I’m so grateful to you, Deleigh, for sharing your beautiful, raw, emotion-filled story with us!
“This is not the birth story I wanted to write. When I first read Melissa’s blog and dreamed of telling my birth story here, it wasn’t this one. The birth of my little boy did not go as planned. I wanted my birth to be fearless, but my story contains fear. It also, however, contains love. The love of so many people surrounding us during this exhausting but beautiful journey of bringing Pearce into this world, and the incredible love for this baby boy that came into our lives.
Things really kicked off on Friday, March 9, 2018. Just the day before, and three days past my “guess date” of March 5th, I had an appointment with the midwives at UF Health Birth Center. I had planned a natural, unmedicated birth, attended by the midwives at the birth center. I was ecstatic at that appointment when Sharon told me I was making good progress; I was 50-70% effaced and 2-3 centimeters dilated. This was more than I had been the week prior when Angela checked me after I thought my water had broken. Sharon swept my membranes at the March 8 visit, and my husband Chris and I left the office hoping that the sweep would kick off labor. I was ready to meet my first child, this baby boy, and physically I was feeling swollen and miserable. I went to bed on the night of the 8th with no signs of labor, so the next morning I took the day off of work and went in search of castor oil. A few cocktails of castor oil with mango and carrot juice later, I was sick. Not horribly sick, but sick. But only sick. Still no labor signs. Trying not to be disappointed and discouraged, I continued my day. That night, around 10:30 p.m., I lost my mucus plug (though at the time I wasn’t sure and had to send some questionable pictures to my mother for confirmation). I was hopefully excited. I had been eating dates and drinking pineapple smoothies and eating curry and walking and doing every other labor-inducing thing since week thirty-seven on. I was ready. A million texts with my mom later—and after googling several cringe-inducing pictures—I began to feel waves of pretty overwhelming sensation. In fact, they were so overwhelming, I was certain that what I was feeling was NOT labor, as there was nothing gentle about these first few waves. Everyone had said I would know when I was in labor and I honestly did not know. Having gone through the false alarm just the weekend prior, I was so afraid of getting my hopes up. So I sat through the waves, and they were spaced several minutes apart and not coming with any regularity. Chris and I decided we both should try to get some sleep. I drank natural calm as recommended by Rebecca during our HypnoBirthing class. I practiced HypnoBirthing as I had nightly. And somewhere along the way, I fell asleep. I woke up on Saturday, March 10, 2018 at 3:30 a.m. to the incredibly intense sensation of waves crashing one on top of another every two to three minutes, lasting fifteen to thirty seconds each, but as soon as we started noticing the two to three minute pattern, they began spacing out to ten to twelve minutes between waves. I called the birthing center and spoke to Ashley. Ashley told me that as the waves were still somewhat spaced out and not coming regularly, that they were most likely the by-product of the castor oil. Ashley recommended I try to get more rest and think about heading to Jacksonville, as we live in Georgia about an hour away from the birthing center, when I had regular waves lasting around a minute or so each, for at least one hour. So I walked the hallways of our home and then settled in on the couch for a few hours of very, very intense sensations. And amazingly enough, at some point, I slept.
At daybreak, Chris and I timed the waves on an app he had on his phone. I’d tell him when to start timing, I’d breathe through the beginning, and then the tightening and crashing of the wave, and then I’d tell him when to stop. The waves were still pretty inconsistent, at least to our thinking, so we were waited to go to Jacksonville. At this point we were both pretty terrified of getting our hopes up even still, wondering if this is still a side effect of castor oil or the real thing, which seems pretty astonishing now that I’m writing this, but was a real thought as we were going through the morning. The morning became afternoon. The waves were still coming. About 5:30 p.m., the waves started coming more frequently, with about five to seven minutes in-between. And then our app flashed up the screen, “Go to the hospital.” We laughed. We called the midwives. Cindy told us to head to Chris’s parents’ home in Jacksonville, then head to the birthing center when the waves were even closer together. And she warned that often the surges get stronger on the car ride. On this point, she was absolutely correct.
During our drive down to Jacksonville, my arms would clench the sides of the seat as I’d lift myself up in the car, stretching my legs out and pressing them into the floorboard, trying to alleviate some of the searing, intense, pain. I’d breathe like Rebecca taught us and I had practiced for so long. We turned up the playlist—Waka. Bush. Lil Jon. Widespread’s “Ain’t Life Grand.” (Yes. Yes, it is.) I’m singing along, I’m breathing, I’m laughing between waves, and Chris is timing and driving. I’m so, so, so happy. And, not even an hour later (because my husband is both a cop and a driving instructor, I guess) we pulled up at my in-laws only to spend about two minutes there. Just long enough for my mother-in-law to take one look at me and instruct us to go right on to the birthing center. I was nervous on the drive over to the birthing center, because, inexplicably, some part of me was STILL afraid that this wasn’t real labor and we would be sent back to Georgia. It was dark and cold when we got there, around 7:30 p.m., and we met Ashley outside. She escorted us in and did an exam, asking me if I was okay through the discomfort. I told her I was okay, and I remember her saying, yes, you are, and she stopped my heart with her next words: “You are because you’re 8-9 centimeters dilated.” Shock. I’m in shock. Chris is in shock. Ashley seemed shocked, as my labor apparently had not followed the progression they expected. “I guess I’m not going home??” “Um, no. You’re picking a room.”
We scrambled to tell my parents to get on the road so that they wouldn’t miss the birth of their first grandchild. We texted Melissa. We brought our things into “Virginia’s Nest,” and I changed into yoga pants and a robe. Ashley brought me a birthing ball and some Gatorade and we settled in. The waves at this point were intense but manageable. I whispered to little Pearce to hold off until my parents could get there. I stayed on the bed on my hands and knees, rolling on the birthing ball, and dropping my head down to hug it when a wave would crash over. Chris did light touch massage on my back. We held hands through the waves.
Chris’s parents, Claudia and Jeff, arrived. My parents arrived. We all were so excited.
This was my birth plan, my birth dream, and it was all coming true. I had practiced for these moments. Any minute now, we thought. After they all left the room, it was time to get into the tub. The water was warm and the lights were low. The room was quiet and reverent. These moments were holy and they felt that way; heavy and solemn and filled with the promise of a miracle. Sometimes I’d glance over to see Melissa capturing everything, and it was so natural and normal to have her there. Everyone was patiently waiting on the birth of my child.
Every few minutes Ashley would check Pearce’s heartbeat. I labored. I floated. Hours passed. But no baby. No urge to push. At some point I got out of the tub for a check and Ashley told me that we still had a small portion of the cervix that wasn’t opening. She suggested some things to try; walking the halls, laboring on the toilet, standing, and squatting. I did them all but to no avail.
Later, she broke my water and I felt it trickle down my legs. I had to scoot around on the room, sliding on what looked like puppy pads. Fear started creeping in after so many hours of labor with no progression. At some point we knew that Pearce was turned sideways, or right occuput transverse, and so we tried other laboring positions to turn him. I tried them all. I tried to fight the fear with HypnoBirthing and long drinks of coconut water. At some point, I was informed that the “lip” that had been getting in the way was gone and that it was time to push. I still didn’t have an urge to push, but I wanted my baby. So I pushed. I pushed on the bed. I pushed while Cindy held me and tried to show me just where to push. I grabbed the end of a towel and pushed in an agonizing game of tug-of-war. I pushed with my legs in the air and my precious husband and midwives holding my legs and looking down on me as I pushed with every bit of my might. No breathing baby down like I had planned—they wanted me to push. And so I pushed. I pushed with my body leaking and screaming. And I pushed for hours. I pushed with all of my might and I pushed when I thought I couldn’t.
And then I could push no more.
But the waves didn’t stop and they were getting darker and heavier and at some point, I laid on my side and just cried. Watching my birthing plan slip away from me and feeling like I’d failed my baby, I cried. I felt like I wasn’t strong enough to get him into this world in the manner I had so believed was best. My arms and legs were shaking with exhaustion, spent muscles, and fear. I wanted my baby, I wanted relief, I wanted it to end. I even wanted that urge to push that never came.
At 6:30 or so on the morning of Sunday, March 11, 2018, almost 10 or so hours after we arrived after the birthing center, and probably thirty or so hours after labor began, I was taken by wheelchair to the labor & delivery unit of the hospital. My mother grabbed my hands on the way and told me I was strong. Claudia did the same. I had the love of all of these amazing people around me, but still, I cried in disappointment and pain. I know at this point that my dreams of a water birth are not coming true and I am worried about breastfeeding.
When we get to the labor and delivery unit the pain is gripping, intense, terrifying. I watch the IV that begins the epidural process drip into my arm and pray for relief even as I lament having to use drugs to give birth. I still try to breathe between waves and remind myself that I only need to get through the one I’m in. At some point, my body becomes artificially limp and numb, and I welcome the blessed relief from feeling. I sleep. A few hours later I wake or am awoken. I remember anew why I am in this hospital bed, strapped down with beeping monitors and a needle in my arm. Gone is the holy sanctuary of the water. But I have to deliver my baby.
I hear someone talk about turning my epidural anesthesia off so that I can feel to push. I don’t understand. And then I start to feel waves again, but I’m rested and have a better outlook. I believe again that I can do this. And so it starts—again. The intense pushing, though I still have no urge to push. The encouragement to push harder, longer. The excruciating towel tug of war with my husband. Curl up and pushing, hugging into my baby. Everyone watching my waves on the monitor so they could tell if I had one, and urge me to push, push, push.
At one point, when my body just wouldn’t push anymore, Angela instructed Melissa to take a picture of Pearce’s head just so I would know how close he was. At some point I was given Pitocin. But hours passed and nothing changed. And Pearce was still turned sideways.
It was time for a c-section. Surgery. Also not part of my birth plan. As they began to prepare for surgery, the Pitocin kicked in without the aid of anesthesia. And so the contractions came and came and came, with no break in between. I’d lost my battle with fear at this point. The pain is blurring everything and once again I welcome the pain relief when the anesthesiologist shows up while feeling guilty. I cried as I was wheeled to the operating room, whispering to the nurses and Angela that I was afraid. I was just so, so very tired. And terrified for the health of my baby during the extremely long labor. But I believed I would see my baby soon.
I remember being hoisted onto the operating table and looking up at my husband standing behind me.
I was numb again and felt the pressure of the surgery, but no pain.
I hear Pearce cry first, and someone tells me to listen to that cry—that my son is healthy. And then, under the bright lights of the operating table and far from the dark cocoon of the birthing tub, my bloody, slippery son was handed to me and in that second it was all worth it. Every bit of every part of my life that led to this moment was absolutely worth it. I looked at my husband and my baby, and even though my arms were shaking so badly that I was terrified that I’d drop Pearce, he was here and that was the only thing that mattered anymore.
Over nineteen hours of labor at the hospital where nothing went as planned, but in the end, I’d been given the most wonderful and precious gift that we get in this life. A child. My baby boy. And a love that overwhelms fear.”
You can view their full photo + video fusion film below! Please watch with the volume up and in HD!
Are you interested in having your little one’s birth day captured? I would love to chat!