My Birth Story: Insert Labor Day Pun Here

So yesterday was my due date, but I already have a bouncing baby boy who is over 3 weeks old!

Since I shared my first birth story here, I wanted to share this one as well. Did I really write a FOUR POST series the first time around? Geeze. (See here, here, here, and here)

This will just be the one post. Spoiler alert: this time around went MUCH quicker.

So rewind to September 3rd, the day before labor day and the day of my baby shower. We cut it close, to say the least.

It had been an eventful weekend, as we’d also just moved into a new house. After spending the day at my parents house, we came home to box land to go to bed on a mattress on the floor. Junior was having trouble sleeping in our new house, so dada was showing him cat videos on his phone while I showered. And in the shower, I started having contractions. Not the usual ones, either, these ones hurt. In fact, I thought to myself about how water was called “the midwife’s epidural” and how that must be some crap because I wasn’t even in labor and the water was doing nothing for me (ha. ha. I never think I’m in labor when I’m in labor).

I got out of the shower and immediately started timing the contractions. Right off the bat they were 30 seconds long and two minutes apart.  I was miserable. I wanted to call the doctor right then, but again, I thought there was no way this was labor. I’d give it an hour to stop. Well, that was one of the longest hours of my life, and by the end of it the contractions were still consistent and I was beginning to think this was indeed labor.

So it happened that the moment my husband laid our son down to sleep, I opened the door and told him sorry, but we gotta go.

He insisted on packing a bag and even had the audacity to ask if I wanted to put some pants on. NO. NO I DID NOT. DAMN IT.

We arrived at the hospital just after midnight. It was officially Labor Day.

Exactly like last time, I didn’t think I had hit transition yet. This time, however, every nurse I encountered tried to tell me I was. But I’d only been in labor for an hour and a half, and it seemed like there was a long road ahead. Spoiler alert: there wasn’t.

I demanded an epidural PRONTO. I thought I’d get in a nap and be refreshed and ready when time to push rolled around. But while they set the epidural, my water broke and the nurse said call the doctor, it’s time to push.

All the while I’m still quite certain we have a ways to go. When I arrived, I was only at 4 centimeters! It had only been 30 minutes! Well bam, they measured again and in half an hour I’d gone from 4 to 10. No wonder I was in so much pain! Dang!

So I was totally bewildered. At this point we were just waiting on the doctor. It was pretty easy to resist the urge to push thanks to the epidural, but I also had a cold, and I could not resist the urge to cough. Every time I did, the whole room jumped. “WHOA, whoa, eeeasy!” One nurse said he didn’t know what would happen if I sneezed.

My doctor wasn’t on call (of course). When the on call doctor arrived, lo and behold, it was the same doctor who had delivered Junior! I guess they have her working all the holidays.

I pushed for one contraction. Everyone exchanged looks and the nurse said “ok, we might need you to do a half-push next time. Just listen really carefully, we might ask.” and I’m like “ok…I don’t know how to do a half push…” and one of the guys shook his head and smiled. “She’s going to have this baby without pushing.”

And I don’t even know what to tell you. At 3:08 am on Labor Day morning, my baby just arrived of his own accord. Most of my laboring was in my coughing, which sounds like I’m kidding but it’s true. I looked down and saw a baby. He wasn’t crying because this labor wasn’t weird enough already. The cord was wrapped twice around his neck, but it was very loose. The NICU people looked him over, suctioned him, weighed him, still no crying. He didn’t even cry when he got his vitamin K shot. I just kept asking “is something wrong? Is he ok? Why isn’t he crying?” the doctors just said they’d checked him over, he was healthy, seems happy… he must just be a very chill baby.

I guess so. He’s healthy as a baby horse. He just didn’t cry for the first 24 hours of his life. I guess because he didn’t feel like it. Or he enjoyed freaking me out.

So TA DA. That’s the end of the story. I just had a baby all of a sudden. Obviously, very different from my first son. He had a special yellow hat at the hospital to signify that he was late preterm, so that nurses would know to watch him extra close. He was tiny to us – 7 lbs 4 oz. But whenever we marvel out loud about how small he is, everyone is quick to say “he’s actually kinda regular size, even big for a preterm baby.”

We always joked with Junior that we “never had a newborn.” He was so big and strong. He was chubby, had hair, he didn’t look like a newborn or flop around. This time, we had a newborn. A preterm newborn even! Honestly it really scares me sometimes how small he is. He doesn’t have a lot of baby fat (he’s got a lot of baby fur though!) and you can feel how small and fragile his little bones are. For the first week of his life, we were at the doctor every day to monitor his weight gain. He had a lip tie and a tongue tie, breastfeeding got off to a really rocky start, and he was slightly jaundiced so he was a hard sleeper. So hard that it was often difficult to get him to eat, he was just so sleepy!

But we had his tongue and lip ties corrected early on. He got better at eating, his jaundice went away, and he passed his birth weight. He really is quite strong – he was lifting his head from day one! Sometimes I think he could roll over if he really put his mind to it. And I knew when he was still in the womb what a strong kicker he is – he used to wake me up with it! But to me, he still seems really, really, REALLY small. I love it as much as it worries me.

So that’s the story of Finny, named for the character in A Separate Peace. He already seems as precocious, innocent, and spontaneous as his namesake.

I’ll try to write more soon. As of now, I’m very sleep deprived, I’m still unpacking and getting settled in our new house, and I’m already feeling some endometriosis and IBS and anxiety things sneaking up on me. This is easily the craziest time of my life so far, and my husband said it’s honestly a good bet that this will be the craziest time of our lives ever – having a toddler and a newborn, moving, and did I mention my husband just switched careers too?

Yeah spacing that stuff out would have been good. But! Here we are. So if you don’t hear from me for a bit, you know why. But the blog is not done.

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Taking A Sick Day

It’s not quite fall yet and here in Texas temperatures are still in the 90-100 degree range, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to talk about cold and flu season! Know how I know that?

BECAUSE I FREAKING ALREADY HAVE A COLD/FLU.

So I wanted to blog today but I really need to take a “sick day.” My husband needs one too, but he’s at work anyway because that’s how it is around here. So I thought I’d share this awesome infographic from Masters in Healthcare about the benefits of paid sick leave.

Sick Days Infographic

This is predominantly about sick days for acute illness, like a cold or flu, but a lot of it applies to chronic illness as well. I’m lucky because my illness still allows me to work, and all things considered, I don’t need sick days very often. But they still occur more often than most, and it’s not unusual for me to end up at work on pain medication. I have felt that calling in sick could cost me my job, and that’s not great. Texas is a “fire at will” state, so if I did get fired for being sick (hey, come to think of it, I have!) that’s technically illegal I guess, but since there’s no requirement to give a reason for termination, I can’t prove it or take any kind of action.

But some states have better situations, and with our recent observance of Labor Day, it’s important to remember how far we’ve come. Unions and workers rights have come this far, and they can come even further. 🙂

Have you ever gone to work sick? Well, of course you have. But why? What could improve this situation? Leave your thoughts in the comments and I’ll catch you when I’m feeling a bit better.

The Bradley Method of Childbirth Review

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The Bradley Method is something I don’t think many people have heard of. I know I certainly hadn’t. On the flip side, pretty much everyone has heard of Lamaze. Bradley has many things in common with Lamaze with some key differences. I haven’t taken a Lamaze class but I have read the book – and I was less than impressed. But I don’t want to judge the method by the book – practice is very different. I think that for the most part, Bradley and Lamaze are basically the same. If you’re pregnant, definitely take a class of some sort! I can’t imagine how confusing and scary birth would have been for me if I didn’t go in educated. It’s nothing like the movies!

According to the book, Lamaze is no longer mainly a breathing method. The hee hee hoo breathing is a thing of the 90’s apparently. It sounds to me like it’s basically the Bradley method now – a collection of techniques to help get through childbirth. Both methods advocate for medication-free birth with as few medical interventions as safely possible.

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The Cascade of Interventions

So what are the differences? The number one difference is the involvement of the father. The Bradley method focuses heavily on the father being the labor coach. It’s his job to remember the different techniques and plans when the mother is in the throes of labor and can’t think straight. It’s imperative that the father attend classes, practice relaxation exercises with the mother, and be extremely active throughout the entire process. Lamaze advocates more for the involvement of a Doula, or some trusted fellow woman to lead you through the experience or for the mother to lead herself through labor.

If you want childbirth to be a team effort between you and the father, check Bradley out. If the father is not involved or cannot commit to the 8-12 week class schedule, Lamaze may be a better fit. And don’t feel like you have to choose between having dad coach or someone else – I had both my husband and mother coach me through. Even if you’re very self-reliant, I recommend choosing someone to share your wishes with and who learns about ways to help during labor. There will come a point where you can’t sort through your brain to remember the things you learned. It’s good to have someone clear-headed to remind you how to relax and to help calm your fears.

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Another difference I want to point out is regulation: all Bradley classes cost the same and run for roughly the same length of time. Their website, BradleyBirth.com, is easy to use and full of instructors who will help you find a class near you. Lamaze is a little less organized. You can find classes of all costs and lengths, which makes me wonder how you know what you’re getting. That being said, you can find shorter, cheaper classes for Lamaze, but it’s a little shadier.

The final difference I want to point out is a little subjective. Lamaze’s techniques for dealing with pain focus on distraction, while Bradley focuses on acknowledging and working through pain. In practice, it’s honestly a very subtle difference. Only you know which school of thought will work for you (and honestly both ways are probably talked about in both classes). How have you worked through pain in the past? I find I am unable to distract myself and therefore need to acknowledge it, but that is just me personally. Distraction is obviously tried and true as well.

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So what did I think of my “Bradley Birth?” Well, it didn’t prepare me 100% but I don’t think any class could. I felt thoroughly educated and I felt I was better able to make medical decisions by learning about them beforehand. I did end up needing medication, but the class teaches you under what circumstances you should get it and my birth happened to fall into that. That’s not to say we didn’t use the relaxation techniques – I was in labor a long time before we used medication, and we used almost all of the positions and relaxation techniques we learned.

Emotionally, it was a huge bonding experience for me and my husband. Attending classes, learning, and sharing our fears and hopes once a week for 8 weeks was really huge for us. On the birth day, we were able to share a special experience unmarred by stress and panic. I knew what to expect and he knew what to do to help. Both of us felt in control and calm as much as is possible and a birth situation, and that, to me, was the biggest reward of the whole thing. We knew the medical jargon, we had a plan A, B, C….etc… we didn’t freak out. Our birth day was a day we fondly remember. So often it ends up being a forgotten day between the joys of pregnancy and parenthood. I’m glad ours wasn’t just a hurdle to jump and forget.

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Any criticisms? Nothing big really. It is a big time investment but I think it’s worth it. All things considered, childbirth is a pretty big deal. The class doesn’t really teach anything one can disagree with because it’s very careful to cover all options. It never says, for instance, that you can’t use pain medication, rather it explains the risks and benefits and then outlines the situations in which it’s best used. My instructor was careful not to inject her own views and opinions into the class and worked very hard to represent all sides of any argument. Are all instructors that great? Probably not. 😉 But just the way the book reads, I think most would. It’s very scientific and unbiased for the most part, and like I said, I’m having trouble remembering anything that was outright offensive.

From what I’ve seen of Lamaze, it’s more touchy-feely, while Bradley is very straightforward medical information written in a way that’s easy to understand. Bradley is educational and Lamaze seems more like a group therapy/yoga session. Not that that’s inherently bad, but I prefer the education. Bradley also talks about emotions and psychology as well, but it stays more objective and analytical about it. That works for me and helps me understand the emotional and physical.

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I loved Bradley and if I have another baby, I’ll definitely re-read my book and take a refresher course. I hope it gets more press soon. I didn’t know I had options outside Lamaze, I only happened to accidentally discover it after What to Expect When You’re Expecting literally mentioned it in one sentence, and I decided to look it up and learn more. So glad I did!  If you know anyone who’s expecting, spread the word and let them know there are options!

Birth Story Pt. 4: New Years Baby

(Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3)

As soon as the nurse went to fetch the doctor, Husband turned to me with the biggest smile on his face and I promptly burst into tears. He had not expected that. He asked what was wrong and I sputtered out that I was scared. And it was the sort of scared that couldn’t be logic’d away, though husband tried. Yes, all the birthing classes. Yes, I read a lot of books. Yes, I’m still terrified.

Suddenly the room was full of people. Since it’s a University hospital, lots of future doctors come to watch. I didn’t really mind, I had a lot on my mind right then and they were all plenty busy transforming the bed and getting supplies and turning on special lights so it didn’t really feel like an audience. More like a pit crew.

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And so, we started pushing! And even though I had an epidural, I could feel the urge to push and sometimes noticed it before the doctors saw it on the monitor. Sometimes they’d say to skip a push if the contraction was small. This was so exciting! Pushing! That’s what labor’s all about right?

It didn’t seem like long at all before my husband and the doctors began to excitedly exclaim that they could see the baby’s head! Wow!

The doctor asked if I wanted a mirror to see what was going on down under. That was a strong pass. But pushing is weirder than I thought it’d be. It’s a little different than a bowel movement, which is what it’s usually compared to. Sometimes the doctors would praise a push and other times they’d ask if I was really pushing – rude! But with all the coaching and trying different things, I still had no consistent idea of what made a push good or bad, and I didn’t know how to improve.

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The doctor tentatively suggested the mirror again, not just to sneak a peek at the baby, but to get a visual on what muscles were doing what. I’m admittedly pretty unfamiliar with the muscles between my legs and I’ve never needed to coordinate them to do anything like this. I looked at my husband, who looked down below thoughtfully before saying “You’ve seen worse on YouTube.” So sure, bring on the mirror.

This was both good and bad, and the pros and cons were things I’d never thought of in all my preparation.

The pro was that it really did help me push effectively to see the muscles in action.

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The con? Well, everyone had been going on and on about how much of the baby’s head was out. I thought we must be getting close to the forehead. But they set up the mirror and WHAT? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? There’s like a square inch – MAYBE – of baby head. Yes it’s thrilling that it has a full head of brown hair. BUT THAT’S IT?? At this rate I might not even get a New Years baby, and it’s only 1:00 in the afternoon! I’M GOING TO BE IN LABOR FOREVER.

I knew, of course, from all my classes and books and videos that once the head’s out the rest of the baby pops right out, but in my mind the head came little by little. In actuality the head kinda comes out all at once too, which makes “progress” pretty much invisible to the untrained, sleep-deprived, overwhelmed eye.

And about here is where I became much less enthusiastic about everything. This was work, not miracle of life magic. I was starting to feel a bit odd, sort of a flu-like exhaustion in my chest. My epidural was wearing off slightly which was good, because I could move my legs a bit better. Now we could use some of our positioning training– sort of.

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Around this time we discovered our pup was sunny-side up. That name is compensating for how NOT cutesy and delightful its definition is. Baby was face up instead of the optimal face down position, which meant it would be a more challenging push. “Challenging” is a nice word for “painful.” But it’s ok, I have an epidural. An epidural that’s slowly wearing off.

This also meant that most of our knowledge of positioning wouldn’t help much. I found myself in positions that weren’t even in the books. This added to my general feeling of “I have no idea what I’m doing.”

All the while, progress is still disappointingly not visual.

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My chest still had that tired feeling, and now the doctor acknowledged it – my oxygen levels were no bueno. Now I was glad to be in a hospital. We got an oxygen mask on which I guess helped, but it made me crazy thirsty and almost impossible to understand when I tried to talk.

Not that I was saying much, because I was still pretty put out about how little of the baby was showing. Everyone else was still pretty excited about it so instead of saying “ARE YOU KIDDING THIS IS CRAP” I didn’t say anything at all.

But soon, my epidural was completely worn off and I had some f***ing things to say. I led off with saying I needed another epidural and then asking where the epidural guy was every minute or so.

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Things were getting serious. There was almost no time between pushes (who exactly sleeps between pushes, labor books?) and I was exhausted. Between pushes, there was just enough time for husband to give me a spoonful of ice chips. This became my incentive for every push. As soon as it was over I crashed back on the pillows and yanked off my mask to demand ice chips. It was amazing to me how long it took husband to realize this was a pattern and that yes, I wanted ice chips EVERY. PUSH. I was like a really angry baby bird.

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I will END YOU.

And then came the crying. I tried “vocalizing” during pushes but it was too out of control, so I just ugly sobbed inbetween pushes. I was tired and hurting and SO DONE. My mom and husband encouraged me to reach down and feel the baby’s head, but I refused. I was so sure touching anything anywhere would hurt. Because everything hurt. AND WHERE THE EFF IS THAT EPIDURAL GUY?!?

And all of a sudden, I got to experience unmedicated childbirth.

The baby came out and I all but passed out. As the baby was born, epidural guy arrived, hooked me up, and promised I’d feel better in about 15 minutes. There was some meconium present so they didn’t stimulate the baby to cry right away. It didn’t take long for me to hear it though. Apparently the cord was loosely wrapped around his neck but it was so not a big deal that I didn’t even hear about it until later.

Husband cut the cord and tearfully announced that it was a boy. I smiled and cried.

I was beat. Because of the meconium I couldn’t have immediate skin to skin. I thought I’d be heartbroken over that but honestly I was glad to have a moment to close my eyes and get a break from the chaos and feels. To my surprise, my husband just rested his forehead on mine and whispered all kinds of sweet happy things to me while tears ran down our cheeks. We had agreed he’d follow the baby everywhere but I was touched to be shown attention. I gently reminded him that he ought to go talk to our baby so he wouldn’t be frightened, and away he went.

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Assured that our boy was in good hands and watched over by daddy, I rag doll’d. The epidural was in, so I couldn’t feel the two little stitches I had to get. I asked to see the placenta once it came out, and was happily surprised when I was given a full tour of the organ and how it worked. This was a huge upside of having a small army of enthusiastic med students present.

Our pup was born with a little fever and needed suctioning but I wouldn’t hear about any of it until later on.

Finally, my baby boy was placed on my chest. And I cried of course, and I cannot possibly explain how it felt except that my hand covered his entire tiny back and I didn’t even roll him over to see his face at first, I just loved him.

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So at 3:12 PM on New Years Day our little Junior was born. Birth plan-wise, he was born as naturally as possible. He just happened to come a week early on a major holiday in a hospital I’d never been to before. And really it was perfect in its own weird way.

A song from Shrek the Musical comes to mind:

“This is how I pictured it,
more or less, I must admit.
A thumping in my heart,
a life about to start!
I knew this day would come
and you would find your way.
At last my dream comes true!
I knew I knew I knew
It would be
today!”

Birth Story Pt. 3: All Dilated and Nowhere to Go

(Read Pt. 1 Here) (Read Pt. 2 Here)

While we were driving, I fielded the idea of going to a hospital again. Which means I randomly yelled “Hospital?!” and “Medicine?!” a few times in between contractions.

We were in a really awkward position actually. Our birth center was a 45 minute drive (maybe 25 if we seriously endangered ourselves). And remember that I don’t know I’m in transition – I believe the worst is yet to come. Under this assumption, along with the influence of having not slept at all in over 24 hours (happy new year!), I have lost any confidence in my ability to have this baby without pain medication.

There’s a hospital nearby, but we already know what we’ll get there: pitocin, episiotomy, and no say in anything that happens. I’m willing to surrender my rights and preferences, however, because I have just crashed through every level of Maslov’s hierarchy of needs and I’m sure I’m actually dying. Plus a part of me is thinking this baby’s coming in the car either way, might as well be near a hospital.

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So I start chirping out some new vocabulary: “Go to Baylor? Go to Baylor?”

Because downtown, only about 20 minutes away, is the hospital that midwives had recommended for us if we couldn’t find a birth center that took our insurance and had room for us. When I had kidney stones, we wound up in another Baylor hospital in another city, and they had been very pro-natural birth. I know because we were bracing ourselves to go in to early labor before we figured out what was going on.

Husband acquiesced and we headed downtown for a hospital I’d never set foot in before, flying on faith and pain-driven madness.

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My memory of things gets ragged around this point. The pain was more mind-warping than narcotics. I remember flashes of things and lots of panic. I know that when we got there we had trouble finding the right door, but once we did they had special parking spaces right there. I remember walking down the halls thinking “ok, gotta be quiet now” while I kept yelling because I guess my brain was done having a say in what my body did.

I remember walking up to a desk where a receptionist smiled and said “Happy New Year!” before I put my head down on the papers she tried to hand me. Then she said “You can sit on the floor if you like. You wouldn’t be the first.” So I dropped to the ground and kept audibly crying while Hubs filled out the paperwork. Two nurses came up with a wheelchair, one saying she doubted I’d want to sit still at this point. She was correct, but for some reason I also felt it would be rude to turn down, so I decided I’d try.

The nurses were so sweet to me. They kept saying what a good job I was doing working through those contractions, and to take my time. My brain wouldn’t really let me feel embarrassed by the scene I was making, but I definitely had the feeling that I should be embarrassed.

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Pain pain pain and the next thing I remember is getting to a room. I had to get in the bed – easier said than done. I rolled and crawled around and screamed when they made me sit still to get a quick temperature or pulse. They asked what my birth plan was – how refreshing! And I think I communicated that I wanted to go natural but I can’t. The nurse said she just wanted to tell me that when moms get desperate like this, they’re usually very very close.

My brain said yeah, we know. Transition. But we’re not even to transition yet. And I can’t. Later I realized she was trying to tell me this was transition, right now! I was 7 cm dialated and 100% effaced. I took in this information. I remember it. But at the time I just couldn’t process it.

I’d also decided there was no way I could have this baby until I could sleep first – this was also something my brain got from our midwife. She said to go to sleep. She meant that I wasn’t really in labor, so this command didn’t actually apply but my brain held fast to it anyway.

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So we went for the epidural.

When we were learning about epidurals, it was one of the things that gave me panic attacks – literally. I’m not speaking in hyperbole. Needles make me nervous, and I hate things in my skin. I couldn’t handle illustrations or even talking about it. But in the wee hours of New Years Day I got one without hardly batting an eye. My husband was in awe, he said he couldn’t believe how well I did with it. Neither could I. I barely remember it.

As soon as it was in, I felt I’d made the right choice and the wrong choice all at once.

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I felt confident in my choice because the medicine worked swiftly and I didn’t feel loopy or sleepy at all. It was like someone simply turned off the pain. I could move my legs and change positions as much as I liked, so labor class wouldn’t go to waste. But the biggest, most important thing to me was my mind. Clear away the pain and my mind was suddenly clear and sharp. I could talk, reason, ask questions, understand the answers, and most importantly, remember it all. From here on, my memory is crystal clear. Without the medication, much of my labor would be in the same choppy haze as my early labor memories.

I was able to go to sleep for about 30 minutes. It felt like 3 hours at least, and I woke up rested and ready to bring a baby into the world.

The epidural also slowed down labor, which gave my parents and sister time to speed across the state of Texas and get there in time to be with me.

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There were a lot of pros that I hadn’t anticipated. But I still regretted it at the same time. Had I given up too soon? Was I a stereotypical first time mom with great expectations that were destined to fail? Did I pressure my husband into not having a say? Would it affect my baby? I was disappointed in myself. Everything happened for the best. Husband says he has no doubt that if I’d decided to go without, that baby would have popped out super quick and it would have been fine, but this way I got to sleep and my family was able to make it to us. I have no good reason to feel bad about getting an epidural, but I do anyway.

After my nap, my family arrived and the doctor recommended we break my water. Here was another intervention! I felt sure I’d ruined all our good intentions by getting an epidural. We were hesitant. We asked questions. The doctor was more than happy to talk it through. She said this was better than using pitocin, which she wanted to avoid as much as we did. She explained that she felt there was little risk of “rushing” the baby since baby was pretty much ready to debut and we slowed it down.

So we went for it. I was so nervous, I knew this could be very painful. But my pain was still “turned off” so I didn’t feel a thing. There also wasn’t an embarrassing gush of fluid – at least not on the scale I imagined in my brain’s worry room (see, it’s like a war room, but with worry…? It’s not the best play on words but I’m going with it).

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I also got another dose of epidural. This time it was much harder to move – it felt like my legs were wrapped in a thick layer of very heavy something.

Then before I knew it, the nurse said “okay, it’s time to push!”

To be concluded……..