Sunday, May 13, 2012

Ellie's Birth Story

It all started with a Habanero sandwich.  I had been having Braxton-Hicks contractions consistently every night for about two weeks. Each evening I would excitedly time the contractions to see how far apart they were but they usually went away entirely within a few hours.  It was incredibly frustrating because I just wanted to meet our daughter already.  My due date came and went and suddenly I was three days overdue and I thought I might have to get induced if our little girl didn’t come that weekend.  

It was April 29, Sunday night, when Israel and I were watching X-Files and had just ordered sandwiches from Dominos.  I decided on the very spicy Habanero with lots of jalapenos, hoping that the spicy food old wives’ tale would smoke her out.  My mouth was on fire and within an hour, I started having contractions.  I began timing them but they weren’t all that close together and by the time I went to bed, they had dissipated.  I thought once again, that this was just a false alarm and that our little girl might never come.  I had more than once joked with Israel in the last week that I would probably be pregnant forever.  It was hard to imagine life not being pregnant anymore. 

On April 30, the next morning, I woke up around 6 feeling contractions regularly.  This got my attention because I had never gotten contractions at this time of the day; they were almost always in the evenings.  After about a half hour of feeling them consistently in my lower abdomen and having them circle around to my lower back, I began timing them.  They were five minutes apart and kept coming.  Israel woke up and noticed that I was awake and kept touching my cell phone to check the time.  I casually said, “I might be going into labor.  I’m timing the contractions but I’m not sure if this is the real thing or not.”  I told him I would let him know if they were still pretty consistent and told him to go back to sleep, although he just stayed awake since he was pretty sure it sounded like the real deal finally.

After another half hour, the contractions were still coming at five minutes apart.  They weren’t all that painful yet, just felt more like intense menstrual cramps.  All of the books and our hospital childbirth class told us to call the hospital when my contractions were five minutes apart, each lasting one minute over the course of an hour.  After I had been timing them for two hours, I called the hospital and let them know that I was coming in.  Israel and I finished packing our bags and I tried to eat some peanut butter toast but couldn’t even finish it because I was too nervous and excited.  We left for the hospital and I was led to a room where I thought I would be staying and laboring in. 

Right before leaving for the hospital the first time

At my last doctor’s appointment the week before, I was dilated to 1 centimeter and 50% effaced.  Another nurse checked me when I got to the hospital and I was 3 centimeters dilated and about 70% effaced!  I was so excited to hear that all of those Braxton Hicks I had been feeling for weeks hadn’t been for nothing and that my body was actually preparing for labor.  I changed into a gown and the nurse hooked me up to a monitor, keeping track of the baby’s heart rate and seeing how regular my contractions were.  Over the course of two hours, I kept feeling the contractions and soon they were about three minutes apart.  When the nurse came back to check me, I was still 3 centimeters and about 80% effaced.  She told me that it sounded like I may be in early labor, but they were going to send me back home.  They told me to come back when my contractions were two minutes apart or were so strong I wouldn’t be able to walk or talk through them.  I was so disappointed.  I hadn’t read much about early labor and didn’t even know they could send you home when I felt like I was definitely in labor.  I had known women who came in dilated only 1 centimeter and they got to stay.  I didn’t want to be sent home; I wanted to be kept since I was obviously having regular contractions.

The nurse gave me a couple of Tylenol Codeine and sent me home with instructions to rest and come back if the contractions got stronger.  I felt like I wasn’t being taken seriously, that I really was in labor.  After doing a little Google research at home, I read that this happens to a lot of women in early labor.  But most people say if this does happen to you, keep active and keep walking.  I did nap for about an hour and the contractions had worn off a little bit when I woke up.  I did not want to wait another two days until going into “real” labor, so I was feeling quite determined when I woke up to have this baby that day. 

Israel and I went for two different walks that afternoon, the second one for about an hour.  On our walk, the contractions intensified to the point where I was feeling one right after another.  All the pain was in my back.  That evening, they had become more inconsistent but they were definitely becoming more painful.  I had told my sister Renae earlier that morning before leaving for the hospital that I might be in labor.  She left her home in Indiana and was in Topeka by that evening. 

Israel and I went to bed that night, not sure what was going to happen, but I felt confident that I would be back at the hospital the next day.  Surely enough, when we went to bed I couldn’t sleep at all.  The contractions were back and they were stronger than before.  They were coming at five minutes apart and didn’t stop through the whole night.  I didn’t get any sleep and for the first part of the night, I just lay in bed, curled up on my side and clutching my pillows when I felt the contraction intensify.  It got to the point where I felt like I couldn’t breathe and just had to cry through each one.  It felt like my back and front were being compressed and squeezed so tightly and that I was being lit on fire.  That’s the best way I know how to describe what my contractions felt like.  Israel rubbed my back for a while, where I was feeling the most pain, but I couldn’t stand being in bed anymore.  Feeling restless and quite helpless, I just paced the living room floor in the dark until a contraction would come and then I just had to stand still and try and breathe through it.  It was better if I didn’t move. 

I felt crazy with no sleep, not eating much and I was in so much pain but I wasn’t sure if I should call the hospital again because I definitely did not want to be sent home again.  I had a doctor’s appointment set up for that afternoon, but I wasn’t sure if I could wait that long.  Renae came over after Israel left for work on Tuesday morning, May 1, and intended to stay with me that afternoon until my appointment.  I decided after about an hour to go ahead and call the hospital and see what they thought I should do.  I called Labor and Delivery in tears and in mid-contraction, and hearing the strain in my voice, they told me to go ahead and come in.  I was relieved to hear this and decided that I wasn’t going to come home unless I went into labor or they induced me because I just couldn’t do this much longer. 

Around 9:30, Renae and I drove very carefully to the hospital and my mom met us there, for it hurt just to get in and out of the car, and we had just gotten to the walkway from the parking garage to the hospital, when I had to stop walking.  I reached for my lower back and a nurse who passed us in the hallway saw the way I was standing and asked if I’d like a wheelchair.  I hadn’t even thought of this but knew it would have taken me a while just to walk to Labor and Delivery, so she went and got one.  I was wheeled into a labor room and the same nurse, Cindy, from the day before came in and said she knew I would be back soon.  She checked me and I was between a 4 and 5 and fully effaced!  She still wasn’t sure if they were going to keep me so they wanted to monitor me for an hour and see if I would progress. 

When Cindy came back and checked me again, I was definitely a 5 (already halfway there!) and they decided to keep me!  I was so relieved!  My mom and Renae stayed with me in my room as I continued to labor and felt the contractions growing even stronger.  It helped to just take it one contraction at a time and try and focus on breathing through each one.  I wanted to wait and call Israel until I knew for sure that I would be staying, so I had Renae let him know and my mom picked him from work and drove him back to the hospital.  Israel was there by 11:45 and it was so wonderful having my husband there with me, holding my hand and leading me through some breathing exercises.  I felt a lot better once he got there.  At 12 p.m., I was dilated to a 6 and I put in my request for an epidural.  I had been on the fence about getting one, but by this point, I was tired from pretty much being up all night two nights in a row and from the contractions that I just wanted a little rest.  Within about a half hour, the anesthesiologist came down and gave me the epidural.  I was so worried that I might move while they were inserting the needle in my back, but it wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be. 

My contractions were so strong, they were literally off the charts

I began feeling the effects of the epidural—my legs felt heavy and I couldn’t really move them from being so numb, and I felt a little relief from the contractions.  My mom and Renae left after Israel got there to grab some lunch for him and run a couple errands.  Around 1 p.m., the doctor on call, Dr. Blake, came in to check me and then break my water since it still hadn’t broken on its own.  I was already dilated to a 7 and when she broke my water (which involved inserting a croquet hook-looking object up there), I really didn’t feel the gush that everyone describes and that you see in movies.  Dr. Blake thought the majority of my bag of waters might be behind the baby’s head and that more might come out later. 

They went ahead and started me on Pitocin at 1:45 and from there things progressed pretty quickly (for a while…).  Cindy came back in and told me to try and rest for a while before the pushing stage.  Israel laid down on the couch and we both tried to sleep although I know I didn’t really get much sleep.  It did feel nice to just close my eyes and try and not think about what was to come very soon.  My nurse told me that I would feel pressure during the pushing stage and I wasn’t sure how much pain I would be in. 

At 2:54, Cindy returned with some ice chips, checked me again, and I was dilated to a 10!  It was already time to start pushing.  I couldn’t believe how quickly I had progressed once Tuesday morning came, and I was ready to meet our little girl at last.  Israel and I just stared at each other in disbelief and excitement as the moment that we had been waiting for nine months had finally come.  I started pushing at 3:15, with just Israel and my nurse in the room helping me through each one.  By this point, the epidural was starting to wear off no matter how many times I pushed the magical button that would release another dose.  As I started to feel pressure and the urge to push, I would push three times during each contraction about every minute.  After about an hour, Israel said, “I can see part of her head!  And she has a lot of dark hair!”  We both had predicted that she would have Israel’s black hair and that there would be a lot of it. 

I had heard many stories of women only pushing for thirty minutes or less and their baby was out.  I knew that for a lot of first time mothers, the pushing stage usually lasted anywhere from twenty minutes to two hours.  I was beginning to grow discouraged after pushing for an hour and there was little to no progress.  I kept asking the nurse and Israel if they could see more of her head, and they could only see a tiny bit of it.  After two hours and little progress, the epidural had worn off completely and I was in a whole lot of pain.  It really was like I was having a natural labor because I could feel every single contraction and they were strong (especially with the Pitocin).  Still at this point, I could only feel the pain in my back and the word I used to describe it was debilitating.  I felt the pressure increase until it felt like I was being tightly compressed on my lower back, like something very, very large was crushing it. 

At the two hour point, my nurse was starting to get concerned, because the baby’s heart rate was dropping.  She put an oxygen mask on me and I tried to breathe as deeply as I could for my baby’s sake.  This is the point where I began to get really worried and scared.  Dr. Blake came in to check on me and suggested Israel and I try a really old school pushing technique called Tug of War.  I was borderline exhausted but willing to try anything before the word Caesarean came up.  She knotted two ends of a bed sheet, and I pulled one end and Israel pulled on the other end at the end of my bed, all during each contraction.  The theory was that we would create tension and it would give me more resistance each time I pushed.  I pulled as tightly as I could during each contraction and was completely out of breath after each one. 

This went on for about 45 minutes and still with hardly any progress on the baby’s head crowning.  We stopped the Tug of War method and I continued to push like I had before, but I kept saying to Cindy and Israel, “I’m done.  I don’t think I can do this anymore.”  I was writhing in pain from the contractions and was in the most pain of my life.  After three hours of pushing, Dr. Blake returned at 6:15 and asked if I wanted to try the vacuum to get the baby out, which would involve another thirty minutes of pushing.  But she also said it didn’t look too promising since I was swollen quite a bit down there and she didn’t think she would be able to get the baby out vaginally.  I was completely worn out and in the worst pain and I told her just to do the C-section.  I wanted to be done and I couldn’t handle any more pain.  At that point, I didn’t care what they did to me as long as I could just meet my daughter already. 

My nurse Cindy, who had stayed with me all day, was ending her shift so she had to leave without delivering the baby.  Another nurse, Tammy, took her place as they got things ready for the C-section.  This period of time is a bit of a blur as I waited with only Israel in the labor room and my doctor and nurse were getting the surgery room prepped.  All I remember is continually moaning in pain, shaking and squirming around, and Israel trying to help me breathe, but I just kept feeling the strong contractions and I lost it at that point.  I felt delirious as I couldn’t even focus on the breathing techniques.  I kept asking Israel when the anesthesiologist would get there so they could just give me the drugs and why it was taking so long! 

Finally, at 7 p.m., my nurse came back in and told me they were going to begin the surgery.  Israel got suited up in the “bunny suit” they gave him and he was covered from head to toe in white except for his blue cap.  As they wheeled me down the hallway in my bed, I continued to thrash about in pain from the contractions and I couldn’t stop moaning.  The nurse told me to keep pushing since the baby was still wedged in the birth canal and that would help relieve some of the pressure.  We arrived at the surgery room and Israel blew me a kiss as the doors were closing.  He would be able to come back in once they were done giving me a spinal tap and preparing everything else for the surgery. 

One of my family members took this picture of Israel as he waited in the hallway for me

They transferred me from my bed to the operating table and suddenly I felt like I was really in a hospital for real.  My hands wouldn’t stop shaking, so the nurse held them as they inserted the spinal tap in my back.  I had known that a C-section was a possibility but I really thought I would never need one, so I kind of skipped over reading about them in all the pregnancy books and blogs.  Suddenly, I felt so unprepared for what was about to happen, and I felt scared of someone cutting open my skin to get my baby out.  The spinal soon took effect and I could feel absolutely nothing from the top of my abdomen all the way to my toes.  I couldn’t move a muscle and I was glad for that, especially since I was about to have major surgery. 

Israel was able to come back in the room, and he stood beside me behind the large sheet they had up blocking my view of the rest of my body (which I was also glad for).  They started the surgery, and although I couldn’t feel much pain, I felt a lot of tugging and pulling in my abdomen.  I felt all of my organs up under my chest and I was having trouble breathing.  Israel told me later he peeked when they began to pull the baby out and saw some of my organs.  He can say now that he has literally seen my guts (crazy!!).  That’s love.  Dr. Blake was struggling to pull the baby out because of how wedged she was down there.  And it turns out that she was in the posterior position, although head down, which means her face was turned up.  That explained the difficult pushing phase and why she wasn’t making any progress on coming out.  If I had continued to push, she wouldn’t have been able to come out that way, or if she did she would have major bruises and maybe a couple injuries. 

I felt so anxious not being able to see what was going on but so excited to finally meet our daughter after a very long and traumatic labor.  At 7:22, I heard my baby’s first cry and tears began streaming down my face.  It was over, and our little girl was finally here.  They placed her on another small table too far up for me to see her yet and began cleaning her.  Israel exclaimed so I could hear, “Oh honey, she’s so pretty!”  They announced her weight at 6 pounds and 2 ounces and she was 18 ¼ inches long.  Our little girl was indeed quite little.  Ten minutes had gone by and I still hadn’t caught a glimpse of her face, only tiny feet wiggling around on the table.  The surgeons continued to stitch me up and I was still having trouble breathing as they put my organs back in place. 

Finally, the nurses handed her to Israel and brought her over to my side to see her.  Fresh tears welled up in my eyes all over again and my heart was overflowing with joy at seeing her, after dreaming of her face for so long.  When I first saw her face, I couldn’t believe how perfect she was.  I had felt a love for her while she was still in the womb and I had nine months for that love to grow.  But when Israel placed her beside me, my love for her became so much more real and I was completely smitten.  I couldn’t stop thanking the Lord for this precious gift.  This was our daughter, here at last!  And she was more beautiful than we ever could have imagined. 

The first time I saw my daughter

So exhausted, but so full of love and happiness

Israel loving on little Miss Ellie

I’ve got a lot of stretch marks, a jiggly stomach, and a six inch Caesarean scar across my lower abdomen that I’ll probably have for the rest of my life, but it’s completely worth it all.  The only important thing is having our little girl with us now, not the way she got here.  On this day, May 1, 2012, Ellie Marie came into our lives and we are more than thrilled to be her parents.  


  1. Oh, elena!!! What a journey!!!!! I am SO sorry for how difficult your labor was :( how scary!! I know you probably have tons of unsolicited advice, but my birth w jack was pretty traumatic too and what was worse was after we got home I was still have flashbacks to labor and delivery and the intense amount of pain. But it went away, praise Jesus. I'm also sorry the nights are rough. I know this is a tough time but I promise, it gets better. Hang in there and try to nap and soak in the sleep deprived moments because they go so fast. Let me know if you need anything. I am so happy for you guys & she is beautiful!!!!!

  2. Wow, Elena!! What a perfect day to post this! I'm in awe of you, and all the mothers that do this. I'm so proud of you, and will DEFINITELY seek out all advice you can give one day when I'm having one of my own. Love you so much, and your sweet family!

  3. Elena, you really ARE a trooper! That's why no one else on this earth will ever love Ellie as much as you do (sorry Israel, it's true!) Good thing you wrote this all down, because amazingly, someday you will forget the details of the awful parts and only remember the blessing! I need a play date soon!

  4. Mel, thank for your comment! I remember Rachel telling me earlier that you were still traumatized by your labor, and now I can totally relate. It's a crazy thing to go through! Did any of your kids go through a crying phase, where nothing seems to calm them down? That's what we're going through right now with Ellie, almost every night, and goodness it's rough.

    Tricia, thank you!! I've loved having you come over and getting to see you while you're home! :) Love you darling!

    Patty, you are currently holding Miss Ellie and anytime you want to come over and watch her, feel free! ;) Although it's doubtful I will go through labor again in the future, I wanted to be able to remember all parts of it... the good and awful.

  5. Wow, Elena! What an experience! I'm sorry it was so traumatic. You have experienced so many of the different aspects of labor, contractions, epidural, pitocin, pushing, and csection! So glad everything turned out okay and that Ellie is safely here now! And way to document this, I still want to document mine, but will need Jeremy's help because it is such a blur and I have no concept of time. Hope recovery goes as quickly as possible and that you are able to get some rest.