Our Birth Story
Our sweet little Matilde Mei joined our family at 6:55 a.m. on Jan. 4, 2015, weighing 7 pounds, 15 ounces, and measuring in at 20.5 inches long.
I had a wonderful pregnancy. Aside from the initial morning sickness, everything was smooth sailing as far as how I felt through it all. The one concern we had was that my blood pressures were higher than normal; however, we were able to manage it by taking magnesium supplements, urine checks, and monitoring baby’s growth by seeing a perinatologist and having regular ultrasounds.
Just before Christmas, my blood pressures accelerated and we ended up in the hospital on Christmas eve for monitoring and lab work. Everything checked out perfect and my pressures came down, so we went home. At our next appointment, we talked with our midwife about next steps, which likely meant induction. This was something we wanted to avoid; however, we wanted to do what was best and safest for baby and me. We decided we would try to wait for spontaneous labor while monitoring my pressures and get as close to 39 weeks as possible.
After that, we tried all of the “labor” tricks — eating spicy food, taking walks, drinking herbal teas …
My next perinatology appointment was on Jan. 2 in the afternoon. We checked my amniotic fluids and I was at the low end, which led to the recommendation for induction. After leaving her office, we followed-up with my midwife and started planning for my arrival to the hospital later that evening. That was a lot to process in a short amount of time, not to mention that we needed to try to get as much rest as possible.
Our next stop was to grab a bite at a local Chinese restaurant nearby that serves juicy pork dumplings. Mmmm. We chowed down and got a couple of dinner meals to go for later, then went home to shower, pack, sleep, and prepare to meet our baby.
To the hospital we go
At 9 p.m., we walked across the street to the hospital (so convenient) and made our way to the L&D floor. We got all checked in and settled into the L&D suite. At about 10:30 p.m., my midwife came to start cervidil to help soften/ripen my cervix. This stays in for up to 12 hours. Sometimes it can start contractions, sometimes it does nothing. A few hours pass and I start to get the crazy shakes and shivers. My jaw was quivering, I was really hot (even though the room was in the 60s!), and I started getting really crampy. I didn’t know what was happening until we learned that these were side effects of the cervidil. I had a few minor contractions, but nothing that signaled to me that I was in active labor.
The next morning nothing had happened, so the cervidil was removed and the plan was to start pitocin, an artificial form of oxytocin. Before that, I took a quick shower and tried to get as much rest as I could as I wasn’t sure how quickly or slowly my labor would progress.
We started a low dose of pitocin at 1 p.m.. Every 30 minutes, the dose was increased by 2 units. It started out with nothing, then a few contractions. By 6 p.m., I had nearly reached the max dose of pit and that’s when the contractions became more frequent and more intense.
Part of my birth plan was to ambulate during labor and move around, trying different positions. I didn’t want to be on my back the entire time. We took a wonderful childbirth education class that taught us several different techniques and even did a labor rehearsal to practice each position. I can’t say enough about how being informed and educated helped me get through labor and meet my goal of delivering my baby without needing an epidural or other pain management.
It was a long night. We didn’t get much sleep since I was being monitored every 30 minutes. Basically we tried a new position to labor in about every 30 mins or so, or until I was uncomfortable and needed a change. I also visited the bathroom a million times since I was drinking so much water and being pumped full of fluids. That kind of sucked since I was hooked up to a bunch of stuff and the bathroom was super tiny. So every time I went, I had to unhook from all of the wires, grab the IV pole and jam it into the bathroom with me.
We had rented a birth pool to labor in for water relaxation at home, and luckily the hospital had one that I was able to use — and that my doula knew how to set up for me. My team was so amazing. It probably took about an hour to set that water pool up, not to mention they had to keep the temperature warm for me. Then I needed the wireless monitors for the baby, which required some troubleshooting, too. But they did it for me and I got in and it felt so good.
We pulled out the birthing ball and a peanut ball and used both of those for a while. I felt the urge to push early on, but I still had a cervix so I had to power through contractions and fight the urge to push. That was the most difficult part of the entire experience — not being able to push when my body was telling me to push. But with my doula and Brandon’s encouragement, I did the best I could.
That lasted several hours. I finally asked if I could start pushing. I still had cervix. But my midwife decided to try something to reduce the swelling and help melt it away: arnica pellets. It worked!! She told me to listen to my body and push when I was ready.
The final stretch
I started pushing, my doula* and Brandon each holding a foot and my hands under my thighs trying to pull while pushing. I fell asleep between contractions. Finally, my nurse pulled out a sheet from the closet and tied knots on both ends so we could play tug-o-war. That worked SO much better in terms of helping push. They told me afterwards that I almost pulled her onto the bed with me, and that there were two people tugging on the opposite end.
My midwife held a mirror up so I could see what was going on, and to see the progress I was making. I could only see her head of hair. SO MUCH HAIR. I kept pushing, and finally she started to crown…
Hold it there, Tiffany, don’t push. This will help stretch and prevent tearing.
Good thing I was a pro at fighting the urge to push at this point. Then she turned to our photographer, Sarah, and asked her, “Do you want to get a picture of the baby crowning? It really is beautiful.”
I wanted to laugh out loud. I almost intervened, but then realized, hey I asked for birth photography, and well, crowning is part of the birth process. Soooo there’s that. Looking at the photos now, I’m glad I have it. Such a beautiful & proud moment.
After a few more minutes, they told me to push, and out she came. They immediately placed her on my chest for skin-to-skin time. She wasn’t crying. (I had a dream that my baby was born and wasn’t crying so this was alarming to me.) She was blue. They sucked some mucus out of her, wiped her up.
Brandon started to rub her to get her to cry. Then he rubbed his scratchy beard on her skin and that’s when we heard her strong lungs sing for the first time.
Hello baby, welcome to the world.
We were a blubbery mess.
And then we were three
Part of our birth plan included having the mother-baby bonding time (skin-to-skin) for as long as possible. Matilde and I were together for nearly an hour before they took her to be weighed and measured — and Brandon stayed with her (in our room) the entire time.
After being awake for just about 36 hours straight, we were transferred to the postpartum unit where we settled into our new reality as a family of three. We didn’t have visitors right away and it was nice having some quiet time to ourselves to soak it all in and get some rest. After a brief nap, we FaceTimed our parents and introduced the newest member of our family.
The nurse came in later to take Matilde for her bath and exams. Brandon was able to go and give her her first bath! He took pictures to show me later, but insisted that I try to sleep. That night, we were visited by friends and I got to eat sushi for the first time in 10 months! Thank you, Tessa :)
Baby passed all of her newborn screening tests and our pediatrician gave us the OK to leave early, so we checked out less than 24 hours later and brought our beautiful baby home.
Looking back, Brandon and I found ourselves saying that it wasn’t the birth that we had planned, but given the circumstances, it was an amazing birth and experience. Our hearts are so full.
*I cannot say enough good things about having a doula present during our birth. I didn’t know what a doula was or what they did before getting pregnant, but I am so thankful that we decided to have one as part of our birth plan. We honestly could not have done it without the amazing support that she provided to me, Brandon, our midwives, and our nurses. They are worth every single penny. I will forever sing her praises.
Birth photos by Sarah Bridgeman, last photo by me!