I love hearing birth stories. I love hearing about the moments leading up to giving a new little person their first glimpse at the world and how other mothers will find solace and solidarity in the stories of other mother’s experiences. So I’m going to share mine and hopefully, there are mother’s out there who will appreciate it and non-mother’s who will get a glimpse into a child birthing experience.
I guess the one phrase that could sum up Eleni’s birth is “It didn’t go as planned,” which I find slightly ironic.
There are some women who have master birth plan in place, down to the last song on their birth playlist. All I had planned on was being in a hospital with an epidural. That’s it. We had gleaned a bit of information at our last OBGYN appointment in the way that Eleni was estimated to be around 7 pounds, head down, and her face pointed toward my spine, so it seemed a lot like Ana’s birth, which couldn’t have gone smoother. So when I scheduled an impromptu appointment for light bleeding, I didn’t have a clue what the next 12 hours had in store for me.
Before the appointment, Ana and I went about a usual day. We put a roast in the crock pot, grabbed a birthday pie for our friend Derek who had come up on his birthday to run the barber shop for Chris “just in case”, grabbed some odds and ends at the grocery store, and Derek’s birthday gift from Woosah. I had some contractions, but the timing was all over the place and I really only had to take a brief pause when they came, which didn’t seem like much to worry about. So I didn’t. Ana and I dropped everything off at home and left for my appointment.
I knew they were probably going to do another cervical check, but it was too late to get a sitter and really, Ana already knew what birth was all about so she came along with me. Sure enough, they did. I didn’t expect labor to be starting. I just wanted to make sure the bleeding wasn’t serious. Only 5% of women ever give birth on their due date and since Ana had been part of that 5%, I didn’t expect to get lucky again. Instead of “you’re fine, go home,” like we expected though, we heard “you’re too far dilated to let you go home, head to L&D."
“Do you have someone to watch her?” the doctor asked me looking at Ana.
“Yeah, my husband will get her set. Can I wait for him?” I asked in shock.
“Yeah, but you’ll want to get over to the hospital soon.” The doctor looked at me with a bit of concern.
Ana and I walked out to the car and I panicked. I’m a planner. The only plan we had in place was that Ana was going with Chris’ sister while we were in the hospital. I called Chris and trying not to break down on the phone, I asked him if he was ready to have a baby.
“What’s wrong?” he asked when my voice got squeaky.
“I’m just scared. We’re on our way to get you.”
Yep. I drove off in the opposite direction of the hospital to get my husband from work 4 blocks away. Which makes more sense why when we arrived 15 minutes later, they had my file with a photo pulled up and the nurse was on the phone with the doctor I had just left telling her I was there and I seemed fine.
Then Chris did an amazing juggling act.
When they tell you it takes a village to raise a child, it's also true it takes a village to bring a child into the world. Chris' sister picked Ana up within the hour, our friends Sammi and Jordan went and let our dog out, fed our turtle, and took care of the roast I was panicking about burning the house down, and Derek went back and not only ran the shop, but also moved our car and was with our dog overnight. Our village came through in a big way.
While Chris arranged everything, I got into a gown, had an IV placed and was hooked up to fluids and antibiotics for Strep B (no, it's not strep throat,) and waited for Chris to return and for my water to be broken. They had asked if I wanted an epidural, but I told them I'd wait. Honestly it's because I was terrified to have a needle put in my spine again and I couldn't do it alone without Chris. So I was left in the quiet to breathe through contractions and get ready.
I didn't have any profound thoughts while waiting. I was ready (or so I thought) and when Chris came back, I cried like a baby and cut off circulation to Chris' hands as they placed the epidural I knew I'd need, and they broke my water.
Then we realized Eleni was "sunny side up," or posterior.
Babies normally are born with their face toward their mother's spine. Posterior babies heads tend to not fit through the birth canal the way they're supposed to though. The top of the head is the first through instead of the crown, which is malleable (aka soft spots) to fit through the birth canal optimally. Our nurse, Natalie, our lady in shining armor helped me for HOURS get into positions to try and flip her.
During the flipping process, Natalie noticed bleeding from my epidural site, which can mean the catheter slipped. The anesthesiologist checked it out, but said it was fine. I can tell you from the regaining of feeling in my legs and the pain of the coming contractions though, that it wasn't working the way it should have been. Essentially, my epidural was only partially helping the pain.
It was too far too late though. The contractions were strong enough I could start pushing, so that's what I did. And I pushed. And I pushed. And it felt like I was going to be pushing forever. Then everyone started getting excited and I started entering into some serious pain.
Mother of everything Holy, the pain. Pushing out a posterior baby with a half working epidural made my stomach tattoo feel like a freaking tickle.
The delivery doctor we had, a family friend from church, hooked up the vacuum and Eleni was so close to being here with us. I told the nurse I couldn't do it, she bluntly told me I could and I had to and Chris cheered me on. I remember being in so much pain and both our heart rates were dropping from being in labor for so long, and then realizing the only way I was going to get out of the pain would be to push with everything I had. So I did. And as our baby girl made her entrance into the world, Chris and I cried and we're pretty sure the doctor teared up a bit too.
As they placed her on my chest, all I could do was hold her tight and cry.
She was so squishy, with so much hair and she was so warm and new. Every anxiety I had carried with me throughout the pregnancy and leading up to Eleni's birth I let go of. I think I cried out of happiness, out of love, out of pain, and out of relief. Looking at my husband and holding this brand new person I was flooded with such love for him and gratitude for not only helping me create her, but for never for a moment letting me feel alone through the process. He carried the weight of both of us for months and it was all for this moment.
While they stitched up what I'm assuming were tears with interior and exterior stitches, everyone made a guess on how much our little squish weighed. When they took her to the scale, we all waited while it thought.
That was 2lbs and 3ozs more than Ana had been at birth and definitely more than we had thought at our last couple OB appointments. Everything about this birth had been completely different and completely unexpected. Chris likes to tell people that when she was born he thought, "A toddler just came out of my wife," and while not as 'Chris-ish' we still get the 'Wow! That's a big baby!' and 'You don't have them small!' comments with the occasionally nosey 'Did you deliver her vaginally?'
Yes, yes I did.
Our chunky monkey.
While the recovery from Eleni's birth has been horribly uncomfortable and sometimes painful, when I stop to think about what my body has gone through to get her here, I feel a little bit, okay a lot a bit, powerful. My 5'2" normally 115lb frame labored a 9lb baby into the world with a half-assed epidural.
So yeah, like everything else that's been thrown our way in life, it didn't go as planned. But also like everything else thrown our way, I'd do it over a thousand times if it meant I still get to sit right where I am now. Writing this blog post yelling at Ana to not pinch Daddy and being amazed at what an infant can sleep through.
A HUGE thank you to so many people who helped us over these pst two weeks. Our village is the greatest and we hope one day we can repay you all for all of your help. We love you.