The story of my daughter’s birth….
It seems only appropriate, considering this little girl of ours turns six soon (WHAT IS HAPPENING?!?!?!?!!), that hers should be the last on the list to be shared.
Thank you for joining me on this reminiscent journey! A month of birth stories! You may not have, but I definitely blubbered into my cups of tea reading them all again….
I was nearly three weeks past my due date and was anxious. Due to how late the baby was, we had to get ultrasounds every 3-4 days to check fluid levels and her heartbeat. Everything was fine so we continued to delay inducing.
I had had a few strong contractions during the night and called my mother to ask her to come soon. Something seem to tell me that the baby would arrive before the end of the week. My husband headed off to work and I sat down to my morning routine of tea and emails (I was still working full time from home).
I was on the phone when I felt a strong gush I couldn’t repress. I jumped up as quickly as a nine month pregnant woman could and rushed into the kitchen (where at least I could clean the floor easily). Sure enough, I was dripping all over the floor.
I was still holding the phone, so I interrupted my friend with a, “I’m so sorry to cut you off, Di, but I think my water just broke.” Best phone conversation ever.
You spend hours upon hours preparing for your first labor. Research, teas, vitamins, stretches, reading countless birth stories……and yet, standing there in our little galley kitchen while I dripped all over the floor, I had no idea what to do next. I was frozen and stunned by what was happening.
Providentially, I was still on the phone with friend who not only knew I was pregnant, but knew me. She remained on the phone while I collected my thoughts and emotions, and calmly reminded me that I should probably call my husband and midwife.
That’s right. Step two: call husband. This does seem like something he should know.
Contractions started within an hour and slowly began to build.
My mother arrived as they were getting stronger. Over the next few hours I sat on the ball, walked up and down the hall, soaked in the tub, and rocked through the contractions. They were unlike anything I had ever felt before. The sheer power of their force was astounding. All I could do was breathe and pray through them. My husband was wonderful to lean upon when I needed to walk around the apartment.
I was entering transition.
Transition was unlike anything I had ever experienced. The contractions were much closer together and far more painful than I could have been imagined. As soon as one had finished, I dreaded the next one to come. It took all of my strength to simply let each contraction roll over me and not fight them, though every fiber of my being wanted to fight it.
Doubt crept into my mind. Several times I whimpered, “I can’t do this anymore. Please make it stop.” Each time my support me reminded me, “You are doing it. You just made it through another one.”
As each new contraction hit, I prayed, “Lord, please open my body to release my daughter. Please guide her safely.” And as it subsided, “Thank you Lord for bringing me through one more. Please give me the strength to endure the next.”
Deep down all I wanted to do was run away from the pain and finally rest. But the work was not yet done.
I started feeling a strong urge to push.
My midwives instructed me not to since they needed to check the dilation first. I was only 7cm dilated. They both noticed that I was showing fatigue and was quickly losing confidence. A lip of the cervix that was present, but they could push it back so I could start pushing. I agreed. The pain was excruciating. I screamed as my husband whispered encouragement and comfort in my ear. Another contraction hit and my midwives instructed me to push (now that I was fully dilated).
I spent the next 20-30 minutes pushing through each contraction and slowly the baby descended.
The midwives were monitoring her heart rate and noticed it dropped low during the contractions and taking a little too long to rise again afterward. They gave me oxygen as I pushed to help her heart rate stabilize.
The midwives told my husband that if the baby arrived within an hour, we would be fine. If pushing took another few hours, they would prefer to transfer to a hospital to better monitor the heart rate. Since I was exhausted and this was my first delivery, there was little way of knowing how long the pushing stage would be.
Unable to think through the pain that engulfed me, my husband made the decision to call an ambulance so we could transfer to the hospital. While we waited for the EMT to arrive, I continued pushing, still hoping to birth this baby at home.
The EMTs and fire department arrived.
While I dressed, they discussed how to move me downstairs to the gurney (our apartment was on the second floor). One of the midwives called out to them, “Make her walk down the stairs!” I was relieved since walking helped me handle the contractions and I was already embarrassed to have so many strangers witness me in such a private state. I had no desire to be carried.
After reluctantly being strapped to the gurney at the foot of the stairs, we were on our way. My husband rode in the front with the driver and one of the midwives remained in the back with me.
Contractions were still strong and my midwife continued to instruct me to push as each one hit, which was twice as hard now since I was strapped down. She stretched my perineum to help the baby drop further into the birth canal.
All of a sudden I heard her say, “You’re crowning now! I can see her hair!”
The paramedic yelled out, “You can’t have the baby while the ambulance was moving!”
Staring at her with dumbfounded eyes, she calmly replied, “Then you better pull over because we are having this baby!”
The paramedic called out to the driver to pull over and send my husband back. As soon as we stopped, I was unstrapped and my midwife instructed me to stand up and squat. Ambulances don’t have a great amount of space, but I did noticed a bar that ran the length of the roof. I pulled myself up, and, using it for balance, placed one leg on the gurney, the other on the ambulance seat, squatted down and pushed with all of my might.
I remember the glimpse of night as the door was sharply opened, the scent of warm air that wafted in, fresh from the recent rainfall. I remember the tall grass that stood outside, just ten feet from the freeway, the sound of cars and trucks speeding by.
The windows of the ambulance caught my reflection, and I could see her. My baby. The tip top of her little head, all covered in dark hair. Even through the contractions, I couldn’t help but smile.
I decided then and there that I was going to birth this baby no matter what. If I could see that much hair, I was going to get her out! So I bore down even more and pushed! I pushed through the “ring of fire” with every ounce of strength I possessed. Her head descended and my midwife told me to get on all fours (the baby’s shoulders were stuck). Somehow I managed to drop down on all fours on the gurney. She reached inside to assist the shoulders and told me to push again. Feeling as though my body was going to split in two, I yelled and pushed as hard as I could.
I will never forget the feeling of her body leaving mine.
For a moment, I thought there was still more pushing to do. But then I heard her cry.
I managed to lay back down on the gurney and my midwife placed our newborn daughter upon my chest. She continued crying for only a few more seconds, then stared at me with her big blue eyes as if she recognized me.
At that moment, I didn’t care about the pain or fatigue. I was mesmerized by her eyes. I looked at my husband and he moved closer to marvel with me. She was ours. Our own sweet little girl. She was beautiful, healthy, and finally here. She may not have been born at home as planned, but it didn’t matter. She was finally here.
There is more to this story, but I am not sure that I’m willing to share it just yet. The hospital experience post-delivery was horrifying and traumatic, and even six years later, I have difficulty typing the words.
But right now, I want to remember, and share, the wonderful moments of that dark and stormy night.
Happy (almost) birthday, my precious girl.