I struggled with exactly where to “put” Hayden’s birth story, but wanted to be able to share with all the Mom’s out there who might find some inspiration in it. Here is my journey.
The Backstory (Micah’s Birth-July 2008)
**trigger warning** skip ahead if you don’t want to read about my first birth.
Hayden’s birth story, most definitely starts with Micah’s birth story. A story I never put into written words. Most of the folks who know me very well, know that story pretty well. I plan to go back and write the detailed version one day since every baby deserves their birth story documented. The basics go: OB scared me with the “big baby” card and sweet talked me into an induction right at my due date. I naturally labored for hours on the hell that is Pitocin before losing control and asking for the epidural. Progressed and got to pushing. Pushed nearly 3 hours. He got stuck, but was so close. They tried vacuum extraction. Failed. Wheeled me off to a CS, where through out the procedure I threw up uncontrollably. I post-partum hemorrhaged an hour and a half later. Lost so much blood, they couldn’t get it stopped. Nearly bleed out waiting on the on-call doctor to do something (he apparently was much happier in bed and my doctor was off-duty). I got taken back to surgery for a D&C and had to have 4 blood transfusions. Meanwhile, my husband bottle-fed a screaming infant in a dark room praying God would spare my life and pondering what life as a single Dad might look like. I came through. Woke the next day with with horrible spinal headaches. I actually have very little memory of the first couple days of Micah’s life, what I do have is hazy due to blood-loss or drugs. Breast milk never came in. Blood-loss left me weak and passing out; for weeks I wasn’t able to care for my newborn. Those are the highlights, it was all pretty traumatic. If I’m honest, I was left with a bit of PTSD that deeply affected me for years. Nevertheless, I vowed I still wanted more children. Joined ICAN and started researching VBAC, because I knew if we were to ever do it again, it would have to be a different experience. Plain and simple.
After researching, I consulted with a mid-wife about the possibility of a birth center birth, but she was unsure I was a good candidate and pretty much risked me out. Jason was against the idea, so I moved on to consulting with the most well-known and highly respected VBAC doctors in the area. We had an amazing meeting. Jason was totally on board and that July of 2009 we decided we’d begin trying to get pregnant in November and Dr. Cummings said, “Ok! We’ll see you in November then!”
The Infertility Journey (2010-2012):
Then, the struggle started. We tried everything and weren’t too worried at first. Then negative after negative, we began to realize that something was wrong. I made an appointment with the reproductive endocrinologist. After much testing on both of us, we ended up with “unexplained infertility” diagnosis even though all the trauma I had been through left it as no surprise to our doctor really. We went through IUI cycles with injection drugs to no avail. We were geared up to give it one more go on a treatment cycle when the doctor pulled the plug because I had a large cyst and said we could maybe try again the next cycle. No amount of monitoring or drugs was helping and I eventually gave up my dream of having another child to chose sanity over the daily heartbreak that we had endured with infertility for years now.
In January 2013 I decided it was high time I do something drastic to lose some of weight I had been holding on to for years since having my thyroid ablated (I have an autoimmune thyroid disorder called Grave’s Disease that I was treated for the year Jason and I married). I did the HCG diet and lost 16 lbs. Then, much to my surprise found myself crying on the floor of my closet with a positive pregnancy test in my hand the very next cycle trying to explain to a confused 4 year old that “yes I was ok. Very Ok. Just happy.”
Early Pregnancy (March 2013):
My pregnancy with Hayden was rocky at first. I called my fertility doctor and made an appointment right away after my positive home test. They got me in two days from my call. I told them I was technically 2 weeks “late” although my cycles where always crazy, so I wasn’t super positive.
We went to that appointment filled with excitement. She fired up the sono machine and went to show me my little peanut. Except nothing was there, I was looking at the screen and I knew from my pregnancy with Micah what I was looking at didn’t look right. There was nothing there but an empty looking sac. My heart dropped. I couldn’t quite believe it. I had gotten my hopes up. The doctor told me it looked like I had a blighted ovum, but perhaps it was just earlier than we thought. She wasn’t super hopeful, but also didn’t quite tell me in certain words it was over either. Fertility specialist have that special way about them: they are caring, but stay very neutral in language. I can’t imagine having a job with such highs and lows, giving people earth shattering sad news and earth shattering happy news all day every day. She said I should come back in 10 days for another scan and if we found the same I would need to consider my options.
I continued to bleed and in that 10 days felt pain, cramping, and a constant panic. It was the longest 10 days of my life really. We went back on a Friday morning. I laid down on that bed and she dimmed the lights. Jason held my hand and she put that little glob of gelly and started the vaginal ultrasound and I think I held my breath. Tears of worry already streaming down my cheek. There was the sac. It appeared empty again. I looked at my silent doctor, flashed back and my husband (who hod no idea what he was or wasn’t lookin at) and her face said, “I’m sorry.” I said, “are you sure?” to the statement she never verbalized. Right as the words were escaping my mouth, she said, “let’s turn on the thermal imaging.” As she did and frantically searched for any signs of life. There it was: a bright red/orange blip way at the top corner. She chased him up there and then the sweetest sound I’ve ever heard in my life: thumpthumpthump at the quickest pace. You still couldn’t even see him. He was tucked so close to the edge of the sac that he blended in to the wall of my uterus. That turkey was hiding. I burst into tears. I couldn’t believe it.
The following weeks were shaky. I continued to bleed and fought awful thoughts that I’d lose this baby daily. I did feel God make a clear promise to me, as audible as if a friend were saying it right to my face, that “this baby was a boy, his name was Hayden, and he would be fine.” I went back for one more scan and things were still looking good so my doctor let me know it was time to graduate to an OB. She said my due date should be adjusted to 11/25 from 11/12 by my last menstral period; that change later became key as I didn’t deliver until 11/30. I called Dr. Cumming’s office and set an appointment. It had been so long since our initial consult with him that I was now considered a new patient.
I went in for my first appointment with him to talk VBAC and had a follow-up sono at 11 weeks. A fibroid was spotted and the bleeding persisted until I was 19 weeks along. Everyday was somewhat shaky wondering what would happen with that firbroid. Much to my surprise I felt Hayden’s first flutter kicks at week 12. I felt Micah pretty early also at 14 weeks, but this seemed so crazy early. I think God very much knew I needed to feel a very real connection to him early on to ease my worries.
The first time I passed out I was home alone with Micah and went to walk across the room to head up stairs. I felt the darkness closing in and knew what was about to happen so I luckily sat on the bottom step to prevent myself from falling. I continued to have episodes of very low blood pressure and passing out through out pregnancy. Overall though, my pregnancy was pretty easy compared to Micah. I didn’t have a horrible amount of morning sickness or a kidney infection, so I thought things were going pretty well.
The Summer was long and hot. I struggled to keep up with the energy demands of a five year old and pregnancy. We took an awesome family vacation to Orange Beach/Gulf Shores Alabama in July. We hired our doula Abbey Robinson of Divine Birth Services after interviewing several people. She had a VBA3C (Vaginal Birth After 3 C-Sections) with Dr. Cummings herself. Her straight-to-it-ness demeanor and experience seemed like a good counterbalance and Jason felt comfortable with her. It was definitely a huge regret of mine, not hiring a doula for Micah’s birth. I read a ton of birth stories and talked with women who had successful VBACS. I started stalking the Birth Without Fear Blog. I checked out Homebirth in the Hospital from our library and tore through it. A quote stuck out to me: “the only way through it, was straight through it.” It became a mantra with me. I knew I need to work through a lot and there only way through it, was straight through it. Micah started school and it was a welcome reprieve.
I got regular chiropractic care from the incomparable Webster certified baby loving genius that is Chandra Crisp at New Beginnings Chriopractic. I can’t believe the discomfort I put up with when I was pregnant with Micah! Chandra and the massage thearpist there Mary, kept me all lined up and pain free for the most part. More importantly, helped me keep baby in prime position. Since Micah had been asyinclitic I was determined to keep this one lined up like a tiny solider! I began focusing more and more on spending time on my hypnobabies practice as I had decided this would be my method of choice for managing my labor. At an appointment around 14 weeks to continue to check on my bleeding, the sonographer asked if I already knew the sex. I said “no, but yes, it’s a boy, I’m sure of it.” She confused, asked if I wanted to know and I did, but Jason wasn’t with me, so I asked that she write it and stick it in an envelope so Jason and I could open it together. Of course he was a boy! Jason and I continued to squabble over names for the better last half of the pregnancy. I had no personal affection for the name Hayden, I just knew it was his name. I couldn’t explain that too well to Jason, but eventually he got it. And the name was decided. I told him he could pick whatever he wanted for his middle name and he went around-and-around about it before finally deciding in Week 38 to use his own middle name, Anthony, which I liked very much. Hayden Anthony Greenlee would be our third son’s name.
Some of my more crazy pregnant lady ideas that I’m sure I’d never have done with my first: Going to a Texas Ranger’s game in the heat of the Summer and walking oh the walking to the stadium and the subsequent demand for the rickshaw ride back after I had enough!
Going to the Texas State Fair on the last day with record crowds.
And at 39 weeks pregnant, taking Micah to his first college football game, our UNT homecoming game. Oh the walking… up the bleachers and worse the 2 miles to the car (I’m not kidding!)
Hayden is warming up- Saturday 11/23-Week 39
I had been having contractions for weeks. The Saturday before he was actually born, I was convinced was the day. I woke up with crampy contractions which was unusual. Typically, my Braxton Hicks contractions were only sporadic or at night. We took Micah to the mall because he had been asking to make Hayden a Build-a-bear and I had been feeling that our one-on-one time was drawing to a close. Micah wanted Hayden’s first bear to come from him, which we thought was a very sweet sentiment! At the mall, we ate lunch and Micah built Hayden the sweetest monkey (in an Iron Man outfit) with a voice recording of him saying “Hayden, I love you” which made me cry right there in the middle of the store. The poor teen worker wasn’t sure what to make of me! As we walked out with “Iron Monkeyity”, I continued to have contractions. Jason wanted to stop into the Under Armour store and look around. As I stood there waiting, things were picking up in intensity and frequency and I asked that we leave immediately. On the way back in the car I struggled a bit, starting to watch the clock as contractions came at about 4-7 minutes apart. At 2:00, sitting in the car I had a strong one hit and take my breath away. A tear rolled down my cheek as we drove. When we got home I went on all four’s and rocked. I walked the circle between the living room through the kitchen around the study and back for a bit and bent over the stairs some. Then, after contractions continued I was really convinced we were in labor and began packing our things. I had been putting off packing officially and felt very under prepared. I gave a heads up text to Abbey and to Jenna, and to my childcare person/ close friend, Kristen just in case. I sorta hated knowing Dr. Cummings was not there as this was his daughter’s wedding weekend. Sometime in there we got Micah to sleep and I can’t remember eating dinner or not. Jason suggested I do my hypnobabies track and see if it helped me rest. So, around 10pm, I started it and much to my surprise was able to fall asleep! The contractions began to slow. Eventually stopping around 2 am. Sunday, I awoke tired and disappointed. Micah was officially off for Thanksgiving break and I knew the week ahead may be a long one.
Sunday night Kristen texted me to let me know that her family had a stomach virus and we may not want to send Micah there if I were to go into labor. I cried. I felt like things kept happening that would prevent my body from feeling okay to go into labor. I had struggled to decide if I’d let Dr. C strip my membranes at my 40 week appointment on Monday, and this gave me my answer. Nope. Now, I didn’t want to go into labor because I had no idea what we’d do with Micah. Why try to force the situation?
At my appointment, Dr C. did a check at my request and said I was a stretchy 2 almost 3 and about 70% effaced. He guessed it wouldn’t take much for me to go into labor and wouldn’t be surprised if it were this week. We then made plans to strip my membranes next Monday at my 41 week appointment if it took that long and he guessed if we did, I’d for sure have baby by that day. I asked about his on-call schedule during Thanksgiving and he said, “I’ll be there! I can deliver the baby with a drumstick in one hand!” We all laughed, and If felt totally at ease about the week.
I went home resigned that Hayden may or may not ever come and went back working on finishing baby projects around the house. I painted and stenciled the heirloom cradle Jason’s grandparents had given us (4 generations had slept in it!) for our bedroom. Later that night and into Tuesday I lost my mucous plug and had some show and irregular contractions, but nothing significant. Wednesday again feeling my special time with Micah only closing in, I decided to take him to see the new movie Frozen at the theatre (on opening day with packed crowds!) to help pass the time and had some solid contractions waiting in line, I started wondering if I might have the baby during the movie and fantasized about my water breaking on the sticky movie theatre floor where no one would even notice! After the movie, Jason took Micah and I went to a foot reflexology place hoping it would start labor. I told the barely English speaking Chinese lady, “I want to get this baby out! Do whatever you can!” and she just nodded her head.
Thanksgiving came and went on Thursday with family cracking plenty of jokes at my very pregnant status. My grandmother with dymensia, noting every couple minutes just how big I was, and asking if I was sure it wasn’t twins, forgetting she had just asked. Finally, after a very long day and hours worth of cramping at my aunts home (even laboring for a bit on all fours in their stairs) as family visited around me and cracked a few “bless your hearts”, I “called it” on our celebration and asked to go home. Once there, I got settled in bed and things seemed to stop once again and hope dwindled that we’d have a turkey baby. A few months prior I told Jason that I always felt we have the baby the Saturday after Thanksgiving while hoping I’d be wrong and it’d be sooner and he agreed he always had that feeling. We began wondering if we would be right. Here we are at Thanksgiving. Man I was pretty tuckered out by this point.
Friday, morning I had a few contractions here and there. Jason got Micah ready around lunch to attempt some errands and Black Friday shopping to get out of the house so I could rest a bit. I saw on Facebook that my doula was heading into an induction of one of her other majorly overdue clients and again was reduced to tears feeling as though again my body was waiting on some outside factor and never “felt safe” to go into labor. I texted Abbey and said I was having some irregular contractions and asked that a back-up plan be put into place. I texted my bestie Jeni a few times whining about the situation. Then, got in the shower and just sobbed. Jason came home with a giant tv we hadn’t discussed, but he got a killer deal on, and I was annoyed as he fussed about getting it hooked up. Then, knowing what was “best” for him worked on a quick baby project I had been wanting him to complete of installing the rocker base to a chair I bought. I quickly texted a picture to Jeni of me sitting on it and it was the last photo taken of me before I knew I was for sure in labor. Micah took it and I looked positively huge. We had so many false alarms I don’t think Jason really thought much of these contractions.
Around 4:31pm I text Abbey:
Me: these are picking up a bit
A: Ok. How long and far apart?
Me: I just started timing, been ignoring as long as possible. 40 secs about every 3 mins let me see if they stay that way
(Still obviously unsure of myself and tired of giving people false alarms for two weeks)
A: ok. I may be leaving here soon… She doesn’t seem to be responding to pitocin and they may send her home.
-at this point I remember feeling really relieved that my doula might make it to my birth
Me: Ok I can’t tell. these are coming close but don’t feel HARD enough to be it I don’t think, but close and taking concentration. I’m terrified to go to soon.
(funny to me now, because I was comparing them to the Pitocin contractions from Micah’s induction and those were just stupid hard from the start!)
A: Ok, I may be leaving here soon if things keep up.
Me: Where is here? And it’s hard for me to time I can’t seem to concentrate and feel like I miss starting and stopping. Do we have a back-up just in case?
A: yes. Fort Worth
(I must’ve really started believing this was real about at this point.)
Me: Gonna tune out on hypno for a bit and see if they stop or slow
A: ok great idea. Let me know when they are a minute long and 4-5 minutes apart consistently.
Me: I missed a few, but decided to start timing again.
(At this point I sent her a screen shot of my contractions which were averaging about a minute long and 4 mins apart but somewhat all over the map between 3-7 minutes apart.)
A: well just let me know when you need me.
At this point Abbey mentions it could mean baby was posterior and I remember feeling annoyed at that, I didn’t want to doubt, but what if she were right? I replied that I was “sure he wasn’t and Dr. Crisp had just checked and agreed he was anterior.”
At this point Abbey called and said she would leave the other birth and grab a bite to eat and head our way. She told me to eat some protein. I got off the phone feeling nervous. I didn’t want to be the one who cried “labor” again. I was having trouble believing this could be real, but it certainly felt real. But just last week I had thought the same thing…
I let Kristen know it was time and Micah needed to head over, but since it was a weekend, asked if she could pick Micah up because I didn’t want Jason to leave me alone and didn’t want to be in the car, but to take as much time as she needed. Meanwhile, Micah had been wearing his iron man costume (he practically lives in a super hero costume of some sort when he’s home) and waited too long to go potty and couldn’t get it off and had an accident so Jason had put him in the bath. I went upstairs and while Jason finished packing for him. I washed his hair bent over the tub having contractions. Tears were in my eyes. I knew this was the last time I’d see him before I had the baby. While he was in the bath I told him it was time. That I was pretty sure tonight we’d have his brother. His face lit up as he said “really!? Mom!! Really!? Yaaaay!! I can’t wait to meet him!!” Tears rolled down my face as he expressed such joy. I wish I had it on video. I let him know he’d be getting jammie’s on and heading over to his friend’s house for a sleepover, which he was very excited about. When Kristen rolled up and he walked out the door I just sobbed. I missed him already and felt a tinge of guilt.
Sometime in this hour Jason started cleaning the house like a maniac. I guess he finally started believing I was in labor, too. He was nervous and knew it was important to me that the house not be cluttered for photograph’s sake.
I ate a lemon Luna bar and drank a protein shake with coconut water thinking both would come back up easy since I know I’m a vomiter and Abbey would be pleased with my having had protein. I also texted my birth photographer Jenna and said this was it and no rush but she should get gear prepped and head over when she felt like it. I thought she was riding with us to hospital or I wouldn’t have told her so soon. She got there more quickly than I thought beating Abbey.
**All the pictures after this are taken by my dear friend Jenna. I’m so grateful to have these photos**
The drive was fairly peaceful. It was dark and empty on the highway. Jason drove at a regular speed for him (quick), but not über fast. I wasn’t timing contractions on my phone, but glanced at the clock from time to time in the car to keep an eye on things. Seemed like they were about 4 minutes apart.
I finally had the chance to text my besty Jeni and tell her we were heading out at 10:32. She replied, “Praying for you! You are strong. NO REGRETS!” That resonated with me, it had been by mantra this whole pregnancy but I was so glad she said it right then. I needed that last reminder and thought of those words often in labor. During the pregnancy I also had a quote from the book “Home Birth at the Hospital” stuck in my head from one woman’s birth story where she said, “the only way through it, is straight through it.”
As we pulled into the parking lot of the women’s center and parked I looked at Jason and said. “Promise you’ll protect me?” He looked back and with a voice sure and strong simply said, “I will.” I’d find out later that meant not just from all the big scary hospital people, but also from myself.
We walked in and I kept going straight for the bathroom, letting Abbey and Jason stop at the desk to start checking in. I remembered right where it was thanks to our tour. While in there I remember a few thoughts running through my mind:
“Ewww there are probably a ton of germs in this rest room I should’ve waited until I got to a room!” And “do I look ‘in labor enough,’ what if they don’t believe me?” I came out and finished getting checked in and off we went, declining the wheel chair and walking down the long hallway (where I paused to have a contraction holding onto the railing just before of the nursery). This seems interesting to me now, because I had paused and had a meltdown sitting on the step of the nursery window before my induction with Micah thinking I should run and get out and not do it. This was very different. We went through security. Where we were lead to a room first called 14 to us, but actually labeled “observation.” “Awhhh this is labor purgatory! Where they decide if you REALLY are in labor”, I thought. I didn’t like the idea of that one bit.
The decision was made to find someone else to try for my IV and I asked that it be done once I was moved and settled into my labor room. I was tired of being in purgatory and NEEDED out of that room.
12:50 am: I was checked again by Dr. Dooley the partner on-call with Dr. Cummings’ group and I was at a 6 100% effaced and at -1 station. At this point I have a triumphant fist pump. I was thrilled that I was progressing and it didn’t matter how long it was taking, I was just happy to move in the right direction at this point. Time was passing rather quickly for me. Hypnobabies has a cue that says “every hour will only feel like 15 minutes” and at this point that was mostly true. I also remember thinking, “I’m doing ok. Last time at this point on pit is when I asked for drugs.”
My nausea increased and Abbey got the worst of seeing those eggs she requested I eat a few hours prior. I felt bad she had to deal with the vomit bag, but I had tried to warn her. She said, “that’s ok, that’s usually a plus one for dilation!” I remember feeling impressed at how she knew her way around that room: gloves, vomit bags, extra waterproof pads… all at her fingertips. One reason I highly suggest hiring a doula in a hospital setting, you don’t have to call the nurse for every little thing! She unplugged me and helped me to the bathroom when I wanted to go.
Soon an anesthesiologist came to do my IV since no one else could. He got it in. It promptly came out an hour later. The charge nurse managed to get it back in.
There were several trips to the bathroom. Where, as laboring women often do, I felt safe and processed a lot of emotions.
2:20 am: 9cm still at -1 station. I hated I mean hated laying on my back or sitting on my tail bone in any capacity. Dr C. Was called.
3:02 am: Dr. Cummings arrived and I was happy to see him though I couldn’t communicate too well.
4:30 am: I start having a very hard time. I knew baby was still far too high and the fatigue was wearing on me. I start losing hope that I can complete the mission. Abbey is moving my body to better labor positions but they all hurt. I fight her. She reminds me I HAVE to get in better positions to allow baby to descend. I feel like I simply can’t cope and do what she’s is telling me and hit a breaking point. I ask for epidural. I’m reminded by Abbey I don’t want that. I ask again. Jason says, “No, I’ve listened to you for five years on this and I’m not going to allow you to give up!” I start getting quite angry. I yell, in fact, and start using explicitness like “I can’t do this. Get me the f**cking anesthesiologist!” Jason continues to refuse telling me he “won’t participate in allowing me to sabotage myself.” All things I asked him to remind me when or if this moment came. He was well educated and informed of what it could do to my birth outcome at this point. He reminded me of the horrible spinal headaches I got last time. I didn’t care. I kept asking I was desperate and felt defeated and exhausted. Abbey and Jenna left the room at this point as our arguing got intense. I yelled at him that I felt he wasn’t supporting me and hurting my feelings. He stood strong and said if I “wanted it I’d have to find the call button myself.” I scrambled half looking for the button and also remembered that I never signed those consents. Knowing that would take longer and I just didn’t even have the energy to fight; I gave in to the pain, the fatigue, surrendered again to the process. Jason had started rubbing my arm and I started to calm down. At this point, I had a hump to get over and better labor positions would have to wait. I had been clutching my vomit bag like a security blanket since vomiting the first time and never wanted to be with out it. I was so scared to make a mess and gross out my team. While Jason was stroking my arm in side lying I would turn my mouth to my bag and heave a bit. This is the point vomit got in my messy hair and I’d also secretly bite the ring on the bag as a release during contractions. I remember thinking that was a pull-back type method and not conducive to and “open” stance so I sort of hid it afraid someone would tell me not to. This series of moments was key. It represented everything we had worked for all the years of heartache and struggle. It represented a promise “to protect me” that Jason made as we entered the doors 6 hours prior. I am so proud of him for being so strong. I was downright beastly! Jenna later called it my poltergeist moment! The day we left the hospital Dr. C also mentioned to J that he was proud of him. “Many husbands won’t do that hard stuff and end up giving in not wanting to see their wives pain.” He said.
During that time, I found my way back into my hypnosis and was managing fairly well. I’d push a tiny bit here and there. I felt wet coming out when I did and never knew if it was my waters or urine and never said much to anyone about it. I really didn’t care one bit. At some point Jason couldn’t stand any longer and I felt someone stroking my leg-foot and I thought it was Abbey but also found out later that Jenna did also. I remember at some point during the 5 o’clock hour looking over at Jason, Abbey, and Jenna all resting in crazy uncomfortable positions and feeling sorry for them. Feeling overwhelmed by how tired they were and being sorry I was taking so long. The feeling that light was going to break to day soon overwhelmed me. I had discussed with Jenna in the months prior that I had a feeling I’d labor at night, but eventually give birth during daylight. It looked like this would be the case.
6:25 am: I decide I couldn’t take lying down any longer, but still wasn’t sure I could sit on anything including the ball so I ended up facing backward in the bed on my knees in a modified all-fours position. I think at some point I was even standing in the bed leaned over the bar. Dr Cummings came in suggesting we break my waters. I struggled with that decision wanting my labor to progress, but also fearful of the intensity picking up. I finally decided we should but wasn’t willing to move positions. So Dr. C. obliged my craziness and tried going in from behind in that poor position. I screamed “peace” louder than anyone probably ever had over and over. It was miserable. He couldn’t find it and reasoned the waters had already released. I was relieved that it meant the intensity has already picked up and I was in it and it shouldn’t get any worse.
I was feeling a bit lost though because I kept waiting for that overwhelming urge to push that just never came and kept thinking “why are we waiting, what do I do?”, but couldn’t communicate it. I started rearing back, tensing up, clenching my teeth during contractions. Abbey kept moving my hands to open position encouraging me sternly to stop fighting them, to give in more. I didn’t know how. To me it wasn’t a conscious fear or resistance it was like the way you instinctively pull your hand away from a hot stove. My body was just doing it. Dr. Cummings commented to my husband I was like a bull rearing up.
I remember Abbey spraying peppermint oil around to energize me. That’s typically my absolute favorite scent in the world, but I hated it at that moment and shook my head “no.” I had been avoiding it knowing it could affect breast milk supply. I also reasoned that I didn’t want my favorite smell in the world ruined by my pain…I didn’t want to ever associate that smell with how I felt at that moment. I could get no words out only to shake my head. It’s one of the weirdest moments to me about this labor. This feeling of being unable to communicate. I’ve never felt it before in my life. This is the part that seemed pretty ugly. Not the classic pretty birth told in pictures set to music. I had vomit in my hair. The room had a certain smell that wasn’t so pleasant. There were no candles lit and peaceful bathtubs. This was labor… primal labor. It isn’t always idyllic.
At some point around 9:30 am Dr. C came back in and made me sit up and look at him in the eyes. He said, ” you are complete, the baby is there waiting on you. It’s time to give in and push him out. He needs to come out. This is going to hurt. You need to accept that and just do it.” Abbey turned off my hypno track. Telling me “managing my pain wasn’t really what I needed to focus on now.” I reasoned that I wasn’t afraid, I just could not under any circumstances lay or sit on my tailbone and they needed to help me figure out a position to push in. Abbey had the new nurse (the shift change had happened no long ago) relocate the squat bar and coaxed me in to standing in a deep squat position. I wondered if my arms could hold me up the entire time. I heard a Brenda, the nurse, comment that she “hadn’t seen that used in years!”
So I began to push. It took me a contraction or two to figure it out, but I knew the baby was moving. I was loud at this point. I remember being guttural and associating for a brief moment the way it felt when I lifted heavy weights in high school. I had very strong legs and often out squatted the boys and always grunted when I lifted. I was roaring this baby out.
More peppermint. It wasn’t smelling too pretty in there. Meant I was pushing correctly though!
I remember being so pleased my legs weren’t in stirrups with a nurse counting and coaching me to push. The room was quiet (except from me) with the occasional reminder from Abbey not to let too much air out or that I was doing well, but no forced pushing. No one having to hold my legs in cold stirrups. I was fully doing this on my own. I could feel my baby moving down and knew what I was doing and realized how key that not having the epidural was, I didn’t feel so lost and dependent on people to tell me what to do. Awh yes, I was the captain of this ship! At this point I leaned into the pain instead of away from it.
A brief decel was seen on monitors and they offered me oxygen. I took it even though I didn’t want to. The photographer in me didn’t want my face covered, but knew both the baby and I needed the help. I was really exhausted and he been tolerating labor for a good while.
My contractions spaced out and weren’t all that strong. I think around 6-7 minutes apart. I was barely hanging on to that bar and my arms had gone numb. I was close and Dr. C encouraged me to push again, but I told him I was waiting on a contraction and he said “good do that, rushing won’t help we can wait another 12 minutes.” I thought 12 minutes sounded far too long. One push later (#3 or #4?) I felt the head and screamed “oh that huuuuurts!!” He said “gooood that’s the head this part IS going to hurt, but you’re almost there!!” I pushed with all of my might letting out an ear shattering scream, two pushes on top of each other just wanting him out and he shot out on #5. Later Jason said he literally did shoot out very fast and Abbey mentioned Dr. C barely catching him. I heard “nuchal cord” and worried a second, but he was fine. I remembered from my reading that many many babies are born with their cords around their neck and this generally isn’t considered a problem. They were suctioning him and handing him to me and I was just shell shocked. No emotion. I couldn’t believe it and it wasn’t registering just yet. My face felt eerily blank.
Meanwhile, they gave him back and I tried latching Hayden to nurse, but needed Abbey’s help as baby was just not coordinated enough and I was somewhat distracted by my pain and procedures. He did nurse for a few minutes and it was such a sweet time. Then, Abbey left with my placenta.
I was offered oral pain meds, but knew I’d throw them up if I didn’t have anything on my stomach, so I slowly started trying some crackers and juice. Before Jenna left, I requested we have our bite of pumpkin BIRTHday bundt cake photographed before she went. This concept of TRUE BIRTHday cake had been important to me. I had stored the bundt cake in the freezer since daddy’s birthday on 11/7 and grabbed it before leaving for the hospital, that long labor gave it plenty of time to thaw!
After Dr. C left, the nurse kept massaging and pressing on my uterus and it hurt so so bad I’d scream out. It just wasn’t hardening up like it should and she had to keep at it. At one point I remember saying that “I don’t want to curse in front of my baby!” To which she replied “then don’t” quite matter-of-factly. Things started getting a bit sketchy. I was told that I had to go to the restroom on my own before I could be moved to post-partum, an empty bladder would help my uterus move down. I tried to stand and immediately passed out. I could just hear nurse Brenda saying my name over and over. After trying twice, I knew I could not get up. She apologized and said she’d have to cath me. At this point, the pain had gotten ahead of me and I was tensing up and crying out. It took 3 attempts before she got it. Then I filled two buckets she couldn’t believe how full my bladder was. I tried to make small talk to distract myself with Brenda. Turns out she had just returned to work after beating brain cancer. I knew she was special and found her to be the perfect nurse for me in this moment– both a ray of sunshine laced with empathy and humor. She jokingly complained her back was hurting bent over my bed waiting for my bladder to drain and I laughingly said “Buck up Brenda! You beat brain cancer!!” To which she laughed heartily. We all needed the mood lightened a bit as the cath was pretty intense. Then, once she was reasonably sure my uterus had contracted enough they moved me.
Getting to post partum, I again tried to get up to go to the bathroom this time before passing out my hearing went away. My husband’s voice, my baby’s cries, all the voices in the room went into a tunnel and then silence. I had never before experienced anything like that and it scared me. I had to lay back down and I continued to try and eat and drink and eventually with help of two patient care techs made it to the bathroom and got some oral pain meds down.
Hayden still hadn’t been bathed as we requested all procedures including bath be delayed during our bonding time. Oh how I cherished all that time, intense as it was. I never got that with Micah. When the pedi nurse came, I asked if he could be bathed in our room and she said my husband was welcome to do it himself using the basin and handed him some wash and left to get warm towels. It was so nice to have that alone time. I videoed on my phone while J bathed him, he screamed a good bit poor guy.
A few hours passed and Jason left to get Micah from the Meyers, fresh off the Polar Express adventure. He was so sweet walking in and we gave him his “big brother” bag and book at which he was pleased. He mentioned how cute the baby looked and wanted to cuddle me in the bed. He told me “good job mom getting him out!” And that really meant something to me. I did do a good job. I was so proud I had a five year old son that knew that labor was hard work. I was still in awe myself. I had done it! Five years of research, tears, hope, failed fertility, and it finally happened! I got this miracle baby out of my vagina. I escaped surgery!
Jason took Micah home as planned and I was left with the baby for the night. While I planned to bust out of the hospital at the 24 hr mark, the next day my blood levels were extremely low, I was pale, and weak, and it was recommended I get at least two units of blood transfused, which would take all day, so on to night two in the hospital.Turns out I really needed more. My doctor discussed real concerns with how much I bleed and said we would be investigating the cause of that a bit more.
My breast milk (even a drop) never came in. It was heartbreaking really. It’s hard to explain when you want to so badly nourish and feed your child to be helpless. I did have wonderful support of an amazing and caring CBLC (lactation consultant extraordinaire) Melanie Sheppard of For Babies Sake who helped me try just about EVERYTHING. With Micah’s allergies, it was even more important to me since the formula dance was so awful with him. Sure enough, Hayden did get diagnosed with severe milk allergy and after trying donor breast milk of all types and various formulas, I also suspected a corn allergy. We eventually found the only corn and dairy free formula on the market and it made a remarkable difference. He’s a chill happy baby. Micah’s infancy was so difficult, much I believe started the day he was born. Maybe not having my body pumped full of drugs was not only powerful and freeing for me, but I truly believe it was better for my baby since my children seemed to be hypersenstive systemically to just about anything you put in their tiny beautiful bodies.
I’m still riding my birth “high” as they call it 3 months later. It’s pretty amazing how all that strength and courage carried right over into motherhood. I just felt different. I didn’t struggle with post-partum depression. No God-forskaen headaches and return trips to the hospital. I was all healed up in about 2 weeks. I remember showering less than a week later at home and thinking how good I felt. At this point last time, it was not pretty at all. I pretty sure I’ll carry the lessons I learned through Hayden’s pregnancy and birth well into the rest of my life. I’m stronger than I think. I’m smart. I can trust myself. I can lean on God and those that care for me. I know how to prepare and work hard to get what I want. Oh and childbirth can be amazing. It can be restorative. There’s power in the process if you allow it. The list goes on. I learned that picking the right team of people is pretty important: I don’t know that I’d have gotten the birth I desired with out the amazing moral and emotional support from my husband, the physical support and knowledge of birth from my doula, the quiet strength and friendship of my friend and photographer, the patience of an evidence-based doctor, a hospital of nurses that respected my autonomy and didn’t treat me as a crazy lady that didn’t know what I needed or wanted.
That about sums up Hayden’s little birth story (ahem, novel).
This process has definitely made birth advocacy a huge issue to me. I am so thankful I was able to get the birth I desired and it saddens me so much that so many women across the country go through not only difficult experiences, but are often led astray by the care providers they trust. Whether you are a first time parent or had a previous birth that wasn’t what you wished it was, please honor that experience and process it, don’t ignore your feelings. Birth really does matter. While a “healthy baby” is important, it’s not selfish or strange to say, that yes, the birth experience matters. I encourage you to look for resources and educate yourself. Improving Birth.org is a great resource as is VBACFacts.com
If you made it this far, thanks for reading! Leave a comment and let me know if you have thoughts or questions!