It's a month and twenty days since I gave birth to my sweet and very expressive little boy. I had such a different vision of what my birth and life would be like after having my baby. I imagined a lot of blissful time cooking and working on my cookbook as my baby slept or relaxed on my body. I envisioned walks to town and friends snuggling up my little guy. I thought it would be so easy. I also thought Liam, my baby, would just fall right out of my body with ease and grace. The saying; "God/Spirit laughs at us when we make plans" feels so right.
I didn't take childbirth classes because I decided to fly out to Washington during the time my childbirth classes started in Colorado. I wasn't going to stay in Washington for the birth of my baby but that's what ended up happening because I needed the support of my friends and family back home. I arrived in Olympia June 12th and had my baby a little less then two months later on August 4th.
My friend Kristen Rubis who was previously a doula gave me great materials to read and videos and I talked to friends about what I should do for the birth. I read a book and made a birth plan. I think taking the classes would have helped in building more community and having a little better perspective and tools for the labor. We are always learning and growing.
I decided to give birth at Saint Elizabeth's Hospital in Enumclaw, WA, 1 1/2 hours away because it's the most natural hospital in the state; they don't give Hepatitis Vaccine when the baby is born (you can only contract hepatitis via blood, so why would a baby need this), they put the baby on you right after he comes out and they have him breastfeed right away, they don't do any testing on the baby until an hour after snuggling and bonding with the mom and dad, they wait for the umbilical cord to stop pulsing before cutting so that the baby can be fully nourished from the umbilical cord, they encourage natural childbirth and do everything possible before doing a c-section (they do less c-sections then any other hospital in the state), they have a birthing tub, and there are only three birthing rooms and five recovery rooms.
When I stared to have contractions my partner and I decided to drive over to Enumclaw and watch a movie just in-case I started to go into full blown labor. By the time I arrived in Enumclaw my contractions were 4-5 mins apart and growing in intensity. I called my sister from Starbucks and asked her what to do and she encouraged me to go to the hospital. So, off we went.
When we arrived they asked me a million questions and my body started to turn off and my mind turned on and my contractions almost stopped. Ina May who is an incredible MidWife say's giving birth is like pooping, haha, you have to feel very relaxed and safe to poop just like you have to feel safe and relaxed to give birth. So, we went up to the birthing rooms and I was only 2 cm, usually you don't go to the hospital until you are 4 cm or more. But they gave me a few hours to see what would happen and voila, nothing. I didn't progress so they sent me out to walk, go to dinner and see if I could get my labor going again.
We went and watched Aladdin and feeling safe in the dark theater my contractions started again. And then we walked to get frozen yogurt across a brightly lit strip mall and my contractions stopped.
We were so frustrated that we came up with a million dollar idea and maybe one of you wants to create this; there could be a beautiful labor house where women who weren't far enough along to stay in the hospital but didn't want to go home could stay. There would be massage, acupuncture, a chef, calm music, soaking tubs, yoga balls, and everything to help a woman continue to labor without pressure! It feels so terrible to be sent home because your labor isn't progressing fast enough (I don't do well with these expectations). Other women in my family have given birth in a car and an ambulance because they were sent away and couldn't return in time.
It happened to be the Highland Festival in Enumclaw and all the hotels were full and we didn't want to go back to Olympia because it was an hour and a half a way, so my sister rented us a deluxe room in Federal Way (30 mins away). I had intense contractions all night, and I felt I could have had my baby that night but I willed it away because I didn't want to drive to the hospital and possibly be sent away.
So, I cried and moaned through the night while trying to watch A Star is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody. Eventually morning came and I was exhausted from only being able to sleep off and on for 15-30 mins at a time. We were able to rent another hotel room in Enumclaw and went there. I continued to have intense contractions but they were every ten minutes instead of four minutes. It sucked being buckled down for the experience.
Eventually we made it to our hotel room in Enumclaw and again my contractions slowed down. My sister arrived and made me walk which brought them back on, but a big part of me was saying; "why the F*** would I want these contractions that hurt so bad when It seems like I can stop them, I'll just keep my baby inside." My sister knew this and was trying to encourage me to be okay with the pain and look forward to having my baby.
The challenge was I wasn't fully ready for my baby. I had a place in Olympia that was set up but temporarily and my partner and I were figuring things out, it wasn't how I planned to have the baby and that was making my body not let go. I felt like I was on a dock about to jump in the water but continuing to chicken out over and over.
I called one of my best friends and that helped and then my sister went home and it got dark and everyone was asleep and then my body went into full blown contractions that were the most intense yet. I called the hospital and they let us come in. We came in through the emergency entrance and only had five minutes of answering questions and they let me walk up. I got halfway down the hall and started screaming because the contraction was so intense, a nurse asked if I wanted help but I knew it would pass and I could get to the room before another one would start.
I got up to the birthing area and my room with the birthing tub was already in-use so I had to use the room next door. The nurse strapped me down to do readings on the baby and I had a terrible contraction and ended up ripping the wires off me, throwing up, and peeing myself because It was too much to be tied down.
She decided to do a wireless monitor, smart lady, and once all was good she took it off.
The room had a tub but it wasn't a birthing tub. I jumped in and used it on my low back because of the excruciating pain I was having because my baby sunny side (his face was toward my belly and it should have been toward my back) up and pinching a nerve in my low back on each contraction.
They checked me to see if I was dilating every couple of hours and I was only opening 1/2 cm every 4 hours or more and the pain kept increasing. By the next afternoon (day 3) I was shaking from pain and only dilated to 5 or 6 cm and i needed t get to 10 cm. So, I asked what the harm was in doing some pain killer and she made it seem like there wasn't much (the challenge is you get some reprieve and you don't want to go back to the full pain.) I got an analgesic, fentanyl, which didn't get rid of the pain but reduced my awareness of the pain and had a calming effect for an hour. I felt a little silly and loopy which was kind of fun after so much pain, but it also made the pain worse when It came back. So, I asked for it again and the pain was tolerable and I was able to take a brief nap.
I decided I wanted to try to flip the baby while I was on the fentanyl and my friend Kari was willing to help. So, we chatted on the phone and she told me different yoga poses I could do with the help of my partner and sister to flip the baby. Kari told me if I went on hands and knees and had a fabric around my belly with my sister and David on each side pulling back and forth the baby would flip over. I decided to give this a try and as a I went onto my hands and knees I had the worst contraction yet even while being on the fentanyl. Right then and there I said; "fuck this, I'm doing an epidural."
I always thought an epidural would be so numbing that you wouldn't be able to feel anything and the birth wouldn't be as meaningful or real feeling. The anesthesiologist was this really funny guy in his early 40's. He gave me the warning that every once in a while it doesn't numb the pain but makes you not be able to move your legs, which would be pure torture with the contractions. He said It could give me a headache or nausea, and I would still have pain during labor from all the pressure of pushing my baby out. I agreed to the possible side effects and he then put a needle into my back, that hurt, but was nothing compared to my contractions. It went numb almost right away and I was in heaven. Isn't it amazing how going from intense pain to neutral makes neutral feel incredible!
But suddenly without the pain I started having intense anxiety; "where am I going to live long term with this baby? Am I going to stay with my baby's dad? Why didn't I figure this out earlier? How can I take good care of this baby when I have so many unanswered questions? My legs don't work, oh my goddess, my legs don't work." So, I called a friend and poured my heart out and all my anxiety went away. Suddenly, the nurse said; "get off the phone, the baby's heart is dropping." I didn't even think about this. So, she flipped me over and luckily that's all my baby needed and his heart rate went back to normal.
The nurses adjusted me into another side lying position to help flip the baby and then I fell asleep for a few hours. While I was asleep my contractions went through the roof and suddenly I was at eight centimeters. After a couple hours I woke up and when I was awake my contractions would slow down, it was as though I needed my brain out of the way for my contractions to turn on. After an hour of no progression the doctor wanted to give me pitocin. My sister, who is a naturopathic doctor, suggested breaking my water instead since pitocin can inhibit bonding when the baby is born. So, I asked the doctor to ask my baby if it was okay for her to break my water and I felt his energy say; "yes", so she broke my water. Moments later I was dilated to 10 centimeters because his head came down onto my cervix pushing it open.
She told me to let her know when I felt ready to push; it should feel like continual pressure on my cervix. I rested and noticed that I felt that pressure pretty soon after my water broke but I wasn't ready yet, so I didn't say anything for an hour or two. I eventually felt enough energy and power from spirit to make my way through the last part of pushing him out.
Dr. Wilke asked how I wanted to position myself for the birth and I told her that I wanted to do happy baby pose and she adjusted the stirrups so they went at a slight angle up from the table. I asked how I was supposed to push and she said; "each time there is a contraction push on the exhale as hard as you can and do that three times." So, that is what I did. The pushing and contractions hurt but with a nice lion roar as I pushed it was so much easier.
Pushing a baby out is very strange because I have never used those muscles before, at-least to push a baby out. It kind of feels like you are pooping but not. I'm so glad I had an epidural because the pain was barely tolerable, If there was more pain then what I had It would have overwhelmed me. What really helped was I channeled the pain into my rage which made the pain almost empowering. I made my a huge and long primal growl with each push and in-between the nurse would check the baby's heartbeat with a computer mouse looking tool and she would push down so hard that I yelled at her because that was my time for no pain, but she was giving me pain.
Dr. Wilke suggested putting a monitor on my baby's head but he had so much hair it wouldn't stick on. So, back to the nurse pushing down on my belly in-between all the contractions and me growling at her each time she did. It's strange how I can hardly remember doing a lot of pushes but I was told I pushed for over an hour with one push almost having Liam's head all the way out when I felt like I was going to tear so I stopped pushing and Liam was "sucked back in" to where it took 10-15 more pushes to get him back out again.
I always thought once the head was through you had to keep pushing, but once the head is out the rest of the baby easily comes out. Dr. Wilke tried to hand the baby to me but my umbilical cord was too short so he was on my stomach until the cord stopped pulsing and David cut it. Suddenly this little creature who was living inside me for nine months was in my arms looking at me. It felt surreal. They had me breastfeed right away since that is the baby's instinct and if they feed right away it makes the likelihood of them continuing to breastfeed much higher. He fed right away and when he was done his dad took off his shirt and they had skin to skin time together.
Of course there were the side notes of birthing the placenta and then the nurse pressing on my stomach to dislodge any excess blood. Birth is definitely pretty bloody. After I could feel my legs fully they let me use the restroom with the nurse. The nurse helped me rinse my private region with a water bottle and then gave me witch hazel pads and vagina numbing spray. They give you hospital underwear and a giant diaper which you really need! I was wheeled into our recovery room where we were thoroughly taken care of. It was already late so the baby and I slept together through the night in our bed. He woke a couple times to feed which made my uterus start to contract which really was uncomfortable. Nobody told me about this.
We were in the new parent bliss where we ate off a lovely menu, snuggled our baby, watched shows, and had my sister and two of her sons come visit us. We were so happy to have this little guy in our lives but also a little terrified. His neck was strong for a newborn but still not super strong yet so feeding him and holding him was a little scary. He looked just like his dad with my Irish skin. He was born late at night on August 4th and they discharged us two days later on the 6th.
We were so terrified of driving with this tiny 6 lbs 11 ounce human for an hour and a half to the cottage that we were staying at in Olympia. The baby was so terrified that I just gave him my pinky to suck on and he did just that for an hour and a half until we got home. He was crying at the house and my mom, dad, brother, sister in-law, niece, and nephew were all there. I felt so overwhelmed because I didn't know how to get him to stop crying and yet I had all this family here who wanted to hold him. Luckily, my sister in-law knew to burp him and gave him a pacifier and that mostly settled him down.
My family brought extra diapers, wipes, a bassinet, food, and so much goodness. It was so helpful having friends and family come daily to nourish us and give me some company. My friend Shauna organized a meal train where friends brought us meals each day for a couple weeks to help us get on our feet.
The crazy part about getting home is I just wanted to sleep for two or three days because I basically had major surgery but instead I was up every hour or two feeding and David was up every four hours to change his diaper. And every time I fed him I would get these terrible contractions which are good because they were shrinking my uterus but also hard because they hurt. So, day and night blurred together and we spent our time loving our new baby. My sister encouraged me to mostly stay lying down for the first two weeks so that my pelvic floor could heal without the weight of my expanded uterus. I was able to do that because of all our friends bringing food and David cooking and cleaning too.
I had grand plans of working on my cookbook and working a month after he was born but I had no idea how much work having a new baby would be emotionally and physically. He did sleep a lot but since I wasn't sleeping through the night I needed to sleep when he napped during the day.