Until we have births at SFBC, we thought we’d share stories from former clients we’ve worked with prior to SFBC. Thanks to Alison for sharing this story of her birth with Julie Birdsong, CNM at Kaiser Hospital, Redwood City.
I knew I would go past my due date. I told myself that’s how it would go the whole time I was pregnant, and yet I could not prevent the inevitable anxiety that occurs when the due date comes and goes and your baby still seems quite cozy. My due date was only memorable because my car battery died while I was in my prenatal yoga class. I was hot and sweaty, tailgating with a sandwich and cold beverage until the tow truck man came and fixed my problem with a quick jump start. Back home I went. The next day I took Julie up on her offer to sweep my membranes. And the day after that, I convinced myself that my bag of water had broken with no contractions to speak of. I phoned Julie with my concerns and she came to check on me. Nope, no broken bag. Membranes stripped again. I busied myself the rest of the weekend, packing boxes for my upcoming move to the East Bay, and took a walk on the beach in Pacifica on a particularly warm evening.
Four days after my due date, we made a trip across the bay with some boxes for the new apartment, topped off with a long walk around Ikea after lunching on Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes. We got a killer deal on a new dining table. Back to SF we went, feeling quite tired and accomplished. I decided to take a hot bath that evening, and after I got out and toweled myself off I felt a drip all the way down my leg, to the ground. I dried again, but then another drip. Could it be? After days of paranoia that my bag had broken without labor starting, did it really just break in the bath tub? A few small gushes followed and I felt more certain. I sent Julie an excited text that it looked like things were happening! Orrian came home and cooked me a grilled cheese sandwich and ran some last minute errands. Sure enough, some light contractions started about an hour later at 8:30. We tried to get in bed around 10, but by 10:30 I was having consistent surges every 3-4 minutes and had to be out of bed. I tried to let Orrian sleep and spent some time in the living room with my Hypnobirthing tracks on. A few hours flew by, and when the surges had been every 2-3 minutes for a couple hours, we called our doula Britt to come over.
Around sunrise we were loaded up in Britt’s car headed to the hospital, thinking that I was probably in active labor by now. Julie met us on labor and delivery in a recovery room while we waited for a labor room to be ready. I desperately wanted to get in the shower and Julie pulled some strings so I could get in one before the room was ready. Again, a few hours passed, and by 10 we were getting settled in our labor room. At that point I asked Julie to check me, but we had agreed beforehand that I didn’t want to hear my progress in dilation. Nonetheless, I could tell from her exam that I was not in transition yet despite my frequent strong contractions for many hours. I was disappointed. My greatest fear had been that my labor wouldn’t be productive and would go for hours without progress. I asked Julie if she thought I needed an epidural to help me relax and progress. She was so upbeat. “You’re opening!” I tried to maintain her enthusiasm.
I hunkered down and with the help of my doula and Orrian, found a way through many hard and exhausted moments while another 6 hours passed. I went from the chair, to leaning on the bed, to the birthing ball, to the shower. Over and over again. I fantasized often about the blissful sleep I could have been enjoying with an epidural. At 4pm I asked Julie to check me because I started to worry about whether I was progressing and whether I had enough energy left to finish the job. To my complete joy and relief, I was nearly 9 centimeters! At that point I knew I could make it. Julie brought me a TENS unit to try for the strong backache I was getting with each surge. I had started to feel a considerable urge to push so I locked myself in the bathroom in the dark, sat on the toilet, and started to grunt and push at the peak of my contractions. I heard Britt call Julie to alert her that I was “grunty” and probably she should head to my room. Julie checked me again and sure enough baby was very low and ready to be born. When she told me I could push I was overjoyed. Time to get this baby OUT.
Julie suggested I get on hands and knees and it felt like only 15 minutes later the head was crowning! Julie guided me with her calm instructions- “push, now just hold her there, now cough, hold her again, little push, head is out!”. She gently guided Orrian’s hands to deliver the body and our big baby girl slipped out. They handed her to me and I immediately adored this squishy, wet little being. Ruby Malia was here. She had so much hair! I felt victorious, but mostly relieved that those awful contractions were finally gone after 22 hours! For the next few hours I wondered why on earth anyone gives birth naturally. That’s the honest truth. But I wouldn’t change anything. I had the most perfect unmedicated, undisturbed birth, even in a hospital, surrounded by a team who never ever doubted that I could do it.