At 41 weeks and 1 day pregnant around 6:30pm on Thursday February 13 I changed positions on the sofa and felt some type of liquid come out of me. Assuming that I peed myself I headed into the bathroom but there wasn’t the smell of pee. I sat back down and went onto my online pregnancy support group asking if they thought it was pee or amniotic fluid. I called my doula and she said to call the midwife and figure out what to do. I put another pair of underwear on to see if I was still leaking and sure enough I was. I woke up Evan and said “My water broke. I think this is it. I think we’re having a baby today.” Evan shot right up and got out of bed in a total panic. He had to shower, his bag wasn’t totally packed, the house was a mess. I called the midwife and she said to head to the hospital. My plan was the birth center so I was a bit panicked. I was terrified of not laboring fast enough, being pumped with drugs, and getting forced into a cesarean. Evan kept telling me everything would be okay and we were probably just going to the hospital because the birth center had closed that day due to the snow and the parking lot was most likely not plowed. I called my Mom and told her I thought my water broke and I needed to go in to get the fluid tested.
My parents came over as quickly as they could. Fitting the four of us, our bags, and my birth ball in my Dad’s truck was not an easy task. On top of that my mother thought I would be cold so she had the heat up. I was sweating my butt off and asked them to open the windows. There was some where between 6 to 12 inches of snow on the ground and it was still snowing when we were on the road. We got to the hospital and I totally forgot how to get to the maternity ward so I waited in line at the front desk and got directions. We got checked in and Evan sat with me in a room waiting for someone to come in to check me. The woman who came in was very ill mannered and seemed annoyed that I had questions. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen because I didn’t have a hospital birth in my mind and I was confused about being Group B Strep positive and having my water break before labor. The woman told me I needed to be checked in and that it was amniotic fluid and we had to start an induction. Tears immediately began for the fear of needles, air bubbles in the line, medical interventions leading to cesarean. I felt so rushed from the doctor, nurses, the millions of questions my parents had, and the amount of emotions I was feeling on top of worrying about how Evan was. After arriving in the delivery room the nurses came in for the antibiotic IV and pitocin. My midwife was in the room and told the nurses that my veins are hard to find and they would need the IV team but the nurse was convinced she could do it herself. She couldn’t. It hurt quite a bit while she wiggled the needle around in my arm trying to figure out where it needed to go. She finally gave up and called the IV team. Another nurse catalogued my belongings and asked if all my jewelry could be easily removed in case there was a cause for a cesarean. That made my mind race even more than it already was. During all this time I was crying and trying to remember to stay calm and breathe. After being hooked up to everything the midwife checked me for dilation and I was about one and a half centimeters.
Once everything settled I called my doula who was upset that she wasn’t able to be there from the very beginning of everything. She arrived sometime around midnight and told me what to expect. She suggested I try to get some sleep but since Evan works nights I was sort of on his schedule and he was wide awake. We watched Mob Wives and Couples Therapy and then the local news. Evan and my doula eventually fell asleep and I tried to sleep as well. I was hooked up to a blood pressure cuff that had to go off every 15 minutes. Because I’m fat I need an adult thigh cuff for an accurate reading. I was constantly woken up from the machine going off on top of the fact that the cuff didn’t fit and made my arm twitch and go numb. A nurse periodically came in because the readings were off and I tried to explain what size cuff I needed. The nurse told me that size didn’t exist and moved the cuff to my forearm which didn’t really make a difference. I’m not sure how much sleep I got but I did sleep a little bit.
On Friday February 14 we woke up sometime around 7:00am. At 9:00am I was checked and was 4 centimeters dilated. Evan left to get breakfast while I was with my doula. I sat on a birth ball bouncing up and down waiting for a nurse to come in so I could get on wireless monitoring. After being on wireless monitoring I was able to walk around the room, sit in different positions on the bed, lean against the wall, and do whatever I needed to manage the pain. Evan came back from breakfast with some juice and a rose for Valentine’s Day. He must have spent a fortune in the gift shop but he didn’t want Valentine’s Day to pass without giving me a rose. Laboring was much different than I hoped it would be. The IV was annoying and the wireless monitors kept moving plus I had to get my blood pressure checked every half hour. Luckily the nurses that came with the shift change were so much more pleasant than the ones from overnight. They let me go longer in-between blood pressure checks to not stop my concentration and stopped readjusting the wireless monitors as often as they should have. They even informed every one of my birth plan and wrote a note on my door specifying quiet voices, natural lighting, and to keep the door shut at all times. The midwife came in I think around lunch time and asked if I wanted to be checked. I told her no because I was worried if I wasn’t as far as I had imagined that labor would stall due to my mental state. During breaks between contractions I read birth affirmations and listened to a hip hop play list, I had a classical music playlist but it didn’t distract me enough. My doula told me to turn on whatever music I normally listened to or else I wouldn’t be able to block out the pain. Evan stood behind me massaging my lower back while I was on the birth ball, then my doula would fill in with different massages and suggest other positions. I decided I wanted to walk the hallway. Walking was terrible. I had to stop walking during contractions so I gave up that idea and headed back to my room.
At 4:00pm I asked to be checked. At that point I was on my birth ball and in a world of pain. I wasn’t sure how much longer I could do it. When the midwife came in and checked she told me I was at 7 centimeters. I laid on the bed thinking there was no way in hell I would have been able to stay at home until this point like I had planned. I had wanted to labor at home for as long as possible and head to the birth center around 7 or 8 centimeters. I think I would have panicked long before this point if I had been at home. I remember telling anyone in the room that would listen that I couldn’t do it much longer. I repeatedly said that it hurt really badly and I couldn’t do it. Evan was behind me in a chair and I was on the birth ball. I leaned back onto him during each contraction. I don’t know if I looked like I was having a difficult time or if it was because I kept saying I couldn’t do it but with every lean back he would whisper in my ear and tell me how strong I was. Hearing him tell me I was doing well was what I needed. It was still awful but I thought if Evan believed in me then I must be able to do it. I asked how long they thought I would be in labor and my doula told me at least two more hours. I looked up at the clock and cried. Contractions came and went and I looked at the clock again. It had only been ten minutes. I thought to myself “Shit. It’s been ten minutes how the hell can I do this for two more hours?!.”
After spending almost two hours on the birth ball I decided to go on my hands and knees on the hospital bed. The hospital bed had a setting where the bottom part dropped down and you could sit on the top part with your feet on the bottom part sort of like a chair if that makes sense. So on all fours my knees were on the lower part of the bed while I leaned over the top. I asked Evan for the ultrasound picture of our daughter. I laid that picture on the pillow in front of me and with every contraction I kept telling myself this was all for her. If I could just make it through this contraction I would be one step closer to meeting the sweet baby in the picture. I’m not sure how long I was in this position before I told them I felt like I had to push. My doula told me to wait for the midwife. There was a shift change. I heard them whispering the name of the midwife that was on her way. The second I heard her name I felt so defeated. I knew I was going to end up getting a cesarean. This midwife was the only one during my pregnancy who brought up complications that were going to happen because of my weight. She never spoke to me as though they could happen, it was always they will happen. I had proven her to be wrong up until this point. I was so worried that with the first little thing to go wrong she would tell me I was done and I would have to go to surgery. After those fleeting negative thoughts I remembered the picture on my desk top. It said “Wake up every morning and tell yourself you’re a bad ass bitch from hell and no one can fuck with you. And then don’t let anyone fuck with you.” I pushed all the negativity out and said to myself “You are a bad ass bitch from hell. Do not let her fuck with you. You can do this. Suck it up and do it.” When the midwife came in she checked me and told me I wasn’t ready to push but I told her I had to. She asked me to wait and I was there on the bed wondering how to stop myself from pushing without totally screwing up the labor process. I didn’t understand and I still don’t understand. I don’t get how you can just hold in a baby as if you’re holding in your pee. I pushed. I said it again “I seriously have to push. I can’t not do it.” I heard my doula say “Okay then push.” With her support I started pushing with each contraction. I looked at the clock and it was 6:00pm. I was mad. They told me it would be at least two hours. I had it in my head that by this time I would be holding my baby. I pushed as hard as I possibly could and my God did it hurt. I was pushing, and pushing, and pushing and I finally started yelling at everyone. I yelled “CUT HER OUR OF ME.” I screamed. I screamed and my doula told me to focus. She said “Bring it back in. Control it.” Evan remembered something I had researched. I read that loud noises contract everything tight and low noises open everything up. I heard him say “Growl, Felicia. Get low.” So I did. I made super weird low growling sounds I have never made in my life. I tried to practice these sounds a few weeks earlier but I felt stupid so I gave up on it. I took a deep breath as I felt the contraction growing and as it peaked I pushed my body toward the midwife and growled. I heard the nurses sounding happy with their chatter and my doula said “Yes!! Get mad at it. That’s it.” I continued growling and pushing for what seemed like an eternity. Evan left to get me more water and when he left I started screaming again. He told me he could hear me from the nurses station, which was pretty far from our room. Again and at least twenty other times I yelled “JUST CUT HER OUT!!” I kept telling them I couldn’t do it and every time I said “This really hurts!” the midwife would say “Well yeah Felicia, it does hurt.” When Evan came back I told him I needed medication and that I couldn’t do it any more. He and my doula both told me I had to be the one to ask. I didn’t want to ask. I didn’t want to be the one to give up. I told them again that it hurt and I couldn’t do it. My doula said “You’re scared. Stop being scared. Stop fighting it. You can do it, you’re just scared.” I realized she was right. I was scared. I was never in labor before. I never felt contractions before. I never pushed out a baby before. I prepared myself for every part of labor and delivery. I researched terminology and knew almost every procedure they would try to do. I remembered I had a right to say no and that they were not in charge of my birth. It was MY birth. What I didn’t prepare for was the pain. But how do you even prepare for something you can’t even begin to comprehend? I had never even broken a bone before. I had no idea how badly labor would hurt. I was scared and I had a right to be. I thought back to my desk top. “You’re a bad ass bitch from hell. You are a bad ass. You can do this.” The growling continued and I got back into my groove. I was doing well but I was totally exhausted. I fell asleep between every contraction and I only opened my eyes to look at Evan. I remember I looked over at him because I couldn’t take it anymore. Evan must have seen in my eyes that I was ready to give up. He grabbed my face and said “You are so strong. You can do this. I’m so proud of you.”
I was doing well until I thought I was going to poop. The midwife told me it was fine and all the nurses said it wasn’t a big deal but I was on all fours and I thought if I pooped it was going to go everywhere. Worrying about pooping hindered me and I needed to switch positions. I layed on my left side while Evan held my right leg up. When I was in this position the midwife told me she had to move my cervix because it was in the way. She told me it would feel like being checked for dilation and that she had to wait for a contraction. With the next contraction she put her hand inside me and moved my cervix. It hurt a lot worse than being checked for dilation. I remember looking at her straight in the eye and saying “OW!” as if my whining would make her stop. I laid there on my side and continued to push like that for an unknown amount of time until I heard the midwife say “I can see a head and there’s a lot of hair.” I yelled “WHAT?! You see the baby?! Am I seriously about to have a baby?!” I looked at Evan and he was crying. Later he told me that once someone could actually see her he realized it was real. You know that saying that women become mothers the moment they are pregnant but men don’t become dads until they hold their child. Evan became a Dad at that moment. He was so happy. I don’t think I have ever seen him that happy. The nurse on my left told me I could reach down to touch the head. This was in my birth plan and I was glad she asked but I said no. She said this was my only chance and I could do it but it grossed me out too much to actually feel a baby down there. I pushed so many times . I was sick of waiting to have my baby in my arms. I felt the burning and I knew it was almost time. I knew the burning was her head coming out and I knew that the moment I felt like I couldn’t continue was the moment she would be out. I have no clue how many more times I pushed but eventually she was lifted out and placed on my stomach. She was perfect. I asked if it was a girl and once they said yes I counted her fingers and toes and told her happy birthday. I kissed her on the head and said “We did it, baby girl. We did it.” Coraline Paige was born at 8:14pm on Valentine’s Day. I was in the hospital and had to have antibiotics and pitocin but I didn’t get anything for the pain and it was an overall positive experience. Pushing for two hours sucked but in the end I got my Valentine’s baby.
The rest was a total blur. Evan cut the cord, my doula took pictures, I was in complete shock. I remember that they said my body had taken over and I wasn’t on pitocin but they turned it back on to deliver the placenta. I told them to make sure no one took the placenta because I was taking it home to be encapsulated. At some point they took my baby to be measured and weighed and I think that’s when I was getting stitched up. They gave her back to me and covered us up. I think they tried to clean the floor a little bit while Evan went out to tell our family that she was here.
Things that happened but I don’t know where they fit in:
-At some point during labor the wireless monitors were not picking anything up and there was trouble with my daughter’s heart beat. I was asked if I wanted internal monitoring and I had remembered that I didn’t but I couldn’t remember why so I just agreed because I thought a cord inside me would be much more tolerable than those annoying plastic circles and a huge piece of gauze around my stomach. I think this was when I was on all fours but I don’t quite remember the time line of everything.
-I threw up twice once I was on my side pushing but I don’t know if it was towards the beginning or end.
-The antibiotics for GBS burned so badly I was in tears until my arm was covered with a wet wash cloth.
-When it was all over I opened my eyes and realized how many people were in the room. I think there was Evan, the midwife, Doula, and three nurses. I said hello to all of them and apologized for not paying attention to them during the labor process.
-The entire time I was in labor I asked Evan if he was okay and if he needed anything. I was worried about him passing out or not being able to take seeing me in pain. He surpassed every expectation and was completely amazing.
-The first set of numbing shots before getting stitched up didn’t work and I felt the first few stitches. After telling her to stop and trying to wiggle away the midwife gave me three more shots of numbing stuff and then continued.
-I didn’t realize how warm the amniotic fluid would be or how much there was. My water breaking was a little trickle so as it gushed down my legs during labor I was completely disgusted. I remember the nurses laughing at me because I sat there saying “Ew” over and over again.
There it is. My birth story. The hospital wasn’t what I wanted but it wasn't the total hell I had imagined. After being in a delivery room in the birth center for my postpartum check up I realized I probably wouldn’t have been able to deliver there. With my anxiety I think I would have panicked and needed the hospital because my pessimist mind wouldn’t have felt safe. I think for our next child, if we’re blessed to have another baby, I will plan on a hospital birth from the begging. I think having the midwives and a doula helped me get the birth I wanted. I’m about 90% sure that if I had an OB there’s no way I would have been allowed to labor and push for as long as I did.
Written by Felicia T., momma of a beautiful little girl from Reading, Pennsylvania. She is a Domestic Goddess for a living and a human rights activist. Today, Coraline Paige is 5 months old!