Avery Jack's Birth Story born 1/17/2022
Today's birth story is written by first time mom Hayley, and we are in awe of not only her story, but her wherewithal to cope through labor's intensity and changes in birth plans. It has been our pleasure to support her pregnancy and into the newborn stage! Read on for an intense look into birth and an exploration of a mom's inner journey through it.
I think your water broke, baby
"It’s Sunday night (Monday morning) January 17th at 2 am. I get up- yet again- to go to the bathroom. I sit on the toilet, and somehow, I can’t pee. That’s weird- this has never happened before. I try for a few more minutes and still nothing happens. I stand up, and some water splashes at my ankles. I don’t think it’s pee. Is this my water breaking?? It can’t be. Only 10% of women’s water breaks spontaneously at home, I’m not going to be in that small minority, surely. However, my stomach hurts. It’s just one continuous tightening that sort of feels like it feels at my period. I call Andrew into the bathroom because of the pain. I’m scared.
He wakes up and comes in. “I think your water broke, baby.” I start to hyperventilate a little, panicking, because I’m so scared of what’s to come. There’s no stopping it now. We go into the bedroom and sit down on the bench (on a towel). As I’m sitting there, a gush of water comes out of me. I’m really panicking now. Oh my god. I’m in labor. My stomach still hurts. Actually, now it’s pain down in the perineal area- vagina and rectum- and it’s coming and going.
Doing the right things
I realize that I need to get into the shower for two reasons: #1: I need to wash my hair if I’m going to be going into the hospital to have a baby. It’s been a few days. #2: I know that the hot water will soothe me and help with the pain. In the shower, I manage to slowly wash myself and my hair, with contractions coming and going, but they’re bearable. I’m still not feeling any stomach pain- it’s all down low. I pull our little shower table out and sit down on it intermittently. At some point, Andrew gets a contraction timing app and starts timing them. They’re short- lasting only about 30 seconds- but close together at every 2-3 minutes. While I’m in the shower, Andrew calls our doula, Christa. She says that we’re doing the right things, and to let her know when we think it’s time for her to come over. We will keep her closely updated on my progress. I get out of the shower and start drying my hair. I hate having wet hair. The contractions are making it tricky because I have to stop what I’m doing every time I have one.
I lie down in the bed for a few minutes to try to relax (meanwhile, Andrew is running around the apartment gathering up the last-minute items that we need to bring with us to the hospital, taking out the trash, etc.). I’m not able to lie down in the bed for too long, the pain gets too intense, and I need to be up.
Maybe we need to get to the hospital
I get up and go into the living room and kneel down with my labor ball. The dogs are concerned about me and circling around me, licking me, not sure what’s going on. I’m yelling through some contractions and deep-moaning through others. A very select few I’m able to simply breathe through. Andrew says that maybe we need to get to the hospital, and we talk to Christa again. She leaves it totally up to us, but reminds us that our plan was to labor at home for as long as possible. I don’t want to go yet, either. I know that as soon as I get there, they’re going to put me on Pitocin, and I don’t want that.
A few more contractions of increasing intensity, however, and I know that we need to get going. Andrew takes the dogs outside, and then we call the hospital. I decide that if the pain gets any worse than it is now, I won’t be able to tolerate the 35-minute-long car ride. The triage nurse on the phone asks to speak with me when Andrew tells her what’s going on. Are you serious? They need to talk to me, now?! I can’t focus on anything except getting through these contractions! Regardless, Andrew puts the phone call on speaker, and I explain what’s happening. The nurse asks if I was dilated at my last OB appointment, and I tell her that on Thursday I was 4 cm dilated and 80% effaced. That was three days ago for my 38-week appointment. I’m now just barely 38 weeks and 6 days. I never imagined that I would spontaneously go into labor before my due date. I was convinced that I would need some lengthy induction process (that I didn’t want) when I made it to my due date. After I tell her my measurements at the last OB appointment, another contraction hits, and I low-moan my way through it. As soon as it’s over, she tells me to come on in to the hospital.
Andrew pulls the car up to the side of the building and we slowly make our way there from the apartment. Contractions in an elevator are weird. I feel trapped. I know it’s a short ride though (4 stories). I carefully get into the car and we start toward Naples. I have my water, a pack of mini muffins, and an Uncrustable PB & J. I know I should eat before we get to the hospital. I need my strength and I won’t be able to eat once I’m there. About halfway to the hospital I do manage to eat the mini muffins and drink some water. Contractions continue in the car ride. Christa had reminded us that the car ride may alter contractions, making the pattern slow down. Not for me. They’re 35-50 seconds long now, and still close together, every 1.5-2.5 minutes. I even have a stacked contraction of two on top of each other without a break in between. (Andrew adds: I was taking my time being careful to not drive too fast and avoid any pot holes. I soon realized about ten minutes into the drive that if I kept that pace we’d be delivering on the shoulder of the highway; so I started driving much faster.)
We get to the NCH Birth Place, and Christa had mentioned that if contractions slowed down, we could just hang out in the parking lot until we were ready to go in. Contractions were bad, there was no waiting around in the parking lot. I wanted to park so Andrew and I could walk in together, but he insisted on dropping me off at the door. There was an ambulance, but we get out and tell the security guard who I am, give IDs, Andrew gets his picture taken? Temperature checked? I’m not honestly sure what it was. (Andrew adds: Her temperature was being taken, and picture from license was used for hospital ID badge.) We change out our masks for hospital masks. The security guard informs us that someone will be out to bring me back but that it will be a little bit because there is a patient ahead of me that came in by ambulance. I figured that much out, but I don’t really need to be told that I’m going to be waiting at this point. That doesn’t help with the pain and fear. But it is what it is.
Andrew leaves to park the car, and I’m left alone in the lobby with the security guard. I sit in a chair and yell or moan through contractions. I can’t sit still, it hurts too much. I don’t like where I’m sitting, so I walk over to the other side of the waiting room. I don’t sit, I want to kneel with my arms on a chair. I think about having to get up from the floor, though, and that option doesn’t sound pleasant either. Standing is hard. Sitting is hard. I think I’m sitting when Andrew comes back in. (Andrew adds: she's leaning on chair, hunched over the back.) After about 15 minutes, a nurse comes out to bring us back to triage.
I’m brought to a bathroom and told to take off all of my clothes and put on the hospital gown, and to pee in a cup. I can’t possibly do all of this without help, without Andrew, but he’s led down to the triage room. As soon as the door is closed and I’m half-naked and sitting on the toilet, a knock comes at the door. I struggle to get back up and open it, and the nurse asks me if I feel safe at home, or if I have any thoughts of harming myself. Satisfied with my answers, she leaves and I continue the struggle of getting undressed and peeing in the cup. (Andrew adds: While this is happening, me and the triage nurse are going over all the pre-enrollment paperwork and our birth preferences that we provided the OB (they faxed it to the hospital). Eventually, I complete the task and go out of the bathroom, where I’m shown to my triage room.
We also find out that Covid hospital visitor policy has changed over the weekend, and Christa is NOT going to be allowed in- they are now only allowing one support person to be present. This is completely unexpected, but I don't even have time to process it. Christa still comes to the hospital and waits in the hospital parking lot, providing Andrew with support via phone and text (for which we are immensely grateful! But still devastated that we are unable to have our doula physically with us at our side.)
"I'm a nurse"
I meet the nurse and she’s very nice. She puts monitoring bands on my belly, one for contractions, and one to monitor the baby’s heart rate. A doctor whom I’ve never heard of or seen comes into the room to check me. She’s one of the new OB hospitalists. I know of and have seen and worked with every single OB in town through anesthesia clinicals, and she is not one of them. Of course. She does a test to check for amniotic fluid (a cotton swab in the vagina for a minute), and does a cervical check, which HURTS! I say to stop. She says that I’m 6 cm dilated. The contractions are getting worse and worse, and lying on this stretcher is so uncomfortable. I’m turning myself side to side, trying to help the pain somehow. The triage nurse is asking a lot of questions, I’m able to answer some in between contractions, and Andrew answers other ones. A phlebotomist comes to draw my blood, and I tell him that I’ll try my hardest to stay still. I also tell him where my best vein is to draw blood (typical nurse), and then I’m embarrassed that he’ll think I’m a junkie or something, so I say that I’m a nurse. He laughs and says “I figured.” He’s great and gets all the blood drawn no problem. He’s in the room for a while labeling everything and trying to get my blood band done. The OB hospitalist comes back to do an ultrasound to check the baby’s position. Couldn’t she feel the head when she did the cervical check? Is this necessary? Is this protocol? Anyway, my stretcher is moved to make room for her, and after fiddling around with the machine she does the ultrasound, and boy did that hurt- it shouldn’t have, but the slight pressure on my stomach from the transducer during contractions was just one more pain that I didn’t want.
Active Labor and Transition
I guess that everything is ok, and I hear her talking on the phone with my on-call OB, and saying “oh yeah, she is definitely in active labor.” I’m moving around so much in the bed that the nurse has to hold the baby’s heart rate monitor in place when I’m having contractions, and that small amount of pressure hurts too! Now I’m writhing on the stretcher, turning side to side and holding onto the siderails for dear life during contractions- I can’t help what I’m doing- I’m screaming- and somewhere in the back of my head I realize that this is probably transition. If I’m in transition NOW, there is very little chance that I’ll be able to get an epidural in time for the baby to come. I can’t keep myself still during contractions, and if I can’t do that, I can’t get an epidural. I push these thoughts out of my head and try to just get through the pain. I’m so scared. I tell the nurse. I don’t remember her response. I ask a couple of times when I can get the epidural. She has me sign a bunch of consent forms (really?! Now??), and the next thing I know, she says that instead of starting my IV here in triage, we’re going to go to my labor room so that I’m all ready for the epidural ASAP and that I’ll have the IV started there.
A nurse arrives in the doorway with a wheelchair, and I try to sit down in it between contractions, but it’s way too painful to sit. I ask if I can please walk to the room. The nurses give each other a look (Andrew tells me later) but allow me to walk from triage to my labor room. It’s so weird walking through the place I did clinicals for a month, now as a patient. We go into one of the closest rooms, 1908. “Well, that’s a good sign,” I think, “8 is my lucky number.” I get onto the bed and the nurse reattaches the monitoring bands to the monitor, but now I realize that I need to pee. She unhooks them again and Andrew helps me to the bathroom. It’s a little bloody. Is that ok? I get back to the bed- I’m not sure if my gown is even on me at this point. I don’t care. Everything just hurts. Monitors are hooked back up, and Courtney (my L&D nurse) starts my IV. I don’t know how I manage to stay still enough with the contractions, but she’s fast. Then, we realize that we need additional blood drawn for the cord blood banking kit, and I guess at some point that is done too. I’m yelling through contractions, and I’m feeling fluid come out with a lot of the contractions, too. Is it pee? Blood? Amniotic fluid? I’m a little worried, but don’t have the wherewithal to ask or do anything about it. Courtney starts my fluid bolus for my epidural, and leaves the room to wait for my lab results.
I’m lying on my side in the bed with one leg up, holding onto the side rail, trying to get through the pain. All of a sudden, it feels like my body is trying to push out a poop. This happens again on the next contraction, too. Somewhere deep in my mind I know what this means, and I ignore it, because that means the baby is coming NOW, and that is too scary to think about. I still don’t have my epidural!! The third time it happens, though, I know that I need to tell the nurse, and I hit the call button and say that it feels like my body is pushing. Courtney immediately comes into the room and says “So you’re feeling pushy?” She is way too upbeat, chipper, and casual about this. I say that I’m not trying to but I guess, yeah, my body is pushing. She does a cervical check and says “You’re fully dilated.” This is the moment when there is no longer a slim possibility that I’ll be able to get an epidural. This is the moment of truth. I will be having this baby without an epidural or any kind of medication. I can’t do this. No way. I look at her and say “Fuck.” “I can’t do this without an epidural. I can’t.” She says “You’re doing it! You’re already doing it. Things are going to look different now, but that’s ok, you’re doing this.” “I can’t push this baby out without an epidural.”
Courtney immediately goes to the doorway and calls for a table, and more people come into the room. They’re gathering supplies for the doctor, and Courtney’s orientee, along with a “baby catcher” nurse are there with us frantically getting everything ready. Dr. Garcia is the on-call OB for my doctor’s practice, and she has been informed that I’m ready to have the baby. She will be there soon. I’m back on my side, holding onto the side rail and lifting my top leg, trying not to push with contractions, but again, my body is just doing it. This goes on for a little bit and I’m told not to push. I eventually ask what we’re waiting for, even though I think I know (indeed, we’re simply waiting for Dr. Garcia to arrive for me to *really* start pushing). She gets there, and the leg holders are put on the bed and I’m made to lay on my back with my legs up in the holders. Everyone tells me that they can see the baby’s head, and ask if I want to feel it. I can feel EVERYTHING, so I say no. I’m afraid that if I reach down and feel the baby’s head with my hand, it’ll get me all freaked out. Andrew looks down and sees the head, too, which is pretty cool. I hope he’ll be able to look at my vagina the same after this.
Dr. Garcia then puts both of her hands in my vagina to stretch it open for his head, and this is EXCRUCIATING!!! I reach down and take her hands out, without even having control or conscious thought about it. This makes her really mad, and she gets up, shakes her head, and storms out of the room. I just look after her and want to cry. I look at Courtney’s orientee and say “I don’t want everyone to be mad at me!” I’m so scared, and I hurt more than I ever have before, and people just keep telling me that I’m not doing things right, that I have to push harder, and longer, and I know that I can’t do it. I keep thinking to just say that I need to have a c section. They’ll get me back there, do a quick spinal, and cut the baby out. Because I just CANNOT push the baby out without any medication. I look at Courtney and ask if I can get any kind of pain medication. She says no, that they can’t give it within two hours of the baby being born because it will make the baby sleepy.
Dr. Garcia comes back and tells a nurse that she didn’t end up going into the other patient’s room because she would have to gown/mask up and down and it was too long of a process. She gets back into position between my legs and the two nurses are holding my legs, and I’m told to push with contractions. I try to, but the pushing causes the pain to increase, and I stop pushing after about two seconds. I’m pushing, but not enough. The nurses push my legs back toward my chest to “open up my pelvis more” and this hurts more. The baby catcher nurse gives me a handle to hold onto while I push. It helps a little. I keep trying. I stop when the contractions stop, and then when the next contraction hits, I try to hide it, because I’m so scared of pushing. I’m afraid of the pain. I tell Courtney’s orientee that I’m scared and she says “You’re in the right place.” I’m not scared of anything happening to me or the baby (maybe I should be), I’m scared of the pain! Silly trying to hide contractions because they have that belt on me monitoring them.
It's a Boy!
I keep half-pushing and stopping when it hurts too much. I’m yelling with most of the pushes. They tell me to keep my mouth closed and hold my breath to make the pushing stronger. I can’t. I can feel the baby’s face and ears in my vagina. This is such a weird feeling. I’m freaking out. Eventually, someone says that the heart rate is dropping, I hear a nurse say that it’s 90. That’s NOT GOOD. I look at Andrew and give a real push without stopping. I need to get this baby out NOW or something bad is going to happen to it. It could die. I give one more REAL push and the head comes out, followed by the rest of the body in one big slither. Oh my god. I breathe. The baby is on my belly. I did it. I DID IT! The baby is out.
Andrew looks and says that it’s a boy! What a surprise, we all thought we were having a girl!
Someone takes the gown out from between the baby and me, and I get my skin-to-skin that I wanted. Finally, ONE part of my birth “preferences” that I get.
He's Mine. Ours.
The baby is crying, and the baby is ok. We can’t move the baby up to my chest because the umbilical cord is short, but that’s ok. He’s here. He’s mine. Ours. We did it. After several minutes, Dr. Garcia asks Andrew if he wants to cut the cord. Yes! Andrew looks so excited. He cuts the cord. I get my kiss on the lips that I’ve always said I want as soon as the baby is out. I’m still just in shock, not myself. After a little while, the baby nurse takes the baby to be weighed and cleaned, and Dr. Garcia starts stitching me up. She injects some lidocaine, which actually doesn’t hurt too much, and tells me that I have a second-degree tear, and she is also going to stitch up my labia. At the time, I think that she’s just doing the right side, but later I find out that it’s both sides. The stitches for the right labia HURT, she tells me this is because it’s so close to the skin that the local won’t completely numb it there (huh?), but whatever. I yell some more but get through it. Andrew is over with the baby and getting pictures. When they’re done, they put the baby on my chest. This is my baby. He is adorable. He looks just like he did in the ultrasound pictures!! I ask if Andrew can do skin to skin, and he does. He is so in love. It makes me fall in love with him even more."
Authored by Hayley, first time mom to baby Avery
Thank you Hayley for sharing your amazing journey with us! We could not be more excited for you and Andrew as you begin your journey through early parenthood. Congratulations!
Our doula best,
Christa + the Mindful Birth team