Writing about the birth of our daughter is already a surreal experience, and this is only the first sentence. If pregnancy and motherhood have taught me anything so far, it is that control is something we don’t always have. It has been a lesson that I have actually loved learning, and as I sit here, I realize how much becoming her mom has already made me such a different person. A calm, patient, and mellow person who just appreciates the experience – even though I thought I would be writing a very different birth story.
I was very much hoping for an all natural, unmedicated birth experience. We had done all of the research, taken hypnobirthing classes, mentally and physically prepared, and visualized our birth experience to be one that would happen without medication or intervention. And while Clementine’s actual birth had many medical interventions, I am so grateful that those interventions were there and that we have an amazing, mellow, alert, beautiful baby girl.
I was almost 42 weeks when my midwife suggested induction. I had absolutely no signs of labor – I was sure I would be pregnant for another year. And while Clementine was fine, I could feel my body and baby becoming stressed – and I was a basket case. Going that far over your “due date” is a total sanity tester. While Cleo was head down, she wasn’t engaging and my body was not going into labor. If there is one thing that hypnobirthing and natural birth research did for me, it was put me incredibly in tune with my body and my baby. My midwife is a definite advocate of natural birth, and I knew that she wouldn’t have suggested induction if she didn’t think it was something important to think about the further along I got. We discussed the most low-intervention induction possible and I felt confident that we were making the right choice for our baby.
We went to the hospital at 7:00 p.m. on Sunday the 27th. I was started on a very low dose of medication that would start my labor very softly and we hoped that my body would kick-start into gear. I had decided that even though I was being induced, I was going to try to go as natural as possible – no pain meds, etc. I labored through the night and was able to manage it very well. However, my body did not naturally start labor on its own, and by morning, I was started on a very low dose of pitocin. This was the last thing that I wanted, but I wasn’t progressing and I felt confident that I could continue to manage the “pain.” Russ stepped into daddy doula mode and we hypnobirthed our way through another 10 hours of labor. Our team at the hospital was incredibly supportive and I can’t thank the staff at LDS Hospital enough for being on board with our birth plan and doing everything they could to give us the experience we were searching for. Those 10 hours were the most intense, incredible, beautiful, difficult, and yes, painful hours of my life. I have never experienced such intensity in both mind and body. Russ was incredible. He saw me through every contraction and every break down. He cried with me and he comforted me. Without him, I am not sure how I would have pushed through. I fell more in love with him in those 10 hours than I could ever explain.
By 6 p.m. on Monday, I was exhausted. The hypnobirthing affirmations and relaxation had been amazing for us up until Monday evening, but then I hit a wall. My labor was still not progressing. Clementine was still not engaging and therefore, I wasn’t dilating. And, as a huge hypnobirthing believer and advocate, I hate saying it – but the pain was getting unbearable. Contractions were coming 2-3 minutes apart, but my baby wasn’t descending. I felt as though all the work my body was doing wasn’t getting us to where we needed to be. I was doing a great job at relaxing and opening and keeping my body limp and lose; it wasn’t a matter of being tense, it was simply a matter of my baby not being positioned correctly for a quick and easy birth.
At around 6 or 7 p.m., I finally decided that I needed an epidural; 20 hours of medically induced labor was about all I could take. I was only dilated to a 5 and I knew that we had a lot of work still left to do. The epidural was never offered to me or pushed on me and it really felt like my decision entirely. My nurses and midwife were so great – and even when I finally asked for an epidural, they handled it so well. The anesthesiologist came in and was amazing. He explained everything to me and told me that having a epidural where I could still feel pressure and where to push was absolutely doable. I honestly got the perfect epidural – I could move my legs the entire time. The pain was mostly gone, but I could certainly feel enough to still be in tune with my body and baby.
A few hours later, I was still only at a 6 and my midwife told me that Clementine was sunny side up and lodged. Head down, yes, but not in a great position for birthing. Once we figured that out, I was put into some crazy positions to try to get her to flip around. An hour in one position, an hour in another, a nap, and a lot of time passed. She didn’t move, she hadn’t descended, and I was still at a 6. It was 10:30 p.m. and I had been in labor for nearly 30 hours. I felt like my little baby girl was done. My body was definitely done. We had no energy left. My midwife told me we could keep doing what we were doing and hope for the best. Clementine’s heart rate was still ok, but was starting to show signs of stress. She had been a trooper up until then, but in my heart I knew she was feeling the overwhelming stress and exhaustion I was. And then, I got a fever. I got nauseous and the chills overtook me. I couldn’t stop shaking. Once the fever came, I knew – we were headed for a c-section.
Russ and I went back and forth for about a half hour. I bawled for about 20 minutes of that half hour. This was everything that we didn’t want for our birth experience. But, we were starting to understand that our birth experience was happening…regardless of the circumstances being on our “plan” or not. THIS WAS OUR EXPERIENCE. I knew that even if we tried to labor for a few more hours – the outcome was going to be the same. I couldn’t imagine doing what we were doing for another 3, 4, or 5 hours – putting my baby under all of that stress – just to end up with the same outcome. We decided it was time to have our baby. Clementine Love was born at 11:20 p.m. on Monday, April 28th. The c-section was by far, the most bizzare experience of my life. I am pretty sure my organs were all over the place, but I was constantly reassured by my husband and birth team, and I felt confident we were doing the right thing. After a hearty “we’re having a baby!” from the doctor- our beautiful, healthy, chubby, perfect baby was born. We heard her first cry and lost our minds. Through my huge tears, I saw her being taken care of sweetly by the surgical team and her loud, strong screams told me that everything was fine. Russ was able to be by her side while they stitched me up – and as soon as little Clementine heard him talking to and soothing her, she knew right away who he was. It was instant daddy/daughter bonding, and I am so happy Russ got to have that experience.
40 minutes later, Russ brought our incredibly darling baby girl into meet me. I had said right before the c-section something to the effect of “this baby better breast feed easily, because I can’t take any more difficulty today.” She must have heard me, because within 15 seconds that Clementine was placed into my arms, she latched on and breastfed like she had been doing it for years. The nurse was completely surprised saying that she had never seen a baby take to breast feeding so quickly. And that was it – I was in love. She knew me. She knew I was her momma and we were finally together. Immediately, the 30 hour difficult labor seemed like a distant memory.
Not one time during 30 hours of labor or the suggestion of the c-section did I feel like I was being talked into anything. My midwife was there through the entire thing, and she would have stayed until 4 a.m. if she had to. Our experience with the medical professionals was wonderful and I truly believe that they had our best interest in mind at all times. I never wanted to birth in a hospital, but I am so glad we did. Even if I had gone into labor on my own, Cleo was so stuck – she was never going to come out under the terms we had laid out for her. She had her own plan. And I am so grateful that we had a great team to get her here safely.
This first week of parenthood has been blissful. Clementine is the most amazing thing I have seen in my life. Our family instantly clicked and I feel like our routine has already started establishing itself. Sometimes I wonder that since we had such a difficult and intense labor, that we both made up our mind to be as calm and easy going as we could be going forward. There is such a sense of serenity and peace in our home. Even the dogs seem to walk around a bit softer.
In the end, I am so happy we prepared for a natural birth. While we didn’t get that experience exactly, it made us better parents and people throughout the process. We went into a medical birth as informed and educated parents. We knew about the process, the medication, the procedures, the questions to ask, the things to avoid, what was necessary and what wasn’t. It brought Russ and I closer together than I could have ever imagined and it made us appreciate our experience at every turn. It allowed us to feel in control the whole time (even when things were very much out of our control). I wouldn’t change a thing – and I am so grateful I can say that. In the end, we received the the best gift – a happy, healthy family. I have never been this full of joy and satisfaction in my entire life.