Wendy's journey is a good reminder that our birth stories begin long the first labor contraction. Thank you Wendy for sharing your story, I'm honored to know you... and happy 10th Wedding Anniversary!
After trying to start a family for nearly two years, my husband and I were diagnosed with a rare cause of infertility. Our lives changed forever in that moment. We spent the next two years meeting with doctors, undergoing testing and treatments. We finally succeeded with IVF and our perfect baby was born in December 2011.
During that extremely difficult time in our lives, my mantra was this - Someday a family. Someday a yard littered with toys. Someday the sweet pure love of a child. Someday the loving embrace of my husband with a little one tucked inside. Someday a Christmas Card with our family picture. Someday.
This past year, especially this past month have been full of "last year at this time" memories. The most significant being in March, on our anniversary, when our IVF transfer occurred. Then on April Fools Day when Dom got the call that our beta was positive and had doubled - he texted me a smiley face that I'll never forget. My baby shower in October that was so overwhelming at the time, but such an amazing day, a dream come true so full of love and friendship. Our office Christmas party, that I missed last year as it fell just after my due date after I'd mentally checked out.I worked until 39 weeks at which point I was so tired and uncomfortable, and mentally checking out.
My due date - that passed without any fanfare. and then the waiting, and waiting, and waiting. 40 weeks, 41 weeks, 42 weeks, with not any hint of any sign of labor on its way. I'd spent a good portion of my pregnancy willing this baby to stick with me til the end, begging it to stay put and grow big and strong, not fully believing that we would actually have a baby at the end. I remember our midwives telling me that it was okay to let go, to let the baby know it was time to join us, and realizing just how much mental energy I'd been devoting to keeping that baby growing inside.
Somewhere around 41 weeks we started talking about scheduling a biophysical profile to check on the baby. Since we'd planned a home birth, it was a bit of a to-do to get an appointment with an OB. Luckily I had some connections and was able to get in fairly easily. It was stressful to go to the hospital, but everything looked great and the OB even asked us about our dates, convinced from the BPP that we must have miscalculated conception based on the results. As if! HA
We went back a few days later to test again, with things still looking good, but the 42 week mark making the OB uncomfortable sending us home. They pushed induction, but we decided to wait. Christmas was quickly approaching, we were hosting, and we had to make the call to cancel. We were trying everything in the book to induce labor at home. I asked my midwives to do a stretch an sweep, at which point we discovered that my cervix was shut tightly closed, still tilted far back, and that the baby hadn't dropped yet. My Bishop score was not favorable for induction, which was stressful.
We inquired about the OB schedule for our preferred docs and made an appt to induce on Christmas evening at 42 1/2 weeks. Dom and I spent Christmas driving down the coast, just the two of us, looking out at the ocean, stopping for hot cocoa and asking a stranger to take our photo - our last as a couple. I panicked at the thought of a hospital induction and we canceled the induction. Instead we went in for another BPP the day after Christmas and while things still looked good, we were approaching 43 weeks. As much as I wanted a natural birth in my own home, I wasn't about to do anything to put my baby in danger. I'd done massive amounts of research about the risks we were balancing. It was not an easy choice, but amid many tears, we decided to pack out bags and again schedule an induction for that evening. I cried on the drive to Natividad Medical Center.
We arrived, birth plan in hand, and got settled into a room. From the get go, I retained as much control as one can when you are checking yourself into a hospital. Knowing that they couldn't turn me away I felt empowered to assert my right to respectfully refuse anything that I wasn't comfortable with, starting with the hospital bracelet they wanted me to wear but that I promptly took off. I'd read a ton of birth stories, including many of minimally invasive induced births. I was committed to birthing my baby.
Dom set up our room, with a sarong over the bright light, my blanket on the bed, our music on the iod, snacks for the nurses laid out by the sink, copies of our birth plan distributed widely... We claimed the space as our own. I dressed in the special nightgown that Bestie had given me. I texted my mom and the midwives to come join us.
Sometime around 8pm the OB, one we trusted to support our desire for as natural a birth as possible, inserted a cytotec pill near my cervix. Shortly thereafter he attempted to place a foley bulb in my cervix, but because it was still closed up tight was only ably to fill 5cc (vs the usual 50cc) in the bulb. I rested with monitoring for a bit, then got up to walk around. I started having regular contractions, strong enough that I had to stop and breathe thru them, strong enough that I wanted to be back in the comfort of our room. By midnight I was on all fours on the floor, leaning on the birth ball, working hard to get through each really intense painful contraction. I felt a pop, on the inside, and everything intensified. We didn't realize that my water had broken until I got up and my waters leaked.
The nurse had wanted me on continuous monitoring, but I wasn't willing to get in bed, so she had to work hard to manually monitor me a few minutes a few times every hour. She also was under orders to get an iv placed, but I didn't want one and kept asking to put it off for a while longer. She was doing her job, and I was doing mine - with both of us remaining respectful of the other. I had a lot of support, with Dom and my mom, and the midwives too, which I can only imagine made her job easier, but she did have to document every time I refused her requests.
The waters showed signs of meconium, which was to be expected considering we were nearly 3 weeks past my EDD. I knew that there were risks with meconium, but also knew better than to worry about those risks at that point. I do recall that the nurse mentioned putting the NICU on call for delivery due to the meconium, but was so consumed with the labor at that point it was all I could really pay attention to. Since the pop everything was so much more intense, during the contractions, and in between the contractions. The nurse took the foly bulb out and noted that I had dilated a little to about 1 cm. I was struggling thru each contraction and needed to get into the shower. I remember feeling really happy that labor had started and proud of my body for working to deliver my baby.
I spent the next 8 hours laboring in and out of the shower, mostly staying in the bathroom where there were safety bars I could hang onto. I really don't have words to describe how intense that experience was. I was screaming through each contraction and had very little relief in between. It was so way beyond harder than anything I had prepared for - so much more intense that any labor I had read about, or birth video I had watched.
I was giving absolutely everything I had to birth this baby.
At some point I started feeling nauseous and began vomiting in between contractions. I told myself over and over that each contraction was bringing me closer to meeting my baby, the baby I'd waited so long for, the baby that I'd fought so hard for. I believed in my body, I knew that I could do it. And at the same time I was astounded by the intensity of the experience.
The passage of time is fuzzy in my memory, but I do have clear memories of Dom and my mom at my side the entire time, the shift change of nurses although I was so immersed in myself that I was unable to acknowledge it, the text affirmations that Bestie was sending to my mom and my mom was reading to me, closing the door to the bathroom so that I could labor with Dom without any distractions. More than anything though, the intensity of each contraction taking over my entire body and the lack of what I'd thought would be a break in between each contraction are what stand out in my mind.
Sometime in the morning I emerged from the bathroom and perched myself on the birth ball. I was exhausted and desperate for a break. As if my body knew, the contractions started to space out a bit and I give me some time to regroup. There was talk among the midwives and nurse about possibly being complete and this being a break before the need to push. I was afraid to move fearing that the contractions would pick up again, but agreed to climb onto the bed so the nurse could check my cervix. It was the first check that I'd had since the foly bulb was removed the night before.
I was spent, exhausted, feeling like I had given everything I had in me, wondering how in the world I could possibly have anything left to push the baby out. Contractions that radiated down each leg consuming my entire torso came back with a vengeance when I climbed onto the bed. I was crying, vomiting, and no longer able to hold my bladder. Intense is the only word I have, but doesn't come close to describing the experience.
Expecting to find that I was fully dilated, the nurse turned with shock to look at my mom and announced that I was barely 2 cm dilated. No one could believe it.
At this point I was on the bed, gripping the bed rails, and looked at Dom and begged "Please help me". I was ready for some pain relief - I was desperate for some relief - I wasn't sure I could manage another contraction.
I don't remember details, but I was so grateful that no one questioned my request for drugs. We had a birth plan that specified as natural a birth as possible and had talked a lot about the possibility of holding me off for a bit if I asked for medication. Looking into Dom's eyes I could see that he was going to do anything in his power to get me some pain relief as fast as humanly possible. Things happened quickly. The IV that I'd refused earlier was quickly placed and the anesthesiologist was called for an epidural.
While I received IV fluids to prepare me for the epidural, they gave me a dose of some medication telling me that it would act quickly and 'take the edge off'. My desperation and sobs intensified when it did no such thing. How the hell could I have been so unprepared for this labor?
An epidural was soon placed, which I really don't remember much of, and although I could still feel the contractions they were so mild and manageable. Dom climbed into bed with me and we must have slept for a while. The epidural was amazing.
Not sure when exactly but I started itching all over, a side effect of the epidural. It was so strange to not have sensation on your skin, but to feel it itching. The nurse gave me a medication to calm the itching and it basically made me loopy and sleepy.
I was having to roll from side to side every 20 minutes to keep the epidural working correctly and we joked about the "epidural rotisserie."
Six hours into the epidural and pitocin I was still only barely 2cm dilated. Talk about 'failure to progress' and the possibility of a c-section began. I was really out of it, and honestly felt like I'd given it my all and wouldn't have any regrets about how our baby finally came into this world. The doctor came into the room and there was a team meeting. It had been over 20 hours of really hard labor and 18 hours since my water had broken. I was exhausted and still barely dilated. But the baby was holding up well enough.
They asked me what I wanted to do. If I wanted to proceed with a section. The anesthesiologist had reviewed our birth plan and was willing to accommodate all of my requests.
I honestly didn't care what happened next. But I knew that I wasn't in any shape to make such a big decision so I deferred to Dom. I can remember everyone weighing in on the decision before us, and ultimately taking a vote. My mom, a home birth mom herself, Bradley natural childbirth teacher, super advocate for natural birth, had never seen such a hard labor and was ready to send me in to surgery - but she abstained from the vote.
My amazing support team believed in birth. Believed in me. Dom listened to them and it was decided to wait another hour before making any decisions. As long as the baby was tolerating the labor we would wait another hour and hope that I made some progress.
The contractions were gaining strength, and getting stronger than the epidural. I was once again moaning through them, asking the nurse to turn up the epidural. Once she had exhausted the amount of increase that was up to her she was going to call the anesthesiologist back to increase the dosage but decided to check me one more time. It had been almost an hour since "the meeting."
Again the nurse recoiled in shock when she reported that I was fully dilated with a baby descending down the birth canal. No one could believe that I'd gone from 2 to 10 in less than an hour, with a baby ready to deliver.
The room was suddenly full of activity.
The epidural was turned off.
A pushing bar was set up on the bed.
A mirror was pulled into the room.
I could reach down and feel the head of the baby I was about to deliver. Against all odds I was about to become a mother.
I remember pushing, but feeling like I wasn't doing it right. I kept wanting to change positions because it was so uncomfortable, because I felt like it should feel more natural. Everyone talks about an 'urge' to push, but I don't remember feeling anything like that. And everyone also talks about how delivery is nothing like the movie scenes, but all I could do was scream and push. I can only imagine that I looked just like a crazy movies scene - a naked women screaming through every contraction, pushing with everything I had left in me, clutching the sides of my hospital bed.
Before I knew what had happened, there was a baby laying on my chest. It was shocking.
What was this and where had it come from? It was lying on my chest, all wet and warm. I was so relieved to be done with the labor, but completely shocked at the outcome.
All I could do in those moments were to focus on Dom. The intensity of love I felt for him in those moments was overwhelming. And yet there was a wet warm baby laying on my chest. Oh my god, a baby, our baby. While I was trying to get my head around the fact that there was a baby lying on my chest, someone asked 'what is it?' and Dom lifted our child to announce:
There was still a lot of activity in the room. The OB, Dr. Liem, was calmly yet firmly shouting orders at people, and I could remember my midwives telling me that delivering the placenta was an important next step that would require my attention. Apparently I was hemorrhaging, losing more blood than anyone was comfortable with and the OB was methodically doing everything he needed to do to get the bleeding under control. I don't recall exactly what all was done to address the situation, but it was finally deemed okay. Significant tearing took the OB the next hour to sew up. Many multiple second degree tears was what he called it later - on the internal vaginal walls, labia, everywhere. He didn't even bother to count stitches.
All this while, there was a baby lying on my chest. Our son. He looked up at me and Dom with clear bright calm eyes.
Our someday was upon us.
Natural Birth Series
Sept 28 – Nov 15
Infant Sleep for Expecting & New Parents
6:30pm - 9:00pm
Gentle Cesarean: Planning & Recovery
Toro Park, 3-6:30pm
Natural Birth Refresher
Salinas, 1– 4pm
Preconception & Early Pregnancy Class
Salinas, 1– 4pm
Sibling Prep for Parents & Kids
November 4th & 5th
Toro Park, 2:-4pm
Fall Home & Birth Center Birth Series
Nov 7 – Dec 12
Natural Birth Series
Nov 29th – Jan 17th