In the weeks leading up to Frankie’s birth, I had so many mixed emotions. My previous two births with my daughters Eloise (5) and Amelia (2) were both induced, and each had its own set of complications.
With Eloise, I was induced at 39 weeks due to my gestational diabetes diagnosis. I was hoping to wait longer, as I knew first time babies typically deliver closer to 41 weeks, and I wanted to avoid interventions as much as possible (especially a C-section).
That being said, I also wanted to do what was best for the baby, and there’s a risk of going past 39 weeks with gestational diabetes that the placenta could deteriorate quickly, which can lead to other health complications and even stillbirth. So we scheduled the induction, and while labor was grueling (28 hours, including 2 hours of pushing) Eloise finally arrived, healthy and without any complications.
With Amelia, I wasn’t diagnosed with gestational diabetes, but my doctor didn’t want me going past 41 weeks because of my “advanced maternal age”, which was 36 at the time. So at 41 weeks I went into the hospital to be induced a second time.
This time the labor process was much quicker (about 12 hours) however when it came time to push we learned the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck, restricting her oxygen. I pushed her out with every ounce of strength I had, and combined with a vacuum seal my doctor used to position her correctly she was out with a few pushes and in the arms of the NICU nurses, blue and quiet.
They warmed and patted her and soon she began crying, and finally they placed her in my arms. From there we dealt with a few other health scares that kept her (and I by her side) in the NICU for the week (ranging from a prolonged low heart rate to low blood sugars to jaundice) but ever since then Amelia has been the healthiest and happiest little girl.
This blog post is a bit different from others, which are typically packed with delicious recipes and simple steps you can take to balance your hormones and feel your best. Instead it’s a very personal account of Frankie’s birth story, which I chose to share in the case ANY mamas out there might resonate with it or find it supportive in some small way.
Obviously every pregnancy and birth is incredibly unique, but after experiencing the previous two I was very much hoping to go into labor naturally my third (and decidedly final) time. I still had some concerns that inducing the baby before I was ready could result in more complications or interventions (ultimately a C-section) but once again wanted to do what was best for the baby.
After doing some research and discussing it further with my doula, doctor and husband, we decided to move forward with an induction (scheduled at 39 weeks and 2 days) which ultimately felt like the right choice, while both baby and my placenta were still healthy.
So on Wednesday, September 20th at 8 am my husband and I signed into the hospital, after some emotional goodbyes to our two little girls (who were at home with their auntie). I hadn’t really slept the night before, and was feeling everything from anxiety to dread to excitement, but I kept focusing on how I wanted to feel during this experience and what I wanted to cultivate, which was trust, presence and peace. More than anything I wanted a peaceful labor and to feel at ease with the decisions I made during and leading up to it.
I also wanted to let go of any fear, which I experienced quite a bit in the weeks leading up to Frankie’s birth, mainly due to an injury I sustained at 36 weeks where I strained my piriformis muscle, which connects your spine to your glutes and low back. I had attempted to go for a run, even though my back felt a bit tweaked, and ended up making it so much worse (lesson learned the hard way, listen to your body!) From 36 weeks on I was in so much pain I could barely walk (I literally limped around everywhere).
Every day I rested, stretched, used a thera gun, foam rolled and iced the area, but nothing seemed to be working. Not being able to really move the final weeks of pregnancy was incredibly difficult for me, physically but especially mentally, as exercise and movement is something that truly grounds me.
It was a mental exercise in letting go, and every day I had to trust the process and that I would heal, even though I had increasing anxiety about going into labor already enduring so much physical pain.
Eventually I saw a chiropractor who specialized in prenatal care and she performed the Webster technique on me, which involves applying pain-free pressure to the pelvic region, reducing soft tissue tension that may cause uterine torsion, allowing an ideal environment for the baby to grow and move.
Basically the baby was resting on my tailbone, which was aggravating my low back/glute pain, and the technique helped position the baby in a way that provided sciatic pain relief. After just three sessions my limp was gone and my pain had drastically improved. It also helped the baby get in a more ideal position for birth, helping my cervix to soften and dilate. Ultimately, this helped me feel more prepared and confident in my decision to move forward with the induction.
The last thing I’ll say before moving onto the labor story itself, is that my doula encouraged me to re-read my birth stories I had documented with both Eloise and Amelia. She reminded me I had already done this twice before and how strong and capable I was. So I took her advice, and I’m so glad I did.
It’s crazy how much we forget (perhaps mother nature does this on purpose so we don’t avoid giving birth again, lol) but reading back these stories I felt more empowered and confident than ever. My body was amazing, it knew what to do, and I began looking forward to the process and excitement around meeting my baby girl.
On September 20th at 8 am we checked into a room at the hospital and met our nurse, Yuko, who was truly wonderful (our favorite nurse yet). I changed into a gown, the doctor came in and we read through the birth plan we had created with our doula (who was on the way to the hospital).
The doctor checked my cervix and I was already 3 cm dilated and 80% effaced, with baby at -1 (meaning baby was sitting low and my cervix was soft, all good signs I was getting ready for labor).
We decided to start me on a low dose of Pitocin (a synthetic form of oxytocin that induces contractions) and to increase it slowly, checking to see how my body responded. By the time I got hooked up to the IV it was right around 10 am, and my doula arrived shortly thereafter.
Everyone in the room was laughing at me at first, because I was sitting on a blue bouncy birthing ball, working on my laptop. “Are you seriously working right now?” my husband asked me, but that’s truly how normal I felt at that point.
But slowly throughout the morning and afternoon the nurse ramped up my Pitocin and with it my contractions began getting more regular and intense. Even though I had already given birth twice, it’s crazy how much you forget about the process, until you’re in it again. I had either completely forgotten what contractions felt like, or they just felt different this time, more centered around my stomach, coming and going like a crescendo or a wave, building in intensity and then slowly releasing. With every hour my contractions got more intense, until I was at the point where I had to focus on my breath through each one.
My doula suggested I get in a warm bath, which helps with the pain, relaxing your muscles and softening the perineum, working to prevent tearing. I also knew I wanted an epidural soon, and once you do so it impairs your movement, so getting in the bath prior and eating a nourishing meal was my priority.
After sitting in the bath for almost an hour I was ready to get out as my contractions continued to build in intensity. I got back in my gown and the doctor came in to check my cervix, which was about 5-6 cm dilated at that point. We decided to move forward with the epidural, which would take another 30-45 minutes to administer.
It was perfect timing, because by the time the anesthesiologist arrived my contractions felt incredibly painful and I was ready for some relief. Afterwards, as the epidural slowly worked its magic I felt incredibly calm, relaxed and sleepy, and I lay on my side with a peanut shaped bouncy ball in between my legs to help get the baby into an optimal position.
At this point I was 7 cm dilated, but within the next 30 minutes things moved very quickly and the nurses helped position me onto all fours to help with the baby’s breathing, as her heart rate was dropping a bit lower than normal, and there was some concern with her descending so quickly that it was cutting off some of the oxygen with the umbilical cord.
This definitely brought up some fear and PTSD from Amelia’s birth, when the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck, cutting off circulation, but luckily this time the change in position was enough to relieve any pressure on Frankie’s umbilical cord and get her back to normal. The nurses then quickly called in my doctor, as I was showing all of the signs that birth was imminent.
Once the doctor did a cervix check she declared I was at 10 cm and it was time to start pushing. The nurses flipped me over again and along with my doctor and doula coached me through my pushing and breath. I pushed three times during each contraction with every ounce of strength I had, and on the fourth contraction I was told to stop and shorten my pushes/breaths like I was blowing out birthday candles (to help prevent tearing), and just like that, after 6 minutes of pushing, out came the baby.
She was immediately crying, pink, healthy and perfect, and they placed her right on my chest where she began lifting up her strong little head in search of her first meal. After a delay in cord clamping (which helps the baby absorb any extra nutrients from the umbilical cord) my husband cut the cord and little Frances “Frankie” Lou nursed and napped on my chest for the next hour.
I was crying and overcome with emotion, truly feeling so happy and at peace. After two incredibly challenging births, this one felt so beautiful, and I was over the moon that the baby was healthy.
She looked so beautiful and already had a full head of dark hair, and the connection for me was immediate. Eventually they weighed her at 6 lbs 6 oz (born on 6:06 pm, crazy!) and 19.8 inches long. After taking a bit of time to rest, they packed us up and wheeled us into the postpartum recovery ward, where things went from peaceful to anything but, in a matter of hours.
While things couldn’t have gone better with the labor and delivery, they decidedly took a turn later that night, when I awoke around 4 am and immediately knew something was off. I had to pee and got up to use the bathroom, only to find my lower half drenched in blood.
I walked slowly to the bathroom and emptied my bladder, as well as an 8 cm blood clot, which was such a bizarre feeling. I felt dizzy and nauseous and couldn’t stand up. Luckily a nurse had just arrived in my room and tapped on the bathroom door to let me know she was there with my pain meds, and I told her I was bleeding and didn’t feel well. The nurse came in, took one look at the clot I had passed, and from there a flurry of events ensued, as she helped me get back in bed and began calling in more nurses and my doctor.
My doctor was still at the hospital and came back in to check on me, applying pressure to my uterus (also known as a fundal check). She thought that my uterus was up too high and probably got pushed up due to a full bladder. She also mentioned that the uterus can get “lazy” with the third pregnancy in regards to contracting, and if it doesn’t contract strongly enough the blood vessels can bleed freely, leading to postpartum hemorrhaging. She didn’t seem too concerned, telling the nurses to continue to monitor the bleeding as she left.
During this time I continued to feel worse, with symptoms ranging from dizziness to pain to nausea and lethargy. I felt like I had to pee again and the nurses helped me walk to the bathroom. I sat on the toilet and released two more blood clots, equating to 1200 cc’s of blood.
Immediately the nurses called back in the doctor, as well as the entire ER team, who hooked me up to an IV with medicine (including Misoprostol, Methergine and fentanyl) to stop the bleeding and regulate the pain. I began shaking uncontrollably, my teeth were chattering nonstop and I felt like I had no control over my body, which is a side effect of the drugs.
I also felt extremely chilled, so they wrapped me up in warm blankets while they continued to call back in more specialists, who took my blood for lab work and did an ultrasound to make sure I wasn’t hemorrhaging for another reason (such as another blood clot or stuck piece of placenta).
Throughout all of this my husband sat in the room, watching and holding the baby, while I felt surprisingly calm (maybe because I was in shock?). I vividly remember becoming emotional at one point, tears springing to my eyes as I thought “This can’t be the last time I see my girls.” It was truly the first time in my life the thought had ever entered my mind that there was a chance I might not make it, and it was a powerful, perspective shifting experience to be sure.
Finally after over an hour most of the shaking subsided and the ER team started dwindling as the bleeding lessened. The doctors and nurses came to the conclusion that the hemorrhaging was due to the uterus not contracting enough, so they kept me on Methergine for another day, which forces the uterus to contract and reduce bleeding.
In total I lost over 20% of my blood volume, so the doctor prescribed me an iron supplement and as much rest as possible. After another 24 hours of monitoring the bleeding had almost entirely diminished and my uterus felt low and firm. I was discharged and could finally bring my baby home, as long as I kept a close eye on symptoms.
As I finish writing this now, exactly one week after giving birth to Frankie, I’m overcome with a variety of emotions. Truly, more than anything I just feel grateful.
While each birth experience has certainly had its share of ups and downs, I’ve come out of each one stronger and more grounded than ever. Labor, birth and having my baby girls has been the most humbling, empowering and perspective-shifting experience of my life.
It reminds me of how capable and powerful my mind and body are, and what really truly matters in my life (the health of my babies, loved ones and myself).
At the end of the day everything else is just an added bonus. I’m so honored to be able to write and share these stories, as they are ones I never want to forget, and I hope in sharing them other women feel in awe of their bodies and strength like I do right now.
I’m honored to support you on your journey to optimal hormone health + happiness. Thanks for being here babe.