On Wednesday, August 21, I woke up at 7am to a contraction. They began coming fairly regularly. After four nights of false labor (what a trick!), I was thrilled to finally be in actual labor!
I ate a good breakfast knowing it could be a long day. And by 8:30am my contractions were about 5 minutes apart, 45 seconds in length, and growing in intensity. I called my OBGYN’s office, and the nurse told me to head to the hospital.
I called Clay who was already in Malibu at Pepperdine for law school. It took him an hour and fifteen minutes to get home. During that time I distracted myself by showering and packing up our stuff in between contractions.
By the time he got home I was basically jumping into the car, anxious to get going.
It took us an entire hour in LA traffic to get to the hospital. The contractions were now closer to 4 minutes apart and becoming increasingly painful. I made a call to the hospital to let them know we were on our way. In all honesty I was worried we were cutting it close. After all my mom nearly had me in the car!
We checked in around 11:30am and the nurse, Liz, asked what my pain level was. I told her it was a 7. After she “explained” the pain scale to me, I changed my answer to a 6. But I was in so much pain at this point I couldn’t bring myself to say it was anything less than that.
Let’s just say when she checked me to find I was only dilated to 1cm, I was shocked.
I was a 1?!
There was talk of sending us home, but since we live so far from the hospital they decided to let us stay. And really I couldn’t fathom even getting into the car much less driving home to labor more.
Nurse Liz gave me an IV port, drew some blood, then placed some monitors on my belly to watch Noelle’s heartrate and mine. The cords were long enough that I was able to move around freely. She encouraged me to walk around the room and even disconnected them completely so we could walk the hallways. I was in so much pain with each contraction that it ended up being quite a short walk.
Back in our room I labored on the exercise ball and did my best to sway my hips back and forth to “mimic walking” as instructed. I spent the next few hours there, leaning over the side of the bed as Clay applied counter pressure to my hips during each contraction.
It was wave after wave of pain. It hurt. Bad.
At some point the pain became so intense I no longer even wanted Clay to touch me. I just needed to focusing on trying to breathe as best I could and visualizing things like those baby feet God had shown me.
Clay got my diffuser going with some lavender and turned on some worship music through our wireless speaker. At 5:30pm my doctor came over from her office to check on me. She said with reluctance in her voice, “You’re not going to be happy about this, but I pushed you to a 2.”
I was a 2?! After 10.5 hours of labor, I was only a 2?!
That’s when the tears came. I was tired, weary, and unsure of how much more pain I could bear. I had no idea how much longer this process would take, and as much as I didn’t want an epidural, I wasn’t sure if I could make it without one.
My doctor told me to breathe and encouraged me to just take it one contraction at a time. She said I could get an epidural at any point but not to think about the “end of the marathon, rather just the mile I was on.” I inhaled and exhaled deeply, wiped my tears, and then she said, “What about the nitrous?”
Nitrous oxide is like laughing gas you get at the dentist, and I had planned on using it during labor but had sort of forgotten. “Yes! Why haven’t I been using that yet?!”
By 6pm I was inhaling the gas with each contraction and releasing it when they were over.
As time went by and the pain increased, I began considering asking for that epidural. I kept thinking, “Surely this is the most pain a person can experience.” And then the pain would get worse. And worse. And worse. And worse.
At 7pm there was a shift change, and I was not happy to see nurse Liz go.
Around 7:30 we realized the nitrous hadn’t been working. The tank needed to be replaced. And well, I can’t help but think maybe it happened like this for a reason, because when it actually began to work it was just the relief I needed to power through… At least for the time being.
7:37pm; relief after that first contraction using the nitrous oxide!
Now don’t let this photo fool you. The contractions still hurt incredibly badly, but the nitrous oxide provided a mental and emotional relief that made it seem a little more doable. Suddenly I was talking to Clay in between contractions—at which point I realized I hadn’t been speaking at all for a while leading up to that.
By an hour or so later, I’ll be honest—it all became a bit of a blur. The contractions intensified even further. I was back to no longer speaking at all. And the only reason I know certain times things happened is because Clay had snapped a few photos and there is a time stamp on them.
At some point they checked me again, and when I had to get on the bed it was incredibly excruciating. The pain in my back was truly intense. The nurse told me I was at a 5.
After this I never left the bed. I laid on my left side riding the waves of each contractions. I was squeezing Clay’s hand with all my might. At one point my eyes opened to find him wincing!
I had never felt pain like this before. I was beginning to feel like I might pass out.
There were so many times I told Clay, “I don’t think I can do this anymore.” Each time he would encourage me and spur me on.
I have to say that God met me there, in that pain. Wave after wave. At one point I had a vision of Him walking with me up a mountain. And later when the pain intensified I saw Him carrying me up that mountain.
At some point they checked me again and I was an 8. At that point my water broke. And shortly after that I felt the urge to push with each contraction.
The problem was Noelle’s heart rate was dropping with each contraction, and I wasn’t dilated to the ten I needed to be to push.
But I couldn’t help it. I tried so hard not to push. Clay got in my face and helped coach me to try to “blow out a candle” instead of bearing down, but it seemed nearly impossible. I was screaming with each contraction it was so intense. And I was no longer using the nitrous because I could literally barely take a breath.
Next thing I know there’s a phone to my ear and the voice of my doctor telling me, “Meredith, you have to stop pushing. The baby is in distress, and if you continue to push you could rupture your cervix.”
“If you can’t stop pushing, they’re going to have to give you an epidural.”
I couldn’t believe it. After over 17 hours of labor I was going to have to get an epidural because I couldn’t not push.
Thankfully one of the nurses said, “I’m just going to check you one more time before we give you an epidural, and we’re all just going to hope you’re dilated enough to push.”
“You’re a 9.5! You can push!”
I’ve never felt such relief—physically and emotionally. That very moment my doctor busted through the doors, and it was “go time.”
I pushed once, and my doctor practically shouted, “Meredith, that’s not how you push!”
“What do I do?!” I thought I had pushed hard, but apparently not.
My doctor was in full on coach mode. “Okay here’s what you’re going to do—grab behind your thighs, take the deepest inhale you can, and then hold your breath and push as hard as you can for 10 seconds.”
Before I could even think she yelled, “Ready! Go! 2, 3, 4…”
“She counted all the way to 10 for me while I pushed harder than I thought was humanly possible. “Okay and again!”
I pushed with everything I had.
The look on my doctor’s face was not comforting. She looked concerned. Like really concerned. I couldn’t even look at her because it was worrying me. And then at one point I thought she said, “Scalpel” (which I later learned she didn’t.)
“Don’t cut me!” I said.
“Meredith, it’s either this or an emergency C-section! The baby is in distress! We have to get her out!”
It was intense. Like movie moment intense.
With the next contraction, I pushed again with all my might and then some. And that’s when she said the dreaded words–
“Get me the vacuum.”
I was terrified. I did not want Noelle to be suctioned out of me.
That was definitely motivation to push even harder. I pushed again and again with that second contraction.
And thankfully a third contraction’s worth of three big pushes, and Noelle was here—squishy, slimy and warm, they laid her on my chest.
My doctor had handed Noelle straight to some older, wise-looking pediatrician specialist. Thankfully he placed her directly on me. He covered her in a blanket and rubbed her vigorously.
“Is she okay?!” I asked.
“She’s okay. I’m just stimulating her,” he reassured me.
I looked down at my baby girl and could hardly believe it. I studied her tiny features—her big eyes, tiny nose and sweet lips.
It was a joy unlike any other.
It was surreal. I felt euphoric. All the pain was gone just like that. I hardly cared my doctor was stitching up a small tear. Looking at my sweet baby girl, everything else melted away.
When I finally became aware of my surroundings, I realized the room was filled with doctors and nurses. Like ten of them. I hadn’t even noticed them come in.
After about 45 minutes the pediatrician took her to be weighed and measured. She got a 9 out of 10 on her Apgar test! God was so good. She was perfectly healthy. It was such a relief after all the stress and trauma of that delivery.
They placed her back with me. Clay stood by our side. And all was right in the world in that moment.
At 2:04am Clay got to hold his daughter for the very first time, and Noelle got to be in the place she has so come to love–her daddy’s arms.
. . .
Noelle Elizabeth Collier was born at 12:41am on August 22–which just so happens to be National Rainbow Baby Day. She’s our little rainbow, our sunshine after the storm of loss, our gift from God and sign of His great faithfulness.
There were so many things about her delivery that didn’t go according to plan. I never expected I’d have to push so hard and fast in such a whirlwind of chaos, there was no delayed cord clamping, and they may or may not have washed the vernix off her skin–to name a few. But God delivered us a strong, healthy, and beautiful baby girl. And well, in light of that miracle, all else seems to lose its weight.
I am so grateful–for the gift of our daughter, and for the incredible support of my husband.
As for that pain level of a 6 I was in when I arrived? Turns out it was simply a 6 on a scale of 100, not 10!
And as for the 18 hour labor with no epidural? Well, let’s just say I feel like I can do anything now! It showed me that I am so much stronger than I ever knew.
As I was reflecting on God’s faithfulness, I had this thought–He really is who He says He is. He won’t let us be overcome. He will strengthen us and uphold us with His righteousness right hand. He will not let the waves consume us. He shows up and He delivers.
. . .
Here are a few more photos of those first few hours with our precious Noelle.