I can’t believe it’s been over a month since Lucia was born! So much has happened this past month that I’m still trying to process it all. I wanted to try to write down my birth story while it was still semi fresh in my head. There are lots of parts I don’t remember and the time during those few days of labor seems continuous with no clear markers of day or night or this time or that time. I’ll try to write it anyways. It’s a long one!
Going into this birth I had read literally everything I could get my hands on about natural birth. I had read every home birth story, seen every video, practiced meditation, did birth affirmations, you name it. By the time 40 weeks rolled around I was ready and starting to get a little antsy for Lucia to make her arrival. The night of April 8, a Tuesday, I was really struggling to get into a good ‘mental space’ if you will. I was anxious and worried and just feeling really off emotionally. I doubted whether or not I should have my midwife at my birth or if I should go it ‘alone’ using only my two doulas. I went outside to look at the moon at my husband’s request and when I came back my water started leaking. Holy shit, this was real. I started shaking with nervousness and excitement and called my doula to let her know. I ended up being too excited to sleep that night; that turned out to be a mistake! I was feeling very light contractions through the night and into Wednesday morning, nothing intense enough to get the doulas or midwife there just yet. On Wednesday Hubby and I relaxed, watched movies, ate and went for a walk, trying to get the contractions to come on stronger. Every time I lay on my left side they would get more intense so I did that for as long as I could. The doulas called and said that they wanted to see me and so they would be over around 7 or 8 PM, almost 24 hours since my water had started leaking. By the time they had gotten here things had picked up a little but I still didn’t need help getting through so the doulas went next door to get some sleep and told me to call them when I was in need of some help. Around 12:00 AM hubby called them back over as things had intensified quite a bit. One of my doulas, Morella, showed me how to work through the contractions using the labor ball and how to breathe into the contractions rather than wasting energy moaning through them. Things continued to intensify and hubby was told to leave us ladies to it for awhile. I didn’t know this at the time and I remember wondering where he had gone. This continued into Thursday morning and early afternoon. At one point things got very intense, I got sick and thought I was in transition (into pushing stage). One of my doulas asked hubby to boil water, as they both thought the baby would be born soon. But then, nothing happened. Things stalled. I remember knowing that they stalled but not knowing why. Like there was some mental or physical block that was preventing me from going any further and I started to get discouraged. By this time my water had actually broken too so in the back of my mind I knew that meant we were ‘on the clock’ so to speak. I also knew that there was a chance the baby was posterior, not an ideal position, because of the placement of the pain on my lower back and tailbone. Unfortunately, I knew from all my research that posterior babies could take longer and that labor was often more difficult. I decided not to focus on this and instead just kept plugging away.
The doulas, sensing that labor had stalled, asked my husband back into the labor space and the doulas went to take a nap. They thought they had to get my oxytocin levels up again, something that only hubby could help me with. I don’t remember what time it was but I remember it being light out so it must have still been Thursday afternoon. We decided to do some squats together in the kitchen with each contraction to try to keep labor progressing. Our alone time was so nice and it was amazing to work together, just him and me, to try to get the baby down. Then we tried to do the same in the bedroom for a couple hours. I felt like pushing and hubby went to get the doulas back from their nap. I had a lot of fluid coming out at this point and the pain was incredibly intense.. More fluid, more pushing, more pain, no more progress. We called the midwife. She arrived around nighttime, just before dark. She checked me and I was about a 6. I thought that was okay and not as bad as I had imagined. I suggested we then go into the bath so that my husband could spray hot water on my back; it was starting to get dark at this point. We kept working. At my midwife’s suggestion, I lay on the bed for 30 minutes on my left side with my husband helping me to try to turn the baby and get her in a better position. Nothing changed though the contractions were much stronger in this position. Back I went to the bathroom for an actual bath and Morella poured hot water on my belly. After a couple more hours, my midwife checked me and I was 9 cms. Hubby passed out around midnight; it had been a couple days without sleep at this point. More of the same. I then began pushing on the birthing chair, to no avail, for hours with a doula and my husband behind me, taking turns. I was sleeping in between contractions, or conversational. My husband told me later that at this point I was making snarling and growling noises, moaning and then yelling occasionally at the height of the contractions. I don’t remember much from this stage but my husband said that at this point it sounded like I was in more pain. I was certainly more exhausted and said I maybe couldn’t do this anymore. It was now Friday morning around 3:00 AM. My midwife did a final check of her heart rate and mine and then said it was time to make a decision. We would try one last thing and if it didn’t work, it was time to go to the hospital. The doulas took a sheet and wrapped it around my hips and while I squatted with each contraction they tried to pull my pelvis apart to widen it. Yeah, it was as fun as it sounds. After this I remember giving in essentially. After days of labor, no sleep, barely any food, days of broken water and intense contractions, the baby wasn’t descending and I was completely dilated. I knew it was time to go to the hospital. This had been my only fear the entire pregnancy and planning of my homebirth – that if something didn’t go right, I would have to leave my home, travel on our bumpy, dusty dirt roads in the midst of strong contractions, to be transported to the nearest public hospital, one that I had never been to before and knew was fairly ‘third world’. I begged for the team not to leave me alone at the hospital. I knew that my midwife could potentially get in some kind of trouble for taking me to a hospital she didn’t work at during a home birth transfer so I was very nervous I would have to go it alone.
So, I was scared shitless but I knew I had to accept the situation for what it was and focus now on getting her out safely. We all piled into my midwife’s car and my husband followed in ours. I was basically 10 cm at this point, having intense, almost pushing contractions, speeding down miles of incredibly bumpy dirt roads. When we finally got into Valparaiso I remember looking at all of the college students coming out of the clubs and bars on Errazuriz street, feeling very strange that something so life-changing was happening to me while these kids stood five feet away, going about the very normal business of having a good time. It was surreal because I knew I most likely wouldn’t be them ever again, at least not in the same way.
We rushed into the hospital and my midwife, sensing my nervousness, decided to be the best ever, risk her reputation and escort us in. Still having contractions, she got me set up on a bed in the L and D ward. At this point I could no longer breath and be calm through contractions and instead found myself screaming through them (my husband says he could hear me through the halls). I could no longer go without pain relief and begged for something even though I was 10 cm. They said that the anesthesiologist would be coming by and about an hour or so later, I was finally given some relief in the form of a low dose epidural (at least I think it was low dose, it must have been because of what happened next. I was so thankful at this point for relief; I was still able to feel the contractions but their intensity had diminished somewhat…) and after a blissful 15 minutes I decided I was ready to get this show on the road! They wheeled me into the adjacent room, called my husband in and I started pushing. After about 20 minutes of pushing she was out! They whisked her away immediately (which was awful) because she had had the cord wrapped tightly around her neck in addition to being in a very difficult position (she had to be rotated as she came out). And after what seemed like an eternity she started cooing and they brought her to us. Seeing her for the first time, with her misshapen head and big alert eyes, was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. We were able to just be with her as a family for about an hour after the birth while she figured out how to nurse and we loved on her, amazed that after the long journey she was finally with us.
The following few days were trying to say the least. Though the birth was straightforward and the midwife who helped me deliver her was capable and sweet, the majority of the staff at the public hospital was bossy and unfriendly and the policies were outdated and ridiculous (I couldn’t walk down the hall with my baby, wasn’t supposed to drink fizzy water, only milk or caffeinated tea, I was supposed to bundle her up as if we were in the tundra though it was 90 degrees in our ward, etc, etc.). It also didn’t help that I was in a room with 8 other women and their babies, with the lights on 24/7, which guaranteed someone’s baby was screaming incessantly at all hours of the day. When my mom came on the second of three days I was required to stay in the hospital, I cried (lots) of tears of joy. That night the wildfires started in Valparaiso dangerously close to the hospital – so close that we were forbidden from opening any windows (despite the intense heat) and nearly evacuated. On Sunday we were allowed to leave at last. We stared in awe and sadness at the scene as we carefully navigated the streets with our little girl in tow.
I will never forget the way her birth made me feel – resilient, brave and strong. Slight hiccup at the end withstanding, I think it went exactly according to plan.