London's Birth Story
Wow, where has the time gone?! London is 7 months old and I'm finally getting around to sharing her birth story! It seriously feels like I just had her yesterday.
I am blessed to announce that I have a perfect healthy baby and delivered her exactly as I planned--naturally with no medical interventions, epidural, or pain medications.
So for those of you wondering, here's what her entrance into the world was like, read on.
Is today the day?!
It was February 23rd, 4 days past my due date and I was feeling fabulous. I was anxious to meet her, but truly could've stayed pregnant for another few weeks. I was enjoying having her all to myself, and honestly some days I really miss being pregnant--feeling her move inside my belly, knowing she was with me wherever I went, not having to share her with everyone else--but I'm absolutely loving every second of her outside the womb too.
That morning, I woke up with intense lower back pain, but I didn't think much of it. I had my 40.5 week check up with the midwife that afternoon and was only 2.5 centimeters dilated, about 60% effaced, and the baby was still at station level 3. I had a second membrane sweep (I had one the week before) and boy are those excellent preparation for labor pain...ouch! My midwife suggested we schedule a date to be induced and my husband and I both agreed to have a Leap Year baby! I mean how cool would that be?! But baby girl said "oh h$ll no!" and decided to begin her great escape that night! I guess the thought of celebrating her birthday every 4 years was enough to get her moving!
8:18 PM: "But my baseball cards."
A few hours after my appointment I was sitting on the couch watching Better Call Saul. There was a hilarious scene (the line above about baseball cards) and I busted out laughing, only to feel a rush of liquid escape me. My eyes opened wide and I quickly jumped off my gray linen couch to avoid a stain. I ran to the bathroom and my husband followed. The pad I was wearing from my earlier membrane sweep was completely saturated with a yellow/greenish fluid, but I still wasn't sure if I peed myself or my water broke. I know, funny, right?
But a minute later, BAM, the first contraction hit me. I could barely stand and realized this was IT! After months of reading books, attending hours of natural birthing classes, and preparing through several meetings with our doula, it was time to put all we had learned into action.
My husband grabbed my birthing notebook (the one I had been taking notes in for months) and began to document all the things we had been trained to do. He noted the time, color, odor, and amount of fluid. He started timing my contractions and writing them down. He began to interview me and detail all the ridiculous things I was saying.
I spent a few contractions in the living room. Sean sat on the couch and I kneeled in front of him as he rubbed my shoulders. We listened to my hypnobirthing affirmations and laughed at the ridiculous phrases ("My pelvis was designed to open for the birth of my baby."). I remembered that I had to post something on Facebook for my business, so in between contractions, I made my Facebook post --talk about dedication!
I then got into the bathtub, which I was so looking forward to. I wanted Sean to sit by my side, but my contractions were now 5 minutes apart and lasting 2 minutes each, even I had only been in labor for 30 minutes. I had envisioned laboring at home for hours, so I couldn't accept the fact that we were going to have to go to the hospital soon. Sean was running around the house like a madman. That stereotypical dad they portray on TV, yep that was Sean. I wanted him to sit with me and hold my hand, but he was seriously stressing out--throwing things in bags, packing the car, and tripping over his own feet. It's funny now that I look back on that moment.
After a few contractions in the tub, I began to shiver and decided to get in the shower. I had my birthing ball in the shower ready to go, but sitting on it increased the pain. Sean called the midwife because my contractions were now 3 minutes apart and I had only been in labor for 45 minutes. She told us to make our way to the hospital since it was a 30 minute drive.
We called our doula from the car and she said she'd meet us at the hospital. We listened to my hypnobirthing affirmations in the car and laughed as the labor pains came and went. Sean dropped me off at the front door while he went to park. Just as I stepped into the hospital lobby, a contraction hit me and I found a nearby couch to lean on. My doula happened to be watching me, but didn't realize it was me! She called and left me a voicemail saying, "Hi Ashly, I'm here. There's another woman in labor...oh wait, I think that's you." She came to my side, talked me through the pain, then got me a wheelchair. The three of us headed up to triage and what I still find odd is that they made us wait in the waiting room. Like hello, I'm in labor! It's not a false alarm! Coincidentally, one of my favorite shows was on TV, Agent Carter (she's such as a bada$$, it had to be a sign), so I went into my zone, closed my eyes, and breathed deeply.
After 10 minutes and several contractions in front of the waiting room audience, they took us back. I was 5 centimeters dilated and my contractions were intense. It was around 11 PM when they transferred me to my labor and delivery room. I had planned on moving around, trying different laboring positions, but I found one position that provided relief and refused to move. I was sitting up in the bed, with my legs in a butterfly. Anytime I tried to move, the pain was intensified by a thousand.
My doula, Margaret, was wonderful. She diffused Wild Orange essential oil in the room and put peppermint oil on a cotton ball to hold under my nose. We had spicy shrimp pasta for dinner that night and it was NOT settling well in my stomach (needless to say, I won't be eating that dish anytime soon). Luckily, the peppermint oil worked magic and I never threw up. Sean played my yoga music and we dimmed the lights. I wanted a zen atmosphere and that's exactly what I had.
Now let's talk pain. All of my pain was in my lower back and lower pelvic region. The back labor was so incredibly intense, I can't even describe it. I spent a good hour in the shower at the hospital, on my hands and knees, butt naked. I'll never forget looking over and seeing my husband's boot up on the side of the shower as he held the hose and squirted hot water on my lower back. I felt like a piece of cattle. But that didn't stop me from baring all and having Sean and the doula take turns hosing me down with that wonderfully soothing hot water.
I got back into bed and resumed my butterfly position. The nurses, midwife, and doula all commented that I handled labor better than anyone they've ever seen. I pretty much meditated that baby out. I practiced my Ujjuyi breath from yoga. 5 slow counts in, 5 slow counts out. With each breath, I envisioned ocean waves coming in and going out. I mentally visited a different beach with each contraction. I transported myself back to Santorini, Barcelona, Jamaica, Thailand, and all the other places we've visited over the years. I didn't say a word the entire time I was in labor. I focused on letting go, allowing my cervix to open, breathing through the pain, and picturing those ocean waves.
At 3 AM, my midwife told me that there was a tiny part of my cervix that hadn't thinned out due to the way I was sitting. She made me resume the hands and knees position on the bed and that did the trick.
The Quest to Get Her Out
At 3:45 AM I began to push, and in my opinion, this was the worst part. Some women only have to push a few times to get the baby out, but I pushed for 3 hours on the dot. And every single second was pure agony. I'd go through the contractions part any day, but the pushing, no thanks.
The entire time I had been in labor, it felt like the baby was in my butt and it was a million times worse when pushing. No exaggeration, we went through 30+ heating pads (they only stay hot for 30 minutes). First, I got into a squat position and had Sean sit behind me and hold the heating pads on my lower back. Our birthing instructor assured us that anyone who claims they didn't poop during labor is either lying or doesn't know because they had an epidural. She was right. I'll spare you the details, but there was poop... and lots of it in my delivery room!
I stayed in that squatting position, leaning over the squat bar for an hour. My feet were numb and I wasn't progressing.
I switched positions and got onto hands and knees again, but I was not liking that at all! First of all, the pain was too intense. Second, I just didn't feel comfortable with my butthole in the midwife's face! I know it's silly because she's all up in there no matter the position, but I felt so exposed and uncomfortable. I knew I was holding back and not pushing because of it, so I got on my back. I put my legs up on the squat bar and tied a sheet around the bar so I could use it to pull myself up. I stayed in this position for an hour and this is how I delivered.
With each contraction, I'd pull myself up, hold my breath and push for 7-10 seconds, take a 1 second break and do it all again. I did that sequence 4 times within each contraction for 1 hour. No wonder I felt like I was hit by a truck the next day.
Eventually Sean held my right leg while the nurse and doula held my other leg. And by hold, I mean, they pulled my knee back to my ear as I hoisted myself up into a crunch and pushed with all my might. They put a large mirror in front of me so we could see, but I didn't have my contacts in or glasses on, so all I saw was a blur of bodily fluids. Eventually I felt the "ring of fire" and knew she was close. Everyone was cheering me on and telling me how close she was. They could see hair! Everything became a blur at the end. But then I heard them say "stop pushing, her head is out!" And I felt relief. Another push and she was completely out. She entered the world with her hand on her face and her elbow out to the side, which is why it was so hard to push her out.
She had pooped inside the womb, so I couldn't have the delayed cord clamping and immediate skin to skin contact I wanted because the pediatrician had to quickly suction the meconium out of her nose and mouth. But then they placed her on me and I realized that everything was worth it. She was definitely swollen and bruised from 3 hours in the birth canal, but healthy and perfect. She successfully breastfed within 45 minutes and had a perfect latch from the start.
London was born on February 24th at 6:45 AM. She was 7 lbs 12 oz and 20 inches long.
Unlike OB/GYNs who come for the last 5 minutes, my midwife NEVER left my room. She stayed with me all night. Unfortunately, her shift ended at 6:30 AM, minutes before London was born. She wasn't permitted to deliver the baby after her shift ended due to hospital policy, but she stayed with me and held my hand for those last 15 minutes. She cried when London was born and I'll never forget that moment.
We're enjoying every moment with her and continue to be amazed by what a perfect miracle she is.