Our story picks up at 1 am on February 20, 2011. We had just finished cleaning up the house and were on our way to the hospital. And now for the fun part…driving in the car while in the midst of labor. Can we say painful?! Most uncomfortable car ride of my life. Thank God we live in a small town and the ride was only a few minutes.
When we arrived at the hospital, my midwife whispered in my ear. She told me to surround myself with a bright light. She encouraged me to put my hood over my head and do my best to remain in the head space I had created for myself at home. This was an important piece of wisdom that I held with me throughout my experience.
They transported me in a wheelchair and took me upstairs to labor and delivery. The nurses had a ton of questions to ask, which I wasn’t in the mood to answer. Freddie did his best to step in for me, but after answering 5’9” for my height (I’m barely 5’3”), I knew I had to do my best to get them the information they needed.
Once I was naked again and able to move about the room I felt a bit better. They tried to run a shower for me but after waiting 20 minutes for the water to warm up, we realized that a shower wasn’t going to happen. I spent some time laboring on the toilet and walking up and down the halls. But soon they wanted to start an internal monitor on me to track my contractions, as I was still only at 5 cm. So they wanted to take a peek and see what was going on.
A few more hours passed and by 4am, 24 hours into labor, the nurses came in and said that I was going to need some intervention. I was stalled at 5 cm and after tracking my contractions with an internal monitor, it was found that my contractions “weren’t adequate enough” to move my cervix along. I, on the other hand, happened to think my contractions were more than adequate, or at least they sure felt like it. At this point my body was shaking and trembling. I was having trouble getting through my contractions so they thought that if they gave me an epidural, maybe I would be able to rest and allow my body to do the work it needed to do.
This was a tough pill for me to swallow. I looked over at my midwife for advice. She looked back and said, “Heather, this might be your best chance at a vaginal birth.” So I gave in and succumbed to the drugs. At first I felt a bit defeated. Not only did was I disappointed that I wasn’t going to be able to have a home birth, but now I wasn’t going to have a natural birth either. Plus, after all the things I learned about the cycle of drugs from watching The Business of Being Born, I had a bad feeling that this wasn’t going to end well. But I did my best to refocus my thoughts back on Harper. I began to strip away my expectations of when, where and how I was going to give birth and resolved that my only expectation should be a healthy baby. And luckily, through all of this, Harper continued to do well.
Once I finally agreed to the epidural, the drugs couldn’t come quick enough. It seemed like forever before the doctor got me hooked up. But once he did, I dozed off into la la land for some much-needed rest. At this point, my birth assistant Jen and midwife Alice left the hospital, as there was nothing more they could do. But they told me to call the other midwife Anna when it was time for me to push.
The nurse continued to come in and check on me. My cervix still would not budge so they decided to give me a round of pitocin. It took a few rounds to get things going but things finally started to move. At this point I was most concerned about Harper because I knew that these drugs could affect her heart rate. But she was a trooper and was holding on.
At 9 am, the doctor on call came to check on me. She said I was complete and ready to push. I called my midwife Anna and asked her to come for support. In the meantime, the doctor and nurses began to prepare the room for delivery. By 10 am we were ready to go. I had Anna on one side and Freddie on the other. Anna was in charge of keeping my lips lubricated with chap stick and Freddie was offering me water from a straw. Being that I had an epidural I didn’t feel the full sensations of the contractions. But when I started to feel pressure, I knew I needed to push. In between pushing we were telling jokes, sharing stories and chatting away. The music was playing, the lights were low and I felt at peace.
Because of the meconium in my water, the doctor explained that she wouldn’t be able to give me Harper right away. They had a neonatal team standing by to check her out and make sure she hadn’t ingested any of it. So as soon as Harper started to crown, she told me to reach down and touch her head. I was surprised to find a full head of hair, silky and smooth. A few pushes later and Harper Marie was born at 10:54 am. As soon as she was out they whisked her over to the neonatal team. Freddie went with her. They checked her out and she was 100% perfect. Her breathing was fine. So as soon as they could, they brought her back over to me and I was able to hold her for the first time. And then I looked into her eyes. Pure magic. A miracle. Amazing.
She was ready to eat and latched on right away. I was grateful to have Anna there to instruct me on how to get a proper latch. After a few feedings, it was time for Harper to go to the nursery with her dad to get cleaned up, measured and weighed. I was excited to finally get the chance to eat. Yum. Real food! They offered me a delicious turkey sandwich with avocado, bacon, lettuce, sprouts…you name it! And a milkshake on the side. Food never tasted so good.
Harper, Freddie and I reunited in the postpartum wing after she was done with all her tests and we enjoyed spending time as a family. Just the three of us. It was the beginning of new chapter in our lives. And I was loving every minute of it.
Even though Harper’s birth didn’t turn out the way we planned it, we were grateful to have a baby that was happy and healthy. And at the end of the day, that is all that matters. I appreciate the constant support of my midwives and birth assistant, who were at my side the entire time. And of course, my husband, who remained calm and strong.
After all was said and done, I am glad I was able to experience a hospital birth. I am thankful for the success of the interventions that were used. I was pleasantly surprised by how everything turned out. It definitely changed my perspective hospital births and I am grateful that I am able to share my journey with others.
What I learned most about this entire experience was that when it comes to giving birth, the best thing to expect, is the unexpected. Try not to hold on too tight to the details and do your best to go with the flow. Trust in your body, trust in your baby and believe that everything will turn out right.
Photo taken by Rachel Bradshaw of Little Sparrows Photography.