At 3:16PM on Monday, December 3, 2018, Hannah Laine Cosentino made her grand entrance into the world. I have been wanting to document her birth story ever since, and I'm hoping given 5 months have passed, I can do it justice. Giving birth was the most incredible experience of my life, and I am so grateful for how every detail unfolded.
It all started when I woke up on Sunday, 4 days past my due date and starting to *possibly* exhibit early labor symptoms. I say *possibly* because that was the big question of the day: was I in labor, or not? I never quite realized how much I prefer things black & white until I was in the grey area of early labor. Everything felt uncertain, and that drove. me. crazy.
Was I leaking amniotic fluid? Was that a contraction? If so, when did it start? Am I timing it correctly? They can't possibly be that close together already, can they?
But now I'm getting ahead of myself. I started the day on the phone with my doula talking about how it kind of felt like I was leaking amniotic fluid. (Side note: I was not. Feeling like you're leaking is just a thing when you're 40+ weeks pregnant, ha!) She encouraged me to keep going about my day, and call her if anything changed. So that's what we did, we ran errands and I can distinctly remember feeling my first maybe-contraction as we were walking around Target. We were driving home when I announced I was craving an iced chai latte, and not just any chai latte, but one from my favorite coffee shop that was a tad out of the way. PJ did what any husband would do for his very pregnant wife, and agreed to satisfy the craving. Between the coffee shop & the drive home, I felt multiple other maybe-contractions.
Towards the end of my pregnancy, everyone would ask me, "have you felt any Braxton Hicks?" "I don't think so?" I would reply. And I was always told the same thing: "You'll know when it's a contraction."
Well my friends, that exact saying is what drove this overdue pregnant lady bonkers the morning and early afternoon of December 2. My doula encouraged me to start timing these maybe-contractions, and it drove me crazy how uncertain I felt about everything. I would second guess if I started my timer at the right time, if I ended my timer at the right time, and if what I felt was even a contraction to begin with. My maybe-contractions were already only a few minutes apart, that couldn't be right, could it? They weren't that painful, so were these the real deal? Everything felt the opposite of black and white, and I was overwhelmed by it. My doula could sense the anxiousness in my voice, and encouraged me to go get checked at the hospital so I could get some clarity on what exactly was going on.
Because it was a Sunday, we didn't have the option of going to my doctor's office. So we nervously packed up our things and our dogs to drop off at a friend's house, and off to the hospital we went. I felt so silly the whole drive there. You see the movie clips of the woman screaming as they're driving to the hospital, and the husband speeding to make it in time. I wasn't even sure if I was feeling real contractions, so needless to say I felt pretty dumb going to the hospital.
We got set up in Triage and all the monitors were hooked up to me when I felt another maybe-contraction. The nurse pulled back the curtain and said "well, you just had a contraction!" Tears welled up in my eyes as relief came over me. I wasn't crazy, and I wasn't wrong. I wasn't sure like they all said I'd be, but I was feeling real contractions. And they really were coming just a few minutes apart.
I was still only a centimeter dilated (like I had been for weeks), so I would have gotten to go labor at home if it wasn't for the beeping on the monitor that indicated high blood pressure. They monitored me in Triage for close to an hour, checking my blood pressure several times and taking a blood sample to test for preeclampsia (which was negative). My pressure didn't go down, so after about 45 minutes the nurse pulled the curtain back and said "Well, you're staying and having a baby!"
You would think for a 4 days past due pregnant lady, these would be the best words I could have heard. But as we walked from Triage to my hospital room, my face turned white and my eyes welled with tears. When we got to our room, PJ put his arms on my shoulders. I couldn't hold the tears back as I looked him in the eyes and expressed my fear; I had to give birth. It was time.
As encouraging as PJ was, I knew what would really calm my fear was talking to a friend who had already pushed a baby out and loved it so much she was going to do it again in a few months. I called Colleen, and she sweetly came to the hospital to bring PJ dinner and hang out with us for a bit to ease my nerves. My family was on their way from California, my doula was getting ready to head to the hospital, and my induction was getting started. Hannah was coming.
Colleen left just before my doula arrived around 9PM, and let me tell you, my doula was a Godsend. My induction was about 4 hours in at this point so my maybe-contractions were now definite-but-not-crazy-painful contractions. My doula brushed and braided my hair, massaged my temples to ease a headache, and helped me get onto a yoga ball now that I had permission to do so (high blood pressure meant many of the ways I envisioned laboring were not allowed). She entered my room, snapped into action, and brought with her a calming and empowering presence.
To any expecting mamas, I cannot emphasize how much I would recommend getting a doula. I wanted my labor to be as peaceful as possible, and I didn't want to solely rely on my husband who was as inexperienced as I was in this area. Kate (my doula) was especially helpful given that I labored over night. She encouraged PJ and I to sleep, and while PJ could, I couldn't. Kate kept me company all throughout the night, allowing PJ to be as well rested as he could be and ready to support me when the real action started.
My contractions got really intense around 5AM. I wanted to be checked so I could gage whether it was time to get my epidural, or if I needed to prepare myself to labor intensely for another few hours. The doctor said the protocol for my particular induction method was to wait 12 hours before checking me, which would have meant waiting until 9:30AM. One of the ways Kate really assisted me was helping me utilize my voice, so I decided to ditch the protocol and get checked for my own sanity. I was at a whopping 3 centimeters.
The doctor offered me pain medication to allow me to sleep for a bit, and I graciously accepted. For all my mama friends who have given birth medication-free, you rock! For me, it was welcomed relief. PJ climbed into my hospital bed next to me and held me as I slept for a few hours. It was one of the sweeter memories I have from my labor experience.
2 hours passed, and I woke up at 7AM with the pain medication having worn off and INTENSE contractions replacing it. For 2 hours, my doula and PJ supported me and encouraged me as I allowed my body to do its thing and experienced labor in all its glory. It felt like an out of body blur as I felt each contraction come on and braced myself for it. Those 2 hours were the hardest part of my labor; I remember PJ & Kate rotating who held my hands and who used pressure points to provide as much comfort as possible. During one particularly painful contraction, Kate whispered a worship hymn in my ear. I'll say it again & again, she truly was an invaluable member of my labor team.
At 9AM, I again said screw protocol, I want to be checked NOW. I had progressed to 5 centimeters, and you better believe I was ready for that epidural. I was overjoyed to see the anesthesiologist walk in, who did a fabulous job and even managed to make us all laugh by cracking a joke about teaching PJ how to give me my epidural. At this point, it was time to relax & let my body dilate to a 10. My mom and brother had arrived from California late into the night, and came to visit us at the hospital. It was a pretty surreal feeling seeing them there, bringing back tons of memories of when my baby sister was born almost 14 years prior. Only this time, I was the one in the hospital bed!
It was sometime in the early afternoon when my doctor came to check me & my mom and brother left. I was about 9 centimeters, almost time to push! Everything was so exciting and surreal at this point. For all the times in my life I wondered if I'd ever be able to give birth, I was about to prove to myself that I could.
At about 2:30PM, I started pushing. I had a nurse on one side of me, and Kate and PJ on the other. I felt incredible at this point, so grateful for and empowered by every push that got me closer to meeting my girl. My doctor came in, and encouraged me that one more strong round of pushes would bring Hannah into this world. That was all the motivation I needed to push with as much strength as I could, and at 3:16PM I got to meet my baby girl.
She was 7lb 7oz, 20 inches long, and just absolutely perfect. Those first few moments of having her on my chest were surreal. There's really no words to describe the feeling of meeting your child.
I am so incredibly grateful for every member of my birth team: for every nurse that took such good care of us in labor & delivery and postpartum, for the wonderful Dr. Adams who delivered Hannah, for the friends who sent me encouraging messages and celebrated her arrival, for my family who traveled to support us and welcome our baby girl home, for Kate who was an incredible doula and truly made my labor experience everything I hoped it would be and more, and for my husband who was such a solid partner throughout Hannah's birth and continues to be as we learn how to be parents.
Hannah Laine, words can't describe how thankful we are to be your parents! We love you!