March 18th. I was 39 weeks + 6 days pregnant and I was so over it. This was the longest I'd ever been pregnant and I hadn't prepared myself to hit my due date, let alone go past it, which is what I was sure was going to happen at that point. David, my son, had been sick that past week and I was just exhausted. I'd had another membrane sweep a few days before that hadn't done anything and was feeling so super discouraged. For the majority of that Friday, I had been having Braxton hicks but nothing timeable and nothing increasing in intensity. Drex had finished up a sale at work and jokingly told me I could go into labor anytime. I was just such a grump that day. Drex came home a little early to give me a much-needed break, brought home a chocolate chip muffin, and took David out of the house for a bit. While he was gone, I decided I needed to make plans for the next day. It was Saturday and my due date and I knew the only way I was going to get through it without being a total emotional disaster was if we made it special. I texted my mom asking about her watching David for a bit so that Drex and I could get brunch and then I'd get my nails (re)done. She was happy to oblige and we made plans to drop David off at 10.
Almost immediately I felt better. If I was going to still be massively pregnant, I might as well enjoy it! That night after putting David to bed, we ended up cleaning the house. I made a joke to Drex about it being the closest I'd get to nesting and the thought of "hey maybe I'll go into labor soon" crossed my mind. Once clean I headed up to take a shower and got into bed. It was 11:30pm at this point and I had zero signs of labor. I was finally looking forward to sleeping in, getting brunch with Drex, and enjoying our last Saturday as a family of 3.
At 2:30am I woke up with pretty intense “menstrual like” cramps. I had to pee and just assumed my bladder was too full or something, not reading into it. I got up and went to the bathroom, the cramping went away and I got back into bed, trying to fall back asleep. I dozed off but kept waking up every 7-8 minutes with this really bizarre cramping. I could feel it begin, feel it get stronger, reach its peak, and then leave. My labor with David was constant back labor and constant pain with no consistent waves, so it took me a minute to even think that these might be contractions. I knew if they were I needed to sleep and I didn't want to wake Drex up until I was sure they were the real thing.
They kept coming, getting more intense, lasting longer, and closer together. At around 3:30am I nudged Drex and told him I thought I was in labor though I REALLY doubted it at this point. I had such nice distinct breaks between contractions in which I felt totally normal so I was trying to convince myself that this definitely wasn't labor! Even so, they continued and Drex told me he was pretty sure this was the real deal. At around 4am I decided I'd get up and get ready just in case. I was really determined to have an awesome hospital experience and one of the silly things I'd wanted was to actually look halfway decent in labor, so I sat on my birth ball while curling my hair and putting on makeup. Drex asked me if I needed anything and after I had said no, went back to sleep. I knew if this was indeed the real thing that he'd need all the sleep he could get and it wasn't like he could help me put on my makeup anyways. I finished getting ready at about 4:35am and was still cramping. I decided to text my mom and just ask her to head over so we could go in and get checked out. I took (what I hoped) was my last belly photo, and then Drex and I just talked and laughed while waiting. She got to our house just after 5am and we headed out.
Once arriving at the hospital they put me into a room, had me change into a gown, and hooked me up to monitors. I was indeed having contractions, I was about 4cm dilated, and they decided to keep me. This was the worst part of my labor experience. Eden wasn't staying on the monitor so a senior nursing student was squatting on the floor (I was on a ball), holding the monitor to try and get her. While that was happening they couldn't get a vein so suddenly the room was filled with two more people from the lab to try and get blood. It was loud and overwhelming and I remember clearly feeling like everyone needed to get out and leave me alone. I could tell my contractions were spacing out and becoming less regular. My body needed space and wasn't getting it. When the ladies from the lab left, I let my mom know and we texted our birth photographer that we were here to stay. I was then told I'd have to be consistently monitored and I was so annoyed about this. They compromised with a portable monitor but even so, Eden wouldn't stay on which meant they were coming in constantly to reposition the monitors. Trying to relax, I turned on Klove and sat on the bed next to Drex, leaning in, hoping things would start to pick back up.
At this point I was feeling really defeated. I felt overwhelmed and trapped and like I couldn't labor how I needed to. Shift changes happened and the new OB on call came in. I was nervous to meet her since I knew some OB's were less VBAC friendly than others and the last thing I could handle was a battle over every little thing. Instead, the prayer I'd been praying for the past few months was answered. As I'd prepared for labor this time around, I'd been praying that in the midst of it all, Jesus would be so obviously present. I didn't know what that would look like and honestly I assumed it would look more like Drex just making sure to pray for and with me when things got hard and I needed encouragement. Turns out what that looked like was that OB coming in and complimenting my choice of music and that leading into her asking if we went to a church in the area. When I said yes and told her which one, she responded by telling us that's the one she goes to too. Not only that, but the same service as well! So here I was, spontaneous labor, an OB I'd never met before who'd just came on call, me beginning to feel overwhelmed and discouraged, and Jesus showed up.
Our chat quickly got back to the whole birthing thing, and she offered to break my water and get this whole show back on the road. I agreed, hoping it'd give me a boost and get my contractions back on track. She broke it, and some fluid came out immediately but I decided to walk around to get it really going. A nurse had me put a pad on (gosh, birth is so sexy right?) and almost immediately I felt a huge gush. I started laughing; I mean here I am standing there while huge gushes of fluid are pouring out of me. It was like a scene on a movie! I actually said to Drex "oh my gosh this HAPPENS to people!! WHEN THEY'RE NOT WEARING A HUGE PAD!" The fluid ended up filling the pad and trickling down my legs and the floor so we headed to the bathroom to replace it. When we removed the existing pad we noticed that the water was green. I knew what it meant the moment I saw it and I had to force myself to not completely panic. "It's meconium, right?" And the nurse confirmed what I knew. Yup, meconium. I filled another pad quickly and that one looked the same as the first. At this point, I knew I needed this baby out. I needed her here safe and healthy and I was 100% ready to sacrifice my hopes of a VBAC for that.
I asked the nurse to grab the OB for me; I wanted to talk to her about the options. I told her how I felt and I wanted her honest opinion. I asked her about doing a repeat c-section, I asked if it would be the safest option for her, and when she looked at me and genuinely told me yes, I made up my mind. "Okay, let's do it". She asked me if I was okay with that decision, and then she asked Drex if he was okay with that too, talking us through it, making sure to not have either of us feel coerced or rushed or taken advantage of in the least. It was in these moments I began to feel empowered about my birth. It wasn't what I'd planned or hoped for and yet it was empowering anyways. I had asked for the OB, I had brought up an RCS, and I was honest about how I was feeling (stressed, knowing my body wasn't going to labor when my emotions were stressed and worried). We signed the necessary paperwork as she went over the details. Our birth photographer arrived at this time (her timing couldn't have been more perfect) and the anesthesiologist came over to talk me through the spinal. When all the formal docs were done, and before she left to get prepped herself, the OB asked Drex and I if she could pray for us. She sat down between us, held my hand, and prayed. Tears rolled down my face as her words filled the otherwise silent room and peace filled my heart. We were doing this, and it was the right decision.
Shortly after, when everyone was suited up and ready, the nurse walked us to the OR. I think this played a part in how awesome this experience was. I wasn't wheeled in like a sick patient; I got to walk, down the hallway and through those big white doors. I went in first to have the spinal administered. It was weird, walking in, getting up on the table, and each person in the room talking me through exactly what they were doing. The spinal placement was easy, they laid me down and had Drex and our photographer come in. They put the sheet up but unlike with David, this one had a viewing window so we could see her come out. They got to her quickly, I didn't even know they'd started cutting before I heard "alright you're going to feel a lot of pressure, we're getting close, she'll be here within a minute". Her little hand poked out first, she was face up, just like her brother. They pulled her out and I got to see that. Tears rolled down my cheeks as she cried. She was here, and she was healthy. Her entire backside was covered in meconium but she was okay. She scored 9.9 on her Apgar test, was 8 pounds and 13 ounces (smaller than David!!) and 19 inches long. Immediately after she was laid naked on my bare chest. I cried. Skin to skin, being the first non-doctor to hold her, things I missed out on with David that I had so desperately wanted. I had prayed and hoped that her birth would be healing and redeeming and it was. I remember every detail of her birth, I didn't have preeclampsia, and I wasn't out of it. I was present and there and proud of myself. She was and is absolutely perfect.
Connect with Mama Ali @mrsaliadams
images by Sommessa Photography