Our baby girl was due on April 8th, 2011 (Easter Sunday). We spent the holiday with family and excitedly anticipated the labor to begin. The day came and went, however, without any sign of labor. 10 days later I was still pregnant and began feeling pressure from my OBGYN to induce. I tried everything I could do to get my labor going naturally—walking, acupuncture, rubbing castor oil on my belly, eating spicy food, etc.—but our little one had plans of her own. Aware that it can be dangerous to go beyond 42-weeks of pregnancy, Dan and I scheduled my induction for Thursday, April 19th at 7AM. I felt helpless and disappointed. An induction meant I would not have my chemical-free birth which I had been preparing for over the previous 10-months.
The baby must have heard my prayers because my labor pains began at 8PM on April 18th while Dan and I were watching our favorite television show, “The Walking Dead.” They weren’t overly painful in the beginning, so I wasn’t sure as to whether I was in labor or experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions. Around 10PM, I finally accepted that these were indeed labor contractions. I wanted to wait until the very last minute to head to the hospital knowing I was more likely to have a successful natural birth if I mostly labored at home. My contractions were 3 minutes apart, however; and because I didn’t have the hindsight of experience, I thought the birth was imminent.
At 1:30AM we headed to Saddleback Hospital in Laguna Hills and were checked in around 2AM. My mom arrived at the hospital at 2:30AM. At that time, I was 3cm dilated. It hurt a great deal to lay down during contractions, but our nurse at the time confined me to the bed whenever I received a dose of Penicillin for my GBS (which occurred every 4 hours for 20 minutes) or when they were monitoring the fetus (which occurred every hour for 20 minutes). The Penicillin was awful! It burned like fire when it entered my veins; and combined with the contractions pushed me to violent tears every time it was administered. This was the first of 5 Penicillin treatments!
On April 19th at 10AM, I had reached 5cm and the new nurse on duty recommended we break my bag of waters around noon to speed up the labor. However, knowing that one intervention often leads to another and at the suggestion of our Bradley Method® instructor, we opted to continue with my bag of waters intact. Dan, my mom, and I must have walked the hospital corridor 100 times over the next 4 hours. Remaining vertical eased the contractions, calmed my nerves, and is supposed to help the baby move into position. At 2PM, I had progressed to 6cm. A little progress is still progress, so we were ecstatic! The nurse advised Dan and me to take a bath together because we had been up for nearly 30-hours, and she thought it might relax me and thus speed things up; she was right. By 4PM, I had progressed to 8cm. Yay, 2cm to go!!! While we were thrilled I had made so much progress, the contractions were terrible (a gross understatement). The knowledge we acquired in our Bradley Method® courses—walking, focused breathing, meditating, etc.—helped to mollify the pain a little; but, at this point in the labor, the contractions were so intense nothing offered much relief.
At 6PM we were given the disappointing news I had not made any progress; I was still at 8cm despite the painful contractions that were coming about every minute to two minutes. Dan and I decided at that time to break my bag of waters because we were concerned that, if I labored for much longer, I would not have the energy to push the baby out. My OBGYN finally made an appearance and the nurse broke my bag of waters. There was a gush of water and instantly my contractions became infinitely worse (which I didn’t think was possible). I screamed bloody murder in concert with the contractions which were occurring on top of each other. The nurse advised me to breathe through the contractions rather than scream because I was expending too much energy. Because the baby was in a posterior position (her head was facing forward instead of facing backward), most of my pain was concentrated in my lower back. I felt like it was going to explode. I begged Dan and my mom, over and over again, to punch me in the back; of course, they didn’t.
At 7:30PM I began having an urge to push so the nurse checked my cervix again and I had progressed to 9.75cm and was 95% effaced—enough to start bearing down. My OBGYN returned and suggested we use the pull up bar which was attached to the bed to help move the baby down the birth canal. In a squatting position, I wrapped my arms around the sides of the bar and pressed the top of the bar into my neck. The choking sensation eased the pain (very little) because it was a different sensation I could focus on. The doctor suggested Dan sit behind me and that I fall back on him when the baby was crowning. This would put me and the baby in the ideal position to get her out—not to mention it was extremely romantic having my husband catch me as my baby came into the world. The doctor kept saying (matter-of-factly/somewhat insensitively), “Just push her out. If you want the pain to stop, just push her out.” To which I responded, “Does anyone know what kind of f#$%ing pain I’m in? It hurts, it hurts, it hurts. F#$%, F#$%, F#$%!!!!!!!!!!!!!” My mom grabbed my hand, looked at me sternly and said, “I can see her head. PUSH!”
On April 19th at 8:36PM, Emily Danielle Lodder came into the world at 7lbs, 3oz. She had a mop of slick, black hair—no bruising or swelling. Dr. James placed her on my chest and the nurse cleaned her body while I lay on Dan. The three of us held each other and bonded for the first time as a family.
When I look back on the experience, I realize I had endured over 500 contractions. That number astounds me. At the beginning of my journey the night before, I had no idea how much the labor and delivery would hurt, how long the experience would last, how emotionally and physically exhausted I would feel, and how overwhelming it would be to hold my beautiful baby in my arms for the first time. I think it’s fair to say I am not the same person I was 7 days ago. Not only because I am a mother, but because I feel empowered as a woman. If I could labor for 24-and-a-half hours with no chemical intervention, then, I can do anything, including mother this healthy, sweet baby.