If there is anything I learned from the past 9 months is that movies have it totally wrong when it comes to portraying pregnancy but especially birth. I gave birth on Friday, July 26th, one day before her due date, but my birth story started earlier that week on Monday, July 22nd. It’s been little over a week now and I wanted to document my journey of that excruciating yet exhilarating week before it completely escaped me.
Since finding out I was pregnant, I was dead-set on having a natural vaginal birth and for the past 274 days, that’s all I’ve been thinking and talking to other fellow moms about – will it hurt, will I be able to push, will I get to pull her out with my own hands and place her on my chest, but never did it occur to me that my birth plan would change at the last minute and that things would be completely out of my hands. In the same way, I thought a lot about THAT moment, when I go into labor – will it be like in the movies where my water breaks at work or in public and I have to rush to the hospital in an Uber or will she come after 10 minutes of me going into labor. These thoughts started to especially consume my mind the last couple of weeks of pregnancy to the point where I could barely sleep through the night.
On Saturday, July 20th: I entered week 39 and my last week of pregnancy and I was sure she was going to come on her due date. Below is a timeline of how the subsequent days transpired.
But it all started at week 36 when we found out baby V was breech. I underwent the painful ECV procedure where the doctor successfully turned her head down manually in less than a minute. ECV procedures have a very low success rate, so we were beyond happy that it worked out and that I would be able to proceed with a vaginal birth. Looking back on that moment, I wonder if she was trying to tell us something when she was breech.
Sunday, July 21st: We enjoyed a wonderful summer afternoon in our backyard grilling and hosting both of our families and took two long walks that evening.
Monday, July 22nd: Overnight, I woke up a few times to cramps and brownish discharge. I went back to sleep and woke up that morning to get ready for work and could barely even make it out of bed as I had shooting pain going down my left leg. Since I could barely make it from one room to another, there was no way I was going to be able to walk to the bus, so I worked from home that day. I waited for the pain to go away but since it only got worse I called the clinic and the nurse calmly said “sounds like you are in early labor”. Just hearing those words made me tear up from happiness but also panic. IT’S ACTUALLY HAPPENING! When Jason called to check in on me, I broke down crying. As the day went on, the shooting pain went away and so did the rest of the symptoms. I was a little sad but relieved that I will still have a few more days to wrap up some things at work and at home.
Tuesday, July 23rd: I woke up at 1am that morning to strong cramps and more discharge or bloody show. I tried to go back to sleep but the pain was too strong, so I started timing the contractions, which were between 5-7 minutes apart. As soon as the clinic opened, I called the “if you think you’re in labor” number and I was advised to go straight to the hospital to be examined. We grabbed all of our things, excited and overjoyed and made our way to the hospital thinking this was it! At our last check-in appointment the week before, my cervix was completely closed and after I was examined, the midwife told us that now I was 1.3cm dilated and 60% effaced. She sent us home to rest and labor in the comfort of our own home with the parting words of “we will most likely see you back here tonight”!
Wednesday, July 24th: We spent the rest of Tuesday unable to rest due to the pain, so we walked around, I sat on the bouncy ball, took a bath, tried everything to soothe the pain which only got worse as the day went on. By late Tuesday evening, my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart. Around 2am I called the midwife crying unable to tolerate the pain telling her I’m coming in. By 3am we were at the hospital, our eyes blood shot from lack of sleep. After being examined, we found out that I hadn’t dilated much more since Tuesday morning but I was 100% effaced. After seeing how tired I was, the midwife gave me medicine to relax and sent us back home. I slept maybe 15 minutes the rest of the night.
Thursday, July 25th: The agonizing pain of non-stop contractions and lack of sleep continued well into Thursday. We moved up my weekly check in appointment to 1pm and headed to the clinic thinking we were just going to be sent home again. After telling the midwife about how the week was going, she turned to me and said “this is the most unusual situation I’ve never seen”. She looked over at Jason who was just as exhausted as I was and said "you've got a good one here". She asked to check my cervix and her face changed as she asked if she could have permission to stretch it out with her fingers. Then she smiled telling us that now I was 5cm dilated! I started crying from happiness.. Apparently, I had scar tissue that was preventing my cervix from dilating the whole time which she was able to feel. "Do you have your things?" she asked and told us to head straight over to the hospital. She also measured the baby and guessed that she weighed 8-8.5 pounds. It was the best news ever for this tired mama. The midwife hugged us and we headed over to the hospital where we were admitted to one of the delivery rooms right away and everything seemed to be underway. My original birth plan of going medication free went out the window as soon as I walked in that room requesting an epidural STAT, so I can finally sleep after 4 restless days. Once the epidural was in, we started Pitocin to speed up my contractions and I thought we were well on our way, until….
Thursday, July 25th evening: The celebration was short lived. Soon after my water broke, we found out that the baby had pooped, which meant there was a chance that she would be born with meconium. I started to have elevated heart rate and they had to order in an EKG test to make sure I wasn’t having a heartache. Then, the baby started to get stressed from the Pitocin and the only position that didn’t make the baby stressed was me being upright which absolutely killed my back. Despite my numb legs I tried different positions like being on all fours but none of them worked. We also had other nurses come in and advise on different positions that worked for other moms that labored for hours, but to no avail. I broke down a few times through the night as more and more problems arose and the active stage of labor and pushing seemed to slip further and further away.
Friday, July 26th: By Friday morning, Jason and I were both exhausted and I knew I was out of options and out of energy. A new midwife arrived and seeing that I hadn’t dilated in 6 hours, her eyes said it all – a vaginal birth was not happening. It was time to throw in the towel and do what’s best for baby and me. After a brief moment of crying it out and coming to terms that things were now out of my control, everything started moving quickly and within the hour, I was being rolled down the hall into an OR for a C-section surgery, my body completely in shock and shaking uncontrollably. I had never before had a surgery and I was terrified. There were at least 20 people prepping me as Jason held my hand. Even the nurse who was there during our ECV procedure was in the room cheering me on and took all the below photos for us.
10-15 minutes into the surgery, I heard the “here she comes” shouts as the blue curtain dropped and a little human appeared against the see-through plastic curtain, screaming, her arms outstretched towards me. It was the moment I’ll never forget, as I finally let week’s worth of tears and emotions flow down my cheeks – our baby was finally here!
Our world forever changed at 11:01am on Friday, July 26, 2019.
Vesna Hadžić Stanek
Thursday, July 25th: After 4 days of non-stop labor, we were finally admitted to the hospital and were so happy knowing that we'd be meeting our girl soon!
Friday, July 26th: At 11:01am, our lives forever changed....
Saturday, July 27th: Baby V's original due date & our first photo as a family of three!