Not the birth story we planned, but the one we needed
Whoa. Life sure has changed a lot since I've been here.
On October 12, 2017, baby Memphis made me a mom. And everything ... yes, EVERYTHING ... changed.
The birth didn't all go as I planned, but I know it was what we needed. And even though it wasn't the perfect story I had envisioned, it was a beautiful, powerful and emotional journey.
I'll start with the day I went into labor.
October 11, 2017
I’m 41.5 weeks pregnant and I've had some contractions, but nothing that has stuck around or felt significant. So we go to the birth center and they insert a foley bulb — a natural induction method where essentially they put a balloon in my cervix to encourage things to open up.
Yes, it's about as pleasant as it sounds.
I waddle out of the birth center feeling uncomfortable. We haven't even made it home yet when contractions start — and these are different from the ones I'd had before. These ones feel more significant.
Things are happening!
I've never been so thrilled to feel pain.
I want to keep the contractions going, so husband and I go for a walk, stopping when the wave of a contraction rolls in.
After our walk, I rest. I take a bath, but maybe that was too much relaxation. The contractions slow down.
Where did the pain go?
I talk to the midwife on the phone and she suggests drinking some castor oil to keep things going. It would empty me out (read: give me crazy bad diarrhea), but could also encourage contractions to keep chugging along. She thought it could work for me.
I am so desperate to keep this going and avoid getting induced with Pitocin, so I do it. I chug 8 oz of castor oil. It's gross, but not nearly as gross as I expected.
As promised, it empties me out.
But it also makes my contractions stronger. Success!
Husband and I go for another walk. The slowest walk of my life, but the fastest I can manage. I want to keep moving. I want this baby to come out! Then I hang out on my birthing ball until it's time to go back to the birth center to have the foley bulb removed and check my progress.
Fingers double-crossed there's been progress.
I'm so nervous for the midwife to check me. What if I didn't dilate? What if all this was for nothing?
I'm thrilled to discover that it worked. I’ve gone from a 1 to a 3! The midwife removes the foley bulb and sends me to get dinner and labor at home for a while longer.
Contractions continue to get stronger and closer together. I eat some food, take another bath and try to rest until it's time to go back to the birth center.
We make it to the birth center and I am dilated to a 5. I'm in active labor! It's time to check into our room and call the rest my birth team — my doula, Jamie, and my sister, Erin.
Time meant nothing during all of this. Fortunately, my sweet husband took some notes throughout the whole process. I knew it would become a blur and I wanted to know what had happened and when. Some of his notes are simple: times and quick notes. Others are more what he was feeling and are so sweet to read through.
"That one [contraction] was really bad, like real bad. For the second time in a row you grabbed me and it felt like you needed me. I wanted to cry but I didn't because you are being so fucking strong. I've never been more in awe of my wife."
Things are getting pretty intense at this point, and Jamie knows exactly what I need. We move from the bed to the shower to the bath to the toilet. She applies counter pressure on the right places and helps show my husband and sister how to help me. I really have the best birth team and I'm so fortunate to have such wonderful support.
October 12, 2017
It's getting tough, but thanks to the help of my awesome team, I'm finding my groove. I'm singing low ahhhhhhs and making some pretty wild primitive sounds I've never heard come out of my mouth.
Even though the contractions are intense, I'm able to rest in between and I feel so much bliss in those spaces. Like I’m being wrapped in love — from my team and my soon-arriving baby. I’m so excited to meet the little human I've been sharing this body with for nine months. Some of my favorite songs are playing in the background and I feel so at peace.
Later, husband said that he couldn't believe how sweet I was to everybody. That I would get through a painful contraction and then tell him I loved him, or thank someone in the room. Even though the contractions were tough, I was so content. Our baby was coming to join us in the world. Soon.
Just when I feel like I can't do it anymore, the midwife says I can push. And man am I ready. I want to push.
My bag of waters never broke on its own, so she breaks it. Then, her tone changes.
"We've got thick meconium," she says. "We need to transfer."
Meconium is the baby's first bowel movement. My baby had pooped before he was out of the womb — which can be dangerous. They don't have the specialized teams at the birth center to handle possible complications with meconium, so we had to transfer to a hospital.
I had found my rhythm. The lights were dim, candles were lit, I was surrounded by love and my favorite jams.
But this is when everything shifted drastically.
I'm lifted onto a bed and wheeled into an ambulance. I am told NOT to push — I have to stall labor. This is incredibly challenging. The hardest thing I've ever done, physically and mentally. I feel so much pressure and everything in my body is telling me to push. I really have to dig deep and tap into every ounce of strength I have.
The ambulance ride takes less than 20 minutes, but it feels like days.
"As soon as we get there, I can push," I keep telling myself. That's what gets me through.
Wow. As they wheel me into the OB ER I've never felt so much pain. The contractions are just as intense, but that combined with the inability to push, the stress of worrying about my baby and the drastic change of environment is too much for me to handle.
I transition from a soothing, calming environment with people I know to a stark hospital room filled with 23 strangers.
"Once they get me on the bed, I can push," I say to myself. "This will be over soon."
Then they tell me the worst news. I have gone BACKWARDS and can't push yet. The little strength I have left vanishes.
I can't do it on my own anymore.
I need help.
That's what I keep repeating to my husband. "I need help." My legs are shaking, the pressure is unbelievable, I'm surrounded by so many people and machines and beeping and I'm terrified that my sweet baby is hurting. "I need help."
Thankfully, it's not too late. I can get an epidural. A piece of me is disappointed in myself but I know that I truly need it. I've reached my limit.
It feels like it’s taking an eternity to get this epidural. I sign some forms (I'm sure my signature is fabulous right now). The first epidural doesn't work. So they try it again.
Oh my gosh I needed that. The pain immediately vanishes. I can't even feel the contractions and the pressure is all but gone.
Mine and baby's oxygen levels drop but they give me a mask and fortunately our levels go up high enough that a C Section isn't necessary.
Someone — a nurse, probably — asks if I want to put a robe on (I had been laboring completely naked all night) and if I had any energy, I would laugh. I give zero shits about who sees me naked at this point and I certainly don't want to waste energy on putting a silly robe on. I just want to rest. So instead they place a towel over my chest (probably more for their comfort than mine) and let me rest through the contractions.
"I love you endlessly." (From Kris's notes)
My sweet birth team gets to rest, too. Kris falls asleep on the floor while Erin and Jamie share what I'm sure is an uncomfortable and too-small couch.
How did three hours pass?
The doctor checks me and I hear her glorious news: it's time to push.
Really? I don't even feel anything!
I'm dilated to a 10+2 (which just means extra credit dilated). My birth team wakes up and helps lift my numb legs up so I can push. This is really strange, because not only do I not feel the urge to push — I'm also unsure how to push when I can't feel myself pushing.
But I figure it out thanks to Jamie's coaching.
"You're crowning," the doctor says. "Do you want to see your baby's head?"
I say yes and they wheel a big mirror in so I can see. Holy cow she's right (as if she'd lie), MY BABY IS RIGHT THERE!
After a big push I hear the most beautiful sound I've ever heard: My crying baby.
The doctor holds the baby up to Kris so he can see and reveal the news to me and everyone else in the room — It's a boy!
"It's a boy!" he cried, "We have a beautiful baby boy!"
They place him on my chest and husband and I cry tears of joy as we finally meet our precious little man. We made this.
"Is he a Memphis or a Radley?" Kris asks. (We had picked two boy names.)
"I think he's a Memphis," I reply.
During all this time I deliver the placenta and get some stitches. Even though I was "extra credit" dilated I did tear because our big boy is in the 100th percentile for head circumference. (Thanks, son!) But I hardly notice any of this. I am so enamored with the beautiful human we created.
After a few minutes the NICU team that was in the delivery room takes Memphis for a bit to clear out the meconium. After clearing his throat, it appears that he is just fine and they quickly return him back to us.
Kris and I have some alone time with Memphis. As I stare in his beautiful blue eyes time stops. Nothing else in the world matters. He is my world now.
Memphis Allen McDonald. 8 lbs 4 oz. 21" long. Blonde hair, blue eyes. My beautiful, beautiful baby.
You would think this would be the end. Or the start of our new beginning. That things didn't go exactly as we planned but that it was over now. But it wasn't.