Courtesy of Olivia Hinebaugh

I Was In Labor For 72 Hours & This Is What It Was Like

By
Share
Ad failed to load

When I was pregnant with my son, I did everything I could think of to prepare for childbirth. I attended classes. I read scads of books. I listened to relaxation and hypnosis CDs. I wrote up my birthing hopes and dreams. I surrounded myself with positive birth affirmations. I took prenatal yoga and happily did all those moves that were meant to open up my pelvis. I felt so prepared for every possibility. I viewed it as a difficult but rewarding physical experience akin to running a marathon. I knew first labors could be long, but I had no idea just what being in labor for 72 hours — a marathon labor — was going to be like.

Like a lot of first-time-moms, I was eager to meet my baby. I didn't know the sex, and couldn't wait to find out. I had washed and folded all those tiny clothes. So when I went to my 40-week appointment, I was disappointed. I wanted to be at the birth center under different circumstances (like, you know, because I was in labor) so I jumped at the chance to have a little help getting things started. Up until that point, I'd declined any internal exams. I trusted my body. I knew that finding out how dilated I was didn't actually translate into baby being born soon. I didn't want to introduce infection. But the midwife offered check me (I was 3 centimeters!) and to do what's called "sweeping the membranes," which is basically an internal exam where a finger is gently inserted into the cervix and swept around the inside of it. When the bag of waters is separated from the cervix, it releases a huge dose of prostaglandins. The prostaglandins ripen the cervix. And in some cases, sweeping the membranes can cause labor within 48 hours of being performed.

I went to bed that night, hoping that I'd wake up in full-blown labor. And that's what happened, except it would still be three more days before my son arrived.
Ad failed to load
Courtesy of Olivia Hinebaugh

For me, the procedure didn't cause full-blown labor. But it caused a lot of cramping. I started having contractions that weren't super painful, but that gave me pause. I woke up the next day, a Friday, and found that I'd lost part of my mucus plug, which meant that my cervix was opening, which meant that I was maybe, sort of, kind of going into labor. I was so excited.

By Sunday night, I was in a really low place. For the last three mornings I'd thought, "today is the day! I will meet my baby!" and I was let down time and time again, crying as I tried to go to bed to get some sleep only to do it all again hours later.
Ad failed to load

I learned from my childbirth class that there are lots of signs of impending labor, but nothing meant you were actually going into the home stretch unless your contractions are regular, increasing in strength, and increasing in frequency. I did my best to ignore the contractions I was having. My partner and I went out to eat with my in-laws, and every time I had a contraction, I squeezed my partner's hand under the table. I just had this feeling the baby was on his way. I went to bed that night hoping that I'd wake up in full-blown labor, and that's what happened, except it would still be three more days before my son was arrived.

I woke up at 2 a.m. on Saturday morning with a strong and painful contraction. Eight minutes later, I had another. Another eight minutes and yet another came. I didn't wake up my partner because I figured he should get some sleep. I knew I should go back to sleep too, but every time I started to drift off I'd have another painful contraction. I gave the notion of sleep up and got out the app I'd downloaded for the purpose of timing contractions. I discovered that my contractions were not coming regularly. Sometimes they'd be as frequent as six minutes apart, but other times I'd have as much as 15 minutes between each one.

My contractions kept that pattern — or non-pattern — through Saturday and Sunday. My mom and my partner spent those long days catching naps when they weren't soothing me through contractions and watching comedies to try and distract me.

Ad failed to load
Courtesy of Olivia Hinebaugh

By Sunday night, I was in a really low place. For the last three mornings I'd thought, "today is the day! I will meet my baby!" and I was let down time and time again, crying as I tried to go to bed to get some sleep only to do it all again hours later. The only thing I could stomach was vanilla ice cream. I just didn't want anything else. My energy was quickly depleting because of my lack of sleep and, likely, the lack of food.

In retrospect, I wonder why I hadn't called my midwives. Except in that moment, I was waiting for my contractions to be regular and five minutes apart before bugging them. But by Monday morning, I finally called. The midwife I spoke to suggested I come in and maybe get checked to see what progress I was making and to see how baby was handling things. She told me that likely one of three things would happen: 1) I'd be admitted to the birth center and given morphine to help me sleep, 2) I'd be sent home with some Ambien, or 3) I'd be sent to the hospital for Pitocin. None of those options appealed to me. I wanted a drug-free birth.

Ad failed to load

As the day continued, my contractions were coming closer together and were still coming on really strong. I couldn't speak through them, and I hadn't been able to for a couple of days. The car ride to my midwife was hard, but by that point I was very practiced at coping with contractions. That's a definite bonus to a long, slow labor: it never felt like too much to handle. It ramped up slowly and gradually.

Courtesy of Olivia Hinebaugh

When I got to the birth center, they told me I was five centimeters and that they could tell by how strong my contractions were that I was really in labor. No drugs were necessary. I was so relieved, but it'd still be another 12 hours before I met my son. And I think the relief is what really kicked things off. I knew I was where I was going to give birth. I felt a new surge of confidence that things were progressing as they should, even if it took longer than the average woman. But what is average? This was the first time my body was doing this.

Ad failed to load

After a couple hours laboring in my room at the birth center, my water finally broke and things got intense. Two more hours of sitting in a warm jacuzzi, and I finally reached 10 centimeters and could start pushing. I pushed for three hours. I think it was because I was so tired. Not just me, but my uterus as well. It's a muscle, and muscles get tired when they're used for three days straight. It took a lot for me to push my son out. I had to strain with all my might. I had to try a dozen different positions. I never really felt the urge to push, so I had to make up for it by pushing and pushing. I only really know that now because I've had another baby, and I barely had to push to deliver her. My uterus did almost all of it.

When my son was born, as any mother would probably say, the long labor didn't matter. He was born. He cried. I held him and saw that he was a boy and all the tiredness of the last three days just washed away.

Courtesy of Olivia Hinebaugh
Ad failed to load

It was an amazing birth. I felt calm and in control the whole time. Aside from feeling tired and discouraged, I really hadn't suffered too much. I had handled the endless contractions. I did it. I delivered a baby even though I was exhausted and my uterus was not as well-rested as it could have been. Yet I felt like a total rockstar.

When I tell people I was in labor for three days with my son, I often get looks of pity. But I assure them that it was amazing. It might not have gone how I imagined it. I might not be able to pinpoint when "real" labor started. It was such a gradual process. It could have gone differently if I had had more medical interventions. Surely, I could have met him sooner. But maybe that's the way my body wanted to labor. Maybe that's the way my son needed to be born. Birth is amazing, no matter how it happens, but I was so happy that it had all gone on my terms and without interventions. I feel immensely proud of all the work I did to deliver my son — I'd marathoned a delivery, and the prize at the finish line was incredible.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

7 Things A Mom Really Means When She Says She Doesn't Want Anything On Mother's Day

Every year my family asks me what I want for Mother's Day, and every single year I tell them the same thing: Nothing. So, by now, they know that when I say "nothing" I absolutely do not mean "nothing." In fact, there are more than a few things a mom …
By Candace Ganger

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

13 Unique (& Totally Not Mainstream) Mother's Day Gifts For The Hipster Mom

Hipsters thrive on being outside the norm and not really digging anything considered "mainstream." Whether it's in their fashion, what music they listen to, the books they read, or how they enjoy beverages, there's just something that makes them dist…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Here's How To Introduce Your Pet To Your Baby & Make Everything As Calm As Possible

Our home, which we lovingly refer to as “the funny farm,” is filled with four-legged family members. We have two crazy beagles and two cat jerks, and boy are they loved and spoiled. (As they should be.) But we are now finally having a baby of our own…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Here's The Right Birth Method For You, According To Your Zodiac Sign

If you're pregnant, you've probably given childbirth some serious thought. Some moms-to-be prepare a meticulous birth plan, while others are comfortable just going with the flow. And me? Well, I made a plan... but that plan was useless when faced wit…
By Steph Montgomery

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills
)}