My Birth Story
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Ever since I found out I was expecting, my intention was to have an unmedicated birth. When I told other people about my plan to have a "natural" birth, I got some support and also to my surprise, a lot of pushback. Some people would say, "you'll change your mind and get an epidural, trust me you will need it." Or "what are you trying to prove? Medication is there for a reason and you should be grateful you have access to it for such painful events like childbirth." And my favorite and most popular one-- "no need to be a hero!" Trust me, I am all for a woman's right to choose how, where, and when she has her baby. I don't judge anyone's' choice to use medication, get an epidural, c-section, etc. Let me make myself clear--we are all heroes as moms regardless of how we bring our babies in the world. Giving birth is not easy no matter how we do it. So I went in with the mindset that I was going to have an unmedicated birth and also kept my mind open to the possibilities of getting an epidural, c-section, or using other tools or forms of pain management. I kept in mind how it is important for me to live in the moment and taking things as they come and no matter what, it will all be ok. So my plan was to have an unmedicated birth, yet I was still open to all possibilities and furthermore, things changing in the moment.
I stopped working on May 11 since my due date was May 16. I figured at the very least, I would have a few days off to relax and enjoy myself before the baby arrives. It was perfect because I got a manicure and pedicure, relaxed for a day or two and then on May 15 I went to my 40 week midwife appointment and she checked to see if I was dilated. I was only about a half centimeter dilated -- no big deal. Then just as I was putting my pants back on, water trickled down my leg. It wasn't too much but my midwife wanted to test it to see if it was amniotic fluid. It turned out not to be but from that moment on, I had a feeling I was clearly going into labor soon.
That afternoon, I took our dog to his vet appointment and as I was talking to one of the vet technicians, I felt more water suddenly gush out. I called my midwife and she said if it wasn't a lot, then its probably not the bag of water and to call her if I was getting contractions that are 4 minutes apart for 1 minute in length over the course of at least an hour (which I knew from our birth class) so I went home. That evening, I started getting mild contractions and cramping. It wasn't too painful at all and I decided to take a warm epsom salt bath. Being in the water felt amazing and definitely eased some of the cramping. Once I got out of the bath, I rubbed some of my favorite magnesium lotion on my skin before I went to bed. Magnesium is great for our bodies and helps with sleep. It is also rapidly absorbed through the skin providing the best benefit almost immediately.
The next morning, the contractions continued were about 20-30 minutes apart and growing increasingly painful. The good thing is, they were sporadic and didn't really have a pattern. I texted my doula and she said they sounded like pre-labor contractions but to keep her posted. My husband Brett decided to stay home from work as we weren't sure how quickly the baby would make his entrance into the world. We continued our day like usual--I rested a little, we went to lunch and stopped at Home Depot so Brett could plant some small trees by our new back patio. By late afternoon, I was growing increasingly uncomfortable and contractions definitely had more of a pattern by the early evening.
That night I slept on the lazy boy recliner in our living room because that was where I was most comfortable. It was literally like clockwork-- my contractions would last 45 seconds and were about eight minutes apart. The pain was definitely getting a lot more intense. I called my midwife around 11 pm and she recommended I take a warm bath and wait it out. The bath soothed me a little bit but the pain was still pretty intense and wasn't letting up. Once I got out of the tub, I put on my comfy pajamas and went back to the recliner to try and get some sleep. The contractions would wake me up every 10 minutes like clockwork and they were like continuous waves. I knew when the next one was coming and when it was about to let up. By 5 am I knew I couldn't take the intensity anymore, I contacted my midwife and doula telling both of them we were coming to the hospital. I woke up my husband and told him it was time to go in.
Luckily there wasn't much traffic on the road since we left so early. I sat in the backseat of the car leaning my head on my birthing ball and moaned in excruciating pain every time Brett hit a bump in the road on the highway. I forced myself to eat a banana so I would have some strength but I didn't really feel like eating much of anything. Brett made a joke asking if I wanted to stop at Starbucks first (my favorite) and I was not in the mood to joke. The whole ride to the hospital honestly seemed like one big blur. I felt like the pain was so intense that my mind blocked out some of my memory from that point onwards.
Once we arrived at the hospital, we checked in at triage and my midwife met us in the room. She confirmed I was six centimeters dilated and 90 percent effaced. For those that do not know, dilation is how open the cervix is (10 is the largest) and effacement is how thin the cervix is (100 percent effaced is like paper thin). I was glad to hear my progress but I had no idea how much more intense it was about to all get! I walked down the hall to the ABC (Alternative Birth Center) Room. It was about 7 am and all I could remember was the intense pressure and period-like cramping. I dragged my feet up and down the hallway of the hospital floor. Between contractions I would joke and laugh one minute with my midwife and Brett and the next minute I was bearing down in intense pain. My midwife encouraged me to continue walking as it would help bring the baby further down in my pelvis. It started to hurt just to walk and it also hurt to lay down. My doula arrived around 8 am and immediately, it felt easier just having her there with us. For one, she was my advocate and she knew exactly how I envisioned my birth to go. When I didn't feel like talking or explaining myself, she was able to communicate with me in a way where I didn't have to give too much effort and she paraphrased my needs to Brett and to the hospital nurses and staff. What a relief that was for me! Secondly, Brett had his own fears and questions so she was able to put his mind at ease as well.
By mid-morning the pain was increasingly becoming more intense and I had to keep reminding myself to drink plenty of water, try to eat little snack foods, and to go to the bathroom. I had a huge fear of needing a catheter, which was my main motivation for not requesting an epidural the entire time. Each time I sat on the toilet to pee, I felt a huge pressure on my pelvis, almost like I was going to push out a giant watermelon. At the same time though, I found it extremely relieving just to sit on the toilet so I spent a lot of time in my labor room bathroom. The midwife and my doula knocked frequently to make sure I was doing ok. Coming out of the bathroom, the back of my hospital gown was wide open for the whole world to see my bare ass. In all honesty, I didn't even care and being half naked was the least of my worries. Prior to going into labor, I thought I would make good use of my birthing ball and the rebozo blanket. They were actually great props and were very helpful for me opening my hips during pregnancy and helping with my back pain, however I didn't want to use them because I was in so much pain I could barely bend down to get on the ball. I just wanted to lay in the bed with the peanut ball between my knees. The peanut ball was helpful for labor and the birthing ball and rebozo blanket helped me during pregnancy! I would wrap the rebozo blanket below my belly and Brett took both ends of the blanket and gently pulled me upwards. It was such a relief on my back and it felt so good!
It honestly felt like the remainder of that day dragged on. I'm pretty sure the entire maternity ward heard me moaning the entire time but I didn't care. I made sure the moaning was very low pitched as that is best for bringing the baby faster down the birth canal. High pitched screaming and yelling is often not helpful as it comes from the throat chakra and not the deep sacral and root parts of our bodies. The hospital I was at had nitrous oxide so I asked for that in hopes it would relieve some of my pain. It took off the edge a little bit but did not do too much for my intense contractions. (I'll write another blog post on that one later!) By late afternoon, the pressure felt so intense I felt like I was going to explode. I got into the bath water and that did help a very little with the pain but within 10 minutes, I wanted to get out. After I dried off, my midwife asked me if I wanted her to break my water bag. She was hoping it would relieve some of the pressure for me. At first I was hesitant because if the baby didn't come out in a certain amount of time, further medical intervention may be needed. However since I was in pain and I was getting very tired, I agreed to let her do it.
Within minutes of having my water bag broken, the contractions got ten times more intense. By that time I was squeezing both hands of Brett and my doula asking God to help me. By that point, it felt like I wasn't getting a break and I literally thought I wasn't going to make it. It was beyond intense by this point and I sensed my labor was going into transition. Two hours later, I was still 8 1/2 centimeters dilated, 100 percent effaced and I had not made any further progress from the last couple of hours. My midwife suggested to get a low dose of pitocin in hopes the labor would move along quickly. I agreed to get it and within a half hour of getting the IV, I was fully dilated and ready to push. I was laying on my side on the bed while my doula held up my leg, Brett held my hand, and the nurse and my midwife were cheering me on to push. At this point the contractions were crazy intense and I felt the baby's head moving closer down the birth canal which was wild!
For the next 3 1/2 hours I was pushing and he was definitely not coming out! His head would pop out a little and slip right back in. I kept looking at Brett and he looked so excited to see his head come out then got discouraged watching it go back in. The nurse asked me if she could grab a mirror for me to see him-- I was hesitant at first but agreed. It was helpful to actually see his head and it was also frustrating because he wasn't coming out and I was exhausted despite my awesome team of cheerleaders that kept me motivated. I kept picturing myself doing squats at the gym and I really focused in on pushing from my low body. My midwife kept telling me to bear down like I was taking a huge poop. In truth, I was, and I was very frustrated because I was really giving it my all and I consider myself pretty strong. Eventually I needed an oxygen mask and I was sweating all over the bed. I remember getting up very slowly to go to the bathroom to pee because I felt the urge and I didn't want a catheter. I sat on the toilet and literally could not pee for the life of me despite having the strong urge to go. It was so intense by that point when I peaked in the mirror, I had popped blood vessels on my face and in my left eye. I did also feel like the baby was coming very soon so I quickly got back into bed to begin pushing again.
By then my midwife shared her concerns about the baby being in distress so she wanted to insert a fetal heart rate monitor to detect the heartbeat. I agreed to do that even though I didn't love the idea. I was so close to having him, it just wasn't happening. She also mentioned I was pushing really well but she believed the baby was stuck in my pubic bone and that was the reason he wasn't coming out. She was also concerned that I would soon get a fever and then I would need a c-section so she called in the doctor as a precaution. I was crushed. Not because the potential of having a c-section itself, but the fact that I did all that pushing (without pain medication) and now I may have to end up with a c-section and they would have to administer an epidural. Of course I let the medical professionals do their thing but I was determined to get him out vaginally so I pushed with whatever strength I had left in me.
My midwife came in and told me the doctor was on her way and asked me if I would be able to walk across the hall to the other room to get prepped for a c-section. Um you must be joking right? I told her if that were the case, then I would like to be wheeled in on a table. The only strength I had left in me after 4 hours of pushing was to do just that, push the baby out. And that is what I was going to do-- I had already made up my mind.
At 8:15 p.m. the doctor came in to examine me in her Hot Chocolate 5K shirt, leggings and sparkly Tom's shoes. I was so out of it by that point but I quickly smiled at the sight of her because I intuitively knew it was going to be ok. I remember the relief I felt when I head the doctor say, "Oh geez she is super close, let's push this baby out!" The midwife then pointed to the fetal heart rate monitor and how baby's heart rate was dropping and recommended she take that into consideration. The second wave of relief came when I heard the doctor say she is going to administer a vacuum delivery since I was so close to having the baby out. The vacuum delivery sounded scary but I didn't care much at that point to be honest. The doctor washed up, changed into her clothes and got the vacuum ready to go. She said the vacuum was secured on the baby's head and I had to wait until the next contraction, then give a really big push. I pushed with all the strength I had left and DAMN the baby slid right out of me. It felt like an alien ripping himself out of my body and it was the worse pain ever. All of the pain didn't matter anymore because this was the happiest moment of my life. I was proud that I did it all-- all of the pain, hard labor, and struggle didn't matter anymore because Donovan Logan was here and he was a healthy bundle of joy in our arms! I am so glad my birth went the way it did. It was tough and soooo worth it!