As I think back on Everest’s birth, the word that comes to mind is “intense.” This was the most intense experience of my life, something my body couldn’t entirely prepare for ahead of time and yet knew how to do anyway.
We wanted to make sure to document this for a few reasons. First of all, we want to normalize talking about pregnancy, labor, and birth. We also wanted to document this experience because it was so life-changing for us! One day, we want to share this with Everest, and we know details will fade over time. We hope you enjoy reading this! If you have any questions about our experience or how we prepared, you can always ask — email us at email@example.com. 🙂
Early labor (from Radhika’s perspective)
Friday, July 6th, 2018
12:00 pm – Maybe it was some early motherly intuition, but I had taken this day off of work, so I was hanging out at home when I lost my mucus plug. I didn’t get my hopes up, though, because sometimes that can mean nothing and some women don’t go into labor until weeks after losing theirs. I told Ian about it and stayed calm — I really didn’t think anything was going to happen!
4:00 pm – Later that afternoon, I was in the process of doing some laundry when I felt a weird sensation, similar to losing my mucus plug. I decided to check out what was going on in case more of it had come out but I was wrong. Actually, my water had broken! Now this is pretty crazy because only 15% of women experience their water breaking before labor starts, so I REALLY wasn’t expecting that. But unlike the mucus plug, your water breaking is a really good sign that something is going to happen. I called Ian immediately as he had just gotten off of work and then stood, frozen in excitement, in our bathroom (feeling very thankful that this hadn’t happened on carpet)!
When Ian got home, we cleaned everything up and called our midwives, doula, and birth photographer. Then, I remembered that I needed to get some things done for work before I officially started maternity leave! I rushed upstairs, hunkered down in bed with my laptop, and furiously sent out emails and got things wrapped up in the next four hours. At this point, labor had not officially started, and our midwife had told us that if it didn’t start on its own within 24 hours of my water breaking, they might have to induce me. So I wasn’t sure what exactly was going to happen, until…
6:00 pm – This is when I started feeling my first contractions, which are so weird. Whenever I tried to ask people what contractions felt like for them, they were clearly able to describe what contractions felt like at the beginning, but the descriptions always get fuzzier later on. So I’ll tell you what I’ve heard too. The first contractions feel like cramps. But what’s strange about them is that the cramp has a beginning and peak and then slowly fades away. I could usually tell Ian when contractions started, and when they were no longer happening. But at this point, I could still talk and laugh during them and they were only uncomfortable. I was feeling really nervous, but also so excited to meet our baby soon!
8:00 pm – At this point, contractions were still just uncomfortable. Our midwife told us that we really needed to eat dinner and relax and get some rest. Ian made some chicken & veggie fried rice for dinner and I finished up my work around this time. The midwife told me to drink some wine or take some Benadryl so that I could get some rest, so we shared a teeny bottle of champagne and cuddled with Iris in bed. I definitely think Iris might have known what was happening and I’m glad I got to labor with her for so long at home!
9:00 pm – I took a shower and we officially got ready to go to sleep. While Ian luckily got a few hours in at this point, I found that it was impossible to sleep because my contractions started to be painful and the pain was worse when I was lying down or sitting — walking or standing felt best. I would often get up and walk around when a contraction hit, which happened every 4-5 minutes around this point. I dozed off a few times, but in general, I was in too much pain to sleep.
Active labor (from Ian’s perspective)
Saturday, July 7th, 2018
1:00 am – Things started getting serious after midnight. By 1 am, the contractions were painful and frequent enough for us to officially give up on trying to sleep. I pulled out my contraction timer app and waited for the time between contraction to fall below 4 minutes. In the meantime, we put on Full House reruns and tried to find Radhika some relief. After a couple of hours of bouncing on a labor ball, leaning over the bed, and generally rocking back and forth, things started speeding up. At this point, contractions were 3 minutes apart, lasted 1 minute, and had been at that pace for 2 hours, which was our cue. It was go time.
3:30 am – I called our people (parents, doula, midwife, photographer), packed up the cooler (filled with snacks and coconut water), zipped up our extra large suitcase, and loaded up the car. It took some effort (and time) to escort Radhika into her seat, but by 4 am, we were ready to go.
4:00 am – The only drawback about Duke Regional is the location. It’s not particularly far from us, but the way the roads run, it takes 17 minutes without traffic. It takes about 25 minutes without traffic when you stop every 3 minutes for a contraction. 🙂
4:30 am – We arrived at a very sleepy Duke Regional. I grabbed a wheelchair for Radhika, who insisted on walking instead. We entered through an empty emergency room and were led straight up to the labor and delivery floor, which would have been incredibly smooth if it weren’t seemingly on the other side of the hospital and we weren’t pausing for every contraction. When we finally made it to the right area, it was as if the nurses were all there waiting just for us. We were walked to our labor room, Radhika stood through contractions, and I got to work setting the mood. The soft fairy lights replaced the harsh fluorescent overheads, a diffuser gave off the smell of lavender essential oils, and a portable speaker played calming ocean sounds. During her first cervical check, we found out that Radhika was already 6 cm dilated and fully effaced, so we knew that laboring at home had been a great idea as it allowed labor to progress fairly quickly! I was so excited to meet our baby and I knew that it wouldn’t be long!
4:50 am – Not long after we got there, our doula, Joanne, arrived with her own bag of goodies. She jumped right in, hooking Radhika up to a TENS unit, which used electric pulses to help with pain. It might have worked. Honestly it was starting to get tough to tell. The only time I really saw Radhika express relief was when Joanne would massage her lower back during contractions. I tried to do it myself after a while, but was promptly dismissed in favor of Joanne.
6:50 am – Our friend (and birth photographer!) Lauren arrived, but at this point I was thinking more about how glad I was she was there to support Radhika. Throughout this whole pregnancy, she has shared her experiences and advice (and an obsession with ring slings?) with Radhika. It’s really just one of so many examples of moms stepping up and supporting other moms that I’ve seen throughout the past nine months.
7:45 am – Things felt like they were dragging, so Radhika decided to try sitting in the tub for a bit. I sat with her, using the handheld shower head to spray her belly with warm water. Like so many of movements and positions we had tried, it was only okay. But okay seemed like the goal at this point. She only stayed in the tub for a few minutes before realizing that sitting anywhere, even in water, wasn’t going to help much.
8:15 am – Radhika had had enough by this point. She was on 24 hours without sleep and her 15th hour of labor, so we started exploring some pain relief options, partly to make it hurt less, but also to allow Radhika to have some rest. We decided to try Stadol. The nurses explained that it wouldn’t stop the pain, but it would make Radhika “care less” about it and allow her to rest some between contractions. It kicked in pretty quick, and suddenly Radhika was overcome with drowsiness. Unfortunately, her body was still working on pushing out this baby. Because of the Stadol, she was able to rest in the bed as opposed to having to stand and walk through all of the contractions, but later she said that, even though she was able to rest a little between contractions, she felt all of the pain anyway. In fact, we had talked to our friend, Amanda, who is a doctor, the week before about Stadol and had forgotten that she recommended we only try it in early labor. Whoops. In the end, I’m glad she took it because it allowed her to get some much-needed rest.
9:30 am – After an hour of trying to rest, there was a shift change and a new midwife took over. Radhika also started getting a new level of contractions. Our midwife suggested moving to the toilet, as a kind of assisted squat, to help with the pain. Radhika, she, and I slowly made our way into the bathroom, but Radhika never quite made it down onto the toilet. Instead we just stood there, Radhika leaning on the midwife and me holding a small electric fan on her face. We stayed like that for about an hour, Radhika gritting her teeth with each contraction, not quite able to tell us how she was doing.
10:30 am – Right when we got to the hospital, our midwife asked us if we had a safety word. Since we wanted to try for an unmedicated birth, we needed a safety word that Radhika could use to ask for medication that couldn’t be misinterpreted. After about an hour of being stuck standing in the bathroom, Radhika repeated our safety word, “cabbage,” over and over and so the nurse started preparing for an epidural. This involved Radhika getting half of a bag of IV fluids. The anesthesiologist told us that she would have to slide from one side of the bed to the other so she could have access to her spine and that she would have to sit up for at least 10 minutes. When it came time to place the epidural, though, Radhika was in no state to sit up straight and still. She was slumped on her side and as we tried to sit her up, she looked at me with panicked eyes and said, “Ian — baby!” The nurse quickly informed us that it was actually time to push! I had forgotten from our childbirth class that the ‘transition’ period — the period between contractions and when you push — is actually the most painful and it’s usually the time that women give up and think they can’t do it without an epidural. I totally missed that sign in the moment when Radhika begged for relief from the pain. After the nurse told us that the baby was really low in Radhika’s pelvis, I pulled her in close and said, “I’m so sorry, but you won’t be getting an epidural. It’s time to push.”
11:03 am – After about 15 minutes and five good pushes, Everest James made his way into the world with a squeal we’ve come to know and love over the last couple of weeks. I couldn’t believe he was here and healthy. Radhika had done it. We had done it. I couldn’t wait to hold my baby boy! Everest was 6 lbs, 8 oz when was born and was 19.5 inches long. Perfect.
Everest’s name comes from the tallest peak in the world — we loved the symbolism and think it’s fitting when thinking about the task of raising a child (and, according to Radhika, birthing a baby certainly feels like climbing a mountain). We also loved that Everest is a geographical landmark close to India and that it’s unique enough that Everest won’t grow up with many other kids who share his name, something that was a defining feature of both of our childhoods.
The first few days of Everest’s life
The past few weeks have been overwhelming and amazing and surreal and exhausting and the best. I look at Everest and I’m so in awe of the fact that he used to be a tiny appleseed! Now, when I look back at pictures from our pregnancy, I can’t help but think, “Oh, there I am with Everest in the pool,” or “Remember when we were in Italy with Everest?” He’s so real now, and I can’t believe that for 9 months he was just a little image on an ultrasound. He does things now that remind us of what it was like when he was inside me. I felt his hiccups before he was born; I felt his cute little knee poking my ribs. Overall, we are all doing so well and adjusting to life with a newborn. Some things are harder — less sleep, less free time, less being able to go wherever we want, whenever we want. But most things are better — more love, more awe, more gratitude. We make a conscious effort to do everything with and for Everest with joy, regardless of how much physical pain we’re in or how tired we are. As our doula told us, pain is inevitable but suffering is not. The truth is, we’re doing a good job at deciding to not suffer. There are ups and downs to our days as we get used to new challenges and delights with Everest. As someone else told us (can you tell that people love to give expecting parents advice?), the current age of your child is the best age. I keep telling myself this as I simultaneously look forward to seeing Everest grow up and feel pangs when I know that I will miss exactly this stage that he’s in, this very day, this very moment. Already, the feelings of those first few days together in a hospital room are fading and are being replaced by our daily routines at home, which is why we wanted to write this birth story as soon as possible. If you read this far, thank you!
We especially want to thank the following people for making this experience one of the best of our lives:
- Our parents, whom I was SURE should absolutely not be allowed into my room. As you can see below, all three of them weaseled their way in anyway and during contractions, my dad massaged my feet. It all worked out in the end. 🙂 Since then, our parents have been taking shifts at our home to make sure we have food to eat, taking Everest for hours at night so we can sleep, and giving us time to get out of the house on dates by ourselves.
- Our original doula, Susan. She wasn’t able to be there for the birth, but checked in on us until the baby was safely delivered, brought us food after we were home, and was so helpful overall. She was our Bradley Method class instructor and we would not have been nearly prepared enough for this experience without her. If you’re pregnant, we can’t recommend signing up to take her class enough!
- Our actual doula, Joanne. Susan organized a brunch for us in May so that we could meet Joanne in the case that she couldn’t be present, so we already had some experience with Joanne and she was wonderful during labor at the hospital. I remember thinking multiple times when she was massaging my back during contractions, “This woman has magic hands.” Ian told me later that Joanne would try to show him what she was doing and I would ask him to move aside and have Joanne return because she was that good! I will never willingly go through a birth in the future without a doula — they are truly so helpful and there is no way I could have had a delivery without an epidural if Joanne had not been there.
- Our sweet friend and birth photographer, Lauren. We can’t express how thankful we are for these photos. During the biggest moments of your life, you’re usually fully present. I remember dancing with Ian at our wedding, I remember his face when I told him I was pregnant. But I don’t have too many clear memories of labor because I kept my eyes closed for so much of it. These photos overwhelm me. I can’t thank Ian enough for being by my side the whole time, letting me destroy his hands during contractions, supporting me every step of the way. And with these photos, I get to see it! I love the photos of us actually meeting Evers for the first time just as much, of course, but I am so glad that the photos of the labor allow me to piece together that experience in a different way. Beyond that, it was just a comfort to have Lauren in the room. When I was considering an epidural, she talked my deliriously tired brain through it, and when I started pushing, she sat behind me and held my hand so that Ian could watch our baby being born. I was so hesitant to have a birth photographer in the room because of all of the same uneasy thoughts that are in your head right now: “I’m going to look terrible,” “This is NOT a glamorous experience,” “Am I going to poop in front of a bunch of people?!” But Lauren promised me that I wouldn’t care later and she was totally right so I’m here to tell you the same thing. Hire a birth photographer, even if you do end up pooping in front of her (I didn’t, THANK GOD).
- All of the midwives at Chapel Hill OBGYN/Regional Midwifery and all of the staff at Duke Regional hospital. I always felt like I was in great hands with the midwives at CHOBGYN. I had my last prenatal appointment on the morning that I went into labor, saw three of the midwives during my stay at the hospital, and Evers was delivered by Cara, who Ian described as “completely zen.” We love the staff at Regional Midwifery. If you live in Durham, the staff of Regional Midwifery is shared between the CHOBGYN offices (in Chapel Hill and in Durham near Southpoint) and the Durham Women’s Clinic (offices in Durham and Brier Creek). If you want to know more about why we chose midwifery care as opposed to a traditional OBGYN, we would be happy to tell you more. Just send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org! All of the staff members at Duke Regional were so kind to us. Every nurse was helpful and so nice and we loved our experience there. Everyone stresses the importance of creating a birth plan and making sure your birth team is on board with it, but the staff at Duke Regional seemed to already be on board with so many of the things that we wanted without us having to fight for it — from delayed cord clamping to waiting for his first bath to so many other decisions, the staff of Duke Regional and our midwives clearly already know what’s up in terms of best practices and were supportive of our choices. If you can choose a care provider that allows you to deliver there, you definitely should!
- All of our friends who have brought by food and come for visits! We can’t lie — coordinating visits around Everest’s feeding schedule isn’t always easy, but it brings us so much joy to see people shower him with love. Thank you, too, to all of the people who are making this time easier for us by making sure we’re fed! 🙂
Lauren is taking on LIMITED sessions and births for the rest of 2018. If you’re interested in working with her (as you should be), contact her here!
If you want to read about how the journey through pregnancy went for us, check out our Trimester 1, Trimester 2, and Trimester 3 updates, and read a round-up of Radhika’s favorite maternity resources.