My close friend, Teddi, had her first baby last October. Her birth story (shared below) could be seen as one of Murphy's Law: almost everything that could go sideways seemed to go sideways with regards to getting Calli out into the world. That's one way of looking at it. A different, and better way, is to see that there is self awareness, acceptance, and surrender to be learned here. We may plan, but ultimately life will take over and have it's way. In the end, it's only the love that matters.
Thank you for sharing this, Teddi!
It had been a wonderful pregnancy. I loved carrying my little girl and just her presence inside me made me happy and joyful all the time. It was not until eleven days before my due date on Friday, October 5th that the idea of wanting her to come out became significant, and that was mostly due to discomfort and the inability to stand or walk for any extended period of time.
I was sure she was to come a week early on Shabbat, but she did not come out. Then I thought Sukkot (that Monday), which was a full moon, as did my doula, but no baby. I made it through the last week at school till my due date on Oct. 5th. All my regular life stuff was done, and here I was at home with no baby… now what? So the following week went by sometimes at a snails pace, using my maternity leave for relaxing, nesting, Doctor’s appointments and lunches with friends. One appointment, the ultrasound, showed she looked good for fluid and that the baby was happy and active in the womb.
A week after my due date, October 12th, my midwife called me and told me they wanted to induce me on Sunday Night, which would be 41 & 3/7th weeks. I crumpled on the inside, since I truly believe that babies choose their own birthdays, and to advance hers was wrong. She warned me that the baby was going to be big, and seemed over 8lbs. She was concerned about the shoulders getting stuck and a few more things. I told her that I didn’t want to be induced, the ultrasound was fine and I knew my exact conception date, but she felt it was best. I sat and cried with my friend who happened to be there and she didn’t leave my side. I told my dear sweet husband (DSH), who was incensed and called the midwife as soon as he got home and championed my cause. We would get another ultrasound on Monday, October 15th and reevaluate on Tuesday, October 16th at my scheduled appointment.
Saturday, October 13th I went to the school’s fall festival and saw my students, colleagues and many parents. It was fun, I was on my feet and had a wonderful time with lots of stories of other mothers being late, which made me feel so much better and at ease with my decision to hold off induction against my midwife’s advice. That evening I went to a party.
1AM Sunday morning – I woke with some discomfort. Was the baby at a weird angle? Did I just need to pee? Either way I got up, used the facilities and went back to bed. The same thing happened at 2, 3, 4, and 6AM (I slept through 5). It felt like menstrual cramps, but due to the timing, I knew it was the beginnings of labor. I let my DSH sleep, and slept though them as best as possible knowing it would be a long day and I’d need my rest later. The day continued with these cramps, and I notified my doula, Yael, who was performing that day at a bellydance event. I told her to go and enjoy and I would keep her up to date, knowing she would have cancelled in a heartbeat if I asked her to.
10:15AM to 6PM Sunday – They came at 15 minute intervals this whole time. In the beginning, they were like having your period, but as the day progressed they became more intense and I knew this was true labor. To help things along, Josh and I walked outside to the corner, but it was too much work to stay upright and not release onto the ground at each contraction, so we walked back.
Sunday Night – By the time Yael came I had been laboring for some time. I had already been in the shower to ease the pain. Now, with each contraction I would fall to my knees, legs splayed wide apart, head usually on the bed, moaning through it. I remember Yael helping me to make low moaning sounds instead of high-pitched keening. I remember this from class, but the help made it easier to remember through the contractions. At one point Yael pressed on my back and I was in acute pain due to my sacrum and coccyx being so tight. Between Josh, Yael and her apprentice, April, they had hot compresses on my back the whole time. I remember them putting a towel under my knees for my comfort, but I didn’t seem to notice the difference. As the night wore on, I labored, always with legs spread and using gravity to help the baby down. I envisioned each contraction bringing her closer to me.
Midnight – My water broke in the bedroom by the bed, and I grabbed the towels nearby to clean it up. This made me happy because I knew I had progressed. I was also at 5-1-1, the magic number (5 minutes apart for over an hour, each contraction one minute apart) and we could call the midwives. They told us to come in.
1AM Monday – We were seen at the birthing center. For the car ride there I was in the back and I remember the cool air helping, giving me strength and comfort as I was in my own world and unaware of my surroundings.
Once at the birthing center, the Midwives checked me and told me I was only ½ centimeter dilated. I thought they must be mistaken! This could not be true. So they sent me home to take Benadryl, which I did and I got some sleep. Josh stayed with me the whole time and I was able to get some fitful sleep between the strong contractions. I remember squeezing his hand as the contractions came in my sleep.
6AM Monday – I was up and surfing through the contraction waves as they ebbed and flowed over and through me.
8:30AM Monday – Yael had returned. I labored through the morning. At one point I wanted to know how to help the contractions to be more productive, and Yael mentioned lunges, like the ones we did in bellydance class. She put on the class’ warm-up music and I lunged through the contractions, mind over matter. The music invigorated me and gave me strength as I laughed through the contractions. The whole time, Josh was there supporting me and never left my side.
10AM Monday – The contractions were so strong that I was having trouble breathing between them. I was ready, and I was sure that I was dilated enough to go to the birthing center again. It turned out that they had another mommy in labor at the hospital, and that is where we needed to go instead. I knew Josh would have a fit going to the hospital and not the birthing center, but the baby was on her way, and I wanted to be there when she came out. The contractions were so strong that I was sure that now was the time.
Monday Morning – We waited a while longer then headed out since less time at the hospital was best. My DSH took a wrong turn getting there so it took a bit longer and he needed directions while I was struggling with contractions. Argh! But once again the cool air was a help and godsend. When we arrived, I was dropped off at the entrance, and we went upstairs. I remember the hallway seeming to never end as the contractions hit, and everything stopped. I joked that I was probably 5 centimeters but I’d be happy with 2 to 3. We were admitted right away since they knew we were coming. At the room, I was checked and found to only be 1 centimeter. I was angry, and infuriated. They then said since I was not progressing that they should put me on Pitocin. That meant hooked up to monitors, an IV and I’d be forced to stay in bed! That was exactly what I didn’t want and the reason I had decided to go with a birthing center and not the hospital in the first place. Something inside me snapped and I knew that after all this work and time, something was wrong. Part of me believed that I could do this without intervention using gravity as my aid and the other part of me knew at that point that I was going to need a cesarean, so they should probably start it now and save us all the time. They thought I was crazy when I told them this and told me that the Pitocin was just to get things started. I was so angry and incensed that my labor actually stopped and I didn’t have any contractions for almost an hour while they were getting the Pitocin ready. (It is at this point in the story when my baby daughter gets fussy and unhappy, possibly at the idea of Pitocin).
Monday Afternoon – Once on the Pitocin was introduced the contractions were more intense, and hurt more. Less like waves and more jagged than flowing. It was not fun, but I continued to breath through them. My DSH continued to be by my side, my doula and her assistant had hot compresses on my sacrum the whole time, which made a huge difference in my level, of comfort.
5PM Monday – The midwife had checked me and I was only at 2 centimeters. Again I was angry. What was wrong? So much work, pain and pressure for a stinking one centimeter? I told the midwife since she was already there to pull the cervix open since it “didn’t want to move on its own”. She laughed, but I was deadly serious, she should use her fingers to open the cervix manually. She did and told me she opened it to 3 to 4 centimeters. She also said the baby had a lot of hair, and when she opened me most of my fluids started to really leak out. Again I commented that I knew this would end in a cesarean, but they assured me that I could still deliver naturally.
Monday Afternoon/Evening – As each new contraction hit and with each breath, I spent most of my energy visualizing energy coming in from the universe. The energy of Reiki, of life, and of G-d would enter my body through my head like a funnel, and then envelop and flow through me. It would push the energy down on my baby and flow out through my cervix, back into the earth. I felt at one with the universal energy. I was part of the current of life as a cord is part of a circuit. I spent most of my time hovering in that place, riding the waves of contractions, and allowing the energy to be my surfboard, easily floating on the choppy waves. Occasionally a wave would hit when I least expected it, throwing off the rhythm of my breathing. I would feel like an ocean wave that leaves you sputtering with saltwater in your mouth. I would loose my flow and cry out (or was it whimper?) As time continued, more of these rogue waves would hit with the Pitocin leaving me unable to catch my breath. Several times I came out of the trance that allowed me to ride the contraction waves and exclaimed that I needed to pee. I’d get unhooked from the monitors and pee, but then I would labor on my knees, using gravity, my friend, to help me push this baby out. I would stay that way as long as possible before being strapped back in and forced to lie on the bed.
9PM Monday –I was checked again and only found to be at 5 centimeters. 4 hours for 1 centimeter? I cried, this was wrong. Something was not right! I asked the midwife about what it looked like time wise to have this baby. She said textbook is 1 centimeter per hour on Pitocin. In my head I knew that it would be 2AM normally or probably 6AM or 7AM for me before I would need to push, which could last 20 minutes to 2 hours. How could this be? I had been at this for so long! It was Monday night and I had started on Sunday morning! The midwives said I should think about getting an epidural. I had promised myself I would not do that since it SLOWED labor and could stop it altogether. Yael said I would need sleep and rest to push later. I knew she was right. I had very little energy left, and felt beaten. I had been laboring hard and needed a break to get this baby out. I don’t remember if I joked about a cesarean again or if I just knew that something was really wrong especially to be on Pitocin this long and only be 5 centimeters. I heard Josh argue for my defense as he had several times during my labor to advocate for what I wanted with the midwives. I was on the fence, but when Yael said this is what you really need and this is what an epidural is really for, I agreed.
9:30PM Monday– The anesthesiologist was there. He explained everything and I was sitting up, needing to remain 100% still even through my labor. I leaned on Josh and Yael. Yael started singing a Jewish tune from my Chochmat days, which had the name of G-d in it, and I joined in focusing on the tune and words. I was lost once again in the music and able to relax so I didn’t move a muscle. The epidural was heaven and was done perfectly. Once it kicked in, I could feel my feet, the pressure of the baby and the contractions, but ZERO pain. I started to laugh and hold conversations. I felt like a person again, all happy, giggles and smiles. I finally understood why people choose drugs. Then they informed me that I needed two probes, one to monitor contractions that would be placed in my uterus, and another to monitor the baby’s heart beat. That heartbeat monitor is pin like and punctures the baby’s head. I was mortified, no way they would hurt my baby’s head, and I fought it but they said that was the consequence of the epidural. Also the external monitor had not worked well for most of my visit and was difficult to get and keep working. The contraction probe was fine, but they tried three ties (pokes) to get the heartbeat monitor to work and stay connected. At that point I believe the baby said “enough!” The uterus was her domain and she would not have any part of this. Her heart rate started to drop. They rolled me to the right and then to the left while having an oxygen mask on my face. Nothing worked. The baby was in distress and a caesarian section needed to be done to save the baby. When I heard that, I knew it was the right decision. I had seen it coming, knew in my bones this would be the outcome and I was at peace with the result. I also knew that the baby had given me this gift, knowing that her mom had done everything in her power to bring her into the world the natural way.
10:30PM Monday – They rushed me into the operating room, Josh was garbed and there to keep me company. They put up a sheet so I could not see anything and a heating bag to keep me warm. I shook with the cold and shock of being open, which is apparently normal.
-Teddi Banks Matisoff