Is it weird that i’ve been dragging my feet about writing this post? Every day I think about it, that I really need to get writing. I want to do it while the details are still fresh in my mind and I know so many people are curious about my experience. But I think a large part of me wants to forget that day. Childbirth is hard and i’d rather not relive it by writing about it and just focus on Evelyn being here now. I remember sitting in the postpartum room a few hours after having her and I just felt so odd. I don’t know how to describe that feeling, I haven’t felt it before, I think it was like PTSD. I felt like i’d gone through this trauma and I was smiling on the outside but on the inside I could feel myself building up this protective wall and trying to process.
Childbirth seems to be a unique experience for each individual woman & parent. For some, it seems to be this empowering experience. For me, it felt traumatic and it’s taken me days to process and digest the experience.
I’m also so interested in Tim’s experience. He was insistent he wanted to stay up by my head & shoulders and not watch her birth, he got queazy in the breastfeeding & child birth classes and would have been perfectly happy smoking a cigar & drinking scotch in the waiting room with my dad if that was allowed. But when it came down to it he was in the middle of the war zone. Something that I realized after the birth was how your body goes through such an intense experience and you are in the most vulnerable place you or your body will be in and you don’t even witness it. But your partner sees it all. They see the pain on your face, the head coming out, your body ripping apart, blood gushing out of you, getting stitched back up. What is that like for them? While I worked through the trauma, I didn’t have those visuals. I couldn’t see any of those things happening to me and my body but my partner saw them all. We haven’t talked about it but I do want to ask him. Maybe I’ll do a post on his perspective.
And with that, without further-ado, Evelyn’s birth story…
I woke up around 5am on August 4th having contractions. I’d been having them on and off the past few days so I was hopeful it was the real deal but didn’t want to get too excited. I tried to go back to sleep for a few hours. Around 8am I started tracking them and they were coming consistently every 10 minutes. I had them consistently throughout the day but they weren’t progressing. I spent a lot of time on a yoga ball to try to help open up my hips. We also finished building the dresser for our room and putting up the book shelves in Evelyn’s room. When we were done my dad joked that she would come now that everything was set for her. Around 6PM we got Mexican food and while we were waiting for it my sister and I slowly walked back and forth around the block to try to kick start labor. As every stereotype would have it, the Mexican food and walking did the trick and by 7:30PM the contractions had started getting stronger and closer together. I labored at home until 10:30PM. I’m thankful for the prep classes we had so that I felt more knowledgable about what was happening and how to breathe through the contractions. When you start to panic and give in to fear the contractions are so much harder to get though. Laboring at home was a special time – I had Tim, my parents and sister with me. Tim would massage my lower back (I unfortunately had back labor), my mom would talk me through breathing and my dad held my hand. We managed this for three hours until the contractions were closer to 5 minutes apart and I had a few that were absolutely crushing. At that point, I screamed that I needed an ambulance and my mom said “I think she’s ready to go to the hospital.”
We were still deciding which hospital so I had Tim call UCLA Westwood to see if they even had rooms available. They said they were pretty full. So then he called UCLA Santa Monica and apparently at first they thought he was joking. Am I the first preggo to think to ask if there’s room in the inn? Is that a crazy question? I don’t think so. UCLA Santa Monica still had private rooms open so that’s where we decided to go.
My mom rode with us to the hospital to help me through the contractions while Tim focused on driving. They were about every 4 to 5 minutes apart and we had a 20 minute ride. They were so painful and uncomfortable in the car. I panicked once and the contraction was so hard to get through. After that, I focused on calming myself down and deep breathing and I was able to get through it. Seriously, I think childbirth is more about your mental strength than physical.
When we got to the hospital and checked in all the nurses at the desk were like “Were you the guys who called asking if there was a room available?” And then when I checked into my room and my nurse came in to introduce herself she goes, “Were you the guys who called asking if there was room?” SERIOUSLY?! Whatever, our room was huge and PRIVATE and I got to labor, deliver and recover there with my own dedicated nurse- which wouldn’t have been the case at Westwood. I found out later from another nurse who works at both Westwood and UCLA that when Westwood gets full women will labor in the hallway and then be brought into a room right when it’s time to deliver. She told me I definitely made the right choice coming to Santa Monica. Thank you very much.
I LOVED the staff at UCLA Santa Monica. My nurse was amazing. By the time we were checked in it was 11PM and i’d been laboring since 5AM. I was exhausted. They checked me and I was 100% effaced and 5 centimeters. They were really impressed i’d labored at home for so long. Again, I think having the prep classes really helped me feel comfortable in the stages of labor and not be fearful through each step. I decided on the epidural – no shame – and got that ASAP, at that point I was having contractions almost 2 mins apart. After that I was able to sleep for a few hours as they waited for me to be fully dilated. I’m so thankful for that because it turned out for me, pushing was WAY worse than the contractions (even before the epidural). If I hadn’t had those few hours to regain my strength I don’t think I would have been able to push. In those hours, waiting until it was time to push I remember being so scared. I think I said a minimum of 100 Hail Mary’s. In the birth class the teacher talked about the importance of focusing on something to help you get through and not be fearful. For me, that was prayer.
Around 6am we started to push. My legs were numb from the epidural so it was really hard. And she kept saying I needed to push harder but I really was trying to give it my all. At 7am it was shift change so I got another nurse. I was sad to see the woman go who i’d labored with for the past 9 hours but the new nurse was also great. By 8am the doctor came in and it was time. That was 2 hours of pushing. Everyone talks about contractions but for a first time mom who has a longer time frame of needing to push, pushing was by far the worst of it for me. First, your lower body is completely numb from the epidural which obviously makes the pushing position challenging. Then, I could definitely feel her coming down even with the epidural. It was very painful for me. With the contractions, you have breaks in between, but while pushing it was two hours straight of that pressure of her coming through. I was on oxygen and when i’d feel a contraction coming, Tim would take the mask off and help with my legs and i’d push. I’d push for 1 contraction and then “rest” for 1 contraction – although it was extremely painful not pushing as well. By hour 2 I was exhausted and couldn’t lift my body. It’s like you’re doing AB crunches for hours straight. Luckily, Tim would “crunch” my body for me – grabbing my legs with one arm and hoisting up my upper body with the other. All I had to focus on was pushing. At one point in exhaustion and pain I told the whole room to pack up and go home. I told them I was done and asked Tim his thoughts on adoption instead. Unfortunately, no one went for it. I was able to successfully bargin jello and juice immediately upon delivery so that kept me going.
I loved the OB who delivered Evelyn. She was a middle aged black woman and I felt instantly comforted when she walked in the room. She had a sense of humor that put you at ease but didn’t overdue it and you just felt this warm and comforting maternal presence. She had two kids of her own and knowing she’d gone through childbirth as well made me more willing to listen to her. If we had delivered before 7AM I would have gotten the male OB and if he had told me to “push harder” i’m pretty confident I would have literally punched him in the nose.
When Evelyn came it was two big pushes. She was 7lbs 8oz and 20 inches long. There were so many people in the room by that point but I didn’t see them. I didn’t even see Tim, I wish i’d thought to look at him, to see his face. I was blurry in pain and I just remember these two almost animal screams coming from deep within me and she was delivered. Your brain just leaves you and I feel like your body and nature take over and I was just floating somewhere above it. As soon as she came out the OB sings Happy Birthday which was really sweet.
This is the other part of my story that might be different from other women’s experiences but when they put Evelyn on my chest she felt so foreign to me. Her head was facing away from me so I couldn’t see her face. I didn’t feel this surge of joy, it was more an “oh shit” moment. Neither Tim or I cried. I looked at him and he had the same face I did, we both were dealing with the reality sinking in. I acted the way you are supposed to, just doting on her but inside I was terrified. Tim didn’t touch her in the beginning, I asked him if he wanted to hold her but he kept saying “No, have your time with her.” After he cut the cord and an hour of skin to skin, they brought her over to weigh her and do some tests. Tim went with her and took photos & video. That’s when things changed for him. Afterwards, he sat and held her and she turned into his “sweetie” who didn’t leave his side for the rest of the hospital stay.
For me, a few hours into recovery I started to feel better mentally. The first night I didn’t get too much sleep, I was so excited to snuggle her. Any noise she made Tim and I were worried, hovering parents. The next few days were bliss. We stayed in the hospital for recovery for 2 days. It was so nice having a staff to look after you, get you whatever you need and there was always someone on hand to ask questions. I would recommend staying in the hospital as long as they’ll let you.
Below are photos from when we left the hospital. We were ready to go but it was also so scary knowing we were bringing her home and would be on our own. We love you Evelyn Leigh!
UPDATE: For all the soon-to-be first time mommas reading this, I’ve put together a page of all our must have mom & baby items on Amazon. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/shop/maria_pelletier