This is going to be a long one! Get some tea and a yummy piece of toast and read on if you’d like to hear the story of how Zoe made her way into our life! I can’t believe it’s been almost 3 weeks since our beautiful little girl was finally born into the world. What a momentous day for Rod and I and our families to welcome a new addition. I figured sharing my story would be a way to both record the details of that day (because as time wears on you definitely forget!) and let you in on my experience with childbirth.
By 38/39 weeks Zoe had been showing signs of wanting to come as I had begun dilating gradually. Naturally, this news excited us and we started getting a little antsy with the “any moment now” fever. However, the sensation quickly wore off as we hit Week 40 with still no contractions and no signs of real labour. On the day I reached 40 weeks, my doctor sent me over to the hospital where I was set to deliver to check on some details of my pregnancy and I ended up staying for a couple of hours because I was 3cm dilated, 50% effaced and having mild contractions (according to the monitor, I couldn’t feel them much). Rod and I were stoked about the possibility of her coming that day and were slightly disappointed when I didn’t progress any further and they discharged me. Two days later we were back in for a routine Non Stress Test where they monitor the baby, checking on vitals, amniotic fluid etc. I had progressed only slightly in dilation but substantially in effacement and they suggested I walk the halls for an hour to see whether we could jump-start labour a little. The doctors asked me whether I would like to be induced that very day and I declined. At the time it wasn’t medically necessary and I wanted to spend Easter weekend at home, relaxing with my hubby and spending time with my mother who had flown in from Europe for the birth. Spontaneous induction just didn’t seem like the way I wanted to do things. We went home that evening without a baby – just aching feet from walking the halls!
The medical team had advised me that they would not feel comfortable allowing Zoe to be in utero much longer than 40 and a half weeks and asked me to come back after Easter weekend and see where we were at. I was told I’d probably be admitted to then stay and I agreed to coming back in under those circumstances. I went home that evening and, over the weekend, couldn’t stop churning my brain about whether we were making the right decision in “forcing” and inducing Zoe to come. There were many questions I didn’t realize I had and the more I thought about it, the more I would question my reasons and whether this was a good plan. Part of me was excited and happy and knew that Zoe was already well on her way. I also knew that I didn’t want to carry Zoe over 41 weeks because of other potential complications involved with that, so I was torn. What difference did it make to induce a couple days before I would probably choose that option myself anyway? Then the other side of me would retort and say OK – but what’s the rush? At the moment there is no medical reason to induce, Zoe is healthy in utero and she’s clearly making her way on her own already so why force it when it’s already so close to happening all by itself? What about the rumors I read about inductions having a higher chance of ending in a C-Section? Was I getting myself into something bad? So many questions.
That weekend we continued encouraging Zoe to come and went for an evening walk on the beach in Santa Monica. I walked along the shore with my mother and we chatted. I spent time with Rod and did a little prenatal yoga as the sun was setting. I felt relaxed but was still ticking mentally with all the silent questions I had about our decision, holding them in and letting them weigh on me. That evening I sat down with Rod and we had a long talk about everything – what was bothering me, what my fears were, the pros, the cons and reasoning through the options we had. I love Rod so much – he really knows me inside out and he calmed me down immensely. I felt truly ready and serene about it all, knowing I had confided in my husband and that we were on the same page. It lifted a huge tension off my whole being and now I realize it removed an emotional and physical barrier to the coming of our daughter.
We went to bed that night and had a wonderful, peaceful sleep. I woke up at 5am to pee and when I crawled back into bed I noticed a constant dull and achy period-pain-like feeling in my lower belly. To me, it didn’t feel like your typical description of contractions, ramping up to a peak and then subsiding, so I assumed it was just a weird pregnancy quirk (like so many others!) and the fact that Zoe was so low in my pelvis. I fell asleep and an hour later awoke to go to the bathroom once more and when I sat up, I realized my waters had broken. I was so happy. Over the moon. Zoe was coming on her own time, just as I had wanted. I woke Rod up gently and whispered to him, a huge smile drawn across my face. We got up and had a big breakfast, something I remember fondly because it was so peaceful and exciting.
I arrived at the hospital and was admitted at 7.30am. By that time I was contracting every 5 minutes or less and they were coming in stronger each time. I was surprised to learn that in 2 days I had gone from 3cm dilation to 6cm upon admission that morning and with barely a contraction to show for it. I considered myself extremely lucky and felt blessed. They got me settled in my delivery room and shortly after I asked for the planned epidural. I have a low pain tolerance in general and knew that I didn’t want to be distracted from such an important moment of my life because of contraction pains. I am so happy I committed to my choice to get an epidural from the start of making our birth plan, it was definitely the right decision for me and my pregnancy.
Shortly after receiving the epidural we relaxed, watched television and called our extended family and friends to let them know we were on the way to having Zoe. We set up my iPhone playlist to Norah Jones and a band that Rod and I share a love for called The Album Leaf. I could see a sliver of the Pacific Ocean and the tops of Californian palm trees from my window. It was just all so serene and quiet, so perfect. An hour or two went by and my contractions were still strong, but slower. The nurse decided to administer Pitocin to help the contractions continue at a good pace and I was given just a touch of it to help. Within an hour I was fully dilated at 10cm and ready to start pushing with the nurse. Despite being in the correct position for birth, Zoe’s head wasn’t quite aligned optimally for passing under the bones in my pelvis so we worked through that by pushing during contractions while the nurse would rotate her to correct the alignment. It was all so undramatic; it was quiet and calm – very much the opposite of what you see in movies. We did this for about an hour. I was so thirsty and they gave me ice chips and a little water, which I promptly threw up because of the force of pushing and the hormones releasing during this stage. The doctor finally came in and smiled from ear to ear at me as she announced that I was less than an hour away from meeting my daughter! We spent a further 40 minutes pushing slowly and consistently. Rod was by my side every step of the way, holding me and helping me focus on staying focused and connecting to my body.
As Zoe descended through the birth canal the nurse readjusted both the maternal and fetal monitors on my belly. I remember her moving the baby’s monitor around my lower abdomen looking to pick up Zoe’s heartbeat. Nothing. She added more ultrasound fluid to the area and moved it around some more. Again, nothing. She locked eyes with the Nursery Nurse with a look of confusion as to why the monitor wasn’t picking up the heartbeat. It all happened very quickly but I recall all those exchanges in slow motion and I was strangely calm. I knew everything would be OK and remember reasoning that Zoe must just be deep within the bones of my pelvis. I had to trust that she was fine and we had come too far together already for anything to go wrong. I tried to maintain my focus, keep positive and fully expect that she was going to pop out and I would hear her cry loud and clear. The nurse kept on trying and I kept on focusing calmly. She looked at the doctor with concern, who, in return, smiled up at her calmly and said “Don’t worry, she’ll be right out” (Rod remembers this differently by the way!). We focused on pushing once more and I envisioned Zoe so close to birth which gave me strength to push harder still. A minute or two later, she was born. All 7lb 6oz of her little, perfect, beautiful being was out in the world, wailing away, all 10 fingers and toes, warm skin, a dark head of hair and her huge steely gray eyes wide open.
It was amazing. It was every single thing I had wished and envisioned it to be. Even the heartbeat hiccup was a small test of the journey of what it takes to become a parent, that you will often fear and worry about things out of your control. My birth experience was short, painless, positive, undramatic and Zoe and I were perfectly healthy. The thing I am most thankful for is that I remember every moment of it – every important moment, at least. My mother was present in the room and watched the birth of her first grandchild. Rod and I were born into parenthood together, mommy and papa to a gorgeous little baby girl, bonded together forever as a family. Yup, I don’t think I could have asked for more.
I think it’s important to share a positive birth story because they do exist (and A LOT more than the internet literature would have you think when you research throughout your pregnancy). It is not always a trauma, it is not something to be afraid of. I learned to accept that Zoe’s birth would, for the most part, be far beyond my control and that I would have to ultimately leave it in the hands of the universe. I accepted this both before and during the birth and that was one of the most valuable lessons I learned throughout the experience. You can’t control it all, you can only hope for the best. I don’t know about all the rest, I just know I’m grateful and humbled to have given birth to our daughter.