At 7:45am on Saturday, September 29th, I was lying in bed watching YouTube videos on my phone before getting up to eat breakfast. I was in the middle of a video about a woman who gave birth in an ambulance on her way to the hospital because her labor progressed so quickly. All of a sudden I felt what I can only describe as a balloon popping inside me and I jumped up and ran to the bathroom, expecting a rush of fluid. It was an uncomfortable feeling – not at all what I expected my water breaking to feel like – but I was sure that’s what it was. I sat on the toilet and nothing happened so I thought to my self, “hmm.. I guess not”. I threw on a T-shirt, and went downstairs.
At 7:48am, right as I walked into the kitchen, before I had a chance to start my breakfast, I had my first contraction. The first thing I said to my husband was that I thought I had been having contractions for the last few days but I had been wrong. This was different – so much more intense and immediately painful. I asked my husband, Bobby, to make me some oatmeal so I could eat – if this was real labor, I knew I would need my energy. 4 minutes later I had my second contraction. This one brought my to my knees where I leaned over the edge of the couch, unable to talk through the pain. Again, I felt something that I thought could be my water leaking so I went to the bathroom again. On the toilet I had my third contraction, only 3 and a half minutes after the last one. There was a decent amount of blood in my underwear and I was really surprised at how quickly the contractions were coming so I decided to call the midwives. It took about 10 minutes for the midwife on call to call back and I explained that my contractions were consistently coming less than 4 minutes apart and lasting a Minute each. She said I could go to Labor and Delivery at the hosptial to be checked if I wanted to. I know that most women labor at home for hours or days but my instincts told me that I really needed to get to the hospital quickly. I got dressed and brought my breakfast, still warm, in the car with us as we left. On the way we called both of our mothers and my best friend and told them we were headed to the hospital but not to rush there. We would let them know if we were being admitted.
The nurse did an internal check of my cervix and said she couldn’t feel any cervix but she didn’t want to reach too far around the baby’s head to feel how thin it was. I heard her, but I didn’t even register what she was saying. She called for the midwife for a second time, telling her to hurry because I was “moving right through labor”. When the midwife came in and checked me just a few minutes later she said that she felt the baby’s head. I yelled “how many centimeters?!”, thinking there was no way I could do this for much longer. She said, “oh! You’re 10 cm and I need to you push with your next contraction”. This was the moment that it all started to click – I couldn’t talk through the contractions, I felt like I needed to poop, the nurse couldn’t feel my cervix, and the midwife felt the baby’s head – this was really happening.
I started pushing with each contraction around 9:30am. The baby’s heart rate would drop with each push but rise again as soon as I stopped. The team of nurses that came out of nowhere asked me if I could try to push on every other contraction and breathe through the ones I wasn’t pushing on. I tried breathing through the next one but it hurt so bad that my body physically wouldn’t let me not push. I vaguely remember hearing the midwife call for the obstetrician, the OB coming in and taking over, and someone saying that the baby’s head kept rising back up into the birth canal between each push. At that point, the OB told me we had two options: we could try to use a vacuum to help the baby through the birth canal or we could get set up for a C section. I was petrified and my brain was still not working well enough to tell me what to do. She said the vacuum would be faster if it worked. I looked at Bobby with panic in my eyes and he said he thought the vacuum was the right choice so I agreed. They attached the vacuum to our little one’s head and with each push I felt a ridiculous amount of pressure as they helped guide her through the birth canal. The OB told me she needed to do a small episiotomy because my perineum wasn’t stretching the way it should, I felt a tiny pinch from the local anesthetic, and then she made the cut.
Through the entire process, Bobby kept telling me I was doing great and “she’s almost here!”. I remember almost shouting at him to stop telling me that because I couldn’t listen to “she’s almost here” for hours without getting discouraged. I asked how much longer and someone said only a couple more pushes. This wasn’t going how I expected and I still hadn’t wrapped my head around the fact that she was actually right there, almost in my arms. Hearing that I was really, actually, definitely almost done made me push with all my power, my knees pulled all the way up to my chest, eyes closed, and all of my energy focused on that baby.
When I felt her body slide out of me I gasped with a combination of relief and amazement as the OB laid her warm and perfect body on my belly. At 9:50am, only 39 minutes after we checked in the hospital, our baby was here. I sobbed and stared at Bobby while he stared at our daughter, Olivia Rose – a moment that was amazingly captured in what will be one of my most cherished photos forever.
None of the people who we expected to be there with us were able to make it on time. My mom arrived 15 minutes after Olivia was born while I was still being repaired. My mother-in-law got there about an hour later. We didn’t even have a chance to tell my best friend/photographer that we were definitely being admitted! It wasn’t what I thought I wanted but it was perfect. Bobby and I are so happy that we did it ourselves while still having all the support we needed in the room. The OB, midwife, and a whole team of nurses were there and that’s exactly what we, all three of us, needed at the time.
I found out later that I ended up having a postpartum hemorrhage and lost a liter and a half of blood. In addition to the episiotomy I had a 4th degree perineal tear, which is the worst level tear to experience and required a significant number of stitches to repair. Because of a combination of factors including the speed of my labor and a genetic connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (more to come on that later), my body was not ready for delivery. Over the course of the next couple of days I came to realize that my mind wasn’t ready either and I was going to need to process what I had gone through several times with several different providers, family members, and friends before my mind could truly catch up.
Nothing about my story went ‘to plan’. I didn’t get an opportunity to sit on a labor ball or to use the jacuzzi tub. I never unzipped my suitcase to get my robe or the massage tools I had packed. But my story is just that. It’s mine. It’s ours, really. I love every detail and at this point, looking back, I wouldn’t want it to have gone any other way because the result couldn’t be any more perfect.