After a full two weeks of waiting past her due date, our girl finally made her appearance. During the entire pregnancy she has let herself be known to me. Never in an aggressive or forceful way, but in the way a surefooted and confident woman just knows her place in the world, and the people around her feel it too. I love this shot my sister in law, and photographer Kim took in our hospital room the day after she was born.
We were scheduled for an induction at my 42 week mark. But surprise, surprise! In the wee hours of the morning that same day I started having contractions on my own. We were then allowed to cancel our induction, stay home and start our home birth. Somewhere mid-morning Piet set up the birth pool in the living room. We had to run the plastic tubing that fills the tub with water from the bathroom sink upstairs, down to the pool on the ground floor. Eskimo was very entertained watching the water flow through the tube. I labored for about 10 hours at home, mostly in the pool. I did not have the feeling that I could move around during labor, and laying down was much more painful than sitting up or kneeling. I primarily sat in the pool, leaned over the edge, or sort of laid over the yoga ball. I really just wanted to zone out and focus inwardly. You are allowed to eat during labor here, but all I wanted was water and a few mandarin pieces. I really enjoyed my experience at home, albeit painful. The midwife came twice during that 10 hours and the second time she decided to break my water as my contractions were hard and long and I was not even 2cm dilated yet.
When my water broke it was quite brown as it was full of baby’s first pooh called meconium. It can be a very common occurrence for a late stage pregnancy, so we weren’t panicked, but we did know that it meant our home birth was no longer possible and we would need to continue at the hospital. There was no emergency, but baby needed to be monitored more closely at that point. Boy am I glad we had to go to the hospital because my contractions, which were already quite heavy had become almost instantly unbearable. Even the midwife said before we left the house that I should really consider pain relief once we arrive at the hospital.
Piet and I scrambled a bit to get things in order at the house, and re-pack a bag for me (which I had unpacked as labor continued at home). Big mistake. Don’t ever try packing a hospital bag while in full on labor. Poor Teddie ended up with clothes that didn’t fit her, and I only had one pair of underwear! Any women who has given birth will know one pair is not enough!
We made it outside to the car, and it was snowing! I appreciated it for about .05 seconds. We arrived at the hospital in a few minutes (it is very close by) and I was set up in a room. The midwife eventually left and my care was handed over to the hospital team. I think I labored for another two hours and my contractions were so strong by that point yet I was still only 2cm along. With my waters being full of meconium and the fact that I was 42 weeks along, baby was in some distress at that point. Everyone agreed I should have an epidural and they would try and help move my dilation along with and oxytocin drip.
Finally the epidural! So amazing! Once you are already in deep labor, you don’t even feel the procedure. After it was in I was so happy. I kept thinking to myself, “why the hell don’t all women do this?!” The drugs were working and I dilated to around 6cm in a short period, all while eating a plate of mashed potatoes, beef and salad. But then I slowly started feeling my contractions again. I thought it was just because they were getting stronger because of the oxytocin and perhaps I was just feeling them at a lower level. I was totally fine with that, and I liked the idea of being able to work through my contractions again at a more manageable pain level. But they continued to get stronger and stronger, and then I could feel my legs completely again and I knew something was awry.
Indeed, something went wrong and bye-bye lovely drugs. The epidural had somehow become dislodged – we aren’t really certain what happened. The kicker was that with the oxytocin still in my system I was now having intense medically induced contractions with no pain relief. The nurses gave me something that was supposed to help get the oxytocin out of my system but I felt no change and it only became worse and worse. It was horrible my friends. I was wailing and crying and begging for more drugs which never came. I was really out of my mind. I labored like that for about another two hours and there was absolutely no more progression with regards to dilation.
Finally after the nurses deliberated with the gynecologist, he arrived to my bedside like a heavenly angel and very calmly and patiently (because he only had about 30 seconds every few minutes to have my lucid attention) explained to me that my body was not naturally working toward getting baby out and she was in more and more distress because of my extreme pain level. In addition, with my waters being soiled by meconium the risk complications was becoming higher the longer she stayed inside. The doctor said I could choose to continue to labor longer on my own and see what happens, however he was 90% sure he would need to perform a cesarean anyway. So it was my call whether or not I wanted to wait or move ahead with a cesarean right away. While I felt no pressure or stress from him at all, I did not hesitate for one second to do it. I couldn’t imagine at that point going for another two hours with no progression.
Cesarean sections are crazy! From the moment you make the call to have one, your baby is out in like 20 minutes. And let me tell you…there is no relief like a spinal block. When the anesthesiologist says you can’t move a muscle while they shove a huge needle into your spine, but the nurse promises this is the last cluster of contractions you will have before you meet your baby – the latter totally outweighs the former.
One second you’re laying on the table and the next moment they pull the shield down and show you your baby rising up out of your womb! She didn’t come out the natural way, but it was still out of a 10cm opening. After a quick check-up and clearing all the pooh from her poor little lungs, Theodora was on my chest while they started the process of closing me up on the other side of the curtain. Then off she went with Piet to our recovery suite for some skin-to-skin time with papa while they finished up with me.
I have to say I was not scared or upset that things had gone the way they did though. I really trusted the gynecologist and the medical team and their decisions. I think if we had been in America I would have really felt insecure about having the cesarean. But I know here in the Netherlands they strive to never do things that aren’t necessary. In fact, the Netherlands have the second lowest rate of unplanned cesarean sections in Europe. Oh, and don’t get me started on the resistance to giving patients pain relief in this country! All you other expats know what I’m talking about! Severe flu with fever – Paracetamol. Recovering from major surgery – Paracetamol. Lost a limb – Paracetamol.
But seriously, my pain relief during recovery (including my time at the hospital) was a simple regime of Paracetamol (Tylenol) and Naproxen (Aleve). They even encouraged me to stop taking the Naproxen after the first week if I could. I did not. But after two weeks I started to forget to take them, and just took Paracetamol as needed or in the evenings if I had been too active.
We had three lovely days in the hospital which were a daze for me, and seven days after that of in-home care from our maternity nurse, or Kraamzorg. I will write more on that in a later post. New Years Eve was our last night in hospital and it was such a sweet night. They brought us oliebollen and appelflappen with copious amounts of powdered sugar. Once people started letting off their fireworks we turned out the lights and sat back to enjoy the show from the safety of our room. Teddie in her cot and Piet and I snuggled up on the bed. New Years Eve in the Netherlands is not something I can explain to an American. I can tell you there are tons of fire works, but you won’t fully understand. It’s like having the Fort Vancouver 4th of July firework show in the streets of of every neighborhood around the country. This is not an exaggeration. So you can see why we were happy to spend the night in the hospital and not at home.
We had many visitors in that first two days, and we were so grateful that Piet’s brother Kjell and his wife Kim were visiting from Portland. Kim naturally took many photos of Teddie in the hospital. What a gift! Here are some of my favorites. I still can’t believe how bright eyed our girl was on her first day outside of the womb!
We also had a wonderful newborn photo shoot when Teddie was eight days old with local photographer and friend Simona and her brilliant business, Year in a Life. Simona captures the story of your babies first year via three or four scheduled photo shoots. I will post her amazing work with Teddie in my next post.
To conclude this story of Teddie’s birth, I want to make a point of congratulating every mom, mum, and mama out there for how hard they have and continue to work for their babes and families. I’ve only been at it for seven weeks and it is cheesy but universally true. It’s such hard work but so very rewarding and worth it. Even bigger props to you single moms out there. I have Teddie for what feel like very long 11.5 hour days during the week, but at least I have a partner to help out in the evenings and weekends.
Additionally I want to say to any mamas out there with similar birth stories, or stories that didn’t go as they planned or hoped – you worked hard for your baby no mater how they arrived. I have no negative feelings, regrets or sadness for how Teddie was born. I still carried her for nine months, sacrificed my body for her and did everything I could to keep her safe during that time. I may not have pushed her out, but the reality is that the real important and hard work is what comes after. So give yourselves some mother effing credit ladies!