There is nothing more profound than becoming a mother. It’s simply indescribable. To create a life, nurture it to birth and bring that newborn into the world is something that sadly only women will truly get to experience and fully understand. It’s like joining a club that is so mysterious and exclusive that to try to explain it only hampers the pureness of it all. No matter how varied, vast or contradictory our parenting styles and beliefs are, there is one event that ties every individual mother together in this world… And it is our birth story.
Sitting here typing this (while little Bassil is sweetly napping away) I am flooded with so many emotions of those transcendent hours that brought that sweet life into this world. It has taken me 6 months to write this blog. My birth story is very personal, as is every womans, and for weeks I couldn’t speak of his birth without crying from sadness. This story, for the world to read, will allow me to let go of my expectations and disappointments that I held onto so fiercely since 3:10am December 3rd, 2015. That moment is eternally branded in my mind. It was at that point the most wrenching moment of my life. I can still see my midwifes stoic face, the profound pause in her voice, and the thickness of the air at that precise moment when she said 3 words that rocked my world. ‘You’re a 4.’
Let’s backup to the beginning… This is a long story, as that was a long labor, but it begins before I ever went into labor. Before my water broke. Before I waited anxiously for my mom to fly into town. My story starts when I found out I was pregnant.
Vaughan and I made a very conscious decision to try to become pregnant but only by natural means. If it didn’t occur naturally then our belief was that it just wasn’t in the cards for us. I was taking the ovulation tests and trying to time everything and internally decided that we were coming to our last hurrah. Part of me had already resigned to not having children. We had been trying for a year and a half. To be honest, I didn’t even have a Dr or midwife until I became pregnant. I was very laissez faire about the whole thing. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to have children, it was that I didn’t want to put my whole heart into something that quite possibly wouldn’t happen. I guess it was my way of trying to hold onto whatever will be will be and keeping disappointment at bay.
On Super Bowl Sunday 2015 we found out I was pregnant. It took a good couple of weeks to really wrap my head around this news. And when it did sink in, we were full force ahead. I started reading everything I could get my hands on and planning. Like all mothers I wanted to do what I believed would be best for my baby. I continued to workout my entire pregnancy and I ate well, consuming all the nutrient dense foods I could get my hands on. Then the decision of the birth. I really didn’t know anything about birth or what to expect so I pulled as much research as I could and started diving into the effect that different drugs have on babies during birth. Which ones cross the placenta, how they affect latching and recovery and so on and so on. I decide that what would be best for my little one would be a natural birth. I know I’m strong and knew I could make it through without drugs. I was so determined. If I continued to take care of myself and continued to prepare my body, I would give little Bassil the best start into this world that he could have. I worked out up until 2 days before I gave birth making my body as strong as it could be. Vaughan and I attended hypnobirthing so that my mind and spirit would be ready. I did my homework and prepared in absolutely every way I could. We hired a doula and made a birth plan. I was completely focused on this birth and anticipated the reward that a natural birth offers. I anticipated the euphoria I would feel and the pride I would have knowing that I gave my baby the best start I could. I did everything. I was ready.
The week of my due date things in my body started changing. I felt like he would be coming soon. My mom held off on buying a plane ticket so she could try to make it for his birth. It was very important that she was here. I remember calling her on Wednesday and saying I think you should come tonight. She got into town at midnight. The next day we ran around town doing errands and spending some time together. Vaughan and I had worked diligently to get the house ready and he had the baby’s room primed to go. Then Friday morning, December 2nd at 3:30am I got up to pee. Crawled back into bed and felt something and thought really? I have to pee again. Made it to the bathroom and realized my water had broke. It wasn’t a gush like you see in the movies, it was just a little bit but I knew it wasn’t my bladder. I crawled back into bed (on a towel) and Vaughan woke. I told him and he asked what’s next? Do we call our doula? Hell if I know! I decided to wait and hour or so in order not to disturb her sleep. Vaughan asked what time it was. 3:30… One year earlier, to the minute, Vaughan’s dad passed from this world. We both just looked at each other. And knew he was there with us.
At about 4:30am I texted our doula and let her know. She asked if I was having contractions. Nope, a little bit of cramping here and there and that was it. Little did I know that the water breaking typically starts labor. Most labor starts without the womens water breaking. It’s actually rare that it happens the way it was happening with me. 5, 5:30, 6, my doula kept checking in with me but still nothing. I had an appointment with my midwife at 9 that morning. She told me to check in with her after. I went to see my midwife with my mom and Vaughan. I was excited cause I realized she was on call and would actually be delivering my baby. The stars were lining up. Everything was going as I had hoped. My midwife asked what time my water broke. And she said, ‘and you haven’t started contracting?’ Nope! Then the look. Uh oh. Apparently once water breaks your on the clock. The baby is now open to infection and the goal is to give birth within 24 hours. Statistics have shown that once 24 hours hits and passes and each hour after the risk of infection increases significantly. Little details I did not know. She told me that the clinic likes to start labor (with pitocin) 10 hours after the water breaks if labor has not started. My heart fell. I didn’t want pitocin, I didn’t want anything. What I wanted was a natural birth. She said she could give me 12 hours, until 3:30 in the afternoon. I remember her looking at me and saying, “what are your plans to get labor started?” I thought to myself, aren’t you supposed to tell me what to do? Instead I kept my mouth shut swallowed hard and held the tears back. This was not going the way I wanted. She said she would call me in a couple hours.
I called my doula who recommended a chiropractor who was known for helping get labor started. We went to Starbucks to grab some food and my mom and Vaughan pulled me off the cliff. They told me not to get discouraged. We then headed to the store so Vaughan could pick up some depends for me. Oh ya… Nothing better! 🙂 There is NOTHING sexy about labor. It is the most raw and vulnerable thing a women will ever go through. Thank god for adult diapers! We went to the chiropractor and nothing. I was having some strong contractions very randomly but nothing too intense. We grabbed lunch then mom and I took a walk around the neighborhood while Vaughan grabbed some rest. He knew it was going to be a long night and I was going to need him. Now it is well past noon and still nothing. We decided to clean out our laundry room, organize the garage and just keep moving. Bam! A hard contraction. Yes! This was it, labor was going to start… and then nothing for 45 minutes. It was 1 hard contraction every 45 minutes… This was not good. My midwife kept calling to check in on me. I went outside to scrub the backyard. I was working as hard as I could trying to get this kid moving. And the clock was ticking. At this point mom and Vaughan were trying to keep me calm and I was trying not to cry. I didn’t understand. Why wouldn’t labor kick in. My water broke. I’m as healthy as could be. My midwife is starting to push for me to go to the hospital. Vaughan started taking over the calls with her as I was just avoiding her. I couldn’t handle what she was wanting me to do. We were going back and forth with our doula and she even said my midwife was being really cool to let me go this long because even at women centers they would have made me go to the hospital by now.
Then the decision that started labor… An enema! I was desperate to do anything and we were approaching 6pm. I was still having random hard contractions but nothing consistent. Again, Vaughan got to go shopping. This time for an enema. I can only imagine who the clerks thought my husband was taking care of. First the adult diapers, now the enema. At 6pm I took it and it worked.. Oh boy did it work. Hard cramps everywhere! I held onto whatever I could and waited for it all to pass. By the time the enema had done its job I was finally having full out contractions. They ranged from 4-7 minutes apart. Still not as close as we would of liked but finally progress. Our doula came over and so did our photographer. I wanted to wait it out at our house as long as possible and everyone was pushing me to get to the hospital. I still wasn’t grasping the seriousness of the ticking clock and how important it was to get this little guy out. Vaughan was trying to buy me time and patiently and gently urging me to get my ass in gear and get to the hospital. I so desperately wanted to labor in the comfort of my home, not in a sterile room with beeping equipment.
Finally I loaded up and we headed to the hospital. I think it was nearing 8pm at this point. The contractions in the car were the worst. I couldn’t get comfortable and sitting was not a good position for me to be contracting. Meanwhile I’m trying to hold a phone conversation with Bob, our lifecoach/friend who is offering to help me through if I needed him. We made it in, signed our paperwork and headed to our room. The whole time I would have to stop as a contraction hit, bend over and place my hands on my knees and sway. That was the most comfortable way for me to make it through each contraction. I could feel them coming in waves. I knew when one was about to rear its gnarly head. Then the intensity would slowly increase until it hit a hard painful high then it would ever so slowly subside. God I still feel them.
Our friend who crossfits with us is a L&D nurse at the hospital and she hooked us up with a great room. Unfortunately she wasn’t our nurse but one of her good friends was. They checked me and I was dilated to 4cm. It was the first time I had been checked. They monitored all my stats and I made myself very clear I did not want to be hooked up the entire time, that I was going at it naturally and wanted the freedom to move about. They put a stent in my arm, which I adamantly did not want, but consented to since my midwife was pushing for it and I figured I had already given her a hard enough time. We were all cutting jokes and trying to make the best of what we didn’t know would become a very long night.
I labored in the room for a little bit, still in good spirits and still wishing my contractions were closer together. My doula suggested we go for a walk, which we did but I was aware of some people trying to sleep and I was now moaning through the contractions and was so worried about bothering people so we headed back to the room. I tried to labor on the ball. That sucked! Hurt worse than anything. I tried lying down. Nope. That hurt as well. I remember looking at the blasted clock in the room and thinking why is it moving so slow. We had been at it for hours and my contractions were still not getting any closer together but they were getting stronger, much stronger. The jokes and laughter stopped and every contraction became work. Hard work. I would put my entire body weight on Vaughan and held on for dear life as the wave worked itself up, took grip of my body then slowly let go. They were still not consistent but something new was happening. I was having 2 and sometimes 3 contractions on top of each other. Just as I thought the contraction was about to let go, the next one shoot up right on top of it. Each contraction would last about a minute but now some of them were lasting 2 and 3 minutes. This was torture. I just needed a break. I was so exhausted. I hadn’t eaten anything since noon. It’s now past midnight. I had worked all day. My legs are tired. My body is tired. I tried laboring on all fours on the bed when my legs could barely hold me up. I just needed a break. Just 15 minutes. Couldn’t the contractions stop for just 15 minutes so I could catch my breath? DO SOMETHING! Either give me a break or start getting closer together. I just need something to happen. When I had to pee I would go to the toilet and labor on the toilet while holding onto Vaughan. There was a little relief in the toilet but it still hurt like Hell.
The shower. Someone mentioned the shower. They turned on the hot water and placed a seat in the shower. Vaughan took a break and laid down to try to get some sleep while my mom was on duty. She sat in the shower with me for over an hour. The contraction hurt like Hell! I remember someone saying a while back that the best way to describe labor is like being burned alive. That is a very honest description. There is nothing harder I’ve done in my entire life. I told my mom I could never have another child. I could never do this again. I was just waiting for my body to break. Each contraction took me to Hell. Each grip ripped me apart and I didn’t think I would make it through the next. The contractions were slowing down. NO! What the Hell is going on? Why are they slowing? They got me out of the shower. I was freezing and shivering. The room was so cold. They turned on the heater. Everyone in the room was sweating but me. They took my temp and monitored Bassil. His heart rate had stayed normal the entire time. My temp was still normal. But they were concerned. I was approaching 24 hours. Another contraction and I almost passed out. I was so weak. With each contraction I now thought I would faint or at the least my legs would give out. How much more could my body handle? Each contraction brought tears and doubts. Vaughan kept holding me, was my constant strength. I was so hot. They cranked the ac and now everyone was freezing. How no one got sick with me constantly changing the temperature in that room I don’t know.
I was still holding onto those adult diapers. Still my godsend especially since I was laboring standing up. And another contraction, still stronger. How? How are they getting stronger? Just when I didn’t think there was any way possible they could get harder they would. Holding onto reality I was trying not to pass out. My doula said, “lets go to the bathroom and try to labor on the toilet, you must be getting close.” My contractions were once again getting harder but they were still not consistent or any closer. I sat on the toilet and she sat on the ground in front of me. I placed my feet on her knees and bared down as hard as I could with the next contraction. Oh my God if this kid doesn’t come soon I don’t know what’s going to happen to me. I was fighting as hard as I could. He would come. There would be a finish line. There has to be. She looked at me and said, “Lets check you, you have to be dilated to at least a 9.”
I crawled back into bed and my midwife checked my cervix. It was 3:10am.
“You’re a 4.”
No one knew what to say. I can still see her face, hear her voice, feel the tension in the room. How? is all I kept thinking. How? Why? What’s going on? Then a contraction hit. I couldn’t hold back the tears. I cried. I cried hard. My mind was spinning. I did everything right. I ate right. I worked out. My mind was ready. I was prepared. WHY IS MY BODY NOT WORKING? I looked at Vaughan. I couldn’t think. I needed him in that moment more than I had ever needed anyone. In that single moment my world had just fallen apart. I had done everything right. I fought the hardest fight of my life yet my body would not open and let him go. How much more could I take. My spirit was crushed, was my body to follow next?
Everyone left the room except my midwife and Vaughan. She told me my options. Keep laboring (but I hadn’t dilated even 1 cm in the 8 hours I was in the hospital). Take Pitocin, which would make the contractions even harder. Which I could not imagine and I know I wouldn’t make it through harder contractions. Or take an epidural in hopes that would allow my body to relax and open up. This wasn’t an option for me. These weren’t options. I couldn’t do any of them. Isn’t there a 4th option? There has to be something else? Can I keep laboring? Will I make it. If I continue to labor without meds will I be able to push him out when the time is here? Then Vaughan asked the question that needed to be asked. “If she continues to labor and IF this was a normal labor, how long would it take for her to go from 4cm to 10cm?” The response – “IF this was a normal labor, which it’s not, on average it’s 1cm per hour.” I would have 6 more hours. I couldn’t take this for 6 more hours. I would pass out with each contraction. Another hit, and I was barely holding onto reality. I looked at Vaughan and said, “I can no longer do this.” We decided I would get an epidural. The hardest decision I had ever made. I don’t expect anyone to ever understand that but it was. It was something I fought with every fiber of my being and there it was staring me in the face. The only option I had. Another contraction, light headed, gripping my body, slowly moving away just to get hit with another on top. As if my body was telling me this is what you have to look forward to, contraction on top of contraction, take the epidural.
Vaughan left the room and sent everyone home. Told them to come back in the morning. I could not speak to anyone. I was disappointed. Not in myself, as I did everything I possibly could. I was disappointed in my body. It wasn’t working. It just wouldn’t let go. Meanwhile Bassil was still being monitored and his vitals were still good. The stent. It was already in. It was ready to go. Now I was just waiting on the anesthesiologist. What was taking him so long? It was already 3:30. Doesn’t he understand what I have gone through. Why isn’t he hurrying. I made the damn decision already just get here and make it stop! Make the pain stop! I can’t breathe, I’m losing grip. Finally he came. He sent everyone out of the room. ‘NO! My husband will stay. He’s not leaving me.’ ‘Fine,’ he says, ‘but he stays in the chair.’ ‘No!’ ‘I want him to hold onto me.’ ‘Not an option or he leaves the room.’ ‘Fine.’ I feel broken. My midwife holds onto me. A contraction hits. ‘What do I do if a contraction hits while you’re inserting the needle?,” I ask. “YOU DON’T MOVE!” Jerk.
My head was in my midwifes chest as he inserted the needle in my spine. I could feel her warmth and her love. Its as if I could feel her sympathy for me. Like she really understood how I was feeling. I held onto her tight and just cried into her. I just wanted it all to stop.
I laid back. There it was. The rush of warmth. I could feel the wave coming.. But then nothing. I could feel pressure but no more pain. I cried. I was broken. I felt like I gave up but knew I had nothing more to give. DAMN YOU BODY! Why couldn’t you just work the way you were designed? Why couldn’t you just let him go? Now I will never know what it feels like for him to emerge into this world. I will never be able to think back to that moment and every feeling and every sensation in my body and I pushed him from that life into this. I’ll never know.
I just wanted to sleep but it wouldn’t come. Vaughan and my mom stayed in the room. Pretty sure they didn’t get a whole lot more sleep than me. How could I sleep? Depression was gripping at me. An intense sadness swallowed me. My beautiful birth was gone. My hopes and dreaming of this day stolen from me. I could’t move. And not because of the epidural, but because I felt like a sinking brick.
7am came. Everyone started trickling back in. My midwife came in and asked me if I slept and how I was feeling. She read my face. She knew. She checked me. She said, “You’re a 7.” I was too numb to react. Worry was all over her face. Then she got called into another labor. I could hear the women. She came into the hospital nearly screaming from pain. Her labor was too quick for her to even get meds if she wanted it. How? I planned for this? I fought and yet I didn’t get my natural birth. How does this women get one? Please shut the door. I can’t listen.
I looked at Vaughan. Pitocin. My goal was to have a vaginal birth and I knew if I waited too much longer that wouldn’t be an option. When she came back in the room I told her I would take the Pitocin. She didn’t ask. They administered it right away. And then we waited.
My midwife stayed in the room with us. Light talk. Keeping things happy. I couldn’t speak. I was too exhausted. Still couldn’t sleep but desperately needed to. I was tired, thirsty and starving. I didn’t care to talk. I just wanted it to be over. I just wanted to rest. They kept checking my temp. Then Vaughan asked, “what happens if Bassil gets a temperature?” She responded, “Do you really want to go down that road?” Nope. Conversation over.
Finally I could feel the pressure getting harder. The contractions were intensifying. Everyone was anxiously watching the monitors. 9am. Still the contractions were not lining up and becoming consistent. Bassil’s heart rate and vitals were remaining normal. 10am. No changes. The tension in the room was getting a little thicker. 11am. My midwife stepped out to do paperwork then came back. Everyone kept checking on me. 12pm. The checked me. A temp. Everyone was getting nervous. I could tell my midwife was worried. 12:15pm. She decided to check me. My nurse and doula were in the room. Fingers crossed for a 10, +2. She checked me. The stress wiped clear from her face. She smiled. “10, +2, you’re ready.” Everyone in the room was all smiles.
“To push. It’s time to push.” All of a sudden an entire team came swooping in the room.
“I can’t.” I didn’t have the energy to push. I was totally and completely exhausted. How did she expect me to deliver my baby.
“You don’t have a choice.” So that was it. No choice. I have to do this. I decided right then this kid was coming out and he was going to come out now! Within 2 minutes they had the lights up, table broke down, everyone stationed and told me it’s time to go. A nurse was pushing on my stomach. My doula said push like your taking a big poop as soon as you feel the contraction coming on. work with your body. Seriously? What about my body working with me? Ok, let’s do this. I closed my eyes and pushed. Everyone was cheering me on. I didn’t care. I just wanted it to be over. Vaughan was at the end of the bed ready to receive Bassil. I closed my eyes and pushed again. I opened them. Who was holding my right leg? What happened to my mom? She was just standing there and now she was on the other side of the room. She was so exhausted. Everyone was. Someone said to reach down and feel him. I didn’t want to. That was supposed to be the moment that would invigorate the mom and she would be excited and push harder. I didn’t want to feel him. I was exhausted. I just wanted it all to be over.
I closed my eyes. I did as I was told and reached down and felt his head. Emotionally I felt nothing. I pushed. and kept bearing down. This kid was coming out! I’m not doing this all day! There he was.. I could feel him. Keep going. He’s almost…. He’s out. Vaughan has him. He was laid on my chest. 12:30pm
I looked at Vaughan. He had tears in his eyes. It’s over. The whole thing is over. They laid him on my chest. I couldn’t see his face. They laid him where I couldn’t see his face. What does he look like? Who does he look like? I want to see his face! I kept saying I want to see his face! He’a a newborn. My first kid. I didn’t know how to handle him. I didn’t know what to do. He’s lying on my bare chest facing away from me and I didn’t know how to pick him up and turn him around. I wanted to see his face. I had tears in my eyes. I didn’t know what to do. I want to see his face! My doula walked over and turned him so he was looking at me. Finally. I looked down. Finally I could see his face.
He’s perfect. My beautiful baby Bassil is perfect.