It’s taken me six months to blog the story of Charlie’s birth. I don’t know why, exactly. Partially, I wondered if it would be interesting to a reader since she was delivered by cesarean. As someone who loves a good birth story and has worked with birth professionally for so long, I enjoy a good birth story about hours of primal labor that end in a magical, natural delivery. There are usually beautiful, raw, black and white photos attached and I almost always cry. I really wanted to achieve a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) this time as I had romanticized that experience in my mind so much. Grayson was born six years ago via surgical birth and my memories of it seem very….surgical. I didn’t know the OB that delivered him, I was terrified of surgery, and the birth itself was quiet, sterile and cold. I had less happiness and support in my life at the time and I was a lot less secure in myself as a person and most certainly terrified to become a mother. I wanted Charlie’s birth to be 100% different. I mistakenly thought that it meant I needed to have an entirely different birth to achieve the experience I wanted. I was wrong.
In early August I found myself at the end of a long, hot, complicated pregnancy. From awful morning sickness and migraines to debilitating joint problems, the pregnancy won the award of “most miserable”. (That’s saying a lot, since Grayson’s pregnancy was no walk in the park.) I had already been in the hospital a few times for preterm contractions, a car accident, and a “rule out pneumonia” visit that was determined to be a terrible virus. I was sick of being pregnant. On top of that, I worked in Labor and Delivery at the hospital where I would be delivering, and I was beginning to resent all the strangers that were coming in and leaving with their babies.
On the morning of August 6th, I woke up with my regular prodromal contractions. I had been contracting on and off for ten weeks at least. At 38 weeks they wouldn’t be stopped with medication, so I would just need to endure them and hope they would turn into labor. I had an OB appointment that morning at 11:00. At the appointment it was noted that my blood pressure was higher than normal, I was having strong contractions every two minutes, but my cervix hadn’t changed anymore. My wonderful OB, monitored my contractions for about an hour. Based on the blood pressure readings and the regularity of my contractions, she recommended we schedule a repeat c-section for that evenings and felt it was the safest option. I agreed with her advice and she set it up with Labor and Delivery. By the time I left the office it was about 2:00.
Wait. What? No VBAC? I’m having the baby today? I’m 38 weeks. Is that too early? I came to my appointment alone. Grayson is at school. Tyler. Tyler is at work. I need to get gas. I should probably put on some makeup. I look awful today. Good thing I shaved my legs and cleaned the house this morning. I’m scared. I’m excited.
I called my sister-in-law to start the phone call chain. She lives three hours away and got in her car immediately according to the plan. It was important to me that she be there and it was prearranged that she drop everything and drive. I drove to the hospital, sat in my car for a few minutes and threw on some mascara and concealer, because, well, photos. I took a deep breath and went inside to have a baby.
It was so odd to walk in as a patient and not an employee. My sweet coworkers had decorated my room with balloons and streamers and greeted me with excitement and cheerful anticipation. I was already absorbing all the positive energy around me. Tyler soon arrived and we made eye contact and shared a “HOLY CRAP WE ARE HAVING A BABY TODAY” look.
I asked for my headphones. When planning a VBAC, I had so many ideas of ways to relax and personal things I wanted to help me labor. One thing I wanted during labor was to listen to Oceans by Hillsong United. It’s my favorite song. It’s calming, encouraging, and grounding for me. I put in my headphones and listened to the song. I centered in the moment, reconciled the fact that my plans had changed, and prayed for courage and protection for baby and myself.
Fast forward to epidural time. You should know that I hate surprises and I strongly dislike anything I can’t predict. The Anesthesia group came in to do the procedure and I was a total wimp about it. Apparently, I stayed still and calm on the outside, but the tears were falling and I was TERRIFIED the entire time. It’s normal for your blood pressure to drop some and to feel overwhelmingly faint for a minute, and I knew that, but I still had a total panic attack when that sensation hit me. Not only that, but I had all sorts of other weird sensations from having a needle in my spine. Tyler held my hands and maintained his role as my rock the entire time.
Epidural is in. I’m appropriately numb. It’s time to roll back to the OR. Full panic ensues.
I think I was still anxious from the epidural experience, add that to the overwhelming anxiety about the fact that I was about to have this baby earth side, finally, after months and months of a hellish pregnancy, and I am a total hypochondriac. It was a lot. It was almost too much.
They rolled me out and all I saw was my mother-in-law. She is my MIL by a technicality, but, she is my mother, emotionally (and has been for many years before she was a real part of my family). I whimpered out a little “I’m scared” through clinched teeth, and she gave me the reassuring maternal look, squeezed my hand as I rolled past, and then everyone was behind me. Even Tyler.
But I wasn’t alone. My coworkers (turned friends) surrounded me. The whole OR was full of familiar faces and voices laughing, cheering me on, talking, and even singing at times… (Don’t ask.) All of a sudden I was ok and I knew this was going to be the birth experience I wanted so much and never had. Everyone in that OR knew me, knew my wishes, knew my past, and prioritized my goals for MY birth and for the baby I hadn’t met yet.
Tyler came in once I was sufficiently prepped and ready. I remember asking everyone to keep talking and laughing so that I wouldn’t get nervous. (Let’s be honest, I work in Obstetrics and had some heightened fears based on some of the things I have seen occupationally.) They all worked to keep the room light and cheery while I made everyone promise I wasn’t dying or bleeding out. Tyler was ready with the phone to take photos and I was ready to meet this tiny person.
“Are you ready to see her?!” “She’s almost here!” “Get ready!”
6:24 pm. Cries. Sweet, strong cries. I heard the most glorious sound in the world.
My tears flowed. I looked up at my husband and his did too.
My doctor said “Here she is!” and held her over the drape. My arms were not strapped down per my request, and I was able to reach up and hold grab her arms. My sweet baby girl was finally here! In that moment I felt so complete and euphoric.
I had been granted “permission” to take her immediately after delivery for skin to skin and breastfeeding in the OR, which isn’t common yet, and I was super stoked about doing it. However, Charlie aspirated a little fluid and needed some help clearing her lungs, so she was taken to the nursery for some extra suctioning after they brought her back over for some more kisses. Tyler went with her of course and took a million photos.
About an hour after she was born, they brought Charlie to me for skin to skin. She was still on a monitor since her pulse and oxygen levels hadn’t fully regulated. Almost as soon as I took her, everything normalized.
I just remember looking back and forth at her and Tyler and feeling more love than I ever thought possible. Tyler would tell me over and over that he has never loved me more, or I have never been more beautiful and cry happy tears. We were so in love with our daughter, and each other, and our lives, and it was perfect.
Now, Charlie is six months old and we have had plenty of sleepless nights, drank gallons of coffee, walked miles around the house holding her, sang a million lullabies, changed countless diapers and made priceless memories as a family of four. We all get to know each other a little better every day and our love for each other continues to multiply.
My birth experience was everything I could have dreamed of and more. Her method of arrival was irrelevant. It was a beautiful birth day for a beautiful little person, and I hope I never forget a second of it.