Let me start by saying that I have been preparing to have a natural birth throughout my pregnancy. I know we can't control what happens in birth, but I've taken steps to help prepare my mind and body to labor drug-free. I had the same intentions for my first birth with Kestan. The short version of that experience is - Kestan came 8 days before his "due date." I went 27 hours unmedicated going through intense labor. I had a midwife, doula and my husband helping me along the way. My contractions slowed and after 23 hours I stalled at 9 cm for another 4 hours. We tried everything before my midwife finally recommended an epidural. At first I felt very disappointed and was still determined to go all the way drug-free, but I was dehydrated and exhausted. The epidural did get me to 10 cm and allowed me to work through another 3 1/2 hours of pushing.
Although I was happy to go as long as I did, I had hoped for a birthing experience where I would feel the urge to push and feel my baby come out without any interventions.
Being pregnant for the second time, just as the first, was a wonderful experience for me. Other than the occasional acid reflux and sore feet, I felt really good. I love feeling my baby grow and move inside me and I find pregnancy to be very enjoyable.
This time around my sweet Ashton Quinn was 6 days past his "due date." I knew that Ashton would come when he was ready.
Healthy diet? Check.
Attentive husband? Check.
Birthing ball? Check.
Evening primrose? Check.
Pre-natal yoga throughout pregnancy? Check.
Pre-natal chiropractic care? Check.
Evening meditations? Check.
Prayer beads? Check.
Read Birthing from Within? (among many others) Check.
Relaxing CD's? Check.
Ok...I was ready. Bring it on.
Wednesday, October 13th,
I woke up to what felt like very mild menstrual cramps. I knew this was the start of something, but also knew that it was just the beginning, and that I had time. I went downstairs for a bowl of cereal, some water and went back to bed.
I woke up to what felt like a trickle, which I assumed was my water breaking. I got up and told Chris that today is the day.
He loaded up the car. (I've had my hospital bag packed for weeks!) He called my midwife, doula and mom to give them a heads up. They all knew we had time. My mom was going to come over and take care of Kestan for the day. My midwife wanted me to labor at home as long as possible to avoid getting to the hospital too early. My doula would be on the lookout for our next call.
I started feeling incredible labor pains. The contractions jumped into high gear. I was shocked at how painful it already felt and secretly wondered, "How did I do this for 27 hours last time?!" Still thinking we had plenty of time, considering that during my first birth I labored at home for 12 hours before going to the hospital.
Kestan woke up and joined us in the bathroom. He had his doggie jammies on and a sock monkey in his hand. He was quiet and very in touch. He knew that baby brother was on his way. He knew mommy was in pain and he even tried to make me laugh.
I felt the urge to push! All of a sudden my contractions shifted and I thought I might have to push him out in my bathroom. My mom still wasn't there and I knew that if I didn't get to the hospital quick it was going to be bad. We all got in the car - Chris calm as ever, Kestan in his jammies, and me in the front seat on my knees. I had to keep my hand between my legs because I felt as though he may come out at any moment.
"Mommy, do you see the train?" "Aaggghhh....yes, Kestan, I see the train."
As I mentioned before, I never knew what the urge to push felt like. I certainly knew what it was this time around. I just couldn't believe how quickly it came about. I felt like I skipped over the entire labor and went right into pushing mode.
And all my preparation to have a natural birth came into play in this moment. My breath and my mind had to connect fully and deeply to my body and baby who were off doing their own thing. I had to find a way to unify them. I closed my eyes and went to a deep, deep place - a present-moment place - where only Ashton and I were communicating to each other. "Hold on baby. Don't come yet. Just a little longer." Breathe, breathe, breathe... (scream) "Hold on baby. We can do this. We can do this together." Breathe...
Chris called my mom and told her to turn around and meet us at the hospital. He called my midwife and doula and warned them of the situation. I discovered that meconium was coming out. (For those of you who don't know - meconium is babies poop in the womb - and can cause concern if it gets into the babies lungs.) I knew it wasn't good - especially since there was so much of it.
Again, Chris was surprisingly calm. Even when we was telling me that the midwife said if we think we aren't going to make it we should pull over and call 911. What?!! I think that was the extra motivation Ashton and I needed to hear to hold off on any pushing until we got the hospital. I'm forever grateful that I didn't have him on the side of the road.
We pulled up to the emergency room and Chris waved a nurse to come help. She brought a wheelchair for me and again I had to kneel on the seat. I grabbed on to her tightly and felt a small sense of relief that at least we made it there. I knew I'd be able to push soon.
Once I was wheeled into the maternity ward it felt very much like an episode from some hospital drama. All the nurses jumped from behind the desk, although it felt like slow motion to me, and they quickly brought me to the first room. Ashton was the only birth that entire day so the floor was quiet and plenty of staff was available.
They quickly got me in bed.
I laid on my side and held on for dear life to nurse Jessica. She placed an oxygen mask on my face so her face was slightly distorted as I looked through it. With each urge to push she'd talk me through my breaths. I begged her to "help me." And she did. Staring into her eyes, feeling her squeeze my hands, and breathing with her helped me. My mind kept repeating, "Trust, trust, trust... Healthy baby. Healthy baby. Trust, trust, trust.."
Here I was, laying in a bright hospital room, with what felt like hundreds of people coming in and out. A far cry from the quiet, dark, candle-lit, soaking tub, aroma-therapy, accupressure, soft music, experience I had envisioned.
A nurse checked me. She announced that I was complete and that it was a boy. She could feel his testicles coming out. I'm happy I already knew he was a boy. Could you imagine if we had been waiting for that exciting moment to find out the sex of our child and this is how it was announced to us!?
Wait...what? Where's his head?
Ashton had been head down for weeks. In fact, I was just checked on Monday and he was supposedly head down. I never felt a huge flip - how could he all of a sudden be breech?
Nurse Jessica said I would have to have a c-section.
"Trust, trust, trust..."
My midwife arrived. Thank god! She will prove these nurses wrong. She'll tell me he's head down, let me push and soon this will all be over. I'll be holding my healthy baby boy in no time.
She affirmed what the nurses so matter-of-factly declared - emergency c-section was the only way to ensure a safe delivery of our baby who was completely breech.
"Trust, trust, trust..."
My husband was back after handing Kestan off to Nana in the lobby. I stared into his eyes and said, "Bubs, I can't believe this." He whispered back, "Everything will be ok."
There was lots of commotion, including getting an epidural that quickly took the pain away. They counted to three and hoisted me with a sheet onto another bed and wheeled me to the operating room. Someone put a surgical cap on my head and I remember thinking that it was crooked and half my hair was sticking out on one side. I felt exposed. I felt scared. I couldn't believe this was happening.
6:30 ish a.m.
I was ready for surgery. Chris came in and looked at me. He got close to my ear and said with total confidence, "You came into the world this same way and look how wonderful you turned out."
In that moment I felt peace come over me. I had survived being breech, with the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck, which resulted in an emergency c-section for my mom. I survived. I was ok. I was healthy. My mom healed beautifully. We can do this.
Chris was to my left, the nurse was to my right. Both were holding my hands and I was tightly squeezing back. Then I took some breaths. I relaxed into that moment. My mantra now changed to, "Accept, accept, accept..." I remembered how Eckhart Tolle says we have three choices in any situation: enthusiasm, excitement or acceptance. In that moment I knew that I couldn't resist anymore. My body was forced to completely surrender. Now, my mind and spirit were ready to make peace and let go - to accept that this is the way my baby was going to enter the world and to trust that everything is going to be ok.
Ashton Quinn took his first breath. It seemed like it took a few minutes as they had to make sure he didn't take in any meconium. Finally, I could hear him. I still couldn't see my angel. I had to accept that his umbilical cord was cut before it stopped pulsing. I had to accept that my husband would not be the one cutting the cord. I had to accept that Ashton wasn't handed directly to my chest.
"Accept, accept, accept..."
Finally, someone held him up so I could see him. Major relief and a flood of tears - I quickly scanned to make sure he had all of his fingers and toes. He was beautiful. So gentle and so sweet looking. He seemed to say, "I'm ok mom. I'll be in your arms soon."
They kept Ashton in the room with us and Chris stayed there, holding his hand, until it was time to return to our room. It took about 20 minutes for them to stitch me back up.
7:30 ish a.m.
Ashton was in my arms and nursing like a champ. This baby loves milk and I haven't had to correct his latch even once! In fact, the nurses and doctor were shocked that Ashton surpassed his birth weight before leaving the hospital.
I was in recovery for the next 2 hours and everything is a little vague at this point. I think I was still in shock at how fast the morning went. My water broke at 4:45 and just over two hours later I had abdominal surgery and was nursing the child that grew inside me for 9 plus months. Very, very surreal.
Kestan met his baby brother for the first time. He was a little unsure at first, but quickly warmed up to him with lots of hugs and kisses. He was especially excited that baby brother brought him "Woody" from Toy Story. Nana, Baba, Uncle Jeff and Aunt Lindsay came in soon after to meet baby Ashton.
Kestan was intimidated by the hospital bed at first. Then my sensitive one came into my arms and I know he just wanted to make sure I was ok.
I spent the next three days resting, crying, and falling in love... At one point my phone battery died, Chris left to be with Kestan and the CD player didn't work - and these were all great gifts! For a good part of two days Ashton and I rested quietly together, other than the occasional nurse check-ups. It offered us wonderful quality time to bond and recover from what felt like a traumatizing beginning.
Ashton is a very calm and peaceful baby. I look into his eyes and see an old soul. He's only 10 days old and has already taught me a great lesson in letting go. He's living so presently - sleeping, eating, observing, and truly being at peace. That's it and that's all that really matters.
I found this quote that I had written a few times in my journal before the birth:
"Birth requires a knowing from the inside, a knowing that you are powerful, and that you are love. Your voice inside will guide you, and show you that you have the power to bring a new life into this world with love." (I'm not sure where I found this.)
So even though I didn't get to experience the natural birth I so wanted, and the fact that my birth was almost the total opposite of "natural," this quote reminds me that I still listened to my voice within. Had I not honored my intuition at the very beginning of labor, this child could have been born in my bathroom or on the highway and who knows if we would have had complications. I listened to my inner voice, "Trust, healthy baby, accept..." and it resulted in being fully present for my cesarean birth.
It's hard to not ask questions like, "Was he breech the entire time but we had his position wrong? Had we known could the outcome have been different? Could he have been born safely breech and I could have avoided the dreaded c-section? Has our birth become just another c-section statistic? Do these pain meds go through my breast milk and effect my baby in anyway? Will I be able to have a VBAC if I choose to have more children? Why didn't I get to experience the natural birth I felt ready for? Why did this have to happen after such an easy pregnancy?" I know I need time to grieve that my ideal birth didn't happen. I know that I have to let go of these "why" and "would-if" questions to truly accept the outcome and move on. And I know that I have so much to celebrate and be grateful for.
I still have some healing to do - both physically and emotionally. But one thing is for certain - I brought this beautiful being into the world with a whole lotta love. And I have such an appreciation for LIFE!
I came home to a beautiful bouquet of flowers from my mother-in-law, a bed made especially for me on our couch from my husband, and a veggie lasagna meal and apple crisp from my mom and sister. It was a beautiful homecoming and has been a perfect resting spot.
We are healing. We are healthy. And we are oh so very happy.
Your Personal Reflection: Do you have a birth story you'd like to share? What have you learned from giving birth? What, in you, is ready to be born? Are you ready to accept the past and be at peace with the present moment?
*Special thanks to my family and friends for all of your love and support. Thanks to my doula, Ashley, for making sure Chris had his camera in surgery! Thanks to my midwife, Jeane, and my nurse, Becky, for taking such great care of me. And thanks to those of you who visit my space here. I appreciate you all so very much. xoxo
*Most of these photos were taken by my husband, Chris.
Thank you, bubs, for EVERY thing. I love you.
Thank you, bubs, for EVERY thing. I love you.