They say every pregnancy is different and those words could not be more true for my two children. We were ready for Eileen when I became pregnant. I led a very active and enjoyable pregnancy. Labor (while never easy) was natural and safe, and our breastfeeding journey lasted her whole first year of life.
Eileen was only 9 months old, still nursing, and I was taking birth control when I became pregnant with our second child. Surprise, despair, confusion, and guilty emotions followed. How in the world did this happen? “I just got my body back. I’m not ready to share me again! It’s not fair to Eileen to give up her baby status already!” All of this followed up with guilt. “Why do I feel so sad and how can I think those thoughts? Does that make me a bad Mom?”
I’m accepting that I am, in fact, human and these thoughts are pretty normal but most people choose not to voice them. A lot of women are also afraid to share their story if they don’t have the birth they intended or their experience doesn’t quite have the pleasantries and positivity that they believe other women want to hear. I can completely understand why women don’t want to share their stories when their experience has left them emotionally and physically depleted. After Hank was born, I didn’t even want to announce that he had arrived for fear of people congratulating me and asking how I was doing. I felt like a failure and I was not “ok”. Someone close to me, however, encouraged me to share my story because of what I went through. That my struggles and imperfection could be uplifting to other Moms. I’ve always desired to be a strong and positive woman, however, my birth story is raw and broken. But what I feared most was allowing others to know that I was not ok and that I struggled and am still struggling with my birth experience. I don’t want sympathy but I do want to connect with other people (Moms and Dads), who are hurting from a difficult birth.
The day I went into labor, I kept the contractions to myself as we had, had several false alarms in the past month and my husband was attentively watching my every move. I spent the day bouncing on my yoga ball and chasing Eileen around outside. That evening, as I watched my family giggling and dancing around the living room to Reel Big Fish, I remember thinking, “yes this is it and what an awesome and loving family this baby is about to be born into”.
My contractions intensified around 8:30 pm as we laid down for bed. As I laid awake, my body started shaking and I felt cold. I stepped into a hot shower and worked through some stronger contractions that started getting 5-8 minutes apart consistently. I walked into the bedroom and said, “babe get up, it’s time to go, the baby is coming.” He looked up at me disoriented and trying to process what I had just said. I called my midwife and we discussed my contraction times and my prior birth experience. As I calmly explained to my midwife that I was coming in (we have a 55 minute drive to the center) the reality of what was going on hit my husband and he began pacing around as if he was in labor, frantically trying to decide what to do. I confidently laughed at him as if I had done this a hundred times before.
Arriving at the birth center a little before 11 pm, I was ready to get to business. After confirming my dilation of 5cm and that my water had broken, I requested to labor in a hot shower as this was really comforting to me before leaving home. Time escapes me now but looking back I had labored in the shower for what felt like 30 minutes and then sat in a warm tub. Ty massaged my scalp and whispered amazing and encouraging words. The melodies of my birth playlists from my first labor were playing. It was beautiful. My contractions were intense but compared to my first labor, I felt ready and controlled. But not in control, see that’s the thing about labor. To be in control mentally you have to relinquish control physically. I embraced this knowledge and with each contraction and opened my legs and sighed out a big “OOOOOPPPEEENNN”. I remember reading about that mantra in one of the many birthing books I came across. surrendering to these words, I could feel my body gearing up and preparing to push. My midwife took this time to discuss the pushing phase. During my first birth, Eileen had shoulder dystocia which was resolved quickly, but there was a small chance that it could happen again. We talked about the different positions (hands and knees) we would try so to prevent the baby getting stuck and what would happen if I did indeed have trouble. This was reassuring, but in my head I thought there was no way, my body felt so ready this time.
Transition labor hit me hard and I was sick for 20 minutes or so. My midwife helped ease my discomfort with peppermint oil and I was able to drink a little water. I was ready to move to the bed and get my dilation progress checked. I was dilated to an eight and my excitement grew as I knew my labor was moving quickly and I would soon be meeting my baby. Movement brought me the most relief and I found myself swaying back and forth while my midwife squeezed my hips. Within 30 minutes I was on my hands and knees and feeling the need to push. I vocalized this to my small team of three.
I began pushing and quickly remembered the “ring of fire” sensation and slowed myself, allowing my body to stretch. I felt my baby’s head and then I felt the midwife doing something to the baby while mumbling a code word to the nurse. I asked if everything was alright and she mentioned something about the cord being wrapped but resolving the issue. I felt ready to push again and with the next contraction and the following one I pushed with everything I had. I felt like I had hit a brick wall. No amount of pushing was making any progress. My husband’s cheers turned to pleas to keep pushing. That’s when I knew something was wrong. I was completely exhausted and felt like I’d given everything I had. Why wasn’t my baby coming out? I tried pushing several more times, while moving my legs into extreme lunging positions. Then I heard the midwife tell the nurse to call the ambulance. I started to get scared realizing the actual danger my baby was in. The midwife had her hands in me trying to maneuver the baby’s shoulders. I’d never been in so much pain but honestly my mind couldn’t even settle on how I felt. All my instincts were focused on getting my body to find the energy to keep pushing. Finally, I felt and heard some loud popping and then a gush as my baby came out.
My husband pulled me towards his chest and held my head, begging me not to turn around. Panicked I scrambled across the bed as the midwife was doing chest compression’s and the nurse was setting up the oxygen tank. My baby was a boy, but I had no time to rejoice as he was blue all over and not making any noise. Mary, the owner and midwife from my first birth, ran into the room and took over. We both began praying out loud to God that he would heal this little baby. I was rubbing his body vigorously and kissing his fingers and toes. Tears were streaming down my face and I selfishly thought, “Lord, how can I possibly cope with the loss of a child? How can I move on from this ? I am not going to make it.”
Three firemen entered the room and stood back as the midwives were doing the only thing that could be done at that time. What seemed like hours was actually just minutes but they were able to get him breathing and some small cries followed. Soon, three or four paramedics rushed in and began to evaluate the situation and make arrangements to take my baby to the NICU. I desperately wanted to snatch my baby away and hold him to my chest but rationally I knew he need to be assessed. His oxygen saturation levels had stayed at 100% as he was still connected to the placenta inside me.
I vocalized my need to push and it was then I realized I was surrounded by an additional seven or so people, many of whom were men. I felt violated and exposed as I laid back to push out the placenta. Looking back at this now, I know I was surrounded by professionals who have seen it all and were just doing their job. But for someone like me who wanted only my husband and midwife present, it was a nightmare. A stretcher rolled in and after a few minutes I was ready to get up and transport my baby to the hospital. I stood up and took a step but as I did, blood began gushing out of me and I almost slipped. Easing me back on the bed, the midwives and my husband suggested that I may not be ready yet. I tried but I wasn’t able to evaluate my physical injuries and decided to follow the advice. My husband looked torn as he turned from his wife to his new son. I can only imagine the heartbreak of having to make that decision so I begged him to go and promised I would be shortly behind them. He got on to the stretcher and was handed our son. I looked at them together and wished with every part of my being that it was me holding that baby. That the three of us could be sitting in the bed together with nothing to do but to be gazing lovingly at our baby. But that wasn’t my story this time.
As they wheeled out and the room emptied, I felt myself crumble. Loneliness, emptiness, and pain began to set in. The nurse assistant walked in as I started shaking and sobbing. Wrapping her arms around me in a full body embrace, she cried with me. Mother to mother she knew my heartbreak. She too was part of the birth and (I believe) it was an emotionally difficult experience for her. In that moment, there was nothing else she could do but to me it meant everything. To be loved, held, understood and to mourn the situation with me. I didn’t need to express my feelings with words, as a Mom she knew. I also reached out for support from my best friend and Mom at this point. It was 3 am, but they immediately both sent encouragement and the loving words that nourished my heart
Over the course of the next hour, I had to be given Pitocin and catheterized due to my inability to pee which is something I had to do before I could load up and head to the hospital. My husband called and reported that by the time they reached the hospital they had deemed him “perfect” and NICU wasn’t necessary. But due to his size at 9lbs 10oz, they wanted to observe him for 24 hours to watch his blood sugar levels. Despite this good report, I wasn’t going to be relieved until I could hold him and see for myself.
I arrived almost three hours later and sprinted straight for my baby upon entering the room. Swaddled in a thick layer of blankets, I peered down at the little face. As he nursed and we laid in the hospital bed, tears streamed down my face as I kissed his fingers and heard his cries. I praised the Lord for keeping us both safe and for giving me the strength to bring Hank Russel Cloud into this world.