Labor actually began right on my due date. I just didn't know it at the time! I had been feeling mild contractions that I thought were still Braxton Hicks contractions and so I continued about my day, wondering when she would arrive. That evening as we were making dinner they started to be a little bit "painful". I say it in quotations because it really didn't hurt that bad but felt different enough that I called up my doctor to tell him what I was feeling and ask if it was labor. He said it sounded like Prodromal Labor which can last from hours to a couple of weeks. He said I would know when they really started to feel more intense, and consistent. I prepared myself for the long haul and decided that these could last for another week.
We went to bed but I couldn't sleep. It just wasn't comfortable to lie down so I went into the living room and sat on the exercise ball, timing the contractions on my phone to see if they were consistent or getting closer together or anything. I also began listening to Hypnobabies - which, I have been using to prepare myself for a natural childbirth since week 20 of pregnancy! Hypnobabies is a self hypnosis (I think of it as relaxation/meditation) course with audio tracks to relax and guide you into a comfortable natural childbirth experience. I even got about an hour and a half of sleep on the couch while listening to it. At 5:30am, Evan's alarm went off for work. I went into the bedroom to show him the fun night of contractions that I had. I still wasn't sure it was labor, because I really wasn't in pain. I just felt pressure and tightening but not in my back like others said I would feel, and nothing that felt overwhelming like many describe. Evan got dressed and rushed around gathering our things to put them in the car. I guess we were going to the hospital! We decided to go there and have them check and see if I was actually in labor.
It stormed really hard on the drive to the hospital. I felt pretty calm and I think we both felt anticipation - would this be the day that we met our baby? We walked into the hospital at 6:30 and the lady at the desk said "Can I help you?" which we thought was sort of a ridiculous question. Do you see a very pregnant woman standing in front of you at 6:30am? I think Evan said something like "Is this where we go to have a baby?". Haha. I love him. We went up to the room and they hooked me up to the machines to monitor the contractions and the baby's heart rate. I continued to relax through what were apparently pretty intense contractions. Evan said the nurse kept looking at me in amazement as the contractions spiked and I just sat there quietly, breathing. The doctor came in at 8:15 to check me and see if the contractions were productive. He popped his head up and said to me "Are you ready to have a baby today?? You're 8 centimeters dilated!" and I think I seriously got the chills I was so surprised. IT WAS HAPPENING. I had heard and read so many stories of women going through this hardest part of labor, as you get closer to 10cm. Somehow I was there and was doing just fine. At this point I thought "Wow, I'm seriously going to do this!!!" and was so excited that Hypnobabies actually was working for me. Even without any sleep the night before, I felt full of energy and also really relaxed. The doctor said he would come back in an hour and check again.
I changed into my Pretty Pushers gown (that I won in a giveaway from The Art of Making A Baby!) and we started texting and Facebooking. It was officially baby day! I sat on the exercise ball and listened to Hypnobabies. The contractions were stronger but not exactly painful. Sitting on the ball and humming a bit through them helped tremendously.
The hour went by so fast for me and in no time, the doctor was back to check again. He peeked his head up again and said "You're 10 centimeters! Your water hasn't broken yet - do you want me to break it? It will get the show on the road pretty quickly!" and I wasn't sure. I looked at Evan, paused for a moment, and said "Ok, do it." It breaks with a snap and he says he's going to feel for the baby's head. He suddenly looks serious and says "I think I felt two cheeks." They bring in an ultrasound machine that takes fooorreverrr to start up. As it "warms up" I lay there on the bed, now having really intense contractions that are much harder to relax through, especially with all the distraction. I had a sick feeling in my gut - I just knew that things were about to go in a direction I wasn't prepared for. They do not deliver breech babies and there would be only one way to get her out. I was trying to avoid thinking about what was about to happen and closed my eyes and tried to mentally escape. I heard them confirm she was breech and I heard the doctor tell us what we'd have to do. I might have signed some papers and I might have been hooked up to some things and moved to a rolling bed. I think I mentally checked out. I was heartbroken.
They started rolling the bed to a different part of the hospital. I kept my eyes shut. The contractions really hurt now because I lost all focus but I kept trying to use techniques to keep as calm as possible. I felt a hand grab mine and it was one of my doctors, one who I'd seen through a lot of my pregnancy, the one I called the night I asked if it was real labor or not. He knew how much I had wanted a natural childbirth, what a huge goal it was for me and how important it was to me. He had tears in his eyes and said "It's going to be okay." and it shocked me that he was getting emotional. I think it was because he knew how I must be feeling in that moment. Evan stayed by my face during the entire surgery, holding my hand, telling me I'm doing great, encouraging me.
I thought I would be totally numb and feel nothing but I felt a lot of pushing, pulling, tugging, burning and stinging. It was pretty disgusting. The doctors said, "It's going to feel like we are standing on your chest." and they were right, it was a ton of pressure where I could hardly breathe and then she was out and we heard her little gurgles and cries! I wanted to see her right away but they didn't know this and they didn't show her to me. I saw her a couple minutes later, just for a split second, all wrapped up and with a hat on her head. They didn't even bring her close to me so I could see her well or kiss her little face. I wish they would have.
Evan stayed with me instead of going with her. We knew she would be okay with the nurses and I really needed him there with me. I was getting overwhelmed and starting to feel a lot of pain and at this point I finally started crying. Evan stayed close and reminded me to use Hypnobabies to calm down and feel less pain. My heart rate was racing and I was shivering uncontrollably but as soon as Evan said that to me and the anesthesiologist asked me if I could slow down my heart rate - I did within a minute. He was amazed and I think he said he has never had a patient actually do it.
Once it was over, I had to lay in the recovery room and be monitored for 45 minutes, so at that point I told Evan to go and be with Luna. Time was passing and I wanted her to be held by one of us. He held her the whole time I was in recovery and while I was being settled back into our room.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, I got to hold her and really look at her for the first time. I feel like because of the way that c-sections are - there is a sort of disconnect between being pregnant and then holding this baby. We didn't see her come out, we didn't get to hold her right away. She was already clean and bundled and I was drugged and time had passed. I wanted it to be love at first sight but I think that the surgical part sort of took away that rush of emotion you get when you give birth naturally. That was really hard for me to realize and I've cried about it more than once.
People say "well you have a healthy baby and that's all that matters!" but I don't think that's all that matters. YES, I am sooo thankful that she is so healthy and beautiful and that she is here. But do I wish the experience could have been better? Would that have made our first moments together more full of joy? YES. Is this the one situation in which "It's about the journey, not the destination." does not apply? I had to mourn the loss of that and decide that this is the biggest life lesson I've had to deal with yet. No matter how perfectly I do things and how much I try to control the situation, so much can still happen that is out of my control and I have to learn how to cope with the loss of some dreams and goals.
In hindsight, I almost had two full childbirth experiences. I went through all of natural labor except for pushing her out - and I also went through the experience of a c-section. My body had to recover from both! I felt proud that I was able to make it as far as I did on my own and lucky that my c-section went smoothly and I had no adverse effects. Even within my "worst case scenario" it went as good as it could have, and I'm thankful for that. And now I'm a mother to a tiny and beautiful little girl named Luna. I love her more and more each day.