Our Birth Story
July 23 – July 25, 2017
I woke up Sunday morning during your usual witching hour of 5AM and decided to take a walk around Prospect Park. We walked together around the park loop and I thought about how much I couldn’t wait to meet you. It had been so many months of wishing and trying for you and a wonderful pregnancy dreaming of who you would be that the excitement of you almost being here felt like Christmas morning. You seemed comfortable just where you were though and I wondered on day 41w+3d if I was ever going to meet you. This was my first lesson in patience.
I got home to your dad awake and making coffee. We both felt excitement that maybe after last night’s small contractions (again… this had been happening on and off over the last week!) that maybe today the labor would stick. Shar, our midwife, was coming later to sweep my membranes and I had taken blue and black cohosh during our walk. Tonight would be a new moon and I thought how perfect that would be for this new adventure. Everything was ready and I couldn’t wait to see what labor had in store and how I was going to become your mama.
Shar arrived at 11am and in her calming way reminded us that you would know when you were ready and to not get anxious. We were ready and you would let us know when you were too. She swept my membranes and my cervix was already at 3cm and you were low low low! This was a good place to start and I felt optimistic. Shar left and said to call whenever we needed her. Your dad had run out to the farmer’s market and come home with lavender. The house smelled beautiful and I tried to settle into a calm knowing you had to come soon.
Your dad and I decided to read to you the book we had started a few days ago, “The Subtle Knife.” As we were reading I started having small contractions. They felt different than before and shortly I had to ask your dad to stop reading during them because I couldn’t focus on the story. It felt special and exciting to feel like early labor might be starting but we wanted to go about our day and not work the early labor too hard so we enjoyed the book and the inclining that something was about to change.
At around 2p we decided a walk would be good. I wanted to get lunch at Qathra before labor really started if that was where this was headed and your dad wanted to go for a run. I think he felt the excitement of the precipice we were on. As we walked down Cortelyou Road I had to stop a few times for the contractions and as I waited for my order at Qathra it was becoming harder to ignore the contractions, especially with your dad on his neighborhood loop run not by my side – I got the feeling I would need him right near me during the entire labor.
Once we got home I tried to eat my lunch though it was more out of preparation than any real desire to eat it. I swayed on our yoga ball and thought maybe this was it. I thought it felt different enough to suggest that we finally make your labor birthday cake! Your dad and I baked together pausing for contractions and enjoying the time together in between. I looked forward to eating the birthday cake – funfetti from scratch! – once you made your appearance in celebration of this next amazing adventure.
While the cake cooled, we decided to walk around the neighborhood. It was the most beautiful cool summer evening. We paused every half block or so to have a contraction inspiring one or two conversations about birth between our neighbors I think! I wanted to keep doing a few loops because the night air was so glorious but it became harder and harder to do so. Eventually we decided to go back to our nest and see what the night had in store for us.
The cakes had cooled and I frosted your birthday cake. It felt much harder doing this part than the baking had been because the contractions were more frequent and took more of my attention. Your dad fixed himself something to eat because we felt like this was surely the beginning of our long night of labor and birth and I tried to eat some watermelon. Your cake was finished and I started to believe labor might really be here and soon I would meet you.
Because my contractions were getting harder, I decided to get in our shower. It was nice sitting in the dim light with the warm water on my back. Your dad suggested we call Grace, our doula, your auntie, because I couldn’t talk through the contractions any longer but I wasn’t ready to call this “real” labor just yet. I told him he could let her know but not ask her to come yet. We put on our labor playlist and nestled into the bathroom together.
Sometime in the evening I told your dad to call Grace – she had already made her way to Brooklyn fearing I would wait until the very last minute to call her. She came right away and got to work making our apartment the prettiest place to labor I had ever seen. She lit candles, including the midwife blessing candle, and cleaned the kitchen so your dad could focus on supporting me. The next few hours are a blur of being in the shower and then walking around the living room and then back in the shower. At one point your dad was in the shower with me helping rub my back and support me between the contractions. It was hard but there was also laughter between the contractions. I had waited so long for this to happen that part of me reveled in the experience while the other part of me worried it would disappear before I got to meet you. But for now, I was in it and leaned into the labor, my labor.
I needed your dad next to me at all times. I thought perhaps I would have been more of a solo laborer but his calm and trusting presence was everything to me during the tough parts. Grace offered words of encouragement to both of us and created a space that allowed us to support each other as we worked on bringing you into this world. Thinking now I have flashes of your dad rubbing my back telling me how strong I was and Grace rubbing my calves telling me I could do this and this was real.
Eventually I felt a shift in the intensity of the contractions and could no longer sway and sit during them. It seemed as the rain grew outside so did the intensity of my contractions. The peaceful cool evening from our earlier walk was now a full summer storm. I found myself jumping up and leaning over the couch at the peak of each contraction or standing up off the yoga ball in the shower. I would sway and squat and try to help wiggle you down. My sounds were getting lower and I felt nauseas. Grace suggested we call Shar because it seemed like I was in good active labor at this point and transition wouldn’t be far.
Shar came over shortly afterwards and just watched how we were laboring. Unknown to me she had delivered a baby earlier that evening! Everything seemed just as it should. The lights were dim, the music encouraging, and so much love from everyone in the room. But then my contractions started to slow. I let the thought creep back into my head that maybe this wasn’t real. I felt like I started to watch myself labor rather than be in the labor.
I asked Shar to check me. Something I was surprised I needed but I felt a land post would tell me this was real. She did and I was 5cm. I was disappointed and surprised. I thought I would be closer. We continued to labor. In the back of my head, I remembered that the hardest part was the first half and the second half could go quickly so I should stay optimistic and just stay in it. It became harder and harder to succumb to the waves of contractions and as I struggled to understand my labor it started to run away from me. The contractions started to spread out in the wee hours of that rainy night right around when I thought I should be meeting you. You had many more lessons in store for us!
At 4AM, Shar encouraged me to try to rest during the contractions, to do my best to stay lying down. This felt nearly impossible to me but I knew she was right. I needed rest. This was not going to be the speedy labor everyone thought I would have. This was our labor Eudora and it was going to be a long one. Everyone rested and at some point I got up and wandered around the apartment. I felt discouraged and exhausted. Where had my labor gone and why wasn’t I going to meet my baby? Your dad, Shar, and Grace came to me in the kitchen and said I should keep resting and that things would start again in the morning. This was how my pattern was and I should just let it be. Shar and Grace suggested they leave to give us the space to get back into labor. Before they left I fell to pieces for a moment. I felt like my body had failed us. I let my insecurities from all the months of trying for you creep back in and bring me to my bottom. I cried from a very deep place and held onto everyone in the room. Women worry about the intensity of contractions before they go into labor but what was hardest for me was being brought down to my smallest, most out of control, self. I tried to hold onto the words Grace was telling me, that I was strong and I could do this, that my body could do this, but I have never faced such uncertainty and fear. Grace and Shar left in the pouring rain and said they would come back whenever I needed them but to give into this labor.
In the quiet of our house, your dad and I rested until around 8am. It had been pouring outside all night and now the sun was starting to peak out. The contractions were still very far apart, about 20 minutes, and I wanted to make sure you were still doing okay so I told your dad we should still go to your ultrasound appointment we had scheduled the week before. I got dressed and we left the house. We decided to get coffee before we went into the city and as we walked down the street the contractions started to come again. We called Shar and asked whether we should still go into the city. We were standing on the subway platform and she reassured us that you were doing well and if I was starting my labor again we should not get on a train. I froze in the uncertainty and didn’t know what to do. I wanted desperately to make sure you were okay but I also felt like a trip into Manhattan was the equivocal to a journey up Mount Everest so we turned around and went home. On the way home we picked up castor oil in case the contractions didn’t keep coming.
But they did. They got harder and closer together. They felt lower and more intense. The contractions wrapped around my body each time they came but I tried to stay lying down like the early morning. Your dad and I labored in our bed as the sun grew stronger. I wasn’t ready to call Grace and Shar back yet. I wanted to be in the labor for longer, make more progress, make sure it wasn’t going to go away again.
At around noon, your dad got nervous that I was too afraid to call them back and he would end up delivery you because I was making new sounds each contraction and was starting to say I couldn’t do it. It seemed like maybe I was in transition and finally near to meeting you. Grace and Shar arrived but once they were setting up, also thinking birth seemed close, my contractions stopped again. I was like an animal that didn’t want to be watched. I needed your dad to feel safe but no one else could be around me. I asked them to leave and they went around the corner for lunch saying they could be back whenever I needed them.
Contractions started again as soon as we were alone. They were intense again and I started to wonder where you were. I started to grunt as you got lower and again we called Shar and Grace to return. I asked Shar to check me when she got back after I had a number of hard contractions. I needed to know where I was again. I was 8cm! This felt good. Those contractions were doing something. I decided I needed to move again and look towards the end of our labor. I got in the shower and tried to help you wiggle down again.
At around 4pm I asked Shar if she would break my water. I wanted these contractions to continue, to intensify, to bring you to me. She agreed that this sounded like a good plan despite how serious she took interrupting the normal course of labor. We broke my water, I had so much good clear fluid and you sounded so great I started to feel optimistic again.
I labored on and the contractions, while still just 5mins apart, felt stronger and more productive. I held onto door frames and doubted whether I could do this. Grace and your dad on each side of me saying I could, I was. Four hours of hard labor I still wasn’t feeling the pressure to push only some more intense pressure at the peak of the contractions so I asked Shar to check me again. I wanted to know if I would have the energy for what was still in store.
At 8pm she checked me and I was crushed. I was still 8cm and exhausted. We had labored in our little home together for 34 hours and I felt stuck. I could sustain the pain of each contraction but I was starting to suffer from exhaustion and the uncertainty of my labor pattern. My contractions started to space again faced with this disappointment and I knew something needed to change.
I asked Shar and Grace what we should do. She suggested we either start working the labor hard, getting into wonky positions, walking laps, etc or we discuss what a hospital transfer would look like. Either option felt crushing to me at the time. How could we be here? Why weren’t you just in my arms? I believe so much in a woman’s ability to birth her baby, why couldn’t I?
As these thoughts flashed through my head everyone reassured me that there was no wrong answer, whatever I decided was what we would do. Grace encouraged me saying wherever I had you I would be amazing and strong. Shar reminded me that smart women use all the tools they have, and your dad said he loved me and was already so proud of this labor and this family. Your little heart kept beating strongly.
I decided we needed to transfer. I wanted so badly to have you in our bedroom but I wanted more to love bringing you into this world and to do so safely for both of us. I didn’t want to be suffering any longer and I wanted to focus on you, not this labor any longer. This was about bringing you into this world not about where we did it.
Grace called the midwives in New Jersey. Since this wasn’t an emergency we decided we would go there because then we could go into a labor room quickly and know the midwives who would help me birth you. They were thrilled that we were coming to them and said they would meet us at the hospital and couldn’t wait to help us. Once it was decided I felt a wave of relief. Your dad says I became myself again. I called your Grandma and told her we were going to the hospital. She sounded relieved and it felt good to say it out loud – to own my decision for our little family. We packed our bags and set out for the hospital.
The drive was hard. I focused on shutting down my contractions and zoning out – a big change from the last two days! Shar and your dad tell me the sky was amazing as we drove into New Jersey but all I remember is focusing on you and the last bit of the journey ahead of us. As we pulled into the hospital it was dark and it had started raining again. You are the barer of rain Eudora!
We met Lisa as we walked into Labor and Birth. It was so nice to see a familiar face and know we would be treated with love and compassion. I filled out paperwork as I dripped amniotic fluid and wondered how I was able to do this at 8cm!
We got into our room and Lisa, Grace, and the nurse Laura got to work setting everyone up with cots and getting me ready for an epidural and pitocin – the tools we needed for this last hurrah. We were all tucked in and I let the rest overcome me as the epidural started to take effect. I had always feared that an epidural would make me loose my connection to the birth process but instead I was brought back to you and out of my own head. Instead of cycles of uncertainty, I could think about you, my little baby I was going to meet soon. We all drifted off to sleep knowing there was still much work to be done.
I awoke to the quiet room, starting to feel pressure from you coming closer and closer to this world. I awoke your dad who was sleeping next to us. These were the last moments that we would be just two. We whispered to each other as we held hands about how excited we were to meet you and how hard this journey had been. I told him that I thought your name should be Eudora, a name he loved and had always known was for you. I told him I had gotten to know you more over these long hours and Eudora was just right for you. In the quiet of those minutes I held onto all the love between him and I and knew it was about to grow even more once you were with us.
Lisa came in and asked how I was feeling. I told her I thought it was time to push. She checked to see where we were at and indeed it was time. I could feel you making your way down. I was able to move my legs well and feel when I had contractions. I wanted to push on my side and it felt good to be in it again. The few hours of rest had rejuvenated me. I pushed like a lion, roaring you out. It was the hardest work I think I have ever done or will ever do. When doubt started to creep into my head we tried different positions. I squatted, laid on my other side, sat up on my back. I remember looking around and I was surrounded by my trusted birth team. Everyone encouraging me and you.
As your head started to appear, I felt down and you were there. Your dad’s voice was filled with excitement. All the midwives (we had three!) encouraged us on with love saying “push your baby out,” “you can do this,” “right there, that’s the push.” Just when I thought I couldn’t do it any longer, I heard the urging in the midwives’ voices. You were close but you also were not having this labor any longer. I heard your heart rate and pushed with all my might. It was time to take care of you out here and to let go of our beautiful pregnancy. You came out with a few more pushes – I even had to push that big beautiful tummy of yours out! You came right to me, all pink and gurgling. I’ve never felt such utter relief. It took you a little while to give us a good cry but everyone around you encouraged you and you did it. You didn’t have to leave my side. Your dad cut your umbilical cord once it stopped pulsing and you our Eudora felt your first bit of freedom. You crawled up and got right to breastfeeding – so smart and so curious at once. I cried and your dad beamed. I have never loved anything so much.
Our story was hard but beautiful.