Claire Elizabeth Hansen came into the world on Monday, November 14th (a beautiful 9 days early!). I would love to share the details of her arrival, as it was without a doubt the most magical day of our lives to date!
Let's begin with the week leading up to her big arrival, as it was quite eventful for Chris and me (plus, it seems I owe you a 38 week bump post). To refresh your memory, during week 37 my midwife was pretty sure Claire would arrive a little early based on how quickly I was progressing. And as much as I had promised myself I wouldn't get my hopes up about an early arrival, we definitely spent each day after that asking each other if today was the day, which made for a long week!
Our story begins around 4:30 am on Monday, November 7th with a trip to the hospital. That morning, as I was getting ready for work, I started leaking what I thought might be amniotic fluid. I immediately called labor & delivery and was advised to come in and get checked. By 5 am, Chris and I had loaded up the car and were headed to the hospital, wondering if this was the real deal! However, after what seemed like an eternity, we were discharged with the finding that it was not in fact amniotic fluid and that our baby girl was still cooking away.
If I'm being really honest, I was crushed. Call it disappointment, hormones or just plain being ready to meet our daughter, but I was a sobbing mess that morning! Though Chris did well to remind me of how fortunate we were that my water hadn't broken prematurely, since that sometimes gets doctors pretty anxious about inducing labor in order to avoid an infection. And if you remember, we were committed to having as natural a labor and delivery as possible, so being induced was something we wanted to avoid.
Upon coming home that morning emotionally drained and utterly exhausted, I took the rest of the day off work. When I saw my midwife for an appointment that afternoon she confirmed that I was now dilated to a 4 and was about 80% effaced and still confident that I would have her soon. She also gave the strong recommendation that I take it easy for the next few days/weeks. Thus began my maternity leave.
For the remainder of the week I tried to relax and get some rest-not an easy task when you are getting increasingly uncomfortable and restless!
But Friday morning brought another early visit to the hospital, where I again thought my water was breaking. Hesitant, we loaded up the car and headed to the hospital at the nurses prompting. Though after another grueling four hours of being monitored and prodded, they again determined that it was not amniotic fluid and sent us on our way. It was then that I proclaimed to Chris that I would not be going back to the hospital until we were absolutely positive she was coming!
Monday, November 14th: I tossed and turned all night, feeling completely restless and absolutely ravenous! Around 3 am I got up and made myself a protein shake and sat in bed until Chris got up for work. By that time I am certain I looked utterly exhausted because he insisted I try and get some rest before my Dr. appointment that afternoon. I spent that morning preparing myself for no change in my cervix and for my midwife to tell me it would probably be a few more weeks before our little one would arrive.
Upon arriving at my appointment, I playfully declared that something was different about today because I felt really out of sorts physically and could tell my body was at least preparing to birth our baby girl. We talked for a minute and she then proceeded to check my cervix for any change. She was quiet for a minute and then asked, "Honey, can you feel that? I'm pretty sure you're having a contraction". Followed by, "And by the way, you're now dilated to a 5, almost a 6, and are 100% effaced. I'm going to bet you have this baby today! I think you should call your husband and head over to labor and delivery within the hour." Um, what!?! I asked if she was sure, at which point she confirmed, at least 5 or 6 times, that she was 99% sure I was in labor!
While I was completely ecstatic at her prediction, I was also cautiously hesitant because I wasn't feeling consistent contractions. And surely, you can't be in labor without knowing it, right?
After I left I called Chris with the news and within minutes he was on his way home. Meanwhile, I headed home and went into full-fledged nesting mode; cleaning the floors, emptying the garbage and tying up loose ends while I waited for my hubby! Though once he got home, even he was hesitant to go to the hospital just yet since the last thing we wanted was to be sent home again without our baby in our arms. Chris was finally convinced it was time to go when within a five minute conversation in our living room, I had two very obvious contractions. It still makes me laugh when I think about the look on his face that seemed to say, "Whoa, you really are in labor!".
Just for a timeline, it was about 3:30 in the afternoon once we arrived at the hospital. When we got to triage the nurses were actually talking about me: the woman who was dilated to 5 cm, just walking around like it was nothing (hehe)! Just as they had done twice the week prior, the nurse hooked me up to monitor any contractions. Though unlike our previous visits, I was really having contractions! In fact, I was watching them on the monitor and laughing at the fact that I could only feel about half of them and they were nothing more than slight discomfort (similar to menstrual cramps). I was also now dilated to 7 cm. Within twenty minutes I was admitted to L&D and our parents were on their way! (But not before the midwife estimated our baby would be at least 8 lbs 4 oz...) Talk about a surreal experience, knowing that we were hours away from meeting our baby girl!!
So to answer my earlier question: Yep, apparently you can be in labor without knowing it! This is what I looked like dilated to 7 cm.:
The next few hours passed by fairly quickly. (Somewhere towards the beginning my water broke-enter more excitement!) Most of my active labor was spent excitedly greeting family members who had arrived at the hospital, walking the halls and breathing through contractions. To be honest, until about an hour before Claire arrived, my labor was extremely tolerable! In fact, up until about 9:45 I was playing Words with Friends on my iPhone and eating some pizza our family had ordered while they waited. (Great thing about no epidural-you get to eat throughout your labor!)
This is how our family and friends waited for Claire's big arrival:
Throughout my labor, Chris did an amazing job coaching me through each contraction, reminding me to breath, keeping me hydrated and encouraging me that our baby would be here soon! Around 10pm I was going through transition (probably the toughest stage of labor) and the midwife came in to check my cervix and announced that I was at a 9.5! That was when my water fully broke. Apparently the first time it broke, it was more of a big leak and then it decided to seal itself back up. She warned me that the contractions would get really intense from this point and the urge to push was not far away.
Suddenly it all became very real to me, I had to push her out! And she was right, my contractions were non-stop and before I knew it, I was telling the nurse it was time. Thus began the hardest 15 minutes of my entire pregnancy (you read that right, I only pushed for 15 minutes)! However, they were without a doubt worth every painful moment as our angel arrived healthy and perfect in every possible way - all 8 lbs. 10 oz. of her!!
Chris cut her umbilical cord and she was immediately placed on my chest, at which point my heart completely melted! We were able to put off the routine cleaning and tests for the first hour to give Chris and I alone time to bond with our baby girl!
Of course, once Claire and I were cleaned up, our anxious visitors were invited in to meet our sweet Claire. Talk about a beautiful picture!
The entire experience was the single most amazing thing I have ever done. Bringing our daughter into the world was the most physically demanding, but empowering thing my body has ever accomplished and I would do it all over again! And yes, I was able to have Claire completely natural, something I hope to do with all of our future children! I loved being able to be up and active during my labor and feeling in complete control of my body.
Of course I can't share my labor experience without giving a big ole' shout out to our amazing nurse, Elaina! She was so amazing and completely supportive of us wanting to have as natural an experience as possible and offered so much encouragement! That goes for the entire team at Kaiser, as well! Chris and I were so fortunate to have had such a wonderful staff cheering us on!
We were lucky enough to have some amazing moments captured before and after her birth! I have shared a few below:)