We named him Wilde, just as his entry into this world was. My partner, Simon, and I arrived to the hospital early on a late, September, Monday morning. My water had broken and I had been laboring lightly at home. I was just barely full term, four days into my 37th week of pregnancy. My midwife said to come into the birthing center so she could check to make sure all was okay. If it was, they’d send me home to labor.
We had been preparing for this day for months. We took ten birthing classes, including a Bradley course and extensive Hypnobirthing preparation. After watching the Business of Being Born, ten years earlier, I had committed myself to a natural child birth. I wanted to go through that rite of passage that is labor and fully earn my badge, without having any numbing effects. Any time someone would say, “The best made plans…” I would think, Yeah, but I’ll be different. I will have the birth I want.
When I sat with the midwife that morning, she looked at my blood pressure reading wide-eyed and with worry. I felt my best made plans quickly slip away. My blood pressure was through the roof, 190/100. She explained to me that I had preeclampsia, a pregnancy-induced high blood pressure condition, and that the only cure was delivery. I immediately flashed to Sybil in Downton Abbey, thinking that if this were the turn of the century, I’d be toast.
As the midwife discussed the course of action to induce with Pitocin, I immediately jumped to the worst case scenario and suggested they just wheel me in for a C-section right then and there. The midwife humored me and said we didn’t have to jump there. Besides, going through a labor process would be good for me and my baby. The important thing would be to keep my blood pressure in check, staving off a seizure or stroke.
In the hospital room, I resigned myself to putting on the hospital gown. My birthing ball, birthing outfit, the arnica massage oil, and the aroma therapy seemed so far from where I was at. I lay in the bed, hooked up to an IV, catheter, a blood pressure cuff, and a fetal monitor. I curled up on my side and the tears came. Simon embraced me as I fell apart in her arms. The disappointment I felt was so deep. I felt like a fool for being so narrowly focused on a birth plan that had only one outcome: no interventions. I felt lost and afraid of what was to come. The other side to all of this seemed impossibly far away.
At 6pm, after 10 hours at the hospital, I was one centimeter dilated. I slowly let go and turned inward as the Pitocin started to advance my labor. My birthing team: Kori, my doula; Shannon, my midwife; Kate, my doctor; and Simon my partner, became my rocks through the building intensity. Each had a position to assume during every contraction; Simon held my hand, Kori pressed into my hips, and Shannon held my feet. Kate made sure my blood pressure was steady, not easy to do with readings like 201 over 110. I ended up on Magnesium Sulfite and high blood pressure drugs to keep things as stable as possible.
With my blood pressure still so high, it became clear that I needed to deliver this baby as soon as possible. At about 9pm, three hours after starting the Pitocin, contractions built to a jagged peak in their intensity. I had the conversation with my midwife of when to begin the epidural. She suggested I wait 40 minutes to coincide with the blood draw I was slated to already have. After another strong contraction rattled my body, I reasoned that I didn’t care if my blood was drawn twice. I wanted relief from the ever-increasing pain.
Then, at 9:30pm, like lightning through my body striking my uterus, I had a contraction like none of the others before. I was compelled to hold the bar on the bed and bear down. The sound that escaped me was an electric scream – hard and fast. Shannon jumped up and said, “I am going to check you now.” I resisted and said I was afraid another contraction would come, but she was already inside of me. Then she proclaimed, “We’re there! 10 centimeters!” I hardly could believe it; I made it. The energy in the room suddenly shifted with excitement.
With Kori coaching me along, she said, “It’s time to push your baby out! Get in a position you want and follow what your body tells you to do.” I immediately got up, flipped onto all fours, gripped the back of the tilted up hospital bed, and rode the bucking horse of the next three contractions. Each one was stronger than the next. Each felt crazier than the last. Kate and Kori reminded me to make deep, grounded sounds, to direct the energy down and out. It’s also what I had practiced, but felt so hard to harness in the moment. I felt the baby move down. I reached down and felt the top of his head. He felt like a pear inside of me and all I could see was green. He felt small and possible to move. With the next contraction, I embraced Simon with all of my might, bore down, brought my breath to the deepest place I could, and birthed my baby.
Wilde came out screaming and perfect. I held him in utter disbelief, feeling victorious and incredibly grateful.
You can view Wilde’s first wonderful day by clicking the link here: Wilde_Day1 – Medium
Photography by Sarah F. Keough