I was due with Caroline on June 16th.
Both of her brothers had come on or after their due dates, (you can read William’s birth story here and David’s here) so I had no reason to believe she’d be early. But something in the back of my mind – maybe mother’s intuition – just knew that this little girl would have a mind of her own.
Here’s a glimpse of me on June 8th… at almost 39 weeks…
My plan was to work up until the day she arrived – just as I did with both boys. I literally went into labor with David at my desk. <<< Ridiculous, I know.
I decided I would use June 1st- June 8th to get all my “things” done. I had sent off all my work “things” by the end of May… but I still had to do all the “things” that women want done before they have a baby. You know… manicure, pedicure, hair, lashes, etc. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I wanted them all out of the way. I also had a couple of personal things to cross of my list. We had family friends to deliver a meal to, and I needed to bake my labor and delivery nurses their cookies. You can get the recipe >>> here.
So that Friday – June 8th – Joe and I headed down to Carson to see some family friends. My friend Rachel’s mom, Kim, said as we left, “Em… I think you’re close.” She couldn’t have been more right. On the way home we stopped at the grocery store to get all the things we needed for the cookies, we picked the boys up, and we settled in for a weekend of nesting and getting everything ready for our baby girl.
Even though I had written my hospital bag post weeks earlier, I didn’t actually pack any of our hospital bags until Friday evening. Again, call it intuition, call it coincidence, call it whatever you want… but that Friday night, I packed all our bags like a maniac. It felt good. A week in advance, everything was done. Except baking the cookies.
Our Saturday morning began like any other – at 5am. 🙂 Because I work East Coast hours, my kids and husband are very much on my schedule. We watched some cartoons in bed.
6:o0am I made everyone breakfast – eggs, sausage, bacon, toast and strawberries. Then after breakfast, William and I snuggled on the couch. Nothing felt different at all. I posted this photo to our instastories. Little did I know…
7:30am when breakfast was all cleaned up, we started to talk about our day. We had planned to go to our friends’ Lauren and Corey’s house for a BBQ that evening… so we were figuring out what to bring.
8:00am I headed into the laundry room to start a load of laundry. That is when my first contraction hit. I didn’t think much of it. I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions for weeks. But then, about 15 minutes later, I felt another one. I started to get butterflies. Those anxious, nervous, “HOLY SHIT MAYBE TODAY IS THE DAY” butterflies.
** Side Note ** I have been asked a lot on our instagram stories what contractions feel like. The best way I can describe it is – like a very strong period cramp that becomes more and more intense over the course of a minute, or a minute and a half. The pain comes in waves. By waves I mean that the pain starts off slowly. At first it is manageable but by 30 seconds in, you are doubled over and can’t speak. And then the pain slowly goes away over the course of the next 30 seconds. Contractions are usually about a minute long, with differing lengths of time in between. The closer your contractions are together, the closer you are (usually) to meeting your baby.
8:15am I calmly walked into the kitchen to tell Joe that we needed to bake the cookies. He looked at me and said, “There is NO WAY you’re in labor. But we have to make these things anyway – so might as well be today.”
I walked into our closet to make sure I knew where my pump was and to formulate a plan. I do my best thinking in my closet, so it was obviously the place to go. We legitimately had NO plan. This wasn’t what was supposed to happen. She was a freaking WEEK early. All our babysitters were out of town until that night. My mom couldn’t watch both boys on her own. My coworker was out of town, so no one would be covering our books on Monday. If my contractions progressed during the day, I was totally screwed. This was quite literally the most inopportune day to have a baby. But as we all know… babies do what they want to do.
I mentally checked myself… everything would be fine, I just needed to remain calm.
9:00am I called my mom. She was getting a pedicure. I told her I’d call her back in two hours with an update and by then I should know if I was really in labor. She said she’d be over the second I needed her.
9:15am Joe baked two batches of these cookies – as I read him the directions. More contractions. They were coming more consistently now, and I decided to start my timing app. They were about 13 minutes apart… super early labor, but even so I wanted to slow them down. I knew a shower would probably do the trick, so I told Joe I was going to hop in.
Two minutes later I had both William and David in the shower with me. I don’t know what it is, but the second Joe or I get in the shower… it’s like our whole household has to join. So there I am – 9 months pregnant – holding David over my huge pregnant belly.
Another contraction hit. I yelled for Joe… “This isn’t a joke – I AM SERIOUSLY IN LABOR – and you need to get these kids out of here.”
9:30am I finished the shower and got myself ready. I texted my girlfriend, Lauren, to tell her we wouldn’t be making the barbecue. Then I texted my mom. There was no doubt in my mind… I was definitely in labor. I had gotten my hair done that past week, and my hairdresser, Roxy, who also happens to be an old friend, had told me about a trick to get through labor. You take two men’s hair combs – the little black ones – and you squeeze them in the palm of your hands as your contractions hit. The teeth of the combs hit the pressure points in your fingers and they make the contractions more bearable. So I asked my mom to pick up some combs — I figured it was worth a shot.
10:30am I called my sister, texted a few close girlfriends, and I started to get extremely excited. Over the next hour the contractions stayed very spaced out, and when I laid down they stopped completely. But when I was standing – they were coming every 13 minutes.
10:45am I texted my doula, Ashley. I wanted her to be able to arrange for care for her children. If my past labors were any indication, I figured she’d be with us for 12+ hours. If you want to know why we choose to use a doula, this post here is for you. She has been with me for all my kids’ births.
11:30am I called my mom to have her come over. The contractions were getting closer and longer – at this point they were a minute long and about 12 minutes apart.
12:30pm My mom came to the house with lunch, dinner and the combs.
1:00pm The contractions were getting more painful. I didn’t want the boys to see me in pain, so we told them mommy was going to take a nap. I went to lay down. Every time I laid down my contractions pretty much stopped, so I figured it would be nice to have a break. For about an hour, they stopped. But then they started back up again. I used the combs – pressing the teeth into my fingertips with every contraction. It really helped take my mind off of the pain and I would highly recommend this technique if you are aiming for a natural birth. Also – unlike my past births, I really tried to be intentional with my contractions. Instead of fighting the pain, I concentrated on absorbing the pain. I kept my lower jaw relaxed (a recommendation from a ton of ladies from our Two Peas Fam- THANK YOU), and when I would get extremely desperate (during the extremely painful ones) I would repeat to myself – “I’m getting closer to meeting my baby.”
2:30pm Both boys were down for their naps and I went out to check in with my mom and with Joe. Joe had packed the whole car, all the bags, and I could tell he was starting to get nervous. The contractions were a minute long and still about 10-12 minutes apart. This baby was definitely coming, it was just a matter of when.
3:15pm I texted my doula to let her know that everything was happening – for real. My contractions were inconsistent, 8-10 minutes apart, and I was getting tried. She told me to stop timing them and to send her an update at 5:00pm.
FYI I use the Full Term contraction timer app.
3:30pm Both of my boys woke up, and we let them have a couple hours of cuddle time with mom. I knew it was essentially the calm before the storm. We just laid on the couch, I hid my contractions by using the combs, and I just held my first two babies. My main concern was that I didn’t want my boys to know that I was in pain. I felt like nothing would be more traumatizing for them. When I felt a really big contraction coming on, I would just calmly walk to my closet, and I would bear through the contractions in there — using the combs in my hands and keeping my lower jaw relaxed.
5:00pm We made the boys dinner.
5:20pm My doula checked in on me. At this point my contractions were about 6 minutes apart. She texted that she was certain that as soon as the sun went down and the boys went to bed that I would be in full fledged labor. Evidently this is common. She told me to enjoy my time with my boys and to text her when the contractions were coming closer.
(My texts are in blue, and hers are in the grey)
6:00pm We went outside to play as a family, but soon thereafter I didn’t have much left. I had to lay down again to stop the contractions. They were getting stronger, longer, and closer together. Joe and my mom hung out with the boys for the next couple hours, and then they brought them into our bedroom to say goodnight to me.
8:00pm I had been in labor for 12 hours at this point. I stood up because my contractions were so painful that I needed to walk through them. Every time one would hit I would put my forehead and arms on our wetbar because the marble just felt so cool and good in the midst of the pain. The contractions were coming every 4 minutes now… and then within 20 minutes.. they progressed to 2-3 minutes apart. I started to get nervous. This was much faster than the past two births and all I could think was that I was going to have this baby at my house. Mind you – you’re supposed to go to the hospital when your contractions are 3-4 minutes apart. Mine were just progressing too fast for my own comfort – literally and figuratively.
8:45pm I texted my doula, Ashley, and then I asked Joe to call her because I couldn’t talk. I was in too much pain. I literally could not physically speak. On the phone, she asked Joe “How is Emily doing? On a scale of 1-10 where would you put her pain – how pleasant is she?” I heard Joe say, “Oh she’s great… super pleasant.” And in my head I was thinking, “You just have no idea, dude.” Then without asking me – Joe said, “Oh you know… I think her pain would be like a 5.” I had no idea what their conversation consisted of. But after he got off the phone he said – ok – Ashley is on her way, she’ll be here in 30 minutes.
I almost took his head off.
“Eff that. Get in the car. We’re going to the hospital… NOW!”
9:00pm We called Ashley from the car to tell her we were on the way to the hospital. I had expressed to Ashley that I had wanted to try for a natural birth, and I could tell she was nervous that we were going to the hospital too soon. Based on my past two births (you can read about William’s here and David’s here) she had every reason to doubt me. Obviously I jumped the gun with both boys… but I knew this time was different.
The contractions on the way to the hospital were in a word… hell. I just kept telling myself, “You cannot have this baby in the car…. you cannot have this baby in the car.” As we were getting off the exit ramp I felt the need to push, there was just so much pressure, and I started to get SO scared.
9:20pm We pulled into valet at the hospital. They gave us a wheelchair and Joe pushed me up to Labor and Delivery. As soon as we got to the front desk a HUGE contraction hit. The receptionist asked me my birthday. I couldn’t talk – obviously. So she asked Joe. “Sir, what is her birthday?” He just stood there with a blank stare. Then he asked me where my wallet was. “Em… where is your driver’s license?” In my head all I could think was, “Joe – pull it together, you’ve got to be kidding me.” Then the receptionist – in exasperation – trying to find my file – asked for a due date.
Joe was totally freezing up.
At that moment – like the birth fairy godmother that she is – our doula, Ashley, walked up. She handled everything. She gave them all my information, grabbed my hand, and got us the biggest and best room the hospital had to offer. She really was SO amazing. I told her that if I could get my epidural that I DESPERATELY wanted one. I couldn’t handle the pain anymore. She looked at me – with a knowing look – and said, “We’ll see, Emily.”
But she knew.
9:45 They gave me the gown, and I was in so much pain that I just got naked in front of everyone in the room – Joe, my doula, and 3 random nurses. I did not care. I gave zero effs about getting naked in front of strangers. Definitely not like me. The lead nurse, Leah, asked me to lay down to be checked. I had a horrible contraction. I told her that I REALLY wanted the epidural. She said that we would see. She checked me, and I could see it in her eyes.
I was 9cm dilated.
There would be no epidural.
At this point Joe kind of freaked out again and sat in a chair in the corner of the room. I know in his head he had counted on me getting an epidural and I think he was in just as much shock as I was that I’d be doing this without any kind of drugs. But don’t worry… I kept asking. Everyone who came in the room… I asked. The assistant nurse… the woman taking my blood pressure… the woman from registration asking for money… “Now you’re sure I can’t have an epidural??”
I am… if anything…persistent. 🙂
In my head – and your head will do crazy things to you when you are in pain – I thought that everyone was lying to me and that they were all playing a mean joke on me to get me through to a natural birth. 🙂 No I am not kidding. I distinctly remember thinking that everyone was lying to me. Finally, the doctor on call came in and wouldn’t you guess… the first thing out of my mouth was, “You’re really sure there isn’t time for an epidural?”
She assured me, there was not.
Ashley, my Doula, was holding my hand through every contraction, “Emily… I am your epidural. You will be ok… you will be meeting your baby soon… breathe.”
10:20pm I started crying. I was holding my doula’s hand and telling her… “I can’t do this, I can’t do this, I can’t do this.” For every time I told her I couldn’t, she responded with “You can do this. You are so strong. You have come all this way.” And finally, when I truly got hysterical, she told me, “Emily – you have no other choice. This baby is coming.” That was the sobering moment where I gained my strength. The nurses and doctor brought everything in and the lead nurse checked me again. I was 10cm.
My contractions were coming every minute now – and there was no time to rest. The doctor told me I could push whenever I wanted to. She just kind of stood there with her arms crossed and was like, “You let me know when you’re ready.” This was a little disconcerting. I was like – how the hell am I in charge here? But sure enough… I said a little prayer to God, and I knew I wanted to push. Before I started, I asked my doula what it would feel like. She said it would feel like pooping out a grapefruit – but it would feel good. In my head, I knew it had to feel better than the contractions. So I pushed. And surprisingly, the pushing felt amazing. It felt like such a relief.
After the first push I asked the doctor to please… just please… pull her out. The doctor looked up, laughed, and said, “You’re the only one who can get this baby out.” So I pushed again. If you’ve had a baby before, you know that you’re supposed to take breaks in between pushes – as your contractions come and go. Well there was none of that. Once the pushing started, I couldn’t stop. The doctor said, “Her head is out, she has so much hair!” At that moment my mom ran in the room. Our nanny, Makayla, had rushed from Southern California so that my mom could make it there in time. Because everything was happening so fast, I was certain my mom would miss it, but God’s plan was too perfect for that. Everyone who was supposed to be there was, and a couple of pushes later, our beautiful baby girl was born. They put her on my stomach for skin to skin and I just cried. It was the best feeling in the world to meet my daughter, and we were all absolutely ecstatic. She was – and is – absolutely perfect.
^^^^Our Doula, Ashley! She truly is the best and if you live in the Reno area, I highly recommend her services and birth classes!
**Side Note*** It wasn’t over. I will say…. one thing you should know if you are aiming for a natural birth is that the pain doesn’t stop once the baby is out. You can see it in my face in the photos above. The contractions don’t stop. Nothing stops. Because you’re still not done. I remember with the boys – when I had an epidural – I was able to have this blissful bonding moment once the babies were out. I never remembered delivering my placenta, or getting stitched up. But with Caroline, as soon as I delivered her, I had a brief moment of bliss, but pain took over shortly thereafter. The cord was cut, she was weighed and measured. 7lbs9oz of perfect, sweet, baby girl. But then… the contractions continued. I delivered the placenta about 10 minutes later. And let me tell you – I felt it. The placenta felt like having another baby. It was absolutely horrible. Then they gave me a local numbing shot and stitched me up. Finally I had some relief…. and about 30-45 minutes after delivering her… the contraction pain subsided. But then, of course, there are the uterine contractions which don’t stop for days. <<< No one tells you about those. 🙂
For anyone striving for a natural birth, I will say… it was incredible. It was – by far – my greatest accomplishment to date. But it was painful, it was tiring, and that magical bonding moment you have with an epidural just doesn’t happen the same way because your body is in shock. I’m just being real.
But… I will say… my recovery was ten times better with Caroline’s natural birth. Because I didn’t have any IV fluids, I didn’t have any swelling like I did with the boys. I had much less tearing this time, and I felt immediately like myself afterwards. We were able to go home less than 24 hours after I delivered her – and that was amazing.
As you all know from my birth plan post >>> here, I had set a goal for myself to stay calm through my contractions. To labor at home for as long as possible. And lastly, to have a natural, unmedicated birth. By the grace of God, I accomplished all of those things. Caroline’s birth was one of the most physically and mentally empowering experiences of my life. It really showed me what I am capable of. As long as your doctor/doula/midwife is on board, it is something I would recommend for any woman – as long as the health of the mother and baby are not at risk.
Today, Caroline is 2 months old, and she is such a light in all of our lives. She hasn’t lost her beautiful head of dark brown hair, she has the chubbiest little cheeks, and she has the most stunning bright blue eyes. Her brothers are obsessed with her -David claps every time he sees her. 🙂 She likes to be attached to my chest (or my assistant CC’s chest) at all hours of the day. She just started giving us these amazing gummy smiles while she’s cooing… gah… my heart just lives for them. She is just as sassy as she is sweet… and I cannot wait for you all to get to know her!
Thank you, as always for reading along.
***Also a huge thank you to all the amazing doctors and nurses at Renown! Our care, and our room were absolutely amazing, We can’t thank you enough!***