- First Baby
- Mom’s Age: 28
- 10 Days Late
- 21 Hour Labor
- Vaginal Delivery
- San Luis Obispo, CA
- French Hospital
- Midwife Cristi Schier
I was the type of person who’d been attending baby finance and baby sign language classes before I was even married, just in case.
When my husband of over a year and I started “being open” to having children, we were pregnant two weeks later. I signed us up for every class offered by the hospital, I went to every birth and baby fair, I continued yoga and barre, and read “What To Expect When You’re Expecting,” “They Mayo Clinic Guide to Pregnancy” and “Expecting Better” cover-to-cover. I made my husband promise me he wouldn’t let me get an epidural, even if I begged for one in the throes of labor. Instead, I requested the room with the big tub so I could “float out” the pain, and made comprehensive essential oil blends noted for their calming, pain-relieving and labor-assisting properties. I had a playlist several hours long to guide me through the stages of labor to my favorite calming music, and I was putting olive oil “down there” nightly to moisten my lady parts for the “big stretch.” I was PREPARED.
But a couple weeks before my due date, I didn’t feel like the baby was on my schedule for arriving at all. I called my parents, who were due to arrive on my due date (like the baby) and begged them to push their trip back a week. They decided not to, and arrived on June 23 from Illinois. We took them wine tasting. We cooked spicy foods. We went for two long walks a day. My mom got me a pedicure. I had a labor-inducing reflexology appointment. We had sex every night. I took castor oil. I drank red raspberry leaf tea. I took evening primrose oil. I got TWO membrane sweeps from the midwife. And no baby.
On July 1, I was showering, and felt warm liquid (not from the shower head) between my legs. I quickly got out, and I continued to feel it, even as I got dressed. It gushed a little every time I moved. So we excited packed up and went to the hospital around 11PM. They admitted me and hooked me up to the machines while they ran tests on the fluid around my cervix. Indeed, I was having contractions—not strong ones, but I could feel them, and I watched them peak and recede on the screen. But two hours later, the nurse came back and said my water hadn’t broken. And oddly, with the bad news, my contractions stopped and we went home at 3AM.
The next day on July 2, my parents’ trip ended and they were headed home. I cried and apologized that I couldn’t give them their first grandbaby while they were there—I felt like they’d wasted their trip and I’d let them down. I went for another membrane sweep that morning, and we took them to the airport. After they departed, we went back to the hospital because I SWORE I was still gushing fluid. They admitted me to the temp room and hooked me up to the machines while they ran more tests. They brought me lunch to eat while we waited. Pretty soon, my mom walked in. I was shocked, and actually a little overwhelmed. I had felt SO much pressure to deliver the baby while they were here, and now she’d purposely missed her flight to be there and—what if the baby was another whole week or so?? When those fluid tests also came back negative, we went home.
That afternoon around 4 p.m., my mom and I went for our usual walk. Mid-walk, I started having some pains. I would pause and breathe, then keep walking. They were maybe 15 minutes apart or so, and I was so used to being let down and sent home, I counted on them NOT being labor. We got back to the apartment and had spaghetti for dinner, while my husband put a movie on. We ate dinner, and I paused every few bites to have a contraction, but then I kept eating. By 7 p.m. or so, the evening became a bit of a blur. I was contracting every 3-5 minutes, and I was gripping the staircase as I did so. The pains felt like a bear trap yanking together my thighs, back and abdomen, while on fire. This was back labor, I assumed. But I breathed through it. I have no idea what the movie was we were watching.
We finally called the hospital again, and they said to wait until contractions were 3 min apart, because we only lived 4 min from the ER door. So I timed them with an app, and when they were getting intense and we hit 3 minutes, I decided we needed to go. My mom saw us off, we grabbed our well-stocked, carefully-packed bags, and by the time I was seat-belted into the car, I was miserable. We got to the hospital around 8 or 9PM (again, it’s a blur), and I found myself clutching in agony to a parking post, unable to use my muscles to walk my legs into the ER. The brought out a wheelchair, and in I went, hooked back up to the same machines. Surely, we had to be close to delivery: this much pain? 3 min apart? I was moaning and wailing like an animal, beyond the help of essential oils. “I thought some [expletive] flowery smells were going to fix this?!” I yelled to myself in my head. “Fool! Optimistic hippie fool!” My husband coaxed me towards the tub, but it was too far away. I could not walk THIS pain across the room to a tub, let alone undress and get into it. I was hanging onto the bedrails for dear life, rocking my hips, moaning on the edge of tears. Every touch of my husband’s made me nauseous so I begged him to stand back as I suffered.
They checked my dilation…after 6 hours of contractions. 2 cm! Seriously, 8 more to go?! Yeah, I’d likely die of pain before I did what I’d already done so far for 4 times as long. “I want an epidural,” I rasped. My husband fought me, as I’d asked him to. But I persisted, “I need it, it hurts too much.” My resolve was fading. But in my defense, my contractions were two minutes long, and there was no break in between anymore to allow me to rest. And the baby was also nowhere near coming.
The nurse was kind, and they got the anesthesiologist in as swiftly as possible. The hardest part was holding still enough while my insides writhed in pain to allow him to get it in my spine. And after, around 1:30AM, I could still feel some of the pain and pressure, but I could bear it. That was good enough for me. They told me to sleep, but I was too excited to sleep. In the middle of the night, a huge WHOOSH of warm water and some blood told me my water had broken, which felt wild even with the numb legs. They cleaned me up and changed my bedding, but I was so excited things were moving along. It made me feel silly for thinking the earlier-day leaks were anything close to what this had been.
At 9AM on July 3, the midwife came in to check my dilation. I did not have my hopes up. “You’re at 9cm!” she said. Oh…thank…God. They said they thought the epidural actually finally allowed me to relax enough to dilate. She said she’d come back around 12 to start pushing. We called our photographer, Leona Darnall, and at noon we started pushing! Correction: I started pushing.
While I pushed, the midwife coached me on how to push: “Like you’re pooping.” Really?! I thought. So I did. And….I did, a little bit. I was embarrassed but apparently that happens to everyone? I pushed until my head throbbed and my eyes were blurry. I pushed until I could hardly breathe and was so tired, I swear I fell asleep for 30 seconds between contractions. And just when I thought the baby was not coming out, she said she saw the head, which was enough motivation for me to keep going. The whole time, she applied warm, moist compresses to my “opening” to help encourage stretching and prevent tearing.
And at 1:19PM, our little Esme Juliette burst out into the world: 7 lbs, 11 oz, 19.25″ long. It was a blur of activity, and I was exhausted. I remember her cry, and me crying. I remember my husband saying what a good job I did and kissing me. I remember nursing her, and her latching right away. I remember the love I felt as her skin rested against the skin of my chest, and we remained connected for an hour or so. I remember my shock and joy that she was a girl, just as I’d dreamed she was for over a year. My mom came in with an insane amount of pink Burt’s Bees baby gear, as if she’d known too, and held her first grandbaby. We called family and friends. The French Hospital team cleaned me all up while I was enjoying the baby, and I hardly noticed.
The placenta birth felt weird…it detaching was bizarre, like part of my insides being scooped out. We examined it in awe (and just a little bit of disgust) as the midwife held it up and then put it in a bucket. We did not eat it or encapsulate it. 🙂
They did all of the things: footprinting, bracelet-ing, testing, weighing, Tyler gave the baby her first bath, measurements, etc. I nursed, they brought me cranberry juice to help prevent infections, and something to eat since I’d been starving for almost 24 hours. Tyler took my mom to the airport, and she left, satisfied that her mission was accomplished.
I stayed a couple more days while they monitored the baby’s mild jaundice, the nurses helped watch the baby while I rested, and I got the hang of breastfeeding.
We used the help of a hospital breast pump to give her some of the colostrum, which:
A) Helped my sore and cracked (already) nipples from some extensive nursing
B) Let me SEE that there was something coming out for her, and
C) Taught her early on that nourishment comes from a bottle
I was given a lactation consultant, tons of pump parts and gear, and we spend the days relaxing with the baby, eating and having tests run before we were finally given a parting gift of a bath robe, bag of “goodies” (pads, ice packs, healing pads and wipes and ointment) and we were on our way.
Overall, I loved French’s low-intervention process that let me hold and enjoy the baby for so long. They were calm and no-pressure, and they embraced each decision I made without judgment, even if I was silently judging myself. They were swift and efficient, and because of the close attention the midwife paid to my nether-regions and the timing of the pushing, I just had one small abrasion they called a “skid mark,” but no tearing.
I would definitely deliver there again.
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