This post contains my baby, Neve’s, birth story. It’s a long post, but I hope it proves an interesting read. I think it’s important for women to share positive birth stories since we hear about so many things that can go wrong and are conditioned to believe that that is the norm, rather than the exception. I wouldn’t change anything about my baby’s birth, and it serves to support my belief that the birth process is a natural, challenging, but often beautiful thing that women experience every second of every day in every part of the world.
This is Neve just a short time after her birth, being weighed for the first time; photo by my husband, Richard:
December 2, 2012 was my due date. I had finally finished all my preparations for my baby’s arrival and was anticipating having to wait a few days for her arrival. I was hoping the baby didn’t come too late because I wanted to avoid any medical interventions to start my labor. I was giving birth at Scripps Mercy, the hospital just a few blocks from my home. I was 95% sure that I was going to take an epidural, though I wanted to delay taking it until it was less likely to interfere with the progress of my labor. I had hired an awesome doula (basically a birth coach), Sarah, to help my husband, Richard, and I during the birth. (Which really, really, really was THE BEST decision I made regarding my entire pregnancy.)
Richard and I went to the mall that afternoon to look for a sweater for him to take to the hospital because I knew it would be cold there; plus I was bored with nothing left to “prepare”. He didn’t find a sweater (don’t worry, I got him one for Christmas—a little late but better than never!) and we left the mall empty-handed at about 3 PM or so. As we were leaving, I remarked to him that I wasn’t feeling great, kind of crampy. I told him I didn’t know if it meant anything or not but it could be a sign that labor was going to start soon.
We arrived home a bit after and I started having mild contractions. Over the course of the next two hours or so, I had about 4 contractions that lasted 30 seconds or so. At about 5:30 PM, my doula, Sarah, called me and left a voicemail that she was going up to L.A. but to call her if I had any signs of labor so she could drive right back down. Ironically, she also said she didn’t anticipate me calling since she had never had a client go into labor on their due date (first time for everything, haha!). I send her a text letting her know about the contractions, but I told her they were so far apart and irregular that it could be false labor or at the most very early labor, so I didn’t think she should rush back down.
After that, I made dinner for Richard and myself—pasta with zucchini, tomato, and basil if you are curious—and we ate together. I continued to have contractions but they were still not regular or too bad. A couple of friends texted to check on me since it was my due date and I told them I was having contractions but it would probably be a long time before there was a baby here. I also called my mom to let her know and told her I guessed we would probably go to the hospital sometime in the middle of the night or early morning.
At about 9, I had a craving for something sweet and was thinking I wouldn’t be able to eat for a while, so I asked Richard to get me some ice cream. He went out to fetch some for me, and it was after eating the ice cream that my labor started to really kick in. My contractions started to get regular, at about 7-12 minutes apart and were about 45 seconds long.
I sent Sarah an update but told her my contractions still weren’t long enough to be concerned. As a first time mom, I was anticipating labor to last 18-24 hours, which is the average. I was directed by everyone to go into the hospital when my contractions were a minute long and 4-5 minutes apart for at least an hour, so I was thinking that was a long while off still. At this point the contractions were not fun, but they were manageable. The hardest part for me was the extreme pressure and pain in my hips.
I decided to take a shower so I could clean up and wash my hair before arriving to the hospital. I also knew that showers can speed up labor, and I had that in the back of my mind as well. I didn’t realize that at this point, that I didn’t really need anything to speed up my labor!
After I took the shower, my contractions got stronger and closer together, though not right away. Richard was helping me by writing down the contractions and pressing on my hips to help me to relieve my hip pressure. I was seated on the birth ball while leaning on the edge of my bed for most of this time as it was the best position for me. I was making sure to keep control of my breathing and that my jaw and mouth stayed loose. I was also using vocalization—low moaning sounds—to help me through each contraction. I did something kind of wacked out during this time. I told Richard, “I know this is crazy, but I need to flat iron my hair,” and then I proceeded to do it. He told me he didn’t think it was such a good idea: what if I burned myself? But I was picturing having wild, frizzy hair for three days in the hospital (I have wavy hair that looks like a rabid lion’s mane when it’s allowed to dry naturally) and since I am just a tad OCD, that thought drove me crazy enough to flat iron my hair while I was in active labor.
Sarah was checking in with me via text and told me that she could send her back up, Nova—who also did a private childbirth class for Richard and me, if I needed help before she was able to get to me. Initially I told her that I would be ok waiting for her, but when my contractions started “rolling”, doubling then tripling up before I had a break, I had Richard call her and tell her I needed help and to ask Nova to come. It was shortly after that I told Richard I needed him to stop writing down the contractions and help me with my pain by providing basically constant counter pressure on my hips. The last contraction he wrote down was at 11:23 PM, it lasted 1 minute and 46 seconds, and was three minutes since the previous one.
(Side note: I am just realizing now that Richard and I were obviously out of our minds at this point, since looking at the paper where he wrote down the contractions clearly indicates that we should have headed to the hospital right then and there if I was going by the “plan”; my contractions had been 2-5 minutes apart and 1 1-1 ½ minutes long for over an hour. My excuse is that I was being enveloped by a “tunnel of pain”—the only way I can explain my labor from this point on. I think Richard was just so absorbed in the task of trying to help me manage my pain that the numbers didn’t mean anything or at least sink in.)
Richard continued to help me until Nova arrived about a half an hour later. (I am not really sure of the timing of anything after this point unless it was actually noted on official paperwork thanks to being in that “tunnel of pain”.) When Nova got there, I told her I felt like I wasn’t getting a break from the contractions and they felt like they were right on top of each other; it was getting reaaaalllly hard to cope with them. She said we should see if the contractions changed at all since a new person had arrived (her), and that can sometime stall or even make labor stop (mine didn’t do either). She had me use the bathroom, asked if I could eat something (I couldn’t), encouraged me to drink water, and helped me manage my pain. She told me Sarah would be there in about 45 minutes. In my head, I told myself that I would wait to ask to go to the hospital until Sarah got there. (No idea why, but this was my goal and helped me to have something to “look forward to”.)
A few minutes before Sarah arrived I started to give up on my goal, and told Nova I wanted to go to the hospital. I now am pretty sure that this marked my switch from active labor to transition (the part of labor where the cervix finishes dilation and is notoriously the most difficult for mothers birthing naturally; I should note again that I wasn’t really planning on giving birth drug-free). Nova asked me why I wanted to go to the hospital and I told her, “I just want an epidural.” She said ok, and then I hesitated and asked if she felt I was going in too soon. She said no, that I was well into active labor. Sarah arrived almost immediately after. Nova told her I wanted to go in and Richard packed up the car. As he was doing this, Nova and Sarah both helped me with my pain. I was still in my bedroom almost the whole time on the birth ball.
Nova left, and Sarah had me try to use the bathroom before we left, but I couldn’t pee at all. (Sarah later told me that is a sign that the baby’s head is bearing down and birth is very near.) I had a couple of very intense contractions in the living room and the lights were so bright that I was kind of freaking out and asked for them to be turned off. (Sarah also told me later that when I had those last couple of contractions before leaving the house that she was a little worried I might give birth in the car on the way to the hospital; thank god we were only bocks away!)
I had three more contractions on the way to the car—in the hallway, in the elevator, and in the parking garage of our building—where we all had to stop and drop everything. I had my birth ball with me, and it helped a lot to be able to sit on it through the contractions. I had a couple more contractions in the car, and then several more once we go to the hospital on the way up to labor and delivery.
We arrived at the hospital sometime between 1 and 2 AM on December 3rd. I was put in a monitoring room where a labor & delivery nurse checked my cervix dilation. Honestly I was anticipating her saying I was 5-6cm dilated, and was shocked when she said, “You’re complete! You are ready to have this baby!” I was 10 cm dilated. I immediately said, “I want an epidural.” Thank god for that nurse who said, “Honey you don’t need an epidural. You are about to have this baby. Once your water breaks, you are going to want to push.” I told her I didn’t feel like my water was going to break. (My water broke less than 5 minutes later, by the way.) My doula, Sarah, also encouraged me and said she didn’t think I really needed the epidural. I started to freak out and almost cry because I had anticipated getting to the hospital, getting an epidural, relaxing, maybe watching TV for a bit or taking a nap, and then having the baby several hours later. But that was not in the cards; there was no resting for me. I had done almost all of my laboring at home without even realizing it. I was worried that I was going to have to push for hours and I couldn’t deal with feeling the way I was through a long pushing phase. Sarah told me I could decide to get an epidural later if the pushing took a long time.
As the nurse tried to monitor the baby, which they are supposed to do for 20 minutes, I continued to labor on the birth ball. It was hard for her to get the readings she needed because I was moving around so much, but thankfully she let me continuing laboring in the way I needed to. My water broke while I was on the ball, and the nurse stopped her monitoring and told the staff that we needed to get into a delivery room ASAP because I was about to have a baby. They moved me in a wheel chair (I don’t remember that, but Richard told me later), and I got back on the birth ball there next to the bed. The hospital staff fervently handed me a few papers I had to sign giving permission to treat since I hadn’t had time upon my arrival to do the normal check-in process. They told me the doctor on call would be there in just a few minutes and asked if I felt like I wanted to push. I had no desire to push and was still trying to understand what was happening since it was all going so fast, so I said I didn’t want to. I tried to rest between my contractions by leaning on the edge of the bed. They put an IV line in so I could get fluids and medicine as needed after birth. The delivery nurse continued to try to get the reading she needed from the baby since she hadn’t been able to before. Richard called my mom and told her I was going to have the baby at any time.
Meanwhile, the doctor had arrived. They checked my cervix again and I was +1, which meant the baby’s head was moving down into the birth canal. Sarah told me that was really good. I heard the doctor ask if I was getting the epidural and the nurse said she wasn’t sure, that I had said earlier I wanted one for pushing. The doctor said, “Sarah, you will have to do some pushing, and the epidural is not just for pushing, it’s also for birthing the placenta, and any repair work I have to do.” Honestly it was that statement that made my final decision to NOT get the epidural. I asked her, “Can’t I get a local for that?” and she said yes, I could.
I rested for about 20 minutes or so in the delivery room, before I started to have the urge to push. I got off of the birth ball and instinctively climbed onto the bed on all fours and started to push with my natural urge. I am not sure how long I pushed this way, but at some point the doctor said, “Anytime you want to get on your back to push, that would be good.” I immediately said, “I’m not getting on my back.” The thought of lying on my back to try to get the baby out made zero sense to me both instinctually and based on the birthing books I had read. The doctor said, “Sarah, so you know, I have never delivered a baby in this position so I don’t know how to deal with any complications that may happen.” I looked to Sarah for reassurance and she said to me, “You can give birth however you want.” Sarah also told me later that my response to the doctor was, “Well, I just don’t see how getting on my back would be helpful.” Sarah directed me that I should probably turn around however so that someone could catch the baby since I had my butt to the wall, haha.
I continued to push, which hard as well, but it was a relief from the pain of the contractions and was at least something different than I had been coping with for the last several hours. Sarah gave me some pillows to put under my arms as they were getting tired, so I leaned on the pillows on my forearms while staying on my knees. Towards the end of pushing which took about 30 minutes total, the nurse said to me, “If you push longer and stronger, it will go faster.” Then the doctor said, “You are doing a good job. I can see the baby’s head every time you push.” With these two statements, I was motivated to get the baby out, so I gave it my all and with 3-4 pushes later, my baby, Neve, was born at 3:26 AM on December 3, 2012.
Sarah positioned a mirror so I could see her and everybody told me not to move so they could move the baby and umbilical cord out of the way before I laid on my back. They put Neve on my chest right away while the doctor continued to work on me, and the nurses gave me fluids and medicine to stop my bleeding. My mom walked in the moment after Neve was put on my chest, which was perfect timing. Neve latched on to my breast almost immediately and stay there for well over an hour. Once we had plenty of skin-to-skin time, the nurses weighed and measured her. She was 8 lb. 7 oz., 20 ½ inches long, and perfect.