Hello!! I am so excited to be sharing with you today the birth story of Eleanor Clare. First, I am SO excited that I have this space to share about this. I took detailed notes throughout the day of labor and delivery because I knew I’d want to look back on it and relive it, and it’s so special to me that I have a place to share about it.
Man, I have to say, it took me some TIME to process her birth. Not because there was anything traumatic, or anything negative about it at all – but because as anyone who has given birth knows, it is beyond emotional and surreal. I started writing that Eleanor’s birth was nothing like I’d imagined, but I don’t think that’s fair to say, because I genuinely didn’t know what to imagine. There was no birth plan, no expectations – I just wanted to get my daughter here safely. I also trusted my doctor with my whole life, and fully trusted that he would do whatever it took to make that happen.
Part of me feels like I don’t deserve to write this, or that I don’t have a “birth story” because it wasn’t some dramatic, crazy experience. As far as births go, mine was pretty seamless and simple – so does it make sense for me to write about it? But everyone has a birth story, and they’re all special in their own way. And I never want to forget every detail of that day.
Eleanor came into the world at 10:05pm on January 27th and my life has been brighter and more complete ever since.
My Birth Plan
As I mentioned above, I really didn’t have much of a birth plan throughout my entire pregnancy. The only thing I knew was that I absolutely wanted it to be a medicated birth (give me an epidural immediately please, haha). I didn’t have a doula or a midwife, and throughout my pregnancy I also said I really didn’t care whether I had a vaginal delivery or a c-section. Funny enough, as we got closer to the day, I found myself feeling stronger and stronger that I really wanted to have a vaginal delivery. Remember what I said about not preplanning my feelings?! Haha.
Leading Up to Labor
The month leading up to labor, Eleanor was extremely low but I was showing no signs of labor. On January 17th, six days before my due date, I went to my OB for my 39-week appointment and was only .5 centimeters dilated. At that appointment, I scheduled an induction for January 25th, just two days after my due date. I spent the next few days eating dates every night and doing a lot of bouncing on the bosu ball. I had been questioning my decision to be induced so soon after my due date, especially knowing that it’s so common for first-time births to go a week+ past the due date. But at the same time, I felt SO ready and was getting impatient!
Side note: I feel like there is a “special club” of people who know the misery of going past your due date, hahaha. The daily texts and calls from friends – you love them and love that they’re checking in, but want to just put up an AIM away message/automatic response that says “Hi, thanks for your message. There is no baby yet. I’ll let you know if that changes.”
A few days later, on January 20th, my mom called me to tell me she tested positive for COVID a few days before, and that she didn’t want to tell me originally because she didn’t want to stress me out. Because how could it not?! It was the worst timing ever, just a few days before my due date, and my parents were intentionally being SO careful leading up to my birth so they could spend time with our daughter when we got home from the hospital. But unfortunately, COVID (omicron) was RAGING during this time period and it was hard to avoid. So as you can imagine, I spent the next few days terrified that my mom was going to get extremely sick and that she was going to give it to my dad (she somehow never did?!). Charlie and I took this as the sign we needed to push back my scheduled induction date and give my body a bit more time to go into labor on its own. At that point, I actually found myself wanting to go as long as possible past my due date because I wanted my mom to be as far away from COVID as possible.
The weekend before my due date and the weekend of my due date, my doctor was not on call. At my practice, my doctor is a one-man show – it’s not the type of practice where you meet with several different doctors throughout your pregnancy to get to know them all. He is the ONLY doctor, and he’s the only one I saw throughout my pregnancy (and he has also been my gyno since I was in high school). He has a reciprocity system set up where if he’s not on call, a doctor from another practice would step in, but obviously, this would be someone I had never met before. I felt VERY strongly about him being the one to deliver her and spent the weekend before my due date and the weekend of my due date on pins and needles praying that I wouldn’t go into labor. I told Charlie I didn’t want to leave the couch at all because I was afraid it would send me into labor (because that’s how it works, right?! Haha). Thankfully, I made it through those weekends and also made it to my mom testing negative! Phew.
The Day I Went Into Labor
First, let me start by saying that after Christmas/the month leading up to labor, Charlie and I hardly ever left the house. Omicron was going insane and it felt like everyone I knew had COVID. I was starting to become anxious in general about giving birth (it feels so far away and distant and surreal until you start getting closer and realize you have to push a full human baby out of you), but the thought of giving birth WHILE sick was enough to send me over the edge. I had already broken my rib from a fall 2.5 months before my due date and spent so much time worrying about having to deliver with a broken rib, and then my fear switched to giving birth (which is hard enough while you’re healthy…) while extremely sick.
SO, all of this to say, the month leading up to my due date, Charlie and I were never more than 20 feet from each other because we truly never left the house. Well, of course, I had still shown absolutely zero signs of labor and was still only .5cm dilated, so I asked if Charlie would be willing to run to FedEx around 6:30PM to return a package for me 15 minutes away so that I wouldn’t have to deal with it when we had a brand-new newborn at home. So, he went out to drop the package off and pick up McDonalds for himself (because of course) and Chipotle for me.
Well, during that time, when I ran to the bathroom, I noticed I had more… fluid… than I normally would. It wasn’t like the movies where your water breaks and is gushing like a waterfall, so I assumed it was nothing. But, I figured it was better safe than sorry, and that I should call my doctor to let him know. When I called, he told me that sometimes the baby can be SO low (which Eleanor was extremely low) that their head can act like a cork and block the water from gushing out, and that I should go to the hospital immediately to confirm whether the fluid was amniotic fluid. If you don’t know – once your water breaks, you need to deliver after a certain period of time because if you don’t, you can be prone to infection. So of course, the ONE time that Charlie is more than 20 feet from me (and more like 10-15 minutes away), I call him to tell him that we need to leave for the hospital right away. Because why WOULDN’T the timing work out that way?!
In my mind, I was still completely convinced it was nothing because I was showing zero signs of labor otherwise. I asked my doctor if I should bother packing my hospital bag, and he told me I should just in case. So, I called my mom and told her to be on standby to pick up Lacey, we packed the car with our hospital bag (check out this post for my top recommendations of what to pack in your hospital bag!) and we hit the road.
At the Hospital
When we got to the hospital, they admitted us to the labor and delivery triage unit. There, they were planning to test the fluid to see if it was amniotic fluid and if it was, I’d be moved to the actual L&D unit. Welp, sure enough, it was amniotic fluid and I was being admitted! At that point, I scarfed down my Chipotle after being told I wouldn’t eat again until our baby was born. Also, can we talk about how uneventful this was so far?! I wasn’t feeling any intense contractions, my water rupturing was being blocked by Eleanor’s head, and I wasn’t even sure if we were staying in the hospital for the night!
The nurses at this point told me that there was no need for any cervical ripening medication because things were already off to a great start. They hooked me up to a monitor and were able to see that my contractions were starting. We were told to try to get some sleep that night (it was pretty late by this point) and that we’d see where things stood in the morning, but that my contractions should start getting more intense overnight.
I slept HORRIBLY that night. They have you hooked up to a monitor that wraps around your stomach to monitor the baby’s heartrate and ensure there are no decelerations from stress, and it was CONSTANTLY moving, which meant the nurse was constantly coming in and repositioning me and the monitor All. Night long. Side note: L&D nurses are absolute angels., I’ll never forget those nurses.
Labor and Delivery Day
At 6AM my doctor came in and confirmed I was still only 2cm dilated. He fully broke my water (there had only been a partial rupture up to that point) and omg. It was like the movies. I think it’s hilarious that before going to the hospital, I told myself I was going to try to do everything I could to ensure Charlie saw as little as possible because I wouldn’t want him to see all the nastiness that comes along with giving birth. LOL. Needless to say, that wasn’t remotely the case and it’s hysterical that I thought it would be. He was cleaning up fluid off the floor, helping me put diapers on postpartum… birth is just…. Really not glamorous. Anyways, when he broke my water, he told me that he saw some meconium in my amniotic fluid which would mean that the NICU team would need to be present when Eleanor was born in case she had swallowed any and her lungs had fluid in them. As you can imagine, this was extremely anxiety-inducing, albeit common.
I hadn’t made as much progress overnight as they were anticipating, so they started me off with a small whiff of Pitocin at 8:15AM to get things moving. Three hours later, at 11:15AM, I was crying from some of the worst pain I’d ever felt (just from intense contractions) and begging for an epidural. Everyone had told me not to wait too long to ask for one, and this was my biggest mistake. When you ask for one, they don’t give it to you right away – I had to wait an hour for the anesthesiologist to come in and administer it, and it was pure hell. I was in the worst pain I’d ever experienced in my entire life, and there were endless tears. I am in SUCH awe of anyone who is able to give birth without any pain medication. During those hours of pain, I mostly spent time laboring on a bosu ball and trying to walk around as much as possible to take the pain away (spoiler alert: nothing took the pain away besides an epidural).
Finally, at 12:15PM, I was given my epidural and just remember telling Charlie and texting all my friends that I felt like I just drank six margaritas. It was pure BLISS. I could still feel the contractions, but the pain completely subsided. Charlie told me he felt like HE got an epidural because his stress of seeing me in so much pain for hours just completely melted away.
At 1:00PM my doctor came back and checked on things, and at that point I was 80% effaced and still only 3cm dilated. He told me that I was now in the “latent phase” of labor and it could take another 10+ hours from there (he mentioned it could be late that evening or conceivably early the next morning). He told me he would come back again around 9PM unless things progressed quicker than he was anticipating, but that he didn’t think that would be the case. I was in true labor for 3-4 hours at that point and already couldn’t bear the thought of waiting until the following morning.
I labored in different positions for the next few hours (as many as I could while being completely numb from my hips down) and around 5:45PM, I asked my nurse if she could do another dilation check. I was feeling so defeated that it was taking as long as it was to progress and wondering what next steps may be. At that point, it had been almost 5 hours without a dilation check and I was hoping that I would feel somewhat encouraged if I knew I was really dilated. I was having intense shivers and nausea at this point caused by rapid hormone shifts. Sure enough she checked, and I was 8cm!! My nurse called my doctor at this point and told him that he couldn’t wait until 9PM to come back, and that he should come back sooner than anticipated to do a final dilation check.
At around 6, after my dilation check, I fell asleep (bless you, epidural!) and was woken up around 7:15pm by my doctor (who was shocked that I was somehow sleeping?) telling me that I was 10cm and it was time to start pushing.
Time to Push
At 7:30, the pushing (through a mask……women are superheroes, to stay the least) began. When I tell you that I have never once in my entire life experienced more pain than the “back labor” I experienced during pushing, I am not exaggerating. I felt this INTENSE need/desire to push, because it would feel like it was the only thing that could provide me with any relief – but then the pushing would make me feel one hundred times worse. But then I would feel like I had an uncontrollable desire to push again, like I NEEDED to, and then it would make things worse. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. At 9PM, I was literally BEGGING for a c section (which I had spent the last few weeks telling my doctor I very much wanted to avoid). It’s not that I thought a c section would be the easy way out, but I desperately wanted and needed my back labor to end, and I felt like getting a c section was the only way it would.
My nurse (who was an angel on earth, poor gal) tried so hard to be encouraging and repeat over and over again the progress I was making, but I was beyond defeated and convinced zero progress was being made. She asked me if I wanted her to put a mirror at the end of the bed so that I could physically see the progress I was making with each push, to which I responded “ew, absolutely not.” 15-20 minutes later, she was adamant that I use a mirror for just one set of pushes/contractions because she felt like it would give me the encouragement I needed to keep pushing through the excruciating pain I was experiencing. I did, and I have to say it was weird, but I do think it helped.
By 9:30PM, I had been pushing for two hours and was absolutely spent. The exhaustion was unspeakable and the pain unbearable. My doctor didn’t tell me this until after Eleanor was already born, but around this time was when he was absolutely convinced I was going to need a c section because he thought I wasn’t making much progress. Of course, he was telling me that I was doing a great job and things were going great, but afterwards admitted he was having major doubts. Well, he left the room to take an emergency call and by the time he came back in around 9:45 he was telling me I was very close and needed to slow my pushing down because he needed to make sure the NICU team could get there in time (remember, there was meconium in my amniotic fluid so if Eleanor didn’t let out a cry within 30 seconds, the NICU team would need to swoop in).
At 10:00 I was told that everyone who needed to be in the room was there, that the table was set up and ready to go, and that for the next two contractions I needed to push as hard as I physically could and that that would be it.
At 10:05PM on January 27th, my Eleanor Clare was born and Charlie cut the umbilical cord. She was immediately placed on my chest while “Here Comes the Sun” played on Charlie’s phone. Every moment of my entire life, every experience, every choice, every everything, made sense to me in that moment – they all led me to her. My perfect daughter, the first blood relative I had ever met in my entire life, being held in my arms and looking in my eyes. I felt like I held my breath my entire pregnancy, and my whole body sighed the biggest sigh of relief the second I met her. She was everything I never knew I was missing.
30 seconds went by, the slowest 30 seconds of my life, and I just remember saying “I haven’t heard a cry yet, has it been 30 seconds?” to which the NICU team said “yes, we need to take her.” They took her out of my arms and panic set in – I knew she should have cried by then. When they took her from me, on their walk to the other side of the room, I heard the loudest cry come from her little lungs and it was the second biggest sigh of relief I’ve ever experienced. The most beautiful sound. I hope I spend the rest of her life remembering the way I felt the first moment I met her, and the first time I heard that cry.
It's hard to explain what it’s like to have never met anyone who is blood related to you, and then to meet your child who is equal parts you and the person you love more than anything in the world. Things that a non-adopted person doesn’t think much of, like “you look just like your parents!” or “you definitely got that gene from me!” I had never experienced before. It’s not something I’ve missed, or something I’ve thought much about until pregnancy. And then I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like, what it would feel like, to look at another being and see myself in him or her. It was magical, and it was beautiful. Giving birth to Eleanor was also the greatest reminder of how badly my parents wanted me, and what they went through to make me a part of their family. I am forever blessed.
The Following Days
First, let me start by saying that that night, I ate the largest Italian sub from The Italian Store that I had ever had in my life and it was WORTH THE WAIT. I still dream of that sub.
Honestly, the next few days were better than anticipated. They were bloody, they were messy, they were filled with intense postpartum contractions every time I nursed Eleanor (which no one tells you about) but I was expecting to feel way worse. I was moving around well and I wasn’t in a ton of pain, which shocked me and was a pleasant surprise.
When I found out that visitors would no longer be allowed in the hospital because of COVID, I was beyond devastated. I had always envisioned my parents being there the days after delivery, meeting my baby and helping me recover. Well, let me say, I cannot tell you the number of times I said to the nurse “OMG, I cannot imagine having family here, this is a blessing in disguise!” to which they responded that the number of people who had said the same thing was insane. I was half naked most of the time, trying to learn how to breastfeed, trying to sleep, learning how to take care of a newborn, constantly talking to doctors and nurses… I honestly think I just would have been so overwhelmed with visitors. I was so happy that Charlie and I had that time just the two of us.
My postpartum hormones hit me very intensely starting a couple days after giving birth (once we were home from the hospital) and the lack of sleep didn’t help. I cannot put into words how thankful I was and still am for all of the friends and family that were a shoulder to cry on, that checked in regularly, and that stopped by to drop off food or coffee. I deeply needed them, and I’ll never forget how they got me through some really tough days that first week.
Thankfully, the intense hormones lasted about a week for me and then eased up majorly. If you have these same feelings and they don’t seem to be getting better, please know you are not alone and do not be afraid to ask for help.
Welp, that’s my birth story! Maybe boring, maybe relatively uneventful, but it’s special to me and I’m so thankful you’ve given me a space to share.