The Start of Something New: Roxy's Birth Story

I've been adding to this post since I had my little munchkin seven weeks ago (time is flying!). Roxy is loves to be awake during the day - pretty sure her naptime motto lately is, "Sleep is for the weak." (She does sleep quite good at night though, so I can't complain.) Her smiles light up my days. She is doing a killer job during tummy time; not surprising considering she was trying to hold her head up on day two. She is a tiny, high energy being who must have my metabolism because she is still wearing newborn clothes! But on to the real reason for this post.

What's crazy about our bodies is that God designed them to get through insane difficulties and then only remember the good parts. Things are already starting to blur. For instance, I remember that things were painful in the birth process, but I can't remember the actual sensations of pain. All I have left are the highlights - things I can look back on and smile at the memory. So it's a dang good thing I wrote most of these details down in the first week or two after birth.

The general consensus about adulthood is that nothing can really prepare you for anything in life. No matter how much you plan and discuss and research, you are never actually ready for the next step. Even if you feel like you are.

The labor and delivery of my baby girl were like that for me.

Let me start off by saying I originally wanted a water birth, possibly even a completely natural home birth. It sounded beautiful to me. Was I crazy? No, not at all. A little naive, sure; my husband and I soon realized that we were not ready for a home birth - especially not one that took place in our teeny apartment. Then it turned out that water births aren't allowed in the hospitals here in Colorado Springs. Go figure.

As I got more pregnant and read more books, blog posts, and pinterest lists than I can even remember now, I began to see that maybe leaving things up to the doctor and the hospital crew would be a kind of relief. I was doing so much naturally on my own. And I could keep things natural in the hospital as well.

Little did I know just how appreciative of the hospital and staff I would be.

I knew, of course, that truly anything can happen during labor and I couldn't be adequately prepared for how my body would react. But I made a birth plan, informed my two helpers (my husband Josh and my amazing mom-friend Tammy, who has five beautiful children, all birthed by c-section), and went into that hospital armed with my decisions. You can read my birth plan here.

My due date, September 10, came and went without event. Josh and I did random things that weekend - ate some spicy Thai food, relaxed together, played video games, and finished it Sunday night with a hike. Actually, it was more of a scramble on some rocks, which maybe a nine-months-and-counting pregnant woman shouldn't do. But it felt amazing to pretend that I was not pregnant and just play outdoors with my husband.
My husband took some fantastic photos of me and it made me incredibly happy
On the drive home in the dark, I kept feeling like the baby was tightening into a ball inside of me. It was only later that I realized those were preliminary contractions. But the previous Braxton-Hicks I had felt were more of a tightening in the lower muscles, and these were different, so I thought nothing of them. I was exhausted and we went to bed.

My husband is convinced that our rock-wandering hike is what induced labor and he feels very proud of himself for taking me there. I can't help but agree.

Monday morning I woke with Josh to send him off to work, then crawled back into bed...I felt a slight urge to pee, but that was a constant for me at that point anyway, so I ignored it and fell asleep...only to be woken by a hot trickling at 7:30am. I ran to the bathroom and began texting the women in my life, asking if this was it. Had my water just broke?

There was no huge gush and honestly I didn't even get the bed wet. It soon became apparent, however, that this trickle of fluid was not planning on letting up.

I immediately became flooded with some good ole' adrenaline. I jerked around the apartment, adding last minute things to the hospital bag, calling people and asking what I should do (duh, go to the hospital), and trying to figure out if I had time to eat breakfast first.

There then followed the most hilarious of car rides that ever took place. I was chattering aloud - both to remind myself that this was real, and also to try to calm myself. I was simultaneously stuffing my face with donuts, singing with the radio, and fielding calls from my family members. Oh, and seriously hoping that the fluids that kept gushing out of me weren't going to soak through my clothes.

There was traffic. I was sugar-hyped. I took selfies.

The weird thing was, it all felt so urgent and of course Josh was on his way from work to meet me at the hospital so this was really happening...but I wasn't noticing any contractions. And when I got to the hospital, I had to check in, and then wait in a room for a nurse to check me (meanwhile laying in a hospital gown leaking profusely).

Me, waiting in the Triage room, alone and bored.
Very anticlimactic.

Josh arrived and after what seemed like ages they declared I was in labor (no kidding) and moved me into an actual room. Then Tammy came with her essential oils diffuser and her excited energy.

For the next few hours I excitedly tried to encourage my body in its labor efforts. I used some essential oils, walked on the balcony in the fresh air, squatted, and kept pumping my body with fluids. I was having contractions, but they were weak and irregular.

I was only 3cm dilated. I had been 2cm dilated for my past two OB/GYN check-ups, so this did not seem like progress.

The nurses continued to tell me that I wasn't progressing fast enough and they wanted to use some pitocin to get things going. This stressed me out, partly because I felt like they were initiating fear and I didn't want any of that. And partly because I knew I didn't want anything that would jumpstart labor and lead to a complication, such as a c-section. But I was confused as to how long I should refuse pitocin, because even I knew that things were moving slow. 

I was a bit upset that I couldn't be home during this "easier" part of labor. That I couldn't just soak in a tub (to prevent infections, no soaking allowed after your water breaks).

I continued to beg the nurse to wait on pitocin as things moved into the late afternoon. She said she would need to see progress on my contractions. So every time she hooked me to the monitors, Josh and Tammy would have me bounce on the birthing ball while they rubbed essential oils on my ankles to encourage contractions. I felt a little bit like a diva-princess.

At some point, the nurse told me that my Doctor suggested I try something a little weaker than pitocin: a pill called cytotec that they usually administer vaginally to soften the cervix (encourage dilation). I took my time deciding to take this, but in the end I knew that I was too tired to let this labor drag on. And I'm pretty sure that little pill did its job big time.

Contractions started becoming really painful around 7pm. You know, twelve hours after my water broke. I was exhausted. They told me my Doctor would come by around 9pm to check on me. I was stoked to see her and get some definitive information on why this baby was seriously not coming out of me yet!

I watched Little Women (the version with Winona Ryder). It made me happy and a bit calmer as the contractions started to rise to an unbearable level.

This is where timing starts to get a bit hazy in my memory. I remember that I started to having contractions that were two at a time; one big one, followed immediately by a slightly smaller one. I was realizing that pain was hard to deal with and I was scared to move, scared to get up to pee, scared to eat or drink because I was starting to feel nauseous. Scared of the next contraction.

It was at this point that it might have been helpful to dig into my hospital bag and pull out the props I'd brought (calming rain sounds, music, essential oils). Or perhaps try to move around the room a bit during contractions.

But I forgot everything I'd ever read about labor and was simply trying to survive. So I stayed in the hospital bed, gripping the hands of the my amazing support team.

I remember that for the last few hours of labor my legs involuntarily shook, causing tension other places in my body. Josh and Tammy literally had to hold my legs down for me to relax them.

There were times when I looked at Josh with the pain clearly written all over my face, and I could see the pain echoed back in his expression. I looked at him because I wanted him to be the one to give in and tell me to take some pain medication. If he would have told me to, I would have. But he never did.
Then there was the breathing problem. The more tired I got, the more scared I was that I wouldn't be able to do this. Fear makes you tense up. Fear makes the pain bigger in your head. Fear makes it harder to breathe. Each contraction I would start to freak out and lose my breath. Two things helped tremendously:
  1. Having Josh or Tammy touch me - put pressure on my lower back, grip my hand, touch my face...I just needed that physical assurance that I was not alone - and that there were things that existed outside of the pain.
  2. Having someone tell me to breath low. I probably sounded like a moaning cow, but keeping my voice low made me calmer and relaxed my muscles. Every time my voice got high or I held my breath, Tammy would whisper, "Breathe low." 
Because I was so focused on staying relaxed, I made it a point to exhale longer. Which meant that I almost wasn't inhaling at all. Suddenly I was feeling tingly in my right arm and my face - low on oxygen. They set up an oxygen mask for me and I absolutely DID NOT want that thing in my face. It smelled weird and it was gross hospital paraphernalia. But I was dizzy and suddenly the oxygen blowing in my face tasted sweet. Tammy held it up to my face in between contractions to help me catch my breath.

I also remember that I was checked three times during this final stage. The first time, I was 4cm dilated (four is an awful long way from ten, and it was going on sixteen hours of labor). The second time I was around 6cm. The last time she checked, I was 8cm. And I was feeling the urge to push.

I went from 4cm to 8cm to being ready to push in about an hour. Holy crap. 

I remember whispering a thank-you to the nurse, and Tammy saying under her breath (joking, of course), "I haven't heard a thank you in a while." Pretty sure I almost cracked a smile.

I vaguely remember the Little Women dvd menu playing its theme song over and over again as the contractions hit me wave after wave. I remember getting up to pee and all of a sudden telling Tammy to get the nurse now because I needed to push.

Then I was crawling back on the hospital bed and seeing the nurse on the phone. "Your doctor will be here in five minutes. Don't push."

Don't push? How do you not push when everything in your body is telling you to push and if you don't push then you might explode and ohmyfreakingword there's another contraction and it hurts like a mother (you can bet your butt that there were some profanities boiling in my brain). 

Then my doctor was there. Praise Jesus she actually did live only five minutes away.

She was calm. Efficient. Told me we'd wait a few more contractions to see how I was doing.

Doing? Um, I was trying to have a baby, that's what I was doing.
Two contractions passed while she observed me and prepared a whole lot of stuff that I was seriously hoping she wouldn't need. I mean, there was an entire cart of tools (instruments?).

Then they were transforming the lower part of my hospital bed. Stirrups appeared out of nowhere for my feet to rest on. The lower half of the bed dropped out. Josh, Tammy, and the nurses were instructed to support my legs.

I tried to focus on my doctor's face. This was it. She was telling me important details about how to push. I felt another contraction building and promptly forgot everything she had said two seconds before. Something about inhaling and pushing?

So I inhaled big, and then exhaled loudly as I pushed. The nurse immediately told me not to do that and I was confused. I was supposed to be pushing, right? Apparently she only meant that I shouldn't exhale. Holding your breath while you push allows your lung capacity to actually put more pressure on the uterus for you. Cool.

Tired out of my mind.
The pushing part comes naturally, by the way. Such a relief. After hours and hours of trying to be limp and nonexistent when the contractions hit you, you can finally DO SOMETHING. I was excited to push. Excited to be done. Tammy said I even smiled at her in between pushes.

So I pushed. It burned. I pushed more. Everyone was very vocally encouraging, but I couldn't see any progress and it hurt.

In between contractions, the doctor looked at the clock. It was about five minutes to midnight. "The baby's choosing what day she wants to be born," she said. Just come today, I thought. Come right now. I cannot do this anymore. 

The final pushes were the craziest thing for me. I could feel her move down the birth canal. And I swear she kicked and squirmed as she came out. Weirdest. Sensation. Ever. And I thought her kicking me inside the womb was crazy.

She arrived as Roxanne Rae Neuberger at 11:57pm, three minutes before midnight. She has since proven that she prefers being awake at night.

They laid her on my chest and I was crying and smiling and trying to breathe and felt totally incapable of holding her (but I cradled her anyways, of course).

Unfortunately, it was not quite over. There was still the placenta to deliver and a flurry of activity that I couldn't focus on. All I know is, there was a heck of a lot more going on than there should have been. My baby was here, she was here, I was done being in labor - the world should have stopped and just let me look at her.

She was tiny and yet huge all at once. She weighed 6lbs. 1oz. and was 19 in. long.

I had done it. Somehow, by the grace of God, I had made it through labor without any sort of pain medication whatsoever. Nothing had really interfered in the birth. We both came out on the other side healthy and strong.

Whew. That was a lot of intense details. I wanted to be thorough in letting you know about the things that happen during labor, though, because sometimes people gloss over everything - not necessarily on purpose, but because it's easy to forget. Once you're baby is in your arms and everyone else leaves the hospital room, the pain and process of arriving in that moment is forgotten.

You have a baby. A little life that you can touch and hear and see. A person that is completely dependent on you. 
We tried to sleep and eat and figure out our baby as much as possible while we were in the hospital. It was all very surreal.

Just knowing that I didn't have to clean up any of our messes or worry about food was enough for me to be eternally grateful to the hospital staff. I don't like hospitals or medical procedures, but they can be fantastic things to have around.

No birthing process is the same. No baby or mom is the same. The amazing thing is watching God bring about new life, no matter how that little one comes into the world. 

We had an amazing photographer (if you're in the Springs, definitely check her out!) come to the hospital on day two to take some "Fresh 48" photos of us and Roxy. Here's a sampling of them:

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