For #MotherlyBirthStories |
Today was my son Bowie's due date, which I can't quite believe.
I often wonder what I'd be doing right now if he decided to arrive when he was supposed to, still content in the womb.
I have a romanticized vision of myself nesting around the house, sipping red raspberry leaf tea, reading a novel, having quiet conversations with baby before settling in for our 3rd nap of the day.
Or taking photos of our finished nursery nook, cleaning the house so guests can visit after the birth, packing our hospital bags with the utmost thought and care. M
Maybe even some last minute pampering - a pedicure, massage, gentle yoga and long walks under orange October leaves.
If anyone was NOT ready for their baby to arrive a whole month early, it was me!
But like all unexpected circumstances, it makes for a great story.
One that has taken me quite some time to sit down and write—let alone find the time between feedings to piece it all together.
It's long and detailed and a bit graphic, but I want to be able to look back on this 20 years from now and remember every single moment of the happiest day of our lives.
On September 19th, we attended our friends' 80's-themed wedding reception in full costume.
I wore an oversized shoulder-padded blazer over a short sequined mini dress and nude nylons with crimped, teased hair.
Hal wore pegged jeans, suspenders down around his waist, and straightened his hair with a deep side part so it strategically fell over one eye.
We took a few awkward prom pics, danced to the Spazmatics (for as long as I could in 3-inch pointy pumps) and were sitting down for a rest when I felt a small gush in my underwear. I
excused myself to go to the restroom. But the little gush turned into a larger one as I scurried across the dance floor—leaving a trail behind me!
This can't be my water, it just can't.
In the bathroom, I stripped down my pantyhose and gushed some more.
I texted Hal: “bring my bag - I think my water broke!"
My heart was racing when we got in the car. Is this really happening?
Panic set in as I listed off all the things we didn't get done.
The car seats weren't installed, the IKEA-hack dresser / changing table wasn't complete, our house was a complete disaster zone.
I lamented over all the business projects I didn't get a chance to finish.
And tears welled up in my eyes when I thought about the maternity photoshoot we would have to cancel.
Hal convinced me to not jump to conclusions and call the hospital for advice.
So I left them a message and we waited for a response.
At home, I continued to gush on the toilet when our midwife called me back.
Even though I wasn't feeling contractions, she wanted us to come in to make sure it was indeed my amniotic fluid that was leaking.
If not, she'd send us back home.
But if it was, she said GET READY TO HAVE A BABY TONIGHT! Gulp.
Hal relayed the information to my parents and our doula. I hung up the phone and began to cry.
Please be a false alarm.
Please be a false alarm!
Racing around the house in a packing frenzy, I grabbed the smallest set of newborn pajamas I could find and searched for something to wear myself when I realized I hadn't done laundry!
Disgusted, I threw some dirty clothes into the bag and tried not to think about the cute birthing outfit, robe, socks and other hospital “essentials" I was planning to acquire later that week.
I hadn't even emailed the Birth Preferences worksheet to our midwives yet.
So I printed out a few copies to give to the staff upon arrival.
After a nervous 10-minute drive to the hospital, we were escorted to the very last birthing room available.
Apparently, everyone in Seattle was having a baby that night!
We'd been told just one day prior that they're rarely at full capacity.
I couldn't help but wonder what big celestial event was going on to warrant so many babies being born.
As it turned out, that weekend fell smack dab in between the two September eclipses, hmmm.
The nurses hooked my belly up to the monitor and ran a few tests. They concluded that the fluid was definitely amniotic, as suspected.
This is really happening.
Around 10pm, our midwife came in and explained that labor would need to start very soon, because there's a high risk for infection after your water breaks.
She gave us time alone in the room to see if the contractions would start naturally.
If they didn't, she recommended Pitocin to get the ball rolling. I wanted a drug-free birth with no interventions, so that wasn't exactly what I wanted to hear.
Hal put on some Nina Simone as I paced the room, waiting for contractions to start.
Every now and then, I'd feel some mild cramping, which Hal started timing.
Later, he told me that it was hard to take me seriously walking around with my crimped 80's hair!
Since I was 4-weeks early, the baby monitor had to stay permanently strapped to my belly throughout the entire labor.
And it wasn't cordless—so I had to haul it around like a purse everywhere I went, even in the shower or tub.
I remember getting tangled up in it often.
Highly annoying and itchy, but I grew to appreciate it later on as it showed the peaks of my contractions and let us know that the baby was okay.
My parents arrived around this time, but I wasn't in the best of moods.
I was worried about the potential complications of a preterm birth. Would our baby be fully developed?
Would he have to stay in the NICU?
Already, nothing seemed to be going as planned. Which is laughable really.
Because if you've ever given birth, or know someone who has, you'll know it very rarely does.
Maybe it was the daily positive conditioning from my Hypnobabies tracks, but not once did I consider how I'd react if the birthing experience was anything other than what I imagined.
Hal took me for a walk around the hospital halls to get my head straight and put things into perspective.
Accept what is.
Let whatever happens happen.
And focus on what's important—bringing our beautiful boy into the world.
And that's when I decided to stop letting my fears ruin the experience, as they were no doubt inhibiting my body from doing what it was supposed to.
Around 1am, the midwife checked in on us, suggesting Pitocin yet again.
I refused, knowing deep down that my baby would come when he was ready.
She offered to give us a few more hours.
We set out my mom's crystals, diffused some lavender essential oil, and settled in for the night.
Hal on the couch, my mom in the rocking chair, and me in the bed with headphones listening to my Hypnobabies tracks.
The threat of being induced motivated me. I remember silently talking to our baby, begging him to make his move sooner rather than later.
He must have heard me.
The mild cramping became stronger, waking me up from a light sleep.
Around 5am, active labor had officially begun!
Hal called our doula, Vivianne, to let her know it was time. She arrived soon after and helped me with the breast pump because nipple stimulation is a great way to speed things up.
I remember being intimidated by the breast pump, not knowing what to expect - my nipples are extremely sensitive!
But it wasn't so bad, just a strange and slightly irritating sensation.
After a while on the pump, my contractions were definitely getting stronger.
First I labored in a semi-squatting position on the bed.
They placed a handrail near the foot of the bed so I could hold onto it during contractions.
There was a giant mound of pillows behind my back to lean back on in between.
This felt good for early labor, but the constant squatting eventually got to me.
One thing I wasn't expecting was the shakes!
My adrenaline was so pumped up, I shivered during most of early labor.
I felt like a newborn fawn whenever I tried to walk to the bathroom to relieve myself.
The nurse kept taking my temperature to make sure I wasn't getting a fever.
We tried a few other positions to get comfortable.
One was standing up and holding onto Hal for support, but I wasn't having it.
I felt a strong urge to sit down and lean forward during the pain.
Someone brought in a birthing ball for me to sit on.
This felt wonderful.
During contractions, I'd lean into a pile of pillows on the bed, rotating my hips on the ball.
Around this time, I started to get in a good groove with my support team.
Vivianne was right beside me during each contraction, telling me when they were almost over.
My mom and Hal took turns placing cold washcloths over my neck and bringing me water to sip through a straw with occasional bites of applesauce.
They gave me so much positive encouragement, telling me how strong I was, how proud they were. This was invaluable.
When your water breaks, they try not to check your cervix too often to eliminate the risk of infection.
But after awhile, I got curious about my dilation.
It felt like I was laboring intensely for quite some time - I had to be pretty far along. I requested a check and to my extreme disappointment, I was only 4 cm.
I remember looking at Hal with tears in my eyes, not knowing how I could continue laboring for another 6 cm.
Someone suggested a shower to relieve some pain.
I was ready to try anything. I stripped down and sat on a stool in the shower stall while Hal sprayed hot water on my back.
It felt wonderful.
But that was short-lived. The shower stall was tiny and I was beginning to feel claustrophobic.
After the shower, we found another good position to labor in.
I sat on the foot of the bed and leaned into the birthing ball during contractions, which I noticed were coming less frequently.
I welcomed this break, as I was able to lean back on pillows and fall asleep in between the pressure waves.
I always knew my expert narcoleptic sleeping skills would come in handy!
However, it was a strange sensation because I wouldn't exactly call it sleep.
I was in a beautiful, spiritual space—peaceful beyond words. That place you go in deep meditation, almost out of body.
The nurses came in to check on us, as they noticed the contractions getting further and further apart.
We were regressing. If they didn't start speeding up in the next hour, they would need to start inducing.
Again, the threat of Pitocin revved me up.
I played Hypnobabies again using one headphone earbud, while listening to thunderstorms, ocean waves and singing bowls (ASoftMurmur.com) on our bluetooth speaker.
At the same time, Vivianne did acupressure on my hands and feet.
Almost immediately, my contractions sped up.
This is when things start to get a little foggy.
The pain was SO intense with very short breaks in between.
As soon as one contraction ended, another one began with no time to relax.
I remember getting into a powerful rhythmic rocking movement with the birthing ball, swaying from side to side, while Hal and my mom switched off rubbing my lower back.
All my concentration was on the breath.
At one point, I felt a major urge to poo. They told me that was a good sign - that the baby has dropped. So they checked my cervix and I was 7 cm.
Progress! Soon the urge became more than an urge—I felt a strong NEED to push!
They told me not to, because I wasn't fully dilated. Easier said than done. Not pushing felt nearly impossible. I surprised myself with loud, guttural grunts. He wants to come out now!
Someone suggested the birthing tub, since water slowed things down for me earlier. They would just need 15 minutes to get it ready.
During which time, Vivianne reminded me to focus on my breathing like never before. If I broke concentration for even a millisecond, the urge to push overcame me and I'd be gasping for air.
Instinctively, I moved onto the bed on all fours when the nurses said the tub was ready. The midwife decided to check my cervix one last time and amazingly, I had gone from 7 to 10 cm in those 15 minutes of tub preparation!
We were regressing. If they didn't start speeding up in the next hour, they would need to start inducing.
She gave me the green light to push.
“You're having a baby!" she exclaimed.
And I hear Hal break down with emotion.
I never felt so much love for him as I did right then.
He grabbed my hand as I began to push.
And strangely enough, the act of pushing, although painful, was a huge relief from the struggle of not pushing.
In between contractions, I leaned back in child's pose to rest and muster up enough energy to push some more.
Maybe 10 minutes had passed before I felt the sharp “ring of fire" during crowning.
But it was a temporary pain. And before I knew it, our midwife asked me if I wanted to touch the head. I reached down in between my legs and was amazed by how squishy it felt.
A few more final pushes and one primal roar... his head emerged!
Then his shoulders and body followed. At 12:36 pm, OUR BABY WAS BORN!
I flipped onto my back as they brought him to rest on my belly.
Our sweet beautiful boy.
He was warm and familiar.
Extra alert, taking in the world.
We immediately locked eyes, through tears, communicating love without words.
That moment will stay with me forever.
After delivering the placenta, my mom cut the umbilical cord after it stopped pulsing and they brought him up to rest on my chest.
Hal and I laughed and cried together, marveling over this perfect tiny being we created.
Those long fingers, big ears and wispy blonde hair!
I had a very minor vaginal tear that was stitched up while holding him my arms.
But I was too busy cuddling our babe to care.
When asked his name, I initially told the nurses we hadn't yet decided between the two we were considering.
We wanted to wait and see what he looked like.
But Hal said he knew.
And with that, so did I. Bowie Ocean was introduced to the world.
Thinking back on this day, I feel empowered and proud.
I trusted and surrendered to my body and my baby.
I found a strength in myself I never knew existed.
And despite his surprise early arrival, we ended up having the birth I had imagined after all - relatively short (7 hours), unmedicated and uncomplicated.
Although weighing only 5 lbs, 14 oz, he was healthy and we were released from the hospital in 24 hours. I feel so very fortunate.
Bowie, if you're reading this one day—you've made your Papa and I the happiest we've been.
Thank you for choosing us as parents and allowing us to experience this incomparable, indescribable, unconditional love.