Maternal Instinct: The Birth Story
Words & Images by Cecile Davis
Editor's Note: We will be regularly following Cecile's journey as she becomes a first time mom to see what her experience is like after miscarriage. You'll find her posts on our blog once a month.
On Wednesday, April 19th I was checked by my midwife and she reported that I was 2 centimeters dilated and 50% effaced. Naturally, I got super excited and assumed delivery was imminent. I was wrong. No bloody show, no broken water. My midwife wrote me a prescription for a tincture to help induce labor. It consisted of blue and black cohosh root, ginger, and Lobelia. Two days later and one empty tincture bottle... still nothing. At this point, I was more than ready to get this show on the road so we started doing all the things: walking, spicy food, more dates (I can’t even look at a date again for a long time), raspberry leaf tea, rolling around for hours on my yoga ball, and nipple stimulation via my breast pump. I was reluctant to start downing castor oil as I had not been advised by my midwife to do so...yet. On Saturday, my mucus plug finally came out and was about as gross as it sounds. I had to call my sister immediately and divulge all the gory details, knowing that my sister is the only person who could handle the grossness. Later that night around 11pm, my water broke. After speaking to the midwife on the phone, we decided to wait until the morning and see if contractions would start.
Sunday morning arrived and still no contractions. I tried castor oil and an enema (at the recommendation of the midwife) and still no contractions. Now I was getting a little nervous (and not feeling great after having spent a few hours on the bathroom floor). Broken water with no contractions meant that a ticking clock had started and every hour that passed without progress was one step away from my desired birth plan. So, I started the process of coming to terms with the reality that I was likely going to deliver in the hospital. We had 24 hours from the time my water broke to get the contractions going, if they didn’t, the risk of infection was too high to give birth in the birth center and I’d have to be induced at the hospital. The reason this made me nervous was that Pitocin-induced contractions are stronger than natural contractions and often they come quickly and without breaks in between. Pitocin is usually administered with an epidural, and I was still going to go without one so the prospect of increased pain with no rest was, to say the least, a little daunting.
24 hours passed and we packed our bags for the hospital. I was comforted by the fact that my midwife would still be delivering my baby and my mother was coming along to advocate on my behalf. In the car on the way to the hospital (we live about an hour away), we jokingly came up with a “safe word” if the pain became too much and I truly needed the epidural. I would share it with you here but it’s rated R so I better not. After checking in and getting into the hospital bed, it all started to become very real. I had come to peace with the loss of my birth plan, but I was starting to doubt if I was prepared for this. Relaxation was the name of the game, so I tried to keep things light and focused on staying super chill. Side note: turns out I had been having mild contractions on admission and just didn't know it. I have a very high pain tolerance (owing in no small amount to my former ballet career, any bun head out there knows what I’m talking about!) and these mild contractions buoyed my confidence that I could do this.
Throughout the night, I tried to rest as much as possible, but as the sensation increased it became harder and harder to try to sleep. I was also riding on a lot of excitement and adrenaline. By Monday morning the contractions had become quite intense. My midwife casually mentioned that she had ordered Stadol and an epidural just in case I needed them. I had read about Stadol (or the margarita mix as my friend Kate called it), a synthetic narcotic that basically makes you feel drunk without dulling the pain of labor like an epidural. I hadn't thought it was an option so late in labor, and very happy to hear it was! In hindsight I wish I hadn’t taken it, because oh man, it really worked. I was almost instantly high as a kite. My husband said I was saying the weirdest things, his favorite being “Was that last fart mine?” and “That contraction felt like Seinfeld.” I don't remember saying either of these things, but I do remember asking multiple times if they had administered it yet. Even though I slightly regret being high for the birth of my first child, it got me where I needed to be. Before I knew it, the contractions felt completely different than before and I had the almost uncontrollable urge to push.
My mom ran out to get the midwife and sure enough I was in transition. They all told me I only pushed for about 30 minutes, but let me tell you, it felt like a million years. I thought every push was going to be the one that got her out and finally she was. She didn't come screaming into this world, she was actually a kind of scary shade of blue. I remember my husband crying and being terrified about her color, I was less worried because I could feel her breathing and moving on my chest. The nurses rubbed her down and eventually we heard her voice for the first time. It was amazing. She came with a Liza Minnelli hair cut, ten tiny fingers and toes and her daddy’s scowl. So, even though things didn't go quite as planned, it was perfect nonetheless, because in the end our girl was healthy and above all… here.
Cecile is a photographer and filmmaker living on Maryland's rural Eastern Shore. She specializes in artistic and highly emotional wedding coverage. Her husband and two dogs welcomed their baby girl into this world on April 24th 2017!