Each of my daughters has a very different birth story, very fitting for each of their personalities. I don’t often get to tell Alexandra’s birth story, although she is my first daughter, my first baby. Here is her story.
I was 18 when I became pregnant with Alexandra, I was engaged to her father, but by the time I realized I was pregnant, our relationship was over and more importantly I realized I did not want him in either one of our lives. When I was 6 months pregnant, I decided to relinquish Alexandra for adoption. I chose to have a private adoption in which I knew the family who would be bringing her home and becoming her family. Alexandra’s pregnancy and birth was bittersweet, and even though it was almost 19 years ago, I still remember it like it happened yesterday. It’s funny how the events and little memories from that day have never gone away. Those experiences and the way I birthed has been what I have measured my other births against.
It was the day before my due date, June 25, and I was taking a shower when I felt like I had an extra gush of water. It was hard to tell since it had been in the shower, but I felt weird and my belly felt tight, so after I dried off I went to talk to my mom. She thought it could have possibly been my water breaking and we decided to call my OB’s office. I went in to see if my water had broken and the test came back negative for amniotic fluid. My OB told me with a smile, “Hang in there, I don’t expect you to have this baby any time soon. I am leaving for San Francisco this evening and I will be back in one week. I expect to have to induce you when I get back, in the meantime enjoy this next week!” I went home, slightly relieved and also slightly let down. I was excited to have this baby but also fearful of the next steps I knew were inevitable. I went about my day like I normally would, and I decided to treat myself with a movie, just Alexandra and myself. I wanted to savor the last little bit I had with her.
That evening I wasn’t very hungry and I was super tired, I remember feeling like I just needed to laugh. I decided to put in the movie “So I Married An Axe Murderer” and it was nice to be able to laugh and relax. I fell asleep on the sofa during the movie. I hadn’t been that tired in weeks and figuring it was because I was 40 weeks pregnant I went to bed. About 3 hours later, right around midnight on my due date, June 26, I woke up to a pinching pressure feeling in my lower back. I readjusted and fell back to sleep, but this continued to happen to me—I would wake up to my back hurting and feeling like I had to pee, I would readjust in bed and fall back to sleep. This continued until about 3 a.m., when I finally had to get up to go to the bathroom. It still hadn’t occurred to me that I could possibly be in labor. My thought process was my OB had seen me the day before and had done a cervical exam and had assured me I still had at least a week. This couldn’t be labor, right?
I decided to head downstairs and watch some TV until I could go back to sleep. I kept feeling like I needed to go to the bathroom, but only a small amount would trickle out when I would go. I put the movie “Pillow Talk” on and sat down to watch. My back got tight again and I got a cramp-like feeling and so I would stand and walk around when that happened, then I would sit back down and watch the movie a little more. There was about an hour more of this when it finally occurred to me that I might be in labor, since the cramping hadn’t stopped with me getting up or going to the bathroom. I started to take more notice and started to time my cramping. The whole time I would stand and walk around or move my hips from side to side during the cramping, and then I would sit down in between or run to the bathroom, because it still felt like I had to pee every 5 seconds.
Looking back, I am amazed at how instinctive it was for me to stand, walk, and move my hips when I felt contractions, and to rest in between. I had no idea what I was doing or what to expect. I did what felt natural, I felt calm, ready, I continued with gentle swaying and rocking back and forth during contractions and laying down and resting in between. Around 5:30 a.m., I decided that I was most likely in labor and I probably should wake someone up to drive me to the hospital.
I don’t think the reality of things hit me, so I was very calm and slow in getting ready, and when I was dressed and ready to leave, I woke my parents up and told them I was in labor and I needed to go to the hospital. I don’t think I have ever seen my dad move as fast as he did when I said that. He was running around, trying to get ready as fast as possible, asking if I was OK, double checking I had everything, all while I was calmly standing there swaying side to side. I burst out laughing because it was so ridiculous, I told him, “Shouldn’t I be the one who is freaking out? You’ve been through two births before!”
We got in the car for the 20-minute drive to the hospital and I have to say, the drive to the hospital was the hardest 20 minutes. My contractions were getting stronger at that point and I was uncomfortable not being able to get up and move. I started to panic a little at that point, my tools I used were no longer available to me and I had no idea what to do. My dad reminded me that I needed to breathe and to use my breath as much as possible to help with my contractions, he helped me focus on my breathing, slowing it down, using it to help blow the pain away, and he distracted me in between contractions. I called the hospital to let them know I was on my way in. They told me I would be monitored and checked before being admitted, since it “didn’t sound like I was in labor.”
When I walked in to the labor and delivery department, and I told them I was in labor. The nurse didn’t believe me. She told me I was most likely having Braxton Hicks or was in very early labor, if I even was, but she would go ahead and check me. I was shown into a room and asked to change into a gown. The whole time I was still having contractions, but they were much more manageable since I was able to stand and move around. As soon as I was in a gown, the nurse checked me and to her amazement I was already 5-6 cm and 100 percent effaced. I was definitely in labor. She was shocked. I was shocked. She told me I definitely did not act like someone who was in labor.
I decided to ask for an epidural. Again, this shocked the nurse. She told me I was doing really well and it didn’t seem like I needed an epidural. Now this was an aspect of my labor that my OB and I had spoken about during my pregnancy. I chose my OB because he had a lot of experience with birth mothers and adoption. He encouraged me to have an epidural so that I could eliminate the physical pain since I was going to be dealing with heavy emotional pain. Looking back, I don’t know if that was the right way to do it. I don’t know if he was trying to make it easier on himself, but I also feel grateful for his experience and sensitivity to my comfort as much as possible. While I don’t think that I needed to have an epidural, and yes, I did have heavy emotional pain I would be dealing with, I don’t know if it was a necessity. I truly believe I would have been able to do it without medication. Although, at the time I was thankful because I was worried about the pain and the unknown of what would come next, in birth, in postpartum, when it was time for us to separate.
With that being said, my epidural came quick and I was able to sit back and take in the fact that I would soon be saying goodbye to my daughter. I progressed fairly quickly through my labor. I checked in to the hospital around 6 a.m., was admitted and checked around 6:30 a.m., and at 9:45 a.m. I was ready to push my baby girl out. There had been lots of laughing and joking around prior to that. My parents were there to support me and the nurses were very supportive and were keeping the situation as light as possible.
My OB was not there. He had left for a week to San Francisco the evening prior, so his partner was the OB to attend my birth and I did not care for him and his bedside manner. He was delivering twins next door to me when I needed to push. I pushed with the nurses for a few minutes and I was so effective with my pushes I was told I needed to stop pushing because the OB was still next door delivering other babies. We waited for almost half an hour—that whole time I was told not to push and to breathe through the contractions. I remember I could still feel pressure, but not pain, luckily because I don’t know how I wouldn’t have been pushing otherwise. When the OB finally came in to my room, he was ready for me to push “now,” but for some reason my contractions had slowed way down and while we waited for 8 minutes for my body to have another contraction, he looked at the nurse and told her, “Let’s prep for a cesarean.” I looked at him and said, “The hell we will, this baby was ready 45 minutes ago and I had to tell my body to stop, let me have a couple of minutes before we decide that.” I think he was so caught off guard he wasn’t sure how to react. While the OB was talking to the nurse, I started having a contraction and I told him, “I don’t care if you are ready or not, I’m pushing my daughter out, I’m tired of waiting,” and within 3 pushes Alexandra joined us earth side, born on June 26, 2001, at 10:25 a.m., 7 lb. 3 oz., a perfect little baby girl. Immediately she was brought to my chest and I did skin to skin with her.
Alexandra stayed on my chest for 4 hours while I was stitched up from an episiotomy (that I was unaware happened and did not give my consent to) and during routine baby care procedures. After 4 hours, the nurses took Alexandra and weighed and measured her and gave her a quick bath and then she was back with me, where she stayed for the remainder of the day and throughout the whole night. I did not sleep at all that night because I wanted to soak all of that little baby girl up. I knew the next day I would have to sign papers to let her go to another family. While I knew the decision I was making was the right decision, it didn’t make it any less hard or painful. The nurses allowed the space I needed with Alexandra to be able to spend time with her and start to say my goodbyes.
The next morning, the social worker and adoption representative came in and spoke with me. I was able to sign my paperwork and ask the questions I needed in a well-supported environment. Even though we personally knew the family we were choosing to be Alexandra’s family, we waited until the papers had been signed and I was ready to allow them into the room to take Alexandra, as that would be the last time I would see her.
Looking back there were things that happened that I would have changed, with the care I received from the OB who attended my birth, I would have made sure I was more informed about other options and although I felt like I spoke up, I would have spoken up more and been even more vocal than I was, but at the same time, I do not think I would change anything about how she was brought earth side. My labor started on its own, I worked intuitively with my body, I let labor progress on its own, although I opted for an epidural, I am grateful that I was able to enjoy my labor and birth, the heartache and deep sadness that followed was so intense and all-consuming that I was grateful for a truly beautiful birth experience.
To this day, I have measured my other births to Alexandra’s birth. I have never watched “So I Married An Axe Murderer” or “Pillow Talk” again, I chose different hospitals to birth my other two daughters at, I chose a different OB for my other daughters. I could not do anything again that I had done with Alexandra and her pregnancy and birth. It was too hard, too emotional, I felt like I would be betraying her and her memory. I grieved for a long time, and it took years for me to fully process, accept her birth, and to release myself, to allow myself to grieve and feel that it was acceptable. Thank you for allowing me to tell her birth story.
Written by Brittany Randolph