Ok, so I am actually currently sitting in Denver which is hOMe #3 of this tour. Well really #4 because California was comprised of both LA and San Francisco. But for the sake of this blog I am clumping together, that's right clumping, LA and San Francisco. The reason being that while I could talk about each city individually, who I saw, what I ate, where I went etc. the only real experience worth talking about in either of them is the experience of having my daughter and becoming a mom. I know, there are already a ton of bloggers out there talking about "mommydom" and "babyhood". I have probably read at least 75% of their blogs. Well the truth is...I don't care...here's one more.
I have titled this post "Letting go of expectations" because that word, expectation, popped up a lot for me while in sunny California. Actually it popped up the minute I became a person who was "expecting" and proceeded to follow me around for 9 plus months. I now, sitting on the other side of things, find it comical how much we use that word in conjunction with something that is so unpredictable. There is even a book that you can read to make sure that you have all of your expectations in proper order, while expecting. I certainly had all of mine tied up in a perfect little bow. In fact, my expectations began long before I was actually pregnant. I very much had a clear idea of how I was going to bring my babies into this world and not only was I sure of this myself, but I made sure to let everyone know exactly what my expectations for the "right" way to birth were. I look back on when my amazing sister-in-law had her babies and how probably hearing me speak of my very set in stone expectations for when it was finally my turn must have given her a pretty good chuckle on the inside. What I now know is that birth and babies, they take all of your expectations and stomp right all over them and kick them to the curb. This is, of course, something you only learn after you've had the actual experience, but I did my very best to completely and totally convince myself that I was the exception. I knew everything, I was so certain that the picture in my head was going to play out exactly how I saw it happening and that I was in complete control. Doctors and drugs, be damned. I was going to be the most fierce mama who ever birthed a baby and I was going to do it according to my pretty little, tied up in a bow set of expectations. California however, held other plans.
It began the day after we arrived in Los Angeles. The hubs had a rehearsal to attend so our dear friend, Ped, kindly drove me to my doctors appointment that afternoon. It was to be no big deal, just a regular pre-natal checkup I told him. Probably be a total of 30-40 minutes tops. Well, in the first five minutes, they took my blood pressure and it read high. Not crazy high, but high enough that I needed to be sent over to the hospital for more testing. So off I went, Ped graciously driving me over. Let me just take this moment to say that we have the most amazing friends in general, but on this day Ped was the most super amazing friend anyone could ever ask for! You see, what I thought was going to be a brief in and our appointment ended up being a 7 hour ordeal and while Justin was stuck all the way across town (if you know LA you know how far that is with traffic), Ped stood in bringing me food, a phone charger, laughter and kindness. Anyways, the verdict ended up being a diagnosis of gestational hypertension. The baby looked great, but my blood pressure was all over the map and their concern was that eventually I could develop pre-ecclampsia. I had one other reading back in my 24th week that was also high, so it was enough for a diagnosis. This meant that I would now be delivering my baby in LA, not San Francisco as we had planned, sometime around my 37th week and via induction. BOOM! expectation #1 properly stomped upon. I had wanted the most completely natural birth possible, without any medical intervention whatsoever and this was pretty much the complete opposite. Originally our plan was to have this baby at home, with a midwife, however upon Justin booking the tour, our plans had to change based on insurance, yada yada. I suppose that should have been my first clue that things were going to go their own way, but hey, we don't always get things on the first go around.
The first 24 hours upon hearing this news, I cried. A lot. Then I rallied, and said, ok, I will have this baby in LA. Hubs and I actually really loved UCLA from the start so this pill was not so difficult to swallow. I mean they had a harpist playing in the lobby so how bad can that be? Plus every doctor and nurse that we encountered were pretty great. Huh, maybe not all doctors are the pill pushing demons I had convinced myself they were. I also began to make peace with the idea of induction by coming up with a plan to A. push it off as long as possible and B. try every method to naturally induce labor that there was in the meantime. I mean every. single. one. Ok, except castor oil, I didn't go there. But I did go to a restaurant that supposedly had a special labor induction salad. I spoke to the owner, she said it works for quite a bit of women who come in. As for me, I had an evening of some serious gas, that maybe in someone who was further along would have brought on labor. Instead, I had a few hours of false hope and some entertainment for my husband who thinks farts are hilarious. Fact: they are.
So my plan was in place, I was drinking my raspberry leaf tea, taking my evening primrose (using both modes of transportation), having sex, bouncing on my birthing ball, getting acupressure massages (with Madonna's doula no less), walking the hills of LA and perhaps my favorite, driving back and forth on Mullholland Drive with my Mom, laughing hysterically and thinking the thrill of it all could help coax my little one out. I also successfully convinced my doctor to wait on the induction until 39 weeks. She agreed since all of my non stress tests that I was getting twice a week were going so well, but that she absolutely could not let me go beyond 39. You see, expectation #2 was that my first act of being a good mom was to not facilitate my daughter's birthdate, but to try and let her pick it on her own. I somehow had it in my head that I would be failing her and her start into this world by "manufacturing" her entrance, that choosing a day to just walk into the hospital wasn't "organic enough". I remember explaining this, through tears, one day at the Santa Monica pier to Justin and my mom. It was also the first time I started to recognize how attached I was to my expectations when they both said to me there was no "right" here. Although I wasn't fully ready to embrace that thought, a part of it stuck with me and that perfectly wrapped bow tied around my expectations began to come just a bit loose. Needless to say, none of these methods worked and in we walked to UCLA on Monday July 6th to begin the induction process. We chose that day, because, well it was Justin's day off.
The second part of my plan was that although I was to be induced, I was still going to go as drug free as humanly possible. I was going to delay the Pitocin, in severe hopes that any of the initial induction techniques would work. There I go again, setting myself up! I was certain that my body was so smart and so in tune with itself that all it would need is just a little nudge and presto, the labor would begin and baby would be born. Instead this is how it went:
Monday - cooks balloon inserted sometime in the afternoon, stays in for full 12 hours.
Tuesday - bottom balloon gets deflated at some point that morning, balloon falls out a few hours later, but still no change. Cervadil is inserted and we go another full 12 hours.
Wednesday - sometime either late Tuesday or early hours of Wednesday, I do a second 12 hours of cervadil. I am almost fully effaced, by my cervix is not really budging. Wednesday afternoon a Foley balloon is inserted along with Myso and I go from 0 to 3cm in under 45 minutes.
Now this is the part where the expectation bow just completely unravels. Going through that transition was the most intense pain I have ever experienced. Yes, I know, this is what labor is supposed to be like. It hurts like hell. It was also when I discovered that I was having severe back labor and that I wasn't getting the breaks that you get between contractions that help you to breathe. I was also exhausted as this was day 3 and the thought of still having to go another 7cm was inconceivable. The doctor told me that we could, and in fact had to begin Pitocin now. I had a choice, hold tight to my expectations that were created by me, in the past without knowing my current circumstance or take a breath, be present in the moment and ask myself "what is it that you need right HERE, right NOW?" I closed my eyes, I needed rest, I needed a break, I needed to be able to breathe, I needed to cut myself some slack. I nodded and said ok to the Pitocin and give me the epidural. That neat and tidy bow was now just a messy ball of fabric lying on the floor in the corner of that hospital room. My last bit of expectation for how I was going to birth this baby was properly kicked to the curb and you know...it felt great. All of a sudden I was present, I was being real with myself, my husband and my mom. My daughter was coming into this world soon and I was going to be there to witness it, to experience it and to birth her all the same. All of a sudden I was giving myself the permission to enjoy the process of it all rather than reaching for what I thought was the prize of being able to brag about being that fierce mama who did it all without help. In truth, I was fierce and became even more fierce for admitting that in that moment, I needed the help.
It was still a long process that lie ahead of me. I labored the rest of that day Wednesday and all day Thursday. My water broke sometime early Thursday morning and I was slowly dialating. At one point I was stuck at 9cm for quite a while. This was the moment where I contemplated just cutting her out of me. Again I breathed, assured by the doctors I could do this and continued on. I made it to 10 and then, came the pushing. Oh the pushing. I LOVED the pushing. I even made it clear to the entire room how much I loved it by saying aloud "this is awesome" after many of them. Finally I was feeling the power of my body and I was in control of something. It's funny how the universe works. When you try so very hard to be in control it tends to steer things in the opposite direction. But when you finally give in to the present and let go, you find that power and that control so effortlessly exists if you just BE right where you are. It took 3 hours. It felt like 3 minutes.
Now just to make sure that I had really let go of all expectation, my beautiful daughter, Audrey Claire, came out in a way that defied all of how we ever envinsioned things going down. She was limp with the chord around her neck. I didn't hear any crying but instead just this tiny choking sound and all of the bells and whistles of the alarms going off as every single doctor and nurse came rushing in. She was "stunned" they told me and was taken to the NICU for further tests and observation. They had to test her brainwaves to see if there was any damage and her lungs to see if they were filled with fluid. It was the most terrifying few hours of my life. The thing is, in moments like these, things like skin to skin contact and delayed chord clamping become the most tiny and insignificant details. I know they are important and hold value, but when life comes into question all of a sudden you just don't care. You just want your baby, that perfect little person that you felt inside of you for the past 9 months to be ok. To be alive and be able to have a quality of life that will bring her happiness.
Thankfully, she was completely ok. She spent the next two days in the NICU, just to be safe, but every nurse that took care of her said how "normal" she was. Normal. There's a word riddled with expectation. We were both discharged on Sunday and on that Tuesday we packed up the car and drove from LA to San Francisco where we would spend the next 5 weeks of our lives getting to know this new little being. There was not a whole lot that went on for us in San Fran besides two wonderful visits from my in laws and previously mentioned sister in law. We didn't see a whole lot of the city, but it didn't matter because we were wrapped up in our new world of becoming parents to this beautiful, silly, precious baby girl. We were learning all over again and again what it means to be present, because if a baby teaches you nothing, it's that. They are so constantly changing and growing that to try and predict or expect anything is just foolish.
There are two main things that I take away from this experience. #1 Expectations be damned. One of my husbands favorite movies is Dead Poets Society and in it Robin Williams says "Just when you think you know something, you have to look at it in another way. Even thought it may seem silly or wrong, you must try". We can try and try and try to know what to expect when expecting anything in our lives and yet we will never really know anything about anything until we are in the actual moment. #2 is that there is just no "right" way to birth. There are so many opinions out there and so much information about all of the different ways to bring our children into the world. A lot of it is completely valid on all sides. I still believe that home births can be amazing and one could absolutely birth her child with zero intervention. I know many of my friends that have done it and they are fierce mamas. I also know that having your baby in a hospital, hooked up to an IV, or on an operating table can be a completely beautiful experience as well. These mamas are equally fierce. We women who choose to bring life first into and then out of our bodies are warriors no matter how we go about doing it. I recently made the point to someone that growing a child is as "organic" as it gets. How we go about harvesting is just semantics. In the end, you have your baby. Someone to love and love you back, someone to teach and who undoubtedly teaches you right back. Someone to remind you on a daily basis, to just let go and BE HERE NOW.
is a Mama, Wife, Yoga and Meditation Teacher, Coach, Writer and Activist. You can read more about her here.