I wanted to share my birth story with you because I don't ever want to forget it but also because I know how important it is to hear positive stories while you are anticipating the arrival of your very own bundle of joy. Throughout my pregnancy I read and listened to stories of women all over the world.
Background on my pregnancy and family:
My husband and I are native New Yorkers and we both have very flexible careers. We value our time and as we began discussing a family, we knew that for us, our time was more valuable than anything.
We welcomed our baby boy at 39 weeks plus 5 days. My pregnancy was very uneventful in the beginning. I learned I was pregnant much earlier than most. I have a very regular menstrual cycle and knew immediately when I missed a period, I was pregnant. I didn't think a pregnancy test could actually determine my suspicions BUT one drop off pee on the stick, and we learned that we were becoming parents!
I experienced no nausea or other severe pregnancy symptoms. The only thing I experienced throughout the first trimester was fatigue. Lots of it. But I slept it off most of the time and felt great enough to teach my fitness classes, work my coaching coaching career, and marketing career without much of a hiccup.
Choosing a provider
As a self proclaimed pregnancy and birth nerd, I had watched many documentaries, read tons of books and strongly felt I wanted a really great TEAM for my pregnancy and my labor. Insurance is really confusing in New York State, and when I did my first set of research, I felt it was impossible for me to find the care that I wanted. It seemed like I had to continue going to the practice of my OB/GYN even though I really wanted a midwife and a birth center setting. I was at my doctor's practice until week 20. At that point, I learned:
- Pregnancy was not high risk
- Baby boy was healthy
- Anatomy scan showed no signs of major concern
After that appointment, I told my husband that I didn't want to see a doctor anymore. I didn't feel like it was the right place for me. I didn't have the support and care I wanted and I really just wanted to have candid conversations, one on one time with the person delivering my baby and overall LOVE. I am sure there are many amazing doctors that can provide all that and more. For me, personally, I felt it was hard to find that in a large practice where you see a different doctor every week. I couldn't CONNECT how I wanted to.
One day on Facebook, I shared that I was considering a prenatal yoga class. That post led a friend of mine to message me. Not only about the yoga but also about a place called "Full Circle Women's Health." She thought that there I would get the care I so badly wanted and I would get the delivery I wanted. She recommended I speak with her friend who delivered with the midwives at Full Circle and after speaking with her, I just knew it was EXACTLY where I needed to be. She told me about the time she spent at each appointment with her midwife, the patience they had, the knowledge and the support she was given at the hospital birthing center at Phelps Memorial Hospital where the midwives deliver. Knowing that I could get my midwife and my husband could feel at ease that we would be at a hospital based birthing center, just confirmed EVERYTHING I WANTED. I spoke to a midwife and began the process of transferring my paperwork.
Our first appointment was over an hour long. We talked candidly and lovingly about how my pregnancy was going and subsequent appointments were just as great. I felt loved and in control of the next half of my pregnancy and I can't tell you enough how important it is for you to go with your GUT instinct. It will make all the difference in the world for you and your family. Although everything in your birth plan may change, the initial team you set up is so important on the actual day of your labor. (more on this later)
When things got "slightly complicated"
That's when I learned that my belly was "measuring small." This is when your doctor or midwife use a tape measure to predict growth. Its called "fundal height." Its the distance between the pubic bone and the top of the uterus. This measurement usually coincides with the number of weeks you are. So 16 weeks pregnant, fundal height is approximately 16cm.
Around week 33, we starting to measure a little smaller. The first time it happened, I was told it could just be the baby's positioning and we will check again in two weeks. We checked again two weeks later and the measurements did not move. So I was recommended to go and check it out via sonogram. There I learned that the baby was small but not too small and that my amniotic fluid levels were very low. Bedrest, light movement, and water consumption became the only things I was concerned about.
I did NOT want to be induced into labor so early but if I couldn't get the amniotic fluid levels up, that would be an option.
After close watch, we learned at week 38, that we were ok! But I should have the baby sooner than later since it was tight in there.
That's when I became OBSESSED with eviction! I drank raspberry leaf tea, evening primrose oil and did all the squats, all the walking, all the things I could to start encouraging the baby and the uterus.
At my 39 week appointment, I was recommended to try acupuncture! And that was the big decision that changed the course of the waiting game.
Acupuncture for inducing labor
Its typically recommended for moms who are past their due date. However, because of my unique situation, we didn't even want to risk going over. One acupuncture lesson on Thursday afternoon and my whole life changed! After that appointment, I was more energetic, less achy AND within hours, I was beginning to feel the first signs of labor.
Signs of labor
The first sign I began to experience was on Thursday night. I routinely would wake up 4-6 a night to use the bathroom for weeks prior to my baby's birth day but on Thursday night, I would wake up "crampy" and every time I used the restroom, I'd find a little more of my mucus plug or "bloody show." This is typically the first signs a woman is going to go into labor. The cervix is thinning and mucus tinged with blood is being discharged.
I was getting excited but of course, continued to sleep it off.
Some time on Friday morning, a larger discharge of "bloody show" made its appearance and I gave my husband the heads up that things were moving along. I kept my daily activities going and mentally started to prepare myself for what was up ahead. Hoping it would be sooner rather than later. That evening, very mild contractions began but the one thing I noticed was the labor was happening entirely in my lower back.
Having been the nerd that I was, I knew that meant the baby was facing "posterior" and the pain I was feeling was his head against my back. Most people call it "back labor." As time passed, it was beginning to get stronger but not close enough or frequent enough to make a significant change in my routine. UNTIL my water broke at 11pm on Friday night while I was doing the dishes. And for me, it GUSHED like in this movies. A lot of people were telling me NOT to expect a gush. Not to think that I would be like one of those ladies in a RomCom but there I was, standing in my kitchen LEAKING out so much fluid. My husband came to the rescue, cleaned it up and I called my midwife.
She told me to try and rest and call her back in the morning OR when my contractions get to 5-1-1. That's 5 minutes apart, 1 minute in duration for 1 hour. I showered, washed my hair, blow dried my hair, moisturized my body and treated myself super lovingly for the next couple of hours.
I tried to sleep but that "back labor" was becoming more intense and impossible to lay on the bed. So I began to walk around the house and use some of the labor coping techniques I learned from my childbirth class. My birth ball was my best friend. I bounced on it, hugged it and made it through each contraction with control and ease. I started to visualize a successful and empowering labor. And I urged my husband to rest for the both of us. At about 4am, I woke him up. I was at 5-1-1 and could no longer cope with the back labor by myself. I needed him to apply counter pressure. We did this for awhile until I just couldn't anymore, I called my midwife and she said I could come in to the hospital.
At that moment, something came over me and I became fearful of laboring in the car. How could I sit straight up on a chair with all this pain? Where would my birth ball be? How can we travel 30 minutes like this? I asked my husband to please call our friend who was going to join us and be my second birth partner for the big event. She has a truck and I thought that jumping in her truck would be much better than our 4-door sedan. She came over at around 6:30am and we headed up north. About a 30 minute drive.
What happened next was completely NOT in the cards but in hindsight I know that my anxiety over laboring in a moving vehicle was the cause. My labor just STOPPED. No contractions, no pain, no nothing. It was as if the last 7 hours of my life had no happened and I even felt embarrassed about calling my midwife and going to the hospital. I felt COMPLETELY FINE. And that made me upset and concerned that I would be sent home.
In the Birthing Center
When I arrived, I was the only patient. It was 7am and the nurses just arrived for their shift. They were awake and ready for me. They took me over to my room, monitored the baby, explained how I could walk around and do whatever I needed to do until my midwife arrived. The nurse who was to attend to me mentioned that this kind of stalled labor happens and I shouldn't be so embarrassed especially because my water broke. However, she needed to verify that it was my water and not urine. I began to second guess myself.
When my midwife arrived, she tested me and of course, the test showed up negative to my water having broken. I was in shock. HOWEVER, I was 4cm dilated and 90% effaced. She said those tests are not entirely accurate and she believed me that I was once in labor. But I was now in the hospital and if labor did not begin back on its own, we would have to start me up on a very low dose of Pitocin.
Pause for a second, back to the discussion on my birth team
I chose Full Circle Women's Health because of their high success rates in delivering baby's vaginally. Myself and the midwives had discussed my fear of interventions. So they knew that I wasn't very excited about taking meds, however, I was completely open to the discussion. The other thing that really eased my concerns was the explanation behind how they administer Pitocin. At Phelps, they don't administer high doses off the bat. They start off with the lowest possible dose and monitor how you are responding. They also allow you to continue laboring throughout the room with remote fetal monitoring. I did not have to be strapped to a bed to deal with labor pains.
I agreed to the Pitocin. A synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin which your body naturally releases and helps bring on labor
Labor after Pitocin.
The dose began and so did labor. I felt it, quickly. I knew I would. My body is very sensitive to drugs. My husband or my bestie would rub my back and we were back in LABOR. The back labor was still there as well. Every 30 minutes, the dose of Pitocin was increased. At some point, I was checked again and I was at a 5-6cm dilated. I felt alright but baby wasn't descending and everything was intensifying. The dose AGAIN was increased.
And that's when FULL ON Labor kicked in. It was powerful. It was strong. It was mean. And my back was killing me. I began to wail and cry over the pain. One of the nurses could hear me and she came in and gave me a reality check.
She told me in a very calm but stern voice that I had stop laboring this way. I had to learn to cope with the pain better. She showed me a breathing technique and walked me through it. When the contraction would begin, we took a HUGE deep breath and exhaled slowly, then we would repeat as it climbed, she said that when I felt I "couldn't" anymore, that's when the contraction was on its way down. At this point is when I had to take short breaths and then one deep breath when it was over.
My best friend learned the technique and we breathed together for I have no idea how long through each and every contraction. She taught my husband and they would take turns helping me out. I was checked AGAIN and I was 7cm dilated, baby had not descended, and I was beginning to feel super tired. At the point, I had been in labor since 11pm the night before and it was about 4pm. No baby in sight. No relief in sight and my contractions were coming in so frequent, I felt I had no break.
I told my husband, "All I want to do is sleep"
One of the nurses heard this and she began to talk to me about my options. She said there was a drug called Stadol. It is a narcotic and would help me sleep. However it wouldn't help me with my contractions. I would still be woken up by them and it does past the placenta barrier so my baby would become drowsy which could stall the labor again.
She also discussed an epidural and if I get it now at 7cm, I could sleep and wake up with energy to push. An epidural is the way in which pain medication is administered. Pretty much a catheter is inserted into the epidural space of the spinal cord and pain medication is dripped into the space.
Now here is where a good supportive team comes into place.
In between contractions, I spoke with my midwife. She knew how I wanted to actually FEEL the birth. And how I was concerned about birthing in bed on my back. She assured me that if I chose to get the epidural now, there would be a possibility that I would feel the baby and that I would have an opportunity to try different birthing options, still in the bed but "bearing down" and using my legs more.
I went with the epidural.
The administration of the epidural was really scary and painful because of the position you have to be in, the fact that you can't move AND contractions do not wait for you to get your meds. You have to labor through them and try really hard to stay still. The actual procedure is quick and painless, its the process that hurts.
Sleep followed by Pushing Stage
Immediately I got the relief I needed to get some rest. And was woken up at around 7pm by midwife. It was time to check to see if I could push this baby out. I was 10cm dilated. He hadn't descended. She was getting concerned as it was now 4 hours away from the time I would hit the 24 hour mark of when my water first broke. They were really pushing the Pitocin in me now and expected the baby to have descended. So she said "lets give this pushing thing a shot." And we started.
WOW! I basically had to push the baby down to my pelvis, under the hip bone and out the birth canal. 2 hours! It was quite an event. But I have to say, the nurses, the midwife, my husband and my bestie were the best support team a girl could ask for. I tried all types of different positions. Everyone was impressed on how well I could move around even with an epidural. I could feel my legs! I could move them and actually FEEL them which helped a lot. At the end, we used a squat bar for labor.
And of course an exercise move would be what go the baby under and out! When we were getting close to meeting him, my midwife asked me to feel his head. I did and the adrenal rush I felt after that was extraordinary. I had to see my baby! Then one of the nurses brought the mirror over and as I could see him coming out of me, I gave the strongest pushes in my life.
My son was RIGHT there. And then, just like that, HE WAS ON ME!
Short umbilical cord
And that is when I learned what the biggest issue was. My beautiful perfect pregnant small body not only made a small baby BUT a small placenta and a short umbilical cord that was holding baby back and was wrapped around his neck, not once BUT twice! The fact that I delivered him naturally, with the help of the full birth team at Phelps and Full Circle is nothing short of a miracle. Many women would have been rushed to a C-section at other area hospitals BUT they never gave me an indication that anything was wrong. They encouraged me, they loved on me, and they helped me go through the most empowering experience I have EVER experienced.
My baby was on my stomach at first because the cord was too short to put him on my chest. My husband cut the umbilical cord and he was brought over to me. We cried! We laughed. We loved on each other and on him. For an hour I was skin to skin with my boy. They ran all the tests on him right from my chest. Never moved him. Breast feeding was immediately encouraged and he latched on right away.
It wasn't until the hour passed that he was taken from me to be weighed and measured. The whole experience was amazing. I can't even express all the gratitude I have for Full Circle Women's Health, my midwife Michelle who delivered the baby and Robyn who cared for me so well during my appointments and the wonderful nurses at Phelps. I went through a shift change right before pushing. I had what I call the "labor" team from 7am to 7pm and then the "push" team that came in and gave me renewed energy and love.
Nurses are EVERYTHING! When given the opportunity to do their job and do it well, they are what can make or break an experience at a hospital. I'm so happy I followed my gut and changed practice and switched hospitals.
It was a tough decision but it was the BEST.
Also, really grateful for my wonderful husband and friend. From the moment my husband and I discussed our plans about the delivery of the baby, we knew we wanted someone else in the room with us. Someone who would be supportive and care selflessly for our family. She was it. Always the only name we could come up with and it was perfect because she was there.
To my husband, I love you! For everything. For the support throughout the pregnancy, into the labor and how you were right by my side for every step. Thank you for your strength because it helped give me mine.
I hope this story empowers you to make decisions on your labor. Not everything can be written and set in stone. Sometimes we don't have control about what is happening but if you remain flexible and you set up a team that really cares for you and wants the best for you. I think you will be alright. Remember, this moment is yours momma! You have the right to advocate for what you want.