To be completely honest, it took me a while to sit down and write this post. Not only because having a newborn is extremely time-consuming, but also because the whole labor and delivery left me a little traumatized. It was nothing I expected and I think I simply needed time to be okay with how birth left my body, and to emotionally process the intensity of the experience.
It feels like just yesterday when his 9 pound 4 ounce body came into this world. All of the sleepless nights already seem to be drifting into a hazy memory, especially as I become more confident and experienced at this whole mama thing.
All I know is that I’m so incredibly proud to be this little boy’s mama. I love his deep blue eyes, his little coos, his long fingers, his sweet side smile that’s starting to show, and of course, how he so lovingly nestles into my arms like I’m his entire world.
The best part of this entire motherhood thing is that I will forever be his mama. The kind of love I feel is so unique and unexplainable — one that I’ve never experienced before. All I know is that I’ll love him until the end of time.
So without further ado, here is Sidney’s birth story.
Sidney’s due date was January 3rd, 2020. I always had a feeling he’d be later than anticipated but had no idea just how late he’d be. Our due date came and went. The wait was difficult and somewhat boring, knowing that it could happen at any moment, but also feeling incredibly uncomfortable in my body. I had everything ready to go for his arrival so I was basically left twiddling my thumbs with anticipation. Mamas, if you’ve ever gone past your due date, you know how this feels.
During the last few weeks, we had a few appointments scheduled including a non-stress test, which he successfully passed. At that point I tried just about everything to encourage natural labor too, so I had kinda given up and expected that he’d make his arrival when he was ready, which I was ultimately okay with.
The day before I hit 41 weeks, I decided to get my membranes swept to try and encourage labor. During the sweep, my midwife said I was only about 1 cm dilated and about 60% effaced. After the sweep, I did end up losing my mucus plug and experienced some very mild cramping, but that was about it.
On Saturday January 11th, I woke up at 3am with wet underwear. Initially, I thought that I must have peed a little because I had drank a ton of water the night before. Being that I was also 41 weeks 1 day (overdue!) I assumed that my bladder was feeling increased pressure. Basically I ignored it, changed my underwear and went back to bed. I was told by my doula that less than 10% of first time moms’ water would break as the first sign of labor, so I figured that there was no way it could actually be that my water had ruptured.
Flash forward to 9am on Saturday when I woke up AGAIN with wet underwear. I remember thinking that it was a bit weird, and then realizing that my underwear didn’t smell like pee, meaning that it could have actually been my water breaking. I ate breakfast and kind of brushed it off, then read a couple online pregnancy forums about water bags rupturing and decided to call my midwife just to be safe.
Our midwife suggested I come in to get it checked if my body didn’t naturally go into labor on its own by 3pm (12 hours after I first experienced leakage). She said that if it was indeed a ruptured water bag, that there would be a higher chance of infection and I’d have to be induced within 24 hours.
After experiencing some trickling of additional fluid down my legs I started to think that I could really be going to the hospital to have my baby boy soon.
Tony and I calmly got all of our things together, called our parents to give them a head’s up and debated back and forth whether or not it was really my water. After being nearly 10 days late, I figured that he was probably going to stay in there a few more days — basically in denial of what was really happening.
We arrived at the hospital at 3pm on Saturday where my midwife was able to swab me to see if there was an amniotic fluid in my vagina. Turns out there was, and she told me I’d need to be induced immediately.
I was a big ball of emotion as I had the expectation I’d be able to labor in the comfort of my own home and this felt like it was the opposite of what I truly desired for my first birth experience. I did not want to be induced in any shape or form, as I was set on his birth being completely on his terms. I felt he’d come when he was ready and that my body would naturally be able to do the thing it was made to do: give birth! That being said, I also knew that it was out of my control and that soon we’d meet our son. The feeling felt exhilarating.
When my midwife checked me around 4pm, she said that since I was still only 1 cm dilated and about 60% effaced that I’d first need a vaginal insert called cervidil to help thin out my cervix, and that the insert would need to stay in for 12 hours in order to properly work. Right then and there I knew we’d have a very long road ahead of us.
Unfortunately, I also needed continuous monitoring, which meant I had to be hooked up to machines to monitor the baby’s heart rate and my contractions because of the induction. Not only that but they also said my blood pressure and temperature would need to be taken every two hours to make sure I didn’t have an infection due to the water bag rupture.
We were taken to our own room and at 6pm my midwife inserted the cervidil and said it would need to come out at 6am. She suggested I get some sleep and try to rest. Tony brought me Potbelly for dinner (the TKY sandwich is my fav!) and we tried to sleep, but the shitty part about being hooked up to a machine was that I felt like I couldn’t relax at all.
A few hours into the cervidil I felt the contractions kick in. They were about 3-5 minutes apart lasting for 45 seconds and progressing. I had always wondered what the contractions would feel like, and the best way I can describe them is very strong period cramps.
Tony suggested bouncing on the birthing ball while he put a rice sock on my back, which felt amazing. At this point I felt excited about the process, was easily breathing through the contractions and was confident (like all the other midwives said) that I’d meet my baby boy on Sunday, January 12th. How wrong I was.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to sleep at all on the cervidil which meant I had already been up close to 24 hours. I think not being able to rest was likely a combination of the contractions, feeling uncomfortable in the hospital bed, being hooked up to machines, and the anticipation and excitement of finally having my baby.
I should probably note that throughout my entire pregnancy I knew I wanted a natural, unmedicated birth. We hired a doula and I mentally prepared during those 9 months for his birth. I grew out of the fear and stepped into confidence surrounding labor & birth. I truly felt ready.
What I wasn’t ready for was the Pitocin, which came after the cervidil. If you’re not familiar with Pitocin, it’s the synthetic hormone of Oxytocin that helps your uterus produce contractions. Unfortunately, it’s just not the same as your body naturally producing the hormone and can create incredibly strong, painful contractions. I had heard horror stories about Pitocin through some mama friends and online forums I was in, but didn’t think it would be THAT bad. BOY WAS I WRONG. So freakin’ wrong.
The cervidil was finally taken out at 6am on Sunday. We asked Tony’s sister to bring us coffee and bagels, and that would be the last ‘meal’ I would eat until Sidney was born. Soon after my midwife checked my cervix for the second time. I was 2cm dilated and 100% effaced, which meant I was now ready for the Pitocin. By 8am the Pitocin was being administered through an IV and about a half hour later my contractions started kicking in — right about 3 minutes apart and lasting 45 seconds. Immediately I could feel the difference in the contractions. Tony and I worked through them for two hours and as they continued to increase the Pitocin, I continued to feel the intensity grow. Soon the contractions were 2 minutes apart and a minute long. We practiced laboring on the ball, standing over the bed and pressing heat into my back with the rice sock. Tony called our doula as we felt like this could actually be a quicker labor than anticipated. The intensity of the contractions was incredibly painful as if I was already 6cm dilated.
I remember how good it felt to close my eyes and to breathe. How my body naturally wanted to be vocal to help release the incredible pain I was feeling. Little did I know that this was just the beginning. I had expected breaks and thought I’d be able to sleep for a few minutes between contractions (like all of my childbirth classes talked about!), but the Pitocin made it absolutely impossible. I felt like I was dying on the inside.
At around noon on Saturday, after 4 hours of nonstop, 2 minute apart, painful contractions without any breaks, my midwife said she wanted to check me. I was excited and anticipated being around a 5 or 6. After checking me, she told me that I was 3cm. That means I only gained 1cm after 4 freaking hours of the most painful contractions of my life. I felt defeated, and you could see it in my face. I started crying and feeling a little panicked because I really didn’t think I’d be able to do it. I started doing the math in my head and realized it would take me something like 40 more hours of labor before I had my baby; while I knew that scenario was highly unlikely, it still felt like I’d never, ever get there.
I knew that both Tony and my doula could sense the feeling of defeat kick in, but they encouraged me and suggested we move into the bath as warm water could help. The unfortunate part about getting in the tub was that we had to switch to a waterproof monitor and tape up my IV. Every 5 minutes or so the monitor would lose his heart rate, which meant that a nurse would have to adjust and touch me while I was in the bath screaming through contractions like a psycho. The last thing you want when you’re going through intense pain is for anyone to talk to you, let alone touch you.
My eyes were closed as both Tony and my doula poured warm water over my naked body, because at that point you don’t care who sees you. We played Mumford and Sons and piano music to help ease the tension, which gave me something to focus on.
To be honest it felt like I was blacking in and out through the pain, perhaps that’s what helped time go by a bit quicker. People would ask me questions and all I could respond with was an incoherent murmur of “I don’t know, I don’t know.” The pain felt like a knife was ripping through me and I literally remember thinking that I’d rather get hit with a semi-truck.
Soon I questioned what I was doing and why I was doing it. Was it my sense of pride? Should I get an epidural? What the hell was I thinking?
The fact was that this was my body, my story, my son and I wanted him to come into the world as naturally as possible. There were so many times when I screamed out in agony that I couldn’t do it, but my doula encouraged me by looking at me and saying, “you are doing this, you can do this!” That immediately perked me up and I repeated the same words to myself over and over again.
It had now been 30 hours since I last slept. Eventually, I lost all sense of time and everything seemed like a blur. At around 4pm the nurses made me get out of the shower because they could no longer find Sidney’s heart rate due to the monitors not working properly in the water. I could barely walk from the bathroom to the bed. I was in CONSTANT pain, worse than ever before. I remember standing next to the hospital bed bending over it and water pouring down my shaky legs (it was the rest of my water breaking). My vocals were deep and lasting at least a minute long, if not longer. Sometimes my contractions would merge into each other and the midwife came in asking if I was getting any breaks. I looked at her, almost looking through her, and shook my head no. I could tell in her face that she felt sorry for me. She looked sympathetic, but what I appreciated is that not once did she offer or suggest an epidural. She told me how strong I was, helped me relax my shoulders and made me feel confident.
Quite frankly I don’t know how I made it 6 more hours, but I did. Around 6pm on Saturday, my midwife offered to take me off of the Pitocin to see if my body could naturally continue to contract on its own, hoping that this would relieve some of the intensity I was experiencing. I was SO FREAKING excited to come off the Pitocin because that shit makes me feel like death.
My midwife also checked my cervix again and informed me that I was now 6cm dilated, which gave me a sense of hope that the end was in sight. I had always heard that getting from a 6 or 7 to a 10 usually takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, so I felt a huge sense of relief come over me. Little did I know that it would not be the case, but in the moment, I giddily looked at Tony and told him that we could do this. There was no turning back.
After about 2 hours off the Pitocin my contractions began to slow down, which meant my body wasn’t doing a job of producing contractions on its own. It was enough time to give me and my uterus a much-need break. However, it also meant I would have to go back on the Pitocin. At around 8pm on Saturday they began administering it again through an IV. I was exhausted.
Immediately the contractions kicked in like they never stopped. I could feel Sidney changing positions inside of me too, which caused me even more pain because he was getting lower and lower. I started to feel back pain and knew that I was experiencing back labor, which is the worst kind of pain you could possibly imagine. My doula suspected that Sidney was sunny-side up, meaning that he was in the incorrect position for birth and that his head was pressing against my spine. The best way to describe this is basically it feels like someone is breaking your spine in half, or stabbing you in the spine with a knife and twisting it.
Now this is truly where everything went to hell for me and I thought I was going to die. As I’m writing this, I want to note that it’s not my goal to scare anyone, but this was simply my experience. Birth is never like anything you imagine it to be.
I could barely walk. In fact, I couldn’t walk at all without at least two people helping me. My legs and feet were swollen like balloons. My eyes and face looked like someone just beat the shit out of me due to a lack of sleep and no food (wasn’t hungry). I was screaming in deep moans about my back pain. My legs began to shake uncontrollably. I had hot and cold flashes and thought I was going to throw up. I also didn’t know if I had to pee or poop. Or maybe both at the same time? Nothing was clear.
We tried laying on my side in the bed for a while with the peanut ball in between my legs, but I just couldn’t relax enough. My entire body was clenching and tightening and I knew that if I was going to make it I would have to get back into the shower. Thankfully one of the nurses managed to get the monitor working properly so that I could be in water again.
Tony and my doula sat in the small bathroom with me as hot water poured over my back. He also fed me sips of water and gummy bears between contractions. My doula encouraged me to put one leg on a ledge in the shower in hopes that Sidney would change positions and for my cervix to continue to open. The positions made the pain that much more intense, as if someone ripped my spine open and punched it with all their might, yet I knew I had to keep it together if I wanted to get this baby out.
My thought went from ‘KEEP IT TOGETHER MONIQUE, YOU CAN DO THIS. YOU ARE A FUCKING BADASS!’ to ‘I WOULD RATHER DIE’ or ‘GETTING HIT BY A TRUCK WOULD BE LESS PAINFUL THAN THIS!’
Just being honest here.
I also remember there being times where I glanced at Tony and saw him crying. I knew that he was scared, and I’m so impressed by what an amazing job he did keeping it together, staying confident and supportive through it all. What a fantastic partner in life I have. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate him.
Around 11pm and nearing 40 hours of no sleep, I got out of the shower and asked the midwife to check me as I was starting to feel some pressure below and the back pain was almost too much to bear. I needed it to be over.
When I heard that I was 8cm, I knew we still had some time ahead of us. Again, I was feeling defeated, desperate, out of it, and a little delusional. I didn’t want anyone talking to me. I just needed to get to the finish line so I could meet my boy.
My doula suggested sitting on the toilet with my legs wide to try and force the baby down. I did what she said as my hands and nails gripped into Tony’s shoulders and my legs shook uncontrollably from the intensity of the pain. I remember having several BRUTAL contractions there until I just couldn’t take it anymore and needed to change positions again.
Next we moved to the elevated hospital bed, where I kneeled over butt-ass naked and rested my head on the back of it. Tony was at the front of the bed holding my arms and my doula was massaging my lower back with some amazing scented oils. I went through approximately 30 more mind-altering, I-wish-I-was-dead contractions on the bed before I screamed, “OH MY GOD I CAN’T TAKE IT. I CAN’T DO THIS. I’M SO TIRED!”
Tony could see just how exhausted I was, and even though I knew I wouldn’t be getting an epidural, I just needed to pretend to quit for a moment.
Right then, my midwife suggested checking me again and I delusionally agreed.
Good news! I was 9.75cm dilated and almost there. She said that she could try and stretch my cervix and that hopefully I would be able to push him past. Immediately that gave me a second wind. I had trained for this. I was freakin’ ready for this. I WAS BORN TO DO THIS. I WAS ALMOST THERE!
By 1am on Monday, I was ready to (finally) push. At first we tried it on my back, then on my hands and knees. Unexpectedly, my back felt like it was easiest for pushing because it didn’t feel as intense.
Overall, pushing was interesting because you really don’t know where to push. I had never pushed anything out of my vagina before, so this was all a new experience. What I can say is that pushing was SUCH a relief compared to the pain of contractions; it was also completely exhausting. Every time I felt a contraction I pushed with everything I had 2-3 times in a row. I was told to hold my breath as I pushed, which was strange too. It basically felt like I was running a freakin’ marathon.
Eventually I got the hang of it and could begin to feel him bearing further and further down. Everyone was so encouraging, but about midway through pushing I could see the clock in the room and noticed it had already been an hour and a half — I felt like I wasn’t making any progress. How long was this going to go on for? Can’t I just meet him already?!
All of those questions were running through my mind and all of a sudden I WAS STARVING and felt like I’d never make it without some sort of food. Thankfully, Tony fed me honey nut cheerios and sips of water and juice in between pushes — it was exactly what I needed.
Another hour of pushing later, his head was finally crowning and I pushed him out, scooped him up and held my 9 pound 4 ounce BIG baby boy for the first time. He came out with his arm next to his head (ouch) so I did end up having an inner vaginal 2nd degree tear. To be honest, I couldn’t even feel the tearing or the stitches because I was so freaking happy to meet him, and also so proud of myself for doing what I did.
My experience has given me a whole new perspective in regard to women, pregnancy, labor, birth and motherhood. I cannot believe how much our bodies can endure.
Most of all, I feel like such a different person having gone through the experience I did. It made me appreciate my body more than I ever have before, and it gave me the family I always wanted.
A beautiful, perfect son with the sweetest blue eyes, long fingers and chubby toes. I’m so grateful to be his mama, forever. Sidney, you made it all worth it.
Thank you for reading Sidney’s birth story. xo.
Photos taken by Jasmine Nicole Photography.