#5: Pain With Purpose


Location: Arlington, VA
Year: 2012
How pregnant: 40 weeks
First baby: Yes
Hours in labor: 8 hours
Delivery type: Vaginal
Medicated: No

Did you have a birth plan?

I came up with a birth plan from the research I did and from books I read. It helped me to feel more in control and have a game plan for the birth.

When did you know you were in labor?

Two days before I delivered I lost my [mucus] plug. I thought for sure delivery would follow soon after, but it didn't. I started feeling more cramps, but they weren't regular. The night before I thought for sure I was going into labor. I got really excited and was in some discomfort. It did feel different than before, it was a sensation that came from the core.  

The contractions reduced and returned the following evening. When I laid down to sleep, they seemed to become more regular. My husband helped me time the contractions and we went to the hospital. The feeling is pretty intense. I could not think or do much while going through a contraction. Just focusing on breathing helped me.

What happened before you went to the hospital?

My husband drove me to the hospital. He dropped me off at the lobby and went to park. I had already filled most of the paperwork beforehand, which was helpful. I just had to sign a few papers and get a wristband.

What happened first when you got to the hospital?

I went to the triage room. It was late at night, so things were quiet at the hospital. The nurse that saw me said that I wasn't far along. I felt that coming in as a new mom they thought that maybe I was overreacting. They wanted to send me back home.

I thought to myself if this isn't the start of labor pains, I don't know if I can do this. I didn't want to go back home so they let me walk for awhile to see how I progressed. As I was walking the hallways with my husband I had to stop whenever I had a contraction. I couldn't move or walk. As I was walking I threw up my dinner.

What did contractions feel like?

The sensation of the contraction is pretty much the same. It just gets more intense and lasts longer, which makes it harder. The predictability of it helps a bit, since you know you have a break between contractions. But in the end, they are pretty much back-to-back. It was not like I expected. My whole body would tense up and contract.

If you had no pain medication, how did you manage contractions? Was it what you expected?

I was not totally against taking pain medications, but wanted to be given the option at the ideal time to have a good labor. That didn't happen. Unfortunately, I had a very inexperienced nurse. In hindsight, I should have asked for another nurse. It make a huge difference who is assisting you.

I was very irritable going through the contractions. Looking at a picture, holding a special stone, listening to my labor playlist, breathing through it and saying to myself "pain with purpose" really helped me get through it. The clothes bothered me, my skin was so sensitive. I didn't want to be touched at all. A wet rag really helped though.

What happened immediately after your baby was born?

The most painful part of labor for me was the crowning. It is a burning feeling. The doctor did cut me with my consent, but decisions had to be made quickly.

The on-call doctor didn't believe I was going to deliver, based on the information she had gotten from the nurse and the assumption that a first-time mom wouldn't deliver in eight hours.

My son had swallowed meconium, so that was a bit scary. It was such a joy and a relief. I had a lot of bleeding, so I needed an injection on my thigh and to wait to see if they would have to do some scraping of my uterus, but it all worked out. I felt excellent. I had a quick rush of adrenaline and was all wired up and happy. I guess that's how athletes feel.

Anything else you want to add?

Although my labor was really painful and intense, once it was over the part of having giving birth was amazing. And it turns out that the recovery is a lot harder in a way. You really have to take it easy, not bend, and sit with your legs closed so you don't open the stitches.

Follow all the cleaning procedures, take Epsom baths and focus on resting, hydrating, breastfeeding, etc. I can't emphasize that enough. Everyone tells you what to do before labor, but the after care is the most important and overlooked. You will not recognize your body, but just give it time. Use the ice packs and give yourself time. Remember, your body changed for nine months, so you need at least the same amount of time to get back.


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