While I knew that none of these things were a magic pill to make labor prompt and short, it felt good to know I was doing things to prepare my body for what was to come.
I had also decided that I wanted to deliver my baby without the use of pain medication. I wanted to fully experience my labor, and I wanted to avoid the risks and side effects associated with the epidural
At 10 AM on January 30, one week before my due date, I went to my routine OB appointment. At this appointment, we found out that my amniotic fluid level was dangerously low for baby.
The plan was, go to doctor appointment, pick up groceries, go home and wait for labor to start naturally (hopefully sometime that week).
Instead, I went to my appointment, and was immediately escorted across the parking lot to the hospital and admitted for my induction.
After months of prepping my body for the spontaneous, natural labor I so desperately wanted, the need for an induction was slightly devastating. A cascade of emotions began to pour over me. Excitement at the thought of finally meeting my sweet baby so soon, fear of facing a pitocin-induced labor free of pain meds, and worry over the safety of my precious girl. God came in immediately and calmed my spirit, and I knew that this was exactly His plan for me, and for her, and it was going to be okay. Just another of countless instances where He stepped in and chased away my anxiety and fear throughout this pregnancy.
Upon being admitted in the hospital, hospital policy required I be taken to labor and delivery in a wheelchair. As the chair entered the L&D wing, I was greeted by a friendly face, at the end of the hall, my neighbor, Tammy, who is an L&D nurse. She gingerly asked if she could be my nurse, and I was thrilled! Having the support of a friend during a chaotic time was such a blessing. I had called Dan on my way to my delivery room and he dropped our boys off at another neighbor's house for the night. He arrived at the hospital shortly after and was super excited, obviously. I went over all the details with him, and by 1 PM we had started the pitocin.
Seriously, that belly!
Things escalated pretty quickly from there. I went from being 2cm dilated to 5cm extremely quickly. In this early stage of labor, I had started using nitrous oxide to cope with the pain. A very low dosage of laughing gas makes you feel a little loopy, while still allowing you to feel each contraction. It carries virtually zero side effects and has no effect on the baby. It worked for a while with the less intense contractions, but by 8 PM, when I had reached 5 cm, the gas wasn't doing me any good. I kept inhaling it, hoping for a teeny high from the hit, but nothing!
I labored for the most part on my hands and knees, rocking back and forth, squeezing Dan's hand while my nurse applied counter pressure on my back. After a while, I switched to using the squat bar on the bed. The contractions had become so intense at this point that they seemed to come right on top of each other, with very little opportunity to regroup in between.
One factor that made this part so hard was I had forgotten to eat breakfast before going to the doctor that morning, and once I was admitted, I was not allowed anything other than ice chips. I was going to have to deliver my baby on Pit, without pain meds, running completely on empty.
Three hours into the contractions, I had started losing steam. I felt how depleted of energy I had become and was getting discouraged. I reluctantly allowed the nurse to check my progress, convinced that I had only gained a half centimeter.
However, the nurse proclaimed that I was, in fact, complete! 10 cm and ready to push! I sang the Hallelujah chorus in my head as the doctor, and what seemed like 20 additional hospital personnel, all piled into my room in preparation for me to push this baby out. The atmosphere changed and excitement filled the room. This was it, the worst was over and she'd be in my arms soon.
The doctor did a quick check of my cervix before giving me the okay to push. Her response nearly broke me. I was in fact, not complete. I had another two centimeters to go. I was crushed as everyone left, and it was once again just me, Dan, and our two nurses. I had more work to do, and I felt as though I had nothing left to give. I told Jesus how much I needed Him, and got ready to gain complete control of the pain and my body.
When I forced myself to feel in control and really focused on owning the pain, those contractions were manageable. It was when I let go of my control and fear crept in that it seemed as though I wasn't going to be able to finish this thing through.
When I verbalized that I just couldn't do it, and felt the tears welling up, my nurse told me I could still get an epidural, that if I truly couldn't do it, I could get pain medication.
This was the push I needed. I had not come this far on my own to get the drugs. I had resolved to do this, and I was going to do it. Newfound energy came rushing through me and I was more determined than ever. Very soon after, I was complete (for real) and ready to push.
Aftter 15 minutes of pushing, she was out. I had written in my birth plan that I wanted a mirror to be able to watch her come out, and so with that in place, I was able to see her head crown and was that much more motivated to get this done and hold my baby. Once she was out, she was immediately placed on my chest. The relief, elation and love that I felt in that moment is unparalleled. She was perfect in every way, and worth every agonizing second of labor pain.
Evelyn Aurora Verwolf came into this world at 12:36 AM on January 31 weighing 6lbs, 14 oz, 19 inches long .
I'm grateful to have delivered at a hospital that encouraged lots of skin-to-skin immediately following birth. The nurses did not try to whisk her away to weigh her or clean her off. They took her vitals right on me, and we were able to just soak her in for as long as we wanted.
She nursed right away and seemed so calm and content, completely unphased by being forced from the safety and familiarity of her dark, watery world of the last 39 weeks.
We spent Tuesday recovering in the hospital and brought her home Wednesday morning.
So, after all the labor prep I had done, what did I feel actually helped?
Plain and simple, inviting Jesus to be with me every step of the way. I could not have done it without Him.
2) Being at peace with the inevitability of the pain
Fear compounds pain. I now fully understand why every labor and delivery nurse I know has told me that the women who come in with the idea that they want a natural labor but would be okay with an epidural, get the epidural. You have to be completely committed to enduring the pain, and able to clear your head of fear. I had to have control. I could tell when I had lost myself to fear during a contraction because that's when the pain became unbearable.
3) The right support
I squeezed the life out of Dan's hand for hours. I found comfort and strength in locking eyes with him as he reminded me how strong and capable I am. He was my rock. You need to have a rock.
4) Exercise throughout pregnancy
Even though I hadn't eaten in 36 hours by the time I delivered her, I was able to keep up my strength, and I attribute that, at least in part, to the fact that I had kept up with walking, lunges and squats until the day before my delivery, and moderate strength training until around 30 weeks.
5) Natural uterus prep
I may not have gone into spontaneous labor, but the fact that I was able to push her out in a mere 15 minutes is a testament, I believe, to the potential validity of raspberry leaf tea, dates and squats. My body knew how to work efficiently!
5) Peppermint essential oil
I brought an arsenal of different oil blends for labor support. Under more natural circumstances (not an induction) I think a lot of these would have been really nice. But, considering how intense most of my labor was, they weren't much help. Except peppermint. I found inhaling it gave me a little boost of energy and it also helped with the nausea during transition. I definitely recommend having a variety of oils at your disposal as you never know which ones you'll find beneficial.
This labor was the most incredible, difficult, empowering thing I've ever done. Everything went so well, and in the end we had a beautiful, healthy baby. Thank you, Lord, for the amazing gift of Evelyn, and adding a new life to our family! And huge thanks to all of you who lifted us up in prayer throughout my pregnancy.