This is the birth story of our sweet Cordelia. It is a long story, because we had a long and complicated birth with various tales. I thought about writing out a cliff’s notes version for the blog but in the end, it’s so hard to sum up everything that happened in those three days in a few paragraphs. Plus, I wanted to have this written somewhere while it’s (somewhat) fresh on my mind. So, you’ve been warned…this is basically a novel. ;)
When I found out I was pregnant I immediately started looking into a home birth. I have a completely irrational fear of hospitals and all that they entail, and I knew I was capable of having an all-natural birth. A home birth was, in my gut, the right choice for our family.
After we got moved in July, we immediately hired the amazing Dawn at Moments of Bliss Midwifery and Brandy of Willow Birth Services and started planning our home birth. I read all the books, I prepared myself with techniques for getting through a natural labor, we set up a birth plan, we bought the birth kit, we had a birth team, we got a perfect spot in the house set up with a birth tub, we made an amazing birth playlist (I may actually share this soon because it was so perfect), we bought healthy snacks and drinks to have during labor.. We did everything we were supposed to do. I was damned and determined to welcome our girl into the world in the comfort of our own home.
Five days after my due date, on a Monday morning, I turned off my phone because I was tired of “When is that baby going to be here?” and “Any baby yet?!” texts. (Side note: When a woman is overdue with her baby, maybe don’t ask her when her baby will be here. She doesn’t know. And you’re just reminding her that her baby is indeed not here yet. She’ll shout it from the rooftops when her baby arrives! haha.) I ended up getting fairly upset, so I sat on our front porch and wrote Cora a two page letter. I told her that it’s okay if she wants to take her time. The world is scary and some of us (myself included) aren’t capable of jumping in head first…we need time to think things through, plan our journey, feel comfortable, and slowly dip our toes in. And that’s okay. I promised her I would be brave and patient with her if she would be brave and patient with me. Little did I know, I had just made a very very big promise.
My water started leaking five hours later.
I say “leaking” because it wasn’t a gush or a constant trickle like I thought it would be. I was confused. It came out in small amounts at random intervals. I called Dawn and we agreed we would wait it out and see if it continued. (We later discovered I likely had a high leak, where fluid was leaking from the upper portion but was still intact around her head.) I took a long nap (I swear my body knew I’d need it) and woke up when Mark came home that evening. As soon as I got out of bed, more fluid leaked out. I called Dawn again and we agreed we’d let things take it’s course and I’d call her if things picked up. Mark and I made dinner, watched Big Bang Theory, and went to sleep. I received a text from Dawn at 6am checking in…nothing had happened. Not a single contraction. I started some self-induction techniques right away, and Dawn was at our house by 9am. I was only dilated to 1cm, she stretched me to a 3, and we began trying to kickstart my labor.
If there is any method for getting labor started, I tried it. Mark and I walked probably 15 miles in 90 degree heat on that Tuesday. I tried herbal remedies, homeopathic remedies, acupressure, castor oil, nipple stimulation, the Miles Circuit, bouncing on an exercise ball, etc, etc, etc. Contractions started that afternoon, but were mild and extremely sporadic. I also got my antibiotic shot around this time to ward off infection. Mark and I walked up and down our road all night with a couple of flashlights, looking at the full moon and listening to coyotes. Late at night we decided we all needed some rest, so I slept a tiny bit and woke up to Dawn wanting to check to see if we had gotten anywhere.
I was still only 3cm after 25 hours of trying to get labor started.
At this point I knew a decision had to be made. It had been over 36 hours since my water had broken but with no progression, I knew we needed assistance. I made the tough decision to go to the hospital.
I packed up a hospital bag and broke out into tears as I packed a bag for Cora. We didn’t have a “going home” outfit picked out for her because she was supposed to already be home. The 40-minute drive to the hospital was hard, and on the way I expressed all my hospital fears to my mom and Mark: I was terrified of Pitocin contractions, IVs, epidurals, catheters, and most of all a c-section. Horribly, sick-to-my-stomach terrified. That was everything I did NOT want out of Cora’s birth.
We got set up at OU Children’s and I was hooked up to an IV for Pitocin. This is where things got hazy, so some of this may be incorrect or all over the place but it’s how I remember them. Contractions picked up fast and hard, and I labored through them naturally for 15 hours either pacing my room or bouncing on an exercise ball. In that timeframe Dawn’s assistant Brandy put on her doula hat and I can’t even put into words how irreplaceable this woman was. (She was also gracious enough to take all the photos during my labor.) When she asked if I wanted to try laboring in the tub I wanted to hug her.. That tub. Ooooh that tub. I sat on an exercise ball while Mark sprayed my back and belly with hot water, the lights were off, and Andrew Belle’s “Black Bear (Hushed)” album played. As strange as it sounds, I fell asleep mid-contraction and apparently slept for awhile. Sitting straight up. On a ball. In the middle of labor. Mark says I was in there about half an hour, I felt like it was 3 minutes. Unfortunately the hot water was making Cora’s heart rate rise, so I got out. (Up until this point her heart rate had been perfect.)
Not long after getting out of the tub, they decided to check me. I was positive we were getting close to meeting our girl.. I was hurting. Contractions were intense and right on top of each other. I felt an insane amount of pressure, almost like I needed to poop. I just KNEW we were close and I was so excited to see how much longer we had to go.
I was still only 3cm.
My heart DROPPED when the doctor said that. I have never in my life felt such defeat. Upon checking me, she mentioned that my cervix felt very posterior. It appeared my uterus had tilted (possibly due to the high water break) and Cora was trying her hardest to get out but she was hitting my tailbone. The position she was in wasn’t allowing her to descend. I started various techniques to get things back in place but had no luck. Within a few hours, exhaustion hit. I got hysterical. I was given something to help me sleep and immediately passed in and out of a weird dream-like state for who knows how long. (Apparently a bunch of people came by my room to visit and I had no idea.) I could still feel contractions but I was so drugged up I don’t think I even registered them as painful.
When those meds wore off and I woke up, they wanted to try inserting an internal monitor. Of every moment of my labor, this is unfortunately what stands out the most. I have never in my life felt such pain, and they attempted it twice and were unsuccessful since my cervix was in such a weird position. When the doctors left, I rolled into a ball and lost every ounce of strength I had. Mark and I both had a total breakdown and just cried together. We were exhausted and worried. It was at this point I knew I needed rest above anything else, so I agreed to an epidural.
Let me just say.. I HATED getting that epidural. I’d go through natural labor all over again before I’d get another. It hurt and I hated having no control of my legs. I felt helpless. I did not feel strong and brave and capable. However, it was nice to rest. I slept for about 3 hours and they upped my Pitocin quite a bit hoping that would kick things into gear.
After 3 hours, I was still only dilated to a 5.
I specifically remember laying helpless in that bed and watching doctor after doctor and nurse after nurse come in and stare at my monitor in total confusion. At one point there were six people in there discussing what could be done. Eventually the on-call doctor sat down on my bed and we had a heart-to-heart. She was fantastic. She helped me weigh out my options but expressed fear in continuing labor since I had gone so long with my water broken. Cora’s heart rate was still great (I like to think she was keeping up her end of our “be brave and patient” promise) and I wasn’t showing any signs of a fever, but we were creeping into risky territory. She calmly mentioned a c-section and told me we could stick to what was left of my birth plan as much as possible…I could still hold Cora skin-to-skin after she was stable. At this point, I just wanted to meet our girl and it frustrated me knowing that Cora was trying to make her way out but couldn’t.
The doctor left to give us a minute to discuss our options, and I had someone wake Mark up. I had already decided it was time to go ahead and knock out all my labor and birth fears in a 24 hour time period.. We were headed for a c-section.
I never cried or got upset, but felt relief. I knew I was doing what was best for our family and I knew Cora wanted out as much as we wanted to hold her and this was the only way that was going to happen. I got back to the OR and started shaking uncontrollably from sheer adrenaline. Mark came in and unfortunately got to see me cut open since someone dropped the ball and forgot to go get him earlier, so it’s a good thing he’s a nurse and guts don’t bother him. ;)
After lots of tugging and pulling, at 4:05am on Thursday I felt them pull her out and everyone start exclaiming how big she was. Mark watched them carry her over to be checked out and laughed and said “She’s huge!” I just laid there and waited to hear her little cries, and when I finally did I couldn’t stop smiling. They weighed her and when I heard the nurse say “9lbs 11oz!” I literally just said “Holy shit!” I had only gained 30lbs during this pregnancy and walked away with no stretchmarks whatsoever, how on earth did I just have an almost 10lb child?!
It took a few minutes to get her checked, weighed, and measured but when they came around the corner and laid her on my chest I felt like I had just won the lottery. I faced so many fears for that moment. She and I fought so hard and she was finally here, albeit in the last way I would have chosen. I finally got to hold our Cordelia.
(I love this photo of Cora meeting her Meme and Nana. So much joy! My mom had just finished her last chemo two weeks before and she is now cancer-free!)
We went back to the birth room where family and Dawn and Brandy were waiting and I immediately shouted “GUESS HOW MUCH SHE WEIGHS?!” ha! She immediately crawled up my chest and started eating, and everything after that is extremely hazy. I don’t remember taking any pictures with her or anything between the moment she latched on until we were in the maternity ward later that afternoon. The next 36 hours were pretty surreal but blissful. A c-section wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, though it sucked having to watch Mark do most of the work…basically all I could do was hold her and feed her. But I just kept reminding myself that she was HERE.
I’m still not at a point where I can read home birth stories or stories of quick, easy births. My midwife shared this article recently and it really resonated with me. Yes, I’m incredibly thankful…beyond thankful…that Cora got here totally unscathed and she’s not only a healthy baby, but she’s happy and thriving. But I’ll always mourn that birth I never got. I was treated with nothing but respect and love by everyone in my presence during my labor, from family to our midwife and doula to our doctors and nurses at OU Children’s, but I’ll always feel a bit like I got robbed by my own body.
I have full plans of shooting for an HBAC (Home Birth After Cesarean) with the next baby. I don’t plan on doing anything different, because I know I did everything I could and Cora’s birth was purely situational. I’ll get my second chance.
Despite a hard labor, we are blessed with a gem of a baby! Our world has not been flipped upside down like everyone warned. We have continued life as normal and she has jumped right in with us and only made it brighter. We are not sleep-deprived or tired of changing diapers. We still make dinner every night. Our house is no more dirty than it normally is and our laundry and dishes are done. She eats like a champion and only fusses when she wants food or cuddles or when she’s gassy. She truly is a picture perfect baby and I’d fight through every fear and 44 hours of labor all over again if I had to. We love her so and she was worth every battle.
(In case you’re wondering what sheer exhaustion looks like. haha!)
P.S. If you’re in OK and considering a home birth or interested in a birth center, I couldn’t recommend Dawn any more. She has the most perfect calming presence and I never once felt like a “patient”. I led the way through my pregnancy and Dawn helped guide me, and I personally believe that’s how every pregnancy should be. I was never told what I SHOULD do, but I was given options and advice. I am damned and determined for her to deliver our next kiddo!
Brandy played a huge part in my labor. If you want an all natural birth, you need a doula. I previously thought of doulas as an “extra” or a luxury, but now I see how truly priceless they are. I wouldn’t have been able to get through that labor without her. I felt like a queen. I feel like she knew what I needed when I needed it, whether it was essential oils (I’m now a believer), a cold rag, encouraging words, or a quiet reminder to stop tensing my shoulders through contractions. I loved having someone not only make it their job to make sure I was comfortable in my environment, but I loved having her there to advocate for me and remind me that I was always in charge of my birth. Priceless priceless priceless.
Basically, my birth team was the best.