A Very Long Birth Story

So, I wasn't going to write about my birth story, but then I happened to read a couple of birth stories, and realized that I love hearing about them and I love my own story, and aren't we all here to tell stories to each other. I am grateful that I have a story. I hesitate to write about Remy's birth and pregnancy because I know so many people who also want to have these stories, and for some reason or another don't have them just yet and I worry about making them feel sad. I have come to learn that we are given the right experiences for us in this life. I also have to remind myself, that all of these same people are nothing but gracious and happy for my experience, and we should share our stories. I find more and more that I not only want to share my stories with people, but also, I want to share the actual experiences. I love when a friend or a family member holds Remy and I can see that they love him already, because I am sure he will soon return the sentiment.

That being said, yippee! here it goes. This could be long, even very lengthy (both the post and as it turns out, the actual labor). The journey began on the 18th of March. I went to a lecture and a reading by Terry Tempest Williams on campus on the 17th. During the lecture, while she was talking to us about the importance of sharing our voice for things that are important to us, I had a strong contraction. I gripped the table and tried not to squeal, half out of excitement and half out shock because it felt like suddenly I was carrying the entire world in my belly. I went through the rest of that day with the understanding that our baby would be coming soon. I kept it quiet though, I don't even know that I said anything to Carl, I didn't want to jinx the vibes I was getting.

We went to dinner at my professor's house that evening and we had the loveliest of times and a lot of good laughs, and some of the best bread and butter I have ever put my paws to, and if anyone knows me, they know I love a good slice of white bread. I made a successful cheesecake, my first, and we finally left when we saw one of his kids dragging himself up the stairs about ready to put himself to bed. Fast forward to the next morning at 7 a.m.. I woke up in bed and said to myself, 'my water is about to break, I better go in the bathroom'. So I did. I sat down and my water broke. I was delighted to say the least, and also a bit nervous. I went back in bed and lay on my back for a while looking up at the ceiling and through the slats of the blinds into the morning. I woke up Carl and we both lay there. I didn't tell him for a few minutes, and when I did, he smiled and I think probably felt very happy that pregnant Ashley would soon be mom Ashley. I got up and ate some cereal and let Carl sleep for a bit longer. My sister and brother in-law and their two kids were staying with us, so I hung out with my sister-in-law Sofie for a while. After about an hour I said, 'Sofie, I think my water broke this morning'. Now, looking back, I realize I probably should have said something sooner, run about, gone straight to the hospital, especially since I was actually having contractions, but I don't like making a scene, and I felt quite calm anyway, I just wanted time to think about things. Sofie, understandably, was a little unsure of what to do for me, as it seemed I had no intention of doing anything but eating cereal for the next while. I did go take a shower, blow dry my hair (was I stalling? denying? I don't blow dry my hair even for fancy occasions), put on one of Carl's t-shirts and a ribbon in my hair. I took some pictures of myself in the mirror and felt some more contractions that seemed to be getting stronger.

Finally, as my mom was walking out the door to work (she works at the hospital on the floor where moms and babies come after labor and delivery), I told her that my water had broken. She, of course, insisted that I jump in the car and get to the hospital immediately, and I, being true to my stubborn, insistent nature, assured her that I was fine and that I would be there when I felt like I should be there. I had wanted to be at home for the majority of labor and I felt an aversion to hospital settings. So, my mom went to work and proceeded to text me frantically for the next two hours, saying that I needed to get there, now. She was probably right because risk of infection increases when the water breaks and I was also group b positive, which also compounds that possibility. I finally gave in and around 12, with contractions about 5 minutes apart, we drove to the hospital.

Once at the hospital, my contractions picked up and became rather intense rather quickly. My two dearest friends and doulas, Sara and Sam came and almost right away we all settled into a routine. We walked through the halls, used the birth ball, shower, sitting, standing, and a whole lot of breathing. Between contractions, we all laughed and talked, and I felt invigorated and ready to deal with the pain. I will say that the pain was heavier and more acute than anything I've felt before, far surpassing even the time we had to run sprints with my soccer team up the hill behind the baseball field, or the time I skied in powder all day and my legs burned like they were on fire. This pain was more intense than anything I'd ever felt, but it was different than mere physical pain, the whole time I had the sense that something special and refining was happening within me, almost like the night I lay in a canyon meadow and watched the stars run their course across the entire sky.

I also loved that each person in the room played an entirely unique and integral part of the process. Carl was of course, kind as ever. His words surrounded me, and I could hear little else. Sara had the most comforting movements and touch, I leaned on her and her breathing and confidence kept me calm. I listened for Sam to help me breath deep and slow, and at one point I remember reaching my hand out with my eyes closed during a contraction and looking specifically for Sam's small hand to hold mine. It was interesting that during each contraction I felt like I absolutely needed each of them to be touching me. I have read a hundred times about how having a doula or a support group of women makes the birth experience so much more calm and positive, and I obviously had faith in what I had read because I asked not just one doula, but two to be there, but I can attest that it is entirely true. Women should help women. Carl also grew dearer to me by the minute during everything.

Around 8 p.m. that night a nurse checked my progress and I was only dilated to a one. Rather disappointing after feeling like I was really going somewhere. Contractions continued to come about every minute and I was getting so tired, so I decided to get an epidural. Sidetrack: Before I was pregnant, I was sure I would do everything entirely natural, then as I was pregnant, I got more and more worried about giving birth and didn't want to be screaming or yelling (I'm very particular, perhaps too much, about things like that) and I didn't want my birth experience to be a traumatic memory, and so I said to myself that I would honestly play it by ear and see if I needed/wanted an epidural or not. I tried to go into the birth process with an open mind and an attitude that it would be beautiful and good no matter if it played out exactly how I had imagined. I have learned that every person's experience is unique, and also valid. This is also not to say that unmedicated births equal screaming and yelling and trauma. I know so many people who have had wonderful, positive experiences with natural births, even when there was screaming and yelling. I just knew that for me, I was the one who would ultimately have to deal with the experience, and I didn't want to set myself up for doing things a certain way before I actually knew what would be best for me in the time of the actual birth.

So, at that point, I was tired and hungry and foreseeing a lot more labor (I was over 12 hours in and only dilated to a one), so I got an epidural. I could still feel contractions, and not just the pressure, but the pain of them, though it was quite dulled. I missed the energy and movement of the first hours of labor. I missed feeling like we were all working through something together. I missed the difficulty of each contraction and the happiness that comes from the hardest things. It was relieving to have the pain subside, but had I not been looking at such a long labor, I would have liked to have gone without pain medication (easier to say now though right?). Because I could still feel contractions, it was totally necessary (for me, at least) to have Sam and Sara still there.

By midnight I still wasn't dilating and contractions had subsided, so Pitocin started, and Carl ordered a delivery pizza. We were all genuinely having a good time, it was a Friday night sleepover, and I even made Carl sneak me a few bites of pizza and chocolate pretzels. By three a.m. there was still little progress and Remy's little heart beat seemed to be getting tired on Pitocin, so we stopped. The events from this point until about 11 a.m. the next morning are a little blurred, but they went something like this: pitocin; no pitocin; pitocin; no pitocin; fever for me; everyone sleeps; i don't sleep but listen to babies heartbeat on the monitor; carl isn't a actually sleeping either, but rubs my forehead for hours, and we pray together; Sam and Sara rub my hands and say nice things; babies heartbeat beats very fast; we are nervous; blessing; doctor comes in an out trying to figure out what is best; I get my blood drawn at the lowest point of the whole experience, I stick my arm out to the nurse and sob loudly, perhaps dramatically into Carl's hands; I get tired; I drift off to sleep around 8 a.m. and honestly think I might be dying and should wake up to tell everyone goodbye (exhaustion and medication?); my mom brings in donuts; after nearly 30 hours of labor, I have not progressed; after much talk with the doctors, we decide that a c-section is the best option.

Now, I am no unecessary-c-section advocate. In fact, it was not what I wanted, nor had planned, but I will also say that contrary to many books and tales, I was in no way pressured into it by my doctors or a bunch of males that just wanted to do some surgery so they could get home quicker. My doctor came in on his vacation day to stay up with me all night at the hospital, he was out researching possible issues I could be having while I was in labor. He was as hesitant about the c-section as I was, but he said he honestly felt like it was the best thing for this particular scenario. So, around noon, I went in for the c-section. It wasn't the most pleasant experience, but it also wasn't un-pleasnt. Carl was right by me wearing a fantastic baker-like cap and white astronaut suit, and most importantly, our tiny baby was about to come meet us. Within ten minutes of starting the surgery, I heard tiny Remy give a yell and the doctor held him up for me to see. Two things I found out later: 1. The doctor said that when they finally opened up the uterus, Remy, who was posterior, was ready with his eyes wide open and looking right out into the world. He also had the cord wrapped tightly twice around his neck, which was why I never dilated (it was as if he was suspended at the top of the uterus and couldn't move down without his breath being cut off) 2. Carl said that my doctor stopped the other surgeons before they cut the cord and said that I had wanted to let the cord pulse for a few minutes before it was cut (to get the last of the good, nutrient rich blood in Remy). I thought it was so respectful that he stopped everything, in the middle of an intense procedure, to fulfill something I had requested, even though I probably would never know if he had done otherwise.

So, baby Remy was born and I looked up to see Carl running around in his white outfit with a camera, and a very big smile. I was so happy, and tired. And so, our baby was born. I loved the experience. Almost immediately after it was over, I, in some ways felt nostalgic for it. I don't know that anyone could have prepared me for how good it would be, and also hard. My doctor told me in one of my last appointments, that I was entering the field of anecdotal medicine, and I have just proven him correct, but I think that is one of the more beautiful elements of birth. So there it is, perhaps, long, and I know, lacking details (or sharing too many?). I think the story may fade deeper into myth and magic as the months go on, and in many ways, I'm just fine with that. I learned that our stories do not have to be perfect, or expected, to be our own, and they do not have to win an award to be told. We like to listen to each other, and imagine, and talk and remember together. I also learned that despite a whole lot of books that told me otherwise, I very much loved my baby immediately and without guile the moment I met him, even if I had a c-section.


Club Narwhal said...

this was a wonderful post. so honest and true, just like you.

hannah g said...

It is so interesting to read your experience and see how similar some aspects of it were similar to my birth with Sidera. Congrats again on the adorable baby boy!

hannah g said...

Oops, no second "similar" needed. I blame sleep deprivation.

Brooke said...

Oh my sweet Ash. I'm so glad you shared this story. Even though I would love a birth story of my own, I think I could only feel a smidge happier than I am right now for you. It is something to experience things with those you love - even if only through writing. My joy is indeed full. And, as happens every time I read you writing, I am so appreciative of your honesty and your simplicity. Sweet Ash. way to go. baby remmy is mucho lucky.

kathy w. said...

Beautiful. Just beautiful. Thank you for writing this—and for sharing it with us.

melimba said...

dearest ashley!
okay, I knew we were kindred spirits a long while back... but now after reading your birth story, it is confirmed. :)
I'm so glad that my sister tipped me on to your blog the other day. She told me about your lovely story and how you did such a beautiful preface about how you worried about people who couldn't have children, etc.---and it really stuck with her.
Hello. this was wonderful. You are going to be added to my Google Reader b/c I love reading your words. You have a gift, my friend.

With my first child, I had a 31 hour (counting every one) labor and finally had to be delivered via c-section b/c she was posterior too. I never thought a c-section was in the realm for me. I'd always skipped those chapters in my books. Crazy how things end up. See? We ARE kindred spirits.

Thanks for your posts. So happy to hear your story.

Congratulations a BILLION times over. What a wonderful gift a new life is!! Enjoy this special time.

lots and lots of love,
melissa (snyder) wood