This birth story has been a long time coming. This was the second birth I supported for my certification as a doula. My friend had intended on a birth center birth, but when her blood pressure would not come down for anything and protein showed up in her urine a transfer was in order.
Here is her story…
The Birth Story of June Ryan
The night before I went into labor Sean (my partner) went out with some family. His cousin Paul and his girlfriend Kathleen were in town from PA. They went out for a little and I remember being angry because I knew I was giving birth any day. When he got home that night we drove to a 24 hour donut shop, Dandee Donuts, and I had a grilled cheese, hash browns and an assortment of donuts. This night was no different from any night towards the end of my pregnancy, in that I was suffering from extreme insomnia.
I didn’t feel nervous, but the excitement of what was about to happen must have been keeping me awake. I would lay on the couch in front of the TV night after night watching crappy TV until the sun came up. Like I said, this night was no different. I probably fell asleep around 5-6am and was shortly awakened by what felt like menstrual cramps. It wasn’t terribly painful but it was enough to wake me up. I went to the bathroom and waited to see if the cramping would continue or if it was a fluke. At this point I was only 1 day past my estimated due date so I wasn’t sure if now was actually the time or if I still had another week or so. When the cramping continued I decided to go back to bed.
When I went into the bedroom Sean woke up and looked over at me. I told him not to be scared or too excited but that I thought I was having contractions. He was very excited and also still disoriented from being asleep. At that point I was too excited to go back to sleep, having no idea how long my labor would be, I was unaware of what a stupid choice that was. I began doing all of my last minute prepping. I had laundry I was trying to finish and really wanted the house to be clean when we got back from the delivery. So I began doing all of that good stuff and after an hour or so I called my mom. I was very excited to tell her I was in labor and she was very excited to hear the news. After talking to her for a bit I called my good friend and doula Lorel. She was also very excited. It was a Friday and she said she had a feeling that this was the weekend.
I told them both I would call them back once things progressed. Since I was dealing with what seemed like pre-eclampsia towards the end of my pregnancy, the birth location and details were still up in the air. The uncertainty was not conducive to my confidence at all. I was very scared to birth in a hospital. I didn’t want all of the interventions, I feared I wouldn’t be strong enough to resist the interventions while in labor, and I didn’t want anybody touching my baby once she was born. For all of those reasons, I wanted to be at a birth center. However my blood pressure stayed elevated at around 150/90 and protein showed up in my urine so it seemed that I might end up at the hospital. Wanting to figure out where I would end up giving birth, I called my midwife and she asked me to come to the birth center. Sean and I got all packed up, which took forever, and headed over to the birth center.
On our way over, our midwife called and said that she should have been more clear and that I didn’t need to get packed because I would be returning home. We arrived at the birth center just as Lorel did and met our midwife inside. She checked my blood pressure and it was still high. She called the doctor, the on call Ob-Gyn who prescribed a medication to bring my blood pressure down. It worked right away but once the medication wore off, my BP would start to raise again. The midwife encouraged me to try to slow my labor and hoped that it would stop in time for me to get my blood pressure in check. Since I wasn’t consciously doing anything to keep my labor going, I did not know how to stop my labor. She checked my dilation which was only about 1 cm, 50% effaced and at -3 station. Afterwards she sent me home with orders to rest.
Sean and I went home but the contractions stayed regular at approximately 10 minutes apart. We watched a marathon of the HBO series The Wire and moved from bedroom to bathroom to living room. I had one nap lasting about 45 minutes but kept being awakened by the contractions. It was a long night but I look back on it fondly. I remember sitting in the bath, him sitting on pillows on the ground next to me and us watching The Wire on the computer that was sitting upon the toilet. I wasn’t really paying as much attention to the show as he was but it served as a good distraction.
Once morning came, I was exhausted both physically and mentally. Although the contractions were not terribly painful, they were just enough to keep me awake for 24 hours and I just wanted to sleep. I can remember hitting a breaking point at about 24 hours into the labor, sitting on the couch naked with a big yellow blanket wrapped around me. That was the first time I required a Hypnobabies track. Sean put it on and while I was not hypnotized the way most people think of the word, I went into a zone and was able to focus and regain power. I did not feel weak or helpless anymore. It was awesome! Now that another day had begun, we prepped for what we thought would be June’s birthday. The day is a bit of a blur but at some point in the late morning we left for the birth center. I called my mom on the way to let her know and she was getting her hair done. I remember talking to her and Pat on speakerphone and us laughing about the pain I was in. I told her I would call her later as it became birthing time.
We arrived at the birth center and the midwife had me do some labor exercises. She told us to walk to the beach and back which I was not feeling confident about. Walking caused contractions which hurt, so my mind was having trouble accepting that I needed to be walking. I wanted to sit and be still and avoid contractions. I didn’t think this part through. So we walked, although we did not make it to the beach. Walking downtown in labor on a Saturday afternoon was a funny thing. I would walk and then have a contraction which would be followed by Sean & I doing the labor dance. People were walking by and driving by staring at us. It was amusing.
After our walk we went back to the birth center where I was just hanging out on the bouncing ball, Sean got some food at Subway next door, I rocked in the rocking chair and then the bomb dropped. The midwife told me that towards the end of the day we would head for the hospital. I cried. I tried not to but then I realized I needed to grieve the loss of the birth I wanted so badly. Knowing that I was heading to the hospital we made some last minute efforts to speed along the process. She gave me a tea that was supposed to cause me to move my bowels and have much stronger and more effective contractions. For whatever reason, that did not work. Sean and I then went into a room and did another Hypnobabies track. It worked amazingly and I did fall asleep for a few minutes. Afterwards the midwife came in the room and checked my dilation. I was at 6 cm. She then scraped my membranes then we got in the car and drove to the hospital around 6pm.
By this time, my appetite had gone. I tried very hard to eat my protein bars as quickly as possible as I knew eating in the hospital would not be as easy. I remember my contractions coming hard on the way to the hospital. It seemed every little bump Sean hit or every time he hit his breaks I would have an intense contraction. When we arrived I was continuing to have intense contractions. The midwife walked me into L&D while Sean parked the car. The security guard asked for my ID and gave me a visitors pass even though I was very clearly 9 month pregnant, he could not tell I was in labor, I remember reading something like that in my Hypnobabies book, about how hospital staff usually don’t realize how far along woman are due to their training with Hypnobabies. It turned out to be true.
I got settled in my room and at that same time Lorel, my mom and Sean’s parents arrived. I met my nurse, who was truly amazing. I learned that they wouldn’t be taking my baby away once she was born and I cried tears of joy. I told her that I didn’t want any pain meds or an epidural and really could not be in my bed. She seemed apprehensive to make me any promises about my birth plan but said she would do her best. My contractions slowed down the first hour I was at the hospital. I suppose the change in my surroundings was the cause. The first few hours at the hospital were spent me standing in front of my the bed talking with Sean, my mom, Lorel, and Sean’s parents. The contractions were coming about every 3-5 minutes and I was coping with them well. Around this time, I took a shower. Having the hot water run on my back helped my back labor in a truly amazing way. I never thought hot water could have relieved the pain as much as it did. I did not want to get out but due to my high blood pressure I was not allowed to stay in for longer than 15 minutes. It was a nice way to break the labor up and I was grateful.
After I got out of the shower, things began to intensify. I had a wave of slight nausea and thought it could mean that I’d be delivering soon. The nurse checked me and I was only at 8 cm so I still had more time. I was a little over 36 hours into the labor with no sleep and my energy was dwindling. I was summoning my last reserves of strength and just trying to get through the home stretch. Spirits in the room were still light and although I was exhausted, I was very proud of myself and that pride was keeping me going. Not to mention the fact that I was about to meet my baby girl. While contractions were getting closer and closer together and very intense, I never had any pressure or the feeling of the baby descending in my birth canal. For whatever reason, I chose to ignore that fact. After another hour or so of rocking and moaning and contracting the nurse checked me again. I was at 9 cm and nearing the end of my rope. I gathered all of my will and strength to get through the next round of contractions and make it to 10 cm.
After another two hours the doctor had arrived. I laid down to be checked once again and found that I was still at 9 cm. It was devastating for me. My body was running on empty, my contractions were slowing and I was at a loss. The doctor ordered a small amount of pitocin to get my contractions going again. I was very against it but when June’s heart rate began showing stress my options were becoming more limited. I agreed to the pitocin and immediately regretted it. It felt like my body was a run away train. I had no control over the way I was contracting and nothing I did slowed it down. I remember looking at the window and wanting to jump out of it. Lorel looked at me and knew I wasn’t able to take another moment of it and asked them to turn it off.
At the same time, I was being told that I needed to pee since I hadn’t in a while. The nurse informed me that I was going to have a catheter in my urethra, which was literally one of my biggest fears. Having that stress weighing over me along pitocin and my exhaustion really turned the entire scenario into a nightmare for me. I remember thinking “this cannot be happening, this has to be a nightmare”. I willed my body to pee and wanted it to happen more than anything and then with one sudden burst I peed!! I was so happy, it was such a weight off my mind that no one would be shoving a catheter up my urethra. I honestly was not worried about the baby coming out of my vagina, but horrified of a tube in my urethra – I cannot explain why.
Anyway, after they turned off the pitocin and I was able to urinate they checked me again. I was at 9.5cm and was allowed to begin pushing. My pushing lasted what seemed like forever but was just under two hours. I pushed, baby would descend, the contraction would stop and baby would go back up. She never really dropped. After 1.5 hours of this June’s heart rate was starting to drop enough to require the doctor to take action. She needed to use a vacuum to assist me in delivering. At that point, I was so tired that a vacuum sounded like an amazing idea. The doctor placed the vacuum on June’s head and during my contraction, I pushed and she pulled and June’s head came out. The cord was wrapped around her neck so tightly and in addition it turns out I had a very short cord. This is why June’s never dropped and wouldn’t descend into the birth canal. The doctor had to cut the cord while just June’s head was out of me.
After the cord was cut I pushed June’s body out and they put her on my chest. It was the biggest relief of my life. June was on my chest for a brief moment and they took her to the table to do her vitals, etc etc. This was what I wanted to avoid all along. I wanted my baby on me and no where else. Sean accompanied her to the table where she was being examined. It turns out June was having trouble breathing. Her face was bright blue and her body was white. The cord was wrapped so hard around her neck that it was effecting her breathing.
I remember asking what she looked like since I didn’t have much of a chance to see her. Everyone was saying how much she looked like Sean. I was in shock because I expected a little clone of me. Meanwhile, the doctor had to actively deliver my placenta. This was very traumatic for me. I thought since I had just delivered my daughter that I was done. I expected to deliver the placenta on my own a little later. It was excruciatingly painful and because I wasn’t expecting it, it was horrifying. After that was said and done she gave me two stitches for my small tear and that was that. June was brought over to me and placed on my breast where she tried her best to feed. Her mouth was so little…her everything was so little. I was immediately head over heals and couldn’t picture not knowing what her face looked like even though just moments before I had no idea.
After about an hour of laying on me, breastfeeding and meeting her huge family they had to take her to NICU. She still was not breathing well. I was in such a daze that I didn’t really understand what was happening. They came to explain it to me and Sean looked like he was about to cry. I was like “stop being dramatic, she’s fine” and he said “our baby is in ICU” to which I replied “no she isn’t she just went to the NICU”. Sean then spelled out to me what NICU stood for and the emotions washed over me. He went up and stayed with her while I took a quick shower.
Afterwards we both were just sitting with her in her little incubator. It was literally my worst nightmare. She had an IV in her little leg. I was heartbroken. It was everything that I didn’t want for her first moments on this planet. Then it got worse. The doctor came over and told me I would have to wait 12 hours to breastfeed her because they needed to monitor her breathing. I was devastated. All I ever wanted was to breastfeed and to have my tiny newborn baby and see her rooting and to not be able to feed her was the worst feeling in the world.
After the 12 hours went by they allowed me to feed her. This is when a new battle ensued. June began to show signs of jaundice which was not a good combination for someone who was not allowed to nurse for 12 hours on their first day of life. Since my milk was taking a while to come in they kept pushing formula. I had to literally stay awake 24 hours and sit in the NICU since they wouldn’t allow her to come to my room. I sat there with her and every time they came to give her formula I would put her on my breast. She nursed every few minutes and when she wasn’t nursing I was pumping to get every drop of colostrum I could in order to feed her enough to move her bowels. It was exhausting have to constantly fight off the nurses and endure their nasty comments and looks for not wanting to give my baby formula.
Even the LC recommended I supplement and through my exhaustion I allowed them to give her a bottle – she immediately spewed it everywhere and I knew that it was the wrong thing to do. Finally after 3.5 long days in the hospital we were released. We came home and have been enjoying our new life as a family more than anything. June Ryan is the most beautiful baby I have ever seen, she is so very sweet and adores her mommy and daddy almost as much as we adore her.