I was sure that Mark & I would be the last couple from our class to welcome their baby. I wanted to thank you all for sharing your stories. They were very inspiring and helped me get through the 39th and 40th weeks of my pregnancy. I hope there are more to come.
Oliver was born on Saturday 2/23 at 4:27am, weighing 8lbs and 4oz. He was delivered naturally, vaginally, and without drugs in about 24 hours. We missed the cut off for the birthing center by 1 hour because by the time we were ready to get going it was 1am exactly one week after Oliver’s due date. I was disappointed at first, but by the time I was in active labor, I couldn’t have cared less where we were.
I started feeling contractions around 5am on Friday 2/22. They weren’t very painful. I woke Mark up and he immediately sprang into action helping me to relax through each one. I also did some of the typical nesting things during this time. I wanted to pick out baby clothes, cut up old sheets to make baby wipes, and I started many projects I didn’t finish.
Our birth team arrived a few hours later (my mom and sister). We hung out in our apartment, took a walk to Sephora, bought some nail polish and I hung off of Mark’s or my sister’s neck each time I had a contraction. My midwife encouraged me to rest if I could, but the contractions were so much stronger laying down on my side. I felt almost every single contraction on my back so I guess I know back labor.
Around 10pm Mark and I were able to get about an hour of sleep. I woke up and immediately felt like I had to stand up. As soon as I was vertical, I felt the bulge of fluid move through me and gush out on to the floor. I ran to the bathtub and lost the mucus plug there. The contractions got much stronger after this. We spent about another hour laboring at home. My other sister arrived during this time as well and Mark, my mom, and my 2 sisters each had a part during every contraction. They were squeezing my hips, holding my hands, giving me water, and chanting with me. I felt the hip squeeze and the chanting to be very helpful. These contractions were intense but I was still managing. They were coming about every 2-3 minutes.
We met our midwife at Roosevelt on L&D around 1am and she immediately wanted to check the baby’s heart rate. I had to lay on my side for this because the baby’s tracing was “flat” which means he wasn’t reacting to my contractions. I didn’t know this was a problem, but she had me lay on my side to help change his tracing. I experienced the most painful and almost unbearable contractions in this position. Georgia, our midwife, suggested that maybe the cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck, but she didn’t seem alarmed so I wasn’t scared for his safety.
Georgia examined me and I was 8cm dilated, which was good news! By 2am, my midwife instructed me to begin pushing. I was on my back for the pushing, holding my legs behind my knees. Mark, my sister and Georgia put pressure on my feet and cheered me on. Georgia’s coaching was my lifeline during this. I was told to push on each contraction and “rest” in between but because there was so much pressure on my back I really never felt any resting in between pushes. I understood during this time why women beg for the drugs.
I ended up needing to push for 2.5 hours before he arrived – which was way too long. There is really nothing else to say about it other than that it was grueling. I had been looking forward to the pushing all throughout the labor and I didn’t experience any release or feelings of power that other women have described. It was just really hard work. I wanted so badly to make progress and I could never tell how far off we were. Georgia did promise me that as soon as the baby came out, I would feel relief in my back. And she was right.
When his head started to emerge Georgia told me to reach down and feel it and that was incredible. I really didn’t know what was going on down there throughout the pushing, so feeling the head really gave me the extra energy I needed to push him the rest of the way out. Around this time Mark told me to “Dig deeper” which is exactly what I needed to do to get through it.
He did have the cord wrapped around his neck and his arm. Georgia shimmied it down over his shoulders as he was coming out. We couldn’t delay the cord clamping because we had to make sure he could breath. Mark cut it. She put him on my chest right after that and I was just so overwhelmed that I thought I was dreaming. He could only stay there for a few seconds before they moved him to a table for suction. I was content just to be able to see him squirm and hear him cry and to have the hard work behind me.
Georgia asked me to push once to get the placenta out and I really wanted to tell her to F*ck off at that point but I pushed with maybe 10% of my previous effort and it came out very easily.
Oliver was returned to me after a few minutes and it was a bit surreal, but I could not believe that I had brought my baby into the world with my body, alone. It was an amazing feeling.
Mark was an incredible coach. He managed the whole process from beginning to end and never lost his cool. There were a few times that I uttered “I can’t” and “This is too much” and he just said “You can. You are already doing it.” I could not have done it without him.
When you endure such intense pain, you assume that damage to your body will follow, but the relief and calm I felt immediately after Oliver emerged gave me a sense of accomplishment, pride, and love for my body. I truly understood at that moment that my body was made for birth and it made me feel so strong and powerful to know that I did it on my own. The absence of damage was evidence that I did exactly what I was supposed to do.
Around 12 hours after the birth I had still not successfully breastfed Oliver. He was admitted to the NICU for rapid breathing. That was resolved within one day and we thought he’d be able to come home but then they thought his glucose was low. On our second night a doctor woke me up (I did not have a private room so Mark could not stay with me) explaining in a very laconic, alarmist way that Oliver’s dextrose was “critically low” and that they had to give him formula. Because I was half asleep and scared by what she was saying, I agreed, but it was an upsetting interaction and I really wish the doctor had made more of an effort to explain to me what was going on and given me the option to feed him myself before insisting on the formula. I felt that she took advantage of my vulnerable state. She didn’t even tell me she was the doctor at that point and it was dark so I couldn’t really even see her.
is dextrose levels were restored and then we were told Oliver was jaundice and he would need some time under the phototherapy lights. By this point I was focusing on visiting him in the NICU every 2-3 hours to feed him and we became very good at it. Even though I was stressed out and disappointed that Oliver and I were separated, it was good to have the feeding to focus on. It bonded us together.
We were finally allowed to take him home after 3 days in the NICU and now we are so happy at home as a little family. Oliver is feeding well and his yellow-ness is almost completely gone.
It truly was invaluable to take Mary Esther’s classes and learn about what to expect during labor. Because of the time we invested with you all, I was able to listen to my body and trust that it knew what to do. And I am so glad I did. Next baby is definitely going to be a home birth though!
I hope everyone is doing well.
Vanessa, Mark & Oliver