I can’t believe Naiya is turning three weeks old tonight. I feel like we’ve known her forever–except in the middle of the night when she cries uncontrollably for hours, can’t stop cluster feeding and fights going to sleep–but that’s another story. Good thing she’s so cute! I’m excited to share her birth story with you today. Get ready for a very long post and probably more photos than I’ve ever posted at one time but I can’t help myself!
On Wednesday August 30th at 8am, Phil and I checked into Cedars Sinai Hospital for an induction. According to my O.B., Naiya had dropped into birth position weeks prior but at 41-weeks pregnant (one week past our due date), she didn’t seem to be coming out on her own anytime soon. I had been in early labor for a few days by this point and had lost my mucus plug but no matter what I did (acupressure, reiki, spicy foods, long walks, even a “labor-inducing” salad!) labor did not progress from there on its own.
Once we checked into the hospital, a nurse escorted us to our room. Everything felt so surreal and my heart wouldn’t stop racing. After so many seemingly never ending months of pregnancy, knowing it would all be over today or tomorrow truly blew my mind.
First things first, I changed into my hospital gown and our nurse started to get the induction underway. I laid down in bed and had to give a ton of blood (we donated our cord blood), I got an IV inserted and from there, a midwife came in to get me hooked up to pitocin (the drug that would induce me into labor).
The midwife also inserted a foley bulb into my cervix, a catheter that expanded until I dilated to five centimeters (at which point, it would come out and labor would hopefully progress from there). Upon arriving at the hospital, I was already at least one centimeter dilated and 100% effaced so it was our doctor’s hope that it wouldn’t take much to get me into active labor.
Laboring In Motion
For the next eleven hours, I labored away in hopes that I would have a vaginal delivery. As contractions started to become more and more powerful, I noticed that standing up and moving around was extremely helpful in managing pain (and laying down was brutal!).
While I had planned on getting an epidural as soon as possible, I kept going without one throughout this time because I felt like I could. Truth be told, I was also terrified about what it would feel like to get the epidural itself so I kept putting it off until it felt like it was extremely necessary.
I ended up bouncing on my birth ball and stood at the foot of the bed to stretch and breathe in between contractions; I remember feeling so empowered.
I also learned early on that counter pressure was everything during contractions. I’d have Phil or our nurse push into my hips and back until each contraction was over and this helped big time.
Temporarily Losing Our Baby’s Heartbeat
A few hours into laboring, we noticed that Naiya was not tolerating pitocin very well. Whenever nurses would up my pitocin level to try and get contractions to move closer together, we would lose Naiya’s heartbeat. It was really scary so nurses decided to monitor me very closely and they treaded carefully. Somehow, I remained calm throughout all of this but looking back, I’m not sure how I did.
A Very Different Labor Than We Hoped For
Around the eleven hour mark, our midwife came in and broke my water to see if she could get labor moving faster towards the finish line.
From there, contractions went from painful yet manageable to completely insane and I immediately requested an epidural. This ended up being a quick and fairly easy procedure and once I had it in, I wished I had gotten it sooner. From then on, I was confined to my bed which I wasn’t happy about but I felt so much better now that I was numb from the waist down.
Next, a nurse came in to put in a catheter. I was so nervous for this part too–especially after the foley bulb–but thankfully since I was now numb, I didn’t feel anything. Around this time, we ended up losing Naiya’s heartbeat again and I also started shaking uncontrollably.
It turned out that I had developed an infection and a high fever. My normal, calm birth experience started to become a lot more intense. Nurses had me turn on my side to get Naiya stabilized (she wasn’t able to tolerate me being on my back) and from there, everything became sort of a blur.
Prepping For A C-Section
Our doctor arrived and let us know that since I was not dilating past seven centimeters on my own (and pitocin wasn’t agreeing with Naiya enough to stay on it until I reached the full ten centimeters), I would need to have a c-section. I was terrified but stayed as calm as possible because I knew this is what needed to be done in order to get Naiya out safely.
Our midwife wished us luck with a big hug and from there, I was prepped and wheeled into the OR. Once I got there, alarms started going off and tons of doctors and nurses started running into the room. I had no idea what was going on but apparently, we had lost Naiya’s heartbeat again and our OB needed to get Naiya out immediately. A sheet was thrown up in front of me so I wouldn’t be able to see the surgery, there was an iodine splash and from there, it seemed the whole room was racing against the clock to get Naiya out right away.
Phil was completely freaked out when nurses finally let him in the OR a few minutes later. He saw everything on the other side of the sheet–poor guy–and was shocked to see that all of the nurses and doctors running towards the OR were for me. Throughout the procedure, I felt a ton of pressure but thankfully, not too much pain.
I waited on pins and needles to hear Naiya cry and when I finally heard her, I breathed the biggest sigh of relief I think I ever have. From there, one of the doctors said: “he’s here, he’s here!” I turned to Phil to see if I had heard that right since of course we been expecting a girl! A few minutes later, the doctor yelled out that it was in fact a girl–phew (our nursery could stay as is!). There was also a slight mixup around the same time in which doctors thought I was giving birth to twins but that’s another story.
I was so sad that I didn’t get to meet Naiya for a long time after that because I was getting sewn up. From there, I was wheeled into a recovery room for a couple hours where I wasn’t able to hold Naiya either. We didn’t get to do skin-to-skin or have Phil cut the cord which were two things we had in our birth plan. However, when Phil told me Naiya was healthy and beautiful, I was just so thankful that she was safe and finally here.
Becoming A Mom:
I learned so much from our birth experience that I really do feel I came out of it a different person. Most importantly, I noticed that without question, I would already do anything for our daughter.
Prior to getting pregnant, I was quite possibly the most nervous patient ever. I could barely get my blood drawn without passing out. During labor, I faced so many of my medical fears head-on and I did it all for Naiya without blinking an eye. That was my first lesson in what it means to be a mother; the unconditional love I had for Naiya right away was like nothing I had ever felt in my life and I couldn’t wait to go to the ends of the earth for her.
I also learned that when it comes to labor, you can absolutely go into it with birth preferences but it’s important to know that a birth plan rarely unfolds exactly as you want it to. In the end, it’s most important to be open to pivoting whichever way you need to as quickly as possible because the true goal of the day is to have a healthy baby and healthy mom. It’s always okay to mourn the birth you couldn’t have (I know I have a bit) but in the end, every successful birth–with an epidural, without, a c-section or vaginal birth–is an absolute miracle.
It Takes A Village
Three weeks after Naiya’s birth, I’m still recovering from my emergency c-section and it’s still not pretty. That said, I feel very lucky that despite our crazy lack of sleep, I’m on cloud nine and am so in love with our daughter.
Phil and I also have so much love and admiration for all of our family members and friends who supported us so much throughout our pregnancy and birth journeys. So many people showered us with love, help and advice and we could not be more grateful. We can already tell it will take a village to raise Naiya and knowing that our village spans across the country and consists of such generous people will stick with us for years to come.
Photography: Katrina Jayne