I deeply considered not writing a public birth story. When I was trying to get pregnant with Lively, facing doctors who were giving me the small statistics of success, birth stories were hard for me to read. I was afraid I would never have one. I was afraid I would never be able to experience pregnancy, delivery, or motherhood. And worse, I was so incredibly afraid that I would grow to resent women who could. Resentment was my biggest fear, and I actively battled that for nearly a year. I unfollowed and unplugged from people and media that sparked that in me. So I sort of made a deal with myself; if I ever experienced birth- I wouldn’t write a story. I didn’t want to alienate women who didn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t have one.
Clearly, I did decide to write this story, but also made other promises to myself to omit details regarding my delivery. Not only was I able to get pregnant without medical intervention while having CF, but I also beat the odds of delivering preterm. I thought that sharing a positive or unmediated labor experience just seemed like bragging, and I had already been so fortunate. But, here I am writing all the details. Sharing everything that I remember about the day, hoping that other women struggling with chronic illness may find hope through my experience.
February 9th: My due date finally came. I couldn’t believe I was still pregnant. Brandon and I headed to my final OB appointment. I was 3.5cm dilated, 100% effaced, baby was sitting at zero station (like she had been for weeks). My doctor couldn’t believe my water was still intact. Baby looked good and I was finally feeling up to delivering- I finally shook off the negative experience with the hospital and I even felt a little excited for what was to come. The likelihood of inducing my labor grew- my doctors didn’t want me going past 41 weeks, and since I had been dilated and contracting for so long, it seemed like we would perhaps need a jumpstart to get things moving. We filled out a questionnaire to determine my Bishop Score. According to the test, I was an ideal candidate for induction. So, we left with instructions to call and schedule an “elective induction” on Monday if I hadn’t gone into labor naturally.
That entire weekend we spend walking, balancing on a yoga ball, resting and preparing to be parents. My contractions were consistently about 12 minutes apart- day and night.
Sunday night, we went to Brandon’s parents’ house for my sister-in-law’s birthday dinner. I was so uncomfortable, I think I was resting my head on the table for most of the night. I told Brandon that we needed to call on Monday to schedule. Of course, this stage of pregnancy isn’t comfortable for anyone- but for me, it felt like I couldn’t get enough air in my lungs. I would take big, loud breathes in my sleep due to the desperate need for more air. I normally rely heavily on my diaphragm to help take deep breaths, and that ability is (of course) hindered when there’s a baby pushing against it.
Monday morning came and we called the hospital to schedule for Thursday, the day my primary OB was on call, but to my dismay, I couldn’t get in for that day. So I inquired about other options but my nightmare came to life. The nurse explained that Dr. J, the one who wrote a letter stating that she wouldn’t help me (and nearly got me blacklisted from the hospital), was on call for each day I asked. In effort to avoid her, I asked them to contact me with any availability, as long as she was not there.
Minutes later I received a call from the hospital saying that I should come to the hospital right away to start the induction. My fear and hesitation of being induced disappeared as I sank into the realization that I would have my baby that day.
We got to the hospital around 11am. We parked our car in a far lot and walked into the birthing center. I felt good! Good enough to walk a good distance to the entrance, good enough to be chipper and friendly to the worker at the front desk, and good enough to laugh and joke around with Brandon.
At 11:30am, I was 4.5cm and baby was at -1 station. The doctor waited a half hour to check again to ensure that I wasn’t already progressing, but a half hour later my measurements remained the same. At this point I had been dilated past 3cm for over a week, with the baby’s head so low, my nerves fired non-stop from the pressure.
At 12:00pm I agreed to have her strip my membranes and at 1:00pm, to start on a Pitocin drip.
Things were certainly progressing, but my spirits remained high. Though everyone I encountered assured me that my active labor contractions would significantly differ from the contractions that I had been having, that was not my experience. The pain remained at the same level for almost my entire labor, so I felt very used to it.
At 4:30pm, my water broke. I was thrilled to have experienced that and without having them broken. It was an amazing feeling to feel the release of pressure with the water and then the almost immediate heaviness of the baby. I was so fascinated by the entire experience, it took me a little off guard when the next contraction was so much more intense than the one before.
I asked Brandon to assist me in the restroom- I had fluid all over my legs and couldn’t shake the feeling that I had to pee! The nurse said all of that way normal, and that I should climb into the bed, but I hadn’t been in the bed for more than several minutes at this point. I loved being about to walk around, bend and stretch. All my hesitation regarding pain medication was because I did not want to be confined to the bed. While in the restroom, my contractions began to come faster and stronger than before- there were fewer than 30 seconds between them and I couldn’t hold myself up. The nurse began to yell through the door that she needed to check on the baby. In all of the hustle, my NST monitor was knocked out of place and they couldn’t get a heartbeat on the monitor. I was finally able to race out of the restroom between contractions, and tried to get comfortable on a yoga ball with Brandon standing behind me while I gripped the linens on my bed for support. My body shook uncontrollably and I could tell it was making everyone in the room a little nervous. The nurse quickly called for the doctor who determined that I was progressing rapidly and decided to disconnect the Pitocin drip and bulos fluids through my IV to get it out of my system.
After that, my labor, once again, felt manageable. Things were going smoothly, but my oxygen levels, while stable, were a little low. I wanted to get through labor without oxygen more than I wanted to get through labor un-medicated. Requiring oxygen makes me uneasy, and I knew that I would be too filled with anxiety if it came to needing it. I decided to request an epidural to help manage my pain and oxygen levels.
The anesthesiologist came to my room and began the process at 6:00pm and by this time I was very uncomfortable. I was having trouble sitting still, but he worked with me and timed things between contractions. As soon as the epidural was placed, my doctor came in to examine my progress. I was at 10cm. Without knowing, I had gone through my entire labor un-medicated, and had finally received an epidural during the last of my transition phase. I was ready to push. But because my pain was relieved and my oxygen levels returned to within normal range, I was able to labor down for an hour and rest.
I felt so peaceful during this time. I asked Brandon to put on some worship music and tried to sleep, but I was too excited. He and I spent the time talking and praying and getting ready to meet out sweet girl. The time flew by and just before the hour was up I told the nurse I felt like I needed to push- I was lucky, and was able to feel through my epidural.
I began pushing at 7:25pm. It took me a few tries to figure out exactly how to push. The baby books and YouTube videos didn’t make me a master at the mechanics of it, but once I got it down, I made huge progress with each contraction. I requested to have a mirror placed at the end of my bed so that I could see what was happening (I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re queasy, or frightened by the sight of blood). I absolutely loved it. It was motivating to see how she emerged with each push. And it gave me a better idea of exactly what was happening. I laugh now, because I remember stating to the room “This is fun! I could do this all day!” and though it sounds funny, I truly meant it.
On Monday, February 12th, 2018, my baby was born. She came sweetly and gently into the world at 7:52pm. The cutest little 7lb, 3oz bundle. So squishy and ready to be loved. She was placed on my chest immediately after delivery and when she let out her first cry, I felt my heart melt. She could already hold her head up, and kinda-sorta crawled her way to my breast to eat immediately after birth (I’m not crazy, it’s not as uncommon as it sounds).
I actually enjoyed my labor. I talked, joked, laughed, and even ate, my way through it. There were definitely parts that were scarier than others, and there were, of course, parts that were more painful than others, but overall I loved my birth experience.
My sweet girl is almost one year old. Each day with her is sweeter than the last, but I’ll always keep this cold, dreary February day close to my heart. A day that reminds me of how blessed, how strong and how capable we both are.
We had chosen the name Lively early on in my pregnancy. During my hospital stay in Seattle, a nurse came in to perform a NST test and said “Hello, little lively girl!” I shot a glance at Brandon, thinking he surely spilled the beans to her, but he assured me that he hadn’t. That sealed the deal! She was Lively, and even strangers seemed to notice.
Our prayer for our sweet girl was that she would bring life and light into every room she walked into. We hoped for her, a spirit of laughter, whimsy, and energy. We loved the way she danced in my belly, how active she was at every ultrasound, and how she responded with movement when we played music.
With the potential health risk for me carrying a child, we also hoped that her birth would not only bring new life into this world, but that it would bring new life to me. We hoped that my health would not just maintain after her arrival but that it would actually get better. I wanted each breath that I took after she arrived to fuel my fight. I wanted to work harder than ever before to ensure that this little girl would know a strong and healthy Mama.