I’ve been hesitant to take up space online with another "scary" birth story.
However, I've realized after more than two years of reflection, that my experience has a lot to teach others and is actually necessary to share.
While I will start with a *trigger warning* (homebirth transfer, birth injury, loss of control) there is so much good that women can take away from my experience.
Most of all I want to communicate an encouragement: YOU know best. Not your provider, not your lab work, not your nurse, not our culture, etc. YOU.
To mothers who are pregnant, while my story may be unsettling to read, please know that your experience will be unique to you. Heed my warning and tune in to your inner voice. Even after two unmedicated birth experiences and a whole head full of birth knowledge, I did not do this and suffered as a result.
Your instincts are incredible and will guide you through pregnancy and birth. Your gut feelings trump all, especially when they are not based in fear but rather in a deep knowing of your body and the baby you created.
All. That. Said..
It was 10:30PM Friday, October 4th, 2019. We turned on our heater. The warm air against my feet on the floor vent felt good. It was easier to stay loose without the cold bothering my body. The initial dusty smell was a familiar smell of the first cold days the Midwest brings each Autumn.
Landon held me close. I cried silent tears into his shoulder and allowed my muscles to contract without fighting back. I know how to respond, I know how to bare the sensations of labor and allow progression.
Long contractions wrapped my body in discomfort as I made my mind accept them. King and I had already experienced a week of prodromal labor and I was exhausted and frustrated. I was headed towards 42 weeks of pregnancy and was completely ready for this work.
We labored through the entire night. King and I worked hard with Landon near and present. I sat on a birthing ball and faced Landon, holding on to his arms. We moved and laid on the living room floor together for a long while. It almost felt like we were doing this for the first time. It felt exciting in the most intense way. We were experiencing birth together again and would meet our son so very soon.
We hoped we wouldn’t make it to morning without King in our arms but if we had to, we planned to make coffee at 6AM, exactly. Mokita played over and over and over in my headphones making “All Into Nothing” our most played song on Spotify for the year.
Hours passed. I’d walked alongside mothers through this passageway for almost a decade. Even having personally experienced unmedicated birth twice already, this birth seemed so much harder, so much more intense than I’d seen and experienced, especially for it not being a quick birth.
My contractions were all well over 2 minutes long and only 3 minutes apart. I had about 30 seconds to relax my muscles and ready myself for the next wave of pressure. This pattern started shortly after the onset of labor and continued through the entire night. I remained calm and open. I’m proud of that.
Our doula drove from a neighboring city in the early morning to labor with us. She lightened the bit of heaviness in the air. We made it to 6AM and made our french press. We sipped hot coffee between contractions. I loved those moments.
Our midwives joined us shortly after our doula. I sat on a birthing ball in our kitchen. The lights were low and while the room was quiet we all listened to King’s strong heart tones pulse through the doppler. My inner dialogue kept repeating, “He’s coming. I can keep doing this.”
The birthing tub was filled with hot water as the sun rose and my daughters woke up for the day. They sat close, giggling and reading on the sofa. I hope they were able to see what birth really looks like. I hope they saw that I was being brave, and that someday they will remember and be brave themselves.
I squatted in the water and reached inside my body. I was completely open and I could feel King’s head. “He’s for sure coming. I can do this!”
I waited. I wanted to "labor down". King still needed to navigate my body. This time —after being completely dilated, until your baby moves through your pelvis— must not be disturbed, no matter how long it takes. Sometimes birth makes you forget what you know.
I didn’t wait long enough. I wanted to be done. I didn’t feel an urge to move him but I kept trying to. Each effort brought no downward movement.
Time kept passing. I pushed, I showered, I rested, I bore down, I moved positions many times, I decided to wait again. All the while, tetanic contractions (2+ minute long contractions) continued to squeeze my abdomen tightly without any proper breaks. I was supported but starting to feel alone inside my head.
It was somewhere shortly before 10AM that Landon and I had laid in bed for a while with our birthing team downstairs. I felt most in control when it was just him and I.
Reflecting on my birth many times over, I realize that I should have continued resting at this point. I should have continued laying on my side through the long contractions and allowed King to move and rotate when and how he needed to. But I didn’t. It felt like my contractions began to grow even longer in duration and the short breaks I felt prior were growing even shorter.
It was about 12 hours past the onset of labor (my longest labor yet, but well within the range of normal). After being asked for the third time, regardless of my birth plan stating otherwise, I chose to consent to an internal exam.
“Maybe I felt wrong. Maybe I wasn’t open. Maybe King wasn’t as low as I had thought.” These contractions were just so extreme and I wanted a clear picture of where I was at.
“There’s no cervix and he’s right there.”
I had known, but distrust in myself in the moment made me feel like I needed an expert opinion. In this case, I did not.
I was encouraged to think about being upright again. It was suggested that I try belly lifts which made sense in the moment. I wasn’t fully in my thinking brain to remember that both of my daughters were born with compound presentations and they too needed time to navigate my body uniquely.
Instead of listening to my gut, instead of continuing to labor down like I know is best for both myself and my baby, I chose to try to move things along more quickly. I am the expert of my body as well as my baby moving through it, but in that moment I chose to shut out my instincts.
It’s hard to look back and realize that I was wrong.
I moved to our upstairs bathroom and lifted my belly up with the next contraction as directed. 3 minutes came and went but the sensation of pain did not. 5 minutes passed.. “Why isn’t it stopping?” 10 minutes.. I wasn’t feeling any relief or let up from the pain of what I thought was the same contraction that started when I sat down. I began to panic. “It won’t stop!”
I was handed a glass of magnesium (a natural muscle relaxant) and water to chug. I stood up and moved to the hallway. Magnesium was rubbed on my belly as I held my arms out to the walls on either side of me. Nothing was helping. “It won’t stop! Why isn’t it stopping?!” I was in extreme, continuous pain. I quickly began to lose my ability to cope.
I moved back to our room and dropped to my knees at the side of the bed. I gripped the sheets and started screaming. “Make it stop!” I got on our bed on to all fours and pushed my face into the comforter. I tried staying completely still, I moved, I screamed and groaned and clenched my jaw, but nothing brought relief. It was both a sharp and a dull pain overwhelming my pelvis and wouldn’t stop for even a moment. “It won’t stop! It won’t stop! Why won’t it stop?!”
I moved on to my back and pushed with all my might. My midwife reached inside me and directed my pushing. The pressure of her hand took some of the sharp pain away but King wouldn’t budge and I no longer was coping.
“We’re going in.” My midwife made the decision to transfer my birth to our local hospital and obstetric birthing team.
I have since learned from several medical providers that lifting my belly most likely placed King directly on top of my pubic joint. For the following almost 2 hours he would slowly rip apart its connecting tissue which is designed not to tear. It was excruciating and I felt helpless to play any part in my birth from that moment forward.
We quickly moved to the car and headed towards our transferring hospital.
Landon calmly and firmly spoke scripture over me while I continued screaming on the way to Dupont. I had completely lost control.
'King's Story Part 2: Birth' has already been written (years ago) and will be posted soon!