There were no Christmas lights at Ari’s birth. There was no tub, no mermaid shirt. Instead there was an operating room, made warmer by the presence of my OBGYN, Dr. Brad Bootstaylor who never left my side.
He understood how big a shift it was to go from planning for and desiring an unmedicated water birth to gradually seeing everything fall away.
I got admitted straight from my scheduled OB appointment after an ultrasound where baby showed no signs of movement or breathing. He had fluid but not an ideal amount . He moved with some nudging but was not his usual active self. He was trying to tell us he was ready to be born.
On admission to Atlanta Medical Center, thankfully Ari showed some signs of movement on the monitor. There were also signs that confirmed why we needed be where we were.
Thankfully Dr. Bootstaylor was reassured enough to watch rather that resorting immediately to a c-section. He allowed me to eat. I was thankful for the opportunity to nourish and hydrate myself and baby. Overnight I tried to focus on my breath, gratitude and remain in a place of peace.
On my way to my appointment, mild contractions started. I didn’t think too much of them until the sonographer brought them to my attention. Those contractions intensified overnight. Ellen, one of my midwives, observed that I looked ready to have my baby. I sensed that Ari was ready to be born as well.
Overnight severe thunderstorms passed through the area. I speculated that Ari wanted to make sure that both he and his parents were in a safe place ahead of active labor. Our home was close to an hour away from AMC on a good day.
Around 4:30am I felt a warm gush. I suspected that my water had broken. I called my husband who I had sent home for rest. I told him that he may need to make his way back. With the next gush I informed my nurse. When I looked at my underwear I noticed a greenish-brown color. There was thick meconium. The nurse said what I already knew - there would be no water birth.
At that point I became a full admission rather than under observation. I tried to rest as much as I could between increasing contractions and needing to empty my bladder. I was aggressively hydrating myself to try to avoid IV fluids. On admission I had allowed the nurse to place a heplock in case of emergency.
Later that morning Lynn, my other midwife, came to see me. She allowed me to ambulate, which I was immensely grateful for. It was getting harder to manage the contractions confined to the bed. My husband and I immediately made use of the soca soundtrack from my sister and started dancing and squatting in the hospital room. We also did laps of the labor unit. Throughout all of this I was in close communication with my doula, Tomecas who planned to join us later in the afternoon once labor progressed.
Unfortunately this reprieve didn’t last. Dips in the baby’s heart rate concerned my nurse and I was back in the bed on continuous monitoring. Thankfully by this time we had been moved to a room with a view of the Atlanta skyline. I arranged my sage spray, my son’s crystal and a figurine from a midwife colleague near the window in preparation from the next phase of labor.
The decelerations on the monitor began to worsen. It was beginning to look like our baby was getting stressed. I had been trying not to focus on the monitoring but I knew where things were headed. When Lynn returned to the room she recommended a cervical exam. My cervix was 1 long and off to the side. Not good news. Lynn was willing to give me more time but I knew that it was unlikely accomplish anything. My son was ready to be born. His head position made a vaginal delivery unlikely even though by now I had been experiencing intense contractions for several hours. When Dr. Bootstaylor showed up in the room, I consented for a C-section.
From there everything progressed quickly. I tried to remain positive and grateful since despite the route of delivery, that was the energy I wanted when I welcomed my son earth-side.
My scoliosis which typically only concerned my chiropractor gave the anesthetist a slight challenge that was overcome on the second try. The feeling of numbness and being medicated was surreal. I don’t even take Tylenol so the best way to describe how I felt was high, as my doula would later confirm. Amidst that I was lucid enough to speak to medical related issues during the case.
Dr. Bootstaylor was kind enough to position a mirror so that we could see our son being born. I’ll never forget the sight of the most beautiful baby boy with a thick head of jet black hair being held over the curtain for us to see. Our son was here and he was whole.
In recovery, I called my doula in what was one of the most amusing calls that she had ever received since I was obviously high as a kite. I possibly told her that I loved her. I called my mom on WhatsApp and I called my chiropractor. He was gracious enough to adjust baby and to perform a cervical adjustment on mommy and daddy. Somehow that returned some normalcy to what had become a very medicalized adventure.
I was blessed to have an unusually quick recovery and required minimal pain medication. Ari was able to nurse. We had visits from my husband’s family which I appreciated more once I was out of the medicated haze of that first night. Our photographer came to do Fresh 48 shots which I’m thankful for since it’s easy to loose track of details when there is so much to process.
There were so many little things that having a C-section changed. There would be no mother-baby herbal bath for at least 6 weeks. I couldn’t use my Boppy wrap since it would put pressure on my incision. I had no use for my sitz baths or pericare spray. My last minute purchase of a bamboo based belly band came in handy once I was able to fit into it. It was more comfortable for me and baby than the hospital one. I also now had a excuse to purchase a ring sling.
Thanks to the preparation from my doula, I am embracing the reality of my surgical birth. It may take me a while to publicly share my birth story and I may fight back tears as I do so, but that’s ok. I have no regrets about my birth. Things happened the way they needed to for us to welcome Ari earth-side. At every step of the way during my pregnancy and birth I was well supported, respected and had my choices honored by those I partnered with for my care.
The biggest hero of this story is my husband Keith who has supported me and stood by me in the most beautiful way. I couldn’t imagine navigating this journey without him.
Thanks to See Baby, led by Dr Bootstaylor, and their culture of excellence and respect for birth choice, a surgical birth story did not become a traumatic story.
Thanks to Tomecas with Omorose Blessings, whose preparation and guidance equipped me for this journey. I’m blessed to have her continued support as I begin my 4th trimester.
Finally all praise and adoration to the Father of life, YHWH, without whom none of this would be possible.