Are you loving September yet? It’s not officially fall, so don’t even tell me that summer is over. But I will give it to you that cooler weather sounds fabulous right about now!
Today is Friday, and I’m so honored to share a birth story from Rachel, whom I met through Instagram. Rachel is the sweetest soul and I’m so thankful that she reached out to me with her birth stor(ies)!
Hi, my name is Rachel and I’m now a mama of two beautiful kiddos, Lysander and Briseida (or Zadie for short). Besides being a mother, I’ve enjoyed working as a reading teacher and at a nonprofit helping low-income, first generation students go to college. I’ve moved over eight times as an adult, but my favorite places to live have always been by the sea. I am married to a wonderful man who also happens to be in the military, which brings quite a bit of drama to both of our birth stories! Our kids are American-Albanian: dad is from Albania and mom is from Texas. Their names are pronounced Lee-San-Der and Bree-Say-Duh. I hope you enjoy reading about their births, and thanks to Suzanne for allowing me to share them on her blog!
I wasn’t really sure where to begin with telling my birth story at first, but the more I thought about all the things that shaped my birth experience, I realized the events that unfolded in the month prior to my birth had a huge influence on how things happened, so I’ll start there. On October 8th, Arber was supposed to leave for the beginning of his active duty army service. We’d had a couple months of knowing this to get prepared. I was nervous about him leaving so close to my due date (October 24th) because we had no guarantee from the army that he would get to return home for the birth. We planned for his parents to arrive on October 7th to move in with us permanently to help me with the baby once I return to work. I was also nervous about this because we don’t speak the same language and for the first couple months we would be without Arber around to translate. I had accepted all of this and was as ready as I could be to enter the final month of pregnancy and eventually motherhood. On the day before our three year anniversary, Friday October 3rd, the Army called and told us Arber could no longer take the job he was supposed to start on October 8th and that they didn’t know why and weren’t sure of any alternatives at the moment. They said they would know more on Monday, October 6th. That weekend was very trying for both of us as a consequence. We spent most of it talking about what to do now that we were both without work and expecting three new mouths to feed soon (his parents and a baby). We didn’t pack anything or continue with our plans for him to leave after the weekend. On Monday, we went to the Army office to find they still didn’t have any news but would get back to us soon. Finally around 4 or 5 that afternoon they called us and said there was a misunderstanding and Arber would still be going. He needed to be packed and ready to board a plane within 24 hours. We frantically got him packed, traded in our car for a minivan, and I dropped him off and said goodbye one hour before picking up his parents.
The next few weeks went by with us not knowing if he could come home for the birth. Finally, on my due date, he found out he could take a week of leave so he scheduled a flight home, I called my Dr to schedule an induction for the following Tuesday, and prayed and prayed the baby would hold out at least until Arber made it home late Sunday evening. I wanted an all natural birth, but we decided Arber being at his son’s birth was ultimately more important. So I went ahead with the induction and hoped it would still be a great experience. We went in Monday night for cervadil before Tuesday morning’s induction. For her last meal, this pregnant woman had stacked enchiladas with a fried egg at Ruby Tequilas, trying hard to fill my stomach before what definitely ended up being a long labor. 😉
When we finally got checked at the hospital, I was already having contractions but couldn’t feel them, I was 1 cm dilated, 50% effaced, and baby boy was at a -2 station (he had been for weeks already!). I was happy to hear I was already having contractions and wished for a spontaneous start to labor overnight. That didn’t quite happen. . . But, we did get the ambient room- a room designed for natural births with softer lighting, purple walls, and a nice sound system- for labor! Score! I didn’t sleep much that night in obvious anticipation and excitement about the next day. On Tuesday morning around 8 a.m. I started the pitocin. I count this as the beginning of my active labor. We gradually increased the dose of pitocin every couple hours throughout the day. My pain was minimal for most of the day, and with the help of diffusing oils, some great playlists I made on Spotify, Aubrey helping with different labor positions, walking, and stretching, I was able to keep upping the pitocin without my pain going above a 3 or 4 on the pain scale. I remember telling Aubrey this feels like a spa day but with cramps. Throughout that day, Arber and I were laughing and talking with Aubrey and the nurses; I was in high spirits and pleasantly surprised that so far labor just felt like a very mild period. The nurses also said we had the best smelling room from all the essential oils we burned! Finally by Tuesday night they upped the pitocin to almost the highest level but I wasn’t progressing very quickly. They stopped it around midnight so I could try to sleep a bit. I tried mostly unsuccessfully to sleep for two hours before giving up on ever sleeping again, so we continued upping the pitocin again around 3 a.m. Wednesday morning I was still not dilated past 2 or 3 cm. So we upped the pitocin to the highest level and waited for Dr. Devine to come check me. Finally around 10 a.m. she decided to break my waters to get the labor progressing. This definitely changed the intensity of my labor almost immediately.
That afternoon I had my first truly painful contraction; it felt like miscarriage pains and I teared up remembering this. Arber held my hands tightly and I closed my eyes and calmed down. Over the next couple hours my contractions got more regular and stronger but I still was only dilated to a 4. By the early afternoon contractions were coming a minute apart with about 30 seconds in between and the only thing that seemed to somewhat help was thrashing around like a fish out of water in a hands and knees position on the bed, shifting my weight from one side to the other, pressing my head against the hand rails on the bed and breathing hard through the contractions. I was pretty embarrassed about how I must look, with amniotic fluid leaking all over the place every time I moved, but I simultaneously couldn’t have cared less at that moment. Aubrey kept saying you’re doing it, you’re in control, and for a while that’s all that kept me going, begrudgingly realizing I could still and WAS still doing it. After some time passed like this (I don’t remember exactly how long) I decided to get IV meds to hopefully help take the edge off and let me rest a bit between contractions. My goal was still to avoid an epidural because I liked being able to move around and wanted to be able to feel the baby descending through the birth canal when I pushed. Once I got the IV meds I was pretty exhausted from the last couple days of working through contractions and couldn’t really feel much difference in my pain level. I didn’t feel like I was getting rest between contractions and could start to feel myself slipping mentally. I asked to be checked hoping I’d be dilated to at least an 8 and almost done. When they checked and I was only dilated to a 7 I became pretty discouraged. I thought if I knew I only had an hour or so left of labor, I could push through my mental exhaustion and remain in control enough to cope with the pain of contractions. But, there was no guarantee, I’d already been at this for 30 hours, and I didn’t think I had the physical rest or mental strength to make it through if the labor was still going to last a few hours. So I asked for the epidural and it felt like it took them an eternity to bring it. It was probably only half an hour but for that time I felt like the contractions were coming right on top of each other and I was getting no rest. I couldn’t stop moving around- on the bed, back and forth to the bathroom, almost crawling over the side of the bed and out of my skin at times, but nothing was helping. I knew I needed to calm down and try to stay in control but I was soo tired. I relied on Aubrey and my breathing techniques very heavily at this point. Once they came in with the needle for the epidural I had to sit very still for him to inject it. He tried to wait until I was between contractions but by the time he was ready another contraction was already starting and Aubrey said we couldn’t wait it out so that I could move around. I had to sit still and simply breathe through this one. That one contraction was by far the hardest part of labor. I cried and held onto Aubrey’s shoulders and made eye contact for what felt like the first time in hours because I didn’t think I could do this one on my own. But I did it! I was prouder of myself for this single moment than I’ve ever been of anything! It took a few minutes for the epidural to kick in. Even once it did I could still feel pressure and contractions, although with much less intensity. At this point I started shaking uncontrollably and relied heavily on breathing techniques to keep in control while I waited to push. I was crying and looking at Arber, who was so sweetly breathing with me through each contraction. The pressure kept getting stronger and finally Dr. Devine arrived and said I could begin pushing. I am told that from getting the epidural to pushing only took 30 minutes; go figure. 🙂 Being able to push helped everything and soon I was feeling rested again and in higher spirits about seeing my baby boy soon! We started playing a hip hop playlist I downloaded for the big delivery and Arber and Aubrey stood on both sides of me holding my hands and helping me push. I was so relieved and glad I could still feel the baby descending and feel myself pushing, but now with enough strength and rest to do the job. When everyone started telling me they could see the head I was stunned to hear they were seeing blonde hair! I watched Arber’s face as he stared at the baby’s head crowning since I couldn’t see anything. That was surreal. By this point I felt very peaceful, but excited and so ready to see the baby. I remember thinking this part seemed so much more chill than it looked on TV (thanks epidural!) Pushing took around an hour I’m told, but it seemed shorter even through my impatience.
When the baby finally slipped out, Arber cut the cord and they put him on my chest. Everyone was so curious about his name, and kept saying he was so beautiful. I was mesmerized when I saw him and knew immediately the name we’d picked out earlier in the pregnancy was his name. I looked at Arber for confirmation and he nodded. This was our son, Lysander Ruzhdi Keco. Now that baby Lysander was here I was overjoyed. This bliss lasted the rest of our two day stay in the hospital and we had so much fun sharing baby’s first couple days with visitors and nurses.
We were discharged on Halloween, so Arber and I had our doula Aubrey go get scrubs and a gown so we could take Halloween pictures with Arber in bed wearing the gown and me standing and in scrubs.
Lysander was just perfect and looking back I was so pleased with my labor. It was long, and inducing wasn’t part of my birth wishes, but Arber was able to be there, I was able to get through most of the labor without medication, and in the end I still got to feel what it was like to push my baby out into the world.
Breastfeeding worked well for us right away and little guy is still gaining weight like a champ. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about nursing, but I love it so much. It’s been a great bonding experience for us. Now six weeks out, we’ve had our ups and downs with breastfeeding, but he’s a whopping 10 lbs and I’ve already lost all my pregnancy weight! I can’t recommend breastfeeding enough. 😉 I also can’t imagine having labored without Arber or Aubrey there. They both kept me laughing, comforted, and attended to my every need with patience and encouragement. Dr. Devine did an awesome job with the delivery, I didn’t even tear! I am thankful she allowed the labor to progress so slowly and naturally; my recovery was very easy because of it. I never felt much swelling or pain and was up and exercising again within a week. I couldn’t be happier with my birth experience, nor could I imagine my life without this beautiful little boy now that he’s here.
Thanks for reading!