Alaska

Unabridged Birth Story of Apollo

21 May 2018

Disclaimer: This is a long, detailed post about Apollo’s birth (and my birth as a mother). Feel free to just look at the pictures and read the end. It was super hard and most incredible, and know that I’m so grateful for my angelic birth team and I love being a mother.

I loved being pregnant. I loved feeling our sweet child move inside of me. I loved my pregnant body. And I was very much looking forward to meeting the babe who had been growing in my belly.

It was mid November 2016 and I was nearly two weeks past my two date. I’d been mentally and physically preparing for the birth of our baby for quite a while, not really knowing what to expect, but being very open to going with the flow. My mental birth plan wasn’t too specific. Basically, I didn’t want to be induced and I didn’t want an epidural and I didn’t want to wear one of those hospital gowns. But most of all, I wanted things to go as naturally as possible and I wanted people I love to be there with me.

Well, my loved ones were there and I didn’t wear a hospital gown, but the rest didn’t really go at all how I envisioned. However, I am so so pleased with my birth experience and felt so well taken care of. I look back on it with much fondness and gratitude, and despite the pain and exhaustion, it was pretty magical and extremely empowering.

Being almost two weeks past the due date, I was scheduled to be induced. Christopher and I went to the hospital at 8 am on Friday, November 18th. We checked in with a friendly nurse named Joy, who was childhood friends with my oldest sister. I had also substitute taught in her son’s preschool class a number of times. She was good and helpful in getting things ready, and told us that the process of inducing could take a while, but I thought I’d have a baby in my arms and be headed home pretty soonish. Soon I found out just how slow the process could be.

My wonderful wonderful midwife Julie arrived as well. She’s the best. I’m sooo grateful for her. I thank the heavens she was there for my whole birth process and we were both very happy to experience it all together. She delivered my niece, Natalie, ten years ago, and I was present for that magical time. And her oldest daughter, who is also a midwife and was at a couple of my pregnancy appointments, is a good friend of mine. So I was so happy to share this process with Julie, and to have her guidance and care throughout my pregnancy, birth, and postpartum time.

I started the morning dilated about 3 cm and the baby was maybe positioned at like a 1 in my pelvis. I don’t remember exactly. But basically, baby was working its way down and my body was preparing well. So to start the inducing process, Julie inserted a prostaglandin pill in my cervix to help it dilate more. This was probably about 9 am. She left the hospital to attend her regular midwife appointments down the street, and said she’d be back in a few hours to check on me.

So Chris and I just hung out in our nice hospital room. :) I updated my instagram story to keep myself busy and to let the peoples know what was up. And I had my book called Birthing From Within. But I don’t think I opened it. I don’t think birth is a test you can cram for haha. Fortunately I had read bits and pieces of it while I was pregnant, which was helpful. My sister Holly came to visit while we were waiting, and she came bearing gifts! She brought a lovely smoothie and bagel shop bagels! Just what I wanted.

That soda isn’t mine, just FYI. But the water is! And wow, I was guzzling the water down. I drank so much, but I didn’t have anything else to do in my hours of waiting haha. Also, you might notice I am not in a hospital gown. YAY! And you might also notice my cat slippers. YAY! Those cat slippers were perfecto for the hospital time. So perfect. And my stretchy comfy dress was really perfect too. I hung out in that dress for a good while and it was so convenient to go to the bathroom in, which I did a lot because I drank so much water. And I felt modest and comfy and most importantly, not frumpy, so the dress was perfect.

Julie came back up to check things out around noon, and my cervix was still good and soft and I had maybe dilated to 4 cm. She went back to work down the street and would come back in a few hours. Chris and I just hung out. Chris took a little rest in the lovely sherpa blanket my sweet sister Holly brought. And the rest of our birth team came and hung out too – Mom, Chris’s mom RaNae, and my sista Holly.

When I got to the hospital that Friday morning, our weather was still very fall-ish. Leaves were yellow, ground was brown, and we didn’t have much snow. But throughout my hospital stay, Homer entered winter. It was cool to watch from my window and see the view of our town and mountains and bay. For the first many hours at the hospital I had lots time and energy to look out the window. I was having contractions, but nothing very uncomfortable. The only thing that had been uncomfortable was getting my cervix and uterus checked haha. It just doesn’t feel that great!

Then I actually felt like I was in labor. This happened in the early afternoon, maybe about 2-3 o’clock or so. My contractions had been pretty regular and frequent, but I didn’t really notice them at first. But then I began to and just felt kind of crampy. I stayed moving around as much as possible, because it felt better to do and was a bit more distracting. I breathed through them and swayed back and forth. I did laps in the room and walked some in the hall, shuffling around in my trusty cat slippers.

I hung out on my bed too, with lots of pillows, and with my trusty Simba. Here’s a picture that we stopped to smile for.

Chris was constant and present, and just what I needed. I was also so glad to have my mom, mother in law, and sister there with us. Buuuut dinner time rolled around and they headed to the ward Thanksgiving party. I wanted to go too, but I was in labor, and I felt it. :) We told them we’d let them know when things started moving faster, but they were still pretty quick at the potluck. And they returned with some food for us, mostly for Chris, because I wasn’t wanting much food, and the hospital supplied me with pretty decent meals.

Labor pains were increasing and I expected that the babe would be arriving sometime during the night. Guess I was fooled! Baby didn’t arrive for another 30 hours! The wonderful nurses (Susan at this point) prepared the tub for me and I went and hung out in there for a couple hours. Being in the warm water made things easier. And it was a family affair and everyone just watched me labor haha. I was still in pretty good spirits at the time and we were all enjoying each other. Holly was even kind enough to take a video of me with her super bright phone light… haha… I even still had my earrings on. Me so fancy.

My excellent midwife, Julie checked my cervix again, and I was dilating pretty slowly. I wasn’t making much progress and that was discouraging, so we eventually decided it was time for pitocin. Pitocin is like the hormone oxytocin, which your body produces and releases to get the uterus to contract and work baby out. We started out with a low level of pitocin, but as the hours went on and I was still progressing very slowly, the pitocin was increased, which really amped up the contraction intensity.

It was a looong night.

I think the pictures tell a pretty good story of how the night went. I labored through the night, often falling asleep between contractions, but not really getting much rest, and my beloved birth crew slept as the could too. And I’m so grateful for their support.

Morning came and I decided to use some nitrous oxide for pain relief. It’s fairly new to our hospital and you can use it as much or as little as you want. It is supposed to kind of just take the edge off the pain, but I don’t think I used it enough to make a difference. I wanted to go as drug free as possible, because I figured it’d be better for me and bebe, and I knew that women had been giving birth naturally since the beginning of existence. But I decided it’d be a good idea to try it out. I really appreciate my nurses and midwife though. They let me know available options without really pushing anything on me. They were so good.

I really was pretty patient with it all though. I wanted the birth to happen as my baby and my body were ready. I didn’t want to rush the process, but I also didn’t want to be in labor for forever. Labor was so hard. I knew each contraction was bringing my baby closer to me, but each time Julie checked my cervix, I wasn’t making much progress and I think I was stuck at about 6-7 cm for quite a while.

I really didn’t like being hooked up to anything. I had the pitocin drip connected to me and also baby heart monitor and contraction tracker strapped around my belly. It was uncomfortable, but part of my process. Things were not going how I envisioned or planned, but that’s okay. Things don’t always go as planned but they always work out.

The nurses were there for whatever I needed. Susan was there throughout the night for anything, and in the morning came Leah and Rebecca. Seriously though, my nurses were so good. And Julie, she was so constant and present, and she was tired too, but oh so helpful. I’m so lucky she was my midwife. She talked with my about breaking my water to help baby on its way out and so we decided to go forward with that. It felt funny when it happened – lots of warm and lots of wet. I think it helped baby descend quicker into the birth canal, but my contractions got way worse from there, from what I remember. Ugh.

About 10 am, I got back into the tub to labor in there. Chris got in with me. This tub experience wasn’t the fun family party that it had been 12 hours prior! And I’m pretty sure I peed on the floor too before getting in. Oops. Another shout out to the nurses for taking care of me and my bodily fluids! More on that later haha. And I was so grateful to have my mom and mother in law and sister there too. And Chris of course. They were all just what I needed.

Julie checked my cervix again. It is definitely not comfortable to have someone’s hand inside of me while being in labor, but she had to know what was going on. And same story as before, not a lot of dilating or baby moving down, so just a little bit of progress. I tried out the purple glittery birth stool and yeah, not as cool as I thought it’d be. It didn’t work well for me to labor on there, as much as I thought it might. I recall my contractions on the birth stool being pretty painful.

The next couple hours were definitely some of the most intense of my entire life. It was rough. So rough in fact, that there are no pictures or video!

My contractions were intense and long. I felt so much pain in my hips. I breathed a lot. I moaned a whole lot. And had to have someone pushing as hard as they could on my hips/love handle area. I remember Chris and Holly taking turns to do this. I did this in different positions, standing, leaning against the bottom of the bed. And then they put up the back of the bed for me to lean against that. Ugh. That’s where I have some of the most poignant memories. I can picture myself there, eyes closed, just breathing and moaning and whimpering, not sure how much I screamed. I don’t think I really screamed. But I said “oh my goodness” a lot. And I just remember wondering when it would end, and I remember thinking about Jesus and his physical suffering as I was experiencing the greatest pain of my life. I also remember peeking my eyes open and seeing some lovely roses that our friend Autumn had brought. Those flowers and the love she brought with it were a bright light for me.

Julie approached me about the idea of an epidural and expressed how and why it could help. Chris and my family thought it would be a good idea too and I was ready for a change!

It wasn’t very long after until Brian the epidural man was there. And wow. He did such an amazing job. Before he came I was having the most intense contractions for such a long time. I was exhausted and tense.

I had to sit still on the edge of the bed while receiving the epidural. This was especially hard while having a contraction, but I can’t tell you what a great job Brian did. He was so quick and efficient and the effects of the epidural seemed almost instant. Sweet relief. And here’s Chris and Julie, supporting me every step of the way. So grateful.

Shortly after the epidural I had my eyes open again and a smile on my face! They do “walking epidurals” now which means you can still walk and use your legs, but apparently it wasn’t always like that. The epidural served a wonderful purpose in helping my body relax so my cervix could fully dilate. It had been a good while that I’d been stuck around 7 cm or so, and at this point I’d been up for 30+ hours. I really needed a nap before the big push, and not just a 1.5 minute nap between contractions.

Nap time was lovely. I fell asleep maybe around 3 pm and slept for a few hours, with my trusty Simba by my side/on my big belly.

I woke up from my glorious nap (another shout out to Simba) and ate some, replenishing my energy. I had my last prego meal, resting a bowl of oranges on my belly. The hospital had pretty decent food, and everyone was so helpful and good to me.

My fam all came back too, including my nieces and brother in law. It was good to see everyone and I was feeling great, and then it wasn’t too long and it was time to push! I wasn’t really feeling contractions too strongly, but I think I must’ve been fully dilated and baby’s head was descending. So I started with some practice pushes. My midwife Julie and nurse Susan kind of told me what to do and how to push. It was just like play pushing and I felt great and thought it might be fairly easy! It was not. 

The epidural I received was like on a drip or something. And so before I started pushing it stopped being released so that I would still feel the contractions and be able to know when to push. I first started pushes on my side, and then for some reason I was pretty into the birth stool, in theory at least. It seemed like such a nice, natural way to birth! Gravity would help bring the baby down, rather than being on my back, where baby might not come out as easily. I had expressed not wanting to give birth laying down, but that’s what ended up happening, and it worked!

The birth stool was purple and glittery, so that was cool, but then I got back on the bed and I pushed while laying on my side for a good long while. I kept hearing I was doing great and so in my mind I was thinking baby should be here soon. Nope. Progress was still slow.

Pushing on my side wasn’t proving very effective so I rolled over to my back. For some reason I hadn’t really wanted to give birth on my back, but it’s what worked! Oh! And baby wasn’t coming out so they decided it would be good to empty my bladder. I had a big, full bladder in the way and he couldn’t get through the birth canal very well. So they put a catheter in my urethra and drained all my pee, and there was a lot. I peeked down and there was like a huge sack full of pee. It was not comfortable to have the catheter inserted and in, but it was very helpful in the overall progress. And they of course took it out once my bladder was drained. But I guess my body was so tense and all my efforts were focused on pushing that I couldn’t even pee.

I could feel the contractions but they were not nearly as painful as they were earlier in the afternoon. But HOLY MOLY, the pressure in my bum! Oh my goodness, it was so strong. I had a couple hours of intense pushing where I kept hearing everyone tell me “you’re doing so good” or “there’s the head” “the head, the head” “baby has hair” “almost there”… Okay. I heard all that for well over an hour and kept wondering where this head really was! I didn’t really know what was going on and I couldn’t ask. Too tired. I kept my eyes closed most of the time, but sometimes I’d peek them open and see my birth team supporting me through it all. There was also a cold washrag on my forehead which fell over my eyes a couple times which was annoying. But anyway… the pressure in my bum, so intense, and didn’t really get relief from that until the head was actually out.

After two and a half hours of pushing, my baby was finally arriving. My mom and nurse Susan both were holding my legs open helping keep me open. My mother in law was at my side, pushing me forward with each contraction. Chris was waiting to catch the baby by my midwife Julie’s side. Holly was also at the bottom, taking some pictures and video for us. And there were also a couple other nurses in the room, along with the OB doctor.

There’s a couple intense pictures and video with baby’s head out of my body, and pushing him out, and I look at those pictures in awe. Like, wow.

I am a warrior goddess. Women are.

A lot happened in the next few moments and it was all a quick blur of a couple minutes, where I was pushing with all I had in me and didn’t know much else that was going on around me. At some point they had put an oxygen thing on my face, which was bothersome, because I basically had a bag thing on my mouth, and then especially bothersome when the wash cloth on my forehead fell over my eyes, but I guess I needed more oxygen.

I remember feeling so much pressure and like my bum hole was going to burst. It’s so incredible to know what your body can do, that I can stretch, that I can open, that I can birth a baby. Wow.

When baby’s head was out, they realized the cord was tightly wrapped around his neck and it took some good effort to get it pulled off. Baby’s shoulders also got stuck in my pelvis so he wasn’t really coming out with much ease. I remember my nurse Susan just pushing on my belly to try and help baby out, and I was pushing as good as I could. And Chris’s mom was pushing me forward and pushing with me. I imagine everyone in the room was working hard and focused to help get baby out.

After 42 weeks of pregnancy, 30+ hours of labor, 2.5 hours of pushing…

“My baby!”

 

 

Once the sweet relief came and my baby was pushed out, they plopped him on my belly, but just as quickly whisked him away when he wasn’t breathing or moving much. I totally had no idea that he wasn’t doing well or that there was any sort of problem. Zero idea. They were all just so fast and efficient with taking care of him. I did notice that things weren’t going how I had discussed earlier with my midwives, with a delayed cord clamping and me and baby skin to skin right away, but I didn’t know why and I was just quite relieved he was out!

Chris was over with baby at the table for the couple minutes and all I wanted was to hold him. I kept looking over happily and saying, “my baby!” And I didn’t even know if baby was a boy or a girl for a minute till Chris came and tearily said, “We have a healthy baby boy!”

I’m not sure what they did at they table but I guess they sucked stuff out of his lungs and wiped him off a little. And then we finally got to be together again after a long couple minutes! We’d been together for 9 months, so even just a few feet of separation for a couple minutes was too much for me. And I wanted to see my perfect baby!

These moments are magical, so I’ll share every picture I have of these early family cuddles.

And the mighty placenta! I didn’t get to see it in real life but at least there’s this little picture of it. The placenta is currently in our freezer and I want to plant a tree over it. Pushing the placenta out was a breeze! So was getting stitched up. I did tear some, but I think Julie did a good job at stretching out the perineum as I was pushing. Baby came out so slowly that there was plenty of time to stretch naturally. But anyway, pushing out the placenta and eventually getting stitched up didn’t bother me at all since I had just pushed a big bebe out of my body.

We were all so happy to meet our sweet boy and be with him and stare at him and watch and listen to every move and noise! I felt empowered and humbled and grateful.

And I feel especially grateful for these angels! Chris and RaNae and Holly and my mother <3.

And these angels! My nurse Susan and my midwife Julie. I could not have asked for a more perfect team. Sharing this experience with all these women and my husband was unforgettable.

Birth is vulnerable and raw and incredible. I loved it.

And the time with our sweet new baby was euphoric. Heavenly. Wow.

Postpartum recovery and the adjustments of being new parents are a different story and another journey. But here we are, a year and a half later, and life is good. We have some hard times, and we have some magical times, some boring times, some exciting times… and all of it is a part of our good life. And even with all the words I’ve written in this post, I don’t think I can adequately describe the love I have for Apollo and the joy that it is to be his mother.

3 Comments

  • Reply Alyssa Stevenson 21 May 2018 at 16:23

    Ohhhh my goodness!!! I’ve been waiting for this post!!! You did it. And it’s perfect, love all the details and how much you remember! And HOLY MOLY that pressure in my bum hahah. It’s so perfect and I love that you waited to find out gender and how perfect and real this all is. You are an amazing warrior , wow. Love you, and love it. Pure gold motherhood goodnesss.

  • Reply Katie Gatica 22 May 2018 at 21:35

    Love this! Thanks for sharing. You ARE a warrior goddess!

    • Reply chelsea 23 May 2018 at 21:54

      Thank you thank you! You’ll be doing all that birth goodness again soon. And I’m so glad I finally got around to finishing it up and sharing it!

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