I always envisioned my birth experience to be peaceful and perfect. I wanted a warm and serene labor; a place of solitude and power filled with motivational music, warm lighting, and mantras hung about my home(which I got for the most part). The moment after I would catch my baby was supposed to be filled with nothing but pure joy and happiness. Magic in the air. I wanted so much to be able to just bond and care for him. But child birth is unpredictable. I had a plan, a vision, but not everything goes according to plan all the time.
My due date came and went. We patiently waited for what felt like an eternity to meet our little boy. I was overdue and beginning to rack up late fees. At my 41 week appointment on March 22, 2017, I went for my weekly check-up at the Birth Center around 10:30 am. My midwife, husband and I decided to take some natural measures that would help me go into labor. I was hoping my baby would have decided to come on his own before then because I DID NOT want to do a membrane sweep. However, when the time came I decided to go for it and get the sweep. I preferred enduring minor pain and discomfort over going to the hospital at 42 weeks. Once my midwife performed the sweep, she gave me two labor tinctures (I don’t remember what was in them) and sent me home with some basic instructions… “Take turns drinking each tincture every 30 mins for 3 hours and use your breast pump”. On my way home I had some light cramping giving me the feeling that today would be the day! Roger and I thought it was so funny how instead of “rushing to the hospital”, we would just have to rush home because I was having a home water birth. When I got home around 12 pm, I did as she told me and boy those tinctures were absolutely disgusting and bitter! I can still remember the taste as if it were yesterday. By 1:30 pm, I knew I was in labor. All I kept thinking was, “are we ready? Is my house clean enough?!”. A part of me had a home birth because I am a bit of a germaphobe. At 2:30 pm my contractions were moderate but it was not time to call my midwife because my contractions were only 5-7 minutes apart lasting 30-45 seconds. I was waiting on the 5-1-1 rule. The 5-1-1 rule is when contractions come every 5 minutes, lasting a full minute for at least an hour. Roger and I were a bit anxious for my midwife to come because we were first timers and did not know how fast things can escalate. How would we know if it was too late or time to push? As time progressed, the contractions got stronger and closer together. Meanwhile, my husband and father in law prepared the birth pool and essentials as I sat on my yoga ball (the best for labor) and focused on myself and the music. By this time I was hardly aware of who was coming in and out of my house. All I cared about was for nobody to ask me any questions.
At 6 pm, it was time to call over my midwife. She arrived with her birth assistant/student and man was I happy to see her! Time becomes non-existent with pain. There is barely a timeline in my memories. Prior to these moments, I thought I would have control of my body and be able to create my own experience. As a side note; labor and pain is a beautiful thing. It makes us immerse ourselves completely within. I felt like I entered an abyss where time and space were immeasurable and unfathomable. I remember certain scenes, like flashbacks, of me swaying back and forth walking through my apartment leaning on my husband and humming the pain away as each wave came through. Everyone was exhausted and sleepy around me. I remember seeing everyone at one point either asleep or dosing off. The student left and my midwife’s birth assistant came. The pain sent shivers through my body but I remember just feeling so cold the whole time. Everyone was reminding me to eat and stay hydrated throughout but thats a bit difficult to do. At one point, I began to vomit and I felt so overwhelmed. At this point I am sure tears ran down my face. If not then I was for sure crying on the inside. I do not like vomiting and vomiting while having major contractions is overwhelming and not fun. Now I knew I was transitioning into active labor. To get even more personal, I had to use the potty several times… which I am thankful for because no one had to scoop poop in a tub since my contractions helped me clear out my bowels LOL. I caught my sister messing with the blinds trying to hide the light from me so I would not be aware of how much time had passed. It was 8 am the following morning and I was in disbelief that so many hours had gone by already. My midwife examined me to see how much I had dilated… 19 hours later, I was at 7 cm. I was not very happy to know that after so many hours and pain, I was ONLY 7 cm. My midwife then suggested I get into certain positions to help dilate and bring my baby lower. I hated this part. I was already in so much pain and discomfort and being in these positions for a set amount of time were adding to it. The positions were: Sit and face the toilet, squat down legs shoulder width apart while holding onto someone or something, and sitting on the edge of my husbands knees facing him (worse one). However, they seemed to have worked because after I pleaded to stop trying positions she checked me once again and told me I could start pushing on the couch as she did some perineal massages. There’s an old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. I am so grateful for my midwife because she did the massages and was so patient and let me push on my own cues. After a few minutes, I was ready to get into the birth pool.
When Push Comes to Shove
It was time to start pushing. I was surprised to learn that this stage of labor did not hurt as much, except for the extreme pressure and burning when the baby is crowning. The contractions become further apart, giving me longer breaks in-between each push to catch my breath and center myself for the next contraction. I felt like I couldn’t distinguish a contraction from the pressure and kept asking my midwife if I was having a contraction or whether she thinks I should push or not. I started to feel like my baby was crowning for too long so regardless of being sure I was having a contraction, I would push. I tried waiting for the next contraction but I couldn’t tell and waiting too long while he was crowning gave me tons of anxiety. My midwife was in awe with how much hair my baby had and when he crowned she was playing with his hair. I guess he didn’t like that because he started kicking me so hard inside. That is not pleasant! I quickly told her to stop. Now I am able to laugh at it but it was so weird at the moment feeling your baby kicking so much while he is crowned. Once his head was out she calmly unwrapped his umbilical cord from his neck. Yes, it is very common for babies to be wrapped. Most of the time it isn’t a problem unless the umbilical cord is too short and baby cannot descend. After some more pushing and time, her assistant drove her fist into my belly to help and shortly after that, baby was almost out. I reached down and caught my baby! It was such a magical moment. Everything was happening so fast yet so slow. It was hard for me to absorb it all in at first. That moment was indescribable and overwhelming. I did it! I couldn’t believe I did it. There were many times during my labor that I told myself and those around me “I can’t do it”.
My Baby Boy is Here!
When my precious baby boy finally came out into the world, his face and lips were extremely purple meanwhile the rest of his body was completely pale. I was so scared. He was not crying… They rubbed his feet and body and gave him air for about 10 minutes. His breathing sounded like wheezing and those 10-15 minutes were the longest 10 minutes of my life. Why was he not crying? Why was he so pale? Is there something wrong? This moment, the moment that I thought would be the perfect moment of pure bliss suddenly was a moment of internal terror and fear. Then FINALLY he burst into a loud cry! Once he started, he did not stop for a good ten minutes after that and I have never wanted to hear that sound more in my life than I did that moment. It was the best sound in the world. Finally I could rejoice. I was filled with tears of happiness. As I sat in the tub holding holding him, we were still connected through his umbilical cord. Family quickly came in to see him until it was almost time to push out my placenta. My husband then asked for a moment alone to say a little prayer and absorb the moment with me and our new bundle of joy. Soon after, I pushed out the placenta. My midwife was showing us the placenta and what its job was. Meanwhile, little did I know I was bleeding out. As I tried to listen to her, I was mainly focused on how much my tail bone hurt and holding my baby. I saw the amount of blood in the birth pool and did not think too much of it because I trusted my midwife would know if it was too much. The water turned dark burgundy in a matter of a minute. The parts of my body that were submerged were no longer visible. I was hemorrhaging. She bagged the placenta still attached to the baby and passed him to dad. The last thing I remember was her telling me it was time to stand up and get out of the pool. The moment I stood up, I was told that I fell right back in the pool. They tried for a couple of seconds to wake me up but I wasn’t coming back to consciousness so easily until she started slapping me awake. I vaguely remember what happened, but I remember opening my eyes and saw my midwife slap my face and calling out my name. I stayed awake for about five seconds before fainting again. My husband told me I kept fainting as they tried to wake me up. Finally, I woke up to the smell of a very strong scent of ammonia being shoved into my nose. I looked at my husband who was holding our baby boy to see his face in pure distress and fear as tears filled his eyes. I then looked down at my hands and they were absolutely pale! My nail beds no longer looked pink and full of life. Instead, I looked white and yellow. The midwife and assistant asked Roger (my husband) to call my sister who had been there throughout the whole night to come back up stairs for backup. My midwife looked at me as she was pressing and massaging my abdomen to get the blood clots out and told me she was going to give me a shot of Pitocin to stop the bleeding. She gave me Pitocin, an IV bag, as well as took my vitals. I was stable. My sister walked in and when she saw what was happening, she quickly went into the kitchen to contain her emotions and to inform my mother to not freak out in front of me. My sister told me she wanted to break down when she saw my face and lips were completely pale. She instantly knew something was wrong. I remember feeling extremely cold. My body was shaking. I was so weak I could hardly sit up on my own. I felt helpless as I stared at my baby while they performed the newborn screen exam on him and took photos. He was born 9.1 pounds and 21 inches long! Big baby!
The First 72 Hours
I was stuck on my couch for three days. Not being able to walk or stand, let alone sit up for too long. It was very hard on me physically and emotionally. The first day, I had to use a potty pan but that was not working out very well because I was so weak I could hardly push myself up in a way that I could use the pan without making a huge mess. After the second time using the pan, I refused to use it so my husband helped carry me to the bathroom. But after the first time trying that method, it was too exhausting for me, so instead he would sit me on our rolling desk chair and push me to the bathroom, then sit me on the toilet. These days were so hard. Not being able to get up from the toilet on my own without experiencing extreme fatigue and shortness of breath from just sitting on the toilet. I felt as if I had ran a marathon each time I used the bathroom. My heart would pump so hard you could see my pulse throbbing through my chest. I felt like my heart was going to give out. For the first three days I had extreme headaches. The second day, My midwife could not come visit me because she was attending another birth so she sent her assistant to come check on me. She took my vitals and asked me to stand up to see if I was any better. Stable vitals, but I still couldn’t stand for more than five seconds so she just told me to drink lots of iron and eat iron rich foods. By the third day, my midwife came to check on me and saw I had not improved. She took my blood and sent it to be tested with the results expedited. Those three days were hell. I wanted so badly to just be able to take care of my baby and myself but I had to depend on everyone around me. I am so thankful for all my loved ones who cared for us. Breastfeeding is hard enough but during this time it was even harder. Yet these moments I had to feel like I was caring for my little one were tender for me. Postpartum was very real. Emotionally I was a wreck. I think I did a good job of handling it the best I could but all I wanted to do was cry. I had my moments where I would confide in my husband when he would carry me to the bathroom and just crumble. Everything made me want to cry, it was uncontrollable. The hormones, the situation, the struggle, the difficulties… it was overwhelming. I will continue on postpartum in a different blog post.
The next morning, my midwife called at 6 am. My hemoglobin levels were at a 5.2. Normally at the hospital if you reach a 7, they automatically transfuse a bag of blood. I was instructed to go to the hospital as soon as possible and that my back up doctor was informed. My husband and sister packed my bags and we headed out. My mind was racing with so many thoughts. But finally, I felt like there would be light at the end of the tunnel. A shiny glimpse of hope. This was technically bad news, but it brought me hope because I felt like I could be fixed. My back-up OB doctor was waiting on my arrival at the Hospital. Normally you would go through emergency for a blood transfusion but I was told to go to labor and delivery to meet my doctor there. Once we arrived, my sister got off to ask security for a wheel chair and directions. Apparently they had no wheel chairs… My husband, began to get very upset and got out to ask for a wheel chair as well. I was surprised to see him walk out with an office rolling chair labeled “security”. He took one of the security’s chairs and rolled me up to labor and delivery! Everyone and I mean EVERYONE was staring at us. We got upstairs and they were shocked to see us coming through on a rolling office chair, let alone be there while not pregnant. The nurses were not informed that I was told to go there for a blood transfusion. Confused as to why I was told to go there and not the emergency room, they looked like deers caught in headlights. Once they got a hold of my doctor, the nurses were told to put me in a room and begin the transfusion promptly… they scurried about. The nurse who settled me in was NOT very happy but was trying not to be too rude since she saw I looked like I was dying. They all asked me with concerned looks on their faces as to what happened and why I had not come sooner. They told me how lucky I was to be alive and quickly set me up with the first of three bags of blood. The nurse who initially set me up couldn’t stay mad at me because instead of getting mad back at her I just continued to be nice and express my gratitude and appreciation for what she was doing. It’s hard to be upset with someone who is being nice to you.
The first nurse who was giving me a hard time told me my baby was not allowed in my room (knowing I would have to spend the night there). My sister offered to stay at home with my baby. I was so anxious because I did not want to be away from him let alone not breast feed him. What if he takes the bottle and refuses the breast later? What if I can not pump or get the milk to him? What if I had to give him formula? All these thoughts were racing through my mind. I was very set on giving him breast milk. I pumped while I could as much as I could and would send off about 2-4 ounces of milk with whoever came to visit. I was lucky to have the support I did. I am so grateful for it. No words will ever express my gratitude. That day just so happened to be the day my milk came in… worse day ever. My breasts were engorged, nipples were cracked and bleeding and throbbing with pain. They hurt so bad that I could hardly wear a single piece of clothing, not even a bed sheet over me. Lanolin and coconut oil were my best friends and modesty was not an option. I just want to briefly share with everyone how uncomfortable that delivery bed was! It was a two-piece inclined bed that pulled apart and was hard as a rock. How can anyone give birth on that thing! I was slipping down constantly so my tailbone felt like it was dislocating the whole time! In addition to that, my IV was shoved into my hand (even after I told the nurse it hurt, she told me theres nothing she could do). My breast were so engorged that it was painful to put my arm down. I had no energy to lift myself up and not fall down off the bed or feel like my tailbone was going to break. Being so uncomfortable gave me so much anxiety. It was a rough night with no sleep. Pain and pumping was what my night consisted of. After the the three bags of blood were transfused I went to the bathroom and knew I already started feeling a little better. I regained some color again. I knew I had a long recovery ahead of me but I felt so blessed and so thankful that I got the help I needed and could start feeling like myself again. I could begin to regain my strength and energy and be able to care for my baby.
It was time to go home and I could not be any happier! I was still in a lot of pain, engorgement, sleep deprived, HUNGRY and fatigued. On the way home I broke down. And once I got home, I broke down as well. Everything I previously mentioned was being heightened by my hormones and on top of it all the oddest thoughts came to mind. Will my baby know who I am? What if he does not want to be with me or breast feed anymore? So many unnecessary thoughts, but they were coming and I couldn’t stop myself from thinking them. Oh let me just mention that I live in an apartment on the fifth floor and my elevator was under construction for remodeling over a month and did not work. So I was wheeled down and wheeled up home in a half finished elevator. That was frustrating but quite the experience. All in all, it was all a lesson learned and recovery took some time. I was on a very intense iron diet until my iron levels spiked up again. If you think you are having a big baby, do not have a home birth because that means your placenta will probably be big (mine was about 2.5 pounds) and theres a bigger chance for hemorrhaging. My next baby would most likely be at a birth center located in a hospital just to be on the safe side. In case I have complications after delivery once again. I loved everything about my home birth experience before complications arose. I felt relaxed and free to labor how my body was meant to. It was beautiful and I will always cherish those precious moments. The great thing about giving birth is, after it all, you can’t remember the pain, just the joy. Magic and love fills the air and your whole universe shifts. My heart is so heavy with love and appreciation. A kind of love that moves mountains and spreads seas. I’ve learned so much about myself in this journey. I know I am capable of anything I put my mind on. I know my inner strength. I did it! I still can’t believe it.
I remember most of this story because it was filmed and photographed by my amazing photographer/sister. Her photography business name, “Barmaj Studios“.