I'm not usually one to divulge in detail about a personal story. I tend to lean more towards writing about abstract ideas, rather than concrete experiences. For me, there's always been something a little too vulnerable about sharing my own stories. It might be an #enneagram9 thing... struggling to believe my voice matters. But more than ever, I feel like my stories have a place in this world.
Stories can connect others.
Stories can educate.
Stories can elicit empathy.
Stories can help destigmatize.
So in 2021, as I focus on what it means to connect with myself and others more, I know sharing my story is a big part of it all. And I'm going to begin with Louie's birth story. I'm excited to start here, because I believe the concept of childbirth could certainly use some education, empathy, and destigmatizing.
My entire career is focused on swimming against the current of what the world says education should look like, and I know there are many people fighting to do the same in regards to childbirth. And now, I can see why. Not because one way of birthing is right and one way is wrong. Nothing is ever that dichotomous. But because women deserve to feel informed and empowered with choice regarding their birth.
I never officially told Evan's birth story, so I'll throw in a little prequel:
Being a first time mom, I wasn't too concerned with how birth would go. I figured I'd go into labor, experience a ton of pain, and push out a baby. Evan's due date came and went, and I wasn't experiencing any labor. A week and a half went by, and I went in for a non-stress test to monitor his heart rate. I was then immediately sent to the hospital to monitor some more, and there was told I'd be induced. I didn't even know what that meant at the time. I experienced hours upon hours of increased Pitocin (this wretched medicine that induces labor and gives you the more insane contractions), only to be stuck at 9cm dilated. Then, Evan's heart rate kept plummeting.
So, after 27 hours of labor and a failed epidural, they called it. Time for an emergency c-section. I was relieved, honestly. I was beyond exhausted... I couldn't even imagine getting to the part where I had to actually push. And I just wanted to hold my baby boy. So, he arrived... his way. I was ultimately at peace with it, because the last thing I wanted was to make a decision that would put him in danger. But the whole time I remember feeling out of control. Like I wasn't calling any of the shots. I really didn't even know what the shots were. I didn't know anything.
I promised myself that the next time would be different.
With my pregnancy with Louie, I opted for see a midwifery for my prenatal care. This was the best decision. The amount of time they took each and every appointment to thoroughly answer my questions, educate me on my body and on the birthing process, and empower me in my quest for a VBAC, was astonishing. I was so used to my appointments being rushed and my questions being answered in a dismissive tone, that this was incredibly refreshing.
Since I got pregnant right before quarantine (aka I was SOBER during the worst of 2020... where's my trophy?!), this pregnancy DRAGGED. But I sincerely looked forward to every midwifery appointment. Everything was going smoothly until week 36. I went to the hospital for my VBAC consultation, where they would tell me the viability of having a successful vaginal birth. That viability quickly dropped to 0% when we found out that Louie was breech (facing head up instead of head down).
I was so disappointed. I was told there was a 50-50 chance he's flip back around, but they went ahead and scheduled a c-section in case that didn't happen. I then went into hardcore research mode, googling all the ways to get a baby to flip:
Hang upside down on an inversion table.
Hang upside down on an ironing board against the couch.
Do handstands in the pool.
Get adjusted at the chiropractor.
Bounce on a yoga ball.
Downward dog pose.
External Cephalic Version.
I was convinced that last one would be the only thing to work. An External Cephalic Version is when a doctor manually flips the baby by pressing down on your stomach and literally turning him around. Here's a video on how it's done if you're a medical nerd like me (for others: it might make you queasy, so warning). George and I spent days weighing the pros and cons (pros: it could turn him successfully, cons: it could cause complications, he could flip back, it would be expensive). Clearly the cons outweighed the pros, but for me the idea of not having to go through surgery again cancelled out all the cons. So we scheduled it.
Another thing people kept telling me that really worked with breech babies is getting chiropractic adjustments, specifically using the Webster method. So I started seeing a chiropractor who specializes in that method.
And THAT was my solution.
After just one session with her, I could feel Louie's movements increase. It felt like he was doing backflips. I went a few more times, and then was checked by my midwife. She told me he had flipped! I got a sonogram confirming, and we were over the moon. We cancelled the appointment for the External Cephalic Version, we cancelled the scheduled c-section, and we were ready to move forward with Plan A.
Two weeks later, another obstacle: I contracted COVID two days before my due date. Y'all... I cannot tell you how heartbroken I was. After spending almost an entire year dodging this damned virus, I got it in the worst possible moment. I was trying to trust the Lord, but I was incredibly anxious that George would get it and not be able to be at Louie's birth. So, I quarantined in my own house. I stayed in my room for days while George parented Evan all on his own. It was the first time in nearly 10 years we didn't ring in the New Year with a kiss.
It was all so weird. For me, COVID itself was not the worst thing in the world. The searing, unending headache and night sweats were the worst parts, but as someone with chronic asthma, I'm grateful my breathing wasn't too affected. As I was fighting COVID, I passed my due date... and then some. I was six days past and starting to stress. I just wanted my body to go into labor on its own.
Then it happened. At about 4AM on January 2nd, my water broke. And no, it wasn't like it was in the movies. It was more of a trickle instead of a gush. I was also having contractions... not too intense, but regularly. I was THRILLED. My body was doing what it was designed to do.
We grabbed our bags and headed to the hospital.
I was admitted, and eagerly awaited with George for the contractions to intensify. Yes, that's right... George managed to not get COVID from me! (yet, at least). I was so grateful that he could be there with me... I couldn't imagine doing it alone.
Because I had COVID, we both had to wear masks the entire time and couldn't leave the room at all. Anyone who came into our room (nurses, doctors) had to be in full protective gear. Anytime they left, they took it all off and threw it away, and anytime they came back in they'd put new gear on. Because of this, I was assigned just one nurse to stay with me her entire shift. I liked this rule, because my nurse, Emily, was the best.
At this point, I was 1 measly centimeter dilated. So, we waited. I walked around. Bounced on a yoga ball. Read. Joked around with George.
And then the nurse came in. She told me that, because my water had broken, we were on a bit of a timeline for when it would be safe for baby to come. Since I was only 1cm dilated, the doctor wanted to start me on Pitocin to move things along.
I was immediately filled with panic. My experience with Pitocin during Evan's birth was horrible, especially since the epidural didn't fully work. My midwives said that Pitocin contractions can be much stronger than regular contractions, and I was terrified of going through that pain again for it simply not to work the way it didn't work with Evan. Ultimately, after questioning the nurse and explaining my fears, and her laying out my choices in a very clear and calm manner, we went ahead with this option.
After hours of increasing my dosage of Pitocin, the pain was too unbearable. So, I asked for an epidural. I could write a whole separate blog post on how truly awful the anesthesiologist who administered my epidural was (and I never say anything bad about anyone). His bedside manner was so horrendous, that it's almost comical looking back. Almost.
After the epidural, I was THRIVING. There is something truly magical about your pain going from level "I'm literally gonna punch someone in the face" to "hmmm, I think I'll take a nap now" in a matter of minutes. I was certain that I was progressing and was much more dilated. By this point with Evan's labor, I was close to 9CM.
The doctor checked me.
I had barely progressed at all.
We were at a crossroads. Continue waiting to progress. Or opt for the c-section. At this point, it had been 15 hours since my water broke. The longer I waited, the higher the risk. Especially because there was evidence of meconium (Louie had pooped in the womb). The doctor was aware of my strong desire for a VBAC and said she'd be okay with waiting a couple more hours, but deep down I knew a couple hours wouldn't make a difference.
I could've kept going, kept fighting for my goal. But I wasn't at peace with that. My intuition told me that Louie wasn't going to come out vaginally. I just knew it. After George and I talked, we both felt the right choice was a c-section. Whereas with Evan's birth, there was no choice but to have a c-section, this time with Louie I felt in control of the situation. I was glad I was the one to make the call.
They wheeled me away to the operating room. The room was blindingly bright and cold. They prepped me for surgery as George put his scrubs on.
There was a moment where they put the curtain between my head and abdomen so I couldn't see. My eyes welled up with tears. This isn't how I wanted it to be. I wanted to see my baby boy come into the world. I wanted my face to be the first one he'd see, not a bunch of masked up doctors. I wanted immediate skin-to-skin. I had no choice but to hold back the tears because my arms were strapped down to the operating table, so I couldn't wipe them away. I felt the bitterness burning in my chest.
Then, I felt George's warm and reassuring hand take mine. And I felt the bitterness dissipate. This was Louie's birth story... and while it was't perfect, I was prepared to embrace it. To be proud of it.
They cut me open and began tugging him out. This part was a lot more painful than I remember it being with Evan. I cried out loudly. After five minutes, out he came crying. And instantly, all 1,967 words you have read up until this point no longer mattered. All that mattered was that he was here, finally.
George went to him instantly and saw that he was COMPLETELY covered in poop, lol. Because of this, they washed him right away, wrapped him up, and handed him to George, who brought him over to me. He was the most precious thing, and looked just like his big brother. I was smitten.
After I was all sown up, I finally got to cuddle him in the recovery room, where he nursed for the first time. Suddenly, all was right in the world.
Once again, my story didn't end the way I expected, wanted, or planned. But it ended the way it should... as the beginning of the next beautifully imperfect chapter.