An induction was not what I had in mind for this little girl and I was definitely in denial about the possibility of her coming early – so when I had my ultrasound on Friday morning and my midwife told me that she’d dropped to the 10th percentile and to come in at 5 PM I was a little shell shocked. I called Lucas to let him know – “so, we’re having a baby today” and then called my mom who had just driven back to New York the night before (whose response was, “no shit?” 😂). I ran some last minute errands – aka, I went to target – and went home to get things together. After sorting things out with my sister, letting Mathias’ therapist know I’d be leaving early, spending way too much time attempting to get together that pampers post (thank you all, by the way) and trying not to panic – it was already after 4 PM and we were on our way to the hospital.
I had a “plan” in my head about how things would go. I’d try to go for as natural as an induction as possible. But when I saw my midwife around 6 pm, she checked me and I was only 3 cm. She said she could try to break my water but it would not likely break since I wasn’t 5 cm yet. So we tried, and it didn’t break. And I felt really disappointed – because I had been induced with Liv and knew I had a long, likely painful, night ahead of me. We started a low dose of pitocin at 6:30 PM and tried to get settled in.
At 7:15 I stood up to go the bathroom and felt a trickle of water down my legs. I looked at Lucas and was like… did I just pee or did my water just break? I think my water just broke….yup, my water definitely broke. 😂🥴 my water has never broken “on its own” before and while my midwife didn’t actually pop the bag, she did irritate it enough to help move things along. I felt positive again and hoped that maybeeeee just maybe, things would start progressing quickly.
They didn’t, really. The thing with pitocin is that it makes contractions feel more painful than they should be. At 9 PM I decided I wanted to just get an epidural and hopefully, get some sleep. My midwife said I was between 4-5 cm and thought it was a good idea.
I have had different experiences with epidurals – Mathias’ was too dense, Blaise’s disconnected, Liv’s was just right.
They prepped me as I breathed through my contractions. The anesthesiologist numbed me and I braced myself for the pressure of the epidural needle. Instead of the usual pressure, I felt intense pain on the left side of my back. I told them something wasn’t right and that it really, really hurt. I tried gritting my teeth through it and my nurse put her foot down and told the anesthesiologist to take it out. He insisted it was placed right but went to get his boss. His boss said the same thing – it was right, but they’d move it – and as they placed the second needle the exact same thing happened. I thought to myself, if I managed to save my leg from cancer just to get paralyzed from an epidural I’m going to be so pissed ☠️ but, thankfully, the pain started to subside. I texted Lucas to come back into the room and almost immediately after I hit send my stomach dropped and my head started spinning. I told my nurse that I felt really nauseous – she told me my blood pressure had dropped really low. I vaguely remember Lucas’ face when he walked in, wondering what the hell had changed in the moments since I had texted him. My vision started going dark and I told them frantically that I was going to pass out. In that moment they placed an oxygen mask over my mouth and I fully panicked.
The last two times I had an oxygen mask on and had started to lose consciousness was when I had my sarcoma surgeries. Both times I woke up in severe, inescapable pain, hours and hours later, alone, groggy, unable to move. And my brain connected that to this situation and lost control of any sense. I was crying and hyperventilating and everyone in the room was telling me I had to calm down, that my heart rate and the baby’s heart rate had skyrocketed and they needed to get down ASAP. Once the blinding panic started to clear I was able to calm down enough to ask Lucas to come hold me, though – and I said I wished I could have a hug from Liv because she’s the best at calming me down.
Afterwards, exhausted, I fell asleep.
My nap lasted a grand total of 30 minutes. And for the next four hours, I spent my time alternating between watching Legally Blonde (twice), staring at the clock and bothering my nurse about if there was a way to make things move along faster. She helped me get in a few different spinning babies positions to try to encourage the baby to move down.
My midwife came in to check me around 2:45 and let me know that nothing had changed. I was still 5 cm dilated. We upped my pitocin again and they told me to try to get some rest.
I really felt defeated in that it was now 3 AM, I had been up since 6:30 on Friday with a 30 minute nap, and knew I still had to get through labor. I decided to hit the epidural button for more pain medication – which I hadn’t done yet – since it seemed like at this point I wouldn’t be delivering til after the sun came up. 15 minutes later or so I started to get more uncomfortable. By 3:30, I was at the point where I started to feel the pain come in heavy waves and told my nurse either I needed more pain medication or my midwife Anna needed to check me. Considering my slow progress up to this point, no one was in a rush to get Anna and the nurse called anesthesia to come give me a bolus to bring my pain levels down. Lucas had woken up from his restful nap at this point and had said to me, they don’t think things are moving this fast all of a sudden, right? I urged them to get Anna and she arrived at the same time as the anesthesiologist. She went to check me and said “don’t give her anything, I can see the head right here.” Lucas said at this point that Thea’s head was where Mathias’ was after I had already been pushing for hours. Anna looked at me and said DON’T. PUSH! As she ran to get her gloves and the tubes she needed to collect cord blood for genetic testing. As soon as she was dressed she told me I could take a small push if I wanted – and as I pushed Lucas looked at me and said, Faith, her head’s out, just take a breath and finish the push – and she was out!
Looking back two months later I can say it was my easiest birth, despite the intense panic episode sandwiched between calm moments. Physically, pushing out a 6 1/2 lb baby was much kinder on my body than any of my previous births and I was barely sore 48 hours after giving birth. At the time it felt like I spent so much time waiting and waiting … and I did. But the amount of time I spent in actual active labor was very short, maybe a total of 45 minutes. She was born at 4:05 AM, and an hour prior I was only halfway dilated. When I wrote this birth story out, a week after Thea was born, I was honestly still reeling from the shock of it all: the unexpected induction, the absurdity of giving birth during a pandemic, the panic attack, going home less than 48 hours from when I walked into the hospital to get induced and finally the adjustment that comes with adding a new baby to the family.
I didn’t mention earlier that for the first time in four births I listened to music while waiting for my baby to arrive. I’ve had songs attached to each of my pregnancies, but playing music in the delivery room was something I wanted to do from my first pregnancy but never did. Needing to calm down from my panic attack forced me to turn on music that would calm me.
There’s really two kinds of music that I enjoy listening to: music that pumps me up and music that calms me down. I tend towards power anthems and strong female vocalists; I think that this may be a reflection of my personality. But then there are softer, acoustic ballads that I tend to listen to on rainy days or on airplanes when I’m trying to fall asleep. It was just this second type of music that I ended up listening to, actually. I listened to the whole Roo Panes discography while I slept and after I awoke. I already had a sentimental attachment to Roo Panes because Lucas and I listened to Little Giant on our honeymoon quite often… but putting it in the context of waiting for the arrival of this baby made my connection to it more meaningful. More sacred, that a little over five years later I would be listening to the same music that played as I began a new life that would be wilder than I ever imagined…
Someone recently asked me how many kids I want to have and I said I don’t really know. If I’m being honest, I’m the oldest of seven and I’ve always felt that seven is a perfect number. (I mean biblically speaking it is, right.) But the fact is that every time I have a new baby I am overwhelmed … yes, overwhelmed because adding a new person and responsibility is a lot, but especially overwhelmed with love and gratitude.
2020 has been a historical year for the world…but if I’m being honest, the previous 5 years were all more world shattering for me. And I spent 3 months not being able to walk last fall… I had already experienced quarantine but on a much more physically painful level.
I bring this up because Thea was not in my 2020 plan. But good Lord … I am so damn happy that she’s here. I am so grateful that she was entrusted to me. I am so grateful that after cancer I was able to have a baby (and so easily). I am so grateful to have such an amazing partner in all of this. Lucas won’t ever read this, (he doesn’t even have the patience for captions) but I am so grateful for him.
In the end, Thea’s birth fits her. Unplanned, full of surprises, but in the chaos … peaceful, at times. And while I think I’ll always have an “ideal” birth plan, the way she made her way into the world was just fine.