Victoria's Birth Story
It’s been 3 weeks since I gave birth to Jeremiah and everyday I’ve told myself today is the day I record the experience! Journaling has never been my strong suit, but I found the birth journey to be so life changing that I knew I wanted to remember it as clearly as possible as well as share it with family, friends and maybe others getting ready for a big day of their own. So I’m sitting in our rocking chair with my notes app open and a baby on my elbow thumbing it out.
The first moment that comes to mind is sitting on the exam table at one of my last prenatal appointments. The midwife asks, as she always does, “so what questions do you have for me?” Mildly burnt out on pregnancy and feeling a little cynical I said, “do you think I should write a birth plan because I feel like I’ll just be setting myself up for disappointment. I’m pretty sure baby will come how and whenever he wants to no matter what I dream up and print out.” For those of you who haven’t immersed yourselves in the world of birth for the past year, birth plans are simply the written wishes of the mother during the labor and delivery process like whether you want pain meds, atmosphere preferences and how baby will be transferred to you upon delivery. The midwife laughed and reminded me that it’s always good to be open minded when it comes to the unpredictable process of birth, but also offered reassurance that the hospital birth center already promotes things like delayed cord clamping, skin-to-skin and rooming-in as a standard. Considering my rather textbook, low-risk pregnancy I was confident I'd be able to have the crunchy, unmedicated and low intervention water birth I'd always envisioned.
Fast-forward 24 hours and I'm at home on a Wednesday morning, 40 weeks pregnant, attempting rather poorly to build a fire in the wood stove with damp logs. The fire picks up after an hour's work and I decide to treat myself to some french toast and Sopranos on the couch. An episode in, I get up to go to the bathroom, look down and there's my mucus plug in the toilet! This means things should move along rather quickly now so I'm elated. Very ready to have this baby! But then, almost immediately, I start leaking something. Is it pee? Has my water broken? The joys of late pregnancy! I'm concerned enough to call the midwife who says that considering the amount of fluid, it's worth it to come in and have it tested. If it is amniotic fluid, they recommend monitoring mom and baby after the water's broken to prevent infection. At this point, I have no idea if I'd be coming home again still pregnant or with a baby so I call Jared at work, grab our packed bags and drive myself to the hospital.
I'm walking into the hospital birth center feeling truly at odds with the fact that I'm feeling no contractions yet here I am with my baby bags packed, alone, potentially about to have a baby! Turns out the leaking was amniotic fluid, so my water had actually broken- it just wasn't the dramatic gush I was expecting! Upon arrival, baby was hanging low in utero, but I was only 40% effaced and my cervix was locked down at 0 centimeters dilated. We waited for something to happen. Don't women usually pull up to the hospital in the throws of labor? Here I am taking gowned selfies in the hospital bed to send to friends and family. 24 hours go by, it's Thursday afternoon, and baby is no where in sight. I am (drumroll) 1 centimeter dilated! The midwife kindly suggests we take a little action and I'm eager to get the ball rolling. She prescribes Misoprostol, a synthetic prostaglandin commonly used to ripen the cervix. I take two tiny pills every 4 hours and wait.
At this point, I think it's worth mentioning that I've never had a hospital experience before this. I didn't know what it meant to be cared for by health professionals as an inpatient and while I don't have an experience to compare this one to, I feel confident in saying that the midwives and nurses here were totally top notch. It felt like I met the whole staff. Shift change after shift change, they became the mother I needed where mine was not allowed.
12 hours into the Misoprostol with a contraction monitor hooked up to my belly, we could see that I was having them, but not with the strength required to push out a baby. I'm STILL one centimeter dilated and feeling pretty bummed. It's 3am on Friday morning, I've been at the hospital for going on two days and two nights and baby still seems snug as a bug. The midwife checks in again and we go over my low intervention birth wishes. At this point, I can still get up, walk the campus, don't require an IV or constant fetal heart rate monitoring. I knew she was going to bring up moving forward with induction and I'm right. She tells me a story about a patient who waited 5 days after her water broke to come into the hospital 8 centimeters dilated. 5 days sounds like an eternity to me considering that going home was now out out of the question. She says Pitocin and I say I'm ready to have this baby. My low intervention idea of birth is walking out the door. Hospital fatigue is real and comes on quick no matter how nice they treat you.
The Pitocin, another synthetic hormone used to induce contractions, comes with a couple requirements. You get hooked up to more machines. Its administered through an IV and baby needs constant monitoring. A nurse visits every couple hours around the clock to check on you. Although I'm starting to feel like a real science experiment with all the wires, ports and beeping gadgets hooked up to me, I finally start to understand what baby making contractions feel like. A few hours into the Pitocin and I'm howling like a lone wolf. I ask the nurses to fill the tub and drag my IV pole and battery operated monitors into the bathroom. The hot water feels blissful on the ever increasing pressure in my pelvis as my body works to push baby down and out, but I'm soon frustrated by the sitting position and feel the need to get back onto the bed. I try the Nitrous. Friday night arrives and the midwife asks if I'd like her to check my cervix. I'm certain I must be close considering the pain. She states that we're moving along now and I am... 3 centimeters dilated. Not anywhere near the 10 centimeters required to push out a baby, I am defeated. I'd been in active labor for over 12 hours hadn't slept in nearly 24. I say I think I need an epidural. I look at Jared and tell him that I really tried, but I need to rest and he holds my hand, smiles and says he would have asked for one upon arrival.
My experience with the epidural consisted of me being totally astonished by the powers of a good anesthesiologist. He was there in 10 minutes after my request, placed it without pain and I was still able to feel the pressure building with each contraction without the excruciating tightening in utero. In that moment, nothing felt sweeter than knowing I could take a little nap before getting to that transitional pushing stage.
While my mind was elsewhere at that point, having an epidural placed meant I lost a couple more freedoms and gained a few more wires. Water birth was now out of the question, I had a catheter placed and could not move from the bed. Yes, I am now experiencing a cascade of interventions, but the only thing I cared about at that point was meeting my baby and sweet sweet sleep! I have heard that Pitocin can make labor pains double, but I have a newfound respect for all the women in existence who have given birth unmedicated. Truly bravo.
It's early Saturday morning, I was 8 centimeters dilated the last time checked and the night nurse prepares me for the 6am shift change. The pressure has moved almost exclusively to what feels like my butt so I tell her and looking excited she says, "oh thats a great sign, I think we're about to meet your baby!" I honestly can't remember the last time I got news better than hearing, "you're 10 centimeters dilated, get ready to start pushing."
I'm pretty sure nothing can truly prepare you for childbirth. Not watching explicit birth videos or listening to a million podcasts. It's incredibly unique and life changing. Not just the fact that you come home with a tiny, helpless human, but the animal instinct sensations rippling through your body. That even when you take a break from pushing and just ride through a contraction you can still feel baby making its way down towards the light. Long before this moment, I asked Jared if he thought the body tells baby it's ready to be born or does baby tell the body. We decided body and baby most likely work in tandem considering they are still one thing connected, just now ready to be two. The creation of new life. A beautiful, messy mystery since the dawn of time. Participation is humbling!
At 7:56am on Saturday morning, February 5th Jeremiah Paul Kenyon was born on his due date after an hour and 20 minutes of pushing. I felt compelled to write this story to preserve the smaller details but watching him pop out wailing is one I'll never forget. His perfect face and pink body. I kissed him all over, meconium and all. The placenta was delivered moments after which I forgot to even look at and the midwife stitched up a small tear while telling me I was an exceptionally motivated pusher. I laughed, not imagining trying any less after waiting 9 months and 4 days of labor to meet our baby.
Overall, pregnancy was a joyful experience, but a chapter I was eager to finish by the end. Having baby on the outside is more rewarding to me than the mystery in utero, small anxieties and general discomforts of late pregnancy. Don't get me wrong, the postpartum period comes with its own set of mysteries, (hello breastfeeding!) just ones I feel I have a little more control over. Oh, and that sweet baby face you created staring back at you!
If you enjoyed reading about my birth journey, I'll continue to write on the postpartum experience as well as share products I found most useful during and after pregnancy. Thank you for getting this far and as always, supporting Wily Coyote Botanicals! My love child before Jeremiah, looking forward to watching them grow together<3