Trust Your GUT When You Think You're In Labor: First Time Baby Birth Story

Taylor Keating

The quick facts about Lincoln's birth: Born at 12:53 am, 9 lbs 3 oz, 21 inches. 39 weeks along.28 hours active labor. Vaginal delivery in a hospital with an epidural.

It was a Tuesday and I began to experience contractions at about 8:15 pm. I didn't know that they were legitimate contractions until after the fact. It felt more like a dull pain and didn't hurt too much. All I can say to describe them is that I knew they were different than regular cramping like you might have during your period. I started to use an app to track them, but then fell asleep because they weren't getting closer than 7-10 minutes apart. I thought maybe it was Braxton Hicks that everyone talks about, but had no clue. Regardless, I wasn't in pain and figured I would just know when it did happen. So off I went to sleep.

Around 2 am, I woke up in pain. I went to the bathroom and got back into the bed. I grabbed my phone and tracked the contractions again. They were still hovering around 10 minutes apart, sometimes less, but never consistently. Each contraction still didn't hurt in the traditional sense, but they were more intense than before. Each kind of took my breath away, but not enough to worry me. In the back of my head, I knew these were the real deal even if I didn’t want to admit it. I texted my husband who was downstairs playing videogames that we had a "code c" which was a joke that we thought of. It meant contractions. Instantly, I heard the footsteps coming up the stairs. He wanted to go to the hospital and was so panicky and excited at the same time. I didn't want to get stuck at the hospital any longer than we needed to be so I told him to go to bed and that I would let him know when we needed to go. My contractions were not getting closer together so I fell back asleep.

I woke for the day around 6, went downstairs, and tried to eat. I didn't have much of an appetite. By now, the contractions were really starting to hurt. When I sat on the couch, each time one would start, I had to lean back and brace myself. My doctor's office opened at 8 am so I held on until then and just tried to breathe and lay back to alleviate some of the discomfort. At this point, my contractions were 7 minutes apart. It was very uncomfortable. The nurse on call told me to head in, and we would do a stress test. ​

At the office, I went down to where the techs perform ultrasounds and they hooked my belly up to this huge machine that beeped at me. All I had to do was lay there and raise my arm when I felt a contraction coming on. The woman performing the test was beyond nice, gave me some ice chips, and told me to try to zone out because the test was about ten minutes in length. At this point, my anxiety was through the roof, my stomach was churning because here I was, thinking that maybe something was wrong. The test went fast, most likely because my brain was working on overdrive, and then I went to visit the on-call doctor.

I undressed from the waist down and a doctor came in. It wasn't my doctor and I remember being sad because I really loved my doctor and wanted her to deliver my first baby. But this doctor was kind and gentle with me. She performed a vaginal check and jumped after checking to see if I was dilated. Turns out, I was already 6 cm dilated and in active labor.

Off to the hospital I went. Luckily, the hospital was literally across the street from my doctor's office.My husband drove us over to the hospital while I shot off at least a dozen text messages (some to work, my mom, my in-laws, close friends, etc). I was buzzing, literally, buzzing with energy, both happy and nervous. It was happening. This day I had been dreaming and wondering about for nine months was here, and I felt so unprepared. ​

Some backstory, I don't like knowing things. I am aware that sounds horrible. I just mean when the nurse goes to take blood, I don't want a countdown or a warning. I'd prefer you do your thing and I'll do mine. Same with dentists, roller-coasters, traffic. I don't want to know what's ahead of me or if I do, I need to know the entire situation so I can mentally prepare myself. It's a control thing, for sure. So, my husband and I didn't do any classes or preparations for this big moment. I had a bag packed and that was our effort.

We didn't even know where L&D was! Finally, some kind security guard led us in the right direction. We were triaged first, my vitals were taken, and then we were admitted to a room. The nurse was quick to get an IV in, hook my belly up to the monitors, and get all of our information. That part went extremely fast and smooth. We were in our room and ready for baby to make his entrance at 11 am. And then everything slowed down and stalled out.

At 2 pm, our nurse came in and not much had changed. I was starving! They let me drink water and eat jello, but I felt weird asking for it over and over again. Looking back, I wish I had! I was hurting because the contractions were now about 5 minutes apart, they hurt like hell, and were not really giving me a chance to breathe in-between. My husband was hanging out on the couch beside me and the texts were rolling in like crazy asking me if we had a baby yet. I was beyond annoyed and tired and frustrated that things weren't going faster. ​

I hadn't made a decision before going in on whether or not I wanted an un-medicated or medicated birth. I figured I would know in the moment or the circumstances would help me decide. Our nurse explained the process, and I was scared to get one. I would need a catheter and that thought alone freaked me out. There could be complications like numb legs or it not work and I would have to stay in the bed. So much negative thoughts around the epidural, but my labor was moving slowly and I didn't think I could handle another day of just suffering through the pain. In the end, I opted for the epidural and it was the best decision ever.

The epidural process was quick and honestly, painless. We had the best nurse ever. Since my husband had to sit in front of us because they don't let you see what's going on back there, our nurse held my hands, sat with me, and let me rest my head on her chest. She was honestly a Godsend and I am beyond thankful for her kindness, gentleness, and understanding. I felt an instant relief, took a deep breath, and it really helped center me and let me focus on my baby boy instead of pain, pain, and more pain. Around 4 pm, I was checked again and was at 9 cm. It really wasn't changing and my doctor decided to break my water with a weird wooden looking stick. Another few hours passed and at 11 pm, the doctor wanted me to push.

The first few pushes weren't bad. I mean, they hurt like hell, I felt like my body was breaking, and it was so hot. I didn't know that the epidural literally does nothing for when you push. How does that work by the way? The nurse and doctor were amazing support systems, urging me to try my best, to ground myself, and uplifting me with kind words when I thought I couldn't do it. Let me just add, the doctor delivering Lincoln wasn't my doctor but was from the same practice. He was a man, and I didn't know initially how I would feel about that, but he was great! I'm actually beyond grateful that he delivered Lincoln. The baby got stuck under my pubic bone and pushing was becoming excruciatingly painful. It seemed like nothing could get him out, no matter how deep a breath I took or how hard I pushed and not knowing how much longer I would have to do this made the experience that much more exhausting.

One thing that really haunts me looking back was the machines that tell you when you are going to experience a contraction. We'd all stare at this beeping screen, waiting for the line to spike that told us another was coming. I was so anxious and nervous and honestly, scared, for that line to spike because I knew that meant more pushing and more pushing meant more pain and frustration.

​After almost two hours of pushing every 3-5 minutes, a surge of relief washed over me and we heard the first (of many!) cries from Lincoln. It's sort of a blur, but I remember his cry, wanting to pass out, and then feeling his warm, little, wet body on my chest. I didn't even have the energy to unbutton my gown, the nurse did for me. I had a first degree tear, and honestly, felt nothing having to do with the tear. I know they gave me a single stitch just from what my husband told me. I refused to look anywhere other than that little baby boy.

I was so focused on this little mini baby that I didn't even realize when the doctor's delivered my placenta. I didn't see it, feel it, or really do much. The doctor told me when to push, his hand on my abdomen, and then I did. It was kind of awkward, like a bump and tug and then boom…that was it!

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An early childhood educator at heart, now raising two toddlers with big feelings and writing about mom life through a real lens.

Ridgefield, CT

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