Birth Story

Part I

The weeks leading up to J's birth, I told everyone I was convinced I was going to begin labor on March 19.    This is because meteorologists were predicting a "supermoon" described as this:

On March 19, Earth’s satellite will be at its closest point to our planet in 18 years -- a mere 356,577 kilometers away. The event -- also called a lunar perigee -- was dubbed a "supermoon" by astrologer Richard Nolle back in the 1970s. The term is used to describe a new or full moon at 90% or more of its closest orbit to Earth. Next week, it will be at 100%.

Now, I do not typically believe in the pull of the moon as having the ability to create natural disasters or even send women into labor for that matter.  But, my due date was on March 21 and I hoped that I could will the moon to make my waters break on that Saturday.  I was ready to meet my boy.

On Thursday, March 17, I became faint at work.  A clammy, dizzy feeling lead me to call my midwife for fear that my blood pressure was out of control.  She immediately ordered me into the office for a blood pressure check and to check the baby's heart rate.  Luckily, T was not working that day and was able to drive me to the birth center.  

Thankfully, my blood pressure was within normal range, although slightly elevated.  The baby's heart rate looked good but my midwife encouraged me to stop working and stay home.  Although it is not common practice, the midwife offered to do a vaginal exam to see how far along I may (or may not) be.  After debating whether or not I wanted to be checked, I opted in.  I knew that despite any progress I'd made up to that point, an exam would still not tell us when our boy was coming.  She checked me, which was quite uncomfortable, and announced that I was already 60% effaced and dilated to a 3.  She then stated that she was the midwife on call over the weekend and that she was sure she would see us soon.  T and I were ecstatic and, on our drive home, called our parents letting them know our progress.

I did not return to teaching the next day and so began my maternity leave.  I spent all day Friday on the couch, reading, watching television, and sleeping.  I felt wonderful.  That evening, T and I took a very long walk to Whole Foods where we bought strawberries, sandwiches, and root beer (a constant favorite for me during pregnancy!).  We walked to a local park where we took pictures of my belly and enjoyed each other's company.

Lo and behold, Saturday, March 19 rolled around and I had no signs or symptoms of impending labor.  I sighed but didn't lose faith in that supermoon.  I went to the grocery store to walk up and down aisles to encourage the boy to move lower in my pelvis.  After returning home, I made multiple trips up the stairs bringing in heavy groceries and staying as active as possible.  But, at 39 weeks 5 days, that can only last so long.  Before heading to the couch for a nap, I went to the restroom.  Upon standing, I felt the slightest trickle down my leg.  I sat down, performed a kegel, and stood once more.  Yes!  Finally, my waters were breaking.

Being that T works nights, he was sleeping in the bedroom reversing his schedule for his upcoming shift. I gently awoke him, and told him he would have to call out that evening as I was pretty sure I was in labor.  At that moment, I proceeded to burst into tears.  Confused, he comforted me and asked why I was upset.  I was emotional for many reasons:  thrilled that meeting our boy was imminent, scared for impending labor and delivery, and nostalgic for my own childhood as this means I was really growing up.  I was going to become a mother.

Much to our surprise, I did not have a single contraction for 11 hours after my water broke.

Part II

Despite my waters breaking at 12:30 on Saturday, March 19, I had no contractions or any other signs of labor.  We called my midwife, the same woman who had checked us that Thursday evening, and she congratulated me and told me to call her when the contractions began.

At that point, we set to work preparing.  T did the dishes, made food, and completed the laundry.  We were going to give birth at the birth center in our city and, as it is their policy, you leave the center and return home 6 hours after birth.  Therefore, being that we were committed to co-sleeping, we needed our sheets to be clean for our little man!

I showered and shaved (of course!) and then took a nap on the couch.  At this point I was thrilled, but did not want to become overly excited as I know adrenaline can stall labor.  Napping did not work very well, but I did get a bit of rest.  At this point, I called my parents and proceeded to cry once more.  It was their plan to come visit us and our newborn one week later, but the excitement of the moment and the fact that I was not yet contracting sent my mother into a mad dash to pack, fly across the country, and make it in time to see the birth of his first grandchild.

We also called our doula, who happens to be a labor and delivery nurse at a local hospital, and informed her of our situation.  She was headed in to work the night shift that evening, but told us to call when labor progressed and she would leave work to attend to us.

At around 6:00 pm, I was trying to enjoy a dinner of pasta that we had made. I did not have much of an appetite but I tried to eat as much as possible for energy reserve.  Upon standing, my waters broke completely as they had only been trickling up to this point.  Just as I had seen in the movies, I ran to the bathroom and stood in the bathtub.  T stood there and watched in disbelief.  If we weren't sure we were in labor, at this point it was a done deal!

By 9:00 pm, and still no contractions, my mother arrived and we went to pick her up.  That supermoon that I so desperately wanted to begin my labor shone brightly, leading our way to the airport.  Upon returning home, T climbed to the roof of our building to document it.

By around 11:00 pm, we phoned our midwife to tell her that I had yet to begin contracting.  She then suggested nipp.le stim.ulation to get them started.  She said if that did not work, to go to bed and get some rest.  In the morning we would try castor oil if my body did not begin on its own.  Not wanting to wait for castor oil, I humbly covered myself with a blanket and T repeatedly brought me warm wash cloths to start stim.ulation.  Within 30 minutes, my contractions started to roll in, but nothing too strong and they were virtually painless.

We all decided to go to bed at this point to get some rest so we were prepared for what was to come next.

Part III

T and I climbed into bed and he fell asleep very quickly. My mother slept on the bed we set up in the living room, and the house was silent. My contractions started to become regular but far apart, so I attempted to sleep but awoke to time each surge. They were coming every 5 to 7 minutes and lasting anywhere from 45 seconds to a minute and a half.

Weeks before, we finished our course on Hypnobirthing. In this birth training, I learned to welcome each contraction and visualize the opening of my body and the downward descent of my baby. I learned mantras that I repeated to keep calm and steady as labor progressed. I was committed to remaining patient and trusting in my body to know what to do. In retrospect, I am so thankful I had these techniques to help me birth J.

At around 4:00 am on Sunday, March 20, after only a little rest, I had 3 really hard contractions while sitting on the toilet. At that point, I texted my doula and told her I could not do it alone anymore and I needed her to come over. She left work immediately, stopping home only to change and grab a bite to eat. I went into the bedroom, woke T and my mother so they could begin collecting our belongings.

Our doula showed up at 5:00 am, and talked me through a few more contractions. She had me sit upon the birth ball for awhile, and observed my behavior to determine how far along I may have been. Knowing the birth center was about a 20 minute drive from our home, I opted to go sooner rather than later. Contracting in the car sounded terrifying to me, so we all agreed to leave around 5:30.

A, our doula, drove and stopped the car in the middle of the road so I could contract silently and completely still. T sat in the back and held my head. Thankfully, it was in the wee hours of a Sunday morning, so the streets were almost completely empty - a rare sight in our bustling city.

Upon arriving at the birth center, we were greeted by 2 midwives and a student midwife. I was taken back to the exam room where I was checked to see how much progress I had made over night. The contractions started to come in harder at this point, and the exam would stimulate another. I had progressed to 5 cm dilated and about 75% effaced. I was excited about this progress and was ready to jump in the birthing tub, but the midwives wanted me to walk around for at least an hour. I was angry at hearing this and all but told them.

So we walked. My mother, T, A and I walked the halls of the birth center. With each contraction, I reached for T, held on to his shoulders, and swayed gently. The midwives were wonderful and left us alone. With each contraction, I tried to breath calmly and continue my visualizations of opening and progressing.

About an hour later at 8:00 am, I was anxious to be checked again and allowed to go to the birthing room and climb in the tub. I desperately wanted the relief of the water I had heard so much about. As we headed back to the exam room, I leaned over the birthing ball for support to make it through another contraction. It was in that moment that I became nauseous and needed to vomit. I bolted to the bathroom, followed by T, and violently retched into the toilet. Having a contraction and vomiting at the same time is possibly the worst feeling in the world. After making it through this miserable moment, I turned around to see the smiling faces of my doula and the midwives. Quite confused, I asked for clarification. They told me vomiting was a great sign that labor was progressing and that I was in transition. 

My midwife checked me and confirmed that I was now at 7 cm and 90% effaced. I was allowed to go back to the room and get in the birthing tub. I was thrilled! While I waited for the tub to be filled, the baby's heart rate was monitored on the dopplar and approved. I sat on the birth ball for a while longer and then climbed into the tub with T. 

At this point, my memory becomes foggy as I was thrown into the throes of labor. I chanted in my mind the mantras, I visualized my baby, and I slept through every break between contractions. I changed positions from the tub, to the birthing ball, to the bed and back again. I held eye contact with T through each contraction and I breathed with the breaths of my doula. I did not want to be moved or to speak during a contraction so I sat as still and as calm as I could. T said that I was stoic throughout my entire labor - almost having a silent birth. I attribute this to my ability to focus and rest as taught by hypnobirthing. Even as my breathing would panic on the upswing of a surge, I was able to calm down once more with the help of T's encouragement and A's guidance.

At around 12:45 pm, I was mentally finished with labor. I demanded my midwife check me and she confirmed that I was dilated to a 10 and 100% effaced. While not having the strong urge to push, she invited me to try a few to see if anything would happen. Pretty quickly, J's head moved down the birth canal and everyone in the room happily acknowledged seeing little bits of hair.

Pushing was a struggle for me, but I managed to push 3 times for every contraction. I pushed for over an hour and was exhausted when my midwife suggested watching through a mirror the progress I was making with each push. During the next contraction, I kept my eyes open and breathed down. I saw J's head move down, and was frustrated to watch it go back at the end of the contraction. Two steps forward, one step back. However, just seeing his head was enough motivation to give it my all so I could meet my son.

At one point, I remember my midwife encouraging me to slow down so I would not tear, but I could care less about tearing at that moment. I was finished. And he was here.

J was born at 2:55 pm on Sunday, March 20, 2011.  He was 7 lbs. and 19 3/4 inches of pure heaven.   After 15 hours of labor, T and I welcomed our son into our arms. I held him on my skin and breathed in the relief and accomplishment of all that I had done. We stayed this way for an hour. I held him on my chest and T held me.  I cherish this memory and it will forever be etched deeply in my heart.
And this is where my birth story of J ends.

Part IV

Because it is difficult to rewrite and reflect on the moments after birth, I will share with you the letter we sent to our family and friends to give them the full details of our trauma.  As I edit the letter to delete any identifying information, I cry.  I cry remembering my pain, I cry remembering my baby's pain, I cry remembering my baby being pulled from my arms not once but twice.  But mostly, I cry in humble gratitude and thanksgiving.  God is good.
Dear Friends, Family,
We want to thank you all for your support, prayers, and love as we have recently expanded our family!  On Sunday, March 20, 2011 at 2:55pm, we welcomed our baby boy J into the world.  After 15 hours of a natural and peaceful labor - and with the wonderful support of our doula, A, and E's mother - J was born!  Our little guy weighed in at 7.00 lbs and was 19 & 3/4 inches.  He was very alert and healthy and all of us were able to spend nearly an hour together without interruption.  These moments will forever be cherished.
An hour after delivery, E was unable to deliver the placenta and suffered some complications that caused her to begin to hemorrhage.  While fairly lucid during the entire process, she did lose consciousness several times after labor due to significant blood loss.  After a successful birth at the birth center, E had to be transported via ambulance to the nearest major metropolitan hospital center.  J stayed behind with E's mother and A at the birth center to be cared for as he was too young to be discharged.  T and our midwife accompanied E to the emergency room, where she was immediately transferred to the operating room.  In the OR, E was given many IVs including a central line in her neck, heavy antibiotics, narcotics, epidural placement, multiple blood transfusions and a surgical procedure to remove her placenta.  The high risk obstetric surgeon unofficially diagnosed E with placenta acretta (, a condition where the placenta attaches itself too deeply into the uterine wall and cannot be delivered naturally - the odds of having this condition is 1 in 2,500 pregnancies, but even less common in first time young mothers with no history of uterine surgeries.  The doctor warned E that there was an 80% chance of a needing a hysterectomy to remove the entire uterus if they were unsuccessful in removing the complete placenta.  Her warning stated that even if a small fraction of the placenta remained in the uterine wall, at any time, E could begin to hemorrhage again with critical consequences. 
Meanwhile, T waited in the recovery room and was updated by our midwife who was able to accompany E into the operating room.  We were reunited an hour later where the next wait began.  E's blood loss was continually monitored by a balloon catheter that was placed inside her uterus, and an arterial line measuring continuous pressures in her blood stream.  Understanding T had a medical background, one of the attending doctors showed him E's vital records and lab values as they were taken when she had first arrived.  With a very serious look on his face, he explained that they would "be having a very different conversation had you arrived just 30 minutes later."  He then put his hand on T's back and said, "Consider this a good day."  E was on the verge of severe shock and possibly death as she had lost almost 1/2 of her entire blood volume in nearly 90 minutes.
Close to 9 pm that night, E's mother and J were reunited with us in the recovery room where E began to stabilize, narrowly avoiding placement on the Intensive Care Unit.  At 2 am on Monday morning, she had an MRI to see if there was evidence of the placenta still attached.  The radiologist arrived early the next morning to read the results and give his official prognosis, where he did not see sufficient evidence to require a hysterectomy!  
On the heels of this amazing news, E made leaps and bounds in her recovery - even insisting that she be weaned off of the morphine so that she could finally and safely hold her baby in her arms.  After a day and a half of steady improvement, she was allowed transfer to a step-down post-partum unit for less critical patients.  Things were looking up as we sent E's parents home for this, the second night after birth.
Earlier that day (Monday) we received a special visit in E's hospital room from J's pediatrician who, concerned for his coloration, ordered a few blood tests to be done.  The results were not obtained until around 1am Tuesday and were at levels so high that T had to rush J away from E's side and into the emergency room at the children's hospital.  Once there, they informed him that since J's bilirubin levels were climbing at such a fast rate that if he had waited until morning, brain damage may have occured.  After a few upsetting days of pokes and prods in the Neonatal ICU, J was able to be discharged on Thursday.  E too, was allowed to go home that day from her hospital.
Since then we have been simply trying to play catch-up on bonding that was lost those first precious and frightening days.  Now, officially three weeks out: both E and J have passed their follow-up appointments with flying colors and are finding their new normal with amazing grace.  Most importantly, E and T are trying to appreciate every single fleeting second of parenthood (even the middle of the night exhausted ones!).  We know that some of those mothers and babies whose hospital rooms we walked by that week did not make it home and we continually pray for them, and know that we are blessed beyond reason.
We apologize that some of you may have heard only parts of this story while others none at all, but trust you understand how difficult both keeping and sharing these details were, while trying to live through them.  
We have only now had a moment to breath and begin to reflect.