Grant’s Birth Story
My birth story might be triggering for some people so please feel free to skip this post if you think that might be the case for you. Otherwise, grab a cup of coffee or tea and settle in because it’s a long one!
It’s been 6 weeks since baby Grant was born yet every day I still look at him in awe. How did I grow this tiny human inside of me? That his adorable little feet were what I felt kicking in my belly for all of those months? It’s mind blowing what our bodies are capable of.
During my pregnancy I loved listening to and reading as many birth stories as I could. Some of them were profoundly beautiful; others were terrifying and ended in the worst way I could have imagined. For my birth plan, my goal was to have it be as natural as possible. I preferred to have it without any medications or interventions, and I wanted to be able to feel my body push him out and experience that raw rush of emotions as they placed him on my chest for the first time.
At the same time I was aware that there was so much that was out of my control. When it comes to child birth, you just never know what hand of cards you’re going to get dealt. But I thought if I took good care of myself and chose a provider that I was confident in then everything would work out the way I wanted it to. I ate as healthy as possible, walked 3 miles a day, did prenatal yoga, and religiously sat on my exercise ball. I was fortunate to have a healthy pregnancy with a little bit of heartburn, occasional aches and pains, and that was about it.
GOING PAST MY DUE DATE
Knowing that it’s common for first time moms to go past their due date, plus having a personal family history of it, I had a strong feeling that I would go past 40 weeks. When I brought the topic up for discussion in my second trimester with the midwife group I had chosen I was told that they start fetal monitoring at 41 weeks and then discuss induction at 42 weeks.
Fast forward to my last prenatal appointment at 39 weeks and 6 days, one of the midwives informed me that because I was 35 years old, they recommended that I be induced at 40 weeks. As in the next day.
Feeling completely blind sided, I said that was not what I was told at my prior appointments and that I had no interest in being induced. She explained that they must have assumed I was younger and gave me information based on their protocols for someone under 35 years of age, which technically I was for the first 6 months of my pregnancy.
Up until that point I was perfectly fine with going past my due date. I felt great and we were both healthy so I had no reason to be concerned. I was confident that he would come whenever he was ready. Yet all of a sudden I had to play defense. Having to advocate for myself at 40 weeks pregnant immediately sent me into a panic.
Once I made it clear that I did not want to be induced the midwives required that I start fetal monitoring right away. Everything came back perfectly normal except that my amniotic fluid index was 3.5 when it should be 5, according to their standards.
Having read about this topic in the book Expecting Better and on the site Evidence Based Birth, I came to my own conclusion that a low AFI in an otherwise normal pregnancy was not a valid enough reason to induce and continued to resist their recommendation for immediate induction.
INDUCING LABOR NATURALLY
With the threat of induction looming, I began to seek natural alternatives to help get the show on the road. I had been eating dates every day since 38 weeks, kept up with my daily walking, ate pineapple, spicy food, had sex, did nipple stimulation, and even tried induction acupuncture and herbs. At 40 weeks and 5 days, I agreed to have a cervical check and they said I was between 2 to 3cm dilated and 80% effaced. Feeling desperate I decided to let the midwife do a membrane sweep. This wasn’t something I originally wanted to do but I was so stressed out at this point that I was willing to try anything.
THE START OF CONTRACTIONS…FINALLY
The next day I sent out a text to my family members asking that I be left alone for the weekend to relax in hopes that labor would come on naturally. We took the dogs for a long walk that morning and I made Brandon dance with me to Outkast which gave me a much needed laugh. Trust me if you saw the way that boy dances, you’d understand.
After that we went to lunch at our favorite restaurant which is when I first started noticing the contractions. My plan was to ignore them for as long as possible so that’s what we did. We picked up a vegan cinnamon bun and went to a local park to sit by the lake. It was such a beautiful day and I’ll always look back at it fondly remembering how we spent our last moments as just the two of us.
As we were leaving the park I started having a strong urge to pee with every contraction. I think this might have had something to do with the fact that I had been drinking over 120 ounces of liquids per day since I had been told my fluid was low at 40 weeks. I’m not sure whether my bladder was having a hard time emptying or I was just feeling the pressure from his head descending but it started to feel like I had a UTI that intensified with every contraction.
By dinner time that evening the contractions started coming closer together and were harder for me to ignore. I tried my best to eat a full meal in between them and decided to text my doula to give her a heads up that things were progressing. She suggested I take a bath and try to get some sleep. Isn’t that what they all say? Ha!
Anyway, after my bath I climbed into bed and listened to a hypnobirthing recording that I had downloaded to my phone. The combination of the bath and the visualization caused my labor to slow down quite a bit and I went almost 20 minutes without a contraction. Then as soon as I felt like I was dozing off, one would come out of nowhere sending shooting pains through my back and immense pressure on my bladder causing me to run to the bathroom.
Shortly after that they picked up again, coming anywhere from 3 to 7 minutes apart and lasting for about 30-45 seconds. Even though they were short, the pain continued to intensify. I labored on the toilet for a while where I started vomiting, having diarrhea, and losing more bloody mucous. Between that and the frequent urination, there was pretty much nothing left to exit my body. Sorry if that’s TMI but I’m just keeping it real here!
Around 2am we called my doula asking her to head over because I was feeling ready to go to the hospital and needed her support to help me stay home longer. She suggested I take another bath and try to relax so I decided to labor in the shower in the meantime. By the time she got there my contractions had slowed down again to about 10-15 minutes apart. I remember Brandon offering to make her coffee or have her sleep in our guest room and it made me want to scream. Looking back I realize he was just being considerate but the smell of coffee was nauseating throughout my entire pregnancy. Why would he want to brew it now while I’m in labor? Or have my doula sleep while I’m awake waiting for another contraction to rip through my body?
My doula stayed by my side and helped me work through a few contractions before suggesting that we do a few rounds of the Miles circuit. About ten minutes after we started she went to the bathroom then came out and said that all of a sudden she was feeling sick and had to leave. She said I could call the backup doula if I felt like I needed her to come over. I felt a wave of anxiety rush over me but internalized it because I felt like there was nothing I could do.
Within an hour of my doula leaving the contractions started coming closer together again. It was around 4am at this point and I was exhausted. I didn’t want to try to sleep or do anything that was going to slow things down. I was ready for it to be over with. I told Brandon I wanted to go to the hospital and get an epidural so that I could get some sleep. He asked me if I was sure so I said our code word and we called the backup doula to meet us at the hospital.
HEADING TO THE HOSPITAL
When we got to the hospital the midwife checked me and said I was 6cm dilated. I was proud of myself for making it that far but felt certain at this point that I wanted the epidural. After a long stressful week and being awake for nearly 24 hours that day, I desperately needed rest.
Once they administered a bag of IV fluids, which was about an hour later, the anesthesiologist came in to place the epidural. During the placement I didn’t feel any pain but once it kicked in I began to have uncontrollable convulsions. The nurse informed me that this was perfectly normal and it might go away or it might not, we would just have to wait and see. When she told me that I was in shock…how had never heard of this side effect before? How was I going to sleep if I was shaking so badly?
Thankfully the shaking subsided about 30 minutes later, but then I started to feel the contractions on one side of my body. My doula suggested we use a peanut ball and roll me on to my opposite side to help evenly distribute the medication.
For the next several hours they rolled me from side to side every 30 minutes or so. Brandon was able to sleep during this time but I felt just enough pain to keep me from resting. Around 1pm I told the nurse I was starting to feel pressure so the midwife came in and checked me. I was fully dilated at that point but she said she wanted me to labor down for an hour.
I remember feeling despair that I had to wait longer as I hadn’t eaten in over 16 hours. My blood sugar was dropping so I convinced the doula to sneak me a few crackers but shortly after that I started to feel sick again and threw everything back up.
TIME TO PUSH
Finally, at about 2pm, the midwife came back in and said it was time to push. Even though I could feel the pain of the contractions in my upper pelvis and back, my pelvic floor muscles were pretty numb. I had no clue what I was doing and the first 30 minutes of pushing felt pretty ineffective. We tried different positions to see if that would help and wound up using the squat bar with a sheet tied around it. I pulled on the sheet as I pushed and the nurse encouraged me as I was starting to make progress. They offered to bring me a mirror and I could see his head just a few inches from the vaginal opening of my perineum. Through her thick Caribbean accent, the midwife kept telling me to push up towards the light. At the time I thought she was saying push with all of your might because I had no idea what push up to the light meant. I had never pushed anything out of my vagina and could barely feel my pelvic floor muscles yet she wanted me to have enough control to push my baby up towards the ceiling? I was so baffled and exhausted at this point that I was practically falling asleep between contractions.
Around this time they suggested that we try pushing on hands and knees to see if that might help his head progress further. It was challenging to do with so many wires attached to me but I managed to get up on all fours and pushed that way for about 20 minutes.
As we were nearing 3 hours of pushing the midwife explained that she thinks the baby was in a posterior position and was getting stuck in my pelvis. She said she wanted the OB to come see if she could perform an episiotomy and help guide the baby out with a vacuum.
I did not want either of those things to happen so while we waited for the OB I pushed with everything I had through every contraction. I held my breath for 10 seconds at a time and pushed for nearly 30 seconds during each one. With little oxygen available, Grant’s heart rate began to drop as I pushed. Up until this point he had been doing beautifully but the stress of such intense pushing was starting to affect him.
Eventually the OB came in to take a look. She used her hand to try and turn him from a posterior position but it didn’t work and she explained that he wasn’t far enough down to use the vacuum. The midwife said we were likely seeing a bulge in his head from the pushing which made him look further down than he actually was. They said I could try pushing for another 15-30 minutes but ultimately they recommended a cesarean as the safest option for both of us.
Feeling defeated and beyond exhausted, I decided that I was ready for it to be over and agreed to the cesarean. About an hour later they wheeled me into the operating room. The anesthesiologist gave me a bolus in my epidural before the surgery and yet again, I started to shake uncontrollably.
As they began the surgery we heard the OB breathing heavy and grunting as she struggled to pull Grant from my body. Terrified and trembling, I asked Brandon if everything was ok. He said yes and not to worry, but later told me it took him everything he had to hold it together in that moment as he was just as scared and uncertain as I was.
After what seemed like an eternity we heard our son’s cry for the first time. My eyes instantly welled with tears as I saw them carry his little pink body over to the table next to us. Brandon cut the cord, they wrapped him a swaddle blanket then brought him over to me and asked if I wanted to hold him on my chest. Because I was still shaking, I was worried I would drop him so I declined. Brandon held him next to me as we waited for the doctor to finish the surgery.
Right around this time is when the epidural started to wear off and I began to feel almost everything. I started crying and moaning in pain as it felt like a meat grinder was tearing through my abdomen. I asked the anesthesiologist if he could turn the epidural up and he said the only thing he could do was give me pain medicine through my IV.
Over the next 30 minutes he continued to give me several doses as I struggled through the pain. Grant was also crying in Brandon’s arms so the doctor asked if they could leave the room while they finished the surgery. Brandon told them absolutely not, there was no way he was leaving my side.
After enduring what was the most excruciating pain of the entire labor, I finally started to feel some relief as they cleaned me up and moved me from the operating table. From there I was wheeled back to the labor and delivery room where I got to have an hour of skin-to-skin with my beautiful new baby. He started rooting right away which was just a preview to what a little milk monster he would be!
For the first couple of weeks after his birth, I questioned everything.
What if I had chose a different midwife group? Would they still have pressured me to be induced?
What if I had called the backup doula to come to my house? Would she have been able to help me stay home longer?
What if I didn’t get the epidural? Would he still have been posterior?
What if I had tried pushing for longer? Would I have been able to have a vaginal birth?
I have spent hours analyzing every decision I made and how that led to his birth turning out the exact opposite of what I had in mind. But as my physical and emotional wounds heal and I look into my beautiful baby’s eyes, I realize that I have so much to be thankful for. No amount of dwelling is going to change what happened.
I admit, it troubles me when I think about decision making for potential future children. Would I want to go through all of the labor and pushing just to end up in a c-section yet again? Hell no.
But I also dread the thought of experiencing the pain and difficult recovery of another surgery. I’m not sure I want to willingly sign myself up for that without at least attempting a vaginal birth. Why does having a child have to be so complicated?
For now I’m choosing to focus on the love I feel for my incredible husband and our sweet baby boy which grows stronger by the day. Becoming a mom is the most challenging, rewarding and exhausting thing I’ve ever done but I wouldn’t change a thing.
If you made it this far, thank you so much for allowing me to share my story with you. I know it wasn’t the most positive experience but at the end I got to come home with a healthy baby and that’s truly what matters most.
Photography by Sara Wise