Abigail Cunningham :: a Birth Story

Now that it’s almost been a year since Abigail entered the world, I think it’s about time I share our story (I guess I’d be a pretty bad Mommy blogger if I never wrote a birth story!).  While my memory has officially been taken over by Mommy brain, there are certain things I will never forget.  Plus, my wonderful husband took some notes that day (sporadically, but enough to help me with this story).

Here goes nothing…

1.22.11. 3:00am*

“Travis…wake up, babe…it’s time to go to the hospital.”

***no response…someone was too busy snoring***

“Seriously babe, wake up…we have to go…”

Rewind. 1.22.11. 12:30am

After never experiencing braxton hicks during my pregnancy, I woke up in the middle of the night with a strange feeling. It was my very first contraction.  And it wasn’t some small, insignificant contraction. At that very moment I knew Abigail was ready to come out and play. There was only one small problem with this…I wasn’t prepared to head to the hospital.

While I’d consider myself to be a “planner” most of the time, I was convinced Abigail wasn’t going to arrive until after her due date (which was 1.27.11) so I never packed my bag for the hospital and I hadn’t shaved my legs in about a week. 🙂

I felt too “normal”…I never felt super pregnant (as most of you already know if you’d followed along with my Bump Reports)…I never felt practice contractions…I could still workout on an elliptical for a 1/2 hour…the list goes on.  In fact, the day before (1.21.11) I spent time at my Mom’s house doing 6 loads of laundry.  It was just another normal day. We did, however, eat pizza which according to old  wives tales helps induce labor…

Anyway, while it felt like another normal day to me, Abigail had other plans.  With this first contraction, I knew I had to get out of bed, pack my hospital bag and shave my legs!!!  (and don’t read this if you get grossed out easily, but I also spent a solid 1/2 hour in the bathroom while my body “prepared” for birth…that’s when I really knew she was on her way)

1.22.11. 1:30am

Legs shaved. Check. Body cleared out. Check. Travis still sleeping. Check.

By this time, I still needed to finish packing my bag (which included the overly hyped up task of selecting a “going home” outfit for Abigail…for some reason, that’s probably what took me the longest).  The crazy part is that in the hour that had passed, my contractions were getting closer together and became significantly stronger.  I was literally crawling around on the ground on my hands and knees because I couldn’t stand up straight…I’m sure Travis would have gotten a kick out of the scene (had he been awake, of course!). 

1.22.11. 2:15am

Travis woke up!

This is when he proudly whipped out his phone and started measuring my contractions with his handy-dandy labor and contraction timer.  It was pretty funny because while I was running around (or crawling around) the apartment, I’d shout to Travis whenever I experienced contractions…it was a fun game until the contractions became too painful for me to find the humor in it.

Time to call the on-call nurse.  Thanks to the app we’d been using, I was able to give her very detailed information about my contractions.  I’d highly recommend downloading something similar!   After a few minutes, we were given the green light to head off to the hospital.

The funny part is that while I was on the phone with the nurse and gathering a few last minute items (the iPod I never actually used, the slippers I was told not to wear by the nurses because they were “too cute” and they’d get ruined, etc…), Travis took another power nap. Trust me, I knew he needed all this extra sleep…it was going to be a long day for both of us.

1.22.11. 3:00am*

“Travis…wake up, babe…it’s time to go to the hospital.”

***no response…someone was too busy snoring***

“Seriously babe, wake up…we have to go…”

1.22.11. 3:10am-3:20am

The car ride.

That was the longest 10 minute drive of my life. My contractions were getting worse, I couldn’t sit up straight, I kept worrying that once we’d get to the hospital they’d send us home because my contractions weren’t really that strong (which would have made me feel like a total wuss because I feel like I have a high pain tolerance), and I, for the first time in my pregnancy, felt really really nervous about having a baby. I wasn’t nervous about the delivery…I was nervous about the fact that we’d have a little human to take care of for the rest of our lives.

“Babe, we’re leaving our apartment as 2 people.  When we get home, we’re going to be 3.”

That is the craziest part about heading to the hospital when you’re about to have a baby.  I clearly remember sitting outside the gate to our apartment saying those words.

1.22.11. 3:30am

Good thing we were paying attention during our tour of CPMC because we arrived during “off business” hours when you must enter through the Emergency entrance.  Luckily enough for us, we found parking directly across the street (which is unheard of in San Francisco) and we walked very slowly to the appropriate check-in point for extremely pregnant people about to have babies.

Of course, once we checked in, my contractions slowed down.  All I could think was, “Oh no!  They’re going to send us home and all this fuss was for nothing!”

At this point, Travis took this video of me (nice bangs, Ali) which sets the stage a bit…this is also when we started joking around, being goofs and playing scrabble on Travis’ Kindle to keep our minds off of what was about to happen.

This is also when I was hooked up to the monitor and the nurse told me I was 3cm and that they were going to KEEP us at the hospital.  I’d consider that my first victory of the day!

Over the next hour, they monitored my contractions and stuck the largest, most uncomfortable IV in my arm I’ve ever felt because I’d tested positive for Strep B – it was harmless, minus the fact that the IV felt like a knife in my arm (sorry, but it’s true!). I was not a happy camper.

**Birth Plan**
I feel like now’s a good time to tell you all about my Birth Plan. Here’s as complex as we got with it (sarcasm)…I was going to try my hardest not to have an epidural because I’ve always had a very high pain tolerance (after blowing out everything in my knee and experiencing intense pain post surgery, I figured labor wouldn’t be much different…).  That being said, I wasn’t opposed at ALL to having an epidural if I really needed it.  And that was my plan…

1.22.11. 4:45am

Hello Room 236 (thanks to Travis’ notes and pictures for that detail).

We were officially checked into our Delivery Room…more like our Delivery Suite.  The place was huge!  It was like a hotel room with my bed, a couch, a rocking chair, a few extra chairs, etc…we could have thrown a party in there!  The other great part of our experience is that we were one of the very few couples on the labor and delivery floor.  All the nurses kept saying that they’d had a ton of babies two days before but that we practically had the place to ourselves. Awesome!

Back to the birth story…at this point, I was just hanging out with Travis, not experiencing terrible contractions, feeling very very hungry!  My sleepy knight in shining armor hopped off the couch and walked down the street to the nearest Starbucks where he picked up a bagel (I know, I know…not what I was necessarily supposed to eat before giving birth, but I needed FUEL!).


1.22.11. 6:00am – 6:30am

According to Travis’ notes (and I kid you not), he wrote down “TJ napping & snoring” – very accurate, extremely important detail on this sheet of paper that  has a total of 15 bullet points.  I’m glad that was one of them. 🙂

I was still feeling okay…my contractions were strong but not painful…yet.

1.22.11. 7:00am – 7:30am

All Travis’ notes say this: “SHOWER TIME”

I think he wrote in all caps because I was screaming at him most of the time.  I think it’s safe to say that this is when my contractions stepped it up a notch.  In an effort to carry on with my “Birth Plan” of dealing with the pain, my lovely nurse (Roxanne…good job, secretary Travis) recommended that I take a shower…that the warm water might help.

You know what?  It really did help.

After my shower, I was able to lay back down and rest for a bit (thanks, Abby).  At this point, Dr. John checked on me and said I was measuring at 4cm and I was 80% effaced. I was honestly a little disappointed he didn’t say I was 8cm and 100% effaced…if that was 4cm, I was in for some serious P.A.I.N.

1.22.11. 7:55am

Travis’ notes verbatim:

” – contractions every 3-4 minutes

 – Ali “loves” the IV in her arm

 – nurses impressed by her pain tolerance”

Thanks, nurses!

1.22.11. 8:30am

Enter, Dr. Mary Ulrich and her medical student, Laurent. At this point, Dr. Ulrich (who’s not my usual OB but she’s a part of the practice I go to) asked if it would be okay if Laurent sat in on my delivery.  I said yes…haha, and he ended up playing a very important role in Abby’s delivery…stay tuned!

1.22.11. 10:15am

At this point, my contractions became more intense.  According to Travis, this is when I took my second shower.  My contractions were 1-2 minutes apart and when I took my shower, they were more like 15 seconds apart.  I’d have an extremely intense contraction, then I waited for my “recovery period” (which is normally 2 minutes or so), and I’d be unpleasantly surprised by another contraction within 15 seconds. It was PAINFUL. I can’t lie about that.

No matter what I did…showering, breathing, squeezing Travis’ hand (nearly breaking it, I’m sure)…nothing helped.

They hooked me back up to the monitors at this point and we discussed pain reducing options. They also told me that my contractions were slowing down.

Ya right.

After about 30 minutes (and me wanting to cry), they discovered that the monitor that checks contractions wasn’t actually measuring my contractions. It wasn’t measuring anything.


They also said I was still 4cm (really hard for me to believe at that point).

1.22.11. 10:30am

My parents arrived at the hospital. While it was WONDERFUL to know they were there, I was in so much pain I couldn’t even carry on a conversation with them.

This is also when we made the decision that I needed to get over being a “tough girl” and request an epidural.

1.22.11. 11:00am

According to Travis’ notes, “Dr. McDreamy (per Ali)” entered the room. Dr. McDreamy, of course, refers to wonderful doctor who took my pain away (and looked really cute while doing so).

The one problem with getting an epidural at this point?   My contractions were so terrible and so close together that I couldn’t keep my body still (remember, no breaks?  That’s when they typically give an epidural…but I didn’t get breaks).  Luckily, with a lot of help from Travis and my parents (and Dr. McDreamy), I was able to keep still long enough for the epidural to be put in place properly.

No joke, within 3 minutes, my pain was reduced significantly.   I could still feel my contractions but I couldn’t feel the pain. It was the most incredible feeling!

And guess what?  Immediately after getting my epidural, my doctor checked to see how I was doing and I was 10cm. So yes, I went from 4cm – 10cm in a matter of 45 minutes.  No wonder I couldn’t stop shaking.

1.22.11. 11:15am

Even though I was at 10cm, my water had yet to break and Abigail had been flip-flopping so much that she was no longer in the right position…to top it off,  her umbilical cord was around her neck.  From what I recall, we waited it out for a bit since the Dr. said Abby was so active and that she might turn herself into the appropriate position.

1.22.11. 11:30am

Dr. Ulrich had to break my water.  When that happened, Abby came down REALLY fast but was still turned the wrong way.

This is where things got a little nerve-racking.  They turned her manually.  To this day, she still has two little scars on the top of her head from that process.  At that point, it was either that or a potential C-Section…so we agreed on having her turned.  The problem there was that between breaking my water and turning Abby, she got totally freaked out and her heart rate dropped in a major way.  I don’t remember the numbers and Travis was too busy worrying about me/Abby to take notes, but it was a serious drop.

The next 30 minutes was a total blur because there were probably ~8 nurses and doctors in the room, I was up on my hands and knees, Travis was right by my side, I was trembling uncontrollably, our Dr. was telling us that everything would be okay (which always makes a situation sounds scarier than necessary), they were telling us that the emergency room for a C-Section was right next door if needed, etc…

It was pretty intense.

1.22.11. 12:00pm

Thank goodness Abby calmed down. Her heart rate came back up. She was turned the right way. And we all got to rest for a bit.  The only problem is that I was still shaking uncontrollably. I had no idea what had just happened…Travis had been crying (which scared me)…my parents were freaking out because they’d seen a bunch of nurses run down the hall to my room while they were waiting…it was really scary.  It’s crazy because as I write this, I can’t help but get a little emotional.  All you ever want is for your kids to be okay…and I felt like there was nothing I could do at that point to help out.

1.22.11. 12:30pm

Dr. Ulrich said that we were still going to let Abby calm down a little bit before starting to push. I was okay with that because I was exhausted from the past hour.

1.22.11. 1:00pm

Time to push.

By this point, everything had calmed down and we were feeling confident again. My epidural was working perfectly and I was rested up and ready to go.

In walked Dr. Ulrich and Laurent…and remember me saying Laurent had a very important role in Abby’s delivery?  Well, he did.  He was assigned the task of holding my right leg while I pushed. hahaha. Travis was in charge of my left leg. And Dr. Ulrich was my coach. And let me tell you, they were the best team I could have EVER asked for.

Push after push, Dr. Ulrich encouraged me and told me I was doing awesome…Travis was giving me the play-by-play of what was happening (including the fact that Abby had dark hair which surprised both of us)…and Laurent was a solid assistant.

I honestly think that the pushing part of labor was the easiest.  I’m sure it was because I knew what I was pushing out and I couldn’t wait to meet her, but it was such an amazing experience.  I couldn’t have asked for it to go any smoother (it’s amazing how quickly you forget the traumatic parts when you’re about to witness the miracle of life).

1.22.11. 1:34pm

Welcome to the world, Abigail.  You’re really slimy right now, but you’re absolutely perfect.

We did it!  13 hours after my very first contraction ever, the most joyous little human in the whole world arrived.

2 officially became 3.

And that’s our birth story…if you read the whole thing, I’m impressed!


*these are all approximate times…I was about to have a baby, after all…do you think I’d really remember exact times!?!

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15 Responses

  1. Megan B.B. says:

    Amazing story! Good for you, you handled the “oh shit” moments (as Eli dubbed them) very well! And you have a fabulously darling daughter to prove your rockstar efforts. 🙂

    • 7x7xMommy says:

      Thanks, Megan! And yes, while I felt a little freaked out at the time, I suppose we handled everything pretty darn well (all things considered). 🙂

  2. keikiandme says:

    Ahhh that step-b IV is TERRIBLE!!!!!! Holy BURN!

  3. Anina Duren says:

    Thanks for sharing the whole story with us! I am surprised you could remember so much after a whole year. I guess I am a bad mommy blogger since I’ve never done a birth story and really have no intention of doing one this time around. It wouldn’t be very exciting I don’t think. Arrive for scheduled c-section. Have c-section. Meet baby. The end 🙂

    • 7x7xMommy says:

      You’re very welcome! It’s funny…since I always thought I’d write one, I feel like it’s been weighing on me…and now that it’s complete, I feel so relieved! And trust me, without Travis’ notes (which weren’t even that detailed), I wouldn’t have known anything about time or contractions!! 🙂 PS…I think you should write that birth story of yours…it would be hilarious! 🙂

  4. chris says:

    Well, had me in tears AGAIN! What a blessing little Miss Abigail is 🙂

  5. Wiebke says:

    You need to stop making me cry with your blog posts!!! And also it’s not fair that you looked so pretty after all that drama. Lastly, I think it was an appropriate entrance by Abby. You know, just to mess with you and Travis a bit and to show you who’s (going to be) boss for the next, um, 17+ years.

  6. Oh I love this! Thanks for sharing!! 😉

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