Mama Amy Balaich shares the hospital birth story of her daughter on the Honest Birth birth story series! Amy was induced at 39 weeks and 5 days during the coronavirus pandemic. After a round of Cervidil, followed by Pitocin, Amy got her epidural, and after a few hours and some pushing, Amy’s daughter was born!
Hey mamas! Welcome to the thirty-sixth post in my Honest Birth series! I’m excited to share another real mama’s birth story, because I think it’s so important to share our childbirth experiences with each other. My goal with this series is to provide a place for women to share their birth stories without holding anything back, as well as compile stories for pregnant mamas to read in preparation for their own childbirth experiences. Every mama is different and every birth is different, and I believe that when we share our stories we help each other.
Today I am featuring my sister’s friend Amy Balaich. Amy is 25 years old, and she and her husband have been married for almost three years. Amy graduated from BYU with a degree in Elementary Education and her husband is working on a degree in Chemical Engineering. Today Amy is sharing the birth story of her first baby, who was born in August during the coronavirus pandemic. If you’re currently pregnant and wondering what birth is going to be like in the middle of a pandemic, this is a great story to read!
Read to read her daughter’s birth story? Here we go!
The Birth Story of Juliet Balaich
I elected to be induced at 39 weeks and 5 days. My other option would have been to wait to be induced at 40 weeks and 4 days if I didn’t go into labor on my own. However, that day also happened to be the first day of a new semester for my husband, who is a full-time student. Given my mom’s and sisters’ histories of going past their due dates, I figured that I was unlikely to go into labor on my own anyway, so I decided to go with the earlier induction and I am SO glad I did!
They had us check in to the hospital at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, August 25. As we left our house that night, it was pretty surreal to think that the next time we came home would be with our baby. At the hospital, we were put in a super spacious room that we stayed in for labor, delivery, and recovery, which was so convenient. The nurse came and talked to us and then put Cervidil up near my cervix. Cervidil is like a small tampon impregnated with medicine that would stay there overnight to ripen my cervix. She also drew some of my blood, put an IV into my left hand, and hooked up external heartbeat and contraction monitors on my belly. I got a few hours of sleep from about 11 pm-2 am. Between the discomfort of having to carry all the monitors with me to go to the bathroom, and the nervousness that started kicking in, I didn’t sleep as soundly after 2 am. It was fun to watch the contraction monitor because it helped me start to recognize when they were happening. When I would start to feel my belly getting tight, I’d look at the monitor and sure enough, the numbers were rising rapidly. I had felt a mild version of that sensation a few times while pregnant, but never recognized it as a contraction! When the nurse came in and asked me how I was doing, she seemed shocked that I wasn’t feeling pain and had been able to sleep because she said I was having some pretty strong ones.
Around 6:20 am, the new nurse took out my Cervidil. She was in touch with my OB and said he wanted to start me on Pitocin, so she went to get it and started me on 4 milliunits through my IV. She said they would increase that by 4 every half hour up to 20 milliunits, as long as the baby was tolerating it. My OB came in around 7:45 am, checked my cervix and said it was dilated to a 2.5 or a tight 3. He also used a hook to break my water, which was super uncomfortable having him reach up inside me and then to feel the gush of warm fluid coming out. Then he had to reach up there again to attach a heartbeat monitor to the top of the baby’s head, and another monitor to more accurately measure the intensity of the contractions than the external one I had on overnight. That encounter was honestly one of the most painful parts of the whole labor experience. Cervical checks are quite uncomfortable and that one was especially so because it was so much longer and more intense. I was happy when that was all over.
However, by that point, my Pitocin was up to about 16 milliunits, plus my water was now broken. Contractions became so painful all of a sudden. Whereas they were at most uncomfortable during the night and even during the early doses of Pitocin, the pain suddenly hit like a ton of bricks. I think I tolerated the contractions for about a half hour before deciding that I might as well get the epidural – if I was going to get it, why wait and put myself through more pain? I told my nurse and she came back with the anesthesiologist maybe 20 or 30 minutes later. He explained everything and then had me sit up and hang my legs off the side of my hospital bed. The nurse and my husband both came and stood in front of me to help support me. He had me kind of slouch and arch my back out, like an angry Halloween cat (his words). I could feel small stings as he numbed me locally, and then I felt a little pressure when he was putting in the epidural needle. He could tell right away that it wasn’t quite placed right, so he had to take it out and do that process all over again. Hearing that something had gone wrong (even though it wasn’t anything major) must have freaked me out a little bit because I got really sweaty and a little nauseous. The nurse brought me a barf bag and held it by my mouth, but I took some deep breaths and the feeling passed. He numbed me and then replaced it and put in the tube. I laid back down and my legs started to feel warm and tingly, then gradually went more and more numb, though they continued to have a slight tingle throughout my whole labor. By then it was about 10:15 am and I was dilated to a 4.
Even though it was weird to be totally numb in the legs and unable to move much, I was so happy to have the epidural in and felt much more at ease. My husband and I got to relax and watch some TV. The nurse checked me again around 11 am and I was at 6 centimeters. Sometime after that, I started noticing that I was feeling the pain of the contractions again, though not as much as before the epidural. I was still on the same fairly low dose that the anesthesiologist had started me on, so I called my nurse and she told me to press the green button that would give me some more epidural anesthesia. She told me that I could press that button as often as every 10 minutes or so if I needed relief.
Then at 12:30 pm, the nurse came back in and checked me, and said “Wow, the baby’s head is right there.” She felt around a bit more and said “Okay, you are at a 10!” I was honestly so shocked that some tears sprang to my eyes. I couldn’t believe it! I felt like she had just barely checked me at a 6, and I expected it to take so much longer! It made sense why I had been feeling contraction pain through the epidural though; things were progressing so quickly and my contractions must have been really intense! The nurse said she was going to notify my OB and that a bunch of other nurses and people would be coming in and out of our room to get things ready for me to push about 10 minutes later.
Around 12:55 pm, everything had been set up in the room and my OB gave my nurse the go-ahead to have me start pushing even though he wasn’t there yet. She and my husband helped me prop my legs up, and they each stood on one side of the bed to hold them up since they felt like dead weight to me. She explained that each time a contraction came, she would have me take a deep breath and then hold my breath and push while she counted to 10. We would do that 3 times in quick succession on each contraction, then take a break until the next one. Pushing was really hard at first because I was very numb and really couldn’t feel what I was doing.
Overall, pushing went really smoothly and I didn’t feel any pain at all. It was tiring to strain so hard and hold my breath on the pushes, but being numb from the epidural and having breaks in between each contraction made it totally manageable. My OB arrived around 2 pm, after an hour of pushing. He was super energetic and loudly encouraged me on each push with chants of “Keep pushing! Push harder! Give it everything you’ve got!” which was actually incredibly motivating. I had no sense of where things were at and expected to be pushing for much longer, but my OB said the head was right there but a little too big for the outlet, so he wanted to make a small episiotomy to guide the tear that was already starting to happen down low. He asked if that was okay and since I trust my OB, I agreed, even though I have mixed feelings about episiotomies.
I kept pushing on each contraction, being cheered on by my OB and my husband, and my baby girl was born at 2:24 pm. After her head came out, the rest of her came right out really quickly. I was so shocked when I opened my eyes and saw my OB holding her and heard her first little cries. I immediately started crying because I couldn’t believe she was finally here. My OB said, “This is a big baby!” They took her to do some tests, while my OB quickly delivered my placenta and said, “Well, you’re officially no longer pregnant!” Then he had to press down really hard on my belly and it was so painful for some reason. The nurses and people doing the tests on my baby and wiping her off announced that she weighed 9 pounds even. I was shocked that I had just delivered such a big baby! My OB began stitching me up, and my husband stood by me and told me what a great job I did. They brought her to me while he was finishing up stitching, and I got to hold her on my chest. That made tears stream down my face all over again. The emotion of holding her for the first time was overwhelming. While I was pregnant, I had this irrational worry that I wouldn’t love her right away, but I loved her the second they laid her on me and I saw her beautiful, tiny face. I felt so proud of myself in that moment for everything my body had accomplished. We named her Juliet and she is the perfect addition to our family.
I was absolutely TERRIFIED of giving birth for most of my life, and although I have always wanted to be a mom, I had always questioned whether I would be strong and brave enough to do something that scary. People kept telling me that I was stronger than I thought and that birth would be surprisingly natural, and they were actually right. It was not nearly as scary as I had always imagined. For me personally, having an epidural was 100% the right choice because it made the task of delivering a baby so much less daunting. Everything went so smoothly and I felt incredibly blessed! My little Juliet is even more perfect and beautiful than I ever hoped or imagined, and every part of the labor process was absolutely worth it to bring her into the world. ♥
*Note about delivering during COVID-19 pandemic: I was allowed 2 visitors, but only one at a time, meaning that if someone else came to visit me, my husband would have to leave temporarily. I didn’t like that idea, so I had my husband stay with me the whole time and didn’t have anyone else visit. My husband was free to come and go from the hospital as he pleased. The hospital policy asked us to wear masks whenever a hospital staff member entered our room, but all of our nurses were super understanding and told us we didn’t need to worry. We still tried to adhere to the policy most of the time, but I definitely didn’t wear a mask while I was pushing!!
Wasn’t that great? Amy gave such great details, and I could really feel her emotion when her daughter was born! Thanks so much to Amy for sharing her story on the Honest Birth series! If you want to reach out to her, you can follow her on Instagram at @amy.balaich. I’ve got a few more coronavirus birth stories on deck, so keep checking back!