Elliot’s birth story, pt 1

* This post includes unfiltered details of birth and bodily fluids * 


I lift my arms up over my head and lean to the right, feeling the stretch release tension all through my body. 
For twenty minutes I move, slow and steady, stretching, strengthening my body and mind. Deep relaxation. This is my pregnancy night time routine. For almost nine months I have gravitated to the floor, stretching and moving with my growing belly. Not only does it provide blissful relief from pregnancy discomfort, it also prepares my body for the labor ahead. Toning, opening, relaxing. 

I am not scared of childbirth. For years I have had an interest in labor and delivery. I have read several books about it and seen videos of the most beautiful, amazing births.
When we found my midwife Ruth and her cozy little birth center, I was ecstatic. I wanted to avoid the hospital. Not that there’s anything wrong with having your baby there, but that was not the atmosphere I wanted. Ruth has 25 years of experience. Rarely does she transfer her patients to the hospital, because she is so equipped to handle most challenges that might arise. Wes and I both feel super confident in her care, which is important because I needed him to be on board and confident in our birth choices.
Towards the end of pregnancy I went to the birth center once a week. We measured growth, checked the baby’s heartbeat and talked about any questions I might have. I tell you all this to set the stage for the story of Elliot’s arrival. To give a glimpse into the preparation I had done and the dreams I had. Yet in the end, Elliot was not born at the birth center.

Week 39 of pregnancy was long. I was itching to meet my baby boy and every morning, when I woke without contractions, I felt sad and disappointed. Wesley was more patient. He cooked breakfast for me, we played games, and tried to make time move faster. But a baby comes, when it is time for him to come. A due date is nothing but a guess, but lo and behold, April 19th dawned and labor was in full swing at exactly 40 weeks. 

First stage: 

I woke up at 4 AM that morning to pee. Usually I don’t turn on the light at night, but I was feeling quite wet down below and decided to have a look and there was no second-guessing. My mucus plug had come out, which is a pretty good indicator that labor is right around the corner. I tiptoed back to bed and laid in the dark with a slight smile on my lips. Shortly after, I felt the first gentle tightening in my stomach. A few minutes later, the next one and then another one. They came so frequently already, that I wanted to keep an eye on the time. I went to get my phone in the living room and went right back under the covers. Even though I knew I wouldn’t sleep more, I figured I might as well rest as long as I could. I took a look at the time whenever I felt a tightening and they came at a nice even pace, five minutes apart. This went on for about forty-five minutes while I rested and texted back and forth with my best friend. I needed to tell someone and had decided that I would wait as long as possible before waking Wesley. He would need all the rest he could get. Around 5:15 AM it no longer felt comfortable to lay still in bed. I felt an urge to move my body. As I quietly left the bedroom again, Wes lifted his head. “Hey, can you move my alarm to 8 O’clock?” whispered his drowsy voice. “Sure, baby,” I said and closed the door, knowing there was no way he would get to sleep in today. For about 45 minutes I meddled around the apartment. The intensity of the contractions developed much faster than I anticipated and I quickly found that I had to sway or rock for the duration of each of them. At 6 AM I went back to the bedroom and excitedly stared down at Wesley until he woke up. His sleepy eyes met mine. “I’m having contractions,” I giggled. 

My midwife had suggested that I take a bath when contractions started. Emerging in warm water for a while will help determine if labor has truly started, so I opened the faucet and added a few drops of lavender oil to the bath before I lowered my body into what felt like a warm embrace. I heard Wesley bustling around the apartment, very awake and excited. 

From the tub I called my mom to tell her labor had begun. At 7 AM I called Ruth, my midwife. She was as calm and courteous as ever and just told me to keep her updated. The tightenings were still coming very frequently and the sensation had moved to my back. When I got out of the tub I leaned over the sink to sway through a contraction, which pushed out a fluid that splashed on the floor. Immediately, as I looked down, I knew that something wasn’t quite right. The fluid wasn’t clear. It was a brown-ish yellow. I didn’t jump to any conclusions but sent a picture to Ruth (gross, I know). She confirmed my suspicion: 

“Looks like your bag is broken and this is some meconium colored fluid.” For those who don’t know, it means that the baby has had his first bowel movement inside the amniotic sac. It happens to a lot of women and is not necessarily dangerous – but it can be. My contractions were getting stronger and stayed regular. While Wesley ran around the house packing up and sweeping, I was leaning over my yoga ball, swaying through each wave. In the short breaks between I gathered my things and got dressed, but Wesley did most of the work to get ready as labor was demanding all my focus. More brown fluid leaked out of me. I texted Ruth as she suggested that we should meet at the birth center. Shortly after we were in the car on our way to have our baby. Surreal, to pull out of the garage knowing that when we return we would have our baby with us.
Ruth greeted us dressed in purple scrubs. Seeing her dressed for action made me even more excited. She examined me and told me I was about 3 cm dilated. In the same instance she took a closer look at the meconium colored fluids and said that she thought it would be okay, the meconium wasn’t so thick that it concerned me. That was reassuring. She told us it was a little too early to admit me, and suggested I should either take a walk or go home. No way did I want to go back home, so Wes and I took a slow stroll out on the street. I don’t know how long we were out there, but when I went back inside to use the bathroom my heart sank as I saw thick meconium on my pad. I called Ruth, who was sitting in her office. Her experienced eyes took one look and asked me to come back to the examination room for another check. I was now 5 cm dilated, but the meconium was concerningly thick. She looked me square in the eye. Gently, but firm she said “That meconium is quite thick. I don’t think this is the best place for you to have your baby. If he inhales meconium on the way out, he might need more help than I will be able to give him.” Tears welled up in my eyes as the disappointment hit me like a truck. All my dreams for this birth felt shattered in a moment. A contraction overthrew me in that moment and I leaned into Wesley, trying to breathe and comprehend the news. We walked out front. I sank to the floor and labored over the couch in the waiting room while Wes and Ruth took care of some details. Wes asked if we should just go to the hospital close to our home. “Don’t go there,” said Ruth. “They’ll just give you a c-section right away. Go to UC Davis Hospital.” So we did.

It was an odd drive. I cried, labored and slept all within the 27 minutes it took to get there. When we arrived at the check-in desk in Labor and Selivery, tears were still streaming down my face. A tall, middle-aged nurse named Jenn came out to greet us. Ruth had called ahead and explained the situation, so they were expecting me.
“Are you crying because it hurts, or because your plan for your birth didn’t work out?” Jenn asked me.
“The last one,” I sniffled.
“I understand. We are going to do everything we can to give you a good experience here, okay?” she said with a kind look in her eyes. She took us to a delivery room and her calm, kind manners helped me feel a little bit better. I was happy to be met by an obviously very experienced nurse. She asked me if I had a birth plan. I had written a list on my phone, but never got around to printing it because I didn’t expect to end up in a hospital. Wes helped me relay some of my preferences to Jenn, who carefully took notes. We settled into our room, which was quite comfortable after all. Contractions were coming on strong and steady and all of them were in my back. Wesley consistently applied counter pressure to my sacrum, which was relieving. I don’t know if it was the pressure or just his presence that helped me most. A doctor came in. A cervical exam told us that I was 7 cm dilated. She also told me that baby boy was facing up towards my stomach, instead of facing towards my back, which is the ideal position for birth. When the doctor left, Jenn helped me get into a position on the bed, which supposedly can help the baby rotate. I had to lay on my side to the very edge of the bed, letting my top leg dangle down towards the floor. It was, frankly, extremely uncomfortable. Three contractions on each side. Those contractions felt very, very long. I was relieved when I got back up on all fours. One thing I didn’t anticipate was that vocalizing was my most used coping technique through the entire affair. I wasn’t screaming, but uttering low, primal noises as each tightening gripped my body with an iron fist. Sometimes there was no pause between them, a fresh wave would break over me before the first one ebbed out. Wesley didn’t leave my side. For many, many hours he applied strong pressure to my lower back and hips – without fail. This was unbelievably helpful as I didn’t want any pain medication. At one point I asked for a little bit of nitrous oxide, the gas you breathe to help you be less aware of the pain. The pain is still there, but you get a short “high” that helps you cope with the discomfort. The gas made me super chatty and I got to know my other nurse between those whiffs of gas.

Time gets twisted when you are in childbirth. I can’t quite relay the chronological order of the events of that afternoon and evening. At one point I ate an apple. A few minutes later, I threw up. It came over me so fast and forcefully that I didn’t even have time to ask for a bag. There was vomit all over the hospital bed, but the nurse didn’t even flinch. In one minute she had cleaned it up and put on fresh sheets. It’s pretty embarrassing to vomit all over like that, but the staff was so kind and professional, assuring me that it’s a normal part of birth. Sometime in the evening, my nurse kindly asked me to change position.
“Baby’s heart rate has dropped a little, let’s just see if it gets back up when we move around.”
It did. That time at least. Shortly after the doctor came in again to check if Elliot had rotated into the correct position. He hadn’t and I groaned when Jenn told me that we had to try the inversion again, but of course I complied. With my left leg dangling off the bed, I endured just one contraction before Jenn suddenly told me to turn over.
“Baby’s heart beat is dropping a little bit again, let’s have you come onto your back.” I was in the trenches of labor and the next few minutes was a haze of many hands and commands. Suddenly the room was flooded with medical staff. Someone held up a syringe and informed me that this injection would pause my contractions for a little while. I knew that something was wrong, but all I could think was that a break from contractions sounded nice. It worked almost immediately. Meanwhile Dr Woo explained what was happening.
“Molly, your baby’s heart rate keeps dropping and this time it’s not going back up. We think his umbilical cord might be pinched in there, so we are going to inject some sterile water back into the amniotic sac to get him to float around and hopefully that cord gets loosened up and we get a nice, steady heart rate back.” I wasn’t sure if she was asking for my consent, but she had it. The simple solution worked. Once the water was injected, Elliot’s heart picked up a steady pace and contractions returned with force, dilating my cervix those last few centimeters.

Click here to read part 2


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