My birth story begins well before we even conceived Ace. My sisters both had cesareans for various reasons. I began to question everything about birth and I knew I wanted something better for myself. After all our research we decided a homebirth with a midwife would be best. We planned to give birth at my husband’s mother’s house because our house wasn’t suitable for a birth.
I was getting fearful and anxious because it was Wednesday and I would reach 42 weeks by the weekend. I felt like the clock was ticking on me and I did not want an induction. I kept telling Ace that I was ready any time he was. I was thrilled when I lost bits of my mucus plug on Wednesday. Thursday morning, Thanksgiving, I woke to sporadic but strong contractions. This was early labor for me. I knew it. I was freaking out because Thanksgiving dinner was being held at the same place my birth was. I didn’t want people to know I was in labor so the thought of having to kick them out didn’t go over well with me. Fortunately early labor lasted for a few days.
Friday we went out to eat as a family; my father and grandmother were in town. I had the hardest time riding to the restaurant and sitting through the meal. No one knew what was going on. It was very apparent that I was uncomfortable though. We called my friend who was going to photograph the labor and told her to head our way since she was 3 hours away. I told my father and grandmother that I was in early labor and would likely have a baby this weekend. They could stay but they were advised to keep the information to themselves. My mom was so mad when she later found out my dad knew all along. My dad kept telling me I needed to go to the hospital. I just said “OK Dad.” I did everything I could to get it to speed up but I was not having any success. My friend showed up and we entertained her and spent time together for an entire day.
Saturday night I told her we felt it would be best if she returned to her family after we ate. I put the lasagna in the oven and within 15 minutes I was flooded with contractions. They were hitting hard and strong at less than 5 minutes apart and about 1.5 – 2 minutes long. I started throwing up and freaking out. I knew we had to make the 30 minute drive to my mother in law’s. My midwife reassured me that this was just the beginning and we would be OK. I was really struggling because everything I read hinted that you threw up in transition. Well for me you just throw up, whenever. A lot. (The contractions here were as intense as my later transition contractions. Lesson: labor where you will be most relaxed!)
We all packed up the car and headed on our way to my MIL’s. Our driveway was a mile long and we had to stop just outside the driveway because things were getting bad. I prayed and asked God to get me there quickly with no contractions. I had read someone’s birth story where she had done that. Well, it worked. I made it all the way there and they picked back up after we arrived.
Here is where I lose track and focus. I did notice that my underwear were constantly wet after my midwife arrived (she came because I was freaked out.) She tested my fluid and it was indeed amniotic fluid. So we didn’t do any vaginal exams. She watched me and said I still had a long way to go. She drove back to her house, about 2.5 hours away, poor lady! Once she got almost home I begged her to come back. I really just needed the peace of having her nearby. From here I labored in and out of the tub, went on walks, took castor oil, homeopathic remedies, etc. My labor just kept turning off and on and off and on. I would have a solid hour of back to back contractions and then another 2. I remember crying so much because I didn’t know what I was doing.
My birth team consisted of my husband, my mother in law, my photographer, and 2 midwives. The amount of support and love that surrounded me was amazing. I recall asking to be checked for the first time. I was at 6cm and paper thin! Yay EPO! For hours and hours I was stuck between 6-8cm. During one of the checks my midwife let us know that my water was still intact and I must have a high leak. That news made me feel a lot better. At some point I sent my photographer home. I was worrying about her and felt like it was negatively impacting my birth.
After what seemed like hours of being stuck at 7cm my water was bulging. My midwife talked about breaking my water and before she even reached the bag it burst and sent gushes of water out all over the towels we had laid down. I had thought my contractions were difficult before but that was nothing compared to after the water was gone. Somewhere during my pregnancy I had pulled a muscle in my groin on my right side. I’m telling you this because if there is anything you get from my story it is do not pull a muscle! Every single time I had an intense contraction my leg would get this burning shooting pain radiating from the muscle and down to the toe. I frequently said that if I could just numb my leg I would be OK. I couldn’t concentrate at all because of the pain in my leg.
A few more hours past and nothing was happening. I was contracting but I wasn’t dilating. I was stalled around 8.5-9cm. I wasn’t dilating any further. After this I started pushing. I tried to push and push with all my might for about 4 hours. I was swelling really bad and had developed a cervical lip. My midwife worked to push my cervix open, get the rest of the lip out of the way. I was squatting in the sumo position and I could feel Ace inch down as I pushed and immediately move right back up when the contraction stopped. His head was there but for some reason he wasn’t moving past that one point. I took a rest and laid back on the floor. I heard whispering and I knew what was being discussed. It was time to go to the hospital. I had been in labor for 32 hours, 4 hours of pushing, and so much swelling that I couldn’t close my legs. It was time. I was OK with that. We were all OK with that.
We got into the car and drove to the hospital. It was somewhere around 2:30am. We had clear roads and a straight path to the hospital. It was an excruciating 15 minute drive. I asked my husband what he thought was about to happen. He said he wasn’t sure. I said I’m probably going to get a cesarean because I am so tired and can’t push anymore. He said that was OK because we had done every single thing we could do. My care up to this point was amazing.
We walked into the hospital and told them what was going on. They attempted to wheel me up to the L&D floor but I let the nurse know I wouldn’t be using a wheelchair since my baby was stuck in my pelvis. She asked me if I had any pain medication. I laughed and replied no I was having a home birth and that wasn’t an option. She almost lost her mind at this point. I don’t think she knew what a midwife was or that homebirth was something people do.
When the on call OB walked into the room one of the first things out of her mouth was how she knew I had GD because my belly was so big. She asked my midwife a thousand questions. She then asked me to try to push the baby out a few more times. Without warning she shoved her arm up inside me. I mentioned I was swollen right. Yes, I think my husband decided at this point there was nothing she could do to redeem herself. I pushed a bit to no avail. Ace was stuck and would need a cesarean. They strapped monitors to me and I rolled onto my side. The machine went crazy and now it “was a matter of life or death.” I realize that they do ]really have life or death situations in hospitals but I don’t think this really was one. I was already prepared to have the surgery.
They wheeled me back into the OR. At first I was going to be put under but I was so thankful they were able to give me a spinal. I relaxed the moment relief from the pain came. I kept asking for my husband. It seemed like they were going to operate without him. My husband came in and moments later my baby boy was brought into the world. Monday morning November 29th at 4:02. Ace started crying, so did we. I remember the look on my husbands face. I will never forget it. They brought Ace to me and as soon as he heard our voices he stopped crying. Daddy and baby went off to the nursery moments later.
Once they pulled Ace out, mind you it took a bit because he was very stuck, my doctor joked about how big he was. “Wow, no wonder he was stuck. He’s a toddler!” After everyone left and I lay there being sewn up I said “You know, natural labor isn’t as bad as everyone makes it out to be.” She replied with “Oh honey, you weren’t even to the hardest part yet. The ring of fire is by far the worst.” I was crushed. Not only did I endure a physical assault (remember my swollen parts and her arm) but a verbal assault, too. My 32 hours was nothing apparently. But you know what, because of how that one doctor mistreated me I have risen above it and have pushed for change. I’ve told everyone I know about how they can take steps to better care, not just maternity care. Too often we let healthcare professionals common courtesy and respect just slide. The OB called the nursery to see how big Ace was. She asked me to bet. I think I said 9 1/2 to 10 lbs. She laughed and said no 11lbs 1oz!
Back in recovery I was out cold. Fast asleep. My husband and son joined me about an hour later. I later found out that my husband and son were doing skin to skin in the nursery while I was in recovery. I believe that my husband and my son had a great bond because of this and I would recommend it to any time the mother is not able to do immediate skin to skin. It also really made me cry. It made me realize that my husband really does listen to all the facts that I spout off to him about birth.
Boy, I wish I knew about family centered cesarean birth back then! I also totally forgot to ask for my placenta. A very sweet nurse helped me breast feed Ace. My midwife left shortly after the birth and she came back the next day to see me. I asked about VBAC. She said definitely! We talked about Aces size and how I’d want to keep a better diet next time. We knew he was going to be big. We both have large babies in our families and he was 42 weeks and 2 days.
In the end I have peace over his entrance. His size and his position, OP, made his journey a little tougher than the average (You can birth big babies in any presentation! Don’t let fear tell you otherwise!). Recovering from 32 hours of labor and a cesarean is very rough. It took me about 3 to 4 weeks to even feel remotely normal again. I had to overcome many comments about how I was not going to be able to breast-feed my son without supplementing with formula. I’m so thrilled to say that we breast-fed without a lick of formula for a whole year and half.
Photography by Jessica Hamilton of Timeless Treasures by Jess.