alexa and chris recently just took my online childbirth prep class. it was a joy to email back and forth with alexa throughout her pregnancy, and an even bigger excitement to have chris text me at the beginning of labor! i was able to keep in touch with them for a bit of their labor, and was anxious to hear the outcome the following day. i heard from chris 2 days later that their (surprise!) baby girl was born via cesarean after 2 days of “an interesting, to say the least” labor. i am thankful alexa took the time to write her birth story, AND that she wanted to share it with everyone. i hope this serves an encouragement to everyone that no matter what your birth looks like, you can look back knowing you did everything you could with what you had.
I’m going to spare you the long drawn out story and just stick to the highlight reel. Or lowlight reel. Well, actually, they really were all highlights- just not what I expected or envisioned. At all. I’m so thankful we took your class though, not only did it help me through my labor, but it also helped us through making all kinds of decisions we never intended on making. I can look back on my labor, and even though I ended up birthing my baby on an OR table via c-section, I can truly say it was beautiful. Hardest thing ever, but I am so proud of the work Chris and I did together in birthing this little girl. Side note? Thank GOD for your DropBox folder- we were able to pull up the family-centered-cesarean birth plan in one of the folders and added a few “demands” at the end of our labor- which the nursing staff was actually really excited about.
When we texted you originally, my water had released about 15 hours prior and nothing. I mean NOTHING was happening. There had been a decent gush of water and no surges at all, despite our best efforts to get things going. We had been in touch with my OB who finally said they needed to just have us come in to check on baby. On the way to the hospital I started surging. Maybe my body knew that it better get cracking. Either way, I had quite a few in the car and continued to on the walk to labor and delivery. They weren’t super intense, but I knew they were something. I was checked and was 3cm and 75% effaced. WOW! Progress even without feeling like there was any progress? That’s probably the best feeling in the world.
We were admitted due to the fact that my water had released and I was surging, which I was thankful for since it was an hour drive back home and there really wasn’t much else near the hospital. After about 6 hours of surging, walking up and down stairs, lunging, psuedo-belly dancing, etc- I asked to be checked. My surges weren’t all that intense still, but they were closer together. 3cm. Totally soft. Not the news I wanted to hear, but I knew those first few centimeters take the longest, so I decided to just choose to think about the progress in my cervix softening. We were at about hour 24 of my water having broken, and my doctor came back in to “have a heart to heart.” She knew I didn’t want any interventions, but she also knew that she wanted the baby out sooner rather than later with my water having been broken for so long (I recognize that many in the birth world would say it was totally fine, but I trust my OB and I am totally at peace with that). She threw out pitocin as an option. I threw out climbing more stairs. She said sure, even though I was already exhausted, but she’d give me an hour and a half, and then would come back to discuss starting pitocin again. I climbed the length of Kilimanjaro most likely in that hour and a half. SURGES! DO SOMETHING! PLEASE! As we neared the end of my time frame, I broke down. My body wasn’t doing what I was asking it to do. It wasn’t performing how I wanted it to. Please?
I took ten minutes and listened to some relaxation, talked with my baby, and told him/her that it was time to pick things up. I wanted my baby to have a heads up that things might get a bit hectic for him/her once pitocin started. I knew I would like the heads up if I was a baby.
My OB started me on a low dose of pitocin, and increased it just a tiny bit about every 45 mins-1 hour. The surges got way more intense, but no more close together than they were before. They immediately peaked when they started, rather than gradually working their way up. Holy moly. Talk about needing to remember to relax and breathe. I moaned. Chris rubbed my back and my legs, and I moaned some more. This went on for hours. I started to feel the need to push. YES! I thought, it’s baby time. Finally!
My nurse checked me- 4cm. I was gutted.
Knowing I needed to sleep and that I couldn’t go on like this any more, I asked what my options were. Some IV meds or an epidural. I chose to get in the shower to see if that helped. 45 minutes later and tears and tears later, i decided that an epidural was probably best. going through what the benefits, risks, alternatives, etc were, I just knew this was where I needed to go with this labor. Most importantly my instincts kicked in. I felt confident in this decision.
Once the epidural was placed and started kicking in, my surges slowed down as well. I knew that meant more pitocin, and even though I wish it didn’t, I knew that was the game plan and I okay’d it. At this point we wanted baby out. Mercifully!
We started noticing some decelerations in baby’s heart rate. I know, I know, I could have called it before I went into labor. Whenever I heard of a mom getting pitocin I always thought, judgmentally- ‘How could you DO that? You KNOW what is going to happen!’ But guess what? I am a humble mom now, I get it. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. I saw my birth playing out and even though it wasn’t ideal, I still felt in the driver’s seat and knew I would remain calm and collected for the sake of my baby. I still wanted him/her to know that everything was alright. But, in my gut, I felt like something was off. When Chris heard me say that, he asked everyone to leave for a minute. We talked. I cried and told him that I understood what all of our options were but that I felt like something wasn’t right. With my body. With our baby. Something. It was an eerie feeling. It wasn’t just a “my labor is slow, something is wrong” it was a “something deep in my soul is telling me that this isn’t going to end well unless we do something else.”
My OB and nurses came back in. Chris told them what we had just talked about. My OB offered to check me again, just to see if any progress had been made. This check was obviously MUCH more comfortable than the previous ones. Phew. 10 cm. Fully Effaced. Baby high. Really, really high. His/Her heart rate had looked fine for the past hour or so, so my OB suggested I “labor down” (just continue on without jumping into pushing too quickly so I wasn’t too worn out, and that the baby was low when it was time to push). I told Chris I must have not been right about that instinct, my body obviously responded well to the rest I was getting on the epidural, and we would meet our baby soon.
I fell asleep, and 2 hours later woke up in a stupor. No baby yet. The nurse checked me soon after and again, high baby. I was able to move my legs a bit so we got into a super supported all 4s/squatting position, along with trying side lying, etc. My OB suggested I push for a bit, to see what happens. I pushed with everything I had, in every position I could possible get into, even with an epidural. No progress.
My OB suggested a c-section. I suggested more pushing. So push we did. What happened next terrified me.
My next group of pushes pushed out some seriously dark meconium. Along with it, an almost complete drop in heartbeat for our baby. As in, heartbeat in the 20s. My OB called it, we needed to get this baby out ASAP. When my OB first suggested a c-section, Chris pulled up a family friendly cesarean birth plan he had in the DropBox folder from class. He spoke with the OB and the nursing staff- as long as baby was okay: baby to mom after being born, weighing him/her, etc later. Nursing ASAP. Calm music being played. Gentle words. Sacred birth, even on an OR table.
My OB rushed me into the OR and told Chris they would do their best, but it depended on baby’s health. It all happened so fast. At first they told Chris that he wasn’t able to come into the room with me due to the hospital’s policies on emergent surgeries, but I said no and he said no…and even though they were basically RUNNING me down the hall, they said he could come in immediately postpartum. I was without him for the beginning of the surgery, but my nurse brought my phone and turned up the Pandora station I had been listening to. She held my hand and looked in my eyes and told me to focus on the baby, to take deep breaths, to be strong. I was. I talked with our baby, telling him/her that everything was going to be fine. That we would meet soon.
My OB described each step of the way for me, what she was doing and why. But holy cow, it was fast. Minutes later, baby was here. I heard a cry. Some meconium was on the baby’s body, but nowhere near her (HER!!!) face. She was crying and everything sounded clear. Sigh of relief. My OB unwrapped her cord from around her neck. Three times. THREE times. Poor thing, it was no wonder she didn’t want to/couldn’t move down. No wonder she got all stressed out. No wonder my body took forever. I breathed a sigh of relief. I’m sure my OB did, too. They lowered the curtain and handed her over to me. I couldn’t do much, but they put her right on my chest. I couldn’t quite get a good view of her face, but her crying started to fade as her breathing rhythmically started to match mine. We were bonding, while my bottom half was all cut open and they were putting me all back together. Wow. Is it possible to have a birth high from a cesarean? Because I am certain I had one.
Chris had big eyes as he caught a peek of what was happening down there, but I think it gives him a greater respect for what I went through. In a weird, kind of nasty way.
There wasn’t much else I could do with baby besides just lay there with her on me. They took Apgar scores and wiped her down a little bit for me while she was still with me, and they told me they wouldn’t weigh her or measure her until after the first hour of skin to skin. At least a couple things in my birth preferences got to stay that way! Chris left the recovery room to tell our parents that everything was okay, which I encouraged him to do after the first 30 minutes or so in there.
When I was wheeled back in I love that Chris had set up the room just as I had wanted postpartum, oils in the diffuser and music in the background. It was mellow. Had I just had surgery? I was feeling surprisingly good for what I just went through.
She started latching on soon after we got to back to our recovery room. She latched well from the get-go, and is still going strong. Again, thank goodness something went smoothly. I needed that.
Emily’s birth story is not what we pictured it would be, I didn’t even think it would look that way when it came time to push. But I see in hindsight what she was trying to tell us all along. I am thankful I had skilled care available, thankful Chris and I were both educated and could anticipate certain roadblocks ahead, that we knew what to advocate for. It also gave me confidence that my mommy-senses are indeed strong and intact, and that I should trust them. I so appreciate the class, the tools we took from it, the support we had with all of the extra resources, and just generally for the encouragement along the way. It really helped open our eyes to the birthing process and how beautiful it can be. And while ours didn’t look like we expected, I really am proud of how we handled it. We did the best we could and we both can look back on that day for the rest of our lives knowing it was exactly as it was meant to be, not because something was forced on us, but because that is the way she needed to enter the world for one reason or another.
Thank you Thank you Thank you! I can’t say it enough.
congratulations alexa and chris! i so very much appreciate you sharing your birth story. it brings me such encouragement to hear you say that, even when things didn’t go as anticipated, you still look back knowing you made the right decisions at the right time. your mention of your mama-instincts are so right on- you know yourself and your baby better than anyone else ❤
and yes, your birth high was REAL and was well-deserved, mama!
if you or anyone you know is interested in online natural childbirth preparation classes, or group classes in San Diego, please feel free to check out my website for this info, along with doula support and placenta encapsulation information, and a small online shop for all kinds of birth/postpartum related goodies!