I know for those planning a home birth, a hospital transport seems like the worst thing that could happen. I love how this mama still had a good birth experience despite the change in plans and that the epidural for her was helpful and allowed her to get some rest. Go mama! You can also follow her blog, here.
The Birth Story of Sydney Rose
It felt like we waited forever for Sydney Rose to get here. My due date finally came, and I spent the day out with my mom. We walked all over the mall, hoping that things might get going. We went out for Mexican (it was Cinco de Mayo). Nothing happened. The weekend went by, I took two yoga classes, nothing. Then, on Monday night, May 9th I had some pretty regular contractions. They were regular, about six minutes apart, but pretty short and definitely not painful. I texted Rena, our doula, just to let her know things might be starting. I managed to get to sleep and by morning things had slowed down. My contractions were still coming, but not regularly. But a little later in the morning, I lost my mucous plug! I was so excited.
That night, contractions became regular again-- 10 minutes apart. I let my midwife, Lindsey, know, and she encouraged me to ignore them as best I could and get some sleep. But around 2 am they woke me up. Now they were starting to hurt, and they were coming every 5 minutes. I woke Bron. I was uncomfortable enough that I got onto my hands and knees and had to concentrate through them. Bron rubbed my back and tried to help me get back to sleep. Eventually I was falling asleep in between contractions and waking up every 5 minutes to breathe through them.
Things slowed again on Wednesday morning-- about 8 to 10 minutes apart. I went to see my chiropractor. Sydney seemed to be in a good position, but we couldn’t really get things moving again. That night, Lindsey encouraged me to get some acupuncture; maybe that would help. Mom and Bron came with me. It was so relaxing. When we got home, we put on a BBC nature show. While we were watching the narwhals (whales with unicorn horns!) swim through channels in the glaciers, my water broke! I remember being so worried I wouldn’t know when it happened, but it was unmistakable. I heard a pop and then felt a flood, and I imagined that Sydney had been spurred on by the narwhals. Mom and Bron rushed to get some chux pads to save the couch (they succeeded).
After that, things started to pick up right away. We texted Rena to come over. By the time she got to our apartment, Bron and I had moved upstairs to our “birthing room,” where the tub was set up. We were cuddled up on the futon, and he was helping me work through the contractions. By now, they hurt a lot and I couldn’t hold down a conversation. A couple hours later, they were pretty much coming one on top of the next. I didn’t want Bron to leave my side, but he had to go fill up the tub. Rena stayed with me and helped me work through them. They got so bad that I had to throw up. I couldn’t wait to get in the tub. We were sure that this was it-- Sydney would be with us very soon.
Things slowed down a bit after I got into the tub. I kept hoping I’d feel the urge to push, but I just didn’t. Contractions were still really painful, but they were spacing out. Lindsey and Sherill, a second midwife, checked Sydney’s heart rate every 15 or 20 minutes. She was doing great. Every time I heard her little heartbeat going so strong I felt more motivated. Bron got into the tub with me to help me get through some hard contractions. But we were absolutely exhausted, and time kept on passing with no urge to push. Eventually, we were both falling asleep between contractions-- this was the third night! Our midwives went downstairs to nap. Every time I dozed and woke up, I saw that Rena was still there with us, cheering us on. I have no idea how she was still up.
FInally, around 7 am on Thursday morning, we decided to get out of the tub. Lindsey checked me for the first time and I was only 3cm. I was so disappointed--after so many painful contractions I was sure we were close! Even worse, Sydney seemed to have turned into a posterior position (face up). This was causing me to have terrible back pain with each contraction. So we spent all of Thursday trying to turn her back. We walked, I crawled up the stairs, my chiropractor came over to adjust me-- nothing. My stubborn little girl just didn’t want to turn around.
We went for a long walk to get yogurt. My contractions were still coming every five minutes or so, and the walk took forever. Despite the back labor, it was really pleasant. We joked that, with four women (2 midwives, a doula, and a laboring pregnant woman), Bron must’ve looked like he was with his four wives. After yogurt, Lindsey checked me again. No change in my dilation. At this point, I broke down and cried. I was so frustrated. My water had been broken for about 24 hours, and I felt like we weren’t getting anywhere. Lindsey felt that I had some scar tissue in my cervix that was preventing me from dilating further. She tried massaging it with evening primrose oil, and then we all had a conversation about what to do next. At this point, we hadn’t slept in three nights, and it seemed we were looking at a fourth. My back labor was so bad that I couldn’t sit or lie down. Lindsey proposed that we head over to the hospital and get an epidural so I could sleep and some pitocin to help the contractions. We all were in agreement that this was the best plan, though I was totally heartbroken. I had so much wanted to give birth to Sydney in our home. I worked so hard throughout this pregnancy to, I had hoped, ensure a natural birth, and I’d really felt nothing could stop me. Everything I knew about these interventions scared me, and I hadn’t wanted that for either me or Sydney.
Bron and I went upstairs together to talk things over. We were both frustrated and angry and afraid that I’d end up with a c-section. For a little while we even wondered if that was the way to go-- maybe there was nothing more my body could do. But I realized that I had to give this one more chance, so I agreed to try some medical interventions.
Around 11 pm we packed up the car and headed to Kaiser Permanente. The car ride was really hard because I was still having back labor, and I had to labor on my hands and knees in the backseat-- an interesting position to be in on the 405 freeway. When we got there our whole caravan reconvened in the parking lot and we all headed for the labor and delivery ward. I’ll never forget the hallway leading from the elevator to the waiting room. It was so long, and my anxiety seemed to make the contractions worse. They were now coming every minute! When we got there, Lindsey helped Bron and I with check-in. Mom, Sherill, and Rena hung out in the waiting room. The process took forever and I paced the hall in between contractions. Finally they got us in to see an OB, who checked me rather aggressively and said I’d made it to 4 cm. This seemed like good news--maybe the primrose oil had helped. I lied and told him my water had only been broken a couple of hours so he wouldn’t start talking c-section. Immediately he wanted to discuss pain management, and I started to hesitate again. Even though I’d been convinced to come to the hospital for this reason, I wondered whether I could just handle the pitocin without the epidural. I told him I’d think about it, since they had to do some tests in the meantime anyway. The nurse hooked me up to a fetal stress monitor. She said I had to spend 20 minutes on my back. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry-- if I was able to lay down I would’ve gotten my sleep at home! She made it pretty clear that I had no other option. It was awful. Sydney was doing wonderfully, but I was in so much pain and just wanted to walk or sit on a toilet. Finally, 17 minutes in I convinced her that it was absolutely necessary that I go to the bathroom and that Sydney was just fine. She grudgingly let me go.
We were then informed that it would take some time to get us set up in our own room, so Bron, Rena, and I just walked the halls. It was the only way I could get comfortable. We didn’t get into a room until about 3am, so we did this for a while, walking circles around labor and delivery. It was eerily quiet and very cold, and I missed my warm tub. I expressed my disappointment to Rena and realized that this was the first time in all these days that I felt afraid. She did an amazing job of helping us come to terms with this decision and realize that we were doing the best we could for Sydney.
When we got into a room, I had to have some bloodwork (the doctor had informed me that they needed my blood type, as a postpartum hemorrhage could kill me in 5 minutes--thanks!). I then consented to having the epidural. I couldn’t imagine having hours of back labor while being forced to lie in bed. The anesthesiologist came in at 4am. My heart was racing. Having that epidural put in was WAY scarier than laboring or even then pushing her out later on. The doctor was no-nonsense. Everyone (except Bron and my poor mom who was finally asleep on the couch in the room) was kicked out. He instructed Bron to stand in front of me and keep me focused on him-- any movement could leave me seriously injured. At this point I was really doubting this decision. I was so scared. Bron was amazing, just keeping a smile on my face and helping me avoid thoughts of paralysis or whatever else could happen. First, the doctor had to give me a shot of pain medicine to manage the pain of the epidural placement--I thought this was the most insane thing I’d ever heard. Then he stuck a large piece of plastic to my back and reiterated his instructions-- do not move. Then he went to work. I saw my mom start to wake up out of the corner of my eye and had to force myself not to talk to or look at her. When he was done, I was able to tenuously lay down. I was still afraid of this thing that was in my back, and I asked him if I could accidentally displace it. He wasn’t very encouraging and gave me a matter-of-fact yes, which terrified me more. But once the drugs took effect, my exhaustion got the best of me and I dozed off for a couple of hours. Everyone but Bron headed home to get some much-deserved rest.
I was checked again around 7am by a midwife on call. No change in dilation, though I was fully effaced at this point. Sydney seemed to be doing great on the monitors. I went back to sleep until 10:30, when a new midwife came in to check me again. I was uncomfortable with all these checks because of my broken bag of waters. Bron felt the same way. This time, I was at 6 cm, which felt like great progress to me, but apparently not to the midwife who started talking about “other options”--maybe my baby was “too big” for me. She also inserted an internal monitor for my contractions, which was terribly uncomfortable. At this point I was furious. She said she’d come back in an hour because she wanted to see regular “progress.” I told her I would not allow another check in an hour because I was too afraid of infection (and also of her creepiness, though I didn’t tell her that). She reluctantly agreed.
At this point, Bron was beyond frustrated. We both felt this was going to wind up in a c-section because they wouldn’t give it enough time. I felt like he was starting to lose it a bit, and so I texted Rena. I told her there was no hurry, but she started making her way back to the hospital anyway. We spent about 15 minutes despairing, until I started to feel really strange. I told Bron that I was beginning to feel pushy. Could it possibly be true? I had just been checked and was only at 6 cm! But sure enough, the epidural wasn’t really working anymore and I was feeling a distinct urge to push. Bron went to get the nurse. At some point during all this excitement, my mom arrived, and we contacted Rena and Lindsey who were both on their way.
The midwife returned and found that, yes, I had in fact fully dilated and baby had dropped down! What a relief! We began to ready ourselves for the big push. The nurse who came in was a sweet Vietnamese woman who turned into an absolute drill sergeant when it came to pushing time. She put up the stirrups on the end of the bed, put my feet in them, and said, “This could take 30 minutes or 3 hours-- it’s up to you.” She then instructed my mom and Bron to each take a leg and count to ten through each push. After days of waiting for my girl to arrive, I was ready to do this. At noon, I started pushing.
I was surprised how instinctive it was. My mom and Bron counted and coached me through each push-- 3 per contraction. I was so amazed with my mom. She had seemed so nervous throughout my labor, but she was totally in control now, counting to ten and getting me through each hard push. As we were hard at work, nurses and other staff seemed to be coming in and out readying things for the midwife’s arrival. I was totally in another world, and hardly noticed, though looking back a bit more privacy would’ve been nice as I was spread-eagled on a table grunting and groaning.
When the midwife came in (the one I’d earlier thought was creepy, though now I didn’t care), she started to ready herself for the catch. We were amazed at how much gear this entailed-- Bron said she was putting on her “Hurt Locker” suit and would be ready to handle a bomb, not a baby, when she was done. I was vaguely aware of her, but by this time I was really getting exhausted and had to conserve all my energy between pushes. I looked at the clock across the room and saw that I’d been working for 45 minutes. Rena and Lindsey were here now, cheering me on. I wondered how long it would be. Then a nurse came over and unsnapped the top of my gown. She was getting me ready to meet Sydney! This really spurred me on. I got louder and more forceful, more animal even, with each push, and Rena, Lindsey, and the hospital midwife, whose name was Lisa, told me they could see Sydney’s head coming, and that she had lots of hair. I remember Lisa saying she could’ve braided it on the way out.
Pushing her head out was so hard, but so exhilarating. It took more pushes than I imagined it would-- it emerged a bit, and then slipped back in. Finally, with one big push, her head was out! I thought I heard someone say something about her fist by her face and her cord around her neck, but this didn’t really have an effect on me, and everyone was calm so I knew she was ok. At this point, I wasn’t pushing with a contraction anymore. I just wanted to get the rest of her little body out. A couple more crazy pushes, and there she was! I reached down and there was my little girl, slimy and squirmy and ready to be hugged by her mama.
Those first moments are fuzzy, but I remember feeling happier than I think I’ve ever been and overcome with relief. She was here, in my arms, and all that hard work had been worth it. I’d do it again in a second. There was the little being who I’d nurtured and talked to and patted in my belly for three-quarters of a year. Eighty-five hours after my first contractions on Monday night, I got to meet my beautiful Sydney Rose, at 12:58 pm on (my lucky day) Friday, May 13th. She was 8 lbs., 11 oz., and twenty inches long. Through all that labor, she’d been so strong, and she latched on like a champ after she was born. Everything she did, and has done since then-- breathing, nursing, pooping, all of it-- makes me unbelievably proud and happy to be her mom.