Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I mean, anything that involves make up and candy has got to be a winner in my book! I've had some rather memorable Halloweens over the years, but none quite as exciting as LAST year as we anticipated the arrival of our own little goblin.
In the spirit of the holiday, I'm going to tell you one of the scariest tales [with a happy ending] you will hear this Halloween (while moms might appreciate it the most, don't worry, it has been edited to be rated-G for everyone)...here is Matilda's birth story, as recorded just a couple weeks after her birth:
It was Halloween night (cue eerie music now) and we had just been over at a friend's house. They have a little girl, so we all took her trick-or-treating, hoping that the walk would do me some good (and hopefully spur on labor). Many people had questioned whether I was hiding a giant pumpkin under my shirt or not - many jokes were made about the "great pumpkin Charlie Brown" and with good reason - I was downright enormous. I had walked miles that week, trying to induce contractions, but to no avail.
We went home, having eaten spicy chili and way too much Halloween candy. We started to watch "Dracula" on tv, and I mentioned to Josh that I was determined "Scare this baby out of me!"
I was technically due November 3rd, but people had been commenting for weeks that I looked overdue - even my own doctors. I still believe I was a couple of weeks past due, though I was truly thankful for every minute of pregnancy. I had a fairly uneventful pregnancy and enjoyed every little movement, little kick, little amazing hiccup that Matilda made in the womb. In fact (and this is not romanticized - you can ask my husband) I worried that I would just miss her once she was delivered. I am one of those crazy ladies that most other pregnant women hate - the one wearing the smile right up until the end. But, in God's perfect timing, I did finally feel ready to actually meet her that week. I had recently had extra swelling and itchiness all over my body that was signaling to me that this time was needing to come to a close and it wouldn't be long before she would be out.
So, we were watching "Dracula" at home (thankfully) and at 10pm exactly I was laying on the couch watching the movie when I hear a POP and felt like a kick in the pelvic bone from the inside. I was like "Whoa" and ran to the bathroom cause I knew it was unlike anything I ever felt before. It was seriously just like out of the movies (even though they warn you "it will be nothing like it is in the movies", haha). I yelled from the bathroom "I think my water broke!!" I was so shocked and instantly felt giddy and excited and nervous all at once. Holy cow, holy cow, holy cow. Luckily I had just showered before we hung out with our friends, so I was feeling good and we were already all packed. We got out our Bradley book (the birthing method we chose and had taken a 12 week course in preparation) to review what was ahead of us. We knew we'd be having a baby within 24 hours!! I called my parents and started to get my first contraction, just 10 min after my water broke. Josh hopped in the shower, and the contractions started to pick up. By the time Josh was dressed, we started timing the contractions and they were 5 min apart. It was so weird. They definitely hurt and were already lasting 50 seconds each. We knew since my water broke if we called L&D they would want us to come in immediately, and since we were planning on a natural birth we wanted to wait and labor at home as long as we felt it was safe. I sat on the birthing ball and bounced and rotated my hips to try and stay relaxed and get her down. By midnight the contractions were easily 4 min apart or less and about 1 min long. So, we went ahead and called L&D and they told us to come in. We packed up and headed out! I couldn't believe we'd be returning with our baby girl! We arrived at L&D at about 1am. The contractions did not slow down as I anticipated they might when you check in and get settled. They allowed me to be intermittently monitored, 20 min on, 20 off. We walked around when I was off monitor, roaming the halls and the contractions were very intense! They were about 2-4 minutes apart and 60-90 sec long. Josh was an amazing coach and we truly got to use our relaxation techniques and breathing we learned in our Bradley classes. He would talk me through each contraction and I was mentally able to completely go "somewhere else" (I was either on the Laguna beach or at the top of the Eiffel Tower!) and of course I was praying a lot as well. Funny enough, I kept having the song "Confidence" from the Sound of Music pop in my head so I kept thinking "I have confidence in sunshine, I have confidence in rain…" haha. Also, we brought the birthing ball with us, so when we weren't walking I was at least on the ball. It was very helpful because it allowed me to move but I knew I had to conserve some energy so I didn't want to walk every time. Being monitored and staying in bed was horrible. I would have to lay on my side (laying on my back was even worse) and every time I contracted it seriously felt like my abdomen and hips and thighs were paralyzed. The only good thing was that I could see the contractions on the monitor, so it helped me to see when one was ending and I would know I could make it through. At 4:30am they checked me for the first time. They don't want to check you very often when your water has already broken, so not to introduce the risk of infection. I was at 5cm and 90%! I thought we were well on our way to babyland. I continued to labor and it was very intense as the contractions built up and remained consistent. I knew if we could keep them coming that I should be nearing transition by the time they check me next time. They returned about 9am to check me...and I was still at 5cm. WHAT? Ugh...I couldn't believe it. They seemed surprised also since my contractions were happening so consistently and VERY intense...but not progressing me. This started the talk of Pitocin. I knew that it would be extremely difficult to remain unmedicated if they intended on using Pitocin. I asked that we be given at least an extra hour to walk around and keep the contractions up and see if it didn't make a difference. They "didn't recommend" this, but we were going to do all we could to have a natural birth and didn't want to wimp out without even trying to continue this way. So, we went ahead and started walking (our nurse just found us when it was time to get monitored). Wow - what a PAINFUL hour! As I walked the halls with Josh this time, I literally had to stop every few steps. The contractions were less than a minute apart and lasting almost 2 minutes long and extremely intense by the time we got back to our room. They wanted to check me again and I just KNEW we had made progress. Contractions were nearly on top of each other and I asked to use the bathroom before getting checked. As I was in there the contractions would just not stop. I broke out in a cold sweat and then threw up (nightmare!) I was confused and shivering and I knew these were all the tell-tale signs as Josh said to me "I think you're in transition". I HAD to be...it was so horrible. In the moment this was great news to me because if I was in transition I knew we would have progressed and would be able to continue naturally. I got to the bed and they checked me again....STILL AT 5cm. No way. We couldn't believe it. We felt somewhat defeated, but at the same time we had told ourselves "Let's try the walking and if there's no change we'll know action needs to be taken". So, after there was no progress again, we made the decision to get the Epidural and have Pitocin started. I considered only getting the Pit, but I knew that if I wanted the energy to be able to push her out, I had no choice but to get the epi so I would be able to rest and regain some strength. I knew I wouldn't be able to endure it all without rest - not after having been up for over 24 hours and in so much pain already. I had endured 15 hours of completely natural labor, and I felt I had quite earned my gold medal for the day.
Getting the epidural was terrible in and of itself...they had to stick me 3 times because he said "I'm sorry, your joints are so close together I just keep hitting bone". (Which is just what you want to hear as they are putting a needle in your spine) UGH - as if I even wanted it in the first place. It was painful, but tolerable until a contraction would come. And, Josh had been so supportive of me the whole time, he hadn't eaten or taken care of himself - so he nearly fainted when they gave me the epi! One minute he's there holding my hand, the next thing I know he is on the floor with his shirt off and they are giving him oxygen! Poor guy, he was white as a ghost! Finally they got the epi and after it took effect and they start the pit, I felt much better. Josh was able to sleep and I was able to rest for at least a while. They kept saying they just needed to "kick start" me and make sure my contractions were intense enough to keep me progressing - that after that I would have a baby by that afternoon. But the pit was not progressing me. They decided to insert an intrauterine line that would measure the intensity of the pit needed. The contractions were perfect, very often and very intense...but not progressing me. Thank goodness, the entire time this was happening, Matilda's heartrate remained strong and steady. By 4pm I was only at barely 6cm. The clock was ticking because it had been 18 hrs since my water broke and they were concerned about infection. They were also concerned about the baby's position and size. We had known she would be big and they were guessing about 8 lbs (which ended up being right!). Her head was transverse and I had been rotating sides to get her lined up correctly. Also, she was only just now at -1 station. She didn't seem to be getting any lower, and possibly unable to at the angle she was at. This is when the talk of c-section became serious...and I knew it was truly inevitable. We always knew it could come to this. I had always prayed that God would make it very very obvious that we wouldn't be left with any other choice if that was what was supposed to happen. I had to just surrender it to God and believe that He was ultimately saving us from a dangerous route by backing us into a corner where c-section would be best. So, I was very grateful to have gotten to experience true labor! The water-breaking- going-into-spontaneous-labor experience was a true blessing I believe God let us experience since we had asked Him for letting us have a natural birth experience. At this point I felt like I was going into labor number 3 (natural, medicated, and now surgical). It had been SUCH a long day, we were emotionally exhausted and ready to just get this baby out. Within 20 min, we were in the Operating Room. It was very surreal and I was feeling kind of woozy and trying to remain calm and keep my eyes open. I just wanted Josh by my side and so I was very glad to see him, in his white zip-up suit and hat. (He looked like a haz-mat worker!) Lots of pressure and tugging and pushing on my belly and just minutes after that, she was out!!! Josh said later that she was so wedged in there that the doctor had to move from one side of the table to the other just to maneuver her head out. Matilda cried and we just burst into tears! She's here! She's ours!! It was so magical and spiritual and a rush of peace came over us. And, in the end, it turned out to be a huge blessing to have gone with the c-section. Afterward in recovery with Matilda and Josh, I ran a 103+ fever. Turns out I was fighting off infection from having lost my water so long ago. My blood pressure and heart rate were up and they started me and Matilda on antibiotics right away. They kept me on antibiotics the next 48 hrs and a day later my temp was finally normal. It all worked out! I feel so blessed and truly not disappointed. I feel really REALLY proud that I labored naturally for so long! Even though we had hoped for a natural birth, I stuck to my motto that "as long as you leave with a healthy baby (that's yours) that birth was a success!" and that is truly how I feel! Josh and I both cried when we made the c-sec decision (also both wrought with emotion and tiredness!) but we knew as soon as we saw her it just wouldn't matter HOW she arrived. And it doesn't - we just LOVE HER!!!!
And now we are excited to celebrate her VERY FIRST HALLOWEEN!
Happy Halloween to our lil Stinker! Matilda is a Skunk for Halloween! :)