Birth Story: Monroe
Our sweet Monroe made his way earth side on a sunny Monday afternoon, 5 days before his due date. He came to town in a quick 4.5 hours. This is the story of his journey.
On Sunday May 20, we celebrated Pryor's 2nd birthday since his actual birthday coincided with Monroe's due date (May 26). I felt super heavy and weighted down (physically) all day. I was also feeling a bit achey and exhausted, with Braxton Hicks contractions frequently reoccurring throughout the day. Had I stopped to really acknowledge the consistency of them, I may have noticed the first sign that the onset of labor was eminent! But with all of the fun we were having, I paid little attention to the woes typical of week 39 in pregnancy. Thankfully, we got to bed somewhat early and had a good night's rest.
Monday, May 21, 2018
6:45am- Crampiness wakes me up. It feels like mild period cramps and butterflies. They appear to have some regularity to them and are pretty uncomfortable, but not painful. I head to the bathroom. The cramps remain manageable so I decide not to wake anyone up yet. I texted my amazing doula as a heads up.
7:00am- I start timing the cramps with my contraction timer app. They are all over the place! I feel them steadily coming on, but there is no uniformity between intervals. This has me doubting i'm actually in labor. They continue to come in waves varying between 4 min and 2 min apart. My husband Matt checks on me, as i've been in the bathroom awhile, and I nervously tell him I think I MIGHT be in labor, but i'm still not positive.
7:15am- By this time, my body is purging everything i've ever eaten in my lifetime. I'm literally stuck in the bathroom. I know I need to eat and drink something in an effort to fuel up for what could be a super lengthy labor, but I'm too queasy and nervous to even consider it. The breaks between contractions are SO PAINLESS that I still keep wondering if it's the real deal.
8:00am- Contractions have picked up and are getting a bit more intense, but still not evenly spaced. Some are 4 minutes apart, some are 2 minutes apart, some are 1.5 minutes apart. Matt recognizes that this is actually happening and our baby is very likely on the way! He calls my mom to head over to watch Pryor. I'm still somewhat in denial because of how easy everything is going so far.
8:15am- At this point, shit is gettin real. I'm having to squat and breathe through each contraction as they are now painful and closer together. I FINALLY admit that i'm in labor ha! On the other hand, breaks between contractions are still totally painless and enjoyable, lasting around 4-5 min on average. This is when I really consider active labor to have started.
8:30am- Breaks between contractions are suddenly super short. Contractions begin to stack on top of one another. I don't have much time to recover between them anymore. My doula tells me to prepare to leave.
8:45am- I hop in the shower and that slows things down a bit, which is nice. NO part of me wants to get out of the shower! (I think it was at this point I knew I would be having a home birth with my next baby. The thought of getting in the car for 40 minutes and driving across a bridge, over water, with no exits, while having big contractions was cringe worthy.) We throw all of the last minute things in our hospital bag so we can leave when my mom arrives.
9:00am- Contractions are 1.5 min apart. I roll around on the birth ball and that helps tremendously. I'm actually feeling pretty good at this point despite how close and strong contractions are. Everyone's spirits are super high and excitement is in the air!
9:40am- My mom arrives, which finally allows us to leave. On the other hand, i'm still not convinced it's actually time to leave due to the fear of being turned away again for not being in "active labor" like with Pryor. This makes me hesitate, but contractions are becoming more painful now. I get super nervous at this point. Mainly to leave the house and say goodbye to my Pryor. My tiny best friend, my whole world. I knew leaving him would be hard, but it was SO sad waving goodbye to him as we headed toward this life changing event. I knew that everything would change today. Our sweet relationship would never be the same again. Yes it would always remain full of love, but different nonetheless. It sort of broke my heart. Thinking back on it now that a few months have passed, it still makes my heart ache.
9:45am- I call our midwife to tell her i'm in labor. She hears the silence of breathing through a contraction over the phone and tells me to hurry it up. That’s never a good sign ha! Our incredible photographer, Kali Norton, arrives shortly after to follow us down to New Orleans.
10:05am- Finally IN the car! But having a very hard time leaving. Contractions coming one after the next, each sending me to the ground in a squat position or on all fours to get through it. I have to jump OUT of car and run back to use the bathroom before we hit the road. Climbing 17 feet of stairs while laboring is rough ha! Then back IN the car, we make it three blocks. Then I jump OUT again at a stop sign to get through a contraction on the ground. I am not sure we will make it to the hospital for a minute. It doesn't seem possible. I literally can't sit in the car and get through a single contraction, I HAVE to be on the ground. Matt quickly hops out and moves one of the car seats to the trunk and I climb in the backseat, which gives me enough room to remain in a crouched position, which I could deal with. Whew, off we go!
10:10am- Once we get on the causeway bridge, we are smooth sailing. Contractions still quickly coming on one after the next and pretty painful but i'm getting through it. The lake was particularly glassy this morning, so it is super calming and helping a ton. I have to squeeze/break Matt's hand for every contraction. He is such a trooper and stays super chill the whole ride.
10:45am- We park and head up to the Alternative Birthing Center at Ochsner Baptist. We are ready for the moment of truth: the cervical check. It felt like everyone in the room was holding their breath.
A quick little backstory: We were denied admittance when I was in labor with Pryor in 2016 because I was only dilated to 3cm, despite my water being broken and unbearable contractions coming on every 1.5 minutes for 4 hours. We were threatened in more ways than one and then stuck in a sketchy corner of triage, to labor alone, on the public bathroom floor, until 3am when we were finally admitted. It turned into an extremely traumatic experience that gave me PTSD and PPD for a year. Because of this horrible experience, we went through great measures talking to a variety of midwives in the region who could guarantee that we wouldn't find ourselves in that situation again. SO this was our big moment of truth.
10:50am- SEVEN centimeters dilated!!!!! We can’t ask for a better number. The baby is making his way down efficiently but we also still have time to fill the tub and get settled/relax before his arrival. My husband gets choked up when the midwife announces 7cm— He literally has tears in his eyes when I look at him. When I ask him the next day what his favorite part of the labor was (other than the birth moment), he doesn’t hesitate to say "When they told us you were 7cm dilated." Such a relieving and exciting moment!
11:00am- We finally make it to our birthing suite and all of my labor dreams come true. It is everything I expected with my first that I was ultimately robbed of. It is everything and more. My favorite nurse fills the tub, Matt puts on weird yoga music that we laugh about (and quickly change hah!), my doula convinces me i am doing amazing, Matt feeds me fresh fruit, I float around in a big, warm, soothing tub situated beneath a wall of windows, with a gorgeous spring day beaming in... It is all super dreamy! Everyone in the room is SO happy, relaxed, and excited. During breaks, we make jokes and keep things lighthearted. It is nothing short of perfect. I hardly feel like i’m in labor. It can’t possibly be THIS enjoyable and fun can it? YES girl yes. Yes it can.
11:00-12:00pm- I lose track of time here, but contractions continue getting stronger and more intense. I NEED hands to hold through every contraction. One hand with Matt, the other with my doula. For some reason, this is hugely helpful for me. Maybe feeling human connection and being able to transfer my energy onto something else? Whatever the reason, it helps a ton. My doula also keeps an ice cold rag with lavender essential oil on my neck and face. Also hugely helpful and very calming. But the most powerful help is being in the tub of soothing water. The warmth of the water and being surrounded by the sight of it, the sounds of it… it really makes everything about being in labor less miserable. Because let's be real, yes I had an incredible experience, but it's still SO HARD. SO VERY hard. Being in labor is like being a boxer. You go in the ring and fight for a minute, come out a little exhausted, get a cold rag to the face, a sip of ice water, a quick pep talk and strategy, and then the bell is dinging for you to go back in for another round. This happens over and over again until you win and the baby is your prize. It’s so intense and challenging and I love it.
Anyways, at some point, I figure out something crucial about laboring. I figure out how to let my body go. I've read about this time and time again in all of my natural birthing books, but it's much easier said then done. You have to mentally connect with the physiological things happening to your body and resist all urges to intervene. Well, it finally happened. I stopped fighting the urges and it. was. CRAZY.
Once I was able to release myself to the contraction and relax my pelvic floor, I could feel the baby descending super quickly. I could feel my body bringing the baby down with every contraction. Remembering that each contraction has a point, a job to do…. each contraction brings your baby further and further down, is also very helpful. It gives me something visual to focus on and makes the pain feel less in vain. As they continue to grow more overwhelming, my doula reminds me to use my voice. We do a lot of humming to keep the pelvic floor relaxed.
Then, I suddenly feel uncontrollable urges to push. This happens way before I am ready. I'm enjoying the experience too much and have been very nervous about the part where the baby actually has to come out. Because you know, the baby actually has to come out. Though as hard as I try, I can't stop the pushes from happening. I feel (and hear!) a huge burst through the water like a ping pong ball shooting out. It freaks me out big time. My water finally broke! My midwife announces that the baby is coming, let the pushes happen. A lot of women love this part. I hate it.
Ok so if you've had a baby, you know that the pushing part kind of naturally feels impossible right? Like there is NO way to push a huge baby head out of your body— you're making no progress and the baby will just live inside forever. It’s cool. He can stay. You know what i’m talking about?! Well this felt EXTRA impossible for some reason. The pushes keep coming and coming and I get panicky. The baby LITERALLY feels like he isn’t going to fit through the exit. What. The. Actual. Hell.
The pushes start to overwhelm me and I feel like i'm losing control of what’s happening, and then suddenly, there is that dreaded ring of fire. I start mildly hyperventilating and have to mentally calm myself down. I didn't feel the ring of fire with my first birth, so this is less than ideal. My midwife tells me to breathe through the pushes and to feel for my baby's head. After what feels like a lifetime of pushing a bowling ball from my body, I finally have a minute to breathe. I think the worst is over, but i'm still pretty nervous. A few more push urges come over me and just as I feel like I can't go on any longer, the midwife tells me to reach down and grab my baby with the next push. WHAT?! I am NOT prepared for this moment! I am so caught up in the act of birthing that I forget i'm about to hold my baby for the first time, y’all!!!!!! A few seconds later and one final push, she exclaims "reach down and grab your baby!"
12:28pm- Monroe is born. Right. Into. My. Arms. I lift his slippery little body up out of the water and hold him tight to my chest and he starts to cry the most beautiful little cry and I realize, WE DID IT! Our second son made his way into the world in the most incredible, natural, powerful way and I have never been more thankful.
12:30-2:30pm- We climb out of the tub and onto the bed where we wait for the placenta to be birthed, still attached to Monroe. Seeing them connected is such a wild experience! His little lifeline, still attached to him. SO COOL. Matt then cuts the cord almost 20 minutes after the birth and the placenta is preserved for encapsulation.
After a few stitches and unwelcome pain arriving by the minute, my midwife returns to tell me why I have a tear. Monroe was born with a compound presentation-- he was LITERALLY born with his hand on his head. She tried unsuccessfully to put his hand back before he made his way out, but it wasn't happening. Therefore, the circumference of the head remained extended, with the perineum never getting a break (i.e. typically once the head passes through, the largest and most painful part of the birth, the stretching is reduced as the body passes through.) Which also explains why I felt the ring of fire this time AND why I had such a tough time feeling progression while my body pushed his head out (that feeling of EXTRA impossibleness). The compound presentation is considered a birth complication to some and it was without a doubt the worst part of the delivery. On the other hand (pardon the pun), I can't imagine how easy it would have been without that hand atop his head. To this day, Monroe loves to keep that same arm above his head haha!
Pryor arrives to meet his baby brother for the first time a couple hours after the birth and it's an incredible moment for our family. I am BEYOND excited to see him, my heart almost exploded. He is so curious about his brother, but I don't think he quite understands that this baby will be coming home with us to wreck his world yet haha! Nonetheless, having Pryor around right after the birth is simply the best. I couldn't wait another minute to hug him and i'm so happy with how it all worked out.
Just writing this brings back all of the emotions, plus some. I wish I could go back and relive it all over and over again. Thankfully, we have the most incredible photos as the next best thing. Let's hear it for Kali Norton, yall. Holy Mother. I never felt her presence when things got rough, yet she documented everything perfectly, intensely, beautifully. I'm in awe of her talent.
Please feel free to leave me questions in the comments!