Baby was due Saturday September 5 th , a day we had all been anxiously awaiting, but the day came and went with only a few mild and irregular contractions. With both of my “keepers” (my own biological children) labor began spontaneously in my 39 th week so I never dreamed that I would make it to 40 weeks with this precious surrogate baby whose gestational age we knew down to the day. There was also the added stress that I desperately wanted a Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) and my doctor was on board as long as I started labor on my own before my due date. Thanks to the Labor Day holiday and hospital scheduling, I was able to put off scheduling the repeat C-section for 5 days after my due date.
Saturday evening, I was so sure, or maybe just hopeful, that labor was near I sent my children for a sleepover at my sister’s house. I bounced on the yoga ball, took long walks, ate spicy salsa and chips for lunch, ate almost an entire pineapple and did everything I could think of to safely get labor started naturally. I went to bed around 9:30 telling myself I needed to be well rested for the marathon I was sure I was about to run. I woke at 10:30 thinking, “This is it!” I used the bathroom and laid down waiting for another strong contraction…then I woke up again at 11:30 thinking, “This is it!” used the bathroom, laid down, fell asleep…this continued every hour all night.
Finally, at about 3:45am the contractions kept coming and were not stopping. I started the contraction timer on my phone and timed them for a while, 3-4 minutes apart. I decided to take a shower while my husband went to the kitchen to make coffee. I breathed and swayed through about 7 more contractions during my long shower and when I got out, decided it was time to wake my doula, Ivette. I sent her a screenshot of the contraction timer and she said they were all over the place, it may not be time. I told her there were 7 not recorded while I was in the shower. She changed her mind and would meet us at the hospital an hour from my home. The Intended Parents had already begun their stay at an Air BnB about 15 minutes from our designated hospital. Since my previous labors were 25 and 18 hours I again assumed this labor would be about the same. I texted Shannon to let her know labor had begun but I had not yet contacted the Intended Parents. I had every intention of being the one to let Mom know their baby was coming but I got a little busy and was thankful word got to the parents anyway.
We arrived at the hospital around 6:30am and unloaded our bags onto a bench outside of the maternity entrance. I really wanted both my husband and my doula to come in and support me while I attempted my VBAC but due to new regulations for covid and despite my calling Labor and Delivery and begging them to let me have both, the hospital was adamant that I could only bring one support person in with me. So, I continued to labor outside the hospital for a couple of hours. It was comforting to hang from my husband’s strong arms while staring in Ivette’s eyes as she coached me to breathe through each intensifying contraction. The sound of the water in the fountain and the cool dawn breeze were also soothing elements that I would have missed out on had I been indoors.
At about 8:30 am it became clear that it was time to go inside and be evaluated. The next hour I spent in triage with a nurse answering what felt like a thousand questions and without either of my support people. The nurse checked my cervix and told me I was 4cm dilated. My heart sank, I wished she had not told me. I wasn’t sure I was up for the next 12+ hours of labor that were surely in my future. She handed me the hospital gown and bag for my clothes and left me to change in privacy. I stood and felt a trickle down my leg… my water broke, thankfully it was clear.
When I got to the labor and delivery room, the triage nurse said the L&D nurse would be in soon and again she left me alone. I started to panic and texted my doula, “in room help ow”. It felt like she appeared instantly. We noticed the tub in the bathroom but since my water had broken we knew I couldn’t submerge in a bath. But the idea of being soothed by water was too irresistible and I got in anyway. Ivette aimed a stream of warm water down my back and over my belly and it felt amazing! When the new nurse walked in, I think she was a bit horrified that I was already in the tub. She instructed me to get out immediately so she could put the monitors on and since I had a previous C-section the monitors needed to stay on continuously. Ivette immediately requested wireless monitors so we could continue to labor in various positions without getting tangled up in wires and belts. The sanding of my belly to apply the monitor securely was a little weird but I went with it so I could walk and kneel and squat as I needed.
I was checked at 10:30am and still at 4 cm I was again discouraged and beginning to ask for pain medications to help me cope. My doula reminded me that if I did go for an epidural at 4 cm I would likely end up with another c section because my doctor would not give me Pitocin to augment a stalled labor for fear my uterus would rupture. She knew that was all I needed to hear to keep going at it naturally a little longer. Then it was time to be tested for covid. Someone came in with the long white swab and informed me of the sample collection process. Moments after she began twisting and turning the swab deep in my nasopharynx a contraction began, my eyes widened, and the nurse stepped back leaving the swab in place while I breathed through it. When it subsided, she twisted the swab a few more times for good measure and finally removed it. Ivette saw it coming and had the emesis bag ready as I threw up all I had left in my stomach.
The next time I was checked I was at 6 cm and decided I really did want some IV medications to relax me so I could continue laboring. The nurse left to get the medications and Ivette helped me to the bathroom where my water broke some more, and she noticed I began feeling “pushy”. By the time the nurse came back and was ready to administer IV medications, my doula asked that I be checked again due to the pushy feelings. I was shocked to hear that I had gone from 6 cm to 9 cm in under an hour! The room quickly began changing, the bed was transformed, more people came into the room and Ivette video called my husband who was waiting in the hospital parking lot. I remember being so excited that things were moving so rapidly but also felt terrified of the suddenly almost unbearable contractions. I was also desperately wishing the baby’s mom would be there soon to witness the birth. Ivette recognized I was starting to lose control and was able to re-center my focus and breathing. It was time to start pushing. I wanted to push on my side and my doctor was adamant that I lay on my back. I actually argued with him for a while but eventually submitted and began pushing. The baby’s mom appeared at my side. I was so happy to see her! I continued pushing and yelled again at my doctor to stop counting while I was working hard to get the baby out. I yelled at him at least one more time not to cut me when I thought he was about to perform a tool-less episiotomy. I pushed for less than half an hour. Ivette held my right leg, Mom held my left, my husband and the baby’s dad watched together via video as baby girl came into this world! She was tiny and pink and completely perfect weighing 7pounds 1 oz and measuring 18.5 inches long. They delayed cord clamping for about a minute while she lay on my abdomen and Mom and I admired and stroked her. When it was time, Mom got to cut the umbilical cord. Ivette took some beautiful first hour photographs of the three of us. I know I will treasure the photos of those precious moments forever.