off my legs, changing my gowns, swapping my sheets, and generally helping me to be as comfortable as possible. She never made me feel embarrassed or like it was a pain to stop entering information on her computer to instead mop up the amniotic fluid on the floor. When I think about my delivery, she is the face I remember—yes, because her face was right in line with my ankles. But largely because she was A-MAZING.
“Time stood still briefly and infinitely the day you were born.”Unknown
Eventually I transferred back to the bed to give my numb butt a break & to attempt resting in between contractions. I had just started an episode of Stranger Things, around 11:00 or so, and that’s when stuff got REAL. At noon, I was checked and had progressed to 4cm—almost 5cm.
I suspected that I would be a silent sufferer and we quickly found out that was the case. The remainder of my labor was spent on my side, clinging to the rail, with my face in my pillow. I didn’t want to be touched. I didn’t want to talk. I just wanted to focus on breathing and surviving. Once, I reached out for Andrew’s hand just for comfort. But mostly, I just curled up and let things happen.
It’s funny, you hear these stories of HOURS in labor and you wonder how you could possibly survive HOURS and sometimes DAYS of labor. Just HOW? But when you’re in it, time is almost irrelevant. Hours pass and it feels like it’s been minutes. Long minutes. Painful minutes. But I think you’re so focused on the pain and getting through it that you’re completely unaware of most other things.
What do contractions feel like?
You know when you’re sick—like stomach flu sick—and your body just takes over and starts convulsing, hurling all the bad stuff out of it. You are completely out of control and the only thing to do is to lean into it. It’s kinda like that. Except add in your whole body, multiply the pain by ten, and account for the fact that you can’t just throw up and get it over with.
Did you get the drugs?
Soon after things got extra painful, I began to feel like I couldn’t catch a breath before the next contraction started. I went from the end of one contraction right into the next. The pain was incredibly intense but I felt like I could work through it if I was able to just rest a bit in between. It was at that point that I wanted to try for some relief.
I went into labor completely open to natural birth & epidurals alike. You can’t anticipate what’s going to happen so I planned to roll with it. And I also believe that if an epidural will allow me much needed rest for pushing and enjoy the delivery of my baby more, than I’m all for it. I wanted to try Demerol first to see if that would take the edge off enough to bypass the epidural. Tried it. Felt like a drunk person with bad contractions. Decided I’d rather have an epidural.
However, the anesthesiologist on call only administered a single shot for epidurals instead of a running IV, so my nurse told me that I should wait until I was 6cm dilated to ensure that the epidural wouldn’t wear off before pushing. She anticipated that I would hit 6cm at my next hourly check around 1pm. With that, I got it in my head that I just had to survive one more hour of this pain. Each time a contraction started to subside, I looked at the clock on the wall and counted the remainder of time that I had to hold on. It was that little mental check that helped me to stay focused and determined. I had an end goal and after that, relief. Sweet, sweet relief.
Finally. FINALLY. The clock ticked to the next hour and I waited anxiously for my nurse to come in. I was CERTAIN that I had hit 6cm at the least. Somewhere between 1 and 1:30 she came in to check me and when she did, both her & Andrew uttered a “Ooooo.” Always comforting. Not that I really cared in my delirious state. Apparently, it was like a murder scene down there. And then she said it. The words that are permanently etched in my mind, “well…you’re at 10cm!”
And I know I scared her because I went from laying down, looking half dead to sitting up, staring at her with wide eyes in two seconds flat saying…”you mean, I can’t get my epidural?”
To be honest, it took me a few minutes to process.
I went from hanging on to the hope of an epidural to the sudden realization that I had to push and I DIDN’T have an epidural to cushion the blow.
I had a few minutes of sheer terror while I watched nurses wheeling in equipment & lights. I was breathless and in so much pain—the thought of pushing was overwhelming.
But then after my period of adjustment, I refocused. I mean, either the baby comes out and it hurts really bad OR the baby stays in and I continue to hurt really bad. Not much choice, really. Best to set your mind to it and push really freaking hard.
So how bad does it actually hurt?
I’m not gonna lie to you. It really freaking hurts. Imagine your maximum pain threshold, the highest level of pain that you can feel and survive, and then pushing past that threshold a few times. That’s what I remember most—being completely shocked that I could actually withstand that pain. In fact, there was a point right there at the end where I was completely certain I was going to split in half and die. I mean, your brain knows that women survive this all the time. But your vagina doesn’t think logically—it’s just being brutally tortured and screaming an array of profanity at you.
To help a new Mom wrap her head around what labor may be like, they say it’s like taking a really big poop. Same muscles and what not. And while that’s true, there is really no way to relate that to this scenario unless you’re pushing out 8lb turds. An 8lb turd is no joke, friend.
For an hour and twenty-three minutes, that was my life. When my body would seize with contraction, lean into the pain and PUSH. Which, gets old pretty quick. Whoever said pushing feels good—I get where you’re coming from—but it did not feel great for me. It was multiplied by the fact that the nurse and Andrew kept telling me I was pushing really good and making great progress—but I wasn’t blind. I could see the clock and knew how much time was passing and STILL I had to keep pushing. WAT!
I don’t think it helped that just over a year ago I had witnessed the birth of my friend’s second baby. It was awesome. Especially for me—with all my clothes on and no baby trying to push its way out of my body. It was a quick labor, my friend got to have an epidural so she was all happy & rested when the baby decided it was time, and when it was time—the baby was literally RIGHT THERE. As in, the head was already poppin’ out. So it only took a couple pushes and then out came baby. Well, as awesome as that was to experience with my friend—it ruined me. I’m laughing. Truly. But it did mess with my view of what pushing would be like. That’s what I knew after all.
But for me, baby’s head was not right there. It was way up the birth canal still.
Finally, an hour and fifteen minutes or so into the pushing phase, they told me I could feel the head. It was miraculous. But also, very weird. Around that time, the Dr. came in and my heart leapt because I knew that meant the end was near. It was also around that time, that I became intimate with the term “ring of fire.” And by “ring,” they actually mean “flames engulfing your entire bottom half.”
I started channeling anger at that point. So angry that I had to push and make it hurt even more, “fan the flames” so to speak. Angry that this baby just wouldn’t pop out. And angry that this is how it has to be if you want to have a baby—because at that point, I was thinking, “one will just have to do.”
Mid-push, at one of those moments where I knew I could not handle any more pain, a shockwave went through my body with a whole other mind-numbing, sensation of pain.
I didn’t know it then—THANKFULLY, but it was at that moment that the Dr. reached in to pull out a tiny hand (and subsequently, I received a second-degree tear) which was making the pushing so much harder! Officially this is called “compound presentation,” where baby is born with more than one part at a time—typically a hand/arm on the head, which is exactly what Jack did. Baby boy just loved his hand so much that he wanted to come out with it on his head for comfort. Later, when the nurse was explaining the presentation, and therefore the difficult delivery, she mentioned that she had never seen it before as it’s an extremely rare presentation. So we win in rare presentation style? Not gonna lie, I’m hopeful that my next delivery could be much easier, granted it isn’t compound again. It also makes me want a t-shirt that says “I naturally delivered a compound-presented baby and survived” because honestly, it makes me feel a bit like a bad-a**. Disregard Mama’s foul mouth, labor makes me blunt.
“No one can ever prepare you for what happens when you have a child.
When you see the baby in your arms and you know that it’s your job now.
No one can prepare you for the love and the fear.”Tim Lake, About Time
Then just as shocking as that initial wave of pain, it was over. My body stopped contracting, the fire was gone, and I looked down and saw my pink, crying baby boy for the first time. Jack Wyatt. He matched his name.
How did you react to seeing baby Jack for the first time?
It’s crazy at that moment. You imagine how you’ll react, what emotions you’ll feel. But you never truly know until you’re there, until you’ve lived through that experience, and are staring at the product of years of hopes & prayers. I would’ve bet any money that I bawled my eyes out when I saw him. But I didn’t. Maybe that makes for less of a “romantic” story. But it’s the truth.
I think that mostly I was tired, shocked, and reeling in the fact that suddenly I’m “Mom.” I’m responsible for that living, breathing, crying person that just came out of my vagina. Holy crap! The other side of it was getting to know Jack on the outside. Until that moment, I had imagined things the best I could. I had felt his kicks and knew that he preferred the right side of my belly. But his face, his tiny features, the sound of his cry…this was all brand new. I knew I loved him instantly but I grew to like him so much more in those first few hours of bonding. And exponentially more than I thought possible in the days after that. There are still moments, months later, where I look at him and I feel my heart explode with sheer joy because I can’t believe how much I LOVE him. I have a feeling that this sensation isn’t going away any time soon.
Did you do skin-to-skin?
I wanted to do skin to skin immediately—birth goo and all. So just as soon as I saw him through my tired, tear-stained eyes they were lifting him up to my chest for our first snuggle. It never gets old, how tiny a person can be. It’s so easy to forget since they grow so quickly. But then he felt so impossibly small and fragile. Apparently, Andrew was mortified at the shape of Jack’s head. I couldn’t really see the alien, cone shaped noggin from my perspective—though my thoughts were instantly consumed with comforting him, letting him know that I was Mom and that even in this cold, new place he could rest, because I was there for him. Within ten minutes he nursed for the first time and not even two hours later, he was snuggled up next to me—eyes wide open—taking everything in.
How was recovery?
I was full on prepared for weeks of agony the way I packed my freezer with DIY Padsicles. But it turns out, my recovery went much smoother than I anticipated. I was up walking around the next morning feeling great and even though I tore, it did not bother me aside from feeling the “tightness” of the healing process. I’m not sure if that has to do with natural delivery or not—I’ve heard you recover quicker that way. But I can’t really do the comparison there, so I’m just thankful.
To be fair, nobody really tells you the gross stuff. I guess it’s not as glamorous. But the truth is, you bleed. SO MUCH. You’ll think you need a transfusion—but you don’t, it’s all part of the process of uterus shrinkage. I loved those mattress sized pads in post-partum life. I wanted stock in those bad boys—I was actually sad when I ran out, because they caught everything. Blood, pee when I sneezed, you get the idea. Compression leggings were easily the best post-partum investment I made in myself. I really REALLY wished my hair could have grown out more before Jack came because a messy bun would’ve saved my sanity in many ways. Ultimately, cookies helped.
Would you do it again?
One hour post-partum: NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. And again, I say NO!
One day post-partum: Eh. Nooooo…..well, maybe.
One month post-partum: YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. A million times over YES!
Birth sucks. I get that some women love it. But it sucked hard for me. Still, even with all that miserable, awful, gut wrenching pain…I would do it over again and again and again because I look at Jack and think how I want 50 more of those.
Do the pain. Get the baby. Worth it. Every time.
So yes, I’ll do it again. If that is what God has in mind for us. 😊
Jack Wyatt Shaulis was born at 2:53PM after almost 11 ½ hours from the time my water broke, on September 23rd (the first weekend of fall), on a perfectly, crisp fall day.
“Some days you want to re-live forever.”Tim Lake, About Time
September 23 | 2:53PM | 8 pounds | 19 ½ inches