On the evening of May 25th, I started to feel not great and I knew what I was feeling was my blood pressure higher than normal. I took my blood pressure a few times over the next hour and it was high. I tried to do deep breathing and laying on my left side to lower it on my own but it wasn’t working. I called my midwife, Amy, and she told me to go to the hospital. This I was not prepared for as I thought this baby would be late like Charlie and I’d have time to prepare as I labored at home. A small twang of anxiety hit me each time I took my blood pressure, as I talked to the midwife and packed my bag - dreading that this birth would be just like my last - a medicalized, intervention-rich experience that I didn’t particularly love.
But I was consciously approaching this birth completely differently. With my first, I had an overwhelming need to have the perfect natural birth. This time around, I just wanted to have a safe labor that ended with both myself and Romeo being healthy. I did less preparation; I didn’t read all the books, I didn’t write an elaborate birth plan, I didn’t take a natural childbirth class. But I did reread my first birth story many times. And what struck me the most was that while I was laboring, I felt one with the universe. Throughout my life, I’ve felt a deep connection and trust in the universe, but most of the time I hardly think about it. Maybe I even take it for granted. But focusing on the knowledge and faith that the universe is with me and supports me allowed me to believe that whatever happens, whatever path I take through this birth process, will be great because in the end we’ll have our second child and we’ll both be healthy.
When we got to the hospital, I was strapped to the blood pressure cuff and the fetal monitor, and had a hep lock put in. With each of these, I laughed to myself because I remembered how distinctly disappointed I was with each of them being used in my first delivery. I remember looking at Phil as the hep lock was inserted and he said, ”Do you not want the hep lock?” and I just laughed and said, “No, I’m fine with it”. I felt happy and excited that I may be meeting Romeo soon and these small interventions were not going to affect my birth experience; instead they would just help to ensure it was a safe one. I did however change into my black tube dress that I delivered Charlie in, thinking that it may help me feel less like a “patient” and more like a powerful birthing mama. That only lasted about 10 minutes and then I wholeheartedly accepted a hospital gown with the realization that a piece of fabric can’t define my power - I can be a powerful, kick ass birthing mama in a hospital gown.
They drew my blood and we waited, as the blood pressure monitor went off every ten minutes. Each time it went off was a reminder of my first birth experience, but I pushed it away. I reminded myself that everything being done was a precaution to help get me to my goal - a healthy me and a healthy Romeo. I decided that I wanted to try to see if I could get this labor started so I asked for a breast pump and started pumping.
My blood pressures were trending downward, which was a good sign, but also gave me some anxiety because I thought, "If they return to normal, will they send me home? Then what if they spike again?" I could see myself slipping into an anxiety-filled thought spiral so I made myself stop, take a breath and just be in the moment. I reminded myself that the universe supports me and whatever happens is the best thing for me and Romeo.
Just before midnight, my midwife came in and let me know that my labs showed that I had Preeclampsia. My protein creatinine levels were off. She said we should break my membranes to help get labor started. For this entire pregnancy, I feared that I would develop Preeclampsia given the high blood pressure that ended my last one. I read so much about the risks of Preeclampsia and honestly, I was scared that if I would get it, I would die from it. But in that moment, as I heard that I did indeed have it, I wasn’t afraid or anxious; I accepted it and instead focused on being happy and excited to meet Romeo soon. I was already 4cm dilated and 100% effaced. And my blood pressures were back in the normal range, so I would be able to move freely as I labored. And I knew in my heart that this labor would be completely different from my first; the universe would make sure of that. I called my doula, Kristin, and started to walk the floor to see if that would help kick start contractions.
The contractions kicked in just as Kristin was arriving a little before 1am. She talked with me about where I was feeling them and I realized it was in my back so she used a Rebozo and helped me find a squatting position that pulled Romeo into a better position. She commented about how different this birth would be since I was able to be up walking around and I agreed with her wholeheartedly. I couldn’t help but feel like my whole body was smiling, full of gratitude. We worked through many different positions on the birth ball and the bed, and ultimately found that the one that helped me open the most was on the toilet. The contractions were intense but I was still able to smile and laugh between them because of how happy I was to be moving around and in full control of this labor. At times I was worried that maybe I wasn’t as “in it” as much as I was the first time. I felt like myself this time around, whereas with Charlie, I lost track of myself and my body and was one with the universe. I shrugged the doubt away and focused on willing myself to open more with each contraction. I remember Phil asking the midwife when we would know I’d be ready to push and she said that I probably wouldn’t be smiling as much between contractions as it would be very intense. The comment made me focus harder because I wanted to get to that point, to get to meet Romeo.
I did more walking around and worked through different positions, all with Phil and Kristin right by my side. Reminding me that I’m doing great and keeping me focused. At some point, I had stripped down to just my sports bra. Before my first labor I remember being somewhat self-conscious about the idea of my whole body be out and exposed as I labored. This time I didn’t give a shit; I just wanted to be free and focus all of my energies inward.
Around 5:00am, The midwife came and checked me and I was 8cm dilated. She recommended that I try a bath to help get me to 10cm. As I got in the tub, I stripped off my bra and focused on the feeling of the hot water and asking it to help me relax and open. While the tub felt good, it slowed down my contractions so I moved back to my favorite spot - the toilet. And the contractions instantly came back harder than before. I would alternate between sitting and standing and at one point squatted while hanging onto Phil through a few intense contractions.
My body started shaking and Kristin thought I was about to transition. She wrapped me in a warm towel and I immediately started sobbing. I was so overcome with fear. I sat on the toilet sobbing and told her “I’m so afraid to push.” The thoughts circled faster than I could articulate. I remembered how painful the pushing was with Charlie and I did not want to feel that pain again. I tore with Charlie and I did not want to tear again. I didn’t do my perineal massage like I should have so my body wasn’t ready to go through it. In response to whatever I could get out, Kristin kindly explained how the midwife can put counter pressure to avoid a tear and that pushing is what will help me get to meet Romeo. Amy came into the bathroom and the sobbing started again, but harder this time, so hard I couldn’t speak. Kristin explained to her what I was feeling and she reiterated that she would apply counter pressure and warm compresses, coach me on when to push and that pushing is what will get Romeo out. I appreciated their words and knew that they meant every one of them. But what I appreciated the most is how much they heard me and how they gave me the space to work through my fear with them while I sat sobbing on a toilet.
Around 6:00am, I slowly moved back to the bed and Amy checked me and said that there was just a bit of my cervix that Romeo’s head had to get around so I needed to be in a weird extended side-lying position with my leg up high. Phil remembered me telling him that I wanted him to call my mom when I transitioned so she could be there for the pushing. And he asked me again and I nodded and felt so happy inside.
While I was in the side-lying position I was able to rest and felt like I got micronaps- small short snippets of dreams as I came back and forth from wakefulness. They asked me if I had any urges to push and I didn’t so they just waited with me. It wasn’t long until my mom walked into the room and for a moment I remembered that I was fully naked and uncovered on the bed with my leg high in the air so she could see more of me than she had since my diaper days. But in the next moment, that didn’t matter. She came up to stand right next to me and held my hand and I remember saying multiple times, “You’re here. You’re here”. My heart smiled so big to have her there. I had a vision of this birth and it included her being there by my side as I met Romeo and now that vision would be a reality and my body knew it.
Within minutes I had my first urge to push. Phil held one of my legs and my mom the other and I pushed. As I did I was flooded with the pain and the dread of doing it again and I just heard Kristin telling me, “Get past what you are feeling and put all your energy into your bottom.” It seemed like the room filled with more people now, maybe because I was the only woman birthing at that time or because it was shift change. It didn’t matter why, I felt like they were all there to cheer me on. After my first or second push Amy said that I was very close and I wouldn’t have to push much longer - I just needed to put all my power into the next push. Right before I started I said this is the one and as I pushed with all my power I screamed “Get Out!” It wasn’t the one but Amy said that is exactly how I needed to do it again and Romeo will get out. She quickly looked at Phil and asked him if he wanted to catch the baby. He looked at me and back at Amy, and said something like 'I’m not sure' and I said, “Yes you do!” So he moved closer to Amy and she explained how he’d do it as Kristin and my mom gave me my own legs to hold and pull. I’m not sure how many more times I pushed but it wasn’t many. With each one I screamed harder and put all my power in my bottom and I was determined to get him out. And with the final one at 7:19am on May 26th, Romeo was in Phil’s hands and on my chest.
I was in awe - I did it again! I was flooded with love. Phil and my mom came back up right next to me and touched me and kissed me and said all these nice beautiful things that I don’t remember what they were just how it made me feel - so full of love and happiness.
As I was reveling in the moment, Amy waited until the cord stopped pulsing to have Phil cut it. And she took her time with delivering the placenta. When it came out Phil helped me lean up to see it and in that moment, I realized again how present I was in this birth compared to Charlie’s. With Charlie, at times it felt almost like an out-of-body experience. With Romeo I felt like me, grounded deep in my body and in the moment through every second of it. I felt more like myself than someone new. Maybe that’s because I was already a mom, or maybe because I had no pitocin, no magnesium sulfate, just a truly natural birth experience.
Given how well the birth went and how great I was feeling, I was discharged the next morning. I was so happy to be home and back with Charlie. I wish I could say my bout of Preeclampsia ended when most people think it does, with the delivery, but just two days later I was back in the hospital because of it. But that's a story for another time. We are all healthy now and I am relishing in the fact that I was able to have the birth I always wanted this time around.
I hope you enjoyed reading my story. If you are interested in sharing yours with me, I’d love to hear it!