I can’t believe this little one will have her first birthday in 10 days!
Here is their story~
“While I was pregnant, I, like many women these days, was utterly dedicated to having a natural birth. I received all of my prenatal care at a birth center with wonderful midwives. Luckily, Jacksonville, FL is a surprisingly progressive town when it comes to resources for natural birth (especially for the south!) There are multiple midwife-led birth centers to choose from. I chose the UF Health North Birth Center for several reasons. Most importantly, though it is a totally separate entity from the UF Health North hospital, it is located in the same building. If for any reason a mama needs to transition to the hospital, it’s just a wheelchair ride across the building to labor and delivery. No getting in a car or ambulance, and extremely quick access to everything a hospital birth affords (*cough* pain relief *cough*). Still, I was convinced it wouldn’t be necessary. My pregnancy was picture perfect. I was more exhausted than I’ve ever been in the first trimester, but I didn’t have any nausea. I had a lack of appetite and food aversion issues, but those sure beat throwing up! As things progressed, some days would be more uncomfortable than others…and since I’ve always been a stomach sleeper, adjusting to side sleeping was difficult. But all in all, I had it very easy. Appointments with the midwives were short and sweet. I never had to have any internal exams until the final weeks, and even those were by my own request (to see if anything was happening down there!) That being said, once my due date rolled around I was very, very ready to not be pregnant anymore. I was ravenously hungry all the time and so tired of even thinking about food. My belly was maddeningly itchy and I started to get stretch marks. Sleeping was very difficult. To add insult to injury, my husband’s cousin-in-law gave birth to her baby a few days early, on MY due date! I nearly burst into tears when she texted me to say she was in labor. My due date came and went…and went…annnnd went. Finally, at 41 + 4 weeks, I had a BPP ultrasound. It was a bit anxiety-inducing, as I was afraid something might be off and cause me to need an immediate induction. Thankfully all baby girl’s vitals were perfect and I still had more than enough amniotic fluid. So, the waiting game continued. I had three more days to go into labor spontaneously before a scheduled induction at 42 weeks. At my midwife appointment a few hours after the ultrasound, I was hoping a membrane sweep would jumpstart the process. Unfortunately, my cervix was on the cusp of dilating, but not quite there, and the midwife didn’t want to force it. So home I went, after a good little cry (not the first or last, I assure you!) Early the next morning, I started having contractions. I was excited and hopeful, but also tried not to get my hopes up. Then, around 7:30 am, I finally had some bloody show! I knew that didn’t necessarily mean anything, but in combination with the intensifying contractions, I was fairly convinced this was the real deal! Slowly my contractions got closer together and more uncomfortable. We spent the day on the move, trying to help things along. At 6:30 pm, I called the midwives to let them know my contractions were about five minutes apart and I was having trouble talking through them. Since we live 45 minutes from the birth center, we decided to meet the on-call midwife there at 7:30. When we arrived I was 1 cm dilated, so we spent two hours walking the hospital grounds…inside, outside, up and down stairs…thankfully due to the late hour, the main lobby of the hospital was closed and we pretty much had it to ourselves. Not too many awkward “yes, I AM in labor, thanks for noticing” encounters. By the time I was officially checked in at the birth center, I was dilated 4 cm. I thought this was good progress, or at least, it was better than nothing! The contractions continued to get more intense and by this time I was really in pain…but still getting breaks in between. We called our birth photographer thinking it would be a matter of hours before we met our baby.
Quickly I realized that I was experiencing mostly back labor. I tried everything to get baby into a more optimal and less painful position. Walking. Bouncing on a birth ball. Side-lying with a peanut ball. On all fours. I also took showers and got into a tub.
My husband Ryan was such an amazing partner. He did counter pressure hip squeezes and gave me massages. He was so wonderfully supportive. Unfortunately, I did eventually get nauseous and had to throw up, which was especially heinous on top of contractions.
At 5:30 am the midwife said I had reached 8 cm. Hallelujah! I thought I must be in transition because I was no longer getting a break between contractions. They would peak and then get somewhat less intense without actually stopping. But the minutes and hours continued to tick by. Finally, it was time for my original midwife to go home and rest. The new midwife did an internal check, then the previous midwife did her own check. They discussed amongst themselves and told me there’d been no change this time, but they didn’t say “you’re still at 8 cm.”
I was disappointed that my progress had stalled but still hopeful that it would resume. I can’t say I didn’t finally break down and sob. I did. I tried eating to keep my energy up, but I vomited again. The hours continued to drag by. Finally, I requested an amniotomy, hoping it would get things going. I was warned that my contractions would probably get even more intense, but I thought “if that means closer to having this baby, then bring it.”
Oddly, instead of intensifying, my contractions completely stopped for about an hour. I took a shower and got a much needed respite. I was feeling as recharged as I was gonna get. When the contractions returned I doggedly went back to walking, lunging, bouncing…I was able to keep down a few sips of a milkshake. I thought that I simply must be getting close to having this baby.
Finally, I had another internal check and was told that yet again, there had been no change. This time, I really broke down. I just couldn’t put myself through anymore. 12 hours had passed with no sign of progress; more than 30 hours had passed since the onset of labor. I decided it was time to transfer to labor and delivery for pain relief and augmentation.
I was devastated that nature hadn’t cooperated with my birth plan, but I had reached my limits, physically and mentally. I was exhausted. I was afraid that when the time came to push, I wouldn’t have the strength. The midwife reassured me that the transfer was not a cop-out. She also said that sometimes, just getting an epidural would cause things to progress. I could get some rest and then have a baby. Finally.
While being wheeled out of the birth center, I heard the midwife speaking on the phone to someone at the hospital about my status. She said I was at 6 cm. 6 cm?! I thought I was at 8? I was confused but too tired to give it much thought. The transition to labor and delivery was incredibly smooth. They were ready for me as soon as I arrived. The hospital room was enormous! There was a lovely midwife who would be in charge of my delivery. Every nurse I encountered was so positive and sweet. They asked me if I had a written birth plan. They asked about any and all preferences I had. I was so at ease and relieved.
Not long after I was settled in, the anesthesiologist came to administer the epidural. It was a little uncomfortable but not bad at all…nothing compared to what I’d been enduring for hours. And when it was complete, sweet sweet relief was just wonderful. Baby’s heart rate did drop a little at first and the nurses had me breathing oxygen and changing positions to get it back up, but I felt so safe and calm that it didn’t phase me one bit. Her heart rate came up and I was able to relax.
The next step was Pitocin. Oh, the dreaded P word! When the midwife did an internal exam, she said I was a “stretchy 6.” She also said there was a little bit of meconium in the amniotic fluid. Okay…not 8 cm. I didn’t question how this could be. I was beyond caring. I laid back and hoped the Pitocin would work its magic. Sadly, by this point, my contractions were very weak and spaced out. The Pitocin was upped twice “to a 7.” I’m not sure exactly what that means, but apparently, it can go much higher as long as baby is tolerating it. My baby was tolerating it okay, but not exceptionally well. Her heart rate would dip with each contraction. She didn’t like it when I changed positions. After 4-ish hours of augmentation I had progressed to a “stretchy 7,” but my contractions were not favorable. It could be hours longer before I progressed to the point of pushing, if I got there at all without putting my baby in distress. I decided that it was time to talk C-section. Yes, I decided. I was in no way coerced. If I had wanted to continue trying for a vaginal delivery, they would have done everything in their power to make it happen, but I was over it. I hadn’t had anything to eat (that I hadn’t thrown back up) in almost two days. I had no energy and I felt I had done my due diligence. My intuition told me two things – my baby was malpositioned and simply wasn’t coming out on her own; and I should save myself the grief of laboring for untold hours longer only to end up with a C-section anyway. So they called in the OB.
The OB was kind but matter of fact. He didn’t just come in and say “okay, C-section, let’s do this.” He wanted me to be fully aware of what I was in for; that c-sections are not without risk. Recovery from a major surgery is no walk in the park. He said I was a good candidate based on the situation, but I still had the choice to try for vaginal delivery. I was the one who reassured him that I was ready and making the choice with a clear mind. He also said that just because I had a C-section this time didn’t mean I would need one next time (should there be a next time!) That blew me away. This OB was not living up to any stereotypes, thank goodness!
I signed all the necessary consent forms and, after taking some foul-tasting medicine for the raging heartburn I’d developed, a different anesthesiologist came in to start prepping me. Fear of pain during the procedure was definitely my biggest concern. I’d heard so many horror stories (not just online, but from people I knew personally) of failed epidurals during C-sections. The anesthesiologist assured me that they would thoroughly check for numbness throughout the process and if at any point I became uncomfortable all I had to do was speak up and they would fix it. After puking up the foul heartburn medicine (ugh, so much puking,) I was wheeled into the OR.
It all became a bit surreal at this point. I was covered in warm blankets and everyone was calmly talking to me about mundane things as if I wasn’t about to be sliced open. The anesthesiologist was especially sweet; he saw my Totoro tattoo and we started chatting about anime and manga. He was definitely trying to keep my mind off of what was happening. I finally got a bit scared and actually said “I’m scared” out loud, and the anaesthesiologist’s nurse was very reassuring. “Everyone is here for you,” she said, rubbing my hair. I didn’t feel like a piece of meat on the slab. The anesthesia was intense. I was awake but my body felt very heavy. I couldn’t move my arms and could barely feel them. It felt like there was a boulder on my chest and I thought I was having trouble breathing (I wasn’t, my O2 sats were fine.) Finally, they let Ryan (and our photographer!) in, and the surgery began.
I could feel being touched, but nothing was painful. Eventually, I felt them wiggling my baby girl out. It seemed like it was taking forever, but in reality, it was just a few minutes. As soon as I felt her come out of my body I started sobbing. I heard her cry and was filled with the most profound relief. She was out! She was okay!
They showed her to us for a couple seconds before whisking her away for Apgar scoring, etc. The original plan was to do skin to skin immediately, but I couldn’t have held her. I was way too numb and very out of it. Honestly I was so relieved to not be pregnant anymore that I wasn’t upset. I could hear little intermittent cries so I knew she was fine, plus she was in very good hands.
After a few minutes they brought her by my head for some snuggles and kisses. She was so beautiful I couldn’t stand it. Ryan and I were both still in tears.
After what seemed like eons of suctioning and other mysterious sounds coming from the ongoing surgery, I started to feel some stinging pain. It wasn’t horrible but I was afraid it would get worse, so I started saying “Ow! I’m feeling that!” And Ryan reiterated it. The anesthesiologist responded quickly to my distress and I was put completely to sleep. I didn’t even realize it until I came to a little while later, in my hospital room.
Ryan and my original midwife (from the birth center!) were helping me breastfeed! I must’ve been partially conscious already but I don’t remember anything prior. I was kind of delirious for a few minutes…had trouble focusing my vision and didn’t quite have a grasp of what was happening. Once I was fully awake and aware I was overjoyed to have my sweet baby in my arms, happily breastfeeding. She was the most beautiful little creature I’d ever seen, of course.
Eventually, my parents, father-in-law, and best friend came into the room and everything was so serene. Our little family had begun!
The midwife apologized for telling me I was at 8 cm the night before. She said I was more like a stretchy 7 at the time, but when she checked again later it was like she was checking the cervix of a different person! Apparently, there’s no such thing as regression during labor, but the position of both my cervix and the baby had drastically changed and then stayed basically the same for the rest of my labor. This solidified my suspicion that baby girl had gotten herself into a bad position and just wasn’t coming out on her own, so I’m very thankful for alternative measures!
Of course, I could write a novel about the rest of my recovery and the first months with a newborn. It’s both extremely challenging and wonderfully rewarding. And I have to say, even though the outcome was perfect, I still classify my birth experience as “traumatic.” My labor was definitely the most intense experience of my life, and even though the C-section was my choice, it was still scary. A positive experience doesn’t negate a simultaneously traumatic experience. I still have difficult thoughts about myself and what happened. The idea of getting pregnant again and possibly reliving what I went through is still terrifying at this point, and may always be terrifying. These feelings are real and valid and I won’t let anyone tell me otherwise. Talking and writing about it definitely helps. I may eventually seek counseling. Yes, I came out of it okay and yes, I have a perfectly healthy baby, but what an ordeal! It’s natural to struggle emotionally after such a harrowing experience. Women are expected to buck up and get over it at an unfair pace. I say, screw that! Do what you need to do to facilitate your recovery and seek help when you need it. Don’t let anyone shame you. Let the tears flow, because they will, and there’s no point in trying to stop them. You’re a mama, and, visible or not, you have earned your stripes!”
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and birth story with us! It was an honor to capture your strength and the emotions surrounding that day!
If you are interested in having your little one’s first moments captured, let’s chat!