It’s a kind of love I never knew was possible. How could I though? I simply wasn’t capable. I wasn’t capable until Sophia was born about 8 weeks ago…
As expected, new parent life hasn’t been all peaches and cream, and those of you who are veteran parents are probably nodding your head now. But it’s been an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything else. You see, I expected a lot of the bad. But what I couldn’t anticipate was the love and affection that would emerge and how it would carry us through the long and late nights, the 5th diaper change in a row, and the pain associated with postpartum recovery and breastfeeding. Now, in typical Cubicle Chic fashion, I am here to share some DETAILS of what transpired 8 weeks ago. Also, I want to talk a little bit about why we decided to hire a doula and how that changed our labor and delivery experience for the better, especially when we compare stories with friends. If you are considering to hire a doula, read on!
Why We Decided To Hire A Doula
I knew pretty early in my pregnancy that I was going to hire a doula. I’ve had friends that gave birth with the help of a doula, I’ve also read many books (one of them being my favorite pregnancy book, Your Pregnancy Your Way) that recommend having a doula. My personal philosophy is that if you can pay to have an expert walk with you as you go through something new and difficult, why wouldn’t you? People hire personal trainers to get fit, life coaches to live better… doulas are essentially birth coaches and I definitely wanted a coach with me as I embark on the labor and delivery journey. I browsed on www.DoulaMatch.net for a good while and interviewed 4 doulas before I decided to work with Christal Quick (Radiant Heart Doula Services). We felt that Christal had the right mix of flexibility and confidence when it comes to the way a doula would add to a family’s birth experience. She has a very empathetic and understanding vibe about her but it was also clear that she’s an experienced expert, and would be able to provide unwavering advice in times of need. But all in all, I would summarize our reasons we hired a doula as follows:
- Pain Management: I wanted to labor naturally for as long as I could. This meant that I’d be dealing with contractions with no pain management for as long as I could. During our consultation, Christal talked about a variety of methods to help the laboring woman cope with the contraction pains. During labor, Christal would apply counter pressure to my pelvis whenever a contraction would take place. She also taught my husband how to do the same thing so they could alternate.
- Your Labor and Delivery Advocate: If I learned anything from all the pregnancy books I read, it’s that the birthing process is unpredictable. Every woman’s physiology, medical history, and pregnancy is different and therefore the best way to prepare for it is simply to be open minded. Throughout your hospital stay all the way until you are discharged, you and your partner may have to make medical decisions that will affect you or your baby. Having an experienced birthing coach by your side when you are speaking with medical professionals may give you a bit more peace of mind. For example, when I finally got to 9 and 3/4 centimeters dilated, the midwife on shift was very enthusiastically suggesting that I started pushing. She made the suggestion to us. Christal, as well as the nurse on shift, said we will think about it… then the midwife left the room. Both my nurse and Christal thought that it wasn’t time to push yet and that I should labor down until I was 10 centimeters dilated. The reason is that sometimes if you push while your cervix isn’t completely open, the baby could rip through part of the cervix that’s in the way (*shudders*). So, at their suggestion, I “labored down” until I was fully dilated, then I began pushing.
- Support For The Husband: This wasn’t something we had thought about previously, but turned out to be a critical role that Christal played. Labor is a long process, especially for first-time moms. But as hard as it was on for me, my husband was there every step of the way. In the beginning, before my real contractions set in, we were chit-chatting, watching shows on my laptop, just having a chill time (around the time this photo was taken). But as soon as contractions start and after Christal arrived, there was no rest for my husband… he and Christal were alternating to provide counter-pressure for me, and let me tell you… it’s a full-on arm and back workout! It was around 3 AM when I got my epidural, after which I quickly fell asleep. My poor husband stayed awake the whole time, because he’s a light sleeper and there were nurses/other medical professionals coming in and out of the room to check on me and also the hospital guest bed is CRAP. Thank goodness we had Christal that could come and stay with me while my husband could go out and get a cup of coffee and some food. One time when my husband was away (out of the hospital actually) getting food, I started vomiting. There was no one in the room but Christal, so if it wasn’t for her, I would’ve vomited all over myself!
OK, let’s rewind to the beginning of this labor and delivery journey… I was past 40 weeks pregnant and running out of my last bit of patience. Starting around 36-37 weeks, I was having regular Braxton Hicks contractions (aka “practice” contractions that entail tightening of the abdomen but no pain). I felt like my body had been priming itself for a long time. But baby Sophia apparently didn’t agree with that. I had my membrane swept at 40 weeks and 1 day to hopefully speed up the onset of labor… it was NOT a pleasant experience. Actually, I would describe it as pretty traumatizing even compared to giving birth because the membrane sweeping was done without anesthetics. I googled and googled and most people seem to have no problem with their membrane sweeping experience. But mine turned out pretty painful and traumatizing. And it didn’t trigger labor… On top of that, I was eating spicy food, doing squats, talking multiple walks outside, and taking castor oil. Nothing triggered real contractions. And all the while, my Braxton Hicks continued.
The day before my last OB appointment (40 weeks and 5 days), I had a few micro-gushes of fluids down there. I thought maybe it was my water breaking, but since I didn’t have any other symptoms associated with water breaking (continuous leak of fluid and/or the onset of real contractions), I didn’t think much. The next day in the Dr’s office, I was undressed from the waist down sitting on the exam bed/table when I realized my water definitely broke. Because after just a few minutes sitting on the little doggy pad, I had a puddle underneath me… a puddle of clear, odorless fluid like they describe amniotic fluid to be! And of course, my doctor confirmed it. It was Tuesday at 11:30 AM, and by 1 PM, I was settled into my labor and delivery room, where the most life-changing event in my life would take place.
What transpired next was a long and arduous 25 hours of labor. It started with me being induced with an oral dose of Cytotec. I was a bit over 1 centimeter dilated when I was checked in, and it took 3 doses of Cytotec, a dose of Pitocin, and 20 hours to finally get to 9 and 3/4 (I know… the platform to get to Hogwarts!) centimeters. It was a long process, to say the least, not to mention I vomited about 5 times during this time which I mistakenly thought was a reaction to the epidural I got. Upon confirming with the anesthesiologist, it turned out that it’s just part of the birthing process, and that some women just throw up, *insert palms up + shrugging emoji*. I spent the last hour of labor “laboring down”. In case you’re wondering what it means, here’s a good definition and explanation on why you should labor down. During my last vaginal check, the nurse confirmed I was 10 centimeters dilated, and that I was given the “go” to start pushing. Earlier that day, at around the 20th hour of my labor process, I was joking with the nurses saying “watch me push this baby out in 10 minutes” because I was so frustrated with the long labor. Well, I actually kind of did it! It took me 10 minutes of 2 or 3 pushes until the nurse was telling me to stop because the baby was crowning! I was told I am a phenomenal pusher. At this time, the nurse asked if I wanted to touch the baby’s head and I hesitantly said yes. And I reached down there and I felt the top of her head with lots of hair!! It was an incredible experience (also incredibly weird/gross feeling?!). The OB on shift was still tending to another patient when this was going on, so the nurse told me to stop a while and wait for the OB to come. The waiting took another 5 minutes… and finally, the OB arrived, scrubbed in, and 2 more pushes… Sophia was born!
The moment they pulled this purple, slimy, slightly alien-looking being out of me and placed her on my chest, I couldn’t help but break into years. I was sobbing. It was tears of shock, wonder, and joy and other inexplicable emotions. Shock because, honestly, it does not matter how many birth videos you watch, when it happens and you’re in the midst of it all, it’s a new experience in every way possible. Wonder because I was instantly in love, SO MUCH in love… I could never in a million years imagine the way I felt the moment I saw her. Joy because she seemed so perfect and so perfectly healthy; she came out with lots of hair, a loud cry, and clean/clear skin. We could not ask for a more perfect baby.
The hours that followed the birth of Sophia were a bit hazy in my memory. Not because I was drugged up, but because I was intoxicated with a sense of wonder. When I recall everything that happened, these memories all have a dream-like quality associated with them. Two or three hours after Sophia was born, we were moved into a recovery room where we spent the next 48 hours. It was a tough 48 hours with a lot of difficulties and not a lot of sleep. We fumbled through our first diaper changes, struggled with breastfeeding, fought extreme fatigue and all the while had some families that came over to visit. They always recommend new parents to decline visitation from friends and family during this time, but we could barely wait to show her off and share our excitement. During this stay, Sophia also was pre-emptively prescribed phototherapy for jaundice because her bilirubin level was borderline. She never crossed the threshold to be diagnosed as having jaundice so we were grateful. She was and continues to be a very cooperative, easy-going and mild-temper baby.
The New Chapter Of Our Lives
So, it’s been almost 2 months and she continues to wow us every day. She just started to smile at us when she sees us last week! To say that we are smitten in love would be an understatement. Now, in my next post, I will discuss some of the rather surprising details about my postpartum recovery… so stay tuned!