Wren Marí Clifford
November 18, 2015
6 lbs 14.1 oz, 18 inches long
I think labor really started for me on Monday, November 16th. I had been having non-stress tests (NST’s) once a week since I was 36 weeks pregnant because we found an echogenic intracardiac focus (bright spot on the heart) at our 20 week anatomy scan. Sometimes these bright spots can be markers for other problems with the baby, so we went on to have a detailed ultrasound performed by a perinatologist as well as noninvasive prenatal testing to look for possible chromosomal abnormalities. Our testing and ultrasound came back normal and we were cleared. Although the EIF was ruled an “incidental finding” and nothing of concern, my OBGYN wanted us to have the NST’s just to be on the extra safe side. An NST is a simple way to confirm that the baby is still doing well in utero & is tolerating everything well as they near the end of their time in mommy’s tummy. I was to have a NST once a week from 36 weeks until I had the baby.
I’d been having Braxton Hicks contractions (during activity) since I was about 20 weeks pregnant and started getting them throughout the day around 36 or 37 weeks. There was no pain or pattern with them, just periodic tightening. At my 37 week NST, the Braxton Hicks were picked up on the contraction monitor and we could see that they were regularly about 8-10 minutes apart, but I was only 1/2cm dilated (same as the previous week), so they sent me home. The contractions continued but never developed any kind of pattern. At my 38 week NST (11/16) I was again having pretty regular Braxton Hicks and they were picked up on the monitor at about 3 minutes apart for the full 30 minutes I was there. I also had my first painful contraction while I was there, but it was only that one. Because I was having such frequent contractions, they almost didn’t let me leave the hospital! They called my OBGYN, who came to check my cervix, and I was still only 1/2 cm dilated. Since I hadn’t made any progress, they sent me on my way and told me that since I was full term, I was welcome to come back and have the baby any time after that. Oh, thanks. I’ll get right on that!
Most of my pregnancy, my doctor and I had been sure that I was going to have the baby early, but I was starting to think that maybe I would go the full 40 weeks (I wasn’t even willing to entertain the idea that I could possibly go longer than 40). I was scheduled to finish work that Friday, November 20th, at 39 weeks. Since I wasn’t due until November 27th & this was my first baby, I figured I was ahead of the game and would have plenty of time once I finished work to get the house and everything ready. I continued my work week as usual and spent most of my days rolling and bouncing on the yoga ball as I worked. My hips and back were incredibly sore and the ball was far more comfortable than a desk chair.
Wednesday, the 17th, was a normal day… nothing out of the ordinary. I came home from work, we got take-out for dinner, and I lazed around on the couch until bedtime. I didn’t have any inkling of an idea of what was about to happen. At 1:40am, I woke up to a weird pain and thought it might have been because I had to pee, so I got up and went to the bathroom. As I laid back down, I had another strange pain. This time, I thought I must have just moved funny while I was laying down. Being that pregnant and huge, pretty much every movement caused some type of discomfort, so I didn’t think too much about it. These pains felt NOTHING like what I expected contractions to feel like. I laid in bed and a few minutes later, another pain. This third one made me a tiny bit suspicious that something might be up. A few more minutes passed & I had yet another pain. I decided to just stand up and see if anything changed if I switched positions. I was leaning over our dresser for a few minutes and had two more contractions. Aaron woke up and said “Are you having a baby?” which made me laugh and I told him I wasn’t sure but that I was going to head out to the living room for a bit so I didn’t keep him awake. He said he was going to try to sleep incase it was labor so that he’d have the energy he needed when the time came.
Out in the living room, I got out my contraction timer app and started timing the pains. They were consistently 3 minutes apart and each lasting about 45 seconds to a minute. I was a little bit confused because I had kind of expected to ease into labor. Most of what I’d read about labor went over scenarios where the mom starts having contractions about 10-12 minutes apart that slowly grow closer and closer together over the course of several hours. These books said to go to the hospital when contractions were 5 minutes apart, lasting one minute each, for one hour. However, these were coming pretty fast (already closer together than 5 minutes) and increasing rapidly in intensity. I think I only went through about 30 minutes of contractions before I went and woke Aaron up. To be honest, I think he definitely thought I was being dramatic.
I decided to call the hospital because I wasn’t sure what to do. I had only been in labor for like 45 minutes but the contractions were already getting pretty serious. The nurse that answered told me that since I’m a first time mom, I have a long while to go and I should drink some water and take a bath and stay at home for as long as possible. She said that if I came to the hospital now, I would probably end up with a bunch of interventions that I didn’t want. Hm. So I decided I would try and wait. Probably 20-30 more minutes passed and the contractions were getting more & more painful and closer together. I was panicking at the thought of having to sit in the car during contractions to get to the hospital. Despite what the nurse told me, I told Aaron it was time to go so we packed up and off we went. Even then, I think he thought we would probably get to the hospital and they would just check me and send me home.
The car ride sucked as much as I thought it would. Once we got to the hospital, they took us into a room and the same nurse I spoke to on the phone came in. She said that I didn’t need to change into the gown to be checked since they would probably be sending us home (seriously?! I don’t know why she was so convinced I wasn’t in labor). They checked me and I was 4cm dilated, the baby was engaged, and contractions were very clear on the monitor. Much to everyones surprise (well, except mine), they confirmed that I was in active labor & admitted me. This was at about 4am, give or take. At this point, the contractions were pretty rough and I was having to concentrate to get through them.
The following two hours were such a blur. Labor was hard and fast and I really didn’t feel like I was getting much of a break to get ahead of the next contraction. I spent most of the time leaning over a yoga ball that was on the bed while Aaron rubbed my lower back. I just zoned out and don’t think I talked almost at all during this time. I would just moan and get into position and that way Aaron knew it was time to rub my back. Later, we would realize that I’d had him rub my back so hard that there were big blistered spots on both sides of my back. Whoops!
Throughout this time, the heart rate monitor for the baby wouldn’t stay in place, so we kept losing her heartbeat. I knew she was okay, but they had to be able to keep a consistent heartbeat to know that the baby wasn’t in distress. So during contractions, a nurse would wrap herself around me to hold the monitor in place. It was really difficult to labor comfortably with a nurse all up in my space, but I knew they were trying to help me avoid an unnecessary intervention.
At about 6am, my doctor arrived and they checked me again and I was complete (fully dilated). I’d dilated 6cm in two hours… that certainly explains the level of intensity! I was so thrilled to be almost done. My water still hadn’t broken so my doc wanted to break it to get the pushing process started. I had put in my birth plan that I did NOT want my water broken, but I hadn’t thought about what I would do if I was fully dilated and it hadn’t broken, so I let her do it. I was desperate to meet my baby girl. She said it was a very tough bag and she had a hard time breaking it and I often wonder if Wren would have been born en caul (in the bag of waters) if the doc hadn’t broken it.
From here, things started to go downhill.
Keep an eye out for the rest of Wrens birth story in Part 2! Subscribe to our blog to be notified when it’s posted!