The last month and a half has been a total blur. I can't believe it's March already! Well, as promised here is my birth story. It's long. (You have been warned). It's not edited because I don't have a lot of time these days for editing and I suck at it (probably explains why I'm not published yet). And it's not PG. There are gory details about birth here because I feel it necessary to share the raw experience the way it happened. So without further ado here we go:
My birth story starts back on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. All week I’d been eating like a proper piggy. One day I actually went to the cafeteria at day job FIVE times and bought full meals because I was so hungry. Well, that Friday at 3am, I took a pregnancy test and for the first time in my life of peeing on the “stick”, it came out positive.
I’d always known when the time came to have a baby, I’d want a natural birth either at home or a birthing center. I’d watched The Business of Being Born. I knew I was a healthy person and didn’t need to be in the hospital. So when I found out I was pregnant it seemed natural for me to pick a midwife and birthing center. I went with a local midwifery center, which came highly recommended by a personal friend and other acquaintances. Over the nine months of pregnancy I received top notch care from the nurse practitioner midwife I had chosen and the two assistants. I was so happy that all my ultrasounds and labs throughout the pregnancy were normal. This only validated my decision to have my little girl at the center rather than the hospital.
In December I took a Birthing From Within childbirth class and really enjoyed it. I learned that I can cope with pain pretty good as we had to hold ice in our hands while practicing the breathing techniques taught in the class. I even bought the book that goes with the class and found it very insightful. In my head I had this vision of me laboring in the water at the center completely in my birthing land haven. I’d swam most of the pregnancy regularly and even wrote a mermaid YA novel over the summer, so it seemed appropriate for my daughter to be born in the water. Yeah, I was going to be the ultimate Zen water goddess mama.
The last trimester flew by like a torpedo with the holidays and getting everything ready for the baby to come the first week in February. My pelvis had been hurting bad and I’d been going to see the chiropractor regularly for adjustment, but the treatment on Friday the 18th of January didn’t seem to do me much good. My midwife was gone for a long weekend, but I wasn’t worried because this was my first baby and they ALWAYS come late. (Huh, huh, huh) Saturday I had my last prenatal massage. Sunday the 20th I had an infant CPR/ first aid class. Before the class I went for a good long swim. I swam longer than I normally do and it felt great. I stopped by the store and bought some last minute items “just in case.”
Sunday night I felt like needed to get some stuff done. I finished up a book review and did some other chores. Monday morning at 3am I turned in bed and realized I was going to pee my pants, but not really. I rushed to the bathroom just in time to feel the gush of water pouring out of me and it wasn’t my urinary organs at work. My first thought: “Oh shit, my midwife is out of town.” Second: “Is it okay to text the assistants at 3am in the morning to tell them my water broke?” Yanno, I don’t want to be rude.
My husband happened to be home this particular morning and he said “you’re paying them good money, you can text them whenever.” I followed his advice.
One of the assistants called me back and told me to stay home. I texted my boss and told her I’d be working from home. She was very understanding. I worked for 4 hours mainly trying to wrap up some loose ends “just in case” this was my last time working before maternity leave. Hubby finally installed the car seat that my folks had bought me and had been sitting in my living room since November.
Around 9 am the other assistant came over and checked me. She said it could take hours before my labor would begin, but suggested I rest and take it easy. I took the remainder of the day off and lay down for a nap next to hubby who had gone back to sleep since he works nights. Around 11:30 I came to and released I’d started contractions. They felt like really bad menstrual cramps which I was used to after battling endometriosis in my early twenties. I thought, “this isn’t too bad. I can handle this.” The contractions became more regular and within the hour they started coming every 5-7 minutes and each one grew in intensity to the point I couldn’t lay in bed anymore. I got up and started doing some last minute stuff around the house and packed my birthing center bag. I texted the assistant and told her what was happening. She came over again.
When she knocked on my door I was having a contraction leaning on the yoga ball and couldn’t even move to open it for her. Yeah, that’s how intense they were. Honestly, I don’t know what early labor is, because I went into active labor so quickly. The pain reached the point of unbearable and I got in the shower on my hand and knees. The hot water hitting my back seemed to take the edge off and let me breathe through the contractions.
Soon afterwards the assistant came in and said it was time to go to the birthing center. Yes! That meant I was close. We arrived in the early afternoon and they had filled the tub. I got in and relaxed into my labor. Water goddess, here I come. I let the water hold me, felt its warm embrace as I concentrated on opening my body to let the long awaited child through. Yet, soon thereafter I became cold as the water cooled. We added more hot, but soon realized that only cold water was available. Somehow they had run out of hot water for that particular room and tub. To make matters worse the room was cold too. I shivered as I got out and that only made the contractions worse. By this point I couldn’t take the pain and became very vocal with each one. Holy shit it hurt.
At some point the replacement midwife came in and introduced herself. She seemed pretty nice, but we didn’t connect, mostly because I was in agony. She checked me after a while and said I was almost dilated and could start pushing soon. It was dark outside, the fireplace was lit, the light turned down low, and it was time to get this baby out. Boy was I ready. I’d had enough of pain. She needed to come. The sooner the better.
I pushed for what seem like eternity, but it was more like an hour or so. When the midwife checked me, I was fully dilated but the baby hadn’t moved down. She suggested I walk around. I laughed. I could barely move it hurt and the drugs at the hospital started to sound really good. So for natural pain relief they then suggested I bounce on the yoga ball in the shower.
And so I did. There I was in this tiny shower on the ball. Hot water cascading down my body, warm steam enveloping me, and I was surrounded in my element. I drew strength from each droplet. The heat eased my pain and I entered laborland alone, but fully empowered. I felt like a goddess on her throne at last focusing my energy on pushing and opening rather than the pain of childbirth. Those 45 minutes I labored were exactly what I envisioned as what my labor would be.
Unfortunately, when I came out and the midwife checked me the baby still hadn’t moved down and she needed to turn her body too. The pain returned with a vengeance. They tried different techniques to get her to turn, but the only thing that happened was more pain. At this point I realized it could be hours before this baby came and I had run out of steam. I was tired and had enough. I remember thinking this natural birthing thing is bull shit and pain relieving drugs sounded really good. The epidural at the hospital called my name and I answered.
Per my request, my husband loaded me up in the car and with the accompaniment of the assistants I was whisked to the hospital. Within minutes of arrival the physician came in and administered the epidural. It took another ten minutes before I started feeling the effects. All I know is that doctor was the hero of the night. If my legs weren’t suddenly numb I would have crawled out of my hospital bed and kissed him.
The midwife at the hospital let me sleep for three hours. Blessed rest, FINALLY. Oh, how my body and mind need it. About 3 in the morning she came back in and started the Pitocin, but only a very miniscule amount at first. She also put a catheter inside my uterus to measure the pressure of my contractions and adjust the dosage accordingly. I also had control of how much epidural medicine I received. I was pretty numb, but still could feel the pressure with each contraction. This allowed me to breathe through and focus on relaxing my pelvic muscles—a much better way to labor after the ordeal from the previous day. By 11 am it was time to push again.
To my amazement, they had me pushing in all sorts of positions. Hands and knees on the bed (the nurse and midwives held my knees and legs steady since I’d lost most of my control of the them), squatting (the foot of the bed dropped and they put a bar over the bed so I could pull myself over the edge and drop into a squat during a contraction), and others too. This I did not expect from a hospital birth. All the hospital births I’d witnessed the woman was strapped to the bed and her feet up in stirrups. That was the main reason I didn’t want a hospital birth, unless I had a condition that required medical attention.
After two hours of pushing the midwife said the baby was stuck behind the pelvic bone. It was over 24 hour since my water broke and they were concerned about infection. She called in the surgeon to discuss my other options. After everything I’d gone through I didn’t want a C-section. He offered me vacuum and forceps or the dreaded C. I chose the vacuum. He explained to me that while there are risks, because she’d descended so low and just needed a little help turning her head and coming under the pelvic bone she was a good candidate for vacuum.
The room filled with medical staff: 3 NICU nursing team to resuscitate in case she stopped breathing, my nurse, the midwife, the two midwives assistants from the birthing center, the baby’s nurse, the surgeon, his assistant, and husband. Talk about a birthing “party.” There I lay on the bed propped up by pillows in all my naked glory. I didn’t give a rat’s ass about modesty anymore. I needed to get her out because I was tired and if I didn’t do it now, the scary C loomed over me like a greedy villain in a Disney animation. By golly, I wasn’t going there after all my hard work. At least not if there was a chance I could still have her vaginally.
Ready, set, go! I started to push again on the doctor’s cue. With each push he suctioned her head down a little more. With each contraction he coached me on where to push and for how long. I didn’t think I had any more strength in me left, but he encouraged me and somehow found the extra ounce of energy hidden in my pinky toe. Like an angel sent from the heavenly realms, he guided me through the last lap of this wild birthing journey. Four contractions and my baby girl was out.
When I saw the slimy, bloody, little human laying on the table between my legs, my heart almost stopped. I spent most of my life never wanting kids. Sure I loved children, other people’s offspring, that is, but never felt the urge to procreate one of my own. All of my adult life I had spent avoiding getting pregnant. I also didn’t think I would ever marry either. I was pretty happy living my own life.
|First night with mom.|
Then I met my husband. Everything changed. I knew I could be a wife to him and bear his children within the first week we met. For someone independent as me, that is saying something about the awesomeness that is my partner, best friend, soul mate, lover, and spouse.
The nurse put my baby on my chest. I held her close and kissed her wet gooey little head with black hair. She was mine. All mine. I’d done it. I’d carried her for nine months, felt her kicks, talked to her, wondered what she’d look like, and now she was here in my arms. They took her away for a few moments to do her assessments and vitals, but brought her back. Skin to skin, she lay on my chest. One slow wiggle at a time she made her way to my breast and within 20 minutes she found my left nipple and latched on naturally.
While I was enjoying bonding with my daughter, the surgeon was busy sewing up my perineum. Apparently I had a 3rd degree tear. I didn’t feel it because of the epidural. I didn’t care, though because I’d avoided surgery and I had her vaginally. I owe that man a debt of gratitude for helping me bring my little angel into this world, even if she had a little cone head thing going on from the vacuum.
Once the drugs wore off, I did care about my condition. I couldn’t sit, much less walk because of the stitches and my bruised tail bone. Baby’s head had done a good one on my pelvic area. It hurt like a mother you-know-what. Oh my, and trying to pee… let’s just say I started wondering what the hell I had been thinking and if a C-section might have been a better option. It hurt to pass gas and I started freaking out about actually pooping. The midwife put me on stool softeners. That helped. Ice packs and good ol’ narcotics helped too. Oh, and did I mention sore nipples. Yes, breastfeeding is amazing and really great for bonding and the baby’s health, but OH. MY. GOD. OUCH!!! It didn’t matter to me because I was determined I was going to breastfeed her even if hell freezes over.
Shortly after I had delivered my baby I spiked a fever. They put me and the baby on antibiotics. Day two, baby became jaundiced. She spent 12 hours under the bilirubin lights. The third day, when we should be going home, they check our blood work. I was okay, but baby’s white blood cell count had gone up. Good news was her immune system was working; bad news was we needed to stay for another two days so she could complete her antibiotic regime, even though the blood cultures came back negative. The physician said it was better to keep her two more days than to go home and becoming ill. A second hospitalization would be worse. I agreed with her.
So we were transferred to Randall’s Children’s Hospital. It felt silly having NICU nurses talking care of my baby just to have antibiotics when other babies where there with much more serious problems. At least they got one easy patient. However on Saturday, her IV became infiltrated and they needed to put in a new one. Hubby went home to get a few things and I didn’t have the courage to watch. They took her into another room. The whole time I felt like the worst mother not having the strength to be there for my baby, but I simply couldn’t watch unless they were ready to put one in me and give me a sedative. ½ hour later the nurse came in and said that they are going to get the IV specialist. Another ½ hour she said they couldn’t get it in and would be calling the care flight nurse because she was the best. Well, they couldn’t do it either. Finally the talked to the doctor to see what other options we had to administering the antibiotics. It turns out she only needed 3 more intramuscular shots and that’s it.
The nurse felt awful. I felt terrible when I saw all the band aids on my baby’s body. Well, if I learned anything from this experience is that she is one tough cookie and stubborn as a bull, kind of like her mama. :) During the whole birth, her heart rate stayed good and the five days afterward she took each challenge like a champ. On Sunday they tested her blood, everything was normal and they let us go home.
|Baby in her going home outfit.|
Bringing home my baby was the best gift imaginable. We received the highest rated care possible in the hospital. All the nurses, the midwives, the lactation specialist and doctors rocked. I am so proud of Legacy and the care they provide to our community (especially since they are my employer). And if I’m every crazy enough to want to go through that again, I choose the midwives at Emanuel clinic because they are goddesses. But there is nothing like being home.
All in all my experience was perfect even if things didn’t turn out the way I had wanted. The fact of the matter is I’ve got a beautiful healthy baby girl tucked in the Moby wrap on my chest sleeping while I write this. That’s all that really matters in the end.
|Sleeping on mom's chest.|
Now begins a new chapter of my life—the adventures of parenting. Thanks for reading.