This is the birth story of our daughter, Eliana Drew. Enjoy!
Heading to the hospital
After months of nonstop contractions, the irony of all ironies is that I was induced at 39 weeks 1 day. My doctors told me it would be healthiest for me and the baby to induce me in the 39th week, and after considering all of my options, I agreed. If you want to read about why I decided to be induced, here’s information about the benefits of being induced in your 39th week. I scheduled the induction date not ever believing I would make it there, but as the days crept by, I realized that making it to my induction date was becoming more and more of a possibility. In one sense, there was peace in knowing when this monumental thing was going to take place, but on the other hand I felt like by being induced I was going to miss out on having a “how I went into labor” story, which made me a little sad. But ultimately, here I am telling my story, and what a story it turned out to be!
November 27th, the day of my induction, arrived. I was supposed to show up at the hospital at 6:30 PM, but at 3 PM I received a phone call from the hospital saying that they had too many moms delivering all at once and to call back at 8 PM to see if they were ready for me. I know it was only an hour and a half delay, but the anticipation was almost too much to bear. I told myself that it just meant more time for me to spend enjoying the movements of the baby in my stomach.
I ate a big bagel and some eggs to power up before going into the hospital (assuming they’d tell us to come in at 8 PM).
8 PM rolled around, and you better believe I had the number dialing at 7:59:55 PM! The charge nurse told me they were still super slammed and for me to call back again at midnight. Midnight! I wanted to cry, but again, I told myself everything for a reason. Maybe Baby K needed a few more hours before making an entrance.
I had unpacked and re-packed my hospital bag just to make sure I knew where everything was. Anything to try to pass the time.
We sat in our living room watching TV (and watching the clock). Time never moved slower in my life. I had actually started to doze off on the couch WHEN I felt my phone vibrate. It was the hospital. It was 10:16 PM and they were ready for me!
We threw all of our hospital bags in the car, triple checked that the car seat was installed safely, and we were on our way. It felt surreal knowing that we were driving to the hospital as a family of two and would be leaving it as a family of three!
Getting admitted and getting induced
We entered through the ER entrance of the hospital because that’s the only way to get into the hospital at that hour. The person at the desk chuckled as she looked at us–me with a full belly and Zak buried in bags. I joked, “Can you tell this is our first one?” She wished us good luck, and we proceeded to the elevator to ascend to the third floor.
At labor and delivery, everyone was so friendly. They immediately got us settled in our room, although it took a bit to get my IV started because earlier that day we bought the nurses donuts to bring as a thank you for the work they do, and they were taking some time to enjoy them. Happy nurses = happy labor. Check!
The IV process became an ordeal when my nurse (who I could tell was very new) tried two times in my left arm to get the IV in and failed. This poking honestly hurt a thousand times worse than getting my epidural! She had to call in another nurse to do the IV for a third time, this time in my right arm. It finally worked and was in a good position to not interfere with any movement that would come throughout the day. I literally had to use an ice pack on the botched IV arm for the first few hours of labor. I recognize that whining about my IV being painful seems ridiculous when I’m talking about childbirth here, but that just shows you how amazing my labor experience was.
By the time my IV got started and I got hooked up to the monitor, it was almost 1:30 AM. At 2:00 AM, they checked me and I was 1 cm dilated and about 70-80% effaced (about what I had been since 36 weeks). They started me on Cytotec, which is a little pill they insert by your cervix to get it to soften; it can also kick start contractions. Usually they give three doses of this pill — once every three hours, but after the first dose they gave me, my contractions were coming too frequently, so they couldn’t give me the next two doses.
Instead they gave me a foley bulb, which is like a little balloon they insert and inflate right above the cervix and it dilates you to 3 cm. When they placed this inside me is when I got my first taste of the pain that was to come. It also very much validated the decision I had already made…to have an epidural! More on that in a bit.
When I had the foley bulb in, I finally understood what people meant when they told me that I would be able to tell the difference between the contractions I had been having throughout my pregnancy and labor contractions. These contractions were painful–they felt like really strong period cramps that came in waves. I had the foley bulb in for about 30 minutes or so and then they pulled the balloon out of me from a standing position. That felt about as uncomfortable as it sounds.
After they took the foley bulb out, the pain subsided…for a bit at least.
The fun really began when they started the pitocin around 7 AM. Pitocin is a synthetic form of oxytocin which is the hormone your body releases when you’re in labor. It’s what helps the uterus contract. (Fun fact oxytocin also the hormone your body releases when you have sex and when you breastfeed–that’s why they call it the love hormone). Just before this was when my mom, dad, and sisters arrived. They came with just as many bags as me and Zak. My mom had bought out the entire “It’s a boy” and “It’s a girl” section from Party City; she bought so much in fact that the person at the register asked her if someone she knew was having twins. Since we didn’t know what I was having, she bought everything and–in true Jewish mom fashion–would return what we didn’t use.
I was fortunate enough to be monitored using a wireless monitor that operated with bluetooth for the first half of my labor, which meant I was able to be up and moving around freely (well, freely-ish because I still had the IV tethered to me). So from about 7 AM – 11:30 AM I labored on an exercise ball. In the early stages, from about 7:00 AM-9:00 AM, it really wasn’t too bad. I could definitely feel the contractions, but they were manageable–this was after the foley bulb had been removed.
The pain started to pick up a bit, but was still not too bad. We had flameless candles set up around the room and I had a letterboard had made ahead of time that read “YOU WERE MADE FOR THIS” sitting on a table right in front of my face. I used it as a focal point/reminder for myself when the pain/exhaustion really set in. We also had a yoga/meditation playlist from Spotify playing in the background. My nurses commented every time they came in to check on me that they didn’t want to leave because it was so peaceful in our room.
I really believe that creating a relaxing environment helped facilitate the quick progression of my labor. Fear and stress can actually slow labor down.
As the pain increased, I began to use some of the deep breathing techniques I learned ahead of time. I was definitely in a lot of pain, but I had some time between contractions to relax and regroup. One of the most surprising things about labor for me was how hungry I was! During the time in between contractions, all I could talk about was how starving I was. I kept commenting about how I wanted a bagel. My family thought it was hilarious.
I told my nurses very early on that I wanted an epidural and asked them at what point I should tell them I wanted it. They told me that when my contractions got too painful to walk or talk. Well, that point came at around 11:30 AM. I was in a lot of pain, the same period-cramps-on-steroids kind of pain I had been in with the foley bulb, but worse. I had to go to the bathroom a lot during this time, so when I wasn’t bouncing on the bouncy ball, I was sitting on the toilet. I hoped all this bathroom time meant that I wouldn’t poop during pushing. Spoiler alert: I actually don’t know if I did or not. If I did, the doctor/nurses were really discreet about it and let me keep that little bit of dignity lol.
Getting the Epidural (my new favorite word)
Anyways, around 11:20 AM, when I could no longer talk or walk during contractions and I felt like they were coming more frequently, I told the nurses. They got a resident and when she checked me I was around 4-5 cm dilated and still about 70% effaced. They gave me the go-ahead to get the epidural. This was around 12:20 PM.
When my nurses heard which anesthesiologist was on call, they were so excited for me. I thought this was a bit odd, but they told me that women who got their epidural from this particular doctor were the most comfortable. I’ll take it! Honestly, I had really tried hard not to even think about the whole procedure of an epidural because I’ve always been really nervous and queasy around needles, but if I had known how easy the process was and how truly amazing I’d feel after it, I would have been excited for this part!
Everyone had to leave the room for the procedure, even Zak. I sat up in the bed and waited about 10 minutes to get prepped and have the anesthesiologist arrive. Those 10 minutes were probably the most painful 10 minutes of my labor. The most helpful thing my nurse said to me to help me get through the pain was to pretend like I was melting into the bed. (This is a tip I have used when I lay down to catch a quick nap when the baby is sleeping–it helps me fall right to sleep.)
The thing I was most scared of was that I would not be able to stay still if a contraction came while the doctor was putting in the epidural, but that didn’t end up being a problem. I just breathed slowly and deeply and didn’t feel the urge to move. The only part of the epidural procedure that I felt was when he gave me the lidocaine shot that is used to numb the area before putting in the epidural tube (it’s a tube, not a needle). He would say things like, “You might feel some pressure” or “You might get some tingling in your legs for a moment,” but I felt none of those things. Right after he finished, I had a really bad contraction and feared it hadn’t worked. I asked how long it would take to start working. He said, “Oh you’ll know…” with a wink, and then added, “It will take about ten minutes.”
Ten minutes later, I was the happiest laboring mama on the planet. I felt amazing. I didn’t get sick at all from the epidural. I didn’t feel numb, per say. If someone touched my legs, I could feel it, it just felt dull. My nurse looked at me and asked me if I just felt the big contraction that had shown up on the monitor. With a giant smile on my face, I said, “NOPE!” I told my nurses I wanted to send the anesthesiologist flowers!
Any way a woman wants to labor is their choice, and I am in complete awe of women who do it without drugs. With that said, I fully endorse the epidural. 10/10. It didn’t slow my labor down at all and it didn’t interfere at all with my pushing experience. In fact, I think it helped speed up my labor because I was so calm. I was even able to take a little nap right after I got it, which helped me store up some energy for pushing. I sent everyone except Zak out of the room and slept for about an hour.
About an hour after I got the epidural, they gave me a catheter. They have to do this because you can’t get up to pee once you’ve gotten an epidural. I’ve never had a catheter before, and I was pretty scared of it hurting, but it didn’t hurt at all! We hung out for a little while after that. I was even doing my makeup, which I know some might find ridiculous, but it made me feel good. It also just shows you how comfortable I was at this point.
At about 2:40 p.m., the doctor came in to check me and found I was still at around a 5. They decided it was time to break my water. This was also way less scary and dramatic than I had imagined. They put a couple of pads down under my butt and then broke my water by inserting what looked like a fish hook. Sounds way worse than it felt because I wasn’t feeling anything thanks to the epidural.
My nurses told me to watch out for when I started to feel a lot of pressure. When the pressure got so bad that it felt like I had to go to the bathroom during and between contractions, they told me I needed to let them know because that could mean that I was getting ready to push.
After they broke my water, things started to pick up. I was laying on my side with a peanut ball between my legs (this is like an exercise ball in the shape of a body pillow used to help keep the pelvis open–very effective). The nurses came in because the baby was showing late decels on the monitor, so they sat the bed all the way up and had me sitting upright like a queen. It was a bit of an awkward position, but the late decels stopped, so that’s all that mattered.
The pressure began to mount. It wasn’t painful, but it was certainly not a comfortable sensation. At around 3:50 PM, I had what they call the “bloody show.” This was a good sign that things were progressing. Around 4:30 PM the pressure was so great that I told my nurse I thought I needed to be checked.
They brought a resident in to check me and I could tell by the look on her face what she was about to say.
“You’re complete,” the resident announced! I couldn’t believe it. I went from a 5 to a 10 in about two hours and I was 100% effaced. The baby was still sitting up a bit high, so they had me go back on my side with the peanut ball to help give the baby space to move down.
It was all happening so fast! I laid on my side for about 30 minutes before they checked me again and found she had moved down enough for me to start pushing. They asked me if I wanted to try a few practice pushes. This was at 5:03 PM. I’m really happy this transition happened so quickly because it gave me less time to freak out about pushing.
After just a few pushes, the doctor and nurses were all like, “Yep, it’s go time.”
My mom went on one side of me and Zak went on the other. They helped me bear down by supporting my head when I lifted it to bear down. Zak counted for me with each push. That helped me so much–he didn’t miss a single count of 10. I’d get about 3-4 pushes at a 10-count with each contraction. The nurses told me to “push into my butt” and “push like I was taking the biggest poop of my life.” Again, not sure if I actually did or not haha!
With each push, I was hit with a wave of encouragement.
“You’re doing amazing”
“You’re such a good pusher!”
“I can’t believe this is your first time doing this!” I felt so empowered. I was a pushing machine. I rested between pushes and refused to even take one contraction off.
Everyone was still in the room at this point. My dad had stepped into the bathroom in my hospital suite while I had gotten checked earlier, and since there was really no time between when they checked me and when we started the practice pushes, he was just hanging out in there sort of trapped. My sisters were in the room cheering me on along with the doctor and nurses. They were also taking photo and video, quietly documenting the whole miraculous event.
At a break in contractions at one point early on, they asked me if I still wanted everyone in the room. Honestly, I never thought I’d want to have a whole entourage in the room with me. I always thought I’d get really annoyed by people during pushing. But it was the exact opposite. I felt so supported. This might sound weird, but I used to do a lot of performing on stage in plays and musicals, and this moment felt like the performance of a lifetime. I was feeding off the energy of the “crowd” just as I always had done in my performances.
Anyways, my dad, who was still in the bathroom at this point, said he was happy to stay in there and cheer me on from there. I was spread eagle at that point, so that was probably a wise choice, although modesty was out the window for me during pushing so I wouldn’t have cared anyway!
Okay, back to pushing. After about an hour straight of pushing, it was 6:00 PM–that meant it was shift change. My nurses and my doctor were all going to be turning over. The doctor who had been with me all day had originally told me one of the male doctors from the practice was going to be taking over. I like all the doctors in the practice I go to, so I was fine with that, but at the last minute I found out my primary doctor from the practice was the one stepping in! This is the doctor who really went with me on this fertility journey and so proactively got me on medicine to help me ovulate and ultimately conceive this baby! Plus, she’s my mom and sisters’ OBGYN, so she knows our whole family. We were all so excited when she arrived!
Another thing that happened during shift change is that the nurse who was doing a hot compress on my perineum in between contractions left and no one came to step in to replace her. It was a real comfort (it’s also supposed to help prevent tearing, although as you’ll come to learn, it didn’t help much). My sister Ariel is a PICU nurse, and she asked the doctor if it was okay for her to step in and start doing that for me. Seriously, you know your sister loves you when she is will to put a hot compress on your spread open vagina mid-labor HA!
At around 6:32 PM, Dr. Kaplan asked Ariel if she would like to gown up and help deliver the baby. She jumped at the idea! I was so focused on pushing that I hardly heard anything going on around me aside from Zak’s counting, but when I heard this happening I was so happy. I could not think of anything more special.
At 6:40 PM, the baby’s head was right there! For a while, you could see the hair peeking out, but then it would go back in. They told me from the start it would be one step forward and two steps back in this pushing process, but at this point the baby’s head was not going back anymore. The doctor asked if I wanted a mirror to see what was going on–she said it’s motivation for some people–but I said absolutely not. Instead, I was able to reach down and feel that the head was right there and that was motivation enough.
I had been pushing for nearly two hours; I was exhausted. At points, I had started to wonder if it would ever end. But I could now feel everyone’s excitement building as they could see what was happening. I began to push the baby’s head through and it felt like someone was firing a blow torch at my vagina; they don’t call this part the “ring of fire” for nothing. (I felt everything–the epidural doesn’t help with this pain). Dr. Kaplan told me to stop pushing at a certain point during this part because she didn’t want the baby to come too fast–this was to also help keep the tearing to a minimum. Not pushing when every cell in my body was telling me to PUSH was just about the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
She finally gave me the go ahead to start pushing again, and after a big push, the baby’s head was out! Ariel was right there in the thick of things. I remember her saying, “There’s gonna be a baby here any second.”
I heard, “Almost there. Keep pushing!”
“You’re almost there!”
“Push as hard as you can!
“You’re almost there!”
Dr. Kaplan adjusted the baby’s shoulders and urged me to push as hard as I could (this is when I tore). Then, she had Ariel step in to catch the baby!
“Reach for it!” I heard the doctor say.
So I did. I reached down and Ariel, my incredible sister, eased the baby up into my arms.
I felt a rush of relief. Our baby was here! I didn’t even have the thought to ask what it was; I was just so relieved the baby was here and healthy. But everyone else was shouting, “What is it?!”
And then there was a pause that hung in the air that felt like it lasted forever. The cord was between the baby’s legs. Then, I hear Ariel say, “We’ve got a boy!” But before I could even react, they moved the cord out from between the baby’s legs and declared, “No! It’s a girl!”
“It’s a GIRL?!” I screamed for clarification. It’s a girl! Baby’s parts are swollen at birth, so with the cord between her legs, things got a little confusing! It was quite a crazy moment. I went on a world tour of emotions in the span of about .5 seconds. I could not stop crying! I remember looking up at Zak, both of us shocked and so in love. He kissed me. “We have a daughter!!” he said. Yes we do.
Post-Delivery: The Aftermath
She weighed 7 lbs, 9.5 oz and measured 21.5 inches long (we learned this after 2 hours of skin-to-skin and her first time latching). She had 10 fingers, 10 toes, and a powerful set of lungs. She was born at 6:47 PM. Then commenced the hardest part of labor and delivery combined. I had torn. I had a 3rd degree tear. They spent over a half hour stitching me up, during which time I felt everything! They said they were numbing me with local anesthetic, but for some reason I could feel every stitch. I think my expectation was that I would be so blissed out in this moment that I wouldn’t feel pain. That just wasn’t the case. So even though the pain was excruciating, I had my baby girl; I just tried to stay focused on that.
Zak whispered to me, “What’s her name?” and I said I didn’t know; I needed to see her face. So far, I could only see the top of her head and I felt like I couldn’t definitively name her until I saw her face. I knew what it was–I felt it when she was laying on me skin-to-skin, I just had to see her to confirm.
The last thing I had to do was deliver my placenta. After all the stitches were in place, I had to push a giant organ out…fun stuff! My doctor did hold it up for all to see, which was pretty cool. It was huge!
Finally, they finished everything up and everyone left the room except for Zak (and a nurse). It was our first time just the three of us. We lifted baby girl up off my chest for a moment so I could see her face. I asked Zak what he thought her name was. We decided to say what we thought it was at the same time.
“Eliana” we both said simultaneously. After Zak’s mom Laura Anne.
And that’s the story of Eliana’s birth. At this moment in the process, if you told me I had to do it all over again the next day, I would have said no problem. Really. That’s how incredible the whole process was. Yes, it hurt, but I think the induction allowed me to feel more in control, which helped with the pain a lot. Thank goodness she was born healthy and the whole process was free of complications, aside from the tearing, but that’s pretty normal.
The two weeks that followed were rough, though. From fainting after my post-birth shower, to having the resident doctor pull out clots from my freshly stitched up vagina, to feeling like my left breast was going to explode from engorgement the day my milk came in, rough doesn’t even begin to cut it as a descriptor. Plus, healing from the tear (whilst taking care of a newborn on zero sleep) was no joke–it hurt like hell! I couldn’t have gotten through this time without my amazing family.
I’ll end with this: women are incredible. What we are able to do is truly a miracle, a miracle I’d love to go through all over again…just not tomorrow, haha! I am so in love with our sweet baby girl. Eliana is everything I dreamed and more. Thank you to everyone who supported us through this journey. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us!
Here are some more of my favorite images from her birth. Thank you to my youngest sister, Ryann, for stepping in as a birth photographer/videographer!