It has been 7 days since giving birth to my son. He made his grand entrance into this world on Monday, November 14th at 2:58 p.m. Weighing in at 9 pounds and 15 ounces, 22 inches long, and boasting a 37 cm head circumference! All measurements were in the 95th percentile or greater for his age (already an overachiever I guess). Welcome into our world, Roman Daniel DeStephen!
Roman’s “Guess Date” (AKA: Due Date) was November 2nd and I kept trying to fool myself by always saying he was due at the end of October. I was secretly hoping he’d be born on Halloween, my favorite holiday!
Well, Halloween came and went and every day after that seemed to be mental agony. It was not because I didn’t feel good physically. In fact I would have exercised all the way up until my laboring days if I did not feel the pressure from the outside world getting to me.
Being out in public became very hard for me to deal with. It seemed everywhere I went people would remind me that I was “overdue” or saying anything and everything that implied I should be induced. All comments came from a place of love and concern…but then the calls and texts came more often and urgent…”WHEN are you getting induced?!” “JUST get a c-section?!” “You poor thing!” “You know you can’t PLAN these things, Aubrey!” And so on.
Now, please know I am not mad or upset with anyone who has made these comments to me, but remarks like this started to make me shut down. I stopped returning phone calls and text messages. I knew it was time for me to unplug if I wanted my baby out without being medically induced. I became emotional. You see from my perspective I did not “plan” my son’s birth. If I did I would have taken the doctor up on his offer to induce me on November 2nd. If I had “planned” my birth I would have said, “To hell with this! Section me, doc!” To me, those are plans.
Instead, my Birth VISION was to let nature take its course. My husband, Dan, and I worked with two doulas through the later part of my pregnancy for good reason. I wanted to be educated on how I could have a baby without any medication because it was better for baby and better for me. Dan and I both learned SO MUCH about natural ways to bring about labor and to manage pain with deep relaxation techniques, acupuncture, acupressure, massage, hypnotherapy, etc. So if you want to say I had a plan, ok that’s fair. My plan was to try all of these options and go for it because my vision was to have the healthiest baby possible and give the very best birthing experience I could to him.
I must caution the reader to choose whether or not to proceed beyond this point. I have chosen to share my story in order to help heal myself for the sake of both my husband and son. I’d love to simply say to people that I’d prefer to keep things private about the details of Roman’s birth, but after pining this over in my mind, I just need to get it out. This is an extremely emotional story for me and I am certain there are so many women who have had similar experiences and can relate to mine. I know I’m nothing special or unique in this case. Just know if you decide to read on, this story has a very happy ending…it just took me a while to get there.
My Guess Date came and went. Every day I woke up feeling good…eh a little too good to go into labor. I saw my doctor a week past my Guess Date on November 8th. He gave me a pelvic exam and said the outside of my cervix was soft, but the inside was closed. Basically this meant he was getting very concerned and scheduled me to have a Cervidil treatment at the very latest, November 14th. He said I would have to lay on my back for 10-12 hours in the hospital to “get things progressing.” He knew my Birth Vision and I asked him if I may continue on the natural ways to induce labor before then. He gave me the green light but scheduled me for a non-stress test and ultrasound the following day to make sure my little baby was all good in the hood.
The next day my husband and I went to the hospital. Little Roman passed the non-stress test with flying colors. I knew he would. His heart rate was great throughout the test and especially when I would have mild contractions. After the test my doc came back in and said, “Ok, next is the ultrasound. If your score is below an ‘8’ we are inducing you TONIGHT. That’s it.” Again I knew in my heart Roman was good. And I was right. The ultrasound was a really beautiful experience having my husband there. We could see that Roman was in the anterior position and ready to go! This position is ideal to deliver a baby naturally and vaginally. It’s important to mention that the ultrasound measured him in the 55th percentile for his weight and length. I was never diagnosed with gestational diabetes and every doctors appointment my belly was measuring “small.” So anyway, he scored an ‘8’! Woohoo! Now I knew I had to REALLY get down to business. It was time to FOCUS and do absolutely every I could do to move this kid along.
Now most of these techniques I had been doing a few weeks before his Guess Date (all cleared by my doctor):
- Super awkward pregnant sex. Well awkward for me, but I am pretty sure my husband loved the fact that this was on the agenda every night. Semen contains prostaglandins that help to soften the cervix
- Raspberry Tea. I drank as much of this as I could as it has been known to provide the uterus with some stimulation.
- Mind-mapping and natal hypnotherapy.
- Relaxation techniques and visualization exercises.
- Bradley Method Classes. http://www.bradleybirth.com/faqs.aspx
- Evening Primrose capsules. Also believed to help with cervical softening.
- Spicy Food. For those who know me and my husband well, spicy food is not hard to come by at Casa DeStephen. We up-ed our game! Holy heck I was sweating after every meal I ate.
- Acupressure and strong foot massages.
- Prenatal massage. I went to a great massage therapist to have her really focus on areas that would help induce labor. It felt great and I needed it!
- Acupuncture. I receive acupuncture from an acupuncturist who has really helped improve my health since I have met her. She UP-ed her game as well!
All of these things I feel enabled me to move forward – finally! I had a follow-up appointment with my doc after a very moving acupuncture session and guess what – it worked! The doc did another stress test (again all was GREAT – no signs of anything being wrong) and she said, “Ok, your cervix is soft and open. I’m giving you a membrane sweep.” Holy heck! As my doula would say, “A good sweep should make you sweat!” And that it did. The membrane sweep was…well, interesting.
I felt on top of the world that day! I was only 1 tiny little centimeter dilated (to birth vaginally you gotta get to 10 cm before you consider pushing).
But I knew I could move on.
This is were things started to really happen! I was more excited than scared at this point. And I knew that is was a common response per what I have been studying. My husband and I got to celebrate our 5th year wedding anniversary at our home on Friday, November 11th. We had a great dinner, exchanged heart-felt gifts and as soon as that was over – BAM, my contractions began!
My vision was to labor at home as long as possible. According to the Bradley Method you want to have your contractions 3 minutes a part (vs. 5 minutes) lasting for at least 1 minute in duration for two hours (vs. one hour).
Dan and I quickly transformed our living room into a zen space filled with blankets, pillows, candles, music and our Bradley Method book by our side. I focused on my Mind Map (pictured at the end of this blog) and from about 11 p.m. till 7 in the morning I labored. We got into a rhythm. My contractions were 5 minutes a part, lasting almost 1 minute for hours (there was a 2 minute one in there and holy shit that was intense). And I lost my mucus plug around 3 a.m.(this protects baby from the outside world and when released your cervix has the opportunity to dilate more). But we knew if we would have gone to the hospital then, I may not have been dilated to over 6 cm. Our goal was to get to 6 so when we got to the hospital I wouldn’t be on my back that long and literally we’d just show up to push him out 🙂
So, Saturday morning came and I was exhausted. The contractions got further and further a part instead of closer. I called my doula asking what we should do. It was like I stalled out! After discussing some options, we all agreed that I should try to get rest…I needed to get into a rhythm again.
So, resting when you have a contraction is literally impossible. Imagine being waken up every 20 minutes to a deep muscle spasm in your crotch. Another way to view a contraction if you have never had one is to imagine an orgasm that has gone TERRIBLY wrong. You feel this build up of pain and the climax is something you can’t wait to stop. But the good thing is when it does stop, you feel like you are building your pain tolerance and becoming more empowered! In fact I did get better and stronger at handling each one. I took intermittent naps and so did Dan. He continued to be at my side, applying all the techniques we had learned – again, and again, and again. Just so I could try to recharge.
That Saturday afternoon I cried. I told Dan, “What if they give me Pitocin and the contractions are so strong I can’t handle them? ” I was in a phase of self-doubt. Dan was there as my coach again reminding me that together we would get through this. We could do this.
Now, throughout the day on Saturday I just kept randomly contracting. It was very tiring but I passed my self-doubt phase for that day. I monitored how much mucus I was releasing too. What I thought was normal, this light green fluid that looks like snot would leak out after the most intense contractions.
Now Saturday came and went. On to Sunday. Again without much sleep I continued to labor on. I thought FOR SURE this baby was ready to come out. It was the first night of the Super Moon – come on, that has to help me, right?!
Two very good friends of mine passed through town that night. They stopped by our house and took me for a walk with Dan and my doula. We had a few laughs as we walked and talked and they helped to give me confidence yet again. My birth team was outstanding. And every day that passed from our guess date to delivery, the bond between my husband and I grew stronger and stronger. It was amazing. Often you hear of stories that women shout every four letter word they can think of during labor (sometimes directed at their partner). Not once did this happen with me…in fact after every contraction I ended up hugging him and kissing him telling him how much I loved and appreciated him. I would have never gotten through it without him…
After my friends had gotten on their way, I had a brief discussion with my doula. We both agreed that the following day was IT. No matter what, I had to go into the hospital and fingers crossed I was at least 6 cm.
Later that night Dan and I took a very brief walk to admire the Super Moon again and get some fresh air. I literally looked up at the sky and BAM – the contractions and rhythm that I was searching for started again.
Here we go…another sleepless night since Friday, but I was all in. We labored all night long and into Monday morning…finally achieving 3 minutes between contractions. I called my doula around 8:30 a.m. She came over to our house and gave Dan a break. She applied strong hip compression during each intense contraction. The intensity grew and grew. I looked at her and Dan and said, “Can I just have the baby here? I don’t want to go to the hospital! I know they will put me on my back and I’m afraid I’ll stall out again.”
They both probably thought I was ridiculous – and thank God if they did, because it was TIME. We packed the car.
The drive to the hospital was even more intense…imagine climbing a hill and having zero fuel in your tank, you cannot see the top of the hill and have no idea when you will reach the summit. That is how I felt.
We arrived around 10 a.m. from what I can recall. And once I made it to the fourth floor (no I did NOT take the stairs for once, lol) the nurses saw right away I was ready. There was no way they were sending me home.
Fast forward to the hospital bed where they immediately put me on my back. Now here is when things get absolutely unbearable. I have never experienced pain like this. I wanted UP! “Help! Please!” I shouted. But NO this was not an option. The fetal monitors were placed around my belly. So far, baby was still good.
In walks my doctor (the one I was hoping would deliver my son!). “Ah, this is good,” I thought. He examined me and I was 8 FREAKING CENTIMETERS! Hellz yeah! We worked so hard to go from 1 cm on Friday to this moment. The finish line was within reach…
My doctor broke my water to keep things progressing. And then they realized a problem. Little Roman was stressed. There was a lot of meconium in my water (baby’s first poop). I was concerned but the nurses and doctor gave us hope and said everything was alright for the time being. They really needed to keep monitoring his heart rate however.
Unfortunately my dilation started to stall despite my bag of waters being broken but my contractions grew in intensity and frequency. Since I was on my back I was not able to be consoled as each contraction began to pummel me like aggressive ocean waves beating onto the shore. The strategies my doula and Dan were using at home that initially provided me with comfort were not working now.
I was trying to get back into my visualization and relaxation exercises. I kept telling myself the baby was dropping down further into my pelvis and I could relax all my muscles to get ready to PUSH.
But this moment never came.
The nurses kept rolling me from side to side on my back because suddenly they could not detect my baby’s heart beat. They put a catheter in me (which was another miserable first) and made the minutes pass even slower. In fact it wasn’t minutes. It was another several hours. “Help!” I yelled. And then I didn’t say anything else…I just kept on trying to breathe as the contractions engulfed me, over and over. My body began to shake violently…relentlessly. I couldn’t stop it. Nothing would stop it. I knew I was spent. That was it. I had nothing left…no more endorphins…adrenaline was not what I wanted to release, but it was all I had.
What the hell was happening?
My doctor came back into the room. His expression was somber as all eyes were focused on the fetal monitor. I remember looking at Dan, but I cannot recall his expression. I looked at my doula and her expression remained concerned yet calm. She asked the doctor if I get onto my hands and knees. Using gravity more to our advantage, this position would hopefully allow the contractions to work in my favor again and dilate to 10 cm and perhaps I could start pushing.
“Yes!” I thought…PLEASE let me!
He solemnly nodded.
Ok, I was still shaking uncontrollably, but made it to all fours…then a nurse shouted, “NO!”
I was flipped onto my back. This was now the fourth time they had lost the baby’s heart beat.
It was time for an emergency c-section. There was no other way.
Staff seemed to be flying in from everywhere. They were frantically wheeling me into the operating room. I got bumped into the wall twice. It all seemed like chaos to me.
“No!” This was the very last thing I wanted to happen. My drug-free birth proved to have only been able to get me so far.
All of these masked faces started to put their faces into mine.
“Aubrey, listen to me! You and your baby are going to be FINE!”
“Focus on my voice. You are alright!”
And in my heart I knew we were alright, but tears started streaming down my face uncontrollably.
What have I done? Was this my fault? I wanted my baby to come into this world peacefully, without drugs and now I had to do a complete 180.
They inserted the epidural and I went almost numb from the waist down. I could feel weird things…like when they were tugging hard on my uterus to get the baby out. And as soon as they did I heard him crying. Somehow they suited up my husband in time for him to be at my side. Which was amazing. They said Roman was just covered in meconium…and they were all in shock when they weighed him.
“Congratulations on giving birth to a toddler!” someone said.
And we all laughed a sigh of relief.
They had to cut the umbilical cord pretty quickly and once they wiped him off, a nurse brought Little Roman over to Dan and me. We both started crying and even though Dan’s face was half covered with a mask, I could see the size of his smile. We still had our special moment that we will never forget, and most importantly we now have a son that would have never been born without the talent of the medical professionals that were there that day.
I learned a lot about what other things influenced Roman to be born by cesarean section later that day and into the next. Apparently my water was leaking a day or two prior to delivery and along with that mucous, meconium was already there. Even though this was truly a danger, my little baby (well big baby) showed no physical signs of distress once he came out! I was hoping that all of the things I was in control of during the 9.5 months of him in my womb paid-off. He was so strong and was able to handle this! While I was stalling out during the hours I was laboring in the hospital bed, there was barely any amniotic fluid left to float his umbilical cord. Every contraction from 8 cm and on the cord was cutting off his oxygen supply. Plus, with the size of his entire body above the 95th percentile, my pelvis had a hard time accommodating him. The doctor was VERY surprised he was so big. I did not have gestational diabetes. The baby did not have high sugar. At every appointment I had with my doctor, my belly was measuring small (believe it or not). Also, my ultrasound the week prior to his birth estimated his weight to be in the 55th percentile!!! So – SURPRISE! Big-ass baby here!
In the days that unfolded in my recovery room I NOW began to experience the most pain I’ve ever had in my life and it made me question all of my actions. I felt as if I had given birth TWICE! Holy shit. I felt like I was dying. I was extremely emotional. I wanted NO visitors. I did not want to explain my story. I did not want to be lectured or judged. I wanted to live in a bubble for a few days with my beautiful baby and loving husband. I wanted to just BE!
On a scale of 1-10, my pain was an 11. I cried several times everyday because my vision was to be able to care for my baby post delivery with minimal pain and just soak in all the pleasurable moments that a natural birth would have provided me. Instead I faced the only option to keep me from jumping out the window. I NEEDED drugs! Please – give them to me!
I had to switch my convictions in a blink of an eye. I felt and looked like death warmed over (still kinda do). My legs swelled up to 3 times their actual size (maybe I’m exaggerating, but my ass felt like two massive bowling balls and my feet made Honey Boo-Boo’s mom look like a foot model).
The first night in the hospital, I did not sleep. So now I was going on a full four days of zero sleep. I just stared at my baby and husband as they slept. I felt completely ashamed of myself. Was I being selfish? Should I have just gotten induced and not labored and then sectioned? I would have been in a HELL of a lot less pain. I began mentally torturing myself. It was terrible.
After a full week of talking to my doula and husband about everything, I am feeling better. Not physically, but mentally and emotionally. I did what I felt was the best thing for my son…I could not predict the future and I am truly owning my story.
This is what was meant to be…and thank God my birth story has a happy ending.
I still have moments through my day where I will just breakdown and cry…I feel helpless and useless right now. My husband is doing everything for the exception of feeding Roman. I so badly wish I could do more…to show my love more…but I can’t.
I am grateful for my circle of influence. I have so many people that surround me with love and support. And I know I would not have been able to get through this experience without them.
My story is not necessarily unique, but it’s my true story that has brought me closer than I could ever imagine to my husband. It has made me realize that I can tolerate physical pain like a superhero, and it has humbled me to the point that I will never cast so much expectation into a life event like I did this one.
And lastly, my Birth Story has turned me into a mom….something I never thought I would be.
*Acknowledgements: I’d like to thank my Birth Team for educating me on how to have the healthiest pregnancy possible and for teaching me so much about my body and creating new life.
- My two doulas – Marie Wills (Birthing Coach) and Ellen Huffmyer (Bradley Method Coach)
- My sister who listened to me bitch and complain just about whatever I wanted to whenever I wanted to
- My mother-in-law for cooking us amazing food every day leading up to and through his guess date AND for blessing my belly with her fine artistry skills (pictured below)
- Candi for capturing the most beautiful moments of my pregnancy
- The team at True Health and Fitness for Acupuncture, Massage Therapy and Chiropractic Care
- Lena and Connie for providing me great relief
- Erin for inspiring me so much to do hypno-birthing and birthing naturally
- All my friends, family, instructors, FitnessEnvi family and clients who cheered me on every waddling step of the way 🙂
- My doctor and the talented medical professionals at Forbes Regional Hospital
- Last, but certainly not least, my husband – the most amazing person I have ever met. I thank God for you everyday. For being so open-minded and receptive to the notion of birthing as naturally as possible. For attending all of our Bradley Classes and NEVER leaving my side for any contraction. And now you are my nurse at home and care-taker of our son as I recover. You listen to all my cares and woes and have now seen me at my absolute most vulnerable moments. Through all of the things that you have witnessed leading up to Roman’s birth and post surgery, I know that you still want to have sex with me (when I’m cleared of course).