Early in the pregnancy, I had decided to go the natural childbirth route. I’m not a fan of pain, so I’m not sure why this felt right from the beginning, but it just did. Of course, it’s one thing to say when you’ve just found out that you’re going to go drug free, intervention free. It’s another thing to actually do it.
I prepared mentally as much as I could without stressing myself out. We went to classes at our birth center in Phoenix before we moved to Utah. Overall, we felt really prepared.
It also helped that I had a very routine, uncomplicated pregnancy. The morning sickness wasn’t too bad and ended promptly after the first trimester. I didn’t have too many aches and pains from there on out. Mostly I was just tired. The worst of my pregnancy was a bout of hives that lasted for a couple of days that my acupuncturist was able to cure.
Although everything I read said to prepare for the unexpected and be ready to throw your birth plan out the window, I was lulled into a false state of comfort with the fact that everything seemed to be going perfectly. The worst we were worried about was our baby turning posterior which can make for a longer labor with stronger back pain. And I expected that it would all last at most, 24 hours. At one of our birth classes, the motto was to remember that you could do anything for a day.
Things, of course, did not go quite as planned.
It all started out great. It was a little after 4pm on Monday at 40 weeks when I realized that labor was getting underway. I was excited. I didn’t dislike being pregnant – in fact, I thought I was going to miss my bump terribly. But I was excited to meet my baby. After writing down the starts of new cramping sensations, I knew the party was getting started. I was almost certain we’d have our baby by Tuesday morning.
Early labor wasn’t too bad. I worked for awhile, showered, got things ready, and rested. When they say it feels like menstrual cramps, they mean that it feels like rhythmic menstrual cramps. Probably the worst menstrual cramps you’ve ever had, but you know that they won’t last longer than a minute, then you’ll get reprieve.
Tuesday morning rolled around, and at 10am, my midwife thought it would be good to come in for a checkup. I was almost five centimeters dilated. Lucy was in perfect position. My midwife said she even felt the hair on Lucy’s head. She said we could bring our stuff and stay at the birth center or go home for awhile. We chose to go home.
I actually chose to go home simply because one of my hubby’s Christmas presents was going to be delivered that afternoon and I didn’t want to miss signing for it. That afternoon, in the middle of a contraction, I still managed to get to the door first, sign for the package, and then promptly hide it in the closet. I managed to get a few things wrapped to before it was time to go.
At around 5pm, I felt this intense emotional rush and absolutely had to be at the birth center, so we packed up and went. We then continued labor in the upstairs birthing suite. I believe I was about seven or eight centimeters when we arrived.
Contractions were getting more and more intense, but I was pretty proud of how I was coping with them. I would stop, bend over or just lean on something and breathe through them. I knew the worst was yet to come, but I was pretty confident that I could deal with it.
Eventually, it was time for me to be able to enter the tub. I think I was at nine centimeters then. I wanted a water birth, and when I got into the tub, I was feeling really good (considering) because I knew it was getting close. It was about 10pm Tuesday evening.
Contrary to the movies, my water didn’t break before labor. It broke after I got into the tub, well into it. Unfortunately, after the water broke, I went back to eight centimeters. A little disappointing, but I knew it was typical.
A little after midnight, I got the news I had been waiting for. I was 10 centimeters. This was supposed to be it. The time when it’s ok to start pushing. For a moment, I was both in pain and excited.
But then, the words that changed everything.
Lucy was now breech.
This is something that is not supposed to happen from everything that I’ve read. Babies aren’t supposed to have the room to turn in the last few weeks without major intervention. Let alone are they supposed to turn from the right position to the wrong one.
This is when I lost it. When we met the midwife back in September, she talked about how they had done breech births naturally, successfully. I didn’t remember this conversation at that moment. I panicked.
All I wanted was whatever was best for the baby. As much as I believed in no interventions, no hospitals, I was open to anything so long as my baby would be safe.
The midwife gave us our options. We could try to get an ambulance out to the birth center, but with the weather conditions (it had been snowing for hours), they didn’t know when they would get there or how long it would take to get to the hospital. They could try taking me by car, but again, no idea how long it would take and it wouldn’t be a good thing if she was born breech in a car.
My husband fortunately remembered that the midwives could do breech births, and he made the decision that we would stay. I’m glad he did – I just couldn’t deal with anything related to rational thought at the time.
Now things had changed. Instead of being able to push, I had to breath through the contractions so Lucy could slowly travel out.
It was torture.
The urge to push was strong. And the panic overtook my ability to calmly breathe through it like I had done earlier.
I really don’t know how I made it through the next couple of hours. They checked Lucy’s heartbeat regularly, and she was doing good.
I don’t know exactly what time it was, but eventually the urge to push was too much to ignore. It was time for me to push.
It was also time for Lucy to come out. I don’t remember the details, but her vitals were starting to get questionable.
From what I heard, I pushed for a long time. I remember doing it, but I don’t know for how long. We moved from the tub, to the bed, and eventually to the toilet because for whatever reason, that felt like the right place to be.
And there, I pushed. And pushed. And pushed. I’m not much for stamina, so I have no idea how I lasted as long as I did.
Lucy began to emerge. They offered to let me feel her bottom as it was starting to be revealed (much like her head should have been). But I couldn’t. I needed to focus all of my energy on her getting out. I didn’t want to feel any accomplishment until she was fully out.
From what I heard after, when Lucy began emerging, her color was not good. I remember telling (or perhaps screaming) to just cut me open and get her out of there. After all was said and done, I had two episiotomies and one tear.
By the time she was born at around 4:21am, she was a greyish, bluish white.
More than I remember the pain, I remember what it felt like when they put her on my stomach. I was so out of it, but I remember sort of seeing her through the haze and thinking she had to be ok. There was no other way around it. She would just have to be ok.
I didn’t know I had said anything to her at the time, but they said I told her to breathe. Start breathing.
Her heart was still beating, but from what I gather, the cord was pinched, so she didn’t have any air. So they had to resuscitate her, more than once. She started breathing. Everything was ok again.
Everyone helped me back to the bed to lay down. They put her on my chest with a little oxygen tube dangling between us so we could some extra air.
When the worst seemed to be over, it wasn’t. It was time to deliver the placenta. Once it was out, I started hemorrhaging.
The midwives used everything in their toolkit to get the bleeding to stop. I got a straight shot of a cayenne pepper mixture in the mouth (to prevent shock) and even got a slice of my own placenta. I remember them shouting that I needed to make it stop. Mentally. I had no idea how to do that, but it happened. I stopped bleeding.
There are just a few photos of the first moments we – my husband, Lucy, and I – had together. I was completely out of it at the time, and it shows in the photos along with other reminders of how brutal the scene was like blood all over the sheets. My mom later said she took them because she didn’t know if they would be the only photos Lucy would ever have of us together.
It took a few bags of IV fluid until I came around, along with what felt like a long time of hearing nothing but “Stay awake, keep your eyes open.” My husband asked me pretty basic questions throughout it. He even tried to find out what he was getting for Christmas, but I didn’t let the secret out of the bag.
The best part of it all came a short while after. I was finally conscious enough to lay down next to my baby, my Lucy, and really look at her for what felt like the first time. I just laid there and stared at her. I could have stared at her forever.
She was beautiful. She was a little miracle.
I couldn’t have had a more amazing group of people with me throughout this.
My husband was amazing throughout the pregnancy, and he was pretty much a hero during the birth from start to finish. He was later referred to as my human monkey bars because he had to support me physically throughout the long, long labor which couldn’t have been an easy feat. He joked beforehand about longing for the days when dads stayed outside the room with a cigar and ended up seeing much more than he bargained for. But he was strong – just the strength I needed.
My mom also played an important role in everything. Her usual personality is when things are ok, she cries. When things are serious, she is stays strong. I knew things were serious during the birth because she wasn’t crying. But she kept everything together and helped us through.
The midwives at Pathway to Wellness were awesome. They were calming when I needed calm, nurturing when I needed comfort, demanding when I needed to make things happen, and confident when I lost it. They got Lucy and I through it, safely and healthy.
If I had stayed in Phoenix, I would’ve had a c-section for certain. While going through a breech birth naturally was definitely not what I had anticipated, being moved to a place I wasn’t familiar with to be treated by people I didn’t know would have been even more traumatic. If we had gone that route, I wouldn’t have been home later that afternoon and been able to take care of her from then on.
The first week was iffy between getting used to life with a newborn and dealing with my emotions about the birth. But by the end of the second week I felt good again and by four weeks, I was completely healed. Lucy had some bruising from the way she came out, but she was otherwise perfect.
It took awhile to write this and get to the stage where I could let go of the things that didn’t go according to plan and simply be happy about the most important thing of all. My Lucy.