MY BIRTH STORY
It’s wild to sit here and write down such a personal story of my labor and delivery experience. Aiden is now 8 weeks old and I’m honestly still processing and dealing with everything that happened the weeks surrounding Aiden’s arrival. Social Media, especially in the wellness space, is full of magical birth stories (which is wonderful) but birth does not go as planned the majority of the time and lots of women struggle with the way their’s unfolded. It’s taken me a while to write this post because I’ve been soaking in the past 8 weeks with my new little best friend but I’m happy to finally be able to share this story with you.
THE WEEK BEFORE //
As my due date came and went, I was growing very impatient (and a little bit irritated) for my little man to make his arrival. Aside from us finding out he was breech (head up) at 35 weeks and him being turned at 37, I was lucky to have had a very healthy and uneventful pregnancy. However, that made the last few weeks of carrying a human feel like it was never going to end. I had never felt a braxton hicks contraction and I didn’t feel his head deep in my pelvis so I had pretty much come to terms with the fact that I was going to be pregnant forever.
A day or two after my due date, I was hit with my first cold in years; and it was bad. I couldn’t breathe through my nose and my throat was on fire, which made the already difficult task of sleeping a lot harder. Looking back at it, this might have been a sign from my body that labor was near; and hopefully one that was unique to that pregnancy. I also lost my job due to the CEO of the company I worked for being arrested and the company being dissolved without notice. This led to me not being paid which caused a great amount of stress and financial hardship on us at what seemed like the worst timing possible.
Trying to stay positive and rest for the marathon ahead, Alan and I decided to go on one last date with just the two of us down to Long Beach to get brunch on Sunday, September 2nd. The food was bomb and we will definitely be going back; but more importantly, when I went to the bathroom I noticed I had bloody show (so sorry TMI). Yay! A sign something was happening! We drove back up to LA and I cried in the car because I was more stuffed up than I had been in my life plus I was huge and uncomfortable and probably hungry again.
labor: at home //
At forty weeks and 5 days pregnant, on September 4th, 2018 around 3:00AM, I woke up with a dull stabbing + tightening pain in my back. I got up to pee and then tried to fall back asleep because I knew I would need as much rest as I could get for what’s ahead, but the pain was too distracting. I decided to start timing my contractions with my pregnancy app. They were anywhere from 4-9 minutes apart and light to moderate in intensity. The irregularity and lack of experiencing any (noticable) braxton hicks contractions throughout my pregnancy made me second guess whether I was actually in labor or not (although I could not deny the pain). I woke up Alan around 5AM to let him know and we watched a movie while I continued to record my contractions and rest. Around 6:30AM I got up, went to the living room, got myself a cup of tea, drank some water, and tried to get as comfortable as I could with each contraction while Alan rested. At this point, my contractions were anywhere from 3-6 minutes apart but still moderate in intensity. Each contraction felt most manageable when I mentally pictured relaxing my entire body from head-to-toe and taking really deep controlled breaths. Once Alan woke up, we cleaned the house a bit and packed the last few things we needed for the hospital.
I had an OB appointment for NST monitoring at 1PM so we left the house around noon. Contractions were pretty regularly 5-6 minutes apart at this point. Because I was feeling the contractions all in my back, sitting in the car was extremely uncomfortable. My OB’s office and the hospital are about an hour away from where we live so all I was thinking was that I couldn’t believe I had to do this again later when things got worse. Of course my contractions stopped as soon as I walked into the exam room. I was showing some on the monitor but definitely not what I had been feeling for the past 10 hours. I told my doctor that I had been feeling the contractions 100% in my back so she did an ultrasound and confirmed that baby was OP. This means that he was sunny side up (face up) vs. facing my spine, which is the optimal position for delivery. Everything otherwise looked good. My OB said I was four centimeters dilated and she stripped my membranes. This was the third time I had had this done and although it’s a super quick procedure and not unbearable, it’s definitely not fun. Once again, of course as soon as I walked out of the office, my contractions came back and stronger. On our way home, we stopped by Whole Foods to get some last minute snacks for the hospital.
We got home around 3PM. At this point, I had been in labor for about 12 hours and contractions were consistently about 5 minutes apart. To help manage the pain, Alan would put a wet hand towel in the microwave about 30 seconds before I was about to have a contraction and put it on my lower back while I was on my elbows and knees on the couch, swaying, and continuing to focus on relaxing my whole body and taking deep breaths. This relieved enough pain from my back that I could actually feel the pain from my uterus. In between contractions, I relaxed, filed my nails, watched some netflix, and eventually ate dinner. Around 11PM, I noticed water leaking down my leg (it felt like I peed myself a little). There was never a big pop or splash but water continued to slowly leak so I knew my water had broken. About halfway through watching Deadpool 2, they had progressed to about 2 1/2 minutes apart and were getting more intense. At this time, we decided to grab the last few things we needed and left for the hospital.
labor: the hospital //
We arrived at the hospital around 3AM on Wednesday, September 5th. We checked in at the front desk and they had me go right into a labor and delivery room (I skipped triage) because I had already been in labor for 24 hours, my water broke, and my contractions were so close together. By the time I got into the room and put the hospital gown on, my contractions were about 1 1/2 minutes apart and super intense (as confirmed by the monitor). The nurse checked me (assuming I would already be 6-7 centimeters dilated), and I was only 4 centimeters; which was the same I had been at my appointment over 14 hours earlier. This was super discouraging as I had felt like the past 24 hours of intense back labor was for nothing. The nurse assured me that because my contractions were so close together and pretty intense that things would probably move pretty quickly. I stayed calm and continued to labor in the room. I was getting super tired but I could not sit or lay on the bed because it was excruciating on my back so I just stood with my elbows resting on the bed and swayed side to side as Alan put pressure on my hips and back. Three to four hours later, the nurse came back to check me again. I was still only four centimeters dilated with very intense contractions about 1 minute apart. I started to panic. I had been in labor for over 27 hours with no progression and no end in sight. This is when things got unbearable. I was no longer calm so I could not get ahead of the contractions to control my breath and relax my body. I started to consider getting the epidural so I could relax and because I did not know how much longer I would be in this but I felt so conflicted and guilty because it was something I knew I didn’t want going into it and I had been coping naturally for almost 30 hours. I eventually decided to get it.
Around 7AM I told the nurse I wanted the epidural. She checked me again to make sure I had not progressed and I was still 4 centimeters dilated. I was crying because I had felt so guilty about my decision but I knew I needed to calm down and rest in order for my body to progress. The anesthesiologist came into my room and set up his station. I sat up on the bed criss-cross applesauce, put a hair net on, and hugged a pillow. He first numbed the area with a shot (I jumped a little), and then proceeded to put the catheter in. He went in the wrong spot initially and had to do it again. Once the epidural was in and working, I was finally able to lay down. My legs weren’t completely numb, but they felt like pins and needles. The same feeling as when you sit on your foot for too long and it falls asleep. I didn’t like the way the epidural felt but I could no longer feel the contractions (which were still about a minute apart) so it was well worth it.
Shortly after I received the epidural, my OB came in to fully break my water in hoped that it would speed things up a bit. A few hours later, the nurse came back to check how dilated I was. No progression. Therefore, I continued to try to rest as best as I could. I was crying because my nose was completely stuffed from being sick that I couldn’t sleep at all. I would fall asleep but wake up within seconds because my body would forget how to breathe out of my mouth once I was out. It was miserable. That was honestly the worst part of it all and it went on for the entire labor.
A few more hours of misery went by and suddenly, the entire L&D team rushed into my room. I was so exhausted and confused but obviously this was not a good sign. I kept asking what was wrong and after what seemed like forever (it was probably 20 seconds) someone told me that his heart rate had dropped. The team of people flipped me in different positions, put the oxygen mask on me, told me to take deep breaths, and injected a medicine to stop the contractions that made me shake uncontrollably. This happened two additional times before he was born and is just as terrifying each time. From then on there was absolutely no way I could relax. I kept asking Alan to watch the heart rate monitor screen whenever the nurse(s) were not there out of fear that they weren’t paying attention. Every little dip I heard freaked me out.
My OB eventually came back to discuss my options. The nurse had told her that I was still at 4 centimeters, so they wanted to start pitocin to move things along. I knew I did not want pitocin going into this so I expressed my concerns. Shortly after that, his heart rate dropped for a prolonged period for the second time so we agreed not to do pitocin. My OB checked my dilation and said she felt 5 centimeters! A small improvement but at least something. I was so miserable and anxious at that point that 5 centimeters sounded like a joke to me. I had been in this for over 35 hours with hardly any progression, I couldn’t breathe, I was terrified something was going to happen to him, and he was still posterior. My OB really urged me to continue to push through and try for a vaginal delivery. Looking back at this, I really appreciate her pushing me to do this. You hear tons of horror stories and people saying that the doctors and hospitals want you to end up with a c-section because they get more money and it’s a much quicker process so I feel very lucky to have a doctor who was really looking out for my best interest.
Approximately 38 hours in, I was checked again and was 6 centimeters dilated. Soon after, a few nurses came in to put me in a different position in hopes that it would encourage the baby to turn. They had me sit up with pillows behind my back and my feet up on stirrups holding onto a birthing bar. After about an hour or two later, I began to shake uncontrollably and a spot on my back started to hurt really badly. It became unbearable so I had the anesthesiologist come back to fix my epidural. I was too tired to remember exactly what was wrong or what he did but the back pain got better afterwards. Unfortunately, the changing of positions and use of the peanut ball did not lead to baby turning and the uncontrollable shaking did not subside. I began to feel feverish and this was because my uterus got infected from my water being broken for so long. They gave me some antibiotics and acetaminophen and my fever went down.
For the third time, Aiden’s heart rate decelerated for a prolonged amount of time. The entire team rushed into my room once again, put me in different positions, and gave me the oxygen mask. Luckily, it came back up after a few minutes of readjusting. My OB then decided to give me an amnioinfusion. This is by definition: “a method in which isotonic fluid is instilled into the amniotic cavity in order to correct fetal heart rate changes thought to be caused by compression of the umbilical cord.” Basically, they filled my uterus with saline to add something that hopefully cushions Aiden from the impact of the strong and frequent contractions I was having. I was so anxious at this point I was just ready to have a c-section. My doctor talked me down and checked me. I was finally 7 centimeters! This felt like a much easier number to swallow and I started feeling a bit more hopeful.
On September 5th around 10PM, my OB decided to go home for a few hours because my progression had been slow. I tried to get some sleep but was still waking up within seconds because I couldn’t breathe through my nose and I couldn’t breathe through my mouth while I was sleeping. An hour or so later, I started feeling the contractions on the right side of my back. It quickly spread everywhere and was excruciating. My epidural was failing again and my contractions were about 1 minute long with only about 10 seconds between them. Going from feeling no contractions for hours to 8-9 centimeter, back-labor contractions is not very fun. Eventually, the anesthesiologist came in and fixed my epidural again. Shortly after, my Mom came in to talk to me for a few minutes and when she left, I was finally able to get some rest.
I woke up around 12:30AM with a crazy amount of pressure… down there. It felt like a soccer ball was trying to come out of my a** (LOL). Alan was dead asleep so I called the nurse in to tell her and she called my doctor. Once again, I started to feel unbearable pain in my back. My epidural was failing AGAIN. The nurses and resident OB did not want to call the anesthesiologist until my doctor got there so I suffered for what seemed like forever. The problem wasn’t so much the pain (I knew I would be pushing soon anyway) but it was that I couldn’t lay on my back or in any position really. Eventually my OB arrived and had the anesthesiologist come back to fix my epidural again so I could begin pushing.
Suddenly there were 15 people in the room. All of the pediatric, NICU, and OB Doctors there with all of their residents. So there I was, with my legs propped up on stirrups and 15 people staring directly at my ****** and I couldn’t give less of a f*ck at that point. I was just ready for this to be over and to finally meet my baby boy. First my doctor had me do a ‘practice push’ to make sure I was able to push correctly. She said it was all good so when the next contraction came around, I did just that. I pushed every other contraction because they were basically on top of each other and we wanted to give baby boy some time to bring his heart rate back up. After what I think was only about 6 pushes (I could totally be wrong here), my OB decided to use a vacuum extractor due to his heart rate decelerations. If you don’t know what an obstetrics vacuum is, it’s not what it sounds like. It’s more like a suction cup than an actual vacuum. After a handful of attempts with the vacuum, my OB informed me that due to his OP position, he wasn’t going to fit through my pelvis. Plus his heart rate continued to decelerate and therefore I was going to the OR for a c-section. I was totally fine with whatever, as long as he was going to be okay. I asked if Alan was able to come with me, she said of course, and they rolled me away while he got dressed in scrubs.
delivery: the operating room //
I was quickly rushed into the OR where they lifted me from my bed to an operating table. I was absolutely terrified and asked my doctor if his heart was beating. She reassured me that “if it wasn’t, this would be going very differently.” This is where my memory started to get really foggy as the pushing really took whatever I had left. I remember the room being nothing like what I thought it would look like. It was a giant (cafeteria sized), all-white room. All I could really see was the curtain in front of me, a screen with what I assume were my vitals to my right, and a large digital clock on the wall. I didn’t have as much space near my chest as I thought I would. The curtain was all the way up to my chin. I began to shake uncontrollably after they administered the medicine. They checked if I could feel anything on my abdomen and then proceeded with the surgery. Sometime after they opened me up, Alan walked in and I think he sat behind me because I couldn’t see him. My entire body was still shaking uncontrollably. It was so uncomfortable and I was so nauseous.
What felt like just a few minutes went by and after I felt a bunch of tugging and pulling, I heard my doctor announce that he was born and 3:46AM, and that he was “much bigger than we expected.” Alan went over to be with him. I didn’t hear him cry and I was terrified. I kept asking if he was okay and it took forever (or so I thought) for someone to answer me.
In this moment, I felt lonelier than I had ever felt in my life.
I eventually heard his little cries and didn’t know how to feel or react. I was so nauseous I yelled “I’m gonna throw up” and someone came over and suctioned it up with a tube. I heard a lot of talking from the other side of the curtain and machines beeping and I thought I was going to die. It turns out I was fine. Apparently Aiden had just released meconium inside of my uterus (he pooped) and my placenta was calcified and not looking so great (which could also explain the prolonged heart decelerations). I remember thinking that I didn’t want Alan to bring him over to me because I didn’t want to meet him like this. He was walking over to me and I was really scared for some reason. He brought Aiden up to my face and put his face against mine and he was so warm and soft. I kissed him a lot and told him I loved him. I called him Aiden Boy remember saying that he looked just like Alan. I don’t remember how I felt aside from exhausted. It definitely wasn’t this rush of magic and oxytocin. I was dry heaving (I hadn’t eaten anything in 35 hours) so I kept having to tell Alan to pull him away.
I was quickly closed up, lifted back on to a bed, and they began to roll me away to a post-op room. My OB stopped everyone and stated that I get to hold him while being transported to the next room. I declined because I was still shaking uncontrollably and dry heaving and I didn’t want to drop him or throw up on him. This is my biggest regret looking back at it. I was just scared.
recovery: post-op room //
The post-op room was weird. From what I remember, it looked like someone’s home office with a hospital curtain in it (see the photo of Alan and Aiden below). I was so tired, I was falling asleep sitting up. I was no longer dry-heaving or shaking but I was beyond thirsty and they wouldn’t let me drink water or hold him yet. Alan put the plastic bin “bassinet” that Aiden was in next to me and went to go to the waiting room to tell my parents he was here. Aiden was staring at me and giving me major hunger cues. I kept asking if I could feed him and the nurses wouldn’t allow me to because they were closely monitoring me. After a few hours of pushing on my abdomen to make sure I wasn’t hemorrhaging, I was finally able to hold and feed him. I don’t remember this much as I was literally falling asleep with him in my arms (and waking up terrified, thinking I dropped him). He had such a good latch immediately. This was such a relief as I was so worried about how our breastfeeding journey would start because of my c-section and not being able to hold him for hours. Finally, we were together again. It was still weird. He was still a stranger. But we were finally able to start getting to know each other.
If you’ve gotten this far, thank you for reading this crazy, long, and personal story.
It was not beautiful, or magical, but it was mine.
And now he’s here.
He’s beautiful, and magical, and mine.