I was blessed with an easy, pleasant pregnancy. No morning sickness, no heartburn, lots of fun movement (baby liked to party every night around 9 pm!). We had decided not to find out the sex of baby so each day was spent wondering whether our little peanut would be a Luca or an Olivia.
Baby’s due date came and went with no signs of baby coming anytime soon. I never had Braxton Hicks, only occasional strong pressure when I went for a long walk or overdid things around the house.
I never thought I’d be so excited to see mucus, but I can tell you that when my mucus plug slowly started making an appearance, I jumped for joy on a pretty regular basis and then proceeded to fill with disappointment when labor continued to evade me!
Exactly one week after baby’s due date, Marcie and I decided to walk to downtown St. Albans for tea, pastries and a stroll through the farmer’s market. It was August 31st; baby’s last chance to be an August bear!
We walked the 1.5 miles to town together, bringing our pup, Lizzy, with us just in case this was her last big excursion for awhile. The sun was shining warm on our backs (okay, let’s be real – I was dripping sweat!) A perfect day to meet our baby, I kept thinking to myself.
About halfway to town, I felt an enormous amount of pressure and sharp pain. “You might have to run home and get the car later,” I told Marcie, thinking I might not be able to make the walk back home. Fortunately, the pain passed and we continued on our morning adventure together. We walked back home and I plopped myself down on the couch for a nice rest.
Later that afternoon, I was delighted to announce that I finally was experiencing my bloody show. “Maybe today’s the day?” I wondered to Marcie. We went about our day, sanding and buffing out patches on her car, prepping to paint it. I was on my knees sanding, calling out directions and feeling generally normal. When it came time to spray paint, I grabbed a camping chair and parked myself in the driveway for some fresh air.
I was in the midst of booking a special February family vacation, texting back and forth with my mom to iron out the details. Suddenly, I felt a small gush. “Oh my god!” I yelled to Marcie. “My water just broke! I think? Maybe?” I got up and waddled inside, more gushing happening with every step. “Holy shit!” I texted my mom. “Put the vacation planning on hold – my water just broke!” It was 5:30 pm.
We hurried inside and made dinner so I had a nice full belly. Of course, in our haste, my chicken was undercooked so my final meal ended up being salad and corn – something I very much regretted later on! As we finished dinner, I felt my first contraction – a relatively mild period-like cramp.
By 8 pm, these cramps had become quite a bit stronger, though I was still able to walk around and enjoy watching Queer Eye with Marcie. By 10 pm, the only place I was comfortable was on my beloved yoga ball and I had to take a deep breath with each contraction.
Much to my surprise (and that of the midwife and doulas), my contractions stayed 2-3 minutes apart from the moment they started. So much for early labor, although I didn’t know that at the time, and I assumed they would ebb and flow for the next few hours. Boy was I wrong!
Because things had kicked into high gear quite quickly, we called my parents and asked one of our doulas to come around 10:30 pm. She helped me into the tiny bathtub upstairs to see if my contractions slowed down or remained the same.
When we realized that even the relaxing warm water did nothing to slow them down, we called the midwife. She arrived by midnight, along with our second doula. Unfortunately, at this point, I was nauseous every time I switched positions, especially if I was on my side. I started throwing up every hour or so, sipping on as much Gatorade and water as I could. My contractions remained close together and got stronger and stronger as the night went on.
The next many hours are a bit of a blur. I was having intense contractions every 2 minutes. I found myself leaning on the counter, the dresser, or the back of the toilet, deeply in the zone, almost passing out between each contraction. I had horrible back labor, so my doulas took turns applying pressure or pulling the rebozo tight around me to relieve some of the pressure.
Marcie helped me in and out of our birthing tub (read: a tropical fish printed inflatable kiddie pool – best purchase EVER!) and held on to me as I labored in the warm water.
Around 5 am, I was certain I couldn’t do it anymore. My deep moaning turned into near-cries – I was so exhausted and in so much pain, never having the benefit of early labor or pauses between contractions. I had been throwing up for hours and couldn’t stomach anything besides Gatorade, honey and a few electrolyte jelly beans.
Marcie kept telling me how strong I was and how proud of me she was. It’s amazing what a few words of encouragement from your person can do for you. Somehow, I just kept going. I was not ready to throw in the towel and head to the hospital for pain relief. I was determined to bring this perfect babe into the world in the comfort of my own home with Marcie by my side.
Around 10 am give or take, my midwife asked if I wanted to be checked – I hadn’t been up to this point. When she took a peek, she said I was doing great and might be able to push soon. Still in a daze, I got up off the bed and continued laboring in the tub or leaning on the back of the toilet.
When the midwife checked me again, she said that the only thing stopping baby from making their way into the world was a small cervical lip. I gave her permission to try and manually move the lip aside so I could push.
Gripping my mom on one side and Marcie on the other, we tried this for a number of contractions with no luck. It was the most pain I had experienced thus far, but thinking we might meet our baby any minute made it worth it. Unfortunately, we realized at this point that baby was now sunny side up and was presenting its entire head, rather than just the crown.
It’s hard to describe what I did next. The doulas had me doing all kinds of wild, crazy acrobatics to help baby shift into a better position. I was on my hands and knees, being jiggled by the rebozo around my belly. Then I was upside down, hanging off of the bed. Then back to hands and knees, and so on.
When the midwife next checked me, we again tried to manually move the cervical lip aside so that I could push our baby out. No luck. It was now 2 pm. My water had broken almost 24 hours prior, and I had been having strong contractions 2 minutes apart for the past 14 hours. I had thrown up countless times, and nearly given up a handful of times. I was incredibly discouraged at this point.
The midwife and doulas were talking about next steps in hushed tones in the other room. Marcie held my hands while I cried, unsure if I could continue with no progress. I had been dilated at 9 cm for the past 5 hours, pushed numerous times, and tried literally every position in the book, and then some. It didn’t feel promising.
I was right. Our midwife came back into the bedroom, calm but serious. She explained to me that she thought it might be time to go to the hospital. Tears began rolling down my cheeks. I had worked so hard for so long, and the only thing I wanted at this point was to meet our baby. At home. I wanted to crawl into my own bed with Marcie and our new little love, basking in the love hormones.
My dream was over; it all came crashing down. I barely heard our midwife as she explained what she thought might happen at the hospital: I’d either get pitocin and power through, pushing the cervical lip aside on my own, or perhaps I’d get an epidural, rest for a bit and then power through. I knew at this point, however, that my body couldn’t handle any more.
I had a sinking gut feeling that this pregnancy would be ending with a c-section – the last thing I ever wanted to face. I started running through the horror stories in my head; the recovery, the potential myriad challenges of breastfeeding after a major surgery, the drugs they’d pump me full of… I took a deep breath. “Let’s just go,” I finally gave in tearfully.
Although a long drive, our plan had always been to drive to Copley from St. Albans so I could have as close to a home birth experience as possible, even in a hospital setting. Now you should know that we live 4 minutes from Northwestern Medical Center, so passing one hospital en route to another felt like the worst decision ever, especially considering how intense my contractions became once we got in the car.
Coincidentally (and somewhat frustratingly!), our midwife’s assistant called us about 20 minutes down the road. “We can’t go to Copley,” she told us. “They said it’s too far of a drive and you’re too far along. We need to turn around.” So back we went to St. Albans. I was crushed. I had all of these preconceived notions of what a birth in St. Albans would be like. I was certain at this point that I’d feel pressured into things I didn’t want, ruining my entire birth experience.
Boy, was I wrong.
The moment I was wheeled through the door, I saw smiling nurses lining the hallway, leading us to an exam room. Greeting us was a well-dressed, handsome older gentleman, our new French Canadian obstetrician.
He placed a hand on my shoulder, apologizing. “I am so sorry, I know this isn’t what you wanted.” I trusted him immediately. He monitored my contractions and took my vitals. I was given 2 bags of fluids through an IV (my first IV, I might add – one that required the nurses to get an ER nurse because I was dehydrated and no one could find a vein!).
Mr. Handsome French Canadian told me that my body was doing everything right. I wasn’t in distress, neither was our babe. My contractions were strong and efficient. “I think this might be a problem of size, not just position,” he explained. He guessed that babe was likely between 9 and 10 pounds. After giving me many options (pitocin, epidural), he explained that he believed I would have delivered the baby already if it was possible.
I knew what was coming.
He suggested that I consider a c-section, then told me to take my time thinking it through with my family. He left the room. I cried. I knew what was best for my body and for this baby. C-section it would be.
Once the doctor returned and I told him that I agreed to the procedure, he asked if I had any other questions. “How soon can we do this?” I smiled weakly. I was beyond exhausted and had lost all ability to manage my pain with breathing or positive thinking.
Thirty minutes later, I was ready to go. I had my headphones in with my upbeat birth playlist sounding in my ears. I had a peppermint oil cotton ball to keep my mood up and my nausea at bay. I hugged my parents, and was wheeled off to the OR with Marcie at my side.
Once in the ER, I was given an IV of preemptive pain meds, and they gave me a spinal tap. Never have I been so (surprisingly) happy to get a needle in my spine. Moments later, I was relaxed and pain free. I remember thinking to myself, what a relief to just let doctors take care of the rest of this!
I felt Marcie come to my side. The next 10 minutes are a bit fuzzy, just bits and pieces disorganized in my mind. My blood pressure dropped – drugs went into my IV. I hemorrhaged – more drugs in the IV. I got a huge wave of nausea – more drugs. I was freezing cold and shaking – a warm blanket was wrapped around me. And, finally, crying.
I heard a baby crying! I looked up at Marcie woozily and she was grinning. “It’s a Luca!” she announced. We had a baby boy, a healthy, screaming baby boy. And, as it turned out, a huge baby boy!
“I hope you like football!” one of the nurses said to me. “Because you just birthed a football player!” Later, Marcie told me that the OB had announced he would need shoulder surgery after delivering Luca because he was so long and heavy! He was immediately given an APGAR score of 10 (he was a 9 before they had even finished delivering him!).
Marcie brought Luca over to me and we shared our first family snuggle. He continued to scream, but even through my drugged stupor, I could tell he was the most gorgeous baby I had ever seen. Marcie was beaming. Our baby was here, and yes, he was huge – 11 pounds and 7 ounces of perfection!
I thought I would feel a sense of loss and extreme disappointment when our home birth became a c-section birth. Instead, I continued to believe that everything happens for a reason. Therefore, despite my plan going completely awry, I forced myself to focus on what I accomplished – I had 24 hours of natural labor; intense, strong, amazing natural labor. And while Luca was delivered by c-section, I have since arrived in a place where I can be proud of what I did, and I am grateful for his quick delivery once we got to the hospital, and for the care and pampering I received from every nurse and doctor during my stay.
Much to my surprise, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t change a thing about Luca’s arrival!