Hi friends. I have been meaning to write Kennedy’s birth story, but it has felt like such a daunting task! How do you put in words the most meaningful moment of your life? I was, and still am, afraid that I can’t do it justice. I think you other mamas will agree with me, there is simply nothing in the world like meeting your baby for the first time.
Earlier in the week at my doctor’s appointment, we found out that I would be induced the following Saturday, a few days after Kennedy’s due date. To be completely honest with you guys, an induction was not what I wanted for the birth. I always thought I would go into labor spontaneously. I pictured my water breaking at our house, Chris driving carefully and anxiously to the hospital as I labored in the backseat, both of us filled with excited anticipation to meet our baby girl. I wanted a natural labor, and an induction was definitely not a part of my birth plan! Although I was disappointed, I have to admit that there was another part of me that was so happy. We had a “deadline,” so to speak. The waiting was killing me, and by Monday morning, I would be holding my baby in my arms.
I remember that Thursday and Friday were such a whirlwind for us. We washed baby clothes, packed our hospital bags, set up her bassinet and changing station, and cleaned the entire house in expectation for the coming weekend. I had so much anxiety just thinking about her birth. Would she be heathy? Would it hurt? I went on so many walks around our neighborhood that week, praying to God and trying to quiet my mind.
Friday night was the strangest night of all. I look back at that night and feel like I was in the twilight zone. I was on the cusp of motherhood, a grand new adventure I couldn’t wait to start, but it was bigger than that: I was also exiting what had been a wonderful stage of my life. Up until that night, it had been just Chris and I. We loved our life together just the two of us. I couldn’t fight the twinges of sadness that came over me as I thought about how mine and Chris’s relationship would never be the same. That night, Chris and I walked around Target leisurely (for probably the last time in years!), picking up a few last-minute baby items. Then we picked up our “last meal” (Olive Garden take-out, of course). We prayed together that night, put all of our bags by the door, and then it was lights out to try to get some sleep before our alarm clocks went off.
Before we knew it, it was Saturday morning! We woke up at 3 a.m. for our scheduled induction at 5. I got ready at the house and we loaded up the car to leave around 4:15. There was hardly anyone on the road, but there was a heavy fog. For how nervous I was the previous night, this morning I felt strangely calm. I could hardly believe that we were about to meet our baby for the first time.
We got to the hospital around 4:45 and checked in. We were pretty much the only people in the hospital at this point, except for the staff! I told the nurse at the front desk that my doula would be coming later with an inflatable bath tub (part of my birth plan), so they gave us a large room to accommodate the tub. This might sound a little nuts, but even though I was getting induced, I was still hoping that the experience would be as natural as possible. I wanted to go easy on my body and was hopeful that if we got the process started artificially, my body would “take over” from there. The hospital paired us with an awesome nurse, Lauren, who supported my goals for the birth. We had a solid plan in place: whenever I got to active labor, our doula would come and set up the birth tub so I could labor in the water. I was hoping that I wouldn’t need an epidural. And we were all prepared for it to take 24 hours or possibly more, since all my friends told me getting induced could end up taking a long time, even days.
Our doctor, Dr. Lewis, got to the hospital that morning and we had a long discussion with him about the best way to start the induction. I told him my wish that I wanted to mimic natural labor as much as possible, and how I was worried about the cascade of interventions that is more likely to occur with an induction. Dr. Lewis checked me and I was already having contractions, and I was 80% effaced, but only 2 cm dilated. He suggested that we start off with Cytotec and a Foley Balloon to see how my body reacted. (The Cytotec is a pill that is inserted next to your cervix and helps to “ripen” the cervix, while the Foley Balloon is a small saline-filled balloon that’s placed in your cervix to help it open manually.) I called my doula to tell her the plan and she agreed that this was a good way to start out for a more “natural” route – she said if it went well, then my body could go into labor on it’s own. The doctor placed both in my cervix and told me that the Cytotec would last for four hours, so he would come back to see my progress once the four hours had passed. Meanwhile, our nurse, Lauren, would be checking on us regularly and monitoring the baby’s heartbeat and my contractions.
At this point, I did not feel very much at all! It didn’t hurt when the doctor placed the Foley Balloon in my cervix, and even though I was having contractions already, they weren’t painful at all. Chris and I spent the first hour watching Good Morning America on TV and passing the iPad back and forth while we played Scrabble as my contractions slowly got stronger. About an hour in, Chris helped me unhook from the monitors so I could use the restroom, and THAT is when I started feeling pain! I had been laying down all morning, but when I stood up I could feel the balloon inside and all the sudden the pain was INTENSE. The contractions were also starting to get stronger and more painful, and I had to grit my teeth and focus on breathing in order to get through them. For the next hour we watched TV, talked with my parents on the phone and did anything we could to keep me distracted. About three hours in, our nurse suggested that we could walk around the halls of the hospital if we wanted to. I was in a lot of pain, but she said that being upright and walking could help speed up the process, since it would allow the balloon to put pressure on my cervix. Once my cervix was open enough, the balloon would fall out on its own! (Remember I was only 2 cm dilated that morning, so my cervix had several more centimeters to go.)
Chris and I walked around the hospital halls VERY slowly. I was basically grasping on to Chris for dear life! The contractions were taking over my whole body and wow. It was way more painful than I thought it was going to be. When we got back to the hospital room, our nurse checked me again and when she tugged on the balloon, to our surprise, it popped right out! I IMMEDIATELY felt relief from the balloon being out of my body. I realized just how much pain I had been in when the balloon was gone… I was still having contractions but could walk with ease. Once the balloon came out, the nurse checked me again and found that my cervix was dilated to 5 cm. She even commented that she “felt the baby’s hair” while she was checking!
So where to go from there? Dr. Lewis checked in on me, and I got hooked up to the monitor once again. The baby’s heartbeat was perfect. However… my contractions were incredibly close together, and the doctor was worried that my uterus was getting “over-worked” due to so many contractions. Dr. Lewis said pitocin was definitely not a possibility since my contractions were so close together. In fact, he wanted to give my body an hour to rest and hopefully my contractions would remain strong but space out a little more.
I felt amazing at this point. The balloon was gone and, while my contractions were close together, they were a lot less intense than they had been earlier in the day. We called our doula and she said that since my cervix had dilated so much, it was possible that the baby would descend into my cervix and my water would break on its own. This would be the best case scenario, as I did not want to take any other medicine or get put on pitocin. Our doula sent us a few positions to try to get baby lower in my pelvis, and also suggested more walking and doing a few squats. So that’s exactly what we did! Chris and I walked some more, then put on Game of Thrones and I did squats around the hospital room and bounced on the yoga ball. At one point, I stood up after bouncing on the yoga ball and felt and heard a small “pop” in my pelvis. All of the sudden, it felt like I was peeing myself! “I think my water just broke!” I exclaimed as I ran to the bathroom.
From here, the rest of the day is almost a blur. After my water broke, my body went into labor immediately on its own. The contractions returned, as strong as before. Our nurse Lauren came in to check me again and discovered that the baby’s station was a zero. At this point I was having trouble holding conversations with anyone because my contractions were getting so intense. Chris called the doula to tell her that the baby was at a zero station and she immediately hopped in her car to race to the hospital – apparently we were having a baby soon! It’s at this point where my memories decrease and all I can remember is the white, hot pain of contractions. Prior to delivering, I thought I might be strong enough to handle a natural birth. But oh my goodness, when you’re in the thick of it, it feels UNBEARABLE. I was probably in the “transition” phase of labor but did not realize it at the time. All I could focus on was getting through the pain for the small break in between contractions. When I called for a trash can because I thought I was going to throw up, Chris looked me in the eyes and said, “Caitlin… should you get the epidural?”
And I think you know the answer to that question. 🙂 Our doula arrived around 6 p.m., right as I was getting the epidural. I felt almost immediate relief from the epidural. The pain was gone, replaced by very itchy arms (a weird side effect, I suppose!). Our nurse, who had been with us all day, mentioned that she wouldn’t be there for the birth since she was leaving at 7 p.m. I told her I had a feeling that it might happen fast – and I was right!
Around 30 minutes after getting the epidural, I felt an IMMENSE amount of pressure “down there.” I wouldn’t necessarily say that I had an urge to push… but I just felt like there was so much pressure down there that I might explode. My nurse told me to try to push for a second, so I did… and then she said, “Okay STOP PUSHING! I’m going to go get the doctor right now!” Apparently she was going to meet our daughter after all!
This part of the story is where I tear up. The BEST part of the story… the part where we get to meet her. I can see it all clearly: the hospital staff rushing in getting the room prepared. The lights were dim, but somebody turned on a bright light that felt almost like a spotlight on me. Chris was to my left, holding my hand, and the doula was to my right, whispering comforting words in my ear. It was like being in the eye of a storm: everything was so calm and peaceful. Dr. Lewis would say, “Okay, it’s time to push!” and I would take a deep breath and push with all of my might. Fifteen minutes later, I heard a tiny cry and Dr. Lewis was handing me my beautiful, screaming baby girl. I couldn’t stop the tears from gushing out of my eyes; they came involuntarily and in excess. She was (and still is) the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my entire life. I couldn’t believe she was our baby… the one I’d carried all those months and grew inside of me. I felt like the Grinch when his heart magically doubled in size… it was as if I could physically feel my heart expanding. She was perfect. She was our daughter, I was her mother. I looked over at Chris, and he was beaming ear to ear. Miss Kennedy McColl Dorsch was finally here.