The path to motherhood for me began before the day of my birth, as soon as those lines turned blue.
As time went on, I soon realized what pregnancy had in store for me. I had hyperemesis gravidarum, which is where you’re throwing up constantly, day and night. I went from 134 lbs to 107 by the time summer ended. The first trimester was a wreck. No energy, barely eating. By the time school came back around, the constant need to throw up was thankfully subsiding. I managed to go to school, clutching to my bags of crackers and other bland foods without incident. I ended up finishing my senior year in two months. Being pregnant, a teenager and in school was a weird vibe for me and I got out of there with a diploma as fast as I could. The rest of pregnancy went smoothly. I stopped throwing up, I started to glow, my hair was thicker, I felt alllllll the feels. I did not have a single clue on what pregnancy or even childbirth was really even about. I navigated the health care system with no direction or guidance. I put on my big girl pants on, swallowed the anxiety I was having and and made my first ever doctor's appointment with an OB/GYN I knew nothing about, assigned to me by the state insurance I was approved for. Without a comparison, I thought what I went through was standard and even in my best interest. Show up, pee in a cup, take some vitals, get handed a paper that was very obviously printed from google explaining "what to expect" depending on how far along I was and repeat. On and on, with a little ultrasound or gestational diabetes test or other routine testing sprinkled in every once in a while. Nothing that even remotely made me feel like a human happened during my prenatal care, I was just another tab in the filing cabinet. Did I know I could switch providers? Nope. Underage with a stranger between my legs, not explaining a single thing on what was going on except the phrase "everything looks good!" is traumatic. Overall, 10/10 weird experience going through standard prenatal care especially as a teenager.
I was about 37 weeks when I experienced prodromal labor or "braxton-hicks contractions" (but, let's not call it by some dude who "discovered" that our bodies prep for labor before birth). Waking up one morning with slightly uncomfortable contractions that made my belly rock hard for about 30 seconds then release was frightening. I had no idea what was going on, no one explained to me this was normal, I asked Marco to stay home from work and off we went to the hospital at 8 a.m. believing I was in labor. I arrive to the labor & delivery triage, tell the nurse I'm having contractions and was whisked into this room divided by curtains, making tinier rooms containing a hospital bed. The nurse helps me slip on an electronic fetal monitor and uterine contraction monitor to track Sebastian's heart beat and my contractions for an hour. I never had another contraction. Discharged and feeling like an idiot, we head home. "At least we know lil bub's okay" Marco says, trying to cheer me up. But, that was the beginning of my self-doubt. If I can't trust myself to know when I'm in labor, how am I even going to do this when the time actually comes?
My 38 week appointment rolls around, the routine I come to be familiar with - nurse takes weight, blood pressure, urine cup, measure fundal height, uses doppler, then doctor walks in to "check in". As we're going over my chart, my doctor goes "I'm scheduling you for an induction on Monday. It's easier to schedule a birth, you take off work, everyone is ready for you. Must easier. Show up if you want, I don't care." Okay...I thought. Well, he is the expert here, right? Marco and I discuss having an induction, and it seems more appealing by the second. He gets to schedule time off work and my fear of "not knowing when" disappears.
Sunday night rolls around and I am freaking the fuck out. I'm about to have a baby, have no clue how inductions work, I'm suffering through constipation and panic attacks all night, barely settling to sleep at 2 a.m. My alarm goes off at 5, I have to be at the hospital at 6 a.m. With a last run through to see if i'm forgetting anything, Marco and I head to the hospital.
The anxiety I felt could cut the air in the room. My alarm goes off, I grab my hospital bag - change into another set of sweats and a t-shirt, brush my teeth, hair and off we went. The streets were freshly wet, the reflections from lit signs dancing in the moisture held in the asphalt. The world still damp from the rain clouds that had passed through as I had struggled to sleep.
As the ride to the hospital felt like the longest car ride in my life, so did the walk from the parking lot to the maternity unit. Everything was so bright when we walked through the front doors, I can remember thinking how much my eyes hurt transitioning from the bleak outside world that was barely waking up. My partner and I walked the halls, up an elevator and finally checked into labor & delivery. We were escorted to the room I would be giving birth in. I settled into the hospital bed after changing into a hospital gown. The nurse administered an IV to start a Pitocin drip, attached the fetal monitor bands on my belly by about 7:15 am. I was GBS+ as well, so I received antibiotics intravenously at 8 am. It was penicillin and it burned as it coarse through the veins in my arm. Before, this, I had asked to go to the bathroom. I wasn’t able to the night before and really wanted to try to curb the fear of pooping during labor. Using the restroom with a cannula in your hand, tubes from the IV stand next to you as you sit in the toilet, being 39 weeks along and a 4’11’’ stature and scared shitless that I am in the middle of having a baby, it was hard to relax enough to go as it was. The nurse banging on the door every few minutes telling me I needed to hurry up and get back on the monitors didn’t help any either. After about 15 minutes, I was back in bed and feeling annoyed.
My doctor walks in around this time, he’s wearing a soft moss green crew neck sweater and Gucci loafers, I shit you not. Checks in with me, tells me “how this is going to go”, stating he will return around 10 to break my waters, leave and will be back again when it is time to have my baby. I nod my head, the room clears and I go back to trying to relax. I don’t feel any strong contractions, some cramping but nothing too bad at this point. A few hour ago by and it’s finally 10:30, my OB comes in, puts on gloves, a coat and glasses. He then brings out a thick crochet-needle like hook, called an amniohook. I am told to open my legs and he inserts the hook and my waters rupture. It was a sudden rush of hot water pooling under me and any shifts in my body made more rush out. Within minutes, I started to feel the contractions. The doctor says his goodbyes and I’m now laying on the bed in slight pain. By 11 am, I am groaning and moaning through the waves. The nurse is taking my vitals and tells me “You’re being loud and this isn’t even the worst of it”. Immediately, I felt so embarrassed. Was I going to be one of those moms they talk about at the nurses’ station who annoyed them with their sounds of labor? I ask her if there is anything I can take since I want to avoid an epidural. She tells me she can give me some pain meds and that will take the edge off, I immediately agree. As soon as it hit the IV line, I was as high as a kite. I remember asking how this was okay to do when we’re told to stay away from such strong narcotics. I still felt pain but not as intensely and was able to sleep for about 45 minutes. Those minutes passed and I woke up screaming. The contractions were so intense and going from barely feeling them to feeling all of it felt like I was being stabbed. I didn’t want to get an epidural but I didn’t want to be screaming and being an annoyance to the whole delivery floor. So, I asked the nurse “what are my options?” She told me I could get two more doses of the pain medication or the epidural. I definitely wanted to avoid being drowsy any further especially if it didn’t last. I looked at Marco and he went “You can get the epidural if you want, it’s okay”. Next thing I know, the anesthesiologist strolls in the room with his caddy of utensils and tools. Definitely have to give this person credit as an anesthesiologist because as I leaned into Marco for comfort, there was only a slight pinching sensation.
I laid back down and within minutes, my legs were numb and I felt nothing when it came to the contractions. The feeling was so odd, seeing the monitors chart your contractions but you yourself feeling none of it. My legs were so, so heavy. Minutes pass, the room now is empty except for Marco sitting nearby. I start to sweat and feel as if a fever was coming on. My body, for what I could feel started to shake and I felt faint. Closing my eyes and tossing my head side to side, I remember thinking that I was going to die before I met my baby. Fear began to build but I managed to calm myself down. A bit after, the shakes and sweating and dizziness disappeared. It’s about noon around this time, some nurses come in and I’m checked—6cm.
The hours between 12-3 pm sped by, I was still in a state of delirium from the pain medication and effects of the epidural but I felt nothing. I was given another exam, 8 cm and time ticked by as the nurses waltzed in and out of the room. I was anxious, scared, happy, sad, excited—so many emotions were erupting all at once and I laid there, immobile other than my arms and some torso movement. The disconnect from my body made it feel like I was watching myself in this situation and not exactly participating in it. Around 2:50, a nurse comes in and says she was going to check my progression. She asked for Marco to help put my legs in stirrups- as soon as the nurse looked down, she gasped. I asked what was wrong and she went “Um, he’s right there!” Another nurse across the room goes “I’ll call the doctor. Put her legs down!”. My legs were up in stirrups for maybe a minute, Marco helps take my legs down and I’m told to keep my legs closed. Um, okay..I remember thinking.
It took my OB over 45 minutes to get to me. As he walked in, he was being handed gloves, a coat, a face shield. My legs are back in stirrups, he sits down and I am asked to push. I push. I see him grab a pair of scissors that disappeared between my legs. As he is cutting me, he goes “Can I cut you? Some moms get mad when I cut them and I don’t tell them”. At the time, I went “Yeah, of course!” believing that he knew what was best. But, now, after having two more births and not a single tear but constant scar tissue issues throughout the years since my episiotomy—I would have never consented to that procedure. Let me make this clear, what he did was not consent. You do not perform a procedure as you are asking for permission to do said procedure. I couldn't help but wonder how many others he violated with an action that is passive in his eyes, completely blind to the the trauma and possible future issues he is inflicting upon birthing people.
I am asked to push again, Sebastian’s head emerges with a nuchal cord (when the umbilical cord is wrapped around the neck). Marco tells me the doctor slips the cord over his head, I push once more. Out, Sebastian transcends into the light at 3:44 pm. He is wide-eyed and gripping onto his umbilical cord. Brought to my chest, Marco is then handed scissors to cut the cord. All I can manage to say is “It’s so gooey!?” referring to the vernix pasted on our baby’s skin and still very much out of it from the drugs previously pumped into me. The cord is severed and my son is immediately whisked away to be checked and weighed. I laid there, so happy hey so helpless. My son is in the corner of the room crying. The OB is tugging at my placenta as I lay there in a blissful state yet feeling consumed by an abyss. I’m distracted for a moment by the slosh sound of my placenta landing in a biohazard bag strategically placed between my legs before I’m stitched up. There is no mobility in my legs and I can’t get up to grab my child and soothe him. I then sit up and the catheter in my back is taken out. Lay back down and my baby is placed on my chest. The doctor goes “Congratulations! Now you can feed your baby. If you have any questions, let the nurses know” and off he went.
Feed my baby!? Um, how? I thought for a second, still not completely present. The buttons unsnap one by one as I pull the sleeve of my hospital gown. I cradle Sebastian and just kind of stick my nipple in his mouth. He starts to suck and I think yes! He latched! And unlatched and latched again, over and over for short bursts of time. Shortly after, we’re transferred to another room where we would stay for the next 36 hours. My legs left like cement as I was helped into a wheelchair. I held Sebastian in my arms as we are wheeled into our postpartum room. The next 36 hours were a blur.I had very little sleep, with someone coming in every hour, at all hours of the day and night. Marco had to go back to work and our first official day as parents, I spent alone trying to get to know our baby and the million things that becoming a mother had in store and dumped on me in such a short amount of time. By his 24 hour mark, I was informed that Sebastian had lost 11% of his bodyweight, that I was starving my child and I needed to immediately start formula supplementation. My mind started to race, my baby is starving? A nurse grabs him and starts to feed him a ready made bottle of formula. She shows me how to pace feed and I sit there feeling like I harmed my child the past 24 hours. A lactation consultant comes in and shows me how how to sandwich my breast and point my nipple towards baby's nose for a deeper latch. I breastfeed as much as possible but the support was barely there. everyone just wanted me to use formula. As all this commotion is dying down, my daytime postpartum nurse, Barbara is hands-down the reason why I was able to breastfeed Sebastian for 15 months. My milk came in at 4 days postpartum and after many latching issues and tears, we finally found our groove. She walks in as I am trying to nurse and she helps me with latching. As he is nursing, she asks me about Marco and where he was. I told her that he only had the day before off and was already back at work. She looked at me and said "A lot of young parents, the father isn't employed and kind of just sits right over there on the sofa the entire hospital stay. It says a lot that he would be back at work the day after his baby's born. You, yourself are doing such a wonderful job and I can see how this comes easily to you. Keep breastfeeding your baby, you're doing an amazing mama. You both are. I believe in you and your little family." If I had never met her, if the stars hadn't aligned that day and she wasn't my nurse, I don't know if I would have breastfed for so long, and exclusively at that. She gave me so much hope and confidence when everyone else instilled fear, worry and anxiety.
I had one nurse out of the entire induction and postpartum stay that was supportive. None of my nurses during delivery stayed for any bedside support outside of taking vitals and cervical exams. In contrast, a doula provides continuous labor support. You will never have to worry about someone caring and assisting you while you are in labor and in immediate postpartum regardless if you have an induction, cesarean or medicated birth.
The support you receive during your birth matters. It truly lays down a foundation that you will build on in the upcoming days, months and years after you bring your baby home. Being heard, supported and encouraged are basic guidelines when supporting a birthing person. Hire a doula, take a childbirth education class. Don't hesitate to reach out and set up a consultation with yours truly. Be informed, get empowered and never stay passive in anything, especially your birth.