After getting home late and opening gifts on Christmas Eve, I was glad that my call on Christmas day at The National Cathedral wasn't until 11:00. As I was getting ready to head out, I had my first sign of impending labor: I lost my mucus plug. I told Jason and we both got excited yet tried to remind ourselves that we could still have weeks more to wait. I sang Mass at the Cathedral and came home to take a nap. Then Jason and I headed out to the Kavinskis' house in Alexandria, VA for Christmas dinner.
We arrived home around 9:00pm and began to get ready for bed. That's when I had my second sign of impending labor: the bloody show. I was shocked, excited and scared all at once. Once you have the bloody show, labor is only hours or days away. We cleaned up the house, made sure we had everything we needed in the hospital bag and I called my mom to see if she could possibly get on an earlier flight (she wasn't scheduled to arrive until Dec. 31). Then we went to bed.
I slept for about an hour before waking up with some mild contractions. At about 1:00am I had a very strong contraction and my water broke. We were told to head to the hospital once my water broke, so we packed our bags and pillows into the car and headed to the hospital. Jason made me a piece of peanut butter toast to eat on the way as we knew I wouldn't get another chance to eat until after Charlotte was born. Hospital rules!
Once there, we contacted our friends Allison Navone and Susie Kavinski whom we had asked to be with us during the labor and delivery. It wasn't long before Allison showed up. My contractions were painful by that point but not unbearable. We had a good time chatting between contractions and I think we all got a few short naps in there as well. Susie showed up at some point that morning. With Allison, Susie and Jason, I was very well taken care of.
During the contractions, I found it most helpful for them to just quietly hold my hand and remind me to relax certain body parts that I was tensing up (my face, my shoulders, etc.).
As the day progressed I tried to spend time up out of the bed walking around the room and sitting on the exercise ball. The nurse told me to rotate my hips during contractions to help get Charlotte's head to move further into the birth canal. It felt good to do something more productive than just endure the pain.
After about twelve hours of natural laboring, the contractions went from being the worst pain I had ever experienced in my life, to double that. The pain was so incredibly intense that I began vomiting. I also got an extremely loud ringing in my ears and I felt like I was going to pass out. The contractions were about a minute and a half apart and I was so exhausted in between that I couldn't even keep my eyes open.
The nurse said that my labor was more intensely painful because Charlotte was posterior or "sunny side up" with her head facing up instead of down. This apparently made it more difficult for her to pass under my pelvic bone. The doctor came in to check on me during one of these contractions and said I was only dilated to 5 and that I still had four or five more hours to go. He told me to get an epidural.
I was heartbroken at the thought of not having a natural childbirth. I asked everyone to leave the room so Jason and I could talk about it. He was so sweet and told me he was so proud of me and that I shouldn't feel badly if I wanted to get an epidural after twelve hours of natural labor. I told him that I felt I could probably get through another hour or two but the thought of making it through four or five hours didn't seem humanly possible to me. We decided it would be best if I got the epidural.
Once I got the epidural, labor was a breeze! I took a nap for an hour or two as my contractions painlessly continued. At some point the doctor came in and gave me pitocin to speed up my contractions which had slowed down quite a bit. (Apparently he talked to me about this, but I was so exhausted I hardly remember him being in the room at all!) Once I got the pitocin things sped up a bit and it wasn't long before the doctor said I was ready to start pushing. At that point the nurse took over for a while. She was great. She had me push through three counts of ten during each contraction. I was still pretty exhausted (and absolutely starving!) but was in very little pain. The only actual pain I felt was just below the middle of my rib cage and compared to the pain I was in before, this was nothing!
As I pushed, Jason held my left leg and Allison held my right. Susie helped with counting me through pushes and also had her camera ready for the big moment. I got to rest between each contraction but eventually started getting a bit lightheaded so they gave me some oxygen. They set up the birthing mirror for me so I could see the progress I was making with each push. We were all shocked when we were able to see how much dark hair Charlotte had on her head!
The whole experience of pushing was pretty surreal and really flew by. Before I knew it, the doctor arrived and took over from the nurse. Not ten minutes later Charlotte was born!
Meanwhile, my mom had missed her first flight out of Seattle and had to take a later flight. She arrived in Chicago early afternoon and was placed on standby for her next flight. She was number nineteen on the standby list and there were only six seats available. Unbelievably she made it onto the flight! Once on the ground, she took a cab all the way to the hospital in Silver Spring and arrived about ten minutes after Charlotte was born.
Seeing Charlotte for the first time was an overwhelming moment. No words can describe meeting your daughter for the first time.
Then there was an awkward moment when the doctor asked Jason if he wanted to cut the umbilical cord. Jason politely declined so the doctor offered to Allison who also declined. Then he asked Susie if she would like to do it. We joked that he might as well have yelled into the hallway to see if anyone there would want to cut the cord. Finally the doctor just cut it and they took Charlotte away to check her out. After a few minutes, they brought her back to me and put her on my chest.
Jason and I were so in love with her right from the start. She stared at both of us with bright eyes. It was a moment neither one of us will ever forget.
From there the nurse took her again. She weighed her and gave her a bath.
During all of this, I was lying in the bed still amazed at having met my daughter. I was fighting to keep my eyes open and was anxious to get some food so I could feel more lucid. Eventually things calmed down a bit. The nurses helped me figure out how to breastfeed and I was able to get some food. After about an hour or two they moved us into a recovery room. Luckily all of the recovery rooms at Holy Cross are private, which was nice. Jason, Charlotte and I spent two nights there and got a lot of help from the nurses and I even got a visit from a lactation specialist. While we were there we also got a visit from a Catholic deacon who prayed with us and gave us communion. We both really appreciated that visit as well.
We were home by 1:00 on Tuesday and spent the next week cocooning at home. We are so in love with our little girl and are enjoying every moment we have with her. We are grateful that Jason has a total of four weeks paid paternity leave and I don't have another gig until the end of February. I may end up singing my church gigs beginning in February, but I have subs lined up in case I decide it is too soon. Until then, we are enjoying sweet time at home and have appreciated having lots of help from my mom. It is an amazing and wonderful time in all our lives.