Throughout my pregnancy I read birth stories and I looked forward to writing mine and posting the photos to go with them. After Nola’s birth I thought I wouldn’t write mine, but now I feel the need to write it all out. I need to get these emotions I’m feeling written out. If nothing else, Nola might be interested in reading it one day. If you’re not fond of birth stories, you’ll want to pass this blog. It could get icky.
Years ago I knew I wanted a natural birth. There was a time when I would say, “I don’t know that I want a child, but I definitely want to be pregnant and give birth”. I know, that’s pretty weird. So last fall when I got pregnant I knew that delivering at the Special Delivery Birth Center was the best choice for me.
On Thursday August 15th I woke up with light cramping. I was excited, but not going to get too excited because I knew that early first stage labor could last a long time and start and stop. Throughout the day they got a bit stronger and closer together. By that evening I started timing the contractions. Shortly after that they started getting “significant”. In fact, when they first started getting strong I looked at Patrick and laughed and said “Oh crap, this is gonna hurt!” By about 10:00 the contractions were 3 minutes apart. We decided to go to the birth center and have my AMAZING/WONDERFUL/INCREDIBLE midwife, Ruth Cobb, check me. I was not even dilated to a 1. Darn. She told me to go home, take some Tylenol PM, and try to sleep. She wanted me well rested for what was coming. When I got home the contractions got harder and were about 5 minutes apart for most of the night. Needless to say, not a lot of sleep happened. By morning, they stopped for 45 minutes. I remember this because 45 minutes is the longest I slept for the next few days.
Friday was spent with contractions 10-15 minutes apart all day, by that evening they ramped up again and were much stronger so we went back to the birth center. I was dilated to a 1. At that point I started crying. I’d been at this for over 24 hours and it was discouraging and very tiring. Same diagnosis from Ruth for that night; Tylenol and try to sleep. By 3:00am I got in the tub to try to ease some of the pain and I remember that’s when everything became very painful. We went back to the birth center about 4am to be checked, and you guessed it, nothing had changed.
By Saturday morning I called my doula, Kathy Taylor, and told her I just needed some encouragement. I had now had 2 sleepless nights and was feeling very tired. Both Kathy and my mom came over quickly and that helped tremendously. Throughout the day I was walking, bouncing slightly on the exercise ball, and trying to get everything thrown into overdrive. That afternoon Kathy got me into her chiropractor to see what she could do, and that seemed to be the trick. Immediately things changed. (not to discount how I felt the two days before that, because those contractions were very real and quite painful. But this was at a new level). Back to the birth center we went, but this time I was dilated to a 3 and got to stay! Yay!! This was about 9:00 and I figured after how long it had already been that I would probably be holding my baby by 9am.
Throughout the night, it seemed like we were a bunch of zombies walking around. We tried everything; the ball, the peanut ball, the toilet, the bed, laying down, squatting, the tub, leaning over a counter, the shower… I think I can confidently say I’ve tried EVERY labor position there is. Now remember, this is my third night without sleep, so it all just seems like a weird haze. Occasionally I’d get a few minutes break from contractions and I would raise my head and feel human for a minute. But those were always bittersweet moments, because the contractions after a “break” were always worse.
I’m tempted to spend the better part of this blog raving about my birth team!! Kathy, Ruth, and her assistant Elizabeth were incredible. But the strength my husband showed was unreal. Although he had a bit of sleep the nights I hadn’t, it was very little. He never left my side. I don’t remember him taking any breaks. The man is incredible.
This to me is the quintessential picture that depicts my labor at the birth center. The only thing missing from it is Kathy. She too was with me the whole time and never slept. I can never thank Kathy enough for the work and care she put into my birth.
After many hours, Ruth checked me and I was only dilated to a 6. She suggested we break my water. We agreed to do so, but for some reason my water didn’t break when she tried. After a longer while Ruth suggested that maybe the reason laying down was so painful was because it was what I needed to do to progress things. (throughout my entire labor any kind of laying down position was horrible for me!) So on my side I went. This was the most painful part of labor for me. When I couldn’t take laying down any longer, I sat up and my water spontaneously broke! It would have felt like a victory if I wasn’t so exhausted. I’m not sure when I started transitioning, but I know it went on for a number of hours. I don’t know how long the contractions were lasting, but I know they were double peeking. I believe Kathy told me they were lasting about 3 minutes. I was so worn out. I started saying between contractions, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” even when I wasn’t saying it out loud, it was my mantra in my head. I would also say, “Jesus bore my pain”. Speaking scripture out loud has so much power and made me feel so much better, even through my tears. I even tried singing praise songs and it helped.
This picture… oh this picture. Brings tears to my eyes every time I see it. This is both Ruth and Patrick holding my hands. The midwife takes on the roll of another mother during labor and not just the woman that delivers your baby. (Although I have the best mother in the whole world and I couldn’t have done what I did without her there encouraging me). I know Ruth does this every day, but birth is such a personal thing and I never felt like just another pregnant woman. 9am came and went. Still no baby. I started saying that I couldn’t do it anymore. I’d say it to my mom or Patrick and they would say something to the affect of “Its okay, let’s talk to Ruth and see about going to the hospital” and then I’d quickly come back with, “No its okay, I can do this!” I stayed determined for a long time. But my energy was gone. I eventually told Ruth I didn’t think I could do it anymore. We decided to transfer to St. Francis South so I could get an epidural and sleep so I’d be able to deliver. I was so disappointed knowing that I wouldn’t get the delivery I had dreamed of.
We got to the hospital and they started hooking me up to IV’s. My veins were not cooperating and they blew two veins and had to stick me about 5 times. Honestly, that pain felt good and like a relief in comparison to the contractions. What I was unaware of was that every time they poked me, I bled a lot. The doctor was in the room though and did notice it. (apparently everyone noticed it but me, luckily)
And this is what I looked like after an epidural and an hour’s sleep!! Ya know… like hell! But happy!! They put me on Pitocin to try to speed things along, and by 7:00 the nurses came in and thought that if I tried a few more positions soon I’d be ready to push. We were all excited at that point. Actually, punch drunk might be the best way to describe it. We were all laughing and having a great time.
After the first couple pushes I started to feel a bit of a contraction. It was slight, but it was there. The nurses told me that was okay and normal, that I’d want it to wear off so that I could feel when I needed to push. Quickly though, the contractions became much worse. We tried to up the dosage of the epidural but nothing seemed to be working. We tried changing positions to hands and knees and leaning over the bed. I was so frustrated at that point. I continued trying to push for an hour and a half, I believe. But I was exhausted, and the pitocin was making everything so much more intense, and I wasn’t really making progress.
I believe it was 9:30pm when the nurse said, “Don’t worry, you will have your baby here by midnight”. And at that point I gave up.
I knew that I couldn’t do it anymore. I know looking back that I couldn’t do it. I can’t regret my decision to have a c-section because I know that I know that I know that I couldn’t have done anymore. I was crying and so worried that my family and husband would be ashamed that I couldn’t go on. I was ashamed of myself. I was nearly delirious. The looks on my mom and Patrick’s faces really say it all.
The anesthesiologist came in to start upping the epidural for surgery. Nothing was working. Contractions weren’t getting easier, in fact they were getting harder. At that point, I started screaming. I couldn’t help it. The screams were coming out of my mouth and I had no control over it. It was the oddest feeling of the whole experience. Ruth got right in my face and I just locked eyes with her and she breathed with me. It was the only thing that was keeping me from screaming uncontrollably.
I was in the operating room without Patrick when they were prepping me. Again, they were adding more of the epidural but it wasn’t helping at all. They had already upped the epidural so much and I could even feel them putting the betadine on my stomach! If I could feel that then I’m pretty sure I could have felt them slicing me open. At that point it was decided that I would need to be put under general anesthesia. I remember the mask being put on my face and begging God to knock me out quickly. Then I don’t remember anything till recovery.
. Because of the general anesthesia the doctor had to work quickly. It took about 30 seconds to get Nola out of me. Turns out she was a bit crooked and my birth canal was narrow. Even though she was only 7lbs 6oz, she couldn’t fully get into the birth canal. I assume this is also the reason I wasn’t dilating. Nola was covered in meconium and it was in her lungs. Patrick wasn’t allowed in the room because of the general, which turned out to be for the best. The head of the NICU came out and told him and our families that she was a very sick baby. They had to do x-rays quickly, and talked about transferring her to St. Francis main. I thank God for a family of believers because they all immediately started praying and had amazing results. Had I been awake and knowing she was having complications, it would have been awful. Nola remained in the NICU’s care till Thursday. While everyone was worried about Nola, they were unaware that anything was going wrong with me and they assumed I was in recovery.
I had a few problems myself. My blood was very thin for some reason, we don’t really know why. Its why when they were putting the IV’s in me that I bled so much. I lost 2 liters of blood in surgery. The doctor, who is a man of God, told me that he was praying all through stitching me up because with every stitch I gushed blood. I also had to have 2 bags of plasma to thicken my blood. After I was in recovery, the doctor came out and explained what all had happened to my family and birth team (who were still there… I think it was after midnight at that point. I love those women.) and he prayed with them.
Once I was awake, nothing had sunken in. I knew I had a baby and I hadn’t seen her. At 4:30am the nurses came in and wheeled my entire bed through the halls of the hospital so that they could hold Nola up in the nursery window and I could see her for the first time.
By the morning, it was setting in what happened. And that’s when the grief started. I realized I hadn’t see my baby born. I didn’t get that moment that I dreamed of when my daughter would be laid on my chest. I didn’t get the skin to skin and the initial bonding. I didn’t get anything I planned on. Patrick wasn’t allowed in the operating room either so neither of us experienced the birth of our daughter. That’s been the hardest part to wrap my head around. I’ll never have that moment. How can I have missed the biggest moment of my life? The moment I’ve dreamed of for years before I even knew I wanted to be a mother. But 5 weeks out I can tell you this, there have been plenty of other beautiful and wonderful moments. The pain of that has lessened so much. And holding my baby for the first time, later on that day, was the most amazing moment of my life.
We had a plan to give birth at the birthing center. We had a backup plan to go to the hospital for an epidural if things weren’t working. We had a backup backup plan to have a c-section if something went wrong. But everything that happened was so far out of the realm of what I ever thought could have happened. I’m still such a believer in the natural childbirth way though. Just because I’m one of the 6% that ends up in a c-section from a home/birthing center birth, doesn’t mean I’ve stopped believing in it. I’m posting this on my blog because even though I didn’t get the birth I had wanted, I got to birth a beautiful amazing daughter. And that’s the important part. My birth story is just as important as the ones that went as planned. (and I hope I haven’t scared anyone… mine is certainly not the norm!) And the truth is, you really do forget the pain. I would do it all again if I knew I could do it vaginally. (it remains to be seen if we’ll want another )
I have to mention also my other midwife, Linda Roberts. Both Linda and Ruth provided my care throughout my pregnancy and I’m so thankful for her! Ruth just happened to be the one on call when I went into labor. These women are AMAZING. If you’re considering using a midwife I’m confident that there are no 2 midwives that could possibly be better.
And last but certainly not least, I have to thank April. My dear, dear friend who worked 24 hours photographing Nola’s birth. These pictures, although not at all what I planned them to be, are precious to me. I can’t thank you enough. -The Champ