Rhona's Birth Story
By 39 weeks, I was very over being pregnant. Don't get me wrong, up until that point, I loved every minute BUT the summer heat and my swollen legs/feet got me desperate to meet our little lady! I had also developed a gnarly cough in the final weeks of that last trimester, which lasted into Rhona's first month at home. So back to the story - I was 39 weeks and 2 days when the Braxton Hicks became more regular. These practice contractions came and left more often than they had before so I knew delivery day was close!
On Friday, July 21st, Ian and I took our usual evening walk around the neighborhood, when the contractions started to get a little bit more uncomfortable. The next day, we went over to our friend, Cindy's house, and when she saw my swollen feet, she offered to massage them. Hello, acupressure for labor induction. Yes, ma'am, I was all about it. She is forever part of our family - especially after doing that. This is one of the reasons why I think I went into labor, because the next morning at 5am, I woke up to a contraction. I thought it was another Braxton Hicks but another one came less than 10 min after and consistently thereafter. Around 6 ish, I woke Ian up to start timing them.
From the get-go, I prayed for a textbook labor - I wanted to go through every stage, completely aware of what was happening and be in tune with what my body was doing. We had the goal of an all natural labor but we knew if that didn't happen, we'd still end up with a little bundle of joy in our arms. That trumped any birth plan we could create. Before moving from Virginia, we took an amazing birth class with our then doulas, and they walked us through everything we could ever learn about natural labor, cesareans and the ins and outs of the "fourth" trimester. The class was thee best thing we did for ourselves in preparation for baby.
Back to Sunday - since my contractions were regular but weren't getting more intense, I knew I was in early labor. Early labor could last for hours or days, so I took it easy and let the day go as normal. We decided to walk around Manhattan Beach and pick up some juices for Ian, myself and our doula, Katie, to bring to the hospital just in case we went in that day. By the time we got home that afternoon, my contractions got closer together but didn't change much in intensity. Coincidentally, Katie was in the area that afternoon, so she stopped by to give me a TENS machine to use when the contractions got more intense (sidenote: I used this thing up until it was time to push, it was AMAZING).
Towards 11:30pm, I knew it was time to call Katie to come over. My contractions were about 3-4 min apart, and at that time it was getting harder to breathe/talk through them. When she arrived 30 min or so later, she suggested we go to the hospital. I was GBS positive and my midwife said I could labor at home as long as I wanted before my water broke, so I didn't really want to go until then but I'm pretty sure if we waited any longer, that car ride would've felt much longer. Another sidenote - we live almost a couple hours away from our hospital during peak traffic hours and our doula lived even further so because this happened when it did, our drive was only 15-20 minutes to the hospital. The timing was perfect.
We got to the hospital around 1:30am and the guys at the ER check-in desk didn't take us seriously because I guess I was the 10th pregnant woman to come in that night. A funny memory I had was while Ian was checking us in, the valet guy was about to drive away in our car while I was leaned up against it, working through a contraction. If I wasn't so out of breath, I would've had some choice words for him, HA! Once I got up to the triage room, they told me I was 5cm. To most people that may be great news but truthfully, I was kind of annoyed that I had only progressed to 5cm! After much waiting and laboring in the delivery room, towards 5:30am, my water broke and then I decided to go into the shower until it was time to push.
I'm not a total clean freak but I am pretty close to a germaphobe, especially when it comes to hospitals. Let me tell you... my face was all the floor in the labor room! Over the top of the shower drain, on the couch, on the stool, e v e r y where. When you're in labor, you do not care! We heard stories like this during our birth class but I didn't think I'd actually be one of those women. Surely enough, I was.
My support team was amazing - Ian sat in the shower with me while I powered through each contraction and Katie took up a seat on the other side, making sure both of us stayed hydrated. They encouraged and coached me throughout the entire process. We could not recommend going through a birth class and having a doula enough! I get teary just thinking about how grateful I am for my birth team. I love them so much.
Okay SO the transition contractions were the most intense part of labor. During our prep in the weeks prior, Katie told me to envision a feather on my nose and to blow it away each time I felt the need to push when it got to this point in labor. That didn't really work for me so, I had to make myself see that feather go over a snow-covered mountain - not sure why that helped but it did. By the time the feather went over, the mountain my contraction ended.
My midwife would come in periodically to see how I was doing, and each time I asked if I should get out for a cervix check, she'd tell me to keep doing what I was doing in the shower. Katie said as long as I could be in the shower, that I should stay there, laboring. At that point, I didn't really think I could go any longer. If we're being really honest, sleep was a huge motivator for me. Baby could stay in and as long as she wanted - this mama just wanted to sleep! We had been up for over 24 hours at this point. So after what felt like 30 min, was actually a couple of hours later, I knew it was really time to push. I asked Katie to call the midwife in to check me. It was about 8:50am when the midwife said the baby's head was already so far down that I could go ahead and push. At this point I was like YESSS! All that waiting brought the baby closer, which meant less work for me. Up until then, the contractions I had were intensely uncomfortable. Like nothing I've ever experienced before. Even though I didn't have an epidural, I didn't feel actual pain until the 'ring of fire' moment came around. While this isn't true for every woman's experience, it was for me. I expected the contractions to be even more intense during the pushing stage but I remember them being a bit more mild. There was so much peace in the room and after a few slow pushes, at 9:35am, our sweet baby was born. It truly was a supernatural birth experience.
We had instrumentals from Bethel Music playing and essential oils going from the time we got to the room to when I moved to the recovery room. Ian said that when I delivered Rho, the instrumental to "War Is Over" by Kalley Heiligenthal was playing. It actually did feel like I just won a battle so I love that this song was on in that moment. My throat was so dry from all of the breathing exercises - literally 20+ hours worth of huffing and puffing. Not glamorous and not at all Instagram-able, haha!
Rhona was born weighing 7 lbs 8 oz and measured at 20 inches long. The greatest reward to an almost 30-hour natural labor and delivery. I got to hold her for only a few moments before the nurses noticed that she was grunting. They took her over to the bassinet and soon after, more doctors and nurses came in for a second look. Before we could even call her by name, Rhona had to be taken to the NICU for testing. Ian went along to make sure she wasn't without one of us, even for a second. All the while, I was being cleaned up. It took a whopping 40 min for my placenta delivery. This is where the rest of the pain came in. My experience with this part of delivery was super unpleasant, especially since I didn't have a sweet baby in my arms to distract me. Thankfully, I ended up with barely a first degree tear, which I think it was mostly due to my awesome midwife using warm compresses, mineral oil applications, and lots of coaching during my delivery. While Ian was with Rhona for those first hours, Katie stayed with me up until we moved to the postpartum room. I'm beyond thankful for her company and emotional support throughout the entire time. Also, a huge thank you to her for taking down the times of all these events. Doulas - let me tell ya - they are everything.
Later that evening, I got to see Rhona for the second time. My heart sank when I saw my little girl hooked up to a breathing tube and countless wires. It was difficult for me to see these machines keeping Rho alive and stable when just hours ago, my body was her safe place. After numerous tests, we learned that Rhona's condition had greatly improved and that she could be moved to the pediatrics floor to begin antibiotics for her neonatal pneumonia. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough room at our current hospital so she had to be transferred to a sister hospital if we wanted to stay with her. We learned this around 10pm and at midnight, we trailed behind the ambulance a few miles away to the other hospital. When we arrived, she was already getting set up in her room and we made that place our home for the next 7 days. During our stay, we got to partner with an incredible team of nurses and doctors which made all the difference as we went through a not-so-ideal experience. We were blessed with surprise meals, groceries, and gifts from family, friends and even others whom I've yet to meet. Sure, there were many minuses in the week after I delivered baby Rho but the insane boatload of positives outweighed them all.
Fast-forward to July 31st, when we got to take our baby home.