I am absolutely thrilled to feature a client’s birth story on the blog today! This client is near and dear to my heart. Her and her husband hired me fairly early on and it felt like we were old friends from the get-go. She used the GentleBirth app to help her prepare for a med-free birth and even though her birth had a different start than she anticipated, she did an amazing job going with the flow and keeping her mind steady and strong through it all. Thank you Peggy for bringing me along your amazing birth journey! You and Jerome are wonderful parents.
Without further ado, the beautiful birth story of sweet Felix, written by his mama.
“Felix was born bright and early on Thursday, November 14th, 2019 at 5:23am at Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley. He came into the world with bright cries and wide eyes, just moments after being placed on my chest, he searched my face and made such alert eye contact with me, I knew I would remember that feeling forever. I can’t remember what the first thing I said to him was, but I think it was something like, “I’m your Mommy!”
I must warn you: the birth story is long because although my labor in the hospital was only 5-6 hours, the process of getting me there was a long few days of prodromal labor and false alarms.
The Start: Our False Alarm
His birth story starts actually several days even before his arrival. I was 39 weeks pregnant, Jerome had already started working from home in preparation for Felix’s arrival. We joked that we wanted him to be born on November 11th because all other errands that we needed to run would be done by then and also because 11/11 would look so cool. So, to wake up at 3am on November 11th to my usual nightly visits to the toilet and find a bit of red spotting after wiping, I immediately shouted to Jerome, “Blood!” knowing that we learned in our birth class that this could be a sign of the “bloody show” or a symptom of labor to come. I texted our doula Katelyn to confirm, even though it doesn’t mean we were anywhere close to going to the hospital, I wanted to be sure! Katelyn confirmed it could be but to keep her posted and most importantly, go back to bed and get some rest if labor is coming! We went back to sleep, try as we might, excited that maybe our baby was coming that day. Sure enough, I woke up again at 5am to some cramping and even more of what was sure to be “bloody show,” so much of it, that I was actually a bit concerned.
The next morning, because I kept having spotting and blood but no contractions, I called my OB Dr. Chandler to be sure nothing was wrong (Googling was the worst). Since I wasn’t having any cramping or contractions and because it wasn’t mucousy, Dr. Chandler insisted I just get checked out at labor and delivery and make sure to go to my doctor’s appointment with her the next day. When I let Katelyn know my OB wanted us to go to labor and delivery to be sure, Jerome and I went into GO MODE — he gathered all our go bags, the TENS unit, everything we thought we may need if we were suddenly to deliver that day.
When we got to the hospital, they strapped me into the monitors to make sure the baby was okay and to see if I was having contractions. I surprisingly had maybe one mini contraction but I didn’t feel it. All the monitoring indicated things were fine and excitingly enough, I was already about 2.5cm dilated. Nonetheless, not enough to move forward and we were sent home and informed the bleeding was just my cervix ripening. I was honestly relieved because I knew that my plan with our doula was to labor at home as long as possible before having to go to the hospital.
But then 11/11 came and went and I felt maybe some light cramping here and there, irregular very mild contractions but not intense enough or close enough together to be called labor. I have to admit, the next morning on November 12th, I woke up and burst into tears, feeling so disappointed that my baby boy hadn’t arrived yet. We were so hyped up when we grabbed all our belongings for the hospital, prepared to maybe meet him already. I found myself strangely feeling like I missed him, like you miss someone you love that’s been away for a while, but how could I miss someone I have never met? That maternal love, man…it’s strong.
The next day, with my scheduled OB appointment with Dr. Chandler, she confirmed that what I was experiencing was something called prodromal labor – something like a pre-labor before the actual stages of labor where you have irregular real contractions but they aren’t consistent. Luckily, she confirmed that my cervical dilation was proceeding and I was now 3cm dilated. I couldn’t help but ask if any of that indicated when he would come — which it didn’t because some women can walk around for days at 3cm and not go into labor. We went home with no baby boy again and reminded ourselves to just live our life as normal.
The First Contractions
That night was when I started having a bit more of these contractions that were far apart, not super intense, but definitely contractions. To speed along this story (since at this point, it was mostly me letting Jerome know when I had a contraction so he could input it into our contraction timer app), we were in constant texting communication with our doula, Katelyn, including Jerome sending screenshots of how far apart the contractions were and everything. At one point there had been some contractions that were actually 3 minutes apart (the plan for when to go to the hospital was the 3-1-1 rule, contractions that are 3 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute each, going on for 1 hour). But they were not intense at all, were not 1 minute apart and were not consistently going on for an hour. But, it was definitely a restless night as each contraction would wake me up, even though they would sometimes be as far apart as 10-15 minutes.
The day before Felix’s actual birth, we spent all day timing my contractions that were now growing in intensity but plateauing for most of the day at 7 minutes apart. They were intense enough that we started using the TENS unit for comfort, or Jerome would practice the massage techniques Katelyn taught him. But, we were able to do things like binge-watch BoJack Horseman on Netflix (pausing the TV every time I had a contraction), go for walks and I think I even ate some nachos during a contraction. They were definitely getting intense, to the point where I started having to make sure I was going on all fours and deep breathing through them. But, they were tolerable and because of all the work I had been doing with the GentleBirth meditations from Katelyn, I knew that we still had time to continue to labor at home comfortably and cope through each surge.
The day came and went and night approached where I was still contracting about 7 minutes apart with varying intensity and varying lengths, I was not looking forward to another night where I could not sleep through contractions. Sleep was bad enough as as pregnant woman, having to have contractions wake you up every 7-10 minutes was not fun. I finally was able to close my eyes and rest for 15 minutes with no contractions, only to be woken up by a strong urge to pee. As I got up from laying on my side, I was punched in the soul by the most intense contraction I had had yet.
From there, everything changed.
Suddenly, I was getting more and more contractions getting closer and closer together, and more and more intense. Jerome would keep timing them and keep repeating the mantra to me from our GentleBirth meditations (“I am calm, confident and in control.”) while I kept asking him, “Was that 3 minutes apart yet? How about now?” and luckily Jerome decided to just not tell me because I was clearly getting obsessed with wanting to be able to get this labor started ASAP! As they started to definitely be 3 minutes apart, I kept asking Jerome if it was time to go to the hospital, but again, the plan was 3-1-1 so we needed to make sure these were consistently happening for an hour.
And so they did.
We luckily never took our go bags out of the car from our Monday false alarm to the hospital, so we were on the road in a jiffy. Jerome texted Katelyn who said to let her know once we got there what my cervical dilation was and she would meet us there. I had 3-4 more contractions in the car while this happened and continued to breathe through them.
I declined a wheelchair when we got to the hospital since I knew I could still walk even though the contractions were getting stronger, I walked myself into labor and delivery to a gaggle of nurses right at change of shift. I think when I introduced myself to the charge nurse, I awkwardly and calmly said, “Hi, I’m having contractions that are 3 minutes apart?”
My nurse went ahead and got me checked in at 11pm and did a cervical exam to see how far I’d dilated — turns out I was already 6-7cm dilated! We learned in childbirth class that that meant we had already completed the first two stages of labor and were already approaching the last and hardest one before pushing?! I couldn’t help but feel like a badass that I was able to have contractions getting me 7cm dilated all at home and knew it had to do with my amazing doula’s coaching, the meditations, Jerome’s calm support and eating all those damn dates for weeks. But, the work was not done yet. Time to keep having contractions until I can push!
Laboring in the Hospital
Katelyn arrived quickly and my heart felt full when she showed up because I knew my core birth team of Hubby and Doula were now here. We kept going through different positions every time I had a new contraction and dimmed the lights in the room, played some spa music and moved around. At this point, I was really able to feel all the contractions and they were exactly how my meditations helped me visualize them: as waves on a beach that peak and then recede. Because of this imagery, I was able to actually focus on how relieving the end of the wave was, versus focusing entirely on the peak of the pain. My breathing even started to match that of the wave: starting softly, breathing heavier and then slower when the contraction started to fade. I remembered the GentleBirth affirmation that “every surge brings me closer to my baby” and focused on the fact that each wave meant Felix was coming.
The rest of the night becomes a bit of a blur because of the contractions, but it continued of me breathing, Katelyn and Jerome providing comfort measures like massage, encouraging words, breathing coaching. At one point, the nurse came in and said she had seen plenty of unmedicated births before, but was so impressed with how in control I was, which only further encouraged me to keep at my coping skills (“I am calm, confident and in control!”) and was still able to chat with Katelyn and Jerome in between contractions, even though when they were happening, I felt like my whole body was going through the most primal animalistic reaction. At one point, I even recall mentioning Saoirse Ronan (because the GentleBirth meditations are narrated by an Irish woman) but then told Katelyn, “Wait I think she’s Scottish because we just watched Mary Queen of Scots.” (she’s not, she’s Irish.)
Here’s the thing: yes, I was having these casual conversations but every time a contraction came on, I swear I was turning into a cavewoman and found myself making noises I never thought I could make. It blew my mind that my body could do this: one moment, recommending places that my doula should visit in Scotland and a second later, feeling like my whole body was being taken over from head to toe and grunting like a Neanderthal. Seriously, the body in labor is magical.
The on-call OB came by around 3am to break my water since apparently my water hadn’t broken. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do this, but Katelyn discussed with me that breaking my bag of water could speed things along quicker. And it definitely did.
Breaking the Water
After they broke my water, it was contraction after contraction after contraction. Although people keep telling me they were so impressed at how in control I was the whole time, after breaking my water, I definitely transformed into that primal animalistic cavewoman. I was gripping onto everything, breathing low gutteral noises, eyes closed for so much of it. I think at some point they came by to do another cervical exam, which sounds awful when you’re having contraction on top of contraction but they confirmed I was now closer than ever, but I could not push yet. I started to have contractions where I felt like I wanted to poop so bad (a sign that it’s time to push!) but we needed to make sure I was dilated fully for that.
I can’t remember how or when, but suddenly we were now ready for pushing and a flock of people apparently flooded my previously dimly lit spa-like room, lights went on, stirrups went up, and at that point I remember not being able to open my eyes at all. I strongly protested doing any laboring on my back so they let me start pushing on my side, with poor Jerome having to hold up my right leg (he did NOT anticipate being this close to the great reveal of our son!).
What everybody tells you about pushing feeling like pooping is so true. I am so glad I was told this because then I focused on that part of my body and tried to push the biggest poop out of my body. The funny part is, I envisioned myself pushing and delivering Felix in a squat position because if pushing is like pooping, who poops on their back? However, the squat bar wasn’t comfortable and I just instinctively decided to lay on my side to push instead (which is also how my sister pushed!).
At some point, I was far enough along in pushing that the OB came in and insisted I be on my back because she doesn’t usually deliver babies with moms on their side or something. I was too focused on pushing to protest at that point. I would push and could literally feel him going lower and lower and I couldn’t help but keep asking, “is he almost here yet? How many more pushes?” to which nobody has an answer to of course, other than, “keep going, you’re doing great!”
They asked if I wanted to reach down and feel his head as it was starting to show just a little and I hadn’t wanted to in my original plan, but I did anyway and it was wet and a little squishy, to which I responded, “Oh ew.” The rest of the team had a good chuckle at that, I remember. As I pushed more, they also offered a mirror which I had also originally not wanted, but at this point, whatever it would take to help get him out of me. He indeed was coming out and it looked blue/black (his hair! So much hair! And blue because wouldn’t you be blue if someone was squeezing your head?!).
Finally, the OB said, “I think this next contraction is the one.” Me: “Just one push?” OB: “Maybe one or two.” That did it for me. I was getting him out of me.
I don’t remember what anybody was saying to me after that, but I knew he was out. I finally laid back, eyes still super shut from pushing, and someone placed this squirmy tiny little baby on my chest for the first time. He cried and was so tiny and squirmy, and yet warm and soft. At that moment, all I wanted to do was hold him and stare at him and nobody else in the room mattered. He was finally finally here and he made me his Mommy.”