Sitting in the hospital bed, staring at my new perfect baby boy, I really started to realize just how dramatic the last few hours had been…
“Well… that escalated quickly.”
When I woke up that morning, I just felt… off.
I don’t really know how else to explain it. Nothing in particular was wrong - I just felt run down and had no appetite.
I dropped my daughter (known here as Bug) off at school and decided to have a shamelessly lazy day with my toddler (a.k.a. Bubba). We stayed home all day and watched far more Daniel Tiger than I care to admit.
After school, I took advantage of the beautiful weather we were having that day and sat in my driveway while my kids played. My dad stopped by to see the kids for a little while and my husband came home from work shortly after. By that time, some of the other kids in our neighborhood were out playing too, so I left the men outside with the kids while I went in to try to rest.
As I was dozing on the couch wondering how I would possibly muster the energy to make dinner, I felt what I thought might be a contraction. It was definitely stronger than the Braxton Hicks I’d been having for weeks, but not exactly painful either. Another came several minutes later. Then a third…
During the third, I felt a painful pop in my pelvis. I don’t think I realized exactly what happened, but something in me started to think “GET OFF THE COUCH!”
As soon as I got up, my water gushed in true Hollywood fashion. I looked at the clock and it was about 5:30 PM.
I waddled to the front door and yelled out into the yard at my husband.
I told him I wasn’t in a hurry and that he could take a shower if he wanted.
Contractions started pretty much immediately and were 2-3 minutes apart right from the start.
I contacted my photographer to let her know what was happening and then put in a call to the after hours line at the OB’s office.
(And yes… I notified my photographer before the doctor because #priorities)
By the time my husband finished his quick shower, my contractions were already 1-2 minutes apart and I was groaning and really having to focus to breathe through them.
Even though I hadn’t heard back from the on-call OB yet, I decided we probably needed to go ahead and make our way to the hospital. Thankfully, my dad was still there, so we could leave the kids with him and my mom met us at the hospital.
We arrived at the hospital just a little before 7 pm, which is when shift change happens for the nurses. The current nurse hooked me up to the monitors to wait until they finished shift change. When the OB came in to check me, it was about 7:30 and I was 3 cm and 80% effaced.
I was moved to my delivery room. At this point, contractions were still 1-2 minutes apart and painful, but I was managing pretty well. Over the next hour, the contractions intensified and I was feeling more pressure in my pelvis. My husband suggested that I should ask to be checked again, but I really didn’t want that. If you’ve read either of my other children’s birth stories (here and here), you’ll know that my cervix has a history of not really cooperating in labor. I had a lot of anxiety about cervical checks. I was terrified of hearing that there was no change.
My husband kept reassuring me and I finally agreed. I was checked again just before 9:00 - 4 cm.
Not major progress, but progress nonetheless.
The photographer arrived around that time and things were really starting to ramp up.
I was struggling during contractions now. I was crying and when contractions peaked, I often said I couldn’t do it anymore. My husband just kept holding my hand and my mom wiped my face with a wet rag while they talked me through each one.
Between contractions, I was able to take a couple of deep breaths and calm myself. During contractions, I couldn’t think clearly through the pain, but in the short breaks between, I could recognize the signs of progress -
-The nurses kept having to move the monitors lower and lower on my belly to find baby’s heart rate because he was moving down.
-I was starting to feel nauseated at the peak of each contraction, which is a sign of approaching the transition stage of labor.
It had been less than an hour, but the OB asked if she could check me again. I declined at first because, again, I was scared. I was really struggling mentally with these contractions and I was afraid that if I heard there was no progress, I would completely lose it.
At this point my husband stepped in and told me he really wanted me to get checked. With my previous births, he was so anxious and seemed so unsure of everything. This time he was so calm and reassuring. He reminded me that he has seen me give birth before and he could tell that this time was different. He knew I was scared from my previous experiences and needed to hear that this wasn’t the same.
The OB checked me again a little before 10:00 and I was 7 cm and 90% effaced.
I was THRILLED! This was happening! I could do this!
My excitement didn’t last long. My labor pattern changed very suddenly. I was no longer getting any break at all between contractions. I wasn’t able to get that little break to catch my breath and calm myself anymore. I started to panic, which made my heart race.
At the same time, the baby’s heart rate started dropping really low during contractions. The nurses were struggling to differentiate between baby’s heart rate and mine on the monitors.
I ended up in a full-fledged panic attack then. I started screaming when contractions would peak and may or may not have told my husband that I was dying multiple times.
One nurse had me flip onto my side and put an oxygen mask on me while another was still frantically trying to find baby on the monitor. Although I was panicking, I still remember looking at my husband and realizing he was far too calm - smiling even. It’s the only thing that kept me sane.
I asked him later why he was so chill during that chaos, and he said there was another nurse in the room. The two nurses with me were so focused on their job - one finding baby’s heart and the other trying to get me to calm down and take deep breaths in the oxygen mask - that they weren’t taking in the whole picture. The third nurse was standing back watching everything and she apparently called the OB team back in. She told them that although they had just checked me, she was sure the baby was actually coming now.
Right about that time, my body started pushing. It’s called Fetal Ejection Reflex. I’ve heard about it. I’ve seen it happen to my birth clients. But absolutely nothing prepares you for the moment it happens to you. The pressure was unbelievable, and my body completely took over with no help whatsoever from me.
The nurse holding my oxygen mask was caught off guard by how abruptly I stopped screaming and realized I was bearing down instead. She quickly pushed my leg aside to look and said, “Well, mama… is this the position you want to push in? Because it looks like we’re there.”
It had only been about 15 minutes since I was checked at 7 cm and honestly, my brain couldn’t even process what was happening. The nurse asked me to take a few breaths and try to stop pushing so they could break down the bed, but I couldn’t. My body was pushing so hard, I couldn’t even catch my breath.
The OB then said she wasn’t worried about breaking down the bed and to just let my body do what it needed to do.
Just when I thought I would pass out from the pain and not being able to breathe, I finally got a break from the contractions. It only lasted a minute or so, but it was enough for me to take a few breaths and for the medical team to break down the bed.
After a short break, I started pushing again. Despite the fact that I could very clearly feel what was happening, my brain was still in panic mode. I was convinced this wasn’t really happening and that I wouldn’t be able to push the baby out. I kept saying I couldn’t do it and I needed someone to help me.
A nurse told me to reach down and feel the baby’s head crowning.
I finally managed to muster the strength and courage to push my baby the rest of the way out - only about 10 minutes of pushing altogether.
The baby was covered with a towel and placed on my chest. While I admired my precious new love, my mom ran out to the waiting room where my daughter was waiting. We had decided to let her be the first to peek and announce the sex of the baby.
We had a baby BOY!
A little while later, it was time to cut the cord, and I said I wanted to do it myself.
He was weighed at 8 lbs 11.4 oz - my biggest baby by almost a pound - and I had done it completely naturally!
My dad came in with the kids to meet our new little guy and they were totally smitten right from the start.
Once my parents left with the big kids, the chaos was over and I asked the nurse the official time of birth. I was shocked to hear 10:21 PM - just under 5 hours from when my water broke!
I looked down at my little Baby Bear, and said, “Well… that escalated quickly!”
A special thank you to Krista with Seed & Stem Photography for these beautiful birth photos!
Everyone seems to have an opinion...
Don't over pack...
But you'll regret it if you need something you didn't pack! Bring EVERYTHING and leave some in the car just in case!
You do you boo...
Here's the thing-
There are a million different blogs all over the internet with comprehensive hospital bag packing lists of everything you could ever possibly need.
This is not one of those blogs.
Honestly, how much you will need or want to pack entirely depends on a few different factors:
*The type of birth you are having - c-sections tend to have longer hospital stays than uncomplicated vaginal deliveries.
*How close you live to the hospital where you are choosing to deliver - Sending your husband on a 15 minute drive home to grab something you forgot is a totally different story than those of you traveling over an hour to get to your birth location of choice.
*Do you have help nearby? - My husband and I are very lucky to have plenty of local friends and family who are more than happy to stop by our house or a store to grab something we need.
This blog I've written for you today is not a complete list of what you'll need to pack.
Instead, I have compiled a few small hacks that I learned with my first two births to make packing a little easier and so you don't make the same mistakes I did!
1) Bring One Really Big Bag
Having separate bags packed for everyone is chaos. I know it might feel more organized to have everyone's things organized into their own bag, but postpartum rooms are TINY.
You know those beautiful, spacious labor and delivery rooms they show you on the hospital website and during your tour?
Yeah... you only get to stay in those for a few hours after delivery at most. They will eventually move you down to the postpartum rooms, which are about the size of my closet. And this seems to be a universal phenomenon because as a birth photographer, I've been in L&D rooms in pretty much all of the local hospitals as well as the postpartum rooms for Fresh 48 sessions.
Suddenly, all of those separate bags take up a ton of space and you're tripping over them every time you get up.
I pack one giant bag for everyone. It's not pretty. It's an old duffel bag my husband had before he met me, but it works. I can pack everything we need for myself, my husband, and the baby AND still have a little room left over to cram in the goodies I bring home from the hospital with me (diapers, wipes, mesh panties, ice packs, etc).
2) Get Samples or Go Travel Size with Toiletries
This is one I learned the hard way with my first birth. I packed everything we didn't need on a daily basis and then put a list on top of the bag of items we needed to remember when it was time to go to the hospital: toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, makeup, phone chargers, etc. etc. etc.
Well, guess what?
When I started having dangerous blood pressure spikes and was sent to the hospital in a hurry, all of those extra things we were supposed to grab were completely left behind.
With my second baby and now with this third, I knew not to make that mistake again.
I have toothbrushes and sample size tubes of toothpaste from our most recent dentist visits.
I have makeup samples I got in some random swag bag.
I have travel size deodorants, shampoos, conditioners, body washes, makeup remover wipes, etc.
The only thing we will actually have to remember to grab on our way out the door is the bag itself and my purse.
3) Pack an Extra Sports Bra or Sleep Bra
Soooo funny story...
I had a long labor with my second baby. People will tell you all the time that modesty goes out the window once you're in "labor land," but you never know just how true it is until it happens to you.
Apparently, at some point during the long pushing phase with my son, I started to get really hot. I have no memory of this whatsoever, but I've been told that I just started ripping clothes off and demanding that everyone help me get the gown off because I was so hot.
It wasn't until about 20-30 minutes after he was born and snuggling on my chest that I glanced down and asked, "So... uh... how long have I been completely naked?"
The nurse assured me it was no big deal and it happens all the time.
I wasn't exactly embarrassed, but here's the problem...
I have lots of photos that no one will ever see from my son's birth. I love and treasure them... but will not share them because, as I said, I was COMPLETELY naked.
This time I packed an extra sports bra in the bag and made my husband SWEAR to me that he will make me AT LEAST keep a bra on during birth this time.
I've hired a photographer, and I want to be able to share the beautiful photos I know she'll capture of that day.
As a birth photographer, I always tell my clients that it's not my job to tell you what to do or not to do during labor. If it's important to you to have photos you can share that don't contain full nudity, always designate someone - your spouse, a doula, a friend, someone - to remind you to leave your clothes on just in case!
4) Bring Towels From Home
Another lesson learned the hard way.
Not sure if you know this, but hospital towels are approximately the size of a postage stamp. Also, because they're regularly washed in a really harsh cycle (for obvious reasons), they feel like sandpaper.
Now I know some people who say they prefer to just wait until they get home to shower after birth, but I can't do that. Pretty much as soon as I'm up and walking around, I'm ready to wash off and get into some clean clothes.
If you know you're going to want a shower at the hospital, bring your own towel. You'll thank me later.
5) Bring a Folder
This doesn't have to be anything elaborate. Any basic pocket folder that you can get for less than a dollar at Target is fine.
When packing my hospital bag, I use the folder to hold a copy of my birth preferences to give to the nurses at the hospital as well as any notes and reminders for my husband (like our birth photographer's phone number and when and how often to contact her).
However, this folder is also really handy after birth as well. You will be given so many random pieces of paper after your baby is born - information on newborn procedures that you choose to have done at the hospital, paperwork for the baby's birth certificate and social security card, and any discharge instructions.
Having a place to put all of those papers will make it much easier to find them again when you get home.
I hope you find these little hacks helpful! To my other experienced mamas: did you feel like you over packed, under packed, or was it just right? Was there anything you didn't pack but wish you had? Leave a comment and let me know!
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