Asher's birth story is not what I had planned, but sometimes things don't go as planned and that's okay. All that matters in the end is that your baby is healthy and that you enjoyed the experience. During the whole pregnancy I had my heart set on a natural birth, medicine free at my birthing center with my Midwife. I had planned on a water birth, but was open to other positions depending on what my body was telling me. I was originally due on May 14th, 2019 but those dates came and went with no sign of labor in sight. My Midwife reassured me that most first-time moms are late and that she expected that with me. Once we got to 41 weeks she started asking if I was open to trying different herbs and methods to naturally induce and whether or not I felt comfortable with the hospitals in our direct area or if we would be open to traveling an hour to go to a Seventh-Day Adventist Hospital that she was much more comfortable with. She told me that as a midwife they are not allowed to deliver babies after they reach 42 weeks and one day. She had stretched out his due date as much as she could for me and was able to adjust it to be May 19th because my periods are usually irregular. I said that obviously, I was not keen on going to the hospital, but if that was how things worked out then, of course, I would be all right with it. In the meantime, for that whole week I tried several methods to naturally induce.
I tried castor oil twice separated by a few days, drank super concentrated red raspberry leaf tea all day long, took black and blue cohosh for a couple days, placed evening primrose oil capsules up near my cervix to help soften it, walked as much as I could, bounced on my yoga ball several times per day, and breast pumped for 20 minutes off and on several times per day. All that the castor oil and red raspberry leaf tea really seemed to do was clear me out in my bowels. And everything combined just brought on lots of cervical cramping. I kept hoping that contractions would start, but I never felt them. My Midwife also tried to do a membrane sweep, but my cervix was too tight that she couldn't get her finger in to do it. She also tried to do a Foley balloon catheter twice, but could not get the catheter in the first time and the second time it fell out and a bunch of liquid came gushing out which we thought at the time was my amniotic sac breaking. Here it turned out that it was probably just urine leaking out which was stimulated from all of the movement and the pressure that she had to apply on my urethra. Darn! Soon enough the final day rolled around and we had to make plans for my Hospital stay. She asked me when I would like to go to the hospital and I asked if we could go as late as possible to give my body one last chance to go into labor, so we planned for 10 am on June 1st.
My husband, Matt, and I tried to go to bed early and get as much rest as we could, but it was difficult for me to sleep thinking about all the excitement and the fact that baby Asher would soon be in my arms. I checked my phone early that morning and the Midwife texted me to let me know that the hospital was very busy and that we would go at 11:30 a.m. instead. That was great news because then I had extra time to get ready and we stopped to get smoothies at our favorite smoothie place, Surf City Squeeze, along the way. Once at the hospital, we got set up in a small private room and they put fetal heart monitoring straps on my belly to keep an eye on Asher's heart rate and my contractions. They told me that it looked like I was actually starting to have contractions, but I could not feel them at all! Eventually, the doctor came in to see me and checked my cervix. It was only 1.5 cm dilated at that point. She said it was just enough to insert a Foley catheter balloon which would help to dilate my cervix further and bring on more contractions. She was amazed at how well I took the balloon and did not scream out in pain as most women would do. That was encouraging to me to hear that my pain threshold is higher than most. Once in, the balloon did not hurt, it just felt like very painful menstrual cramps. After getting the balloon, my contractions showed stronger on the monitor, but I still shockingly couldn’t feel them.
The hospital was very busy and there were no delivery rooms available at the time so we ended up staying in that first room for most of the day waiting. I didn't mind though because I knew that the balloon was helping my body to make progress while we waited. It was not until around 9 p.m. that we finally were transferred to a delivery room. Once there the doctor checked my cervix and to see how the balloon was doing and inserted a Cytotec pill to help my cervix ripen more quickly. They told us that we should get some rest and that at 1 a.m. the doctor would come and check my cervix again to see if the balloon fell out and whether my cervix dilated any further. I tried my best to go to sleep, but was so excited that it was very difficult. I probably got about an hour of sleep before I woke up and felt the need to go to the bathroom. The balloon was supposed to fall out once my cervix reached around 3 cm, but it hadn't fallen out at that point. 1 a.m. came and went and the doctor did not come. I assumed that it was pretty busy for them. At around 2 a.m. she came in and checked my cervix. The balloon came out right away. It turns out it was just sitting in my vagina but hadn't fallen out on its own probably because I was laying down. After she took the balloon out she did a very thorough membrane sweep. It was shortly after the sweep that I actually started to feel my contractions. They felt like waves of very intense menstrual cramps, but much more intense than I have ever felt before. They were still manageable though at that point and I thought okay, this is no problem! A couple hours later they came in to check my cervix again and it was around 4 centimeters dilated and my cervix had ripened quite a bit. At that point they decided it was time to administer pitocin to me intravenously to bring on more regular contractions and speed up the cervix dilation. It didn't take long for me to feel the pitocin taking its effect. What was once manageable contractions soon became unbearable contractions.
Matt was asleep beside me and I woke him up to let him know that I finally felt contractions and that I needed his help because they were getting very intense. This was around 5 am. He let me squeeze his hand and did everything that he could, from rubbing my back, putting essential oils on my lower back, and being there for me. The contractions got more and more intense and closer and closer together. I soon found myself moaning, sometimes screaming, and eventually crying that was how intense the pain was! If I had to describe the contractions, I would say they felt like a combination of the most intense menstrual cramps imaginable combined with the feeling of having food poisoning which made me feel like I was going to have to run to the bathroom with diarrhea along with nausea that made me feel like I was going to throw up, but couldn't. In between the contractions, I thought to ask him to text the Midwife and let her know how things were going as she had gone home in the evening and told us to keep her posted when things started to pick up. She came around 8 a.m. to find me moaning and crying in pain. She instantly came to my side and told me to breathe in and out deeply and to breathe through the contractions. This felt like the last thing that I wanted to do, but I did what she said and it actually did help me to ride through them more easily than I was with moaning and yelling.
I'm not sure what time it was, but when one of the nurses came in to check on me she asked if I would like anything for the pain and I said yes which is not what I had expected from myself. She asked if I would like a mild pain reliever or an epidural and I asked for the mild pain reliever first. It didn't take long for this to kick in. It actually made me feel very drowsy like I could go to sleep, but the contractions still kept me awake. It definitely made it more bearable, but did not last very long. I can't say for sure but it felt like the pain relief only lasted for about half an hour or an hour while the drowsy effect lasted for hours. It felt like I could go to sleep in between contractions but they were only a minute apart so I would instantly snap out of it to feel the pain again. When the nurse came back I asked her if I could get more pain relief and she said they couldn’t give more of the pain reliever they had given me or it would make the baby too drowsy and could cause his vitals to dip. She asked if I would like an epidural and I decided that I definitely needed one. She said that the anesthesiologist who administers them was currently in an operating room but that he would come by after he was finished.
As I waited the contractions got more and more intense but I tried to manage them by breathing through them as my midwife prompted me. At one point I remember feeling like I needed to go to the bathroom and that it might ease my pain to just sit on the toilet, but just walking there brought on more contractions. After I sat there a while the nurse came in and told me I should come back to bed so that they could keep an eye on the babies vitals. I had to wait until a contraction ended and mustered up the strength to get back to bed. Once in bed it felt like no position was comfortable. I mostly laid on my sides, but eventually rolled over onto all fours to see if that would help. I think that actually made the contractions more intense and I remember that I started to feel like I had to start pushing when the contractions would come on. The midwife said to go with what I felt and that I might be entering the transition phase. Out of nowhere I felt so nauseous I thought I was going to throw up. They gave me a vomit bag and I tried to throw up but couldn’t. Eventually the feeling subsided and I went back to laying on my side.
It seemed like forever until the anesthesiologist finally came. I think it was around 12 or 1 p.m. when I was finally able to get an epidural. And getting that was very scary for me because a few days earlier a woman who was partially disabled and could barely walk at the grocery store waved my husband and I over to talk to her and told us that her disability was caused by an epidural years and years ago and to refuse it at all costs. I had this in my mind when I decided to get it and just hoped that everything would work out. I had so much pain that I just couldn't bear it and felt it was the only thing that would help me get through this. The anesthesiologist was thankfully very patient with me as I had several contractions while he got me set up. I was so worried that I would not be able to sit still as he stuck the catheter into my spine because I had to lean over and stay still which made more contractions come on. Finally he got it in and told me that it would be about 15 minutes till I started to feel its effect. Wow, once it took effect it was a game-changer for sure. I finally felt relief and could feel the contractions but they felt much more manageable. I still felt quite drowsy from the pain medication I had earlier and they told me that I should get some rest if I could because my cervix still had a ways to go before it was dilated fully. I think at that point it was around 5 or 6 cm. I was easily able to fall asleep and kept taking naps in between the nurses visits to switch me around in the bed. The baby was laying in a certain way that his heart rate was dipping whenever I would lay on my left side so they would try to move me in such a way that it was healthy for him.
They also turned the pitocin off because my contractions were so intense that they were worried it was too much for the baby to handle. Most of the time I ended up laying on my right side. That made the epidural go mostly into my right side which caused my right leg to go completely numb. It was quite a weird sensation, like when you wake up and your foot is asleep but you can't get it to wake up. I think it was around 2:30 or 3 p.m. that the doctor came back in to check me and I was 8 cm dilated. She noticed that my contractions were not consistent and asked the nurse to put the pitocin back on. She checked on me again after it been on for a little while and said that I was getting very close. The only thing that was stopping things was a thin lip of cervix over the baby's head. She asked me to do a few pushes to see if that would help open up the lip more. It turned out that it was and she quickly called in the rest of the team to come in to deliver the baby.
I was shocked and couldn't believe that things could change that quickly! It had figured because my Midwife had just stepped out for a bit to get some fresh air. I was worried that she wouldn't make it back in time for the birth, but thankfully she did return about halfway through my pushes. They asked me to put my feet up on the stirrups, which was a weird sensation with my numb right leg. I held both of my thighs and my husband and the main nurse helped me to keep them upright. The nurse gave me guidance on how to push when the contractions came. I had just pressed the button for another dose of the epidural to go through a little bit ago and it was just taking effect so I couldn't feel the contractions anymore at that point. Another doctor had to monitor them and when they would come they would all encourage me to push. They told me to breathe out, then breathe in, hold it and push as if I was trying to have a bowel movement. I would do that three or four times in a row while having the contraction then would take a break for about a minute or two to do some deep breathing. This pattern went on probably six or seven times or so. Everyone was very encouraging and told me when I was getting close and that I was almost done. I couldn't believe it when they told me just a few more pushes! The pushing really wasn't difficult because of the naps that I was able to take and the epidural. When the baby finally came out, I couldn't believe it because I couldn't even feel it!
Wow, getting to see him and having him placed skin to skin on my chest was the most amazing feeling ever. I almost felt like crying I was so happy and in pure bliss at that moment. It didn't take long at all for him to have his first cries and use his lungs for the first time! His cries were the cutest that I have ever heard. They were very quiet and in between the wails sounded like he was saying “mmhmm mmhmm mmmhmm” (Matt said that if that's what his cries sound like he doesn't mind hearing that all the time at all). They asked Matt if he wanted to cut the cord and I reminded them that I wanted to do delayed cord clamping. They said that it had already happened and I didn't argue as I figured they knew what they were doing better than I based off of what they could see on their end. He cut the cord and they delivered the placenta without me even feeling it. Shortly after, they told me that they were going to give me some stitches because I had some slight tearing. Fortunately it was just a first degree tear which is the very best that you could hope for as it takes the least time to repair. Soon enough they were finished and most of the team left except for my main nurse who asked if I would like to try to start breastfeeding. Even though I had done lots of reading and watched videos on it, it still felt so foreign to me getting the latch correct. She tried her best to help me, but at that point Asher was not very interested in nursing. She said that's very normal because he still needs to figure out how to do it and that we would try again later. We did try again later with a little bit more success, but still it was difficult to get him to latch on. He did plenty of rooting, but found it difficult to latch.
After about an hour of bonding, another nurse came in and asked if she could take him to weigh him and get his measurements in the room with us. She weighed him and he turned out to be 7 lb 15 oz. His length was 22 and 1/4 in, which she said was the tallest baby that she had delivered that day and they had delivered 30! After she was done getting all of his measurements and footprints/ handprints, she asked if she could give him a bath. I told her that I would prefer that she didn't because the vernix caseosa is supposed to be good for helping to regulate babies body temperature, boost the immune system, and provide moisture for their skin. She said that she agreed with that but because he was beta strep unknown it would be wise to give him a bath because if I did pass along the beta strep microbes, it could be very dangerous to him. I discussed it with my husband and we decided it was a good idea to give him a bath since I also recently had a yeast infection. After giving him a bath and cleaning me up, I had more time to bond with him and so did daddy, both skin-to-skin which is the best for promoting bonding because of the oxytocin release. After relaxing and bonding in the birthing room for a while, they were eventually able to transfer us to a recovery room which was such a relief because the bed in the birthing room was super uncomfortable and I kept sliding down it the whole time.
They went over some paperwork that they left with me and gave us a menu to order food via room service, but it turned out that most of the food that we wanted to order was unavailable at the time when we called. So, Matt went down to the cafeteria and picked us up some things. It felt so great to eat. I hadn't eaten for over 24 hours and was starving, especially after all that hard work. Nothing was as wonderful as spending time with Asher. I seriously couldn't stop looking at him and marveling at him. Unfortunately Matt was not able to spend the night with us because he had to get up early to go to a class which was by our home (an hour away from the hospital) and he wanted to make sure that he got there in time since the traffic is unpredictable at that time of morning. My mother and father-in-law were able to come by and visit a few hours after Matt left and brought me some more food, which was so easy to eat because I was still so famished. Grandma was so thrilled to get to hold him and couldn't get over how tiny he was in comparison to the pictures. Grandpa held back on holding him because he felt like he was still getting over a cold. After they left I tried to go to sleep with Asher. I originally put him in the bassinet, but got worried when he would cough and didn't want him to choke on amniotic fluid that was left over in his lungs, so I brought him into bed with me so he was close by at all times.
We were able to sleep intermittently here and there but kept getting interrupted as nurses kept coming in to check on his and my vitals. I also tried to nurse every few hours and asked if I could see a lactation specialist the following day to make sure I was doing things correctly. The next morning, the doctor came in and said that his bilirubin levels were a bit elevated more than they would like to see so they asked for us to stay an extra day. I forgot to mention that around 32 weeks of pregnancy, we had an ultrasound which showed his kidneys were slightly dilated on the right side which could be an indication of fetal hydronephrosis. When we checked again around 38 weeks they still were dilated so I asked the pediatrician when he stopped by our room if we could get him checked again. Eventually an ultrasound technician came by and did a detailed scan on him. They told us they would let us know the results as soon as they could. Hours later a doctor came by asking if he had peed yet. I told her no but that I had been trying to breastfeed as much as possible. They were very concerned that he hadn't peed in over 24 hours. They were concerned that he wasn't getting enough colostrum from me because of my breast reduction surgery I had 20 years ago. They told us that the ultrasound came back good and that his kidneys looked great so that was no longer a worry. Eventually they asked if we would be open to him drinking a little formula to rule out any other potential problems. We didn't want him to drink formula, but decided that it would be for the best to make sure he was okay. It only took half an hour or an hour after drinking the supplement for him to pee for the first time. We were so relieved! Eventually they came by and let us know that his bilirubin levels were good and that we were cleared to leave the following morning. That was so great to hear. It felt so good to know that our little boy was healthy and that there was no need for concern anymore. Eventually the lactation consultant came by and gave me some pointers which was very helpful.
All in all our experience at the hospital was a very positive one. All of the nurses, doctors, and other employees that we interacted with were very friendly and helpful. I loved the fact that this hospital was Seventh Day Adventist, which meant that it was Christian and completely vegetarian. I also loved the fact that they were very baby friendly which means that they encourage skin to skin bonding, breastfeeding, and having the baby room with mom instead of in a nursery. Even though I didn’t get to have to birth that I planned on, I am still happy about how things went. It was nice to have the ability for them to run tests to make sure any concerns were checked out right away. And although the labor pains through the pitocin were very painful and intense, they quickly became a distant memory after Asher was born. Also, I did not feel any negative side effects from the cytotec, pitocin, or epidural and that could be because I took plenty of activated charcoal and zeolites to remove any toxins from my body. I feel blessed that I did not experience a lot of pain afterwards, just some expected soreness down below and some uterine cramping as it shunk. I eased the cramping with an herbal tincture called “AfterEase” which helped a lot. I only needed to use it the first couple days after delivery and very rarely after that. The only real surprise that I had experienced was bladder incontinence. I found that I was unable to make it to the bathroom without peeing myself and was so thankful for the huge pads the hospital provided me with. I was honestly really worried at first about how long this would last. Thankfully it was only the first 3 days that I experienced this and after that I was able to control my bladder again.
I apologize if I have shared too many details, but I, first of all, wanted to write a detailed account of Asher’s birth story so that I have it for my own records & can share it with him when he’s older, but also so that future expectant mamas can read this for encouragement and get an idea on what to expect. Just keep in mind that any pain you go through is temporary. You will get through it and soon enough it will be a distant memory taken over by precious wonderful memories of your sweet little baby. It is all so worth it and I would go through it again. ♥