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Monday, August 29, 2016 – The Day Before

Your due date, September 18, was 20 days away. I had always planned to work right up to the last day of my job contract—August 31. Luckily, I was able to work from home a few days a week. Since I wasn’t feeling too hot when I work up that Monday morning, I decided to work from home even though it wasn’t my scheduled telework day (#PregnancyPrivilege).

The day was pretty normal. Even though I didn’t have a lot of energy and was flat-out uncomfortable, it could’ve been worse. For 37 weeks, I’d take it.

So it came as a surprise when I had trouble going to the bathroom later on that night. The feeling lasted throughout the night, every time I woke up to use the restroom. Nothing ever happened.

(If you think this is TMI, trust me, it gets worse :-D. )

Tuesday, August 30, 2016 – The Day Of

The next morning—another telework day—I woke up and fixed my standard breakfast: oatmeal and eggs. I didn’t have a whole lot of work to do since I was in closeout mode.

Around 10 am, I got a call from a recruiter in charge of the job opening that was going to replace my fellowship position at the time. (Update: Once I realized I was pregnant with you, I had to leave the fellowship that I talked about before. By the grace of God, I found a different fellowship position back home in Atlanta.)

The recruiter told me that my supervisor wanted me to stay on full-time (God is so good.) and that she would expedite the process so that there would be no gap between the end of my fellowship contract and the start of the full-time contract. Yay, I had a real job!

At the same time as I was having this convo with the recruiter, I had also made a post in a Facebook group I was a part of. The group was for other women who were pregnant and due in September. I wrote: Disclaimer: TMI… I can’t tell if I have to poop and I’m just constipated or if the baby’s head is just sitting on my bottom and causing lots of pressure. Either way, it’s extremely annoying.

Around noon, our home wi-fi went out due to an outage in the area. Since I needed to be online for work, I had to find somewhere with wi-fi to sit for a while. So a little before 1pm, I went to the Chick-fil-A near Stonecrest Mall. I ordered my usual (spicy chicken sandwich with Polynesian sauce and large fries with 2 sriracha sauces, yasssss!) and stayed there for a bit.

All this time, I was still feeling uncomfortable and constipated. I decided to head back home before a conference call that afternoon. Since I was already out, I stopped at Babies R Us to grab some nursing pads. Ross was next door so I stopped there to find some comfy going-home-from-the-hospital clothes but had no luck.

Oh well, I’ll just get some this weekend, I thought.

I made it back home in time for the 3 o’clock work call. Everyone asked how I was feeling. I’ve been better, but I’m hanging in there.

Someone asked if my doctor was thinking I would make it to my due date, and I said yes – that there had been no indication that I wouldn’t. Earlier that morning, your Aunt Jami had also texted me and asked me the same thing. Same response: Sure, don’t see why not.

(From this point on, you’ll see that my conscious self and my subconscious self were operating in two different spaces.) 

I had been packing my hospital bag gradually for the past month or so. During the conference call, I decided to throw in some things that I’d forgotten: pictures of my Grama, the nursing pads I had just bought, a pictures of a scripture that was special to me and my line sisters… I lied down for most of the conference call though, since I couldn’t get comfortable. But lying down wasn’t helping that much.

After the call was over, I hopped back into that Facebook group to see if anyone had commented on my post. One person’s comment—Yes, every single time I have a contraction it feels like I have to poopstopped me in my tracks…

As I thought about it, I realized that constipated/pressure feeling wasn’t persistent. It came and went. Could those be contractions? I did a quick Google search (Do contractions feel like you have to poop?) and lo and behold, all these women said that their contractions felt like they needed to poop. So I decided to time them like you’re supposed to.

I started timing at 4:07pm. The intervals were 13 minutes, 12 minutes, 10 minutes, 8 minutes, 4 minutes, 3 minutes… (Literally. Like these are the actual intervals in order.)

At this point I was trying to do a lot of things at once (even though in my mind, I wasn’t really in labor). At 5pm, I had received the official offer letter from the recruiter. I was busy trying to print, sign, scan, upload, and send it back. The progressively shorter intervals, and the fact that the contractions were lasting 1 minute at least, but more often longer, were making me nervous! I figured I wasn’t focused enough and wasn’t timing them right. So I stopped. (Lmao. I know.)

We had an appointment with our doula, Yolanda, scheduled for that evening. Since she was already on the way to the house, I figured I should at least give her a heads up that I thought I might be having contractions. On the other hand, I didn’t want to worry her since she was coming from Kennesaw and it was going to take her a while to get to us.

She asked how I’d been feeling, what had been going on, etc., but ultimately she just said to try to eat something and lie down. I could tell she didn’t think much was really happening. I got a bowl of rice and some corn and salmon to try to munch on.

Around this time (6ish), Mike got home from work. He asked how I’d been feeling and I told him that I still felt like I was having contractions, but that I didn’t know whether they were real. I knew that Braxton Hicks were supposed to ease up when changing positions or moving and that they were more erratic than “real” contractions.

I also knew that mine weren’t letting up with movement, nor were they very erratic. But of course, I still wasn’t sure. (Collectively, this whole day consisted of the most defining Libra moments of my life.)

In the short amount of time that Mike was home, the contractions ramped up. Instead of lying down to cope like I had been before, I had to walk around and lean on the tall chairs or the side of the couch. I had also started timing the contractions again – this time, with the Baby Bump app. They were following the same pattern as before – long and close together. I couldn’t eat anymore.

I told Mike maybe we should throw the car seat in the car just in case and that he should pack his bag. He was getting excited and couldn’t stop smiling, but I kept trying to tell him not to get too riled up since it could be false labor.

We made the decision to go to the hospital after one contraction where I felt extremely lightheaded and nauseous. In my head, I was thinking about how nausea can be a sign of “transition” (the stage just before delivery) and that even if I wasn’t in actual labor, I needed to go get checked. I told Mike we needed to go to the hospital and within minutes, we were out of the house.

In hindsight, at the point when we got into the car, I’m pretty sure I was in transition. Contractions had become very uncomfortable and I continued to be lightheaded. I had broken out in a sweat across my chest and neck and was feeling very anxious.

As we were pulling out of the garage, Yolanda the doula was walking up to the front door and ringing the doorbell. We rolled the window down and motioned for her to come over. We told her we were going to the hospital to get checked and she asked if we were sure. (Apparently I didn’t look how I felt because later on she told me I looked good, i.e. not like I really needed to go to the hospital.)

I don’t remember much else of what she said—only that it was too much—we needed to go! We agreed that she would follow us to the hospital and stay downstairs until we gave her an update from triage.

Monday, August 30, 2016 – The Night Of

The car ride was a blur. Just after pulling out of the driveway, Mike realized we left the Hypnobabies birth partner guide, but I told him not to worry about it. (I actually said, “There might be time to come back and get it…I might not be in labor.” LMAO. Girl.)

More on Hypnobabies later…

Anyway, I needed to get out of that car ASAP. I let the seat as far back as it could go, and closed my eyes. Mike asked if I wanted to listen to anything in particular and I said no. Technically I should have been listening to my Hypnobabies Preparing for Birth track, but I didn’t want to hear anything.

Not my Hypnobabies tracks. Not the playlist I had made. Nothing. I just wanted to get to the hospital.

I was still alert enough to see how our car ride was progressing, and thankfully since it was after 7pm, there wasn’t too much traffic on Rockbridge. About 7 minutes into the drive, I realized we should page the midwife-on-call to let her know we were on the way.

Martha—the one midwife at my practice that we hadn’t met yet, of course!—was on call that night, and she called me back. I told her I had been having contractions and wanted to get checked out and that we were on the way. (She also said later on that I sounded pretty good on the phone.)

We got to the hospital and parked at the front drop off. I literally did not think I could get out of the car, let alone walk anywhere. I just wanted to lie on the floor.

We made it up to the registration desk which was inside this tiny room. That poor lady… I said “sorry” and leaned all the way over on her desk while trying my hardest not to throw up all over it. I had to provide my insurance card, sign a few papers, read some stuff…way too much for the level of discomfort/almost-pain I was in by that time. She told us to wait in the lobby and that they would call me back into triage when they were ready.

It seemed like it took FOREVER, but it probably didn’t. I kneeled on one of the couches, leaned over the back of it, and kicked off my flip flops. (Mike said this is when he knew it was real 🙂.) I was SO hot and would have done anything to cool myself down by that point.

While we were out there, he called my mom since she hadn’t responded to the text he sent letting her know we were going to the hospital to get checked. I could hear her surprise based on his responses.

Finally at ~7:45pm, they called us back and Martha met us at the door. I think we exchanged some pleasantries, lol! (Either your daddy or I overheard the lady who checked us in saying it probably wasn’t real labor because I looked too normal.) The triage room was small and hot…or maybe it was just me. I lied down and Martha told me that they were going to listen to see how you were doing and check to see how my cervix was. I don’t remember which happened first.

The monitor was extremely uncomfortable but your heartbeat sounded good. When Martha did the cervical check, I could tell that I was pretty far along. She said: You’re complete (10 cm dilated)! We’re having a baby tonight. I was literally shocked. At that point, Mike updated our folks and told Yolanda to come on up.

Once my progress was confirmed, I asked one of the nurses in the room if I would still be able to have a water birth since that’s what I had planned for.

Her: Well you’re complete and the tub takes 45 minutes to an hour to fill up so…

Me: Soooo…..what?

Her: We can try….

Me: Yes, let’s try. Thanks.

Pretty soon, it was time to head to Labor & Delivery. They wheeled me out of triage and into the room where I would have you. (Whaaaaat???) It was like an out-of-body experience.

Since we were so pressed for time, considering I was already complete and according to the nurse takes 45 minutes to fill the pool, I was very disappointed to discover that they hadn’t already gotten the pool set up, but eventually they started making moves.

In L&D, someone dimmed the lights and everyone talked in pretty quiet voices. Everyone except Nurse Jackie, that is. She came in the room loud AF and I was praying someone would tell her to shutup so I didn’t have to be that lady in labor. I think she eventually realized it wasn’t that kind of party.

After getting into the room, I spent most of the time on my back with my left leg propped up. For some reason, that was most comfortable. But over time, lying on my back was becoming more and more uncomfortable during contractions. I asked Yolanda if I could try walking around, but as soon as I stood up, I knew that wasn’t going to work.

One of the nurses asked if I wanted to try hands and knees and said that it may relieve some of the pressure on my back. So I got into that position and stayed there until the pool was ready.

The contractions became more intense and closer together. Per my Hypnobabies instruction, I imagined each one like a surge or wave with a distinguishable crest. As the surge was building, I pictured myself walking up the zig zag bridge in Pamplona, Spain, my “safe place” that I created during Hypnobabies practice. As each surge died down, I pictured myself walking down the other side of the bridge.

I don’t remember at what point Martha determined I had a “bulging bag,” but I remember thinking I could feel it and wishing it would pop to relieve some pressure and/or move this show along. Yolanda recommended rocking back and forth but that wasn’t comfortable, so I stayed still.

Finally…FINALLY…after what seemed like ages, the birthing pool was ready. I later found out that they hooked up the hose to THE. SINK. FAUCET. to fill the tub. No wonder it takes an hour!

It was definitely a struggle to stand and move towards the pool. I faced the window, dropped to my knees, and slung my arms over the side. The relief was immediate (as long as I kept my lower back out of the water…it actually wasn’t comfortable for my lower back to be submerged). From this point on, time escapes me, but I know it wasn’t long before things started happening.

Up until that point, I had been silent – no moaning, groaning, etc. But when I finally felt that uncontrollable urge to push, I let out a noisy shudder. I think it startled Mike because he got a little panicky for a second. Yolanda was able to keep me calm and suggested blowing my lips like a horse. This was probably the most helpful thing she said in our whole doula experience. The lip-blowing really helped my body relax and not fight against the contractions.

(I wanna pause here to say that the fetal ejection reflex is the most incredible experience I have ever had in my life. I pray that I never forget that feeling, ever.)

Pretty soon after the urges started, I said: I felt a pop. I think my water broke. I was thinking it would finally be time to push, but it turns out Martha wasn’t even in the room! She was in a C-section. (Omgggg Martha! What the F&$%???!!!)

Soon, she made it back to the room, and I just KNEW things were finally about to pop off, but everybody was just standing around. I was so confused… Then I realized, they’re waiting on me. I’m running this show. My body is running this show.

It was a literal lightbulb moment that completely redefined labor for me in a way that I will never forget. I remember at some point someone—maybe Martha—saying: She doesn’t even need us. She could do this by herself. Not entirely true, but it was nice to hear.

There were some issues with finding a Doppler that would work underwater for them to check your heartbeat. (This isn’t the last supplies issue we would have that night.) Eventually they found a solution and everything was sounding good.

During these urges to push, I could distinctly tell where your head was. I was trying to allow my body to do the “pushing” with minimal interference from me. “Breathing the baby down” and all. While Martha was checking me out, she commented that if I had been lying down, they would be able to see your head, so I knew I was close. 

I decided that I wanted your head out in the next contraction. It was the oddest sensation. I could feel and picture my pelvis spreading in either direction, making space for you.

At this point, the contractions consisted of the same surges as before, but at the crest of the surge was the urge to push. Once I felt that urge, I bore down and pushed your head out. The relief of crowning was immediate. Martha told us the head was out and said to push the rest of your body out, but I didn’t. She asked if I was having a contraction, and I told her no. It was over, so I didn’t want to force it.

So we agreed that on the next contraction I would push you out completely. We were on the downward slope and I knew it was almost over. During the next contraction, I gave a big push—before I even felt the urge, I’m pretty sure—and Martha told us we had a baby (!!!). I couldn’t believe I did it!

I looked at your dad and he had the biggest smile on his face. Martha slid you under the water through my legs and made sure I knew to grab you and pull you out of the water all at once. So that’s what I did, and you immediately reached for me and grabbed my earring!

I started patting you, rubbing your back along with the nurses and Martha to try to get you to make some more noise and “pinken up.” The staff seemed concerned (though I wasn’t), so Martha said they would be cutting the cord so they could get you over to the warming station.

A few things we didn’t realize until later:

  • 1) Mike didn’t hear what Martha said about cutting the cord, so he didn’t realize that the cord was already cut until he saw it detached from me.
  • 2) Since your head came out facing Martha, we didn’t realize you had a nuchal cord (cord around your neck) and a cord around your leg.
  • 3) I didn’t realize they had called the NICU team in because they were concerned about your breathing.

The reason I didn’t know about the NICU team was because at the same time, they were trying to get me out of the pool and onto the bed to deliver the placenta. But as soon as I tried to lift that first leg out of the pool I started shaking uncontrollably. It was sooooo cold. Once I finally got back onto the bed, I needed blankets, but guess what? There were no warm blankets! Bruh…

To “compensate”, they put a gown and some thin sheet over my chest (…*crickets*…) which was doing absolutely nothing. Martha was helping to deliver my placenta and soon told me to help by pushing. The placenta came out whole, but I was still bleeding more than they wanted me to be. Fortunately, it stopped.

She also let me know that I didn’t have any tears (yassss!!). Martha continued helping get the blood clots out by “massaging” my uterus. Massaging sounds pleasant, but it actually hurt worse than almost anything leading up to it.

Meanwhile, I was looking for updates about you since I couldn’t see what was going on over there. Mike told me you were doing fine and pretty soon, they brought you over for skin-to-skin. I don’t recall if you latched during our first skin-to-skin session.

Once I was cleaned up and the Walking Dead pool was drained and removed, Nurse Jackie asked if I wanted my friend to come in now. Your Aunt Jami had been there for a while and came in the room to visit. Soon after she left, your Uncle Ronnie and Uncle KJ got there. It wasn’t until a little after midnight that my mom arrived, and soon after, we were moved to Mother-Baby…with our baby!

Reflections on this black woman birth story

Looking back on the time leading up to us deciding to head to the hospital, it seems like my body was preparing for the hospital and a baby and my brain was clueless. All along, I had been saying I wanted to labor at home for a while before going to the hospital, but in NO way was I imagining arriving at the hospital at 10cm.

I pictured sitting on the couch with your dad and my mom…maybe Yolanda…and anticipating going to the hospital and processing the fact that we were going to meet you. The thing that made all of this so overwhelming was I didn’t have time to process anything that was happening. Not only did I not have time to process your conception, I didn’t have time to process your birth. Everything just happened so fast and I ended up relying on whatever I had on reserve at that time to deal with it.

The Hypnobabies resource is actually a perfect example of that. I hadn’t finished the course; I was only 3 weeks in. I didn’t manage to get the tracks from the computer to my phone, though I was trying to during the whole pre-hospital denial phase. I brought my laptop in the car but didn’t bring it inside the hospital. We left the birth partner’s guide booklet at the house. I didn’t consciously use the finger-drop or light-switch techniques during labor.

But I did envision my safe space – the zig zag bridge in Pamplona. I treated each contraction like a wave or surge. I constantly told my body to relax and controlled my breathing. And I was able to remain in this relaxed state even between contractions, with my eyes open, and while moving. This is the entire premise of Hypnobabies, and I’m so thankful I decided to learn more about it.

I didn’t recite Hypnobabies affirmations, but I did give myself frequent pep talks. I reminded myself that pain is a temporary thing and told myself that pressure is pleasurable (That one I made up on the spot, but it is similar to the Hypnobabies idea that pressure waves, aka contractions, can be pleasurable and feel good.) I prayed on several occasions and took to heart Martha, Yolanda, and the nurses telling me that I was doing a beautiful job.

In full transparency, there were moments when I was debating whether I would ever do this again. Like, for real, what would life be like with only one child? Several times while rocking on my hands and knees, I prayed to God not to let me lose my mind up in here, up in here. But for the most part, I was able to overpower the negative thoughts.

Even though my mom didn’t make it in time, it was probably for the best. I don’t know that she would have been calm enough to match the vibe we had going on. I’m sad that your daddy didn’t get to cut the cord, and I was surprised to learn that the NICU team had been called in for you. I genuinely had no idea. I suppose I was so distracted by having the shakes with no warm blankets. And I was still processing the fact that I had just pushed a human out of my body and was now a mom! Fortunately, you were healthy—a solid 7 lb 2.5 oz and 19 ½ inches.

From 7:45pm check-in to 10:36pm birth, it was one of the best nights of my life.

To anyone reading this, I don’t share this story to brag or to claim that this is the only way to birth. Or even that there is a right and wrong way. I’m a pharmacist. I know science. I know evidence-based medicine. I know hospital culture. I also know sterile compounding, adverse events, and hospital-acquired infections.

Because of that knowledge and my scoliosis, I decided that I wanted to give birth without a needle being inserted into my spine. I researched like crazy and I conditioned my body (as much as I could) to prepare to birth without the assistance of drugs. But realistically, I could have done everything I did and still experienced a completely different outcome.

I did not intend to labor at home for as long as I did, and I’m thankful that both Tre and I were okay. My hope is for all pregnant women to do their research and know their options, and also to choose prenatal care providers – whether midwives or OBs – that respect them and that they respect and trust in return.

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