The only thing to expect in birthing is the unexpected. It's one of those events where you need to prepare yourself as best you can for the outcome you'd like while also knowing that it may not go as planned. My plan for a natural birth with my daughter turned into an early induction loaded with hospital interventions. My son's birth? It happened naturally and took just 20 minutes. Seriously. This is the story of River's birth.
This is my birthing story - part of a three part post with my second pregnancy story and postpartum story (both coming soon). It took me a bit to finally get this published because after getting my photos 3 weeks later I realized that I was still salty about how some things happened with this birth. It was amazing, but it also showed there's so much further to go in women's health. I go into more detail about why after my story. This isn't the highlight reel (there are seriously some pics that I look a mess in and I might complain a lot haha), this is what I remember. All of the lovely birth photos are by Emily Shores Photography. I couldn't really place them in an order connected with the story since I only have pics after birth and this is a pretty text-heavy story so I wanted to break things up with pictures.
I Just Need to Get This Room Together
I had a sinking feeling that I'd be giving birth soon — sinking because we were getting the keys to our new home and moving into it the weekend before baby's due date and I really wanted to get moved in before he was born. Family members joked that he'd probably arrive on moving weekend and I'd reply that I just needed him to wait until after that. I really wanted to get everything together so that I wouldn't have a ton of things to do when I came home after delivering the baby. Plus, I needed to get his room together for a nursery design post here on the website since some companies were waiting to see their products in it and I was worried that I wouldn't get to it after baby's birth. I never got to work on a nursery for Savannah since she roomed in with us and arrived two weeks early so this was important to me. I needed to feel prepared.
Because I'm kinda a squeaky wheel type of person, I managed to get our loan people to close a day early and also get the home key sooner (on Thursday), meaning me and the hubs would be moving all the baby things I'd been hoarding in various nooks of the two-bedroom apartment we were temporarily staying in all day Friday. I wanted all things baby moved in so I could work on it all while he and his friends moved the other stuff during the weekend. OK, I wanted it all setup, too. My mom was picking Savannah up from school to take her camping so we had the dedicated time to do it. From 9 a.m. until about 10 p.m. we moved the baby's things and some other household stuff, had appliances delivered (and found out we'd have to wait another week or two on our dryer), and the hubs put together the baby's crib and dresser. He started to get frustrated about putting together furniture and I was stressed about my time crunch to get things done because I had both work and personal level of comfort deadlines that only a pregnant lady could understand. We were both tired and bickering and my cramping and backache had gotten worse with all the moving I was doing.
Either I Just Peed My Pants or My Water Broke
After going through Panera Bread drive-thru for a kitchen sink cookie that I "needed," we arrived home feeling just done with the day. It was around 11 p.m. so hubs went to get ready for bed and I laid down to put my ultra-swollen feet and legs up for a minute. My cramping was getting stronger, too, so I just wanted to sleep. But then I had to pee. I didn't want to get up and considered just sleeping a while first, but reminded myself that it's bad for your health to do that.
So, I stood up and a gush of liquid came out. I was mortified. I said, "Babe. . . either I just peed my pants or my water just broke. Can you help me to the bathroom?" My feet and legs were so done with the day that I couldn't walk without support. He helped me to the bathroom and made comments because we both thought it was pee. It was clear but had a bit of a pee odor, which confused me since the waters are supposed to be odorless. But when I was done on the toilet and stood up again a bit more liquid went down my legs. I texted my mom because we were just talking about waters breaking the weekend before when my cousins came to visit and I didn't know what this was. (My water was broken for me as part of an induction for Savannah's birth.) At this point, I could hear the advice of my doula in my head — shower and then see if anything changes/how you feel. I knew this advice from when I had what I thought was early labor a few weeks before.
The Pressure's On . . . to Get Ready for the Hospital
After turning off the shower I noticed little drops of blood in the bathtub. I wasn't positive, but this made me think that my water did just break and this was the "bloody show" my doula referred to in my training. I called my doula and let her know that I think my water just broke and that I had some spotting. She advised me to try to lay down and get some sleep for now since I'd probably be in labor the next morning. So I texted my birth photographer to let her know that my water broke and I'll keep her posted. Meanwhile, my mom texted me that since it was my second and happening naturally I should go to the hospital ASAP (it was a 30 minute or so drive) because she and her mom both had quick labors. I tried to rest in bed per the advice of my doula, but the cramping was intense now. I turned on my Hypnobabies birthing day track to listen to and tried to concentrate on that instead of the idea of "pain," then decided I would get ready for the hospital because I hired a birth photographer and didn't want to look like crap in my photos. I started drying my hair and told the hubs that I wanted him to call the doula back since I couldn't and let her know we're going to the hospital.
A pressure wave (also called contraction or cramping) would hit and I'd go to my bedroom floor in a cat/cow pose to hear the Hypnobabies audio from my phone and work through the pressure. That lasted what felt like a long 30 seconds and then I changed into my Pretty Pushers delivery gown. My husband told the doula that they were less than 30 seconds long and a few minutes apart then let me know that she didn't think that I was in active labor yet and that the hospital would probably send me home, but to check in with her later. I told hubs to pack up the car while I got ready. I rushed to finish getting ready — curling my hair and putting on makeup during the 2-3 minutes I had between waves — then we left.
Turn Off That Country Music
My birthing ball was at the new house, about 20 minutes away, so he suggested that we go there and get my ball then sleep there a bit if the waves go down. I agreed, so we headed that way. I wanted to finish my makeup by applying my new LipSense on the way but ended up just sitting with my eyes closed listening to Hypnobabies audio through headphones. He had the radio on quietly and I had him turn it off so I could focus on my track. . . every little noise that wasn't Hypnobabies got to me. One hand clenched the door handle, the other my husband's hand. Slowly, the waves moved deeper down my body and lasted longer. When we got to our house I could barely manage to speak so he asked if I just wanted him to grab the ball and go and I nodded yes.
The 10-15 minutes between our new home and the hospital felt the longest. At this point, I was clenching my body while also trying to remind myself to not do that because it closes things up and makes birth harder. I couldn't focus on Hypnobabies anymore but I needed it as my background noise, canceling every other sound out. I started screaming . . . then reminding myself that low vocal tones are best (thank you doula training) and started to scream in low tones. Kinda between a peaceful Om and screaming for fear of spiders. I started to feel a gush of something leave me with each wave and worried that I was going to deliver in the car.
I Need a Delivery Room, STAT
At 12:15 a.m. we arrived at the hospital's emergency room entrance and parked in the red zone as they told us to in the stork tour. Hubs got me a wheelchair that I remember being freezing because they were all stored near the ER doors and rushed me inside while I scream moaned through waves. He told the check-in person at ER that we were on our way up to Labor & Delivery, but unlike what they said in the stork tour, he stopped us and wanted to ask a bunch of questions and call up first. Then he got someone to escort us up. I remember seeing a mom with her child in the ER and they looked kind of terrified of me because I was in my now wet birthing gown just screaming away as they wheeled me to the elevator. On our way up, the elevator stopped and a doctor of sorts got on. Nothing like an awkward elevator ride with strangers as you vocalize through pressure waves and liquid gushes out.
We reached our floor and I was taken to the intake room where they wanted me to get on the bed so that they could see how dilated I was. I told them that my water broke around 11 p.m. so I wasn't going to do that, I knew I was in labor. I was checked in about 12:20 a.m. and told my husband to call the doula again. He said that he would when he gets the stuff from the car because there's no reception in the hospital. The staff talked amongst themselves then said that they would take me to the birthing room. Like a slug, I left a trail of liquid as I pushed down and they wheeled me to my room.
Get the Birth Plan
By now I was sweating. I was desperate. I wanted the time to have my doula there for comfort and supportive measures, and my birth photographer to document it all. I realized that we left the hospital bags and everything in the car with my birth plan (which I had attached to chocolates for the staff) so I asked hubby to run to the car and get it. I needed them to know my birth plan. I needed a voice. He went to the car and the staff began to set up the bed for me to labor. I saw them put the bed down and between pressure blurted, "I'm not birthing that way!" That's when they did what they should have started with and asked "OK how are you birthing?" and I let them know that I'm delivering on my knees. So they brought the head of the bed up and had me on my knees facing the bed, holding onto the top.
I realized I still had my headphones on but no Hypnobabies tracks because my husband had my phone with him to call the doula while he got stuff from the car so I took them off. This was poor planning on my part. I really, really needed those tracks. I started to say things like "No no no no no" and "Help!" . . . pretty much everything you don't want to do while birthing because it will tense you up and make things take longer or hurt more. But I could feel the baby pushing down, ready to come out and I wasn't ready. I kept my eyes mostly closed so I could focus on what I was doing, but remember some man looking at an EKG chart next to me then leaving the room and there being some nurses in there helping the midwife. I started to ask where my husband was because he had been gone too long so I heard a voice say they would go look for him. I turned around and told everyone that I don't want the cord clamped until I deliver the placenta since they hadn't read my birth plan and I knew it was coming up next.
A few minutes later my husband came back into the room with only the birth plans, just as I was pushing (I had the baby a few minutes later). Apparently, he thought it was a good time to re-park the car, and then he got held up at security. I told him to call the birth photographer. He said that he would and I responded with my birthing mama rage of "Call her now!" I knew she was going to miss the birth if she wasn't called ASAP. At some point during all this, the midwife told a nurse to give me a shot and I told them no shots. Then I heard "Give it to her anyway," to which I shouted back "I just told you 'No,' why would you do it anyway?!" (I thought they listened to me, but my husband told me later that they still gave me a shot in the leg because of bleeding or something.) I started to feel a horrible burn and didn't want to push anymore. I said that I couldn't, I wasn't ready. The birth photographer wasn't there, my doula wasn't there. The midwife told me to push through the burn. I would have paused for the right timing if I could. I felt so much pressure pushing down and knew that with one more push he'd be here. I visualized the push and how once the head was out, everything else would slide with it, and then I pushed and it happened just like that.
My baby was handed to me through my legs so that I could hold him at 12:41 a.m. on Feb. 11, just about 20 minutes after arriving. I placed him on my chest so that he could attempt the birth crawl to nurse. My doula showed me a video about this during my own doula training with her and it was amazing to see. The midwife came over to me and said, "Why do you want to wait until the placenta is delivered to cut the cord?" I was turned off by the fact that she was questioning this instead of letting me do it because midwives are supposed to be pro things like that. I told her that I wanted baby to get all the blood from the cord and that I didn't want the placenta pulled. She fought me on it and I caved to clamping once the cord stops pulsing. But when she cut it I saw blood, so I felt like she didn't wait, she milked the cord and cut it before the blood had transferred all the way.
He Crawled Toward My Nipple and Latched
Just then, my doula arrived and everyone asked if she was the photographer I kept talking about. She said that when she didn't hear back from me (she had texted me while I was going through my pressure waves in the car I think and I didn't see it) that she thought she should get her husband to come home and watch the kids so she could check in with us at the hospital. The birth photographer came in just after her and they both sat to chat with me while my placenta was being taken out (instead of delivered like I wanted). I was focused on the birth crawl with the little guy. I knew that it could take 30 minutes to an hour so just reminded myself to be patient. My doula came over to suggest I help him by moving him closer and to see the little one, then the photographer started taking pictures. After about 20-30 minutes he did it! He crawled toward my nipple and latched all by himself. It was AMAZING.
After he ate for a little bit a nurse took him to get his weight and height. They gave him the Vitamin K shot while he was on me skin-to-skin but I opted out of the others for informed reasons. I could see a huge difference in his alertness versus Savannah's when she was born, not only because he was born naturally, free of any meds, but he didn't have the goop over his eyes. Anytime someone spoke, he turned his head to look at them and see where the voice came from. It was so cool to see what he was capable of right at birth. I could already see a personality, and ways he reminded me of his sister. Though he looked a little like my father-in-law and my brother. I was afraid that I wouldn't have a connection with this baby, but it felt like a first birth all over again. I was in awe and in love. I just wanted to hold him and never let go, shield him from how scary it is to experience the world after birth.
What I'm Salty About
So what am I salty about? I'm sad that my doula waited to head to the hospital, I needed her to be my voice in the chaos, my support. I'm crushed that I didn't tell my husband to call the photog sooner than when I did.
I'm upset that when I arrived at the hospital in active labor with liquids gushing out of my body that the staff attempted standard protocol of check-ins as if I were a false alarm. That when I got them to take me to a birthing room they didn't ask me any questions at all - they assumed that they would decide how I birth my child and started setting the room up for that. I'm angry that the midwife told someone to give me a shot while I was pushing without talking to me, and then said "Give it to her anyway" after I said no when hearing her. I'm pissed that when it came to cord clamping the midwife fought me on waiting until the placenta was delivered and then clamped it before all the blood had fully transferred.
My situation could have been a very happy birth story (even with my doula and photog missing it) if this midwife had treated me like I'm the owner of my body, and the only person who should make the decisions for it. When I signed the hospital consent forms I crossed a lot out and wrote that it needed to be informed consent. They clearly didn't read that, and this was a situation where I should have been informed and asked along the way anyway as nothing was a dangerous critical life-saving situation and I was alert, capable of speaking.