Note: Obviously this is a birth story. Need I say more? Read at your own risk.
Before I dive into this saga, I want to give a little background on our mindset going into Felix’s birth.
We had started out at a typical Ob office and were happy with that decision until we had our hospital tour around 32 weeks. As we were touring the Labor and Delivery floor I fought down a panic attack induced by my sister’s traumatic delivery of her medically complex son, Noah, three months earlier. As I sobbed in the parking garage once we were back in our car, I knew my emotions were irrational but I couldn’t get over the feeling that if we had our baby in a hospital, he would be sick. Very long, emotional story short, we looked into other options and since our pregnancy was low risk and had been perfect up until then we decided to try for a home birth with a reputable midwife. This together with what we were learning in our Bradley Method classes helped us feel more peaceful and settled about the upcoming birth. Now, on to the main event.
I was fully expecting to be pregnant up until 41 weeks, maybe 42, maybe forever. So when I woke up to my water breaking the day after hitting 38 weeks, I couldn’t have been more surprised.
We tried to sleep some more because I wasn’t having any contractions. It was impossible as the realization slowly sunk in that this. was. it. After tossing and turning for a while, Dave just got up, started tidying the house and folding laundry.
I remember our home was filled with warm sunlight as the midwife arrived around 9:45am. She heard good heart tones, and baby seemed fine. However when she was done examining me, she dropped the bombshell on us that baby had turned from perfect position a week earlier to frank breech position. She couldn’t deliver breech babies, so she let us know we’d have to transfer to the hospital. On her way out she said “You’ll have a baby by this afternoon.” Little did she know...
She left us thoroughly confused and disheartened. My biggest goal after a healthy baby was not to have a C-section and here we were realizing that’s exactly what we were in for. I got a hold of my mom on the phone and told her I needed her to come up and meet us at the hospital. Dave was on the phone with our Bradley Instructor, Jocelyn, and she agreed to meet us at the hospital as well. We really needed their support.
We threw together a hospital bag, snapped a picture and around 11am we headed into the hospital. Jocelyn met us in the lobby and we took the elevators up to triage and let the desk know our situation. It felt so surreal to be there, I didn’t know what to say and kept stumbling over my words.
Once we got into a triage room, the nurse (Allison, she makes a 2nd appearance later) was certain after feeling my belly for 10 seconds that he wasn’t in fact breech. The ultrasound confirmed that baby was in perfect birth position after all! I was checked for the first time and was dilated to 1cm. There had also been no sign of any contractions. In other words, broken water but nothing else was getting going. Between the hospital environment and the emotional roller coaster of the morning I was already exhausted and a wreck and it wasn’t even noon yet.
Of course the hospital wanted to keep us because my water was broken, but we weighed our options and knew that if we stayed, we’d have a higher chance of interventions sooner. We left knowing we’d be back but that I really needed some time to regroup emotionally.
As we left the hospital my mom met us in the lobby, and we came up with a game plan to get labor going (walking, pumping, castor oil, etc.). Amazingly we were able to hire Jocelyn as our doula right there last minute. It was so great that she was able to clear her schedule to be there to support us through a situation we hadn’t expected at all.
That afternoon we made sure to eat, rest, pack a real hospital bag and then do as much as possible to get labor started. It took until about 12 hours after my water had broken, around 5pm, for anything to get going with some light, but regular contractions.
We arrived back at the hospital after dinner. The insane thing was that now triage was packed, multiple women were in the waiting room because there were not enough rooms for all the women in labor.
As we sat in the waiting room I started having heavier contractions. I couldn’t stand sitting in the waiting room, so we walked the hall. And we walked, and we walked.
For almost 4 hours we walked the hall in active labor, back and forth, stopping for contractions and hoping a room would open up.
Finally around midnight they sent us to a room in the OB Special Care Unit. It was so nice to have our own stuff and get our music and diffuser going. The peaceful atmosphere really helped for a while. I checked my phone one last time once we got into the room and remember seeing that a friend had had a baby that day (hi, Ashlee!). I thought “our babies will have super close birthdays!” And that was the last normal thought I had for 24 hours. The rest of the world totally faded away as each contraction was more than enough to fill my consciousness.
I discovered that laying in bed was not a good solution for me. Dave found a table in the main room for me to lean on. I also got some ice water and washcloths. Dave helped me remember to relax through each contraction. We really rocked our Bradley techniques for a while, however around 2:30am we decided to call Jocelyn in. Right after Dave called her, I was checked for the first time since coming back to the hospital and had progressed to 5cm which felt like a big deal and made the hard work feel worth it.
Jocelyn arrived right before we moved to a room in the actual Labor and Delivery. I wanted to get into the shower as soon as we got to the room. I was ready to try something else. This was also the point at which my modesty went out the window. I remember vaguely thinking “oh, this is what they meant.” I just wanted to get in the shower and find some relief in any way possible.
While taking a break from the shower around 5am, I asked for my mom. She arrived while I was back in the shower. Our nurse was so good at making the remote fetal monitor work, to allow me to move around and get in the shower. I hung onto Dave’s neck with my left arm and onto the shower bar with my right. I was vaguely aware that Dave was probably really cold, but I needed him so I figured he’d be ok. I found out later that the poor guy was practically shivering and he still has back pain from supporting me.
Around the time my mom arrived, I was done and didn’t want to go on anymore. Earlier I’d heard that you could do injectable drugs to help with the pain for a couple hours. I knew my birth team wouldn’t let me have an epidural, so I figured I might as well ask for the lesser of the pain management. They redirected me by suggesting I get checked. They were evasive about how much progress I’d made, so I could tell the news wasn’t good.
The same nurse who had helped us in triage the day before, Allison, came in after shift change and let us know she’d be our nurse for Friday during the day. She was awesome and had alot of good ideas. I really made my birth team work for it at this point and they helped me try a bunch of different positions. I found the best were hanging on my mom’s neck and leaning with my elbows on the raised bed.
Finally Allison had an idea and came back lugging a rocking chair with her. I sat and rocked with my mom and Jocelyn on either side for a couple hours. I remember it was dark when I sat down and I must have zoned out, maybe even dozing between contractions, because the next thing I remember it was light outside. Dave got to take a nap as well since we’d been up for longer than 24 hours at this point.
Late morning I was done with the rocking chair and really wanted relief, in any form. I called the nurse myself to get her to bring me some sort of drug. Again they put me off by suggesting I get checked. Lo and behold I had progressed to 8cm. I knew no one was going to “give in” to my requests for medication now that we’d made progress and were relatively close. At this point I was so exhausted my birth team made me lie down to labor through the final two centimeters.
It only took an hour and a half until I was rechecked and was complete at 10cm. We started pushing with the bed deconstructed to allow a squatting position. It was such a relief to be able to push instead of just endure contractions. We tried 4 different pushing positions and I gave it my all. 4 and a half hours later, there was no progress. My birth team had been so encouraging and enthusiastic during the pushing that I was sure the baby was about to pop out, so to hear that all that work had brought no progress was miserable. I’d also never felt any urge to push so it all felt rather discouraging.
Additionally, my contractions were spacing out and my labor was slowing down. I didn’t realize this, but my birth team did because they could see it on the monitors. At this point the doctor on call came in and talked with us about options. Because my water had been broken for 36 hours at this point, they were concerned about infection. 48 hours was the longest they would let me go at all. Because my labor had slowed so much they thought it would be best to start some pitocin and offered an epidural with the pitocin. All I wanted was a nap, so I was on board with an epidural. We agreed it was the best option to get a natural delivery and not a c section.
After laboring unmedicated in the hospital for 24 hours, I got an epidural. This allowed Dave and my mom to run downstairs and get some food. We all got some well-deserved rest.
I have to complain a little about the lack of pillows in the hospital. I thought they’d be more generous with them. Goodness I have been sleeping with a mountain of very precisely laid out pillows at home at the end of pregnancy. You’d think the hospital could provide more than 4 flat pillows? It seemed so strange to me. But they dimmed the lights and helped me get as comfy as I could in a hospital bed with a gigantic belly. Finally I got the nap I’d been begging for all day.
I was ready to sleep for hours and hours, but while I was sleeping the pitocin had gone to work getting my contractions going again. So around 11:30pm, it was time to start pushing again. This time it was so different. The baby had dropped down while I was napping and was totally ready to come out. I have to admit it felt a little unfair that a nap and a dose of pitocin accomplished more than 4.5 hours of grueling pushing.
It was so great to be able tell that my pushing was working. I felt so strong pushing and had to be told to slow down a little to keep from tearing. Finally I heard the words I’d expected to hear 12 hours earlier “I can see his head!” Someone showed me a picture of his head on their phone and I got to feel his sweet soft head.
At 12:13am Saturday morning, after 43 hours and 13 minutes of labor Felix Christopher arrived. He was so purple and slimy. I remember his mouth was so big and his limbs were stretched wide. I got him into my arms as quickly as I could. I was overwhelmed with wonder and awe at the fact that this was *my* baby. As I nuzzled him under my chin he quieted right down and at that moment I knew I was his mom.
For the first hour after he was born there was quite a bit of commotion as they waited for the placenta to come down and then they had to stitch up a second degree tear. During all this I was rather oblivious because I was busy holding Felix skin to skin. He was ready to nurse as soon as he had calmed down from the initial shock of being born. He had such a strong latch that I credit him for teaching me how to nurse rather than the other way around. One of the first things Dave said about him was “He’s like a little plecostomus fish!”
My mom and Jocelyn stayed around long enough to see him weigh in at 6 lbs 15.5 ounces. I had prayed throughout the whole pregnancy for a 7 pound baby, and it was so close to exactly 7 pounds that I’m counting it as an answered prayer. It was so sweet to see Dave calm Felix down while he was being weighed because I had to stay in the bed.
We moved to the recovery floor around 4 am and I got to eat a crummy sandwich that tasted soooo good. We got to sleep for 3 hours and then the sunlight and our excitement woke us up. I was so relieved to be done with birth and felt so free without my huge belly. Our hospital stay was uneventful, but we were ready to leave to get away from the constant interruptions from the staff. We got to go home Sunday evening about 36 hours after Felix was born.
Even though the whole experience was so different from what we expected, in the end it was perfect. Initially we said we would have been happy in the hospital with a doula or with trying a homebirth. We always knew a homebirth wasn’t guaranteed, we were “trying” for one. I had thought the hospital would stress me out, but when it came down to it, I was so concentrated on what was going on in my body that I wasn’t even aware of the hospital environment. Dave was a really good advocate and we were able to do what we needed.
Looking back at the whole ordeal, from a premature rupture of membranes, to thinking we needed a c-section, to changing our whole birth plan last minute, to labor lasting 43 hours, it was so crazy and felt like a whirlwind. But it was so special and sacred. God’s angels protected us through it all and we’re so grateful for the final outcome. Despite nothing going according to plan, I can honestly say I wouldn’t change anything, except I’m hoping next time it might be a little shorter.
Of course Felix was worth it all.