My first baby, a girl, was due on October, 10, 2005. Right after midnight, on October 10, I felt a contraction. My husband had gone to bed, and I didn’t react to the first contraction because I thought it might have been a Braxton-Hicks. Then, four minutes later, I had another contraction that felt different than the false labor contractions I was used to. After a few more, I woke up my husband. Even though these contractions did feel different, I wondered if maybe it was wishful thinking on my part since the day was my “official” due date.
For the next hour or so, my husband and I searched through our pregnancy and birth books to see if I was in real labor. We got so frustrated because the books wouldn't take a strong stand on how we would know if it was labor. Both books advised, "It could be labor BUT it can also be false labor if...." So, we weren’t sure, and we were really frustrated at the time, although it is really funny when I think back on it now.
Around 5 AM, we went to the hospital where the nurse checked me and said I was dilated to one centimeter. She hooked me up to the monitor and it showed my contractions were coming every four minutes and lasting about 90 seconds. These contractions weren’t painful at all.
A midwife I had never met came in, examined me, and said that I was in false labor since I was still dilated only to one. The nurse also agreed it was false labor and thought that it could “go on for three days or fizzle out, but my guess is that it will fizzle out.” She gave me a sleeping pill to take at home, and suggested Tylenol and sleep.
My husband and I were really shocked, but we took the nurse's word and went back to our house. I went back to bed, took some Tylenol, and tried to sleep. (I didn't want the sleeping pill.) Of course, I couldn't really sleep because every few minutes, I was having a contraction. As the day wore on, they went from nagging to painful to seriously painful, but I was still able to talk through them.
My husband had always said that my pain tolerance is so high that his biggest concern is that I would be in labor and not know it. I disregarded this worry but found out that he had a reason to be concerned.
We called the hospital a few times, and each time, the nurse on duty advised me to stay at home because the hospital was sure it was just false labor. My husband brought me cereal and soup, called his sister who is a nurse, and worried that I was really in labor. He kept offering to take me to the hospital, and I got really impatient with him. I said, "There is no point in going there and being sent home again.” So, I refused to go. He did call the nurse, who suggested I take a Tylenol PM to help me sleep.
Around 8 PM, my mom and sister came over, and my husband went out to the store to get Tylenol PM. I never take Tylenol PM because it makes me absolutely loopy, but when he brought some home, I took a couple against my better judgment.
By this point, the contractions were crazy, and I could feel a lot of pressure and a whole lot of pain. And although I knew better, I wanted to bear down. My mom timed the contractions, and they were coming at two- and four-minute intervals. My mom suggested it was time to go to the hospital. Around 10:30 PM, I went to the bathroom and saw blood. We zoomed to the hospital, with my mom following in her car.
When I was admitted, I had already dilated to seven. I was feeling drunk from the Tylenol PM, and everything was surreal. A nurse asked me a question, but I didn't answer her because I didn't feel like it. I heard my husband say, "She took a Tylenol PM so she's kind of out of it." I was at almost nine when I finally got the epidural (the nurse told the anesthesiologist I was at seven).
Those next seven and eight contractions were like an ocean wave. I just counted through them, from the start, to the crescendo and crash, to the subsiding. At the crest of the "wave," it felt like a bowling ball dropping on my pelvis. That's the best I can describe labor. I didn't scream or really make any sound; I just closed my eyes and counted. Even though the epidural was great, I did have a slight problem of feeling clammy, then sweaty, and it felt like everything was fading, so they lowered the dosage. But even with that problem, I would want another epidural if God blesses me with a second baby! At around nine centimeters, the nurse broke my water. Around 3 AM, I told the nurse, "I think you need to up the epidural because I’m feeling something like period cramps." She checked and said, "It's time to start pushing." My husband came over, my mom got behind me, and I started pushing. At one point, the nurse said, "We can see your daughter's head. She's got a head full of dark hair." I had a mirror and watched the process for a while, but then I had to stop because I was getting discouraged from pushing with everything I had and seeing only one centimeter of difference. When the baby's head was in reach, the nurse had me touch it. It felt squishy and not much different from when I touched my own legs, which had no feeling at all because of the epidural.
Pushing was the hardest physical activity I've ever done, and I work out and stayed active until my thirty-seventh week of pregnancy. I had to pray to stay strong, and my husband helped me by supporting my back. At one point, I said, "I can't do this," and my husband had the nurse and midwife let me rest through a contraction. After 60 or 90 minutes of intense pushing, my daughter, Gabriela Hope, was born at 5:46 AM. She weighed eight pounds, two ounces, and was 20¾ inches long.
I'll never forget the first sight of her, screaming and waving her hands and feet, and I could see her gums. She had thick, black hair and dark blue eyes and was blinking them when they laid her on me. She was sturdier than I’d imagined, and when I held her, she stopped crying. She nursed right away, after they cleaned her. She is so beautiful; I definitely want another baby!