If you missed part one, click here.
On Sunday, June 13th, Daniel and I woke up, hopped in the car and headed to Evergreen Lake for a walk. The sun was shining as we lapped around the lake, enjoying nature and the movement for my growing body. My midwife had recommended I walk at least three miles a day, so that had been our primary focus over the past few months. I was 38 weeks + 5 days and feeling pretty good overall. My feet and ankles had started to swell after long walks or in the evenings (especially with the summer temperatures in Denver), and I was no longer sleeping peacefully at night. Overall though, I had no complaints and was anticipating being pregnant at least another two weeks.
After we walked around the lake, we headed to a new pizza restaurant and shared a pizza outdoors. That afternoon, we came home and took a nap, FaceTimed our good friends Joe and Jess in LA, and talked with Daniel's parents. By the time evening rolled around, I started experiencing some contractions. I hadn't had any Braxton Hicks contractions yet in my pregnancy, so I was fully convinced that's what these were. I thought -- okay, my body is just preparing for labor in a few weeks, but wow, these are kind of intense. I had to lean over on the counter a few times while making dinner because I felt out of breath while contracting. By 10 PM, we laid down for bed in anticipation of the work week ahead. However, it quickly became apparent that we weren't getting any sleep that night. My contractions were getting closer and closer together, more intense, and the baby had the most forceful hiccups I'd experienced yet in pregnancy. Daniel kept reminding me to rest and try to sleep, but I was tossing and turning in discomfort. Around 11:30 PM, Daniel decided to text our doula, Kendra, and let her know I was having regular contractions. They were about five minutes apart at this point and lasted for roughly one minute each.
We didn't hear back from Kendra, as we assumed we wouldn't, but kept laboring at home. I remember being drenched in sweat and Daniel regularly rewetting a cold washcloth for the back of my neck. The AC was on as high as it could go, but I felt like I was in a sauna! We were using many of the tools we'd learned from Birth Boot Camp during this time like relaxation techniques, contracting in different positions, using the rebozo, belly breathing, and utilizing the birth ball. We had peaceful music playing and were contracting by the dim light of our salt crystal lamp. Daniel was incredible and by my side every moment. By the time 1 AM rolled around, Daniel called Kendra and told her this was the real deal. Kendra hopped in her car and arrived at our house an hour later.
Although this was my first time experiencing labor, I knew based on what we'd learned through our birthing classes, that I was already in active labor. Shortly after Kendra arrived, I heard her whisper to Daniel, "I am afraid it's going to be a long night. Bre is in early labor still." I instantly felt discouraged and disappointed in my body for lying to me. A couple of contractions and another round of vomit later, Kendra quickly retracted her statement and said I was indeed in the midst of active labor. For the next two hours, Daniel and Kendra worked together to make sure I was as comfortable as possible to ride out the waves of contractions. The whole time, I was imagining myself floating on my back in the warm ocean in Thailand. As a contraction would approach, I'd picture the waves getting bigger and bigger and allowing my body to float to the top of the wave before relaxing and floating back down to calmer waters. Kendra was constantly whispering to me, "ride that wave."
Shortly before 4 AM, my contractions advanced to a whole new level. What I thought was painful previously felt like a breeze compared to these new contractions. I internalized, even more, knowing that I had a major job to do ahead of me. I could no longer focus on things going on around me. In between contractions, I heard Kendra asking Daniel if he was packed and ready for the hospital. As Daniel buzzed around the house and Kendra stayed by my side, my body naturally began to push. It was time and I knew it.
Kendra asked me if I thought we should head to the hospital, and I think I was out the door and down the stairs before she even finished her sentence! Just kidding, but my body told me we needed to get there quickly. The ten-minute drive to the hospital felt like a lifetime. The baby was doing its best to push itself outside of me during contractions and I swear Daniel was driving five miles per hour! As we walked into the hospital to check-in, I felt my underwear and shorts drenched in liquid. My water broke right as we arrived. I stopped to contract a few times on our way down the hallways to the triage room. The triage nurse at the Emergency Room stopped us as we were walking past to ask if I needed a wheelchair. Kendra declined, but the nurse couldn't believe that my doula was "making" me walk! Finally, we arrived in the triage room.
The nurse came in to check my cervix and told me not to push because it can be potentially dangerous if I wasn't fully dilated. I was irritated because my body was naturally pushing during contractions and there was no stopping it. She checked my cervix and I was 100% dilated. Quickly, she radioed her colleagues and told them to call the midwife immediately! I was ready to have a baby.
This next part of my birth story is a bit traumatic and a little fuzzy to me. I was honestly in another world for the next 4.5 hours. Daniel and our doula have had to help me relive this part of the journey. I was told that things would progress very quickly from here and that we'd be looking our baby in the eyes shortly. I was wheeled into the delivery room and maneuvered onto my hands and knees to begin pushing. I pushed with all of my strength but didn't feel that instant sense of relief that most women talk about.
After a while, my lower back began to hurt leaning over the back of the bed, so I flipped over to my side. It didn't take long for my hips to start screaming. I was in the worst pain I'd ever experienced, and it wasn't necessarily from pushing and contracting. I've always carried stress in my hips and suffered from tight hips, and they were on fire. The nurses would forcefully rub my hips in between contractions, but nothing was relieving the pain. As much as I tried to rest in between contractions, I couldn't get comfortable enough in any position. I tried squatting on the bed using the birthing bar, lying on my back with my feet up and holding on to the birthing bar, sitting on the toilet, laying on my side, and probably some other positions that I don't recall. While the baby was moving down slightly and everyone in the room was excited about being able to see the head, the head would disappear back up into the birth canal between contractions.
Up until this point, the midwife was calm, collected, and spent her energy encouraging me and telling me how strong I was. She couldn't believe that I had been pushing for over two hours, unmedicated, and still making progress. She made me feel valued, empowered, and comfortable. However, as the 7AM shift change rolled around, a new midwife was introduced to us. This midwife came into the room frantically and aggressively and had a cloud of negative energy swirling around her. Apparently, the baby's heart rate had been dipping during each contraction (I wasn't aware of this at the time) and the new midwife was worried -- even though the heart rate would recover in between contractions. Her physical touch was so forceful that it instantly made me angry. I wanted her to leave the room. After being in the room for only a couple of minutes, she told me, "you need to push this baby out or we're sending you for a c-section." Our doula, immediately sensing my frustration, asked everyone in the room if we could have a minute to ourselves to regroup and discuss options. The midwife declined, saying we didn't have time for that. I could tell that Kendra was super agitated. We'd spent all of this time making progress, in a relaxing and supportive environment, and it felt like that was instantly discredited and ruined. Her personality was not the right match for me. Also, she called me Breanna the entire time... even after being corrected countless times *eyeroll*
Around 8:30 AM, the midwife told me we were running out of time to get the baby out vaginally. The baby was in distress from the pelvic incompatibility we were experiencing. The baby wasn't necessarily stuck, but some indescribable mismatch between the baby's head and my pelvis was making it tricky for the baby to pass through the birth canal. The birth team knew I would do anything to avoid a c-section, so I was given two alternate options. The OB's would be called in for a vacuum assist or a forceps delivery. I quickly chose the vacuum.
The OB's arrived and I felt like they were a gift directly from God at that moment. They told me the baby could be here in 15 minutes and the pushing would be over. Before they attached the vacuum, the OB looked me directly in the eyes and told me, "Breanne, I think you can push this baby out without the vacuum. You are so strong and you're so close." This was a heartbreaking moment as I think back on it. I was more exhausted than I knew possible, so I told her with a broken voice, tears streaming down my cheeks, that I wanted the vacuum assist immediately. I couldn't imagine having to push for more than a couple of minutes longer. Up until that point, I had put on a strong face but I knew it was time to ask for help. Daniel, Kendra, and the OB's began to cry alongside me. This decision was overwhelming at the time. I just wanted to meet our baby.
My bladder was drained via catheter, for the second time, and the vacuum was attached. I pushed, with all of my strength, during contractions as they pulled the vacuum with all of their strength. The vacuum popped off twice. Each time the vacuum popped off, I thought for sure the baby was out. I looked down, disappointed not to see a baby. If the vacuum came off one more time, I would be sent for a c-section. Finally, I heard Daniel tell me that the head was out. We didn't have time to wait for another contraction because they were so spread out at this point. The OB told me I needed to take a deep breath and push with all of my might. I dug deep and pushed as my whole body shook.
I looked down and saw our baby in the flesh. Out of my body. Daniel and I were in so much shock -- he forgot to announce the sex. As they turned the baby around to face us, Daniel said, through his tears, "it's a boy!" Our baby boy was here.
I was instantly in awe of his long eyelashes and his loud vocal cords. I couldn't believe he was ours. It was absolutely love at first sight. After I delivered the placenta and got stitched up from second-degree tears, Daniel and I were left alone for the next hour with our baby to enjoy some much-needed time together.
Due to some mild jaundice and low blood sugar levels, we spent three nights in the hospital, which was longer than we anticipated. Luckily, Daniel was able to make a quick trip back home to bring us more clothing and supplies. The days and nights in the hospital felt like a whirlwind.
On Thursday, June 17th, we were sent home to start our new life as a family of three.
June 14, 2021
6 lbs 11 oz
After we'd been home for a few days, our doula came to our house to check in on us. Indy was sleeping as well as newborns do, eating well, and had such a calm demeanor. Overall, we were pleased with the transition to our new life.
Kendra dove right into the details from the labor and delivery in order to answer any questions and help us mentally process the birth. Daniel and I were still in a little bit of shock. We were so happy with the way labor occurred at home -- peacefully and naturally. Daniel told Kendra that once we arrived at the hospital, he felt disappointed. Like I had spent so many hours focusing on my breathing, keeping focused, and keeping a clear mindset....only to have the pushing portion not work out as we'd planned. I think his exact words were, "It wasn't fair for Bre." None of us anticipated pushing for 4.5 hours and ending up with a vacuum-assisted delivery. I am proud of myself for delivering a baby without any pain medication. I'm proud of myself for listening to my intuition and asking for help when I knew I needed it. I am beyond proud, and appreciative, of Daniel and how he encouraged me the whole way. The midwives and nurses couldn't believe I went through a vacuum-assisted delivery without an epidural.
Our doula brought me a book called Heal Your Birth Story: Releasing the Unexpected. I didn't start reading it until Indy was a few months old. Prior to that point, the birth experience was too raw and my eyes would well up with tears anytime someone asked about the birth. I had many people brush off my emotional pain and say comments like, "well, you have a healthy baby and you'll soon forget the details" or "at least you didn't have a cesarean section." An excerpt from the book reads:
It may be difficult to acknowledge that your experience is "bad enough." You may feel that you are making something out of nothing, hanging on to the past, being ridiculous, or simply overreacting. Sadly, this is a very normal part of a traumatic experience because the definition of trauma is a normal reaction to something that is beyond our usual experience. How can you judge what is normal when the situation is so intense?
I am certainly no expert on birth (far from it), but I hope this blog helps other women feel seen. Birth stories don't need to be about stats -- how many stitches you received, how many hours you were in labor, whether or not you received an epidural. I believe that all birth stories are beautiful, maybe even traumatic, but birth is an experience that changes our lives forever.