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I’m starting this blog on 8/14.  We’ll see how long it takes to get it written and posted.  I’m living my life in 2-3 hour increments right now.  When the baby is up I’m feeding, changing, rocking, etc.  The he goes down and it’s a mad dash to bathe myself, wash bottles, tidy up the house, etc…then the cycle starts back over again.  Let me start by saying that this post is the story of my labor and delivery.  Some of you could care less about reading something like that…but some of us are really fascinated by birth stories and love hearing them.  For that reason, I’m sharing.  Lots of people have expressed interest in what happened so I am happy to share.  I also think it’s helpful for women who are pregnant for the first time to hear lots of different birth stories – it normalizes the experience and takes away some of the fear/mystery surrounding it all.  Alot of people have said they are interested because “so few” women opt for natural labor and delivery.  This really isn’t the case.  It’s estimated that about 40 percent of women who deliver vaginally do so without an epidural.  That’s almost half.  I believe alot of women just aren’t vocal about it.

Through my pregnancy and delivery I have somehow become one of those women that is interested in all things birth related.  It wasn’t just about getting my kid out of my womb and into the world.  It was about learning as much as I could about this miraculous process that has been happening since the beginning of time.  Something about it also deeply connects you to other women who’ve experienced the same thing.

I also want to say that I chose to have a natural delivery with no induction drugs and no epidural.  This was a personal choice as I feel it was best for me and my baby.  Given the grueling nature of my delivery many people might think that was a dumb decision on my part…but I still believe it was the best and healthiest thing for us both.  I don’t, in any way, look down upon women who choose epidurals or cesareans.  I DO hate Pitocin and think it’s overused – but I also know it’s medically necessary at times.  I know that not everyone is up for the challenge of an unmedicated delivery or really places great value on the benefits of one.  I DO believe that ALL women can do it though..may not want to, may hate it, but CAN do it!

I never imagined my delivery would be as hard as it was.  I have spoken with numerous women who’ve delivered naturally and most didn’t go like mine.  I imagined it could possibly be a long labor (as many first deliveries are) but I didn’t imagine it would be quite as long as it ended up being.

So I started having mild contractions and “show” on friday (7/26).  I wasn’t sure exactly what the contractions were at this point…thought it might be gas pains.  Then I talked to my doula who told me it sounded like pre-labor.  She assured me this could go on for quite a while and to just chill and call her if the contractions got into any sort of pattern.  As the day went on, the contractions progressed and seemed to become slightly painful but i was able to go about the day.  We ate dinner and went to bed like normal.  I woke up at 2:30am on saturday morning and they were definitely more painful…to the point that I wasn’t able to go back to sleep.  In hindsight, I TOTALLY could’ve gone back to sleep.  At that point I had no idea exactly how BAD they were going to get and I definitely could’ve rested a bit more.  But I think I was just excited.  It was like “hey I’m having contractions, and they kinda hurt, I don’t wanna miss anything, this is exciting!!!”  So I got up, ate breakfast at like 4 am and piddled around the house.  Eric got up later and I decided to work on my labor project. I read alot about labor projects.  The theory goes that when you’re in early labor you shouldn’t sit around and watch a contraction timer.  If your goal is to labor at home as long as possible, you need a project to occupy your mind rather than just focusing on how far apart contractions are.  So I decided to bake.  I made two batches of my “Labor Muffins” and looking back now this was the smartest thing I did.  It helped pass the time on saturday but also gave me something to eat in the hospital that was relatively healthy!

So we baked, we watched TV, we went for a walk…and all along my contractions seemed to steadily increase in intensity.  Around saturday evening they really began to pick up and seemed to be getting into a regular pattern.  We ate dinner pretty early and then called my doula, Kelly.  She came over and determined that I was indeed in active labor but nowhere near going to the hospital at this point.  All along our goal was to labor at home until I was about 7 centimeters.  Once you hit 7 you are less likely to stall and there is less of a chance of unnecessary intervention once you arrive at the hospital.  If you get to the hospital too early and labor is taking too long, you’ll be more likely to get pressure to introduce Pitocin (the induction drug).  Kelly spent about an hour with us and determined that I was still pretty early in the labor and this could go on all night.  She went home and instructed us to call if they got really close together or much more painful.  She instructed us to try to rest – AGAIN I wish I had realized that I COULD rest and needed to rest a this point…but I didn’t.

As my contractions became stronger I was really having to work to get through them.  I was sitting on the birthing ball and rocking or leaning on the wall and swaying back and forth to get through them.  This was pretty much the only thing that helped.  Along with some awesome low grunting sounds.  I don’t know why the groaning really seems to help but it does.  Anyhoo…as they were more painful I decided to get in the tub.  We ran a hot bath and it felt great.  The warm water really seemed to lessen the intensity of the contractions.  While I laid in the tub, Eric sat in the bathroom and played guitar and sang to me.  Jackson laid in the floor.  It was a beautiful moment.  It was the exact sort of serene, zen-like image I had in my mind of laboring at home.  After the tub we decided to try to get some rest but by 10:30 my contractions were coming harder and faster and I was never able to fall asleep.  I finally decided that I was in good, full-blown, active labor and it was probably time to have Kelly come back over.  She arrived around 11 or 11:30 and helped me work through the contractions for a few more hours.  She told Eric to get some rest and somehow he was able to sleep like a log – even with me moaning and groaning through contractions in the same room.  Kelly put the heating pad on my back and coached me through the contractions for a while.  I decided to lay down and try to rest again but by 2:30 they were so strong I was convinced that I was getting close to 7cm and it was time to go.  I felt I had labored at home as long as I could and I was fairly certain I’d be having this baby pretty soon.

So we started getting things packed up and loaded into the car.  I tend to over-prepare and overpack for everything so there was alot to load up.  By the time we got in the car (at about 3:30) my contractions were about a minute apart.  We were glad we made the decision to head to the hospital when we did!!!  I’ll try to speed the story along here…lots of interesting and funny details about arriving at the hospital but I’ll focus on the main parts of the story.  So…I arrived at L&D and they checked me and, BOOM, I was 7+ centimeters.  Eric, Kelly and I were thrilled we did it.  We labored at home as long as we could and got to the hospital at the perfect time.  All the nurses were impressed and said that I did such a good job and “we’ll have this baby out in no time.”  ….or so we thought.  Given that I had been having contractions since friday and it’s now 4am on sunday and I’m a good 7 cm, we all believed I would have him within a couple of hours or so.  ha.

So the laboring at the hospital began.  First they had to monitor Ritter’s heart rate for 30 minutes but then I was able to get in the labor tub.  Oh sweet baby jesus it is so wonderful.  We put on the labor playlists and I was able to relax in the water.  My contractions were still very strong but the warm water helped so much.  After a while I got hot and decided to get out.  Then this is where things get fuzzy.  We labored for several more hours.  We walked, I rocked on the birthing ball, I squatted, I leaned on the wall, I got in the shower and put the hot water on my back…the next thing we know it’s like 10am.  Six hours at the hospital and still no baby and my water STILL hadn’t broken.  Kelly asked me “did you just eat alot of protein while pregnant?  Because your bag of water is crazy strong.”  We all figured my water would have broken and we’d be alot further along by now.  At this point, I’m extremely fatigued and haven’t eaten since saturday afternoon.  Hadn’t slept since friday night around 2am.  I tried eating but I was so nauseated from the pain.  I didn’t even want powerade.  Water was the only thing I could stomach.  This is the point that I started REALLY regretting not resting when I had the chance.  I was SO tired.  I have never experienced that kind of fatigue in my life.  Ever.  It’s just impossible to describe.  And it wasn’t even over.  The body is working SO hard.  I’m burning calories so fast at this point and I’ve had no rest or food in so long.  It was so tough.

The nurse checked me again and I was so discouraged…hours of laboring and I was only about 8-9 cm.  How is this possible?  After a while everyone began discussing letting the doctor break my water.  I was SO ADAMANT that I wanted no intervention but everyone agreed that I was so fatigued and we had no idea how much longer this could go on.  Breaking my water would likely speed things up.  It would cause my contractions to come on harder and faster and probably dilate me the rest of the way to where I needed to be.  There were risks also but at this point everyone agreed that I was fading and things needed to move along.  The doctor also mentioned that I could possibly experience “fatigue of the uterus.”  He said it’s like any other muscle in the body and can fatigue and fail to be as effective at moving the baby down.  I’m not sure if this was the case but it was evident that I was fading and things had definitely stalled.

So they broke my water and GOOD GOD things got bad.  Things got really bad.  This is the point in the story where things get very blurry.  More and more time went by and I was so focused on the pain.  I got back in the shower.  Tried rocking on the ball.  But the urge to push never came.  Everyone believed that the baby might be facing up instead of facing my back and that perhaps he needed to turn before he could descend more.  So we rocked more, we squatted, we did everything but the urge to push never came.  Side note:  it was very important to me to only push with my natural urges.  When you have forced, or directed, pushing a woman is more likely to tear and the pushes aren’t as effective.  I also was adamant that I didn’t want to push on my back – also more likely to tear this way.  I wanted to push on hands and knees or squatting where it is easier for the baby to descend because gravity is working with you.  Unfortunately none of this happened.

So since breaking my water and laboring for a while, I hadn’t really progressed much.  I was pretty much losing it.  I was crying and screaming and saying that it was never going to end.  I was begging, BEGGING for a cesarean.  I had been going through this since friday.  I had been in serious pain since saturday morning.  I hadn’t slept in about 36 hours and hadn’t eaten in about 18-20.  The exhaustion was getting to me.  I believed it would never end.  I was delirious.  Everyone determined that I desperately needed to calm down, relax, and try to rest or I’d never be able to push the baby out.  So they decided I needed something to help me relax.  I, of course, was screaming that it wouldn’t work and that I just didn’t have the strength to go on.  I just wanted it to end.  I must have said “cut him out” about 20 times.  No one listened – thank god.  They gave me something to make me sleep.  I felt this was dumb because what kind of sleep can you really get in between contractions?  But the drug knocked me out.  I would sleep for a few minutes and then another contraction would hit and jolt me out of the sleep.  I would scream and cry through it then pass back out.  It was brutal.  I was crying, Eric was crying.  He hated seeing me like that and was probably beginning to wonder if I could really do this. Somewhere around this time Ritter’s heart rate began dropping.  They checked me again and there was just one little piece of my cervix that he needed to clear for me to be fully dilated.  At this point (while still incredibly groggy) they instructed me to push to try to get his head past it.  I begged and begged not to have to push.  I just had no strength and was so groggy.  Looking back I wish I hadn’t let them give me the drug.  I think it made me even weaker.  In theory the “sleep” I got may have helped and I know that I was so tense and they needed me to calm down and relax…but once I needed to push I was just so groggy.  I was able to push and help him clear my cervix.  It was so hard.  I then began begging for the c-section again.  I just didn’t think I had it in me to push him out.  I wasn’t having the urge to push and I was afraid my uterus WAS fatiguing.  I decided to try to get in some different positions to try to help him descend more and hopefully I’d get the urge to push.  They put the ball in the bed and tried to get me to lean on it and rock but I was so weak I couldn’t hold myself up on it.  They also tried giving me powerade and energy chews at this point but both I spit out because I was still so nauseas.  His heart continued to drop.  Not too low but it would drop and come back up.  They thought it would be best for me to try to start pushing – even without the urge.  THIS was something I did not want at all.  I begged and begged not to have to do it.  But Kelly looked at me and said “Katie, this is how your child is going to be born, you can do it, you have to, get on board..you are not having major surgery, you can do this.”  I remember that moment so clearly.  I was thinking “well shit, I have no choice, I have to do it, I CAN do it.”

So the real pushing began.  And OHMYDEARGOD it was so effing hard.  SO hard.  Maybe my uterus did give out and just wasn’t moving him down like it needed to.  Kelly also said his head was just SO BIG and had so much molding to do to get through my pelvis. Whatever the reason, pushing was incredibly hard for me.  I pushed and pushed and they would start to see a bit of his head and then I would give out and his head would slide back in.  We went through this for a while.  I would push 3 times with each contraction.  With the first 2 I would do good and they would start to see his hair… and then I’d give out on the third and his head would go back in.  In between the contractions and pushing I was passing out.  I was just SO FREAKING EXHAUSTED.  I wish I had asked for some caffeine or something to give me a boost but at the time I was so nauseated I couldn’t stomach anything.

Finally Kelly suggested someone get a towel.  One of the nurses held both ends of the towel and I held the loop.  When it was time to push I would pull on the loop and they would pull on the ends.  Having something to grip and bear down on made the pushing a bit more effective.  Eric, Kelly, and the nurses took turns holding the ends of the towel.  I don’t know how but they say I was so strong that I was pulling them into the table.  They kept having to switch off because they were tiring out.  I don’t know how I did it.  Even with the towel to hold on to, I was still giving out and getting weaker by the last push and couldn’t keep the momentum.  Then they brought in the big mirror on wheels.  They put that big thing at the end of the bed and angled it towards my vagina.  When I was able to see his head and see how close he was to coming out, it gave me the little boost I needed to finish pushing him out.  I have never done anything so hard in my life.  I was so weak I could barely hold him once he was out.  Eric and I were both bawling.  He was so perfect and we were so relieved that it was over and he was here and he was healthy!!!

The pushing did a number on my face though.  It was just so much pressure.  They would tell me to take a big breath in and hold it and push as hard as I could.  It felt like my head was going to explode.  My face swelled SO bad and my eyes bugged out of my head – all within the 1-2 hours of pushing.  I didn’t even look like myself.  As soon as it was over I was crying and I went to wipe my eyes and my face felt weird.  My eyes and cheeks felt bigger.  I kept asking the nurses what was wrong with me and they kept saying I looked fine but when I got in my room and looked in the mirror I couldn’t believe it – I looked like a completely different person.  Over the next few days as the swelling around my eyes went down, the white parts filled with blood.  It still isn’t gone and I’m now 20 days out from delivery.  This is why there have been no photos of me.  Here are a few of my face and eyes in delivery and in the days after.  I’m kinda embarrassed to put these up but hell it doesn’t even look like me so who cares.

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So Ritter Allen Craig was born at 2:42 pm on Sunday July 28th.  Almost a full 12 hours from when we arrived at the hospital 7+ cm dilated.  Those last 3 cm were HARD work to get through but I did it.  In the midst of it all, I said I was never having another child but within 24 hours I was singing a different tune.  Of course I’ll do it again, and I’ll do natural again.  Looking back I imagine that had I had an epidural Ritter’s heart rate would have likely dropped more, or sooner and I would’ve ended in a c-section regardless.  Plus I would have NEVER been able to push him had I been numb.  It was hard enough to do it and I could feel everything.  I would’ve never figured out how to do it with the epidural.

The best part…once it was over, it was OVER.  Thank god I’m not recovering from major surgery.  Other than the swelling in my face and the bloody eyes, I was normal again.  Within 2 weeks I was at the gym and I actually went running last night – 19 days out from delivery.  I’ve lost over half of my baby weight already.  I can bend over.  I have no pain in my back.  No more leg cramps.  No more plantar fasciitis.  Every single one of my pregnancy symptoms is GONE.  Prior to delivery I kept this house like an ice box – I was keeping the AC on 62-65 degrees…now I can’t get warm.  I’m back to my cold natured self!  It was a BRUTAL couple of days – especially the last 12 hours of it.  But it’s done.  It was hard – but it was best for me and my baby.  And I’ll do it again for the next one. But next time I’ll rest and eat like I need to!  And I know that there’s no way it could ever be as bad the next time as it was this time.  First time labors are long – next time will be easier.  If I can survive this, I can survive anything.  I can run a marathon, I can survive a really hard BodyPump class..ha.  I am stronger than I realized!

And I’d like to add that I NEVER asked for an epidural.  The pain sucked but it was manageable.  I never doubted my ability to handle the pain.  I DID beg for a c-section because it had just gone on so long and I wanted it to end.  But for anyone wondering if they can handle the pain – you CAN!  Labor hurts, it’s hard work on the body, but your body was MADE to do it!!!

Now I need a few more blogs to document our hospital stay (which resulted in NO sleep by the way), my incredible struggle with breastfeeding and the emotional/hormonal roller coaster I was on once I got home.  By the time I finally slept I did the math and realized I had only had about 6 hours of sleep in 5 days.  You want to see someone really lose it – deprive them of sleep.  I’ll never again say I’m tired – nothing will ever compare to that level of exhaustion.

But the happy ending here is this amazing little life we’ve created.  And he’s just the most adorable thing we’ve ever seen….

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Eric and I went through this incredibly difficult and amazing experience together.  He was so amazing through the whole thing.  I could never have gotten through it without him.  And after it was all over we cried so many happy tears together.  I couldn’t imagine ever going through something like that with anyone else.  He is my rock.  And if it’s even possible, we are closer now than before.  I am so very blessed!

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