I’ve been wanting to write out my birth stories for some time now. I honestly think I’ve avoided it for this long because I still feel a sting of disappointment when I think about it. Especially because my second birth was so eerily similar to my first. Which ultimately just makes me feel broken. Our bodies were built to make, carry, and give life to tiny human beings. It is amazing and beautiful. It’s probably the most amazing, beautiful thing any human can do. But for me, I’ve struggled with finding the beauty in my own stories. I’m sure there are some people reading this that don’t understand how I can say such a thing. I should be grateful to have them and it shouldn’t matter how they got here, but how they got here is also a part of their story. And it’s now also a part of who I am. I may not love the difficult and unexpected parts of their journey, but I will always love the way the story ends.
The reality is, I am grateful. Every single day I look at those babies and it feels like my heart might explode. They have my heart and soul forever and I love them beyond measure. And honestly, no matter your journey to motherhood, you will ultimately put aside the difficulties from your journey and focus on what’s right in front of you. Your family. Your heart. Your love. But that’s the point, no matter how your journey begins or ends, it’s a journey none the less. An individual journey that comes with its own unique set of real, raw, emotions, thoughts, and feelings. And all of that matters too. We are human after all and despite the external pressure we might feel to mask those emotions, they are there whether we like it or not. If you want to know more about my thoughts on masking emotions, you can read my previous post here.
So there you have it. Whether you like it or not, understand or don’t, the rest of this blog will give you a real and honest look into my journey to motherhood. It wasn’t perfect, but it’s mine. Dude was born 2.5 years ago so the details might be fuzzy, but I will tell the story the way my heart remembers. For those details I can’t remember, I luckily have a typed timeline from our badass doula to fill in the missing pieces. Winning! So here it goes, the story of our son, Rory. Just fyi, my labor begins on a Saturday and doesn’t end till Tuesday so you might want to pop some popcorn and pour a glass of wine.
Here I am past due “letting go” of pregnancy at a balloon release.
My due date was November 15, 2012. That day came and went so I did what I believe all mamas past due should do. Indulge. I got a haircut, a pedicure, and baked a pie in my husband’s sweats (cause that was clearly all that fit). I tried my best to relax and rest while I waited for dude to decide it was time to be born. Did I mention I didn’t know yet he was a dude? Yep, we never found out the sex. I highly recommend it. Whatever the case I spent two whole days being chill and trying my hardest not to think about the when. Saturday night my husband and I went on what would be our very last night out as child free adults. We went to a Mexican restaurant down the street and I decided to order the spicy fajita special. Turns out my husband made plans to meet with a friend to chat something business related so when we made it home, I retreated to the bedroom while they hung out in the living room. About 9pm I started feeling some cramping. Nothing painful, just enough of an unusual feeling to get me interested. I shrugged it off to the fajitas. An hour or so into the strange cramps, I finally decided that maybe these were not actually the fajitas and instead contractions. I texted my husband and told him to wrap up with his friend and come to bed. This could be a long night after all!
What’s a mama to do when waiting for a baby to be born? Make pie of course!
I also texted our doula to let her know contractions had started and she suggested we get as much rest as possible before things got into a regular pattern. I remember us going to bed. Well, my husband going to bed and me tossing and turning all night through the cramps. The next thing I remember clearly is the back pain. At some point the next morning we both got up and I remember alternating between sitting on the birthing ball while trying to watch that Disney chimpanzee nature movie and crawling on all fours with my face buried in a pillow while I moaned through the unbearable pain radiating around my back. My contractions must not have been that consistent yet, maybe every 10-15 minutes apart as the doulas timeline says she called to check-in at 9am and suggested we take a LONG walk to pick things up. I very much remember the walk because it sucked. We walked (well clearly I waddled) around our neighborhood for a good hour, stopping for each contraction because of the back pain. I remember holding on to Ben for support. I guess the walk worked because according to the timeline by 3pm my contractions were 6 minutes apart lasting a minute, by 5pm every 4 minutes, and at 6:15 when the doula arrived at our house she timed them at every 2-3 minutes apart lasting between 50-70 seconds. The doulas timeline describes the contractions as “extremely intense” and my memory agrees with her. Seriously, the back pain. It was a bitch. The doula also wrote that I was weepy during tough ones and muttered, “ah shit” right as a contraction would start. Yep, that sounds like something I’d do.
I guess this pattern continued for the next few hours until we decided to head to the hospital. The timeline says we arrive around 9pm. For those of you having trouble keeping track, this would put us at 24 hours since my first contraction. Considering I hadn’t slept the night before, I was pretty exhausted and more than ready for everyone to say something along the lines of, “you ready to start pushing?”. Instead, I got to hear that I was only a fingertip dilated. A fucking fingertip. Are you kidding me? The doulas timeline says, “everyone is shocked, because of how hard Alexis has been laboring. I can tell Alexis is very discouraged.” You got that right. I was more than discouraged. I was kinda pissed and wanted to tell my cervix to go fuck itself.
We did not have a baby that day.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to tell her off because my contractions were still going strong and I had to concentrate really hard just to make it through the back pain. I remember the nurse letting me know my doc wanted me to stay to be monitored for three hours so we could reevaluate. I had requested ahead of time to have intermittent monitoring so I would have the freedom to move around and work through the contractions. Thank God for this. If I were confined to that bed, I would never have survived the pain. I remember at some point people mentioning the back pain could be because dude was in a posterior position. For those of you that don’t know what this means, the posterior position is when the baby is face-up instead of facedown, so the hardest part of their head rests near your lower back instead of your belly. We tried everything we could to move him and keep my labor progressing. I walked the halls, I labored on hands and knees, the doula sifted my belly with her rebozo, and according to the timeline Ben even asked my belly (Rory) to come on out. I also remember Ben and the doula taking turns applying counter pressure to my back which still felt like it was being stabbed by knives with each contraction. This is a fuzzy time for me. I mostly just remember a lot of pain and intensity and moaning. It doesn’t say in the timeline, but I remember it felt like I barely got a break which makes me wonder if the contractions had moved on top of each other. I guess this pattern continued until:
12:41am – A cervical check reveals that Alexis is still a fingertip dilated and her cervix is posterior (behind the baby’s head). Nicole (nurse) talks with Alexis and Ben about their options.
- Stay at the hospital and start Pitocin
- Stay at the hospital and take something to try to rest
- Go home and take something to try to rest
Alexis is extremely tired, she desperately needs some rest and I know the place she is going to get the best rest is at home. I know how discouraging going home can be and try to offer encouragement and support to both Ben and Alexis, whatever they decide.
Well after lots of tears and some more painful back contractions, I decided to take an Ambien and go home. The timeline says we arrived home around 3am. I remember the intensity and frequency of the contractions drastically decreased. I was able to actually lay down and while I don’t really remember sleeping, I at least got a short respite from the pain. The contractions never fully went away and by 8 or 9am I remember feeling the intensity start to creep back in. While intense, my contractions were in a funky pattern, ranging from 2 to 15 minutes apart. At this point, I remember feeling ready to get aggressive and do any and everything we could to move dude into the right position so my cervix could start opening the hell up. One suggestion was to see a chiropractor.
The timeline says we arrive at the chiropractor at 11:30am. That shit was weird. I felt like Hannibal Lector in Silence of the Lambs as I was strapped to this table that stood straight up in the air. Almost like I was standing, but I wasn’t. I was laying vertically. She used this gun looking device that made popping noises as she inched it along different sections of my body. While quite possibly the weirdest fucking thing I’d ever done, it clearly worked because as soon as she was finished, I felt a pop in my nether regions followed by a gush of fluids. I was sure my water had broken, but turns out it was just my mucus plug.
After the chiropractor, it’s all kinda fuzzy for me again. The timeline says we are back home by 1pm and that my contractions have picked up in frequency and intensity. It goes on to say:
3:48pm – Alexis is starting to feel pressure.
4:05pm – Alexis throws up during a contraction – yay! Good sign!
4:15pm – We decide to head back to the hospital.
4:47pm – We arrive at the hospital, our nurse’s name is Cindy. Ben is being a rock for Alexis.
So here’s a part I remember vividly. Actually, a more accurate way to describe it is probably that I feel it vividly. I knew they would want to check my cervix first thing and I knew if the results were anything other than “he’s crowning” that I would lose my shit. Well I didn’t get the news I had hoped for. I was 2cm dilated, 80% effaced and dude was at a -1 station. For people around me, this is progress, but for me this means in almost 18 hours since my last cervical check I’ve only “progressed” one whole extra centimeter. And the centimeter before that took 24 hours. So let’s do the math in my irrational, exhausted, laboring mama’s head. 18-24 hours per centimeter means 144-192 more hours until I get to push a human out. That’s 8 more days people. I know, I know clearly no one would let me go 8 more days plus my body would obviously pick up the pace. Or would it? See that’s the point of all these crazy math equations. All I could do in that moment was wonder if my body was capable of doing what it should. Was I broken? I mean these contractions were a bitch so I guess my body got that part right, but why weren’t they doing the work?
If you haven’t realized yet, my hope in this process was to have an un-medicated, vaginal delivery. And I didn’t just say oh let’s give it a good ole college try. I prepared and trained for this shit the same way you would for a marathon. I educated myself on pregnancy, labor, and birth. I assembled a badass team of professionals supportive of my God-given ability to give life. I took care of my body with nutrition and exercise. I practiced relaxation techniques and labor positions. I participated in positive self-talk and moved my heart, mind and soul away from fearing birth and towards loving and trusting in the process. I was informed, empowered and ready to let my body do the work I knew it should. So you can imagine the helpless feeling I had when all that work came crashing down in front of me.
Despite the fact that every ounce of my being was exhausted beyond measure, I kept going. The last cervical check happened at 5:20pm, but I kept working through the contractions. I weeped uncontrollably through each painful breath and I clung to Ben, holding him tight, hoping his love would give me more strength. Two hours later and no amount of love or hope or encouragement could make me see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was done.
Ben and I had planned ahead of time that if I asked for an epidural he was supposed to fool me with trickery and leave the room as if he was going to tell the nurse, but then never actually tell her. I held his face in my hands and looked straight through to his soul and told him I couldn’t do it anymore. We cried together and held each other and he knew this was the real deal. Seconds after the epidural was placed, my sweet wonderful husband was literally snoring in the chair next to me. As he slept off the last 48 hours, my nurse told me that when he came to tell her it was time for an epidural, he couldn’t even get the words out. He was that emotional. It was as if he also felt the disappointment with dropping out of the marathon, probably because he ran the whole thing right by my side. That man is amazing and I can’t believe he’s mine to do life with.
So here we are on the timeline:
9:05pm – Epidural is placed. A cervical check shows that she is 3cm dilated and 80% effaced.
That’s right people, this story started at 9pm Saturday and here we are at 9pm Monday. We’re almost there! As discouraged as I was feeling, my body just couldn’t keep going. I needed rest and those amazing drugs gave me the break I so desperately needed. I don’t think I’ve ever slept more deeply. Even though I got to sleep, my body didn’t take a siesta. It kept kicking ass and working a baby down.
This was clearly after I got drugs.
2:00am – I receive a text from Alexis letting me know that she is now at 5cm, her water broke and they started her on Pitocin.
3:27am – A cervical check shows Alexis is now 8cm!! Alexis is shaking from all of the hormones but is in great spirits.
4:51am –Alexis tells us she is starting to feel like she needs to push during contractions.
5:10am – Alexis is feeling even more pressure to push as well as back pain. Her contractions are coming very close together. I am so impressed and proud of her for hanging in there as long as she has. This mama is truly a rock star! She is so close to holding her sweet baby and finally finding out if Rory is a boy or a girl!!
5:17am – A cervical check shows that she is now 9cm!! Rory is at a +2 station, which explains all of the pressure – this baby’s head is really low!
6:40am – Alexis is at 10cm!!! I am thrilled that this sweet mama is almost done! I know it is going to feel so good for her to hold her new baby! The nurses want mama to labor down and wait for Dr. Mitchell to come.
7am – Alexis starts pushing! We alternate doing “tug of war” pushes and regular pushes.
8:33am – Welcome to the world sweet Rory! Ben announces to the room “It’s a boy!” everyone cheers! Ben’s face is absolutely beaming – I know he must be so proud of Alexis and his new little man.
Oh. My. God. 60 hours later and I have a son. A son. He’s mine. He’s beautiful. He’s perfect. His story isn’t perfect. It didn’t go as planned and it hurt like a mofo, but he’s here and I’m filled with complete and utter joy. You see, I told you no matter the journey, the ending of course is wonderful and everything I could have wanted and more because ultimately it means I am a mother. And I am so very grateful that sweet precious boy chose me to be his mama. But that doesn’t erase everything that happened leading up to his birth.
Birth is a deeply personal, emotionally intense experience and mine shook me to my core. Weeks, months, and now years since that day I still think about the way things unfolded and question what I did or didn’t do or what I could have changed in order to make my journey more easy, more “normal”. It probably doesn’t help that my daughter’s birth unfolded in a similar way. It just compounded the doubts I have in my body and myself and makes me fearful of my next birth journey should I ever have one. But I’m also confident that with more time, I will learn to love the difficulty in my births thus far. Saying out loud that it sucked is therapeutic in itself and then of course writing it all out like this made the whole thing feel more beautiful. More acceptable. If anything, it made me realize how strong I really am. As women I think we doubt so much in ourselves already and I hate that those insecurities have to carry into the beauty of pregnancy, birth and postpartum. We should celebrate and encourage each other on our journeys, no matter the variation in form. And I think that starts by sharing our stories. And not just the surface, but the whole emotional experience. Releasing those feelings, fears, and doubts will only make us stronger and more connected and help us find solace in the fact that we are not alone.