It’s Your Story… Write It (The Birth of Our Daughter)

Anything in story with red font are the words of my wife… Sidra.

11:30am, May 2nd 2014

“It’s your story and you get to write it,” she said. Our Doula’s words alone brought about a shift in the way I perceived my own influence in the situation and the familiar emotional bubble welled up into my throat as I realized the importance of the strategy I was about to develop. I distinctly remember in our birthing classes being told, “If you remember anything partners, it’s that the greatest possible way you can support your wife during labor is to facilitate a constant state of oxytocin production and keep them out of their heads.” Concerning my wife with the myriad of issues that had arisen since her water had broken twenty six (26) hours earlier with still no labor contractions, would do precisely that.

As a couple who wanted a Home Birth (/hōm bərTH/: A birth defind by conditional statement: Given a healthy, low risk labor, the baby is delivered inside your home by a Homebirth Midwife) there couldn’t have been a more comprising situation. Sidra’s water had broken almost 30 hours earlier with no signs of labor contractions. The allopathic diagnosis would be to induce at 12 to 24 hours; however, we were already well over that threshold. At this point, we could either go to a hospital where they would likely recommend inducing labor or give us some, very limited, amount of time to attempt the labor naturally or continue with our plans of a Home Birth.

As temperature tends to rise when the body is fighting off infection and we had the ability to intermittently monitor baby’s heart to look for signs of distress, I decided that we would give our selves until 60 hours from the time of rupture (assuming no sign of increased temperature, blood pressure changes, or sign of fetal distress) to have the baby at home, upon which time we would head to our predetermined hospital of choice, NYU.

Our midwife had recommended taking another dose of Castor Oil to induce labor, the first of which I had administered in a smoothie recipe at 6:00am this same morning. The result had been explosive diarrhea and a single bout of vomiting, which in the past have been (spuriously) shown to promote labor contractions. However, Sidra’s unwavering health was our single greatest asset throughout this entire process and I wasn’t about to compromise it again.

9:00pm, May 2nd

Sidra’s contractions had grown increasingly intense. Initially brought on by the Miles Circuit we repeatedly performed, she was vocalizing more and more with each contraction — a very encouraging sign. We continued to sway together, use the positions we had learned in our Bradley Method Class, and share an incredibly sweet, intimate experience (yes, Enya was playing in the background). We kept looking at each other saying, “this is really it, we’re going to get to meet our baby.” Although Sidra had been feeling contractions since 3pm we felt like were in a timeless state of bliss — dancing, embrace, tears of joy — it was a picturesque scene from the “Partner Coach” playbook.

At 11pm, the contractions began to grow even stronger still and Sidra felt like it was an appropriate time to call our Doula to join the labor. It seemed like a great idea — she had been having full-on labor contractions for almost 8 hours at this point. Megan (the greatest Doula ever) arrived and said that Marcy, our Midwife, would be arriving shortly. We asked why, and she told us that she comes to a labor when she wants to come which was yet another reassuring sign that, even though no one would say it (because you never want to give someone false hope in a situation like this), our support team felt like we were getting close… and so did we.

6:00am, May 3rd

Sidra had been in labor now for approximately 15 hours. Because of the ruptured membrane that had taken place nearly 48 hours prior, the midwife had refrained from checking her dilation at all, as that can have a greater impact on the risk of infection than the ruptured membrane. However, it was time to find out how close we were after all of this “good work”. The midwife slipped on her rubber gloves, and after 5 gruesome minutes, the midwife gives her estimation … 3 centimeters. And, in case Obstetrics isn’t your daytime hobby, 10 centimeters is considered fully dilated, i.e. when stage 2 labor begins and you actually push the baby out.

To completely understand the magnitude of our disappointment, consider a marathon of 26.2 miles. Then consider running that marathon for 15 hours with no idea how far you’ve gone so far, but thinking that you “must be getting close to the finish.” Only to find out that, just as the sun is rising and the depths of your sleep deprivation, exhaustion, and delirium are setting in, you have only gone 7.8 miles… 30% of the entire race.

I watched my wife’s face go white(er) with horror, and I felt like someone had taken my heart and tore it out of my chest. This was the only situation in our lives we’ve ever experienced where I couldn’t be tagged-in, she could’t pass things off to me, and I couldn’t carry the torch from here. I felt so helpless and could see how she had poured her heart out for the past 15 hours. The midwife asked her what she wanted to do as we always had the option to transfer to a hospital to receive medical assistance in the labor. Either that, or we could stay here and continue to try for the Home Birth we had envisioned for the past year. Sidra stiffened her bottom lip and proclaimed a phrase that would serve as her mantra of strength, determination, and resilience over the next several hours… a phrase that still brings back a rush of emotion like I was reliving my wife’s enduring journey

“I WANT TO MEET THIS BABY”

It was decided…. Sidra would stay and labor for another 4-5 hours, upon which time the midwife would check dilation again and reassess the situation, but this warrior wasn’t going to let go of her dream and had found a well of resolve that I can only describe as super human… another contraction kicked in and Sidra was back to laser focused concentration on the colossal task at hand.

10:00am, May 3rd

We had to be getting close now. Sidra’s contractions were closer together and more intense (if that’s even possible at this point), and as we approached 10:00am, she kept speaking about having the urge to push. Any birth coach with their salt knows that “the urge to push” is a sign that labor is either transitioning to Stage 2 (when you push the baby our), or a sign that you’re already there. After suffering such devastating defeat 4 hours earlier this seemed like the shard of good news we needed to propel into getting to meet our baby.

broom

The midwife laid Sidra down on our living room couch, checking her dilation for what would hopefully be the last time. More blood, wincing, and yelps of pain… still helpless… The midwife had completed her exam. “4-5 centimeters,” she said. WHAT!? That’s not possible! We’ve been laboring FOR NEARLY 20 HOURS! Another massive defeat. In four words almost an entire day of intense labor was rendered insignificant… she wasn’t even half way there!

Everyone’s focus went to Sidra… “what do you want to do?” The midwife asked. Sidra said, “I need some time alone with Ben… we need to discuss this in private.” As everyone left the room, I felt what little hope I had left that this would soon be over for my warrior wife drain out of my heart… this was nowhere from being over — not even close. I kept telling her she did so well, whatever she wanted was fine with me, I just wanted this to be over for her. She told me, “I don’t think have enough energy to keep doing this, I think we need to transfer.”

1:00pm, May 3rd

“Just make a lot of noise,” was the advice we got as we entered the Mountainside Hospital in Montclaire, NJ. That was no problem for Sidra, who had been enduring her contractions in a car squeezed between me and the midwife in the backseat of my mother’s Lexus SUV. They wheeled her up to the 3rd floor, Labor and Delivery, the first words out of Sidra’s mouth, much like Kirstie Alley’s “Give me some drugs!” in Look Who’s Talking (1989) was, “I want an epidural!”

By 2:00pm Sidra had gotten an epidural — almost 24 hours after she had her first strong labor contractions. However, as is not uncommon with epidurals, her entire body began to shake uncontrollably. The shaking was so fierce it prevented her from relaxing and getting to sleep in the hospital bed. I leaned over and softly walked her through a Yoga Nidra Meditation, over and over until her body was only shaking very softly and intermittently… upon which time she softly drifted off to sleep. I felt a wash of relief come over me… she was finally sleeping. After a day without sleep, multiple defeating news of the progression of her labor, watching her dream die of a home birth she so deeply wanted, my warrior wife was finally sleeping.

I, of course, hadn’t slept either. For the past 22 hours whenever the Doula or midwife had said to me, “why don’t you take a nap, we can take over with Sidra for a while,” I responded calmly and firmly that under no circumstances would I leave my wife’s side. Now that Sidra was asleep, I curled up in a corner of the hospital room — on the floor — and was asleep without another thought.

I Want to Meet this Baby

I awoke to the soft beeping of machines meant to monitor vital signs of mother & baby. All felt relaxed and Sidra had clearly regained some of her energy by resting for the past hour and a half. The attending Midwife came in and said, “Let’s see what happened now that you’ve been able to get some rest.” She checked Sidra’s dilation… I waited with cautioned expectation… we had been fooled to believing in “progress” twice before and there had been no active participation on Sidra’s behalf, so there was no reason to believe that… “9 centimeters!” I heard the midwife say. WHAT!? I couldn’t believe it! 9 centimeters? I was still in disbelief.

The midwife said she had an VBAC that she was delivering in the other room, and that she would be back in a little bit and then we could get to meet our baby. We waited for what seemed like an eternity for the midwife to finish with her other patient, while Sidra remained on the epidural. We knew she would be coming any moment, so when the nurse came back in, we had her turn off the epidural so Sidra could begin feeling her contractions to time her pushing effectively. Sure enough, the midwife came back in a couple of minutes later and said, “Ok, are you ready to push this baby out?”

Sidra was encouraged to push, even before she had any feeling in her lower body. The professionals in the room (our midwife, the attending midwife of Mountainside, and our Doula), spoke about times when someone had pushed out a baby without even being able to feel their lower half, so with that, Sidra began to push when they told her too. “Don’t let any air out when you push, send all the air down out of you,” they encouraged her. After 20 minutes of pushing, nothing was happening, but they continued to encourage her to “keep pushing.”

The midwife insisted that Sidra lie down and do different positions, however, lying on her back was very uncomfortable for Sidra, so she continued to bear down in the upright position. After an hour of this, the midwife seemed discouraged and left the room… for the first time in 30 hours I left Sidra’s side, I needed to understand what I read on the midwife’s face before she left the room. I found her out in the hall on the phone, and I patiently waited for her to finish her call. When she hung up, I asked her, “what’s your take on how things are progressing? Are you feeling good about things?” She looked more than half-way annoyed at me and said, “Do you know how much I’m sticking my neck out here? She’s over 60 hours ruptured and the Head Physician thinks I’m crazy for taking this case on. He said that if she hasn’t pushed the baby out by 8pm he’s going to section her, period.”  When she told me that, it was 7:45pm.

I was floored, with so many questions racing through my mind. Why didn’t we pinch the epidural earlier? Why did we wait until 6pm to start pushing? Why… none of it mattered, I needed to get back into that room with Sid and help her get this baby out.

I came back into the room and she had begun to get some feeling back, she began to feel the contractions again. I obviously couldn’t share bombshell piece of information I had just been given, but Sidra said it again… “I want to meet this baby.” Tears welled up in my eyes thinking about the possibility of yet another devastating disappointment that would result in Cesarean, and I got into position.

Though I hadn’t heard the actual words themselves… I knew that there had been a conversation about getting “sectioned”. There was a growing urgency in the room that I picked up in the voices and inflections of my support team. Phrases like ” It’s time to push this baby out NOW” with way more emphasis on the NOW then at any time in the hours prior. I knew I was running out of time….

With the Doula on one foot, the midwife on the other, me locking the left knee and interlacing my fingers into hers, and my mother doing the same Sidra’s other side, the 5 of us, willing, pushing, grunting. The midwife came back into the room, another contraction started, an opportunity to get 3 good pushes in… the contraction was over… people began talking about meaningless shit and all I could think was, I need to help Sidra stay focused. I leaned into her ear as everyone else was talking, waiting for the next contraction. “You can do this baby, you’ve got this, you own this next contraction… you’ve got this baby, you’ve GOT THIS!” The next contraction came and everyone urged, grunted, I could hear myself grunting just as loudly as Sidra trying to get this baby out. C’mon baby, you got this…

Like a plane, frantically trying to lift off of the ground, careening towards the end of the runway, I knew this was my last chance. It was my last chance to give this baby the birth that it so deeply deserved, it was my last chance to give myself the experience I so desperately wanted… this was it. I was out of time. I could finally feel my body. Somehow I reached in deeper than I have ever gone before for that last, final reserve of strength. This was IT. I thew myself into these final pushes, past the intensity, I tapped into the MOTHER and opened that final doorway to step into motherhood.

“There’s the head!” The midwife exclaimed. What! Really!? No way. The midwife urged Sidra to reach down and touch the head of her baby. Tears of joy welled up in Sidra’s eyes, again, she said again and for the last time, “I want to meet this baby.” She gave a couple more massive efforts and then the energy in the room moved to a fevered pitch of rejoice, she had done it… Naiya Scarlett was lifted into the air, briefly cleaned and placed on Sidra’s chest completing an act that had begun almost 60 hours earlier.

I got to feel everything. Her little head crowning. Her little body slide out of mine. It was the most intense, exquisite feeling in the entire world. “Reach down and take your baby!” someone said! And I did! I pulled our baby up onto my chest and saw for the first time that our baby was a…..GIRL!!! What a surprise!! I could feel my Grandma Sharlene laughing at us, the only person who had known the sex of the baby prior to her being born and who had passed just two months prior from lung cancer. In this moment of holding our baby in my arms I was triumphant, victorious and felt capable of anything. I looked into Ben’s eyes, my beautiful husband who had given me every ounce of himself throughout this process and sobbing the words out “I can’t believe we have a daughter… I love you!”

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6 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing your birth of precious Naiya Scarlett. I relived the work and joy of giving birth to my son with your words! Thank you!!! Bless you 3 – now that she is here you can go forth and live the joy of your lives together . . . . enjoy the journey! Sending this with reverence for you Sidra, a true warrior, and with gratitude to Ben. Sending love to you, (: April and Stuie

  2. Dillon Lanius

    Wow what a journey! Thank you for sharing your birthing odyssey. It’s the first time I’ve heard/understood the emotional depths that we transpire in the process. Congratulations again!

  3. This is such an awesome record… Only you Ben Gross. So much appreciate being able to get the mom’s perspective as well. Thank you both for taking the time to share it with us… we LOVE y’all!!!

  4. “Somehow I reached in deeper than I have ever gone before for that last, final reserve of strength. This was IT. I thew myself into these final pushes, past the intensity, I tapped into the MOTHER and opened that final doorway to step into motherhood.”

    So powerful ! I read this story understanding the feelings of you both and the physicians who were concerned. You both did so wonderful and so happy for the new family!

    Hugs from Sara & Aumdoc

  5. Kathryn

    Thank you for sharing your birthing story with us, Ben & Sidra. You had me in tears by the end… what a lucky baby to have such a loving yet tenacious mama and papa! Can’t wait to meet Naiya Scarlett 🙂

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