Birth Story of Ruth Siobhán

Writing out my birth story has always been cathartic for me, helping me to process the experience and to document the labor and birth while they’re still fresh in my mind. If I could sum up each of my births in a general statement, my first would be my “natural birth attempt + a terrible hospital experience,” my second would be my “powerfully healing natural birth,” and this third birth would be my “smoothest birth with a unplanned, yet deliberate epidural.” Strange title, huh? Let’s begin.

[And as usual, in case you missed it this is a birth story and yes, I go into the details so stop reading if that is not your thing. ;)]

My last month of pregnancy coincided with Advent, and it was both beautiful and frustrating. It was meaningful awaiting the birth of our child and the birth of Christ, however part of me was so tired of waiting and I greatly desired to just have the baby before Christmas. It didn’t help that it seemed like everyone I knew that was pregnant and due that month (or even after me) were all having their babies before me. After going 41 weeks with the other two, I should have been used to that by then, right?

By the time my due date rolled around, I was still pregnant as usual. Two days after my due date was a Saturday. We had received an Audobon family pass from my in-laws for Christmas, so in an effort to get in some family time and get my mind off labor we drove into New Orleans to spend the morning at the aquarium. It ended up being more trouble than what it was worth, since it was incredibly crowded from all the New Year’s tourists. The aquarium was mostly hot and stuffy with people everywhere, so needless to say we basically visited all the exhibits swiftly and left for home before lunchtime.

Later that night, Ross and I hung out watching the Durrells in Corfu on Amazon Prime and eventually went to bed around 11. Barely thinking about it, as I got ready for bed I put my birth plan on the kitchen counter along with my checkbook and phone charger as if I would need them the next morning (heh heh).

At 4:15am I woke up with regular contractions coming at around every 6-7 minutes. To avoid waking up Ross, I moved into the living room to labor by the light of our Christmas tree. Compared to my previous two births, things were picking up much more quickly. Pretty soon I moved back into the bedroom and woke up Ross. Contractions were every 5 minutes and I began feeling the need to moan through them. By then it was probably about 5:30am. Ross texted his dad (who happened to be in the middle of his weekly adoration hour) to give him a heads up that they should probably pick up the kids soon.

Around this point, I began to have a lot of anxiety about the birth. I knew that I wasn’t in transition and that I still had a while to go, but for the first time ever in my life I began to think, “I want an epidural.”

As we began to slowly pack things up and get dressed to leave, there was a strange 20 minutes where my contractions all of a sudden decreased to 30 seconds in length and to 2 minutes apart. We called my doctor and the hospital, alerted my in-laws, and around 6:30am we were ready to head out the door. Before we left contractions began to calm back down to being a minute long and 5 minutes apart.

After saying goodbye to the kids and leaving them with their Mimi and Pawpaw at our house, we went out into the chilly and wet dawn (where I discovered that contractions totally up their game when your body’s cold). Eventually we got to the hospital and inside my room. It was quiet on the delivery floor much like last time, and the nurses were even sweeter.

Once we were settled in, and I was free to labor around the room, I vocalized to Ross for the second time about how I was considering an epidural. Though my body remembered how to let go and loosen up during contractions from my labor with Rainer, the problem was that I honestly didn’t feel like I was in a good place mentally and emotionally.

While laboring on my feet and on the yoga ball, I allowed myself time to ruminate on the epidural decision. I knew that no matter what, especially if I were to get an epidural, I still needed to help get baby into a good position. Ross and I talked about it for a while off and on, and eventually I made my decision knowing that he would support me in whatever I chose. Around maybe 9 or 10am, I told my nurse my final decision with peace – that I would get the epidural. I waited as long as I could because I knew there was a limited window of time left. By this time, I had moved to the bed to labor leaning back. It was honestly the most comfortable position to labor in strangely enough.

Around maybe 11am, the epidural was put in, and then…we relaxed. The quiet and the peace was so comforting. It really was what I needed at the time. Beforehand my anxiety was really tensing me up, and it was a relief to have that quiet time with Ross to reflect. We talked about name ideas, I listened to Bishop Barron’s homily for that Sunday morning, I read the Mass readings. Around 12pm I requested a peanut ball because baby was sort of up bunched up on my left side. (It’s basically a huge foam peanut shaped ball that you put in between your legs while side-lying to help open up your pelvis).

Praise God throughout this entire time my contractions didn’t slow down from the epidural. Instead they seemed to have picked up with intensity, and as time passed I could feel baby get into a better position. Ross and I drifted in and out of sleep. At some point my nurse checked me after I said that baby felt much lower. My water bag broke as she was checking me and she announced that I was at 8-9cm. Pretty soon after that, I began to feel the urge to push and I could feel baby move down on her own with each contraction. By this time the other nurses were in the room getting things ready, and I was worried my doctor wouldn’t get in on time because baby was really ready to get out. Once he did arrive, they helped Ross get ready as well (he was going to catch her, like he did with Rainer). I pushed once until baby was crowning, and then I pushed again and there she was in my arms in her newborn glory of vernix along with that sweet, sweet relief and wave of peace. After just 13 hours of labor (short for me, since I’m usually laboring for a day and a half), our Ruth Siobhán was born at 3:13pm on New Year’s Eve 2017 on the Feast of the Holy Family, weighing at around the same birth weight and length as her siblings, 8lbs, 6oz and 20in.

Everything immediately following the birth was wonderfully seamless and non disruptive. For the first time, I was actually able to keep my baby skin to skin with me from birth until hours later. I had never been able to experience that before (Lúthien swallowed meconium and had to go to the NICU, while Rainer swallowed a lot of amniotic fluid and had to be checked out in the nursery for a couple hours). Our pediatric nurse was lovely and encouraged me to take my time with Ruth. In fact every single one of our nurses was wonderful.

I rang in the new year that night while she was nursing with Ross dozing on the hospital couch nearby while fireworks went off from a few miles away.

———-

Reflecting back on the birth, especially after discussing everything together with my husband, we agreed that while the epidural was not “planned,” it was a decision made with careful thought that gave me peace. My pregnancy with Ruth was an overwhelming time for the both of us for several reasons, and the stress and anxiety seemed to carry into the birth. And while I still highly value the experience of natural and non medicated birth, I am also learning the importance of giving yourself grace.

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Birth Story of Rainer Louis, Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

We left the house into the quiet around 1am, and there was absolutely no traffic. Altogether the drive must have been only 7 minutes. At this point I was focusing solely on not tensing up and letting my body do its thing, and surprisingly contractions in the car were not so terrible at all. We pulled up to the ER because it was after hours and thankfully there was not a person in sight inside. After waiting only a couple of minutes and through one contraction, I was swiftly taken to labor and delivery, which was also very quiet. We later found out that there was only one other woman in labor there. This was such a welcome sight for Ross and I, since my last birth was in an absurdly busy downtown Houston hospital where I had to wait in triage twice for a total of about 10 hours.

We were given the one room that accommodates a labor tub, because my original plan was to try and labor in water. Mrs. Karen arrived just a few minutes after we did and started to set things up while a flurry of nurses attended to the usual procedures: questions, monitoring the baby, checking my vitals, inserting my IV lock. Throughout all of this I was sitting up in bed. Ross knew how much I hated contractions in the bed last time, and he kept telling me, “Don’t worry, we’ll get you out of bed soon.” However, they weren’t nearly so bad in bed this time, maybe because of the way Rainer was positioned or because the nurses had me very much upright and not laying down like before. Soon after, Dr. Hemphill arrived, another welcome sight! She checked me and I was already 8-9cm! I wasn’t so much surprised as delighted, but I knew there was still a while before it was time. (I now know that the nurses expected me to have the baby pretty soon, but my doula and doctor knew that I should just take my time). The labor tub ended up being a no go, there were problems with the hose not connecting or the air pump – I’m not too sure. However, I truly wasn’t disappointed in the least, as I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d prefer the tub to the shower anyway.

Soon I was out of bed. They told me that they would come to monitor the baby every 15 minutes, which ended up not being a nuisance or distracting in the least. For my previous labor, they monitored me every hour but for 15 minutes in length. I also had to get into bed each time. However this time around, though I was monitored every 15 minutes, I was free to be wherever I wanted and in whatever laboring position – plus they only monitored me through one contraction. Needless to say, I very much preferred this method!

During this time while the nurses cleared out until it was just Ross, Mrs. Karen, and I. Mrs. Karen got the room ready while Ross and I got back into labor mode. I started out leaning on Ross during surges while Mrs. Karen periodically put pressure on my back. Eventually I changed to leaning forward on the bed on my knees or whatever was in front of me at the time.At some point, Mrs. Karen put a heat pad on my back, which did wonders, and she and Ross took turns holding it there and applying pressure. Every now and then she gave me an essential oil to smell. I specifically remember peppermint being very helpful by helping me to refocus.

After laboring on my knees leaning over the bed for a while, I think I may have begun to get the chills, if I remember correctly. Ross continued to encourage me to relax my body during contractions as I moaned through them. Mrs. Karen after some time suggested that I move to the shower, which ended up being a tremendous relief. I remember the shower helped quite a bit when I was laboring with Lúthien, but this time around it was even better. The warm water was incredibly soothing, and I already am very much a shower person over a bath person. I love showers. In between contractions I would lean forward on my labor ball and during each contraction I instinctively stood straight up applying pressure on my own back. I could feel the baby working his way further down, and though I felt a huge amount of pressure during the surges, I maintained my composure knowing that my body was just opening up. Ross handed me my water bottle every now and then and he sweetly encouraged me throughout each surge. His presence alone was a spirit lifter and confidence builder.

Eventually we moved out of the shower, the steam began to be a little too much for me and I felt that it was time for a different position. As soon as I dried off and got a hospital gown on, I remember saying something about how tired I was. Mrs. Karen suggested that I lay down on my side with a peanut ball between my legs. While in that position I slowly began to enter into transition. I began shaking and asked for a blanket. As time went on, the contractions became more intense. Ross supported me from behind, while Mrs. Karen stood in front of me. Despite being in transition, the brief respites in between contractions were wonderful. I think that I even dozed off for a couple minutes. After laboring there for a while, I sensed that my body was opening up and soon enough I gradually felt the urge to push within a few contractions.

side-lying during transition

My doctor came into the room while they were monitoring the baby, at which point I had switched positions, leaning forward onto the bed on my knees. She checked me and announced that I was “complete,” fully dilated, and reassured me to start to go with my body. After one contraction (still facing the bed rail), I turned around kind of confused and was like, “Where should I go? What should I do?” Haha! This was completely new to me, having the freedom to be in whichever position I wanted to push. Mrs. Karen brought out an antique birthing stool borrowed from a friend and asked if I’d like to try it.

Right before I was about to start pushing

I pushed maybe only 3 times on that stool. Mrs. Karen later told me that within those first few pushes on the stool, she could actually see the baby move down. I did not like the stool though, but after those first real pushes I was suddenly all in. Don’t let that picture fool you. I ripped off my hospital gown, something that I never ever thought that I would do, and I leaned on Ross for a few pushes.

Pushing, and of course the delivery, were the most powerful and incredible moments of this labor. Throughout my pregnancy with Rainer, the thought of pushing was honestly quite frightening to me. I had no idea what to expect, except for the notorious “ring of fire.” With Lúthien I had labored naturally all the way up to transition, but I pushed her out with an epidural while on a bed in stirrups.


When the above picture was taken, I was frightened for sure. Pushing felt completely new to me, and I was intimidated, believing that I wasn’t pushing “hard” enough and that this would take a long time. Yet, my doula and doctor were perfectly calm and encouraging. I remember asking them with a concerned voice, “how does everything look?” After a few minutes, I turned around deciding that I needed to be leaning on the bed on my knees. (Again, I also never thought that I’d give birth on hands and knees). At that point I had already begun screaming after each push. I could feel the baby go forward and back, which I knew to be normal. Mrs. Karen and my doctor continued to encourage me, suggesting that I was very close. In a weak moment, I looked up at Ross needing to see his face, and I asked him, “Can I really do this?”, knowing what he would say. Soon after with another push, I could feel baby descending and Ross and I prayed together (rather franctically). With the next push, came the ring of fire, but I could feel my baby’s head with my hand too! And then after a few seconds of waiting for the next contraction, I pushed the baby out.

It was absolutely incredible being able to feel Rainer with my hand on him as he came out. With my doctor’s help, Ross caught our child and handed him to me, at which point we learned that we had a son! I can barely begin to describe the beauty of that moment: holding him up to my chest for the first time. I pray that that memory remains with me for the rest of my life as fresh as it is now. He was perfect.

After about a minute, the nursery nurses took him, concerned about his breathing, and unfortunately they had to cut his cord before it stopped pulsing. They put Rainer onto the warmer and helped get some fluid out of his airway, while I got onto the bed next to him. I ended up being on that bed for quite some time. After the placenta was delivered and my second degree tear was stitched up, the nurses needed to continually massage my uterus in order to encourage it to start clamping down (which was rather unpleasant). I had lost a lot of blood, much more than my doctor was comfortable with, so I had an IV going with pitocin and later my doctor suggested giving me a dosage of cytotec. Ross and I knew about the dangers of using that during labor, but after consulting my doula and doctor we agreed that it would be best that I take it. 

During all of this, Rainer was in the nursery while they tried to get fluid out of his lungs. Thankfully, my doctor was very proactive in working to make sure that he was back with me soon, and she reassured us that she believed him to be just fine. After maybe a couple of hours, I finally had Rainer in my arms skin to skin and he nursed so naturally (and hungrily) as I leaned back.

Rainer Louis was born at 5:47am after 33 hours of active labor. His birth weight and length was the exact same as his sister’s, 8lbs and 5 oz and 20 in. He was exactly 41 weeks at birth, also like his sister; and my labor with him was only 3 hours less than my labor with Lúthien. It is almost eerie how similar they match up in numbers, however it also makes sense. At the beginning of Part 1, I mentioned how this labor and birth was a healing experience from the complications of my precious birth. And truly it was. Regarding my labor with Lu, I know that I should count my blessings. I still had a vaginal birth, laboring naturally right up until it was time to push. And although she ended up in the NICU and we didn’t breastfeed until her second day of life or exclusively breastfeed until her 4th day of life, she still ended up being extremely healthy despite the meconium incident and we nursed well (and still are!) with no big problems.

Mainly, I am tremendously grateful for this labor merely by the beauty of it all. I was able to labor in the comfort of my home with my daughter. I was much more informed and prepared this time around, so I knew what my body was doing and I worked with contractions rather than just trying to cope with the pain. My doula was a wonderful source of guidance and wisdom, and I was working with a doctor that I have great trust and respect for. Through each trial of Rainer’s delivery, I was able to work through my fears by the grace of God and my husband’s support. I have learned more about the value of patience, trust, and the strength of my own body. And in the end, we have the most precious gift of all, our son.


Birth Story of Rainer Louis, Part 1 

3 days before labor would start!

Where do I even begin? This birth story and laboring experience was an absolute gift to both my husband and I. My labor and delivery of Lúthien, though it did not go as expected, still profoundly impacted myself and mine and my husband’s relationship. Childbirth has an incredible way of showing you a new vulnerable part of yourself, as well as a deep inner strength. Yet despite the positives of my labor with our firstborn, even a year and a half later I was still left with bitterness, self-doubt in my confidence, and sadness over the complications of a bad hospital experience and the separation of my baby from me in the NICU. Surprisingly this labor and delivery of Rainer ended up being a healing experience in many ways from the last birth, as well as a blessing for today.

*Note: For those reading this that do not care for the details of birth, please feel free to just not read this story. I love reading other people’s birth stories, but here’s your warning. 😉 *

If you read my previous post, you might assume that I kept up my high spirits for the remainder of my pregnancy – but no, I definitely still struggled with patience in waiting and frustrations from outside pressures. Mother’s Day morning (day after my due date) for instance was rather difficult. Throughout Sunday Mass, I seemed to notice more and more pregnant ladies in church, reminding me of how I felt like I shouldn’t be pregnant anymore. Those women had the pregnant glow, but me? I felt huge, struggling to sit like a normal person. Then I noticed all the young babies, reminding me of how I still didn’t have mine with me yet. And THEN I saw our friends who knew that I was past my due date – making me want to go hide my still pregnant self, like something was wrong with me. Pregnancy hormones, whew!! I eventually lost it and broke down during Mass, I was such a mess!

But hey, it’s a beautiful day!

With each day following my due date though, I began to feel better. Each day was just another day closer, and Ross constantly reminded me to think positively. Finally Thursday came, my doctor’s appointment day. Ross had a half day, so he was able to accompany me while Mimi looked after Lu. Everything looked normal and fine. I had been planning to ask my doctor to check me (I hadn’t had any cervical checks yet), and when it came down to it she offered to strip my membranes too. I was sort of taken back because I had assumed that she thought it might be too early, but we excitedly jumped at the chance.

By dinner time I was definitely feeling “crampy” but nothing was consistent or even felt like period cramps. I mainly felt uncomfortable. After we put Lùthien to bed, we prayed a rosary together; and I asked for the graces to accept whatever will come, whether that will be labor or another few days of waiting. Around 8:00pm I started to have mild cramps while we were watching a rock climbing documentary on Netflix (hah!). Ross and I went to bed early in case they were to continue. Sure enough they did, and they began to feel like mild contractions throughout the night as I woke up every now and then. By 4:30am I couldn’t go back to sleep anymore so I timed them for a while. They were coming every 5 minutes, but they were still pretty tame and they spaced out as soon as I began to walk around. Once it was 7am I gently woke Ross up telling him that “we might have a baby today.”

With Ross home, the three of us had a relatively peaceful day together. It was so wonderful to labor in the comfort of our own home and to be with our daughter, as compared to my experience last time. I was so much at ease, and I took resting breaks on the couch or bed often in order to conserve my energy. We read books to Lúthien, Ross and Lu worked outside, we watched Finding Nemo as a family, took a nap, went for a walk.  At some point in the late afternoon, I let Lúthien nurse – partially because I wanted to nurse her one last time as my only child and partially to see if it would speed things up. Throughout the day contractions were irregular, sometimes every 5, 7, or 8 minutes. Right after Lu nursed though, sure enough they began coming every 3 minutes but they were shorter, only 30 seconds long. We decided that it was probably time for Lu to be picked up. While we were waiting for Ross’ mom to stop by,  I began getting emotional that Lúthien was going to leave us. I was afraid of the unknown, afraid of the big change about to happen in our family. She turned to me as I was crying, put her hand on my arm and said, “Mama, are you ok?” It was too sweet.

laboring at home

Ross’ mom came around 5:00pm to drop off dinner and pick up Lúthien. However, by that time contractions had decreased in intensity, and I was able to walk and talk through them. I grabbed this as another occasion to rest, but we eventually moved back into the living room anxious to get things moving. By this time it must have been 7 or 8pm, and I was trying so hard to not get discouraged. It had already been 24 hours since labor started, and I was nervous and dreading another long labor like my last. Ross tried to distract me and get me laughing by reading cheesy jokes to me which slightly helped.  Around 8 or 9pm, my doula, Mrs. Karen (also a good family friend), came to check on us. Having her presence with us was reassuring and calming. She let us know that it was normal to have a long labor and that we should enjoy the time that we have together laboring.

At this point, contractions were certainly coming much stronger and I began to have a lot of back labor. During each contraction I preferred bending over while Ross applied pressure to my back. It was then that I began to moan during contractions. Though they were strong, they were still several minutes apart, and Mrs. Karen suggested that we get some rest. She went home (only 10 minutes away) while Ross and I lied in bed.

I don’t know how long we stayed in bed, but it must have been about 2 hours. Ross was able to get some much needed sleep for me, and I was able to doze off between each contraction. As time went by though contractions were closer together and coming on more strongly and powerfully. I began getting really irritable that Ross was sleeping, but he started waking up during each contraction to help me breathe, reminding to relax my body as they came. This was essential throughout my labor: having Ross constantly affirming me to let go to each contraction and allow the surges to do their work.

At some point I couldn’t take laying down for the contractions anymore, and I could feel more intense pressure on my back. I knew something was different and that as soon as I would stand up labor would pick up for sure. My body began to shake a little and I sensed that I was getting closer to transition. With this knowledge and the sense that something was truly changing, I regained my motivation and confidence and I began to welcome each surge.

We both got out of bed and I immediately noticed that I was spotting. I was spotting a lot. As I was walking around contractions came closer together and stronger with back labor still present. They were about 3-4 minutes apart, lasting around 50 seconds. Ross called my doctor, the hospital, and my doula. Compared to my previous labor where we left our house uncertain over whether it was the right time to leave, I knew for sure that the time was now and we would meet the baby in a matter of hours. Ross packed the car and we left into the quiet night for the hospital, but not before turning around and retrieving our birth plan that we forgot. 😉

Continue onto Part 2.

Lúthien’s Birth Story

** This birth story – the written version at least – has been months in the making. Since Lúthien was born I have intended on writing everything out, but…baby happens. 😉 The narrative may seem fragmented and drawn out because almost (if not all) of this has been typed out on my phone while Lúthien nurses, sometimes in the middle of the night, and in this case in the afternoon. Also, I can’t  seem to fix the multiple fonts, so ignore them!  **
 
On a Friday morning of the 19th of September at 40 weeks and 5 days, Ross and I woke up rather early in order to fight rush hour traffic for my 8:30am appointment with my OBGYN. We hurriedly left our house at dawn with Larabars stuffed in my purse and water bottles in tow, running on 5 hours of sleep.
 
My appointment went very well. My doctor measured me dilatedat 3 cm. Because I was almost at 41 weeks, we had an ultrasound to check the amniotic fluid levels, and they hooked me up to external fetal monitoring finding that baby had great movement and contractions that were 6 minutes apart!
 
For the rest of the day, Ross and I kept ourselves rather busy. Since that appointment – probably encouraged by the cervical check – I was finally beginning to feel contractions regularly that were definitely distinct from Braxton Hicks. After grabbing lunch and something to drink, the contractions calmed down a bit, and we left for the mall where I was able to get some good walking. Our last stop was a nearby hair salon, where Ross got a last minute haircut. For the rest of the day we rested at home, re-watching Downton Abbey episodes together while I alternated between timing contractions and bouncing on the birthing ball.
 
By around 7 or 8pm, contractions were consistently 5 minutes apart. We slowly began to get all of our gear together, and I gave a call to my doctor. She didn’t sound too alarmed, but she suggested that since that night was busy for Labor and Delivery, if we wanted we could go ahead and try to get a room. Though contractions were close, they definitely did not feel strong enough. I wanted to take my time and stay and labor at home, but this was all new and it was a 45 minute drive to the hospital. So, around 11:00pm we left the comfort of our own home. 
 
From there everything sort of went downhill. Though we reached the hospital in record time (no traffic), it took us half an hour to find a suitable parking spot. It was a nightmare then, and now it seems ridiculously comical. First, the main parking garage to the Women’s Center was out of service, so we tried two other parking garages at the hospital, but the doors to the hospital were locked. So, we were left to park at a parking meter, on the condition that Ross would somehow be able to move the car by 7am in the morning. Talk about stressful. Just picture us getting all of our stuff out of the car, walking across the lot to the doors, stopping midway during a contraction, and reaching the entrance only to have it locked. Now repeat. 
 
After finally getting inside, we checked in and were told to wait in a room to get into Triage. (Triage is already a waiting room in itself, so this was waiting to go wait some more). By the time we finally plopped ourselves down, Ross at a chair, me on the birthing ball, I remember tiredly telling him, “All I want to do right now is take a nap with you.” Remember that we only had 5 hours of sleep the night before? Not the best way to start labor. While waiting, we began to walk the skywalk back and forth to keep me moving, and after about an hour or two we were taken into Triage. By that time, I was 5 cm and contractions were maybe 6 minutes apart. After making a call to my doctor, the nurse gave me the go ahead to walk the halls some more and come back in half and hour for more monitoring. We spent the whole night doing such: walking the halls, retuning to be monitored, sitting on the labor ball and so on. 
 
We heard bell toll after bell toll that night signaling a baby’s birth, and finally around 6am they announced that we would be the next to go to a room. Our spirits were lifted after finally being somewhere comfortable with the sun rising. Ross read Wind and the Willows out loud while I labored around the room. Strangely though, I was too comfortable. Now, during the whole night, labor had barely progressed and had seemed to reach a stand still. I was still 5cm and contractions had neither increased intensity nor frequency. By 10am, nothing had changed. After a call to my doctor, our nurse explained that I was in “latent labor.” Wanting to avoid pitocin, Ross and I decided to go back home and labor there until contractions picked up. 
 
It was wonderful going home in a way, especially after being uncomfortable for long in triage. (When we left for the hospital that first time around, somehow I didn’t think that we were leaving the house for good yet.) Ross made incredible sandwiches for lunch, and I attempted to nap. That didn’t last long though, as contractions kept me up and were worsened as I lied down. I tried lying in a bath, but I was too cramped. In the end a hot shower did the trick, but by that point in the afternoon contractions were strong enough to truly stop me in my tracks and we left for the hospital again around 3pm
 
Luckily Women’s Center parking garage was open this time and back up to triage we went. I was dilated about 6 1/2 cm, and Ross and I were left to walk the halls again. While walking the contractions were much better to handle and they came more frequently. However, I still had to be monitored every 30 min to 45 min while lying down which seemed to slow them down (and contractions were much more difficult to handle on the bed). 
 
Though all of the nurses we had were great and very supportive, eventually it just became very frustrating and exhausting laboring for so long without a private space. Finally around (maybe) 9pm, Ross and I were taken our room where we had the same sweet nurse that we had earlier that morning in our first room. Shortly afterwards, I’m pretty sure that I entered into transition – one of the hardest parts of labor. Everything from then on is a little more hazy in my memory, yet vivid at the same time. 
 
No matter what I did this time, I could not ease the pain and pressure of the contractions. Though I had been able to control myself emotionally before, my exhaustion and the intensity of the contractions began to scare me a little. Ross and I weren’t quite sure how to handle this change at first. At one point I moved from the labor ball to the bed on all fours and I began having very intense back labor. Not being able to take that anymore, I moved to the shower to labor where the hot water provided some small comfort. I believe it was there where I began to take on a new focus. In the intensity of the labor pains, I accepted the suffering in my vulnerability and I sought Ross who supported me with tenderness and strength. 
 
Once I was back at my bed and had reached 9cm, my (amazing) doctor arrived and we began to try to push. I really don’t recall how long I tried to push (I know we took several breaks and a few positions), all I remember is that at some point I began to scream very loudly and shake uncontrollably. I had already been losing whatever focus I had before, and Ross had to remind me how to breathe during the contractions. I was spent. I had been laboring for so long with no sleep, and I had probably begun to be dehydrated. Though I had the intense urge to push, I was wearing down. 
 
My doctor who had been extremely supportive of us (from afar and in person) counseled that she was worried that I would not have enough strength to have our baby vaginally, but if I consented to an epidural, it would allow me to rest for a few hours in order to finally deliver our baby. We agreed with her, and shortly afterward the (very gracious) anesthesiologist came in and administered the epidural. 
 
Immediately the pain began to subside and for the first time in hours (a day and a half, really), I was able to lie down and rest. I think it was close to 3am. Ross was soon dead asleep in the nearby armchair, and I was in and out of sleep. 
Though the epidural did help me rest, it was slightly disconcerting the amount of drugs that needed to follow after the epidural. I ended up consenting to a small amount of pitocin, and because I had low blood pressure from the epidural (causing me to shake again), I received another drug as well. Despite that, I was relieved knowing that soon this would be over and our baby would be here. The epidural definitely calmed my nerves though (even though I couldn’t stop my body from shaking), and I was much more alert and present because of the rest.
 
Soon it was high time to push. My nurse could see baby’s head and our doctor came back along with more nurses. Our sweet nurse had to leave, but the shift change brought two others both of whom we had the previous morning. (We loved our nurses in L&D). 
 
Soon after 7am, I began pushing again! Ross was on my left with the nurses and my doctor all around. It didn’t take long for me to get used to pushing again, but I did push for about 50 minutes. Her head was so round! My doctor rarely ever ever  cuts episiotomies, but she asked if I would consent to one, because it looked like I might tear badly. I quickly said yes, and I think after two pushes she was out!
 
It was amazing, the moment she was born – such relief, such joy and awe. Our doctor proclaimed, “Ross, do you want to tell your wife what you have?!” 
 
“It’s a girl!!”
 
So, after 36 hours in labor, Lúthien Marie was born at 8lbs, 4.5 oz and 20 in. 
 
They put her on my chest (though not skin to skin like they said they would), but I just held her and talked to her through tears. While she was with me, they checked her temperature and she was running a fever. They took her to the corner where they cleaned her off, but she had swallowed meconium so they (sadly) had to suction out as much as they could out. Everything happened so quickly, and after being able to hold her one more time they whisked her away to the NICU.
 
 
Our time spent in the hospital after her birth is another story. It was hard and frustrating being away from her, but there was still so much joy. Not only was our baby here, but this baby whom we thought was “Louis” was…not a Louis. On the morning of her second day out of the womb, we named her Lúthien.
 
 
Not only was she the biggest baby in the NICU, but she was the most alert baby there. When I first came down to her, she was trying to pull that cord out of her mouth. Another time we came down to her, she was furiously sucking on her pacifier while holding onto it. 
 
This is her on her second day. 
Wow. 
 
Though this labor was not what I originally intended, I am so grateful for the experience. Through the struggle and the suffering, my love for my husband and our child grew in ways I did not expect. In my pain and my vulnerability, it was beautiful finding that I needed my husband. We worked as a team, in that he helped me find new strength, even when I felt like I was losing my mind. And despite receiving the epidural in order to push, I am deeply grateful for the experience of the pain of labor. Though the force and the pressure of the contractions scared me, I can now see the power of pain sacrificed for a love.