April 9, 2009, was the day I became a mommy. My husband Mike and I headed to Sutter Maternity Center in Santa Cruz, California, early that Thursday morning. I had a scheduled induction, as I was 11 days past my due date and there was some concern that my placenta had become too worn to continue to do its job.
When we were all checked in and settled, I was given an IV with Pitocin, as well as an antibiotic drip. During my pregnancy, I had been diagnosed with Group B strep and the antibiotics were to ensure that it was not passed on to my baby. The nurse had a hard time finding a vein, and both of my arms were bruised and in so much pain—not really how I expected this experience to start, but soon enough the pain in my arms would be a distant sensation.
Over the next couple of hours, the contractions started. They were light and tolerable. I had the thought, “This is easy, I got this!” But, as the contractions grew stronger and closer together, I began to doubt myself. I wanted nothing more than to deliver without any kind of medical intervention or drugs, but the pain started becoming more than I thought I could bear. Little did I know, I hadn’t even hit transition yet, when things would become so much more painful.
A few hours in, my midwife made the decision to break my water. In her hand, she held what looked like a crochet needle. I was standing up and she used this tool to break my water. I remember the sensation of the warm fluid running down my legs and feeling so uncomfortable and even embarrassed by the mess.
As soon as my water broke, like the very SECOND, the contractions came on strong and hard. I had my arms draped around Mike’s neck as I hung my head low and rocked back and forth. I got to a point where I just didn’t think I could push on without some pain relief. I had tried a warm tub, massages, bouncing on a yoga ball. While some of these methods helped get me through my contractions, I couldn’t talk myself out of the pain. I cried out for an epidural even though in my gut, I wanted nothing to do with it. I needed someone to talk me off the ledge.
I am so thankful for the amazing nurses, my husband and my mom, who reminded me of my birth plan and distracted me enough through each contraction to get me through it without any drugs or an epidural. There is one nurse who I will forever be grateful for. I was in the middle of a contraction and these guttural, animalistic noises were coming out of me. I looked up and we locked eyes and I swear, I looked so deep into her eyes I felt possessed. But there was something about what her eyes were saying to me that gave me this deep sense of relief. She didn’t say a word and never looked away. This moment always sticks out to me when I think back to this day.
The pain was intensifying and I wanted to lie down to see if I could catch a break. Ha. Wishful thinking. I was checked by my midwife and was told I was in transition. I was also told that my baby’s heart rate was slowing down and there was a chance that the cord was wrapped around his neck. They administered oxygen to me, to increase the levels the baby was receiving. Things started becoming blurry. I felt the pain but I also felt like I was watching from above, Like my body just took over and my mind completely checked out. This is when I could hear, what seemed like just a faint whisper from miles away, “It’s time to push.”
I started pushing. My midwife was seated between my legs with the sweetest and most reassuring demeanor. My mom and Mike each had a foot in their hand. With every push, they helped me by pushing my legs up. I kept pushing but it didn’t feel natural. I didn’t have the pushing urge and wanted to be told when to go. I just wanted it to be done. About 30 minutes into pushing, I frantically pleaded to my midwife to just get in there and pull him out. I guess it doesn’t quite work that way.
Things weren’t moving as quickly as the medical team wanted, considering my baby was in distress. My midwife put a mirror between my legs, because she felt if I could see him crowing, it would help me push him out. I took a glimpse and I am pretty sure my face went white. My heart dropped and I became so introverted. I never imagined what my body would look like while pushing a baby out and I was shocked at what I saw. Mike saw my reaction and quickly asked her to move it.
It became apparent that if I wasn’t able to push the baby out within the next several minutes, a C-Section would be required. In an attempt to give me one more shot at delivering vaginally, my midwife reached inside of me to cut the umbilical cord so it wasn’t around my baby’s neck. At this point, I had a very short window to finish the process on my own. It was only a couple more pushes (45 minutes total) and Dylan was born. Six hours, start to finish, and I was DONE. I did it. No pain medication. No epidural. Baby safely delivered. Just like I wanted.
Dylan was placed on my chest and within seconds was quickly swopped out of my arms. I didn’t even have the chance to kiss him or to study his face or smell his hair. I remember seeing him out of the corner of my eye, his white body being held in the nurses arms as she was gently hitting his butt. He was not crying or making any noise and they were trying to stimulate him. I felt like I was watching a movie. It all seemed so surreal, like a dream.
As the nurses were tending to Dylan, I felt like I was fading and almost going in and out of consciousness. As crazy as this sounds, I almost had forgotten I just had a baby. I wasn’t wondering why he had been taken from me, I didn’t ask if he was OK. I was in some sort of shock. And that’s when I heard a loud buzz, from a button my midwife hit, and within the blink of an eye, a team of about 10 medical staff were in my room. I was told I was hemorrhaging and they couldn’t get the bleeding to stop. I felt helpless on the hospital bed. I was just lying there while they injected me with medication that would slow the bleeding.
As this was all happening, Dylan had been whisked away to a room where he could be observed and monitored. Mike and my sister made the incredibly tough decision to leave me as I was going through the afterbirth and hemorrhaging, but there wasn’t a chance Dylan was going to be out of our sights. I had my mom by my side the whole time.
Two or three hours passed and it wasn’t until that time that I finally came to and realized I didn’t have Dylan with me. I came unglued. They brought him to me and I got to hold him and nurse him for the first time. The sadness I felt for having things turn out the way they did, completely dissipated as I held him and nursed him for the first time. He was healthy, but they wanted to keep an eye on him just to be sure. He was perfect … a big boy at 8 lb., 14 oz and 21.5 inches long, with a head full of black curly hair and the most intelligent, wise, soulful and loving eyes. What a ride we had endured together.
Because of the amount of blood I lost, and the awful tearing that happened, recovery was hard. I was easily winded and needed help just to walk, go to the bathroom, adjust my position in bed, etc. BUT, even with all the pain, uncertainty, fear and every other emotion I experienced that day, I would do it all over again. Dylan and I both fully recovered and now we have quite the story to tell.
I am so amazed and proud at what my body (and mind) were able to endure that day. Birth is such a beautiful thing and no matter what the path leading up to it looked like, the end result made it more than worth it.
Written by Raquel DiPalma