On Monday, March 30th, Brady Ryan DePasquale entered the world, and I can’t believe how quickly the past 4 weeks have gone by! March truly felt like the longest month ever, and April (for us) felt nonexistent.
I’ve tried to document my pregnancy as best I can on the blog. Part of that was for my own self to remember, but also – if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that every single pregnancy, labor, and delivery experience is completely different. When pregnant, I found so much comfort in learning from other people’s experiences. Hopefully sharing my own experience makes someone else feel normal/reassured/more educated/less scared. (Read my First Trimester Recap and Second Trimester Recap… Third Trimester Recap is coming soon.)
I should also add that in my last trimester we took an in-person childbirth prep class at our hospital. It was five and a half hours, there were very graphic videos shown, and I was thoroughly horrified by the end. The actual experience of labor and delivery – while definitely the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced – was way better than what I was expecting. So for anyone who needs it: here is my super non-scary, non-intimidating, and positive birth story! (Spoiler alert: There’s a super cute baby at the end of all of it!)
At 37 weeks, we went from our bi-weekly to weekly OB check-ins. Up until that point, we had every indication he wouldn’t come early and that nothing would be happening for a while – so I was content to stay put and just wait out the final weeks. Baby was healthy and happy in there, I had no complications throughout my pregnancy, and we knew that the first child typically comes a little later. Usually that’s either right around their due date, or after.
Much to my surprise, the night before my 37 week appointment, I started having bad cramps and contractions. They persisted for several hours and started gradually getting more and more painful. I woke up around midnight that night, 1) because I couldn’t sleep due to the pain, and 2) I thought maybe this was it and I was actually going into labor. So like a total nutjob, I went downstairs to our couch and started frantically sending off e-mails that I wanted to get out before I gave birth. (LOL.)
Early in the morning the next day, the contractions tapered off and confirmed I was not, in fact, in labor. But at my appointment that day, my doctor checked me and told me the contractions were doing something. I was a 1/2 centimeter dilated. It was a start!
The contractions continued like this off and on for the next three weeks. At points they were really painful – the kind I had to close my eyes and just breathe through. They also became really persistent, although they never got close enough together to actually send me into labor.
They weren’t Braxton Hicks contractions, since they were actually doing something and getting me more dilated. But that process was just happening very, very slowly. After 3 weeks of this, I felt really worn down, mentally and physically. At my 38 week appointment, I was 1 centimeter dilated. At my 39 week appointment, I was 1 1/2 centimeters dilated. They offered to sweep my membranes at my 39 week appointment. While I was initially planning on turning them down, I decided to go through with it on the day. My doctor explained to me that if my body was close and ready to go into labor, this could tip me over the edge and it would happen within the next 48 hours. But if my body wasn’t ready, it wouldn’t do anything. 48 hours came and went, but unfortunately it was only more of the same – really bad contractions that lasted for hours at a time but never got close enough together.
Then, on the morning of Friday, March 27th (39 1/2 weeks), I woke up with excruciating pelvic pain. I cried trying to get out of bed, and I couldn’t roll over or put any weight on my legs. I’d had pelvic pain from loose joints and ligaments since 20 weeks, but it had never been anywhere near this bad. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t think I was in labor, either. My contractions still weren’t close enough to justify going to the hospital, and I really didn’t want to go to the hospital only to be sent home. My mom and Ryan convinced me to go anyway.
The hospital visit was anti-climactic. They were only really concerned about how far apart my contractions were and didn’t do anything for my pelvic pain. They did check me and told me I was 2 1/2 centimeters dilated at that point, and they offered to sweep my membranes again – which I said yes to. I limped home no better off, and later that night a nurse friend suggested that maybe it was baby’s positioning that was causing me so much pain. She sent me a link to this Spinning Babies move, which would help if the baby’s skull was bone-to-bone with my pelvis. It was low risk and I had a totally normal, healthy pregnancy otherwise, so I decided to give it a try. After only a few tries, baby seemed to move into a more favorable position, and it gave me tremendous relief. Immediately, I could walk with no pain. (Side note: I’m convinced this was a big thing that finally helped with triggering labor!)
The following Monday – a day before my due date – was a low point. Two membrane sweeps, three weeks of painful contractions, and still no baby. Things were getting worse and worse with the COVID-19 pandemic, we were totally in self-quarantine at that point, and I was becoming more and more aware of how scary a time this was to have a baby. Ryan’s office had switched him to working remotely at that point, and that afternoon at the kitchen table we talked about how frustrated both of us were, and how much everything was weighing on us. After so many false alarms, we both agreed it felt like baby was never going to come.
At that point, I decided to stop work early and take a half day to take care of myself. I went upstairs, took a shower, and at 3:45 my water broke all over the bathroom floor! (How’s that for comedic timing?!) At first it just felt like I peed my pants (😳), and then the gushing continued, confirming that yes – this was real, and it was finally happening!
Labor and Delivery
Ryan was so cute when my water broke. He started running all around the house, putting our toiletries into our hospital bags, and getting all our stuff into the car. We knew that once my water broke, the baby had to come out within 24 hours, otherwise we risked infection. So the clock was ticking.
As soon as my water broke, things became really intense really fast. While Ryan was running around, I was calmly trying to finish my hair and get a little make-up on. Meanwhile the contractions were getting worse and worse and I had to keep stopping to double over in pain. (This gave Ryan a lot of anxiety… 😝). We got to the hospital just before 5, and at that point my contractions were just 2-3 minutes apart. I felt like I barely had any time to recover in between, and I was in a ton of pain. Labor came on like a freight train, and there was no easing into anything!
The hospital was really busy, so admitting me took a little bit. I gave birth just before the big COVID surge was expected in Rhode Island, and we’d later find out this was because women with due dates during that time were being brought in and induced early. By the time we got back to a bed in the Triage area (just before 5:30), my contractions were 1-2 minutes apart and unbearable – about 10 out of 10 on a pain scale. I was clenching onto the railing of my bed and trying so hard not to scream/cry/throw up. I was 5 centimeters dilated at that point and able to be transferred up to the Labor and Delivery Unit right away… we were just waiting for a bed to open. I asked for any pain meds until I could get my epidural. They gave me a low dose of morphine, which helped a lot. They also gave me something for the nausea, so that I didn’t throw up all over the nice nurse’s shoes 🙂
At around 6:15 they wheeled me upstairs to a Labor and Delivery Room. I’m not really sure what happened between making it upstairs and getting the epidural, but I was really drowsy as the morphine was wearing off and kept going in and out of a light sleep. The whole time I was telling myself just to make it to the epidural. Once that was administered around 7:30 or 8, it was life-changing. After that, I felt no pain and couldn’t even feel my contractions anymore. The nurse told me they were coming in fast and hot, though, and much to all of our surprise – she goes, “I think we’re going to have a baby before 10:00!” Just after 9:00 the doctor came in to check me. I was 10 centimeters, and it was time to push! They immediately started prepping for delivery, and after only 20 minutes of pushing, Brady was here. (At 9:59 PM, and true to the nurse’s prediction!) The doctors were really impressed with how well I was able to push, and I truly credit all the strength training throughout my pregnancy and being able to keep my body physically strong. (I also believe it’s helped so much with my recovery… but more on that in a later post.)
Real birth is nothing like a TV or movie birth. Unless you’re getting a C section, you’re delivering in the same room and bed you just labored in for however many hours. Nothing is sectioned or draped off like they show in the movies, and if you have an uncomplicated delivery, there’s really only a few people in the room. For me that was one midwife, one nurse, and one student. The whole experience was a lot more intimate than I was expecting (and than I think it’s often portrayed!).
Looking Back on Pregnancy
If you had asked me about my pregnancy while I was pregnant, I would have said I didn’t *love* being pregnant, but I didn’t hate it. I’m lucky to have had a very healthy pregnancy with no complications, and I don’t take that for granted. I think I struggled the most with feeling like I was in uncharted territory, not feeling like myself, and having to cut out a lot of the things that are near and dear to me. I spent the first 14 weeks of my pregnancy throwing up 2-5 times a day every day. At week 20, I had to give up running because relaxin (normal pregnancy hormones) had made my joints and ligaments super loose. Running, standing on one leg, even walking for long periods of time was extremely painful. Running isn’t everything, but from someone whose longest injury in the past 8 years had been 4 weeks… it was a tough blow. I haven’t not run this long since I first started running about 13 years ago. Basically, the second half of my pregnancy felt like having a very extended running injury.
But pain aside, the actual experience of labor and delivery was so incredible and made me forget about all the ups and downs of pregnancy. It was truly the most surreal experience of my life and something that no one prepares you for (in the best possible way). The love and emotional bond we felt with Brady instantly is out of this world, and thinking back on the day he was born moves me to tears. I’ve never felt more proud of my body and what it’s capable of, and I can say with 100% certainty that childbirth is the ultimate athletic accomplishment! I’ve never been more sure or excited to do it all again someday. But for now, we’ll rest, recover, and keep soaking in all the baby snuggles 😉