This is the story of Mila’s birth. But more than that, this is the story of God’s grace and mercy, as you’re about to witness for yourself.
At my 35-week ultrasound, I was told that our baby was measuring 7 pounds, 9 ounces; she was in the 97th percentile for weight.
“There is no way you’re going to deliver that baby naturally,” my well-meaning midwife told me. “Not if she continues gaining weight at this rate.”
After all, I had five weeks left. Babies, on average, gain a half a pound per week. So we’re talking a minimum of two and a half more pounds, bringing our (not-so-little) babe over 10 pounds. What’s more, this estimate was based on the assumption that she’d make her debut on time.
Spoiler alert: She didn’t.
There was talk of induction, even mention of a c-section – both of which didn’t exactly fit with my all-natural birth plan I had envisioned in my head. Cue a sugarless diet, lots of tears, frustration, desperation, and any other “-ation” that basically means I was scared out of my mind as I realized my total lack of control over the situation.
For those of you that have followed my pregnancy rantings on social media, you’ll remember that starting around 36 weeks I did everything possible to coax this baby out of me. I tried literally any and every suggestion that was offered (and approved by my midwife, of course). I was going on walks, drinking four to six cups of raspberry leaf tea and popping two evening primrose oil capsules every day – to no avail.
At 39 weeks I had a follow-up ultrasound. The baby had grown to 8 pounds, 12 ounces, and I spent the next two weeks praying and holding on to the hope that the ultrasound was off by at least a pound.
Oh, the irony of life…
The evening before I went into labor, I took yet another hour-long walk. I was 40 weeks and 5 days. All through that night I felt abdominal cramping but didn’t want to get my hopes up, as I had experienced the same symptoms several times before and was obviously still very pregnant.
Towards the morning, around five o’clock, the pain was growing stronger and more consistent. Allowing myself a glimmer of hope that maybe today was the day, I downloaded a contraction timer app. Contractions were 8-10 minutes apart, lasting from 45 seconds to 1 minute.
Up to that point, I had wondered how I’d know that real labor was starting. If you go by the book, I had already experienced all other symptoms associated with early labor – and yet the baby had no intention of coming out. But as I lay in bed that Friday morning, I was overwhelmed with amazement at how distinct the waves of pain were. It was so obvious – I was in total awe of what was happening to my body.
Two or so hours later, it was time to get up. Not wanting to psyche myself out, I got ready for the day like I typically would. Contractions were getting closer and stronger though – and I finally began entertaining the idea that maybe this was truly happening. Maybe today was the day we’d meet our precious daughter.
I decided to test my theory with a shower; they say if a warm shower causes contractions to stop then it was a false alarm.
They didn’t stop.
Oh goodness, they did not stop.
On the contrary, post-shower they were 3-5 minutes apart, lasting 30 seconds to 1 minute. I knew if I didn’t hurry along and my body kept up this tempo, I just might deliver this baby while drying my hair in the bathroom.
Wouldn’t that be a story!
The next few moments were a whirlwind. I asked Vadim to make me some food – I didn’t want to spend an eternity in labor, hungry – while I threw together a few last-minute items into my suitcase and tried to make myself somewhat presentable before heading to the hospital. In between waves of pain, I quickly scarfed down the scrambled eggs Vadim had prepared, and deciding I could wait no longer, we headed for the hospital.
We arrived around 10AM.
I had followed the midwife’s instructions to pre-register like the responsible adult that I am, but the hospital still had a ton of paperwork for us to sign. I found this development strange and extremely annoying, as by that time the pain was so extreme that I would’ve gladly signed my life away if asked to.
After what seemed like hours (but was really no longer than 15 minutes), we were finished and escorted to the Labor & Delivery ward, where, after examining me, the nurse declared that I was at 4 centimeters. Although contractions were strong and picking up force, “labor is typically long with the first baby, so would you like to go home for now?”
For a split second I felt so defeated. “Not this,” I thought. “Not me!”
All it took was another contraction for me to decide, “No, thank you. I wasn’t going anywhere.”
The next hour was a blur.
All of my labor pains were in my back, so I spent most of the time writhing in pain on my hands and knees. In my daze and confusion I could make out the nurse saying something about the baby being in occiput posterior position. “Oh no!” I thought. I had read enough birth stories to know that sunny side up babies were extremely difficult to birth naturally. Add to that my anxiety about her size, and, well, the odds didn’t look to be in my favor.
At some point I requested a birthing ball, thinking it would ease some of the pain, but every time a contraction hit, my natural instinct was to get back on my hands and knees. It was the only position that made the back pain somewhat manageable. Besides, I had read that laboring on hands and knees was one of the few ways to encourage a sunny side up baby to flip face down, and if that was the case then by golly I was going to stand on my hands and knees ’til they turned blue. Realistically speaking, I knew if there was any chance for this baby to be born naturally, she had to move from the OP position.
Deciding to relocate this party to the whirlpool tub, I waited patiently as the nurse filled the tub with water and performed one more cervical check. It was approximately 11:30AM, an hour and a half after being admitted to the hospital, and I was at a 6-7. The pain was so intense that at one point I remember squeezing Vadim’s hand and biting it simultaneously. The nurse must’ve thought I was bonkers.
Off to the tub I went – and oh, what relief! My angel of a nurse would check in on me and during exceptionally painful contractions she would continue massaging my lower back. At one point she got up to leave the bathroom, and I begged like a madwoman for her to never leave me.
Oh, the drama!
After a couple more contractions my water broke – and the real fun started. By some miracle of God I remembered all the breathing techniques I had learned. I alternated between low-pitched groaning and fast-paced puffing. Now it was Vadim’s turn to think I had lost my mind…
I spent an hour and a half in that tub, progressing from a 7 to 10 in just 90 minutes – and although it was the worst of the pain, the warm water eased some of that tension. Otherwise, I’m quite certain I’d be begging for medication – not massages.
Around two o’clock in the afternoon I felt an overwhelming desire to push, so they whisked me out of the water and onto the bed for (hopefully) the last cervical check. My midwife had arrived by then. She declared that I was at a 10, and “We’re about to have us a baby!” The room was readied, and the baby warmer was turned on.
A mere four hours after arriving in the hospital, we were about to meet our little girl.
Just in case you think this story is coming to an end, brace yourself. It’s only beginning.
“If you push real good for the next 15-20 minutes,” the midwife reasoned with me, “you will birth this baby.”
She repeated this phrase once. Then, half an hour later, she repeated it again. Then, a third time, and possibly a fourth – I can’t recall for sure. It was only then that reality dawned on me.
“This baby isn’t coming out.”
My body was going limp, reaching an exhaustion level of no return. For whatever reason, the fetal monitor couldn’t locate the baby’s heartbeat despite the oxygen mask they’d strapped to my face an hour earlier. Baby and I were both beyond tired and quickly losing the last of our strength.
I was in a complete daze, but I remember repeating over and over and over, “I can’t do this… You don’t understand – I really can’t do this,” – to which Vadim would offer sweet words of encouragement, the nurse would remind me that she birthed not one, but three babies naturally, and the midwife would state matter-of-factly, “Well, I sure can’t do it for you! Do you want a c-section?! DO YOU WANT A C-SECTION?!” She knew my answer but would nonetheless wait for me to verbalize that no, of course I didn’t.
“Then you need to push harder!” she’d reply. Sometimes a little tough love goes a long way.
At one point I remember the midwife stating that the baby has a ton of hair.
“Would you like to feel it?”
Not fully recognizing what I was agreeing to, I said, “Okay…” So she took my hand and let me feel my baby’s full head of hair. All I could concentrate on, however, was the vast amount of blood on her hands, which brought me back to reality: This baby wasn’t going to come out. Suddenly, I remembered there were alternatives. All those medical interventions I had been so opposed to were now a beacon of hope. Let’s see, what did they teach us in the child-birthing class? There were forceps, a vacuum, c-section…
“Can’t you just suck her out with a vacuum?” I yelled, all the while thinking that if I just ask for a c-section, this debacle will be over in 10 minutes – max. But something stopped me from saying those words. I had gone through way too much to give up now. Our little girl had gone through way too much for me to give up now.
If up to this moment things were a bit hazy, then going forward was a complete blur.
Eyes closed, I tried to focus on the midwife’s prompts to push as I drifted in and out of consciousness. There was talk of administering Pitocin to encourage stronger contractions to push the baby out – because after pushing for over an hour, I had no more strength. I felt like this nightmare would never end, but in retrospect, four hours of laboring is hardly a nightmare. More than an hour of pushing – now, that’s a different story. Even though I declined the epidural, I felt no pain by this point – only numbness.
A few more feeble attempts to push followed, all the while I prayed, “Please God, help me” with tears streaming down my face. I was fully convinced that the baby was too big. However, Pitocin kicked in, and next thing I knew, the commotion in the room amplified tenfold. With one swift move, the L&D nurse was on top of me, pushing on my stomach as the midwife screamed at me to push harder. I later learned that the baby’s shoulders had gotten stuck mid-exit; hence, the nurse’s quick reaction.
Then, all of a sudden, inexplicable calmness washed over my body. I felt a weight laid on top of me and heard Vadim telling me to open my eyes.
She was here, and she was so, so beautiful.
After forty weeks and six days of pregnancy, four hours of laboring, one hour and 18 minutes of pushing, she was finally, finally here.
All those fears plaguing my mind were for naught: I was concerned about her weight, and yet, ironically, she was a whopping 10 ounces bigger than predicted. I was concerned about her being in the occiput posterior position, but she turned face down at the last minute. I was deathly afraid of a very long labor and the possibility of needing a c-section due to her size, and yet my labor was only four hours, and I birthed her naturally.
This is the story of Mila’s birth. But more than that, this is the story of God’s grace and mercy.
Yet it didn’t stop there.
No sooner had I opened my eyes to take a look at baby Mila, when the nurses whisked her away. Only now did I notice there were about six of them in the room. Where did they come from? Why were they here?
Not knowing what was happening, I started sobbing – “Is she okay? What are they doing to her? Is she alive? What is happening?” I begged for answers, but no one paid attention to me. All eyes and hands were on the baby, resuscitating her from quite the dramatic entrance into this world.
Despite all that, however, she was completely and perfectly healthy – all by the grace of God.
Finally, they gave her back to me. What followed was the sweetest, most exciting moment of my life as I held and kissed and breastfed our precious daughter (and cried and cried and cried big, fat tears of joy).
Mila was 9 pounds and 6 ounces and 21.5 inches long at birth and has only continued to grow and gain weight. We are utterly, completely, totally in love with her squishy, delicious self.