It’s been two weeks since our baby girl, Scarlet Peri was born and yet it feels like a mini-lifetime. Time is flying by. To be honest, I’ve been writing and rewriting this for days, mostly just processing everything that happened in my long birth journey–oh, and also caring for an infant.
Sharing this story is both exciting and scary for me because I have a lot of feelings about it, both good and bad. It’s hard to explain, but the birth experience is like walking through a door, turning around and the door behind you is gone, the before and after this event are so clearly marked in my mind, life will never be the same again. Writing and sharing this story is an exploration in vulnerability for me and my hope is that by sharing it I’ll be able to help other women who are nervous about this process or seeking wisdom and encouragement.
I think back on the months leading up to Scarlet’s birth, in which I created the ideal birth scenario in my head and the experience I wanted. I learned everything I could, attended birth class, listened to stories, got empowered, surrounded myself with a team of amazing midwives and a fantastic doula and hearing and dismissing the horror stories that kept coming my way from other women. It truly is no wonder we’re all so scared of birth, we’re literally bombarded with scary stories, while the good ones of easy births seem few and far between. There’s no arguing that birth has become very medical and intervention is the norm.
Now that I’ve walked through the door I know one thing for sure, you can prepare yourself for the idea of giving birth but you still have no idea how it will go. You may have an idea of how you want it to go, but your body and your baby may have another. I felt so grounded in what I wanted without being completely attached to a birth plan, but that didn’t mean that I wasn’t thrown curve balls or that the path to a vaginal delivery was a straight one at all, and this got me really judging my experience.
Then, I listened to a podcast that Davida (The Healthy Maven) produced with the amazing doula and author Latham Thomas and something really clicked for me. Thomas spoke about how birth is a process that can’t be controlled and that there is a lot of mystery in the process. For modern women, those of us who always strive to reach goals and be better versions of ourselves, we often get in our own way. Much like the weight loss and body image movement, birth has become something to perfect, and once you’ve been through it you know that there is NO perfecting it. There is also no need to blame ourselves or compare ourselves or feel embarrassed by our unique journey. I don’t think Latham even said those words exactly, but that’s the message I received, and it helped me stop judging myself and the experience.
One thing Thomas definitely said is that ‘giving birth is a privilege’ and I couldn’t agree more!
I could go on and on about the parts that I feared most coming true– OB’s consistently trying to convince me I needed a C-section (definitely a real thing), I had to fight for more time and point blank as them why they were in such a rush if the baby was not in danger. After I delivered my midwife said ‘they had the OR ready for you for hours.’ Or, being put on antibiotics for two silly, and possibly bs things, or being told by 4 or 5 different people that I was at very different stages of dilation (like 9 vs. 4, seriously). We definitely have a problem in our country, OB’s are trained surgeons, not tapped in to listening to women’s bodies. Not all certainly, but if you look at the statistics and watch movies like Ricki Lake’s The Business of Being Born, it seems undeniable that we have a real problem. However, instead of focusing there, I want to highlight the privilege and empowerment that the experience provided and how much stronger I feel now having gone through it.
So without further ado, here it is, the story of Scarlet Peri’s grand entrance:
At about 8PM my water broke when Wyatt and I returned home from dinner at True Food Kitchen. I’d been feeling weird all day, but at nine months pregnant most days have ups and downs. Little known fact, most women’s water doesn’t break, that’s kind of a Hollywood fabrication, but mine just happened to. I got on my hands and knees as instructed until Wyatt got back from walking the dogs and then I told him what I thought or rather knew, had happened. We called our midwives and doula who told me to relax and go to sleep, which I somehow did.
My labor didn’t progress through the night so the next morning I made eggs and mixed in a large helping of castor oil (not tasty) as instructed by Ellie, my midwife, then we watched Planet Earth and waited for things to kick in…
After about 3 hours they really did! I won’t get too graphic, but castor oil has a very dramatic effect on the body and because it causes contractions in the intestines, it also stimulates contractions of the uterus. You’re welcome to google it to learn more :).
Wyatt came downstairs to check on me and called Renata, our doula, who said she’d head over. When she arrived I was already having intense contractions but they were erratic and we knew we had a while before they were consistent, so we did everything we could to get comfortable but I was already in tremendous pain, and I tried all the tricks we’d learned including hypnobirthing mantras, Wyatt squeezing my hips, the ball, everything. When Renata arrived she thought the intensity and pain were probably because the baby wasn’t positioned well and I was potentially experiencing back labor. She had me do lunges with the ball over and over to try to get the baby to move a bit, but nothing really changed and I had trouble staying focused on breathing even with my great coaches giving it their all. I did wear the tens machine when Renata arrived and it had a button that really helped me work through the pain, but it still barely numbed the edges, I’d still recommend it though.
Ellie, our midwife, asked us to head to the hospital at 2PM.
By 2:00PM I felt that I was in another universe, I could barely handle the contractions and then had to get in the car to go to the hospital, I got on my hands and knees for the 20 minute drive…it was extremely intense and uncomfortable and I rode the whole way on my hands and knees, gripping the door handle to help combat the pain, but it may have been the longest car ride of my life!
Wyatt dropped Renata and I at the hospital and I had a few contractions on the way up to Labor + Delivery. I felt outside of my body and could barely stand up. Ellie met us at the nurse’s station and I signed some forms, which felt like really bad timing and then headed to our room. I joked with Ellie asking if she got us a good room, which we had talked about before at my last appointment. The room was decorated with fake candles and actually did have a really great vibe. I immediately got on the couch and was racked by waves of contractions that didn’t seem to ever stop. I was beginning to dread the next one coming. Wyatt brought all of our bags up to the room and I had to get a heplock IV during a contraction, I’m not a huge fan of needles so that was rough, but the nurse was so nice and I actually felt really glad to be at the hospital.
Wyatt and Renata immediately began trying to help me through the contractions again and eventually suggested I get into the shower. I got on my hands and knees and Wyatt sprayed my back and it actually did feel good but still couldn’t distract me from the pain coming in waves every 2-3 minutes.
By 5PM I was begging for relief, I knew I had a long way to go and just couldn’t imagine dealing with the intense contractions without a break. I told both Wyatt and Renata I wanted an epidural and they both tried to talk me out of it, as I had asked them too, but by that point I think everyone knew I needed something. Renata suggested I try Fentanyl which would last for an hour and I would still be able to be on my feet but would help dull the pain and give me a ‘drunk’ feeling. That sounded great! I said yes and immediately got a dose which didn’t seem to dull the pain at all. I think I lasted through a few contractions before begging again for an epidural, which I was then prepped for.
6:30PM- After the epidural, I was able to relax and felt so much better, it was literally the greatest feeling (until baby was born that is) and I was finally able to breathe. I have 0 regrets about getting an epidural, even though I knew it may slow my birth down which I feared would lead to other interventions, I also really wanted to enjoy at least some of this process!
7:30 PM- The next several hours are kind of a blur of sleep and doctors coming in and out of the room. Ellie was concerned at times and hopeful at others. I was so happy that I could feel my legs and really wished they would’ve let me out of bed to help my labor progress. I felt at any second they may tell me that I needed a c-section. At one point a nurse told me that my white blood cell count was high and it could mean a sign of infection, so they wanted me on more antibiotics, which I wasn’t crazy about on top of the penicillin I was getting every 4 hours, but I didn’t really have an option, so they started me on the first bag.
I was also on rising levels of Pitocin at this point to try to keep contractions moving. I could feel contractions slightly but didn’t have an urge to push yet.
By 10 AM my twin sister Cami arrived and I was so incredibly relieved, to say the least. I wasn’t sure I could have anyone else in the room that late in the game, but I’m so glad she came.
For some reason, I thought an epidural meant I’d just be told when to push but that wasn’t the case, which was both good and bad. I felt every bit of the pushing, for three hours. I was able to help the baby descend with the direction of Renata and Ellie and Wyatt holding my legs and Cami helping with anything and everything, including documenting the event.
At this point I’ve never felt more love and support in my life. I was surrounded by women, mostly nurses, who were cheering me on. It turns out most of the OB’s on duty were in disbelief that I was pushing. One of them had checked me earlier and then changed her mind once she saw I was at 10cm, she was really great about it and said, ‘you don’t need my help here’ which felt good since I know earlier she was ready to wheel me to the OR. Another OB came in chewing grape gum at one point and tried to tell Ellie to just cut an episiotomy. For real! It was like I was watching all of this from outside myself, so bizarre. There were so many people in the room, which was mostly empowering, but also somewhat distracting, and I finally had to ask everyone to quiet down so I could focus.
Finally, at 2 PM after three hours and a full bottle of almond oil–thank-god I randomly brought that– our baby girl slid out and Wyatt caught her and brought her up to my chest. I was in complete disbelief. She didn’t get to stay for long because she wasn’t responding and had to be taken to the warmer by an amazingly sweet woman who was so efficient and patient the whole time I was pushing.
When she came back to me it was the greatest feeling. Everyone calmed down and Wyatt and talked to her. She was here and we were so thrilled. They say everything else, the pain, the labor, the time is forgotten at that point and it’s so true. There’s nothing like that moment.
While the team cleaned me up Renata stayed in the room and helped me get baby to latch and breastfeed initially and it was such a great moment. The pain completely vanished and because my midwife took a slow pace in delivery I needed 0 stitches (midwives are truly amazing!).
Shortly after, our fabulous nurse Jen had to leave and Ellie and Renata did as well and I was able to get out of bed, which felt so good after all those hours of lying still! The nurses were amazed that I just sprang out of bed with my epidural still working. My whole body was so sore, I remember talking about this event as a marathon and man, it truly was! So glad I stayed in shape throughout my pregnancy, otherwise I may not have had the stamina to get through this long labor and birth.
In no time we were packed up and off to our recovery room, which had a gorgeous view of the bay and separate bed for Wyatt-Score!
People came in and out all night but we were able to get some sleep and I nursed Scarlet every couple of hours although she was really sleepy! The next morning Cami came back with food, it was truly the best avocado toast of my life! We were so happy to be together and Ellie came to check on us and after examining me and baby, released us to go home. We were out in less than 24 hours and so happy to go home to heal and bond.
Now we’ve spent two amazing weeks getting to know each other and already feel like we’ve come such a long way in a short time. Having Cami here to share the experience was so special. Breastfeeding has been another wild adventure, it’s truly one of the most fun and rewarding jobs I’ve ever had. Baby is sleeping and eating well (knock on wood) and I can’t wait to continue to share this journey. I feel so much gratitude and empowerment from this experience and I’m so proud of the hill I climbed that brought my husband and I closer together and our daughter into the World. This was surely only the first adventure of many…