It is my pleasure to introduce my baby girl, Leah Kate. She made quite a debut, finally arriving just before seven in the evening on Sunday, March 24, weighing seven pounds, three ounces, and measuring 20.5 inches long. She has a head full of dark hair and is healthy as can be.
Leah’s birth story is not the one I expected to be telling, but she is healthy and perfect and that is all that matters. My plans to deliver at the Birth Center where I’d had all of my prenatal care turned out not to be in the cards for us, despite my wholehearted desire and most sincere effort to make it so. It’s a long story, the last few weeks of my pregnancy throwing one heck of a curve ball, but here’s the condensed version.
At 38 weeks 6 days I was ordered to go on bed rest due to high blood pressure. Days on end lying on my left side, in combination with herbal tinctures, chlorophyll supplements, eating beets daily and protein hourly and drinking unimaginable amounts of coconut water kept my blood pressure in control enough that I could stay home and wait to go into labor. Waiting was hard though so we tried everything possible to try to get labor going, except walking, which was all I wanted to get up and do. Three acupuncture sessions and seemingly endless hours with the breast pump finally got labor going for good on Wednesday evening, March 19. That’s right, 4 days and 21 hours before she was born I started having painful contractions. They were pretty irregular, mostly coming every 8-12 minutes, with two or three 20-30 minute breaks in those first days, but continuous enough to keep me from sleeping.
Friday morning I was starting to get frustrated and we went to see the midwife even though my contractions were still not regular or close together. Now try to imagine the misery that was a drive into Austin… 39+ weeks pregnant, in labor, unable to sit up (so this means lying down in the back of our station wagon!) for a one hour trip, the final stretch in rush hour stop and go traffic. The midwife visit was uneventful, and pretty discouraging. Baby was lower than last week but still not low enough to get labor really going. Some new herbs, a few stretches and a hip-rocking technique to try to get baby’s head where it needed to be to move down, and we were on our way back home, no more in labor than when we drove in that morning. The upside of this visit was that my blood pressure was no longer an issue and I didn’t have to be on bed rest any more.
Friday turned into Saturday and the contractions kept coming, every 8-10 minutes. Later that morning they picked up though, and quickly reached 4-5 minutes apart. Our bags had been packed for days and days and the dog had been at his dog-sitter’s house since Thursday so we were out the door in a hurry. Once we got to the birth center, around noon on Saturday the 23rd, my due date, the contractions slowed down again. We walked, I used the breast pump, I took labor inducing herbs, I ate even though I so did not want to, I climbed stairs two at a time, sat on the labor ball and we waited. And waited. And waited for labor to pick up and really get going. Baby’s heart rate stayed strong throughout it all, so we just kept trying.
Saturday turned into Sunday and there was still no real progress. Contractions were coming hard every 6-10 minutes, they hurt worse and worse and I was getting tired. Baby was still not as low as she should have been and I wasn’t really dilating (2.5cm after 4+ days in labor). I got in the tub early Sunday morning and felt relief for the first time in days. The water was so relaxing that I was able to actually get some sleep in the tub, while my husband slept on the bed nearby. After a few hours in the tub, the midwife was eager to discuss the next steps. All I knew or could even comprehend in my brain was that I was not doing one more thing to make contractions hurt worse, in fact, I wasn’t getting out of the tub. I straight up refused to get out! I knew that as soon as I did, the contractions would start up again and I was SO OVER the pain.
This is when I decided that I had given it all I had and the only thing I would get out of the tub for was an epidural. It was crazy how the thing I was most adamant against, “I’ll push a baby out of my nose before you’ll stick a needle in my spine” was now the only thing I could think about. I needed the pain to stop, I could not go on any longer. So… the midwife called the hospital, we packed our stuff and down the road we went. The admission process was smooth as can be, and within an hour I was in a hospital bed with an epidural in my back. Oh sweet relief, I had never felt such a magical sensation!
That was around one on Sunday afternoon and I was dilated 4cm. The doctor broke my water (something I didn’t want when this all began) and hooked me up to a pitocin drip (the thing beside the epidural that I wanted the very least). By this time I was in a completely foreign place I never thought I’d be, but I was totally okay with it, in good spirits and just so ready to have my baby. I took a much needed nap, ate some ice chips and a mere five hours later I was fully dilated and ready to push. I was so excited to finally be able to push this baby out! It felt like I had been in labor for days…. oh yes, I had.
Thankfully, one thing went easily for us in this marathon birth story, in just a few good pushes, out came a perfect baby. I wanted my husband to tell me if we had a girl or a boy but I looked down and beat him to it. I won’t ever, as long as I live, forget lifting my head and seeing that tiny purple bottom turn pink… “It is a girl!” They put her right on my chest and I looked at her tiny little face. That hair, those tiny ears, button nose, perfect little lips. My beautiful girl, it was as if I had known her all my life. Within minutes she was on the breast, content and calm.
And just like that, it was all a memory, I had my baby, a precious, perfect baby girl and every minute of the last few days, weeks and the entire nine months was totally worth it.
My mother was there with us, actually FaceTiming with my sister in Germany during the delivery, and my husband held my hand the whole time. The nurses were wonderful, and the doctor I so didn’t want to be a part of my birth experience was as nice as can be. The hospital we were in is a very progressive one, and I was very grateful that Leah never left my room. There was ample breast feeding help and I felt well cared for and respected for my choice to transfer from the Birth Center. My stay in the hospital was far more pleasant than I could have ever imagined.
So there it is, the story of my labor and delivery, and the day that I met the most precious girl in the world.