On December 19th we walked into the hospital not knowing what to expect. I was 39 weeks pregnant and had been having contractions for four straight days - they weren’t consistent enough to be labor contractions, but they were enough to keep me up all night. I tried every home remedy in my pregnancy books to help relieve the pain, but nothing I read could have prepared me for what was about to happen.
From the moment I found out I was pregnant I started researching pregnancy and adopted the mentality that my body was going to go through a beautiful and natural transition to create a tiny little life. Therefore I wanted to do everything as naturally as possible, from the foods I ate to labor and delivery. After switching doctors, meeting with doulas and a lot of meditating, I decided that I should plan on having a hospital birth with an epidural. I know that my pain tolerance is not very high and I did not want to risk hurting my sweet baby boy with a last minute emergency.
I was blessed with a very easy pregnancy which is why these painful contractions at 38 weeks were especially uncomfortable. Everyone including my doctor told me that they were Braxton Hicks contractions so I sucked it up and used them as an opportunity to practice my breathing. The contractions got stronger each day and I was no longer able to sleep. The only thing that kept me going was hoping that they were a sign of dilation since they apparently were not a sign of early labor. We started worrying that I would have no energy to get through labor since I hadn’t slept in three nights so I called my doctor and was told to go into the hospital to monitor my contractions.
On this particular Monday Zach had four back to back depositions and my baby sister, Chiki (who we had planned would be in the room for the delivery to take pictures) had to be in Austin the whole day to cast her thesis film. Surely my doctor was just going to confirm that I had dilated a few centimeters and give me tips to get through the pain so I could rest, right? Zach was able to get his depositions covered and somehow convinced me to take our hospital bags with us just in case. For some reason the thought of taking them really stressed me out; it felt so final and I was in no way ready to get plugged into all of the hospital machines. I kept telling myself it was just a quick trip to the hospital. On our way out of the house, our dog ran out the front door and chased after our car. Although I know he loves to go on car rides, I felt like he knew something was wrong so my nerves went up as we pulled out of the neighborhood.
At the hospital the contraction monitor confirmed what I’d been feeling for the past four days were not Braxton Hicks contractions, and the reason I had been feeling them so intensely was because our boy’s head was sitting so low - yet I was only one centimeter dilated. So defeating. My doctor gave us two options; go home and keep pushing through the pain or stay and get induced. This was the first decision I made that went completely against what I had originally planned, but the thought of meeting our little baby that very same day while avoiding further complications made the decision an easy one.
Within the hour I had my IV, they broke my water and I had the epidural - the most difficult being the IV. For whatever reason I was not scared to get the epidural. Maybe because I had practiced breathing in baddhakonasana and I was prepared to get through the discomfort. I got into my yoga pose and started to feel nervous right before the epidural went in. The anesthesiologist was very patient walked me through the whole process. I felt everything as he described it, from the pressure to the burning to the cold. It was extremely uncomfortable but so were the 96 hours of contractions and I was ready for some relief. Once the epidural kicked in the contractions got more and more mild until I could no longer feel them. My legs started to feel heavy to the point where I could not get comfortable enough the sleep because all I could think of was how I could not move them. My sister and cousin, Bunny and Biene, were in the room with us and they brought me my childhood blankie and essential oils diffuser which instantly made me feel better.
Now came the waiting game.
Initially I was told that I was going to get a mild induction, but I’m still not sure what that means. I wonder if they told me that because my doctor knew I didn’t want any pitocin. I am not aware of a mild version of the drug, but I’m not a doctor so maybe there is. Slowly but surely I began to dilate and I so badly wanted to fall asleep to have enough energy for labor. After about seven hours of waiting I was finally 9 centimeters dilated and I instantly started feeling butterflies. I felt like we were about to go on a blind date and fall in love for the rest of our lives. Bunny and Biene started the beautifying process - removing my half chipped toe nail polish, braiding my hair and applying mascara. In that moment it made sense to me that I wanted our baby boy to think I was pretty when he saw me for the first time.
My legs were so heavy and I could not feel a thing below my belly button, I had no idea how I was going to push when I couldn’t feel anything. I started to understand what people were talking about when they said that the epidural takes all sensation out of labor and delivery, but still I was ready to meet our little boy so I surrendered control and tried to do everything the nurses and doctor told me to do.
This is the part that is not talked about in books, videos, yoga classes or even amongst friends - labor is hard. I was under the impression that pushing breaths were going to be more like yoga breaths; slow and intentional, focusing on breathing through discomfort. This is nothing like what I experienced. There was no discomfort or pain yet I wished I had practiced holding my breath under water in order to prepare for this moment. With every contraction I was pushing for ten counts while holding my exhales, then the nurse would give me one second to get some air - one inhale, and then began another round of pushing while holding breath and only getting a second to take an inhale. Each contraction allowed for 3-4 rounds of this dance which started around 8:15pm, and initially my doctor told me I would have our little one in my arms by 9pm. Nine o’clock came and went and my OB had left me with my nurse. I felt like he was giving up on me because he had expected it to be such a quick delivery. A part of me wanted to give up when he left the room - I was so tired and knew that a nap would help me get some energy back, but this was obviously not an option. Everyone kept saying they could see the baby’s head, but each time I stopped pushing to inhale it would go back out of sight.
Pushing was another part of labor that I was not at all prepared for because the loss of sensation left me with no way of knowing whether I was pushing the right way or not. The nurse kept prompting me to get angry, and I started working on thinking about things that make me mad. During this process I learned that I am not much for holding anger because nothing I could think of made me mad enough to push harder - whatever that meant. Even now after two weeks of delivering our baby I have no idea which pushes were right and which ones weren’t, they all felt the same to me. I felt like all I was doing was holding my breath and crunching my abdominal muscles. Sometimes the nurse would reassure me that it was a good push, and other times she would tell me that I wasn’t trying.
I did find it motivating when Zach and my sisters would encourage me, but I felt like they didn’t always know what to say because they didn’t know when I was having a contraction or when the contraction was ending. Zach kept rubbing my leg with the intention of soothing me in between pushes, but his touch felt like needles since my legs were dormant and I barked at him to stop. I felt bad for being mean to him because I could only imagine how nervous he must also be throughout the whole process and there was really not much he could do other than try to comfort me. Thankfully he didn’t take it personally though.
Time kept passing and I kept pushing. Eventually my doctor came back into the room and examined me only to find that our boy was laying sunny side up and his head was hyperextended which was why he was not coming out. I began to worry that he was going to recommend a c-section, but instead he said he was going to try something I had never even heard of to get his head to turn into a position that would allow me to safely deliver him - a vacuum. Immediately the image of my Dyson cleaner popped into my head and I had no idea how this was going to work. This was yet another part of labor that I had not only not planned for but I had no idea what to expect. Turns out the dreaded vacuum was more of a suction contraption that was used while I pushed. I could feel my doctor starting to get frustrated so I gave it my all with the fear of this being the last thing that he would do before the dreaded recommendation of a c-section. After pushing for a total of two hours with the help of this “vacuum” my biggest fear came true.
I had just spent nine whole months reading about everything pregnancy related and even how to parent. Zach and I put together a birth plan as an exercise to prepare ourselves for delivery and I was so sure I would never need a c-section that I had asked Zach to put together the c-section part of the plan. I never even glanced at it, we never even talked about it. The moment my doctor said I had to have a c-section I felt the walls of the hospital closing in on me and I could no longer breath. All I knew was how bad c-sections are for initial bonding, how women have such a hard time recovering from them, and how the chances of post partum depression increase because moms cannot focus on healing while taking care of a newborn. I knew they would take my baby away from me as soon as he was delivered and I would miss out on those crucial first moments of his life. I knew they would not allow Zach to cut his umbilical chord or wait for it to stop pulsing before clamping it.
So many thoughts rushing through my mind, I asked if we could have a few moments to discuss privately. My internal meltdown made its way out and I was finally mad and scared. How could my doctor not have known why his head was so low to begin with? How could he have let me get induced and go through hours of pushing without knowing he was sitting so low because his head was hyperextended? I looked for answers but I knew no one could help me. My poor husband offered to talk to the doctor to see if he would let me keep pushing longer, but I knew his mind was made up. He told me that if I was under his care I would have to have a c-section and that sounded pretty final to me. I wished I had a doula there who could tell me what was really going on, or someone on my team that I could trust.
The OR was just as I imagined it - cold and bright. I felt like a sack of potatoes getting hoisted from my bed to the operating table. Everything from this point forward was so much of a blur that it’s difficult to write about. I heard voices and my doctor turned on some rock music as they put up the curtain covering my view. I thought about how I would have liked it if he asked me what music to play, but I had no energy to ask him to change it. Zach came in the room and sat by my side, then I swear I smelt my skin being burned as they cut me open. Zach said he couldn’t smell anything but I am convinced that’s what I was smelling. I heard conversations about my pelvis being narrow as I stared into the bright lights and tried to trust that everything was going to be ok. I am not sure how much time went by but eventually I felt them take my baby out - it was a difference in weight in my body for the most part but I felt a shift and then came his cry. I wanted to see him so badly so all I could think to do was to tell Zach to stand up and look past the curtain. As he stood up I thought about how he was probably going to see all my guts hanging out and I felt very vulnerable and uncomfortable, but it didn’t really matter - I wanted one of us to have contact with him as soon as they would allow it.
The doctors and nurses took Jens over to a little table where I could see them hastily working away not knowing what was going on. My body started to feel very tired and I was dozing in and out of sleep. At one point a nurse came over and told me something along the lines of him being a healthy baby and mentioned he had some extra skin on his neck which naturally made my imagination run wild. Turns out he had two little skin tags on his neck which are tiny bumps that can be removed - very different from the rolls of skin my drugged brain had initially pictured. Zach brought Jens over to me as soon as he could and all I really remember is that he was crying and I started talking to him and his crying stopped. I just wanted to hold him but my body was not responding to any of my brains commands to reach out for him. His face nuzzled against mine, his skin was so soft and his little nose was the cutest thing I had ever seen.
I quickly fell asleep after they made Zach take him into the other room. Thankfully he was able to do have skin to skin contact with Jens, and I later learned that he tried to nurse from Zach in those first moments. It blows my mind that babies are born knowing how to nurse and where to find it. It’s a pretty miraculous thing!
I somehow made it back into our delivery room and only have a brief memory of a nurse giving me a quick prompt of how to breastfeed as they handed me our boy for the first time, “Tummy to tummy, chest to chest.” He immediately latched on and for the first time in hours I felt alive; this was right were I was supposed to be.
Up until a few days ago I could not retell this story without crying. I have felt as if I am mourning missing out on everything that I was so excited to do for the first time and losing control because I didn’t know what my options were. Overthe past few days I have started meditating on one of the yoga sutras, vairagya (non attachment) while I breastfeed. Non attachment to the pre-plan and plan that I spent so much time working on. Non attachment to the moments I felt we had missed out on. The reality is that we have a healthy and sweet baby boy who came into this world the way he was meant to. His little soul picked Zach and I to be his parents and he is perfect and pure in every way. I am so thankful for his health and all of the love that we have received over the past nine months. I know he feels that love from family and friends who have been such an important part of his journey from a sweet pea sized heartbeat to a 7.8 pound 20 inchsized bundle of love. I have never been a big fan of Christmas, but this year this season gave my life new meaning and this sweet baby boy makes every difficult moment 1000% worth it all.
I write this blog entry to share my experience as a part of my journey in non attachment and to encourage mommies to be to not get too attached to a plan and ride the waves or labor and delivery as they come and go. I know it will take time for me to get full closure because I still have so many questions floating through my head, but I hope that anyone who reads this will find something that they can relate to, and spark up conversations about the things that are not commonly talked about like labor complications and recovery (which I will leave for a future entry once I have completed the recovery process).
ishing you a happy 2017, I'm off to nurse my little fox!