Now that my hormones have leveled off and the "4th trimester" is over I want to share my birth story with those that have asked.
Disclaimer: I go into great detail. This is unapologetically raw. I do not want to scare you if you are currently pregnant.
I was 10 days "overdue" and my midwives encourage monitoring the baby once you go past that point. My mom (who is also my doula and the most amazing woman ever.) accompanied me to the fetal diagnostics appointment where they wanted to check for the heart rate, oxygen levels, amniotic fluid, and to get a good picture of what was going on with Mr. Fashionably late. They said it usually only takes about 20 minutes in and out. 45 minutes into the appointment, I realize they are checking on us all too often. 2 hours go by, and in that time Ryder was unable to find a baseline to his heart beat. He would take a 10 minute nap where his heart rate would slow down significantly and then wake up all jazzed about life, move around a bunch then get his heart all fired up. (This pattern holds true to this day) I believe the nurse called him a party animal. I liked that about her.
The midwife sat with me and explained she did not want us to leave the hospital until we got this baby out. She was beginning concerned that after 3 hours he was not able to settle. She explained all the variables and gave us another 30 minutes and luckily he settled for a full 20 minutes. I bargained with her to let me go home and see if natural labor would run its course overnight and if not I would go in the next day to gently induce with cervidil which is a pill inserted to ripen the cervix. At that point I was 90% effaced and 1cm dilated.
A very long sleepless night went by without any excitement. The next day we headed to the BirthPlace to get the party started. We checked in at 4pm on December 9th. We were making bets with family members with how long this venture would take once the cervidil kicked in. All I knew is that my favorite midwife's shift was over at 8am on Dec 10th, so I had it in my head that Ryder would be out by then.
Side story. Getting the cervidil was the first of many have-no-shame- moments in this journey. Since UCLA hospital is a medical school, and because of that there are lots of students there to learn. The midwife in training was prompted to administer the pill. This stranger straight up looked me in the eyes the entire time and was trying to have casual conversation as her 2 fingers, might I add were not lubed with a latex glove on, were inside the depths of my vagina.
Anyway, the cervidil was a great success, it went in at 6pm and within minutes my contractions were regular and gently rolling in. It felt like butterflies or riding on a kiddie roller coaster. Now that the party had started we were checked into the labor and delivery room. As I sat on my birthing ball Rex and I played cards, music was on, mom was taking photos. I must have said many times "I could do this all night" I was having fun!
As the contractions grew stronger me and Rex started walking the hallways of the hospital to get Ryder to descend with the contractions. At around 9pm the contractions got closer together, I was glued to my birthing ball and it was time to stop all casual conversation. My skin felt like it was electric, and no one was allowed to touch me anymore unless absolutely necessary. Everyone was super respectful of this. Rex and my mom were incredible at holding space for me to just be. At around 11pm emotions crashed over me like a wave and I started hysterically crying and hyperventilating. As soon as I stood up off the birthing ball my water broke. And I immediately felt like I had to shit and push the baby out at the same time. Up until that point in my life I never had anyone in the same room as me while I pooped. There must have been at least 4 people in the room with me for that glorious moment. All shame was out the door.
Turns out I was only 3 cm dilated at that point. I very clearly remember saying to Rex (more than once) that I never want to do this again and we are not having another baby.
The only thing I could do was go into a meditative trance while I moved my hips around on the birthing ball. The sounds I made in that time were the most primal sounds that I could not even try to control. All I'll say is it is nothing like the movies portray. I was not screaming, ever. It was more like a chant. A low baratone, almost moo-ing animalistic sound. At this point, time no longer existed to me. The moments I was unable to hold myself in that trance like space I felt near death. As time passed, it was harder and harder to maintain that meditative quality.
Around 2am I started begging for an epidural. Now, I never intended on getting one, however, I also wasn't in denial that I was unsure of my pain threshold. Rex and I made a "safeword" when It came to the epidural, we chose jazz quartet band. No one was allowed to offer me an epidural, and if I asked for one they weren't allowed to encourage it. But, If I said jazz quartet band everyone knew it serious. I started yelling JAZZ QUARTET BAND.
My goal was to have "natural" labor. Frankly, in the moment, it didn't feel "natural" to feel so close to death while giving birth. That might sound dramatic, but I truly felt at times I could not go on. I was exhausted. I was only 7cm dilated and did not have the stamina to go through anything more intense than what I had already experienced. My body was shaking, even convulsing at some points. I was shivering, I couldn't get warm even though I felt like I was on fire. I could no longer sit, stand, walk, bounce, squat, or even lay down. I wanted to crawl out of my own body. I bargained with myself that if I got the epidural I could get some rest so I'd have the energy to go on. As the needle was being injected I could not stay still due to the non-stop rolling contractions, so the anesthesiologist could not get good aim on a moving target. Unfortunately, it was all too late. Not only was it now time to push, It was also a bad epidural, It only half worked on my outter left side and left me numb from head to toe. It even made my left eyelid feel droopy.
At 230am I started pushing. Honestly, it felt like relief after everything else I had gone through. I felt like I could actively participate in labor where as before it was all just happening in me. Fatigue was so serious that I passed out and blacked out between pushes. Before going into labor I had absolutely no desire to touch the head as it is coming out or see it happening in a mirror. The thought of doing that made my knees weak. Well, let me tell you. towards the end I needed it. It was the best motivation that all my effort was finally getting us somewhere.
Ryder's heart was no longer steady and he had been in the birth canal for a long time. There was quiet chatter between the midwife and the nurse. Finally at 5:40 my midwife said "Emily, you need to make this your last push" So, I did. At 5:42am Ryder Thomas Lowry came into this world.
Just yesterday, I was putting Ryder down for a nap by bouncing him to sleep on the birthing ball (which we still use several times a day.) I looked down at the sweet sleepy puddle in my arms and thought to myself I could have 100 babies. Then I remembered my birth story. I might need to read this from time to time to keep me in check. ;)