Charlie is 6 months old today.
For a long time I didn't want to share Charlie's birth story. I think I was mad at it. Mad that his birth didn't go the way I had planned and therefor I wouldn't do it the honor of sharing it. Well, as I gain some perspective and his birth gets farther and farther away, I realize I owe it to Charlie and myself to say that we conquered birth. Birth is not easy and I have learned that every woman should shout from the rooftops the stories she has about birthing a baby. She and her birth(s) is/are worth it! Every birth is different and I now realize that everything they say about birth is true and false at the same time. There are certain things you can expect from birth. Like, the baby will, at some point, be out of your body. But the journey between conception and that moment is any one's guess. Well, here's Charlie's story. All the details. Buckle up cause it's a ride.
I knew exactly how my birth would happen. I knew I would labor at home in water with the support of my husband and doula until I reached transition. I would then labor at the hospital in a birth tub until my body knew it was time to push. I would have exactly 5 big pushes and then Charlie would be delivered into Daniel's arms and he would then place him on my chest. It would be a quiet, welcoming, intimate moment that Daniel and Charlie and I would share and would happen over the course of only 8 hours. Maybe 10.
Well, that maybe could have possibly happened if my water hadn't started leaking. Thursday night around 8pm I noticed I was indeed trickling some fluid. I called the midwife in the morning and they had me come it to be checked. It was confirmed that I was trickling and the midwife wanted me to go straight to the hospital since at this point I had been leaking for about 16 hours. She just wanted to make sure that our little boy was doing okay. Well, we weren't really in a hurry to get to the hospital. We went home and grabbed our bags then we went to our favorite taco place so I could eat my last meal before Charlie would be born. Three carnitas tacos from Los Primos to energize me for labor! Priorities, people.
We got to the hospital and it was determined that Charlie was doing fine, but it was necessary to get labor started. I was really anti pitocin so decided to start some gentle interventions. The midwife broke my water fully and started me on a foley catheter (which was inflated and placed at my cervix to apply pressure and hopefully get me contracting). I progressed with the foley to about 5cm in about 3 hours. I was on a roll! I decided then that I wanted to get into the birth tub and labor in there until I needed to push. My doula also arrived at this time and was amazing for the remainder of labor and delivery. It started off pretty smooth. The water helped to ease my contractions and it felt refreshing to be weightless in the tub. Char (my doula) and Daniel kept cool wash cloths cycling in and out the entire time I was in there. After about 2 1/2 hours in the birth tub, Charlie positioned himself directly on a nerve in my hip. More on this to come, but let me just say for now that this intensified contractions A LOT. Eventually, I felt an upset stomach start. Well, the upset stomach stayed. And stayed. And stayed a while more. More on that later, too. Fun so far.
I had been in the tub for about 5 hours and I noticed my contractions were slowing. I asked Char and Daniel if it seemed like they were slowing down and we all agreed they were. It was time to get out of the tub so labor could progress. Well, turns out the entire time I was in the tub I only got to 6cm. Yeah, talk about defeating. To feel like I must be getting so close to at least an 8 or 9 and then finding out I'm only at a 6?!
I continued to labor through contractions until about 2am when my hip pain got incredibly intense. If you are familiar with back labor, when baby is sunny side up instead of facing down like he should be, imagine that, only in your hip. I guess this is where I should mention that Charlie was occiput transverse- sideways in the birth canal. Contractions would come and stay for 10-15 sometimes 20 minutes. No reprieve between contractions because of my hip pain. Unlike back labor where pressure can be applied to the lower back to ease contraction pain, there's not much that can be done for this situation. The pain was so intense that with each contraction I was throwing up. I had been doing this for about 5 1/2 hours at this point. This is where I get to introduce a leading player in the story. We'll call her 'Nurse'. At one point Nurse (who shall remain nameless lest I try to troll her on the internet) told me to stop over reacting- "the pain is just contractions, Jessica." I assure you, it was not just contractions. I finally had to have some anti nausea medicine to prevent me from getting dehydrated. They ended up giving me two doses of Zofran and I was still throwing up from the pain, to which Nurse said "I've never seen anyone throw up after two doses of Zofran". They gave me a third dose and that finally started to ease the need to throw up.
I labored for another hour and a half in this intense lasting pain until I started to feel like I was going to pass out from the pain. I was still only at a 6 after 12 hours of labor so it was decided that an epidural was necessary so I could try to get some rest and make it through the rest of labor. I did not want an epidural. I wanted to do labor. To feel it. To power through it with all the strength I had. But when I came close to passing out, I knew it was no longer safe for me to 'power through'. I got the epidural at 3:30am and began to be able to catch my breath. The anesthesiologist had to give extra medicine to ease the pain in my hip which made me completely unable to move anything below my naval. And again, I felt defeated. My birth plan was a mere memory at this point.
Of course since my contractions were still slowed down to only coming every 10-15 minutes, they wanted to start me on pitocin. They did this at about 4:30am while I was asleep and unaware. I woke up around 7am and was delighted to find out I was at an 8- finally! But was pretty upset when I found out it was because of the pitocin they had started while I was sleeping. Well after another hour or so, the infamous hip pain started to creep back in. Soon I was experiencing the same intense pain as before to which Nurse Lovely again remarked "Jessica, you can't feel this, the epidural has you numb there. It's just contraction pain coming through." I wanted to hit her. Hard. But didn't because I'm a lover not a hater.
They checked me and I was at a 10. Time to start pushing. But the nerve pain was so bad that as I was trying to push with contractions, I was just throwing up. I couldn't push because I was throwing up. I should mention here that I am also hypoglycemic and had been without food since about noon the day before so was shaky and nauseous from that in addition to the pain. They had the idea to get me some sugars real fast- grape jelly. Let's mix some honey in to up the sugar content. Bad idea. Actually, the worst idea. Please, do not ever add honey to grape jelly and try to feed it to someone who is already nauseous. It will make them throw it up. Another dose of Zofran.
After another hour of this hip pain our good friend Nurse Know-It-All looked at the epidural machine and realized it was broken. Broken. Not pumping medicine. Her comment? "I keep telling them this machine is broken but they never listen to me." They replaced the epidural machine and got my pain under control so that I could start pushing for real. I started pushing at noon. I felt great at this point! No more nausea, pain was controlled, I had a couple hours of sleep to power me and I had been siping on Sprite for some sugar. When it was time to push with contractions I could feel all my muscles working- hard- and it felt great! To feel like I was back in control of being able to deliver Charlie! Well, that went away soon because Charlie wasn't descending. He was still at a -2 station after 2 hours of pushing. He just wasn't moving. Another hour of pushing went by before my midwife and doula started to worry about how long my water had been broken. It was at this time that I was given three options: C-section to hurry and get him out, try to keep pushing and see what happens (but probably end up with a C-section), or the OB on the floor could try to use forceps.
This is where I lost it. I was feeling so beyond defeated. My entire birth plan had gone straight out the window about 35 hours ago and I was on a wild ride that I never intended to board. Everyone left the room and Daniel and I cried together. I didn't want surgery. I wanted to deliver vaginally the way I planned. Most of all, we wanted what was best for Charlie. So, I cried tears of exhaustion, defeat, sadness and anger. Then Daniel gave me my Charlie ring. Unbeknownst to me, he asked the midwife and OB to give us a couple more minutes in the room alone. He went to his bag, grabbed something small, then came and kneeled down beside my bed. I was a little confused at first. I was thinking 'Wait, we're already like, engaged...forever. But it feels like he's proposing?' And in a sense, I guess he was. He was down on one knee, ring in hand and asked me to keep working to bring Charlie home. He told me how much he loved me and how much he believed in and that he knew I could do it- whatever 'it' ended up being. He gave me a hand-stamped ring that said 'charlie'. I now wear it above my solitaire and wedding band. He has always supported me, encouraged me and pushed me to push myself and this was no different. He was right by my side the entire time. With cool rags, puke trays, a hand to squeeze and lots of 'I love you's and 'You can do it, babe'. He is an amazing partner in life and birth and I am so grateful to have him by my side. His support empowered me and gave me that extra confidence boost to get through the next 10 minutes.
I got myself together to talk to the OB who said "You want to deliver vaginally? I think we can do that. But you're going to have to work really hard." Charlie was turned just enough that she could see his spine on the ultrasound machine so she knew forceps were an option. She said I had 3 contractions to try to push him out while she pulled with the forceps. I gathered all my strength and said okay. I'm going to do this. Because of the use of forceps, extra nurses and the NICU team were called into the room. They stood in the corner and waited to make sure baby was going to be okay. My peaceful 4 person birth team and ballooned past 10. The NICU team was amazing, I should say. They stood quietly in the corner, eyes to the floor, and patiently waited to assist if necessary.
Daniel was by my left leg, Char was by my right. Char said in a gentle voice "Okay Jess, here comes a contraction. PUSH!" The entire room started to cheer for me, "Push Jess, push! You can do it!" With each push the OB pulled with the forceps. The first contraction produced no baby. The OB looked at my midwife and said under her breath, 'I don't know if this is going to work.' (Daniel told me this later) Another contraction came, "PUSH JESS!" and the OB pulled on the forceps. Now, when I say she pulled on the forceps, I should let you know she PULLED with the forceps. Daniel and Char had to help hold me on the bed because the OB was pulling so hard she was lifting me off the table. She had a foot at the edge of the bed and was pulling with her entire body. It was with that contraction that Daniel saw Charlie's head. He said "You can do this Jess, he's almost here!" So one more contraction came and I pushed with everything I had while the OB pulled with everything she had. The last push of the last contraction, out came Charlie with his cord around his neck twice. The OB unwrapped his cord and handed him to Daniel who placed him on my chest. I was absolutely in shock that he actually came out! We were all almost certain I was headed to an emergency C-section, but there he was!
The NICU team was able to leave and Charlie stayed on my chest for the next 3 1/2 hours. He had a strong latch right away and nursed for almost 45 minutes! Finally, he was weighed- 8lbs 11oz and 21" of baby. No wonder I was so huge!
So why share my birth story? Because it didn't go according to my plan. Because there were times when things were really scary and seemed really out of control. Because I had meditated on what I thought were 'positive' birth stories. Then Charlie was born and I found out that every birth is positive, regardless of how it happens. Birth is birth is birth. It can be scary and there might be times when you're certain this whole birth thing just isn't going to work out for you, but it all works out. Maybe not according to plan, but baby will come. I learned a lot this time around. There were way more tears than I envisioned, a lot more throwing up and I learned to accept medical intervention. Birth is messy, gritty, intense and absolutely the most beautifully amazing thing I have ever done. The really crazy part is that I already can't wait to do it again.