I’m thrilled to be sitting here, holding my son as he sleeps. My son. That still seems crazy coming from me. It’s a whole new identity and role that gets placed on you in a single moment and there really isn’t a way to prepare for how you’ll feel. Every Mama is different I imagine. For me, it just feels natural. It doesn’t seem as scary as I thought it would and I don’t feel as unprepared as I imagined. Some of the past few nights have been hard and there most definitely have been tears of exhaustion, but all in all I feel at ease most of the time. It’s strange to look around at unfinished projects or laundry and feel nothing. No sense of urgency, no nagging need to be productive. It’s bizarre for me, but I feel content. While I’m excited to see Harvey grow and I spend time looking into his eyes just wondering what he’ll come to be, I’m actually soaking in the now. Living in the moment has always been a struggle for me and I’m proud to know I’m getting better. I hope that I can keep it up as I know that each moment is fleeting.
Sitting here over a month out from the beginning of my labor seems like moments ago and ages ago all at the same time. My journey, through it sounds impossible and terrible and was the single most challenging thing I have ever done, I can’t say that it was without some beautiful moments and humbling realizations. Aside from a perfect baby boy, I was given so many gifts.
December 29th was my official due date, but I didn’t start feeling contractions for almost 2 weeks later. Up until my due date, I was satisfied with waiting. I really felt anxious about him coming earlier. There was something about looking around at a space that was prepared fully that meant I could relax and focus on my task without worry of what didn’t get done. I needed that time and I knew it. What I wasn’t prepared for was the time following my due date. The days would come and go, one and then another. I was into my maternity leave at this point and felt like I was just wasting my carefully orchestrated timeline. I had finished all my preparations. I had my birth kit along with all the items from my home birth checklist. I had carefully thought out food in the refrigerator for myself as well as the assisting midwives that would soon be in my home. I even put together a 6-hour playlist of music I thought would help me relax and focus. With each passing day I felt more and more frustrated and I actually felt like I was disappointing everyone around me, as silly as that sounds. My world felt very closed in and lonely all of a sudden. As we approached 42 weeks, my loving midwives suggested a membrane swipe to try and get things going; that along with acupuncture, walking, spicy food, and an array of other homeopathic suggestions. I did each one diligently and with hope that the combined efforts would yield some results. Wanting a carefully monitored baby, I also needed to get an ultrasound every 4 days to make sure he wasn’t in distress. Not that anyone wants finances to be the reason you don’t get the best care, all of these things were adding up making it even more stressful. Each night I would go to bed praying that not one more day would pass before I went into labor. Finally on Friday, January 10th I woke up at 1am to a cramp that may or may not have been something to notice. I woke up in anticipation and stayed awake to time the next one and see if there was anything to get excited about. They kept coming, not close together and not consistently of course, but there was a pattern that hadn’t existed before. I patiently waited an hour and a half before waking up Sean to let him know things had started. In hindsight, I really should have tried to go back to sleep and waited much longer before putting anything into action, but I had been waiting so long already and I had no idea what was in front of me. Sean quickly finished his list of pre labor duties and as much as I tried to pace him, he was just as anxious as I was to get things going. Before we knew it everyone involved had been called, alerts were out and we were ready.
I had my contraction timer app in hand and Sean was helping me keep track. We were waiting for them to be closer and more consistent. Pretty soon my mom and sister came over and they took over the timing duties for a while. In between the contractions, there was tons of laughing and goofing around. I’m so thankful for those early moments with them lying around in my bedroom. While hysterically laughing through a contraction was painful, it was also kinda ironic and beautiful.
Before I knew it the day had pretty much passed and my contractions were consistent enough to call in the midwife team. Before I knew it my whole house was filled with people and both Harvey and I were being monitored regularly and I was officially in active labor.
The next 24 hours are a bit of a blur really. The contractions were getting progressively more and more intense and I was doing everything I could to manage them. I found them to be most manageable on the birthing ball while the bed and the toilet caused the most intense pain I’ve ever felt.
I actually took a bath and 2 of my beautiful midwives sat in the bathroom with me. We chatted about life and growing up all in between contractions as I tried to allow the hot water to calm me down and rest my body a bit. I think it was a much needed distraction and I’m grateful for those human connections amongst the pain. Being awake for so long with your body working so hard can take a toll and what I needed was rest. I managed to lie down on the bed and work my way through a contraction immediately followed by 10 minutes of sleep. This happened three times and I believe that 30 minutes of sleep was all I got my entire time at home. Looking back, I really have no idea how my body endured that period without any rest. There must be something miraculous that happens in order for us to make it through. That to me was nothing short of a miracle.
Eating seemed impossible. I managed to get down some orange slices and string cheese, but everything else just enacted my gag reflex. My mom even made me a great egg sandwich and I threw it up seconds after the first bite. I’m glad she isn’t easily offended as I felt really bad about it in the moment.
Throughout most of labor, there was a steady rotation on people giving me butt massages to ease the pain in my lower back. The counter pressure made a world of difference and I’m grateful to those willing to do it for hours on end. How do you thank someone for giving you a butt massage? Such a strangely intimate thing and yet they were so willing to do it without a second thought. There were so many moments like this where I came to know those women in ways I never thought I would know another person. When women say that you lose all sense of modesty, it’s absolutely true. I guess there also is a certain level of trust that exists in these moments. I trusted them wholeheartedly and not once did they ever let me down.
I just seemed to be progressing at a snail’s pace and every time I was checked, I was disappointed with the number. It seemed impossible that after hours and hours of this, I couldn’t get past 4cm on my own. My midwife was able to help me progress a bit farther, but each time she did, I faced the deepest pain I’d ever known. Those moments were the hardest, but thankfully all I can really recall now is being surrounded by people I love, whispering words of encouragement in my ears and holding my hands.
We even tried some accupressure using clothespins in strategic places on my hands and ears. Sean wanted to try that too and everyone got a good laugh as his attempts. Meanwhile, my beautiful Midwife sat in my living room floor and made us a pair of baby booties while she waited. It was an amazing gift that came together right in front of me and it’s a little treasure and sweet reminder of that day. It’s moments like these that I want to hold on to. They lightened the mood and made it feel more like a bunch a friends hanging out in my living room eating peanut butter m&m’s. I loved that feeling.
My water officially broke sometime early Saturday and I had to start trying some of the more intense positions on purpose to help me progress. Walking, standing up, hanging on Sean, laying down… etc. It feels like we tried everything and I’d like to think I was a trooper through all of it, but I guess you never really know how you look from the outside.
The late evening was upon us and I was still no where near pushing. Everyone was waiting on me to say I was ready, but the feeling never came. I never felt like it was time or that urge I was anticipating. After another attempt to progress me, I felt the hard conversation coming. I was offered another 20 minutes of trying on my own before we talked about a transfer to the hospital. At this point, I declined. I knew in my heart that 20 minutes was not going to make a difference after the hours that I had put in. I even felt a bit relieved knowing the pain would be over soon and at the same time felt a bit guilty for feeling relieved. It felt like I had failed, but after 30 hours of active labor I knew I met my limit.
Once I said go, it felt like everyone dispersed and immediately began preparing me to leave. I literally had nothing ready as I never anticipated leaving my home. In a matter of minutes, a bag was packed for me and my house was clean. Angels, I tell you. I was surrounded by angels.
The car ride to the hospital, while very brief, was less than pleasant. Once I got there I was ushered in the maternity waiting room in a wheel chair while still going through contractions. Giving my information to the lady in registration while still in pain was irritating to say the least. Then I went back where they insisted that I was weighed. I literally couldn’t get myself out of that wheel chair for 5 minutes. I made everyone wait until my contraction was over. Probably really annoying to everyone waiting on me, but oh well.
Once I made it to the labor and delivery room, I met my Nurse and CNA. In this moment, I was scared and anxious, but God must have known what I needed as he blessed me with the most gracious and understanding staff. My nurse had both her babies at home and my CNA promptly gave me a foot massage with some pain easing essential oils. I was relieved to know that I’d have an epidural and the pain would subside soon. Before I knew it, I was hooked up to 4 IVs, an oxygen mask, and tons of other things to monitor the baby’s heart rate, the level of contractions, etc. It felt really abrupt to go from nothing to everything in the blink of an eye. Once the epidural came, everything faded. They started me on Pitocin at the same time and finally I was able to fall asleep. I looked around my room and there were 3 Midwives, my mom, Sean, and his mom all trying to find a way to get comfortable. Some on a couch, a cot, and even the floor. I felt so blessed to have so many people by my side. I slept. Finally, I slept for 6 hours. The Doctor came in to check me again and I felt like my heart burst when she said I hadn’t progressed at all in my time there. I remained right where I was when I got there and now the baby’s heart rate was dipping with each contraction. That along with my waters being open for so long, they recommended a c-section delivery. I asked for a little time and I cried. I cried hard. Coming to the hospital was hard enough, but it felt like everything I worked for and all my plans were falling apart beneath me. After some much needed encouragement from everyone, I agreed and they whisked me away in a matter of moments.
I have never had surgery before, so I really didn’t know what to expect. It happened all very quickly. Before I knew it, I was in a new room with a ton of people being lifted onto the surgery table. Sean joined me at my side in his blue outfit and mask. The anesthesiologist introduced himself and soon I couldn’t feel anything below my arms. Even though they assured me that I was numb, I remember feeling nervous that I’d feel something. Pretty soon I felt a ton of pressure and tugging which was super bizarre. The next thing I knew I heard a cry. I didn’t know they would pull him out so fast. I know that I immediately burst into tears as they showed him to me over the curtain for a brief second. Then they took him away again and started to stitch me back up.
My whole body started to violently shake and I had to be given yet another drug to calm that. Once Harvey was cleaned up and taken care of, they brought him over my my face to say hello. I could barely stretch my neck around to see him, but he was there. He was safe. Sean left with him and the surgeons finished putting me back together. I really got to meet him in the next room post surgery where Sean and I had some time with him and I got to try breastfeeding for the first time. The Pediatricians came in to check him out and Sean fed me ice chips and snuck me some actual water as I can’t remember ever being more thirsty.
It turns out that our little man had the cord wrapped around his neck twice and was in a face up position. All of this information completely lifted a weight off my shoulders. I know now that there is absolutely nothing I could have done differently. I could have labored stubbornly for another 30+ hours and it wouldn’t have gotten me the outcome I wanted. It would have just put myself and Harvey in danger. I felt relieved to know that I can honestly say I did the very best I could and when the time came, I made a hard choice for the safety of myself and my baby. No regrets there.
Soon after delivery, we made our way to a recovery room where we spent the next 2 days working on breastfeeding, recovering, and caring for this new little man in our lives. Once we were able to come home, I remember feeling relieved. I kind of just wanted to pretend I never left.
The past month has definitely been a whole new set of challenges. There have been good days and there have been some really hard days. Every day I feel like I’m a little bit better at figuring out this new human in our lives and a little bit better at finding the balance. Although my birth didn’t happen the way I planned, I gave myself permission to mourn my process a bit, but then I happily dried my tears, dusted off my shoulders, and joined the rest of the Mamas of the world. This is only the beginning of things not going the way I planned and making tough choices. After all is said and done, I’m proud of my process and even through the pain I’m thankful for the experience.