When I was nearing the end of my pregnancy with Hooper, I found myself on the internet reading birth story after birth story. I needed inspiration. I needed a light at the end of the tunnel. I needed confirmation that at some point, this growing little human would make an exit. This time around, I have only a slight advantage in having giving birth once already though I still feel the anxiety in not knowing how Van’s story will start. In any case, I thought I would share Hooper’s birth story and in-turn ask that others leave either a link to or snippet of their own birth stories. I’m in need of a little inspiration today Here’s how Hooper’s life started:
Everyone had selected dates they guessed Hooper would arrive. Most were in the latter part of October. My Grandma Lu picked November 2nd, I believe the latest of anyone. Along came his due date of November 5th, and still no Hooper. Suddenly I felt a pressure I had never anticipated. I started to feel like everyone was waiting on me to do something I had no control over. Of course the combination of my own expectations and perhaps pregnancy hormones fed this anxiety. In any case, I started to feel like Hooper was NEVER going to come out of me. I couldn’t even imagine how labor would begin because I felt so darn normal. I found myself on the internet reading birth story after birth story for some sort of hope. I hung onto other women’s stories: “I woke up with contractions”, “Suddenly my water broke”, “I looked at my husband and told him this was it!” I kept imagining how my own story would begin. And then the days kept passing, accounting for one of the most emotionally draining times of my life. Fielding phone calls, text messages, emails, neighbors’ inquiries, and so on in regards to if the baby had arrived only aggravated my own anticipation of Hooper’s arrival. I preferred to dig a hole and live in it at this point in my pregnancy. For such an easy pregnancy to end with this unexpected emotional turmoil was exhausting.
Once we passed the due date, we began following up with the midwives’ back-up OB. We saw Dr.Kline a few times and kept getting the green light to continue waiting. On one end of the spectrum, this meant we got to keep with the intended plan of a natural birth at home. On the other end, it meant I had to continue to endure the waiting game.
Forty-one weeks came and went and suddenly there was what felt like an expiration date placed on his birth: We were told, “You have until next Monday to have this baby at home. If he doesn’t come in that time, we need to induce you at the hospital.” Just when I thought the pressure could build no more. I walked and walked and walked. I tried herbs. I bounced on the birthing ball. I watched entire episodes of “Cops” in the squatting position. I rocked on my hands and knees. I climbed stairs. I bounced down the hallway. I ate lots of pineapple. We went to Los Toros for their spicy salsa. I went to acupuncture. We drove to Studio City for some infamous salad others swore would induce labor. I tried castor oil. Nipple stimulation. I talked to Hooper, begging him to come out. I had Willy sternly plead for the same. Nothing worked and with each passing day labor seemed more and more impossible.
We returned to the OB on Monday, November 15th (41 weeks, 4 days). Hooper underwent another non-stress test. While on the monitor he had a prolonged deceleration, meaning that during one of my contractions his heartbeat dropped for an extended period of time. I remember the OB saying, “Game over. He has to come out.” Off to the hospital we went, tears streaming down my face. I was grieving the loss of my so thoughtfully and passionately planned home birth while also juggling the new worry of Hooper’s ability to withstand the impending labor.
Willy dropped me off at the hospital and there I was, alone, on my way to the labor and delivery department. From this point forth, the story depends on a matter of perspective. Willy would tell quite a different story, but to hear that perspective you will have to talk to him. The following is told from the way in which I experienced it, head buried into the linens n’ all.
My midwife at the time, Sarah, used to use an analogy of a cat in labor. Cats disappear to give birth, hiding out in dark and secluded areas. It made sense to me when considering a home birth that at home was the most natural place to birth. Being asked to push on a hard table under bright fluorescent lights didn’t seem conducive to a natural pushing environment, to me. When I reached the labor and delivery department, the charge nurse greeted me. She put an arm around me and sympathetically said, “I know this isn’t the scenario you planned on.” Tears raced down my face. I was escorted to my room and introduced to my nurse who gave me a gown to change into, started my IV, filled out admission paperwork, and started my Pitocin. When exploring my fears the week prior, this was my number one: hooked up to Pitocin in a hospital. So now not only was I dealing with a major change in plans, but now I was the cat in labor with all eyes on me.
Sarah was the first to arrive. She helped me come to terms with what I had originally envisioned versus where I was now. We talked through the hallway, listened to music, and meditated in preparation for the work that lay ahead. It was difficult for me to get in the “laborland” zone. I knew deep down that I couldn’t mentally go down that road until the pain took me there. In due time, the pain did take me there.
Willy showed up not too long after Sarah. I sensed a bit of relief on Willy’s part that we were in the comfort and safety of a hospital setting. Though he understood my reasons for home birth and we eventually came to see eye to eye, I think the hospital setting offered him security a home birth could not. Nonetheless, he was sympathetic to the loss of the home birth I was dealing with. We spent these hours happily anticipating the arrival of our son and anxiously awaiting the painful contractions that would get us there.
The Pitocin did little in the way of strengthening my contractions. Though they were coming more frequently, they were not painful. I knew without pain, there would be no baby. The nurse would come in every half an hour or so and adjust the Pitocin levels. Sarah suggested having my water broke to speed things up. At 5pm, a nurse midwife came in and broke my water. Within minutes, real labor began. Carly, the midwife apprentice was also by my side. And thank God for her.
Time soon fell by the wayside. Everything started happening so fast. After an hour of what was now painful contractions, I was told I was 4 centimeters. Having come in already dilated to 3cm, I felt discouraged. An entire hour of pain for one whole centimeter? I had many conversations with myself throughout my labor and at this point I was asking myself: Can you really do this? I walked a bit more. Time passed. Next time the nurse came in, I was 6cm. This was the toughest stage for me. It still seemed like a lot of work with little reward. I wanted so desperately to ask for an epidural, but I could not even muster up the effort to put words together to form a sentence. Contractions were coming so fast that all I could mutter was “Pressure!” as the next contraction started. Carly and Willy applied counter pressure to my knees and low back. I cannot explain the relief, I can only say I honestly do not think I could have done it without their help. I was having tetanic contractions as a result of the Pitocin.
Things started moving so fast, the thought of an epidural completely vanished. I knew I was capable of what was ahead. Somewhere around 7cm dilated, my nurse pushed the emergency button because of the tetanic contractions I was having. A slew of people rushed in. Not only was I not getting a break between contractions, but Hooper’s heart rate was dropping as a result. I was given an injection of some sort to slow down my contractions. (Yes, if you are paying close attention, I was given Pitocin to bring on the contractions and later given something else to stop all the contractions). The injection worked for the time being.
Sarah asked my new night shift nurse if it was possible to get out of bed. My previous nurse was a traveling nurse from another state and was not aware of the fact the hospital had battery pack fetal monitors that allow the birthing mother the freedom to walk and move. With the new monitor, I was able to get into the shower. Changing positions is not as easy as it sounds. Each time Sarah asked if I wanted to try a new position, I always gave the thumbs up. I wanted nothing other than to stay in the fetal position and wait for the pain to go away, but I also hung on to the hope that a change in position would bring some relief or new found comfort. Each time, I was wrong. No relief. No comfort. Nothing masks the pain of labor. Changing positions did, however, serve as a distraction. It represented a new goal, no matter how small. My goal with the battery pack monitor was to make it to the shower. Amy, the other midwife, took over at this point and helped me get onto a chair in the shower. I remember thinking, “Wow, all this effort, all this pain, all this discomfort just to be in agony under water”. But, the nurse came in and sure enough, I was 9cm. ALMOST there.
The emergency button was pushed again. The tetanic contractions returned. No break for me and again, Hooper’s heart rate was dropping. We were both working hard. I was given another injection to slow the contractions. I can’t say I remember there being much relief. The contractions still seemed to be coming one on top of another and the pain quickly reached a level that words cannot describe. The sounds that came out of my mouth were so far from being intentional. Rather, the moans and groans were a reaction I seemed to have no control over. I didn’t necessarily have the urge to push, but the contractions seemed to change (not for the better) and my body seemed to be pushing him out whether I liked it or not. Sure enough, I was 10cm.
I saw Dr.Kline enter the room and at that point in time, he looked like an angel. His presence meant one thing to me: I was almost done. Hooper would soon be in my arms.
Determined to make his entrance a memorable one, Hooper’s heart rate dropped again. I remember Amy instructing me to change positions, only this time there was a sternness to her voice. I turned to my left side (again, easier said then done). No improvement. Again, a stern voice instructed me to turn to my right side. No improvement. Next thing I know I am on my hands and knees, naked, being wheeled through the halls to the operating room. I’m hooked back up to a monitor there. My worst fear has become a reality: I am the birthing cat, longing for that dark secluded birthing environment, under the operating room lights. There was an anesthesiologist there asking me questions and I knew very well what this meant: c-section. I also knew Hooper and I had one more chance. The doctor’s last words before heading to the OR were: “Let’s check the heart rate one more time when we get there.” I looked over at Willy who, by this time, was pale white. I think I asked him if he was going to be okay. A nurse noticed the signs of a soon-to-be-passed-out dad, and Willy left the room. Hooper must have heard him because his heart rate was back up. Time to push. Willy returned.
Twenty three minutes later, at 1:49am, I delivered Hooper vaginally. I was a mom and Willy, a dad.
Complete and utter pride took over. I did it. I did it naturally in arguably the most unnatural environment. Giving birth to Hooper was the single most defining experience of my life. It was the most challenging, the most painful, the most euphoric, the most rewarding, and the most physical of feats. I still marvel over how my body was able to conceive, grow, and birth this miracle. Part Willy, part me. An incredible feeling. When I looked at Hooper for the first time, I knew I would never be the same. It took me three months to be able to put this story into words and I’m still not sure I can sufficiently capture the beauty in the ending.
Weight: 8lbs. 15oz.
Length: 22 inches