I’m 7 weeks postpartum and finally feel like I’m ready to share the story of how our little girl came into the world. When I was pregnant and would speak to others about my birth preferences, the one thing I was repeatedly told was to remain flexible and understand that things don’t always go to plan. Boy were they right.
The last photo before I went into labor. I was 41 weeks and 2 days.
A Little Backstory.
When I was pregnant I spent a lot of time preparing for the birth of our daughter. I wanted to have a birth with the least amount of intervention possible, assuming she and I were both healthy and thriving. I read many books, medical trials, discussion boards, and evidence-based websites and articles. We hired a doula and trained for Hypnobirthing. We could have never anticipated a global pandemic that would prevent our doula from being in the hospital room during labor. Nonetheless, we felt well-prepared, educated, and armed with the knowledge to make informed decisions. Aside from a healthy baby and mamma, my most important birth preferences were to avoid a c-section, avoid an induction, avoid an epidural and I really wanted to have a happy birth memory.
At 26 weeks into my pregnancy, I switched care providers from a clinic that had a 39-week induction policy based solely on my age because I’m over 35. You can read more about that in my second-trimester update. We really wanted to allow her to come naturally, assuming she and I were healthy and doing well. I transferred to practice with midwives and it was the BEST decision we made.
39 weeks came and went. I felt good about avoiding a 39-week induction because she clearly wasn’t ready. Then 40 weeks came and went. As 41 weeks approached my midwives suggested a 41-week induction which we declined. In those last weeks, we kept a close eye on baby with frequent ultrasound checkups. However, the midwives nor myself wanted the pregnancy to go past 42 weeks so I was scheduled for induction on the day I reached 42 weeks. We did a membrane sweep at my 41-week visit and I was doing all the things to encourage babe to come out on her own. Finally, I went into early labor.
I was 41 weeks and 3 days when I woke up at 2 am with what I knew were contractions. They say it’s like true love…when ya know, ya know! I’d say that’s pretty accurate! I was so excited! I was relieved I wouldn’t have to face induction and that my body was allowed to go into labor naturally. I thought for sure it was the day we would have our baby. Fate had other plans.
Contractions were far apart, 20-30 minutes. I knew I needed to rest so I slept as much as possible in between contractions. I didn’t want to wake Mike because I knew he’d need his rest too. Our plan was to labor at home as long as possible to avoid getting to the hospital too early. We were in contact with our doula and she planned to come to our house for support when I felt like I needed her and when contractions were more frequent. Contractions were sporadic all day. They ranged from 4-5 minutes apart to 15 and occasionally 20 minutes apart. I was feeling significant backpressure and discomfort. The back discomfort I was experiencing made me wonder if baby was in the optimal position. I spent the day pacing on the front porch, laboring in the bathtub, in the shower, on the birth ball, on the floor leaning over the birth ball, leaning against the couch, etc. The day grew old and my contractions still were not close enough that warranted going to the hospital but I was tired and experiencing some pretty intense discomfort. Around midnight we asked our doula to come over. Her main goal was to help me rest. She positioned me on the peanut ball in bed and I slept 20-minute increments in between contractions for a couple of hours.
I had a doctor’s appointment scheduled the next morning. I planned to go to my appointment to see how far I was dilated before we decided whether or not to go to the hospital. However, when we called the office to ask if we could be put in a room right away – to avoid me having to deal with contractions in the waiting room (haha) – we were advised to go to the hospital. It was earlier in my labor than I wanted to go but we were ready to get there and get settled. We took our time, had a meal, and checked into the hospital around 11 am 33 hours after the onset of my labor.
In triage, I learned I was almost 4 cm dilated. I walked the halls, asked for a birth ball, tried many many positions to try to get that baby out and move things along. Mike was by my side every step of the way applying warm compresses, back pressure, doing hip squeezes, making sure I had water, and literally feeding me. I was experiencing a lot of back discomfort and growing more and more tired. Our nurses were AMAZING and it was around this time they confirmed the baby was posterior or “sunny side up,” meaning she was facing the wrong way. Her head was against my back pushing on my pelvic bone, hence all of my back pain. This also explained why my labor was progressing so slowly.
We continued on into the night, but unfortunately, my labor was still progressing extremely slow, I was struggling to cope and I became worried I wouldn’t have the energy to push. At about 11 pm and about 6cm, 45 hours since the onset of labor we opted for the epidural.
All smiles after feeling some relief post-epidural. 😉
Although I had hoped to avoid the epidural, I knew it was the only way I was going to get some much-needed rest. My priority was a vaginal delivery and I needed to regain some energy and strength – and so did Mike. After I received the epidural, we were able to rest and my contractions started to intensify because my body could relax. My epidural did not take as well to my left side so I could still feel the contractions. In fact, I could move both of my legs and felt a lot more than I anticipated I would feel with the epidural. I would have much rather had it that way than to feel nothing at all. My labor continued to progress slowly so in late morning they gave me a low dose of Pitocin and that got things moving. By late morning I was finally 10cm and it was time to start pushing. At one point the baby turned to face the correct way and my back pain immediately ceased. It was like the flick of a switch and I couldn’t believe it! I still wonder what labor would have felt like had she not been posterior. I pushed for 3 hours and it was the most intense workout of my life. I was focused and in the zone. At one point I overheard the nurses mention a concern about her heartrate so I knew I had to kick it into high gear otherwise I feared I’d become a candidate for an emergency c-section. I dug deep and gave it my all and at 2:16 pm, 60 hours after the onset of labor and very little sleep, she was born.
I dreamed of this moment for months. I envisioned her being put directly on my chest after her birth and finally meeting the sweet baby that I grew for 10 months. Unfortunately, she had some trouble taking her first breath and wasn’t breathing when she emerged. Instead of immediate skin-to-skin contact with my baby, they whisked her away to the baby warmer, and people flooded into our room to assist. It was highly stressful and traumatic. After 60 hours of labor and utter exhaustion, we fell apart when there was an indication that something was wrong. However, after a few minutes, they assured us she was ok THANK GOD. The nurses summoned Mike over to see her and we were so relieved but emotionally drained. Finally, after a short while, they put that sweet baby on my chest and all was right in the world.
So, there’s the story of how our sweet girl came into the world. Certainly different than I imagined but that’s life. I wonder what it would have been like had she not been posterior and I wish I could have avoided the epidural, but it was absolutely the right decision for our circumstance. I am so, SOOO happy that I was able to avoid induction and a c-section. My support team was absolutely incredible. I have to give major props to my hubby because he was amazing. He did all of the training with me during pregnancy and I could not have done it without his support and that of my care team. Despite the hurdles, I have a positive birth memory and more importantly, a beautiful and healthy baby girl.
We did it, Shiloh! Global pandemic and all!
*If you are local, I highly recommend our doula, Tanya. Without our extensive work together on Hypnobirthing and her expertise, I am certain my labor would have looked a lot different. Despite the length and discomfort, I was able to employ Hypnobirthing techniques that helped me cope. Further, if you are local and in search of an OB practice, I cannot say enough good things about Florida Medical Clinic and the midwives! Transfering to their care and having them oversee our pregnancy and a midwife-led birth was the best decision I made!