Personal Post, The Birth of Our daughter, Penelope Maple

I’ve been wanting to post this for months. But any new baby brings, well, exhaustion and lack of sleep and a whole lot of work. Hence, why it has taken me nearly 8 months to get this in motion!

I don’t want to go on and on and on in this birth story, so I will try and keep it short and summarize the day as best as I can.

I had planned from early on in my pregnancy to have a natural birth. Unfortunately, because of my history of Preeclampsia, and other medical conditions, I did not quality to be under the care of a midwife and would need to deliver in the hospital. Thankfully I do truly love my OBGYN and since I knew alternative deliveries were never an option for me, I made the best of it. I hoped to have as little interventions as possible, but I also knew that an induction was on the table should I develop preeclampsia like I did with my first pregnancy. Needless to say, my blood pressure began to rise around 35-36 weeks, and by 37 weeks I had failed two blood pressure checks in a row and I was told on Friday June 8th that I would need to be induced that evening or within the next day. I asked if I could at least wait to go into the hospital until Saturday morning so that we could have the evening to plan and prepare.

My son was not at all thrilled that I was going to the hospital, and I think the fear and reality really set in for everyone. I was so happy that the pregnancy was coming to an end, I was miserable and in so much pain and so sick, but I still wanted to have as much of a natural delivery as I could.

I had read several books, including one on hypnobirthing, and prepared myself with a birth playlist (which my husband made fun of and said no one ever actually uses those) and the bags were packed.

I was scheduled to be induced around 8 AM, which we all know, means nothing much happened until around 10 am. Because of my blood pressure and hypertension, there wasn’t a ton of leeway on the induction, but I felt so much more confident the second time around speaking up for myself and advocating for the experience I wanted.

They started with a foley bulb as well as a very low dose of pitocin. I had already been showing signs of labor and contracting on my own, so I hoped this would be somewhat easy and this little bit would be all I needed to get things going. I really did not want Pitocin again, since I had it with my first (also an induction) and wasn’t a huge fan, but again, my choices were somewhat limited because of my situation. They foley bulb honestly, to me was not that bad, and I believe it comes out around 3-5 centimeters. Which it did within a few hours. For the majority of the day, I walked the halls, I did my best to breathe, I listened to music on my headphones and tried to just go with it. I was unable to sit throughout the entire labor, for me the most comfortable position was leaning on someone, standing up or leaning onto the birthing ball. On my back or sitting upright were just NOT possible with the pain I was in. I dilated about 1 cm an hour throughout the day, and even though I was making progress, they of course, wanted to break my water. I refused for awhile, and held them off, knowing from my first experience that that was possibly one of the final barriers between the baby and the world and that the pain and speed of delivery was going to speed up exponentially without the barrier of water. I again, wanted to do things on my own, but eventually they did break my water.

Before that, my nurse convinced them to allow me to go off of the monitor for 20 minutes so that I could go in the shower and have hot water on my stomach. One of the only pain relievers I felt during pregnancy was to soak in a warm tub. I had ribs coming out and horrible back problems from the pain, and intense contractions in the front. The shower was SO MUCH relief for me, and I was so sad when it was over.

The majority of the day I really felt honestly that I handled labor well. It wasn’t until after my water was broken, that things started to pick up. I believe they broke my water at about 3 PM, and my doula arrived shortly after. She was putting warm rags on my stomach and ice and cold packs on my neck. By 6 PM my doctor had arrived and I definitely hit what they call the ‘transition’ part of labor. It’s fast, it’s intense, it’s short lived but by far the absolute worst moments of labor and I remember thinking ‘holy fucking shit I am going to fucking die’. I spent the next 45 minutes covered in sweat, and horrific pain just moving and trying to get comfortable but also completely unable to control my body or move. I couldn’t stand or support myself anymore. The contractions were close together and so painful, I didn’t have time to think. I am proud to say I know I never asked for the epidural, but I do remember asking my doctor in gasping breaths “If I did want one, just tell me how long it takes to get one”, because at that point I just didn’t know how much longer I could go on like this. I remember her putting her hand on my shoulder and stroking it and saying “Oh, not long dear, not long. It’s okay”.

Up until that last hour I had been able to talk and joke and have conversations throughout my labor, but those last minutes, where I quickly went from 5 or 6 cm to 10 I honestly felt like I was having an out of body experience. I was there physically, but mentally I felt I almost had to separate myself from my body to endure the pain. I honestly have NO idea how else to explain it other than that. Again, I was unaware of the conversations around me, but I know afterwards my husband told me that when I asked about the epidural everyone looked at each other in the room and shook their heads and mouthed “yeah no, it’s too late for that!”. Which was the truth!

I knew from having given birth before and photographing births, that once the large group of people starts to run in the room and the bed breaks down and the blue scrubs go over everyone’s clothing, that meant things were ready. Sometime around 6:30ish that is what happened, and with only a few pushes, 3 or maybe 4 and some insanely intense pain and screaming and swearing, Penelope was born and out at 6:43 PM.

I was so grateful that I was able to have her placed directly on my chest afterwards, even though she did have some respiratory issues and had to be taken care of over the next hour or two in the room with a special care staff, she was good to go and everything we could have ever wanted.

All in all, in the end, having had two vaginal deliveries, one with an epidural and one without, I would say that hands down my delivery without the epidural was a better experience for me. While there was pain, I felt in control. I know this isn’t for everyone, but I wanted to experience labor and delivery naturally, I wanted to know that I was in control of my body and I absolutely do not regret it and I think that anyone who truly wants to have that experience can with the right tools and preparation and dedication. I am so grateful that both our doula and photographer were able to make it to support us through our natural hospital delivery. And that our baby girl was born healthy and is growing to be a beautiful little soul.

Also, I may have serious mental problems, but I would live this day over and over and over again. Pain and all. So for those of you waiting and expecting your first right now, unsure if you’ll be able to ‘do it’ or ‘handle it’, don’t be afraid. Do not fear birth! Embrace it! No pain, nothing, compares to the feeling of euphoria and accomplishment and love when that baby is out and you meet them for the first time.

I am so passionate about Mother’s advocating for the birth they want, and encourage you to make a birth plan that reflects YOUR desires and wishes, and don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself! Do your research. Educate yourself. Go in armed with knowledge because honestly, knowing more made me more at ease and more comfortable with the process.

Side note - I totally used the Hell out of that birth playlist and spent hours with my headphones in on and off. Music helped me SO much through my labor! So don’t listen to your husband, you do you (but my husband was totally supportive and was there all day holding my hand and rubbing my back promise!)

Thank you to The Seed Photography for these photos and being there to photograph the birth of our baby girl!

Lauren Parker