It has taken me a few months to even start to process through Gordon's labor and birth and how everything ended up playing out. Prior to becoming pregnant, I knew I wanted to have a homebirth, so having a pregnancy and labor that resulted in a cesarean was a very hard thing for me to accept, and I would be lying if I said I have fully come to terms with it. Writing out and sharing Gordon's birth story has been therapeutic in a way, and has helped me process through everything that happened.
On Thursday, November 28th, Justis and I spent the day in Moorhead with my family. Justis's family was spending the day in Fargo, and we contemplated going to see them after we had a late Thanksgiving lunch with my family but I was feeling pretty tired and worn down and just wanted to get home to rest. I was in bed by 8:30pm that evening, but woke up around 11:30pm with an upset stomach. I spent most of the night and early morning in the bathroom and started to feel some light contractions, but they weren't consistent. I was finally able to fall back asleep around 5:30am and slept until 8am Friday morning.
I continued to feel nauseous throughout the day on Friday, but brushed things off to thinking maybe I had too much to eat at Thanksgiving the day before. I did my best to rest and stay hydrated, although I was feeling more and more uncomfortable as the day went on. Friday evening, I started having some contractions again while I was listening to my HypnoBabies tracks. I tried to lay down and go to bed around 10pm on Friday evening but didn't sleep well. The contractions continued throughout the night and into Saturday morning but were still inconsistent.
All of Saturday morning and into the afternoon I continued to have contractions anywhere from 6-9 minutes apart but they didn't seem to be intensifying or getting any closer together. Around 4:30pm on Saturday I texted my midwife and let her know what was going on. At this point the contractions had started to spread across the entire front of my abdomen and into my back, and I started to lose some of my mucus plug. I spoke with my midwife again on the phone around 7:30pm on Saturday evening and let her know that the contractions were still anywhere from 6-9 minutes apart. She suggested trying to get some rest and said to let her know if things started to progress further throughout the evening. At this point, we were a bit worried about anyone being able to get to our house due to the weather as there was a nasty North Dakota blizzard on the way. I tried to lay down and get some sleep but it was getting more and more difficult to sleep through and between the contractions.
I ended up getting up and out of bed shortly after midnight on Sunday, December 1st. My contractions were 4-6 minutes apart at this point and it was nearly impossible to lay down during or between them. I spent most of the night walking up and down our hallway, rocking and bouncing on my birth ball, and taking a few baths to try to find some relief. Justis had woken up at some point during the night, but I sent him back to bed to get some sleep after letting him know that this was likely going to continue to progress throughout the night since it was much stronger than the contractions I had been feeling before. I started to feel nauseous again and got sick around 4am. Contractions continued to be 4-6 minutes apart and were each around a minute long.
Around 7am on Sunday morning I called my mom and midwife and told them that I thought this might be it and they should head over when they could. At this point the roads were starting to get bad and I wanted to make sure I had them with me as things started to get more intense. Right after talking with both of them I lost more of my mucus plug and started to have my bloody show. My midwife arrived around 9:45am and my mom arrived around 11am. I continued to labor throughout the morning, and got to FaceTime my sister in New Zealand around 1pm. Contractions continued to be 4-6 minutes apart and about a minute long throughout the afternoon. Around 4pm Justis had to drive to pick up his mom near the interstate exit as there was so much snow she couldn't get into town. I continued to lose more of my mucus plug and had more bloody show around 5pm.
At this point I hadn't eaten anything all day, so I tried to eat a small meal and drink a BodyArmor to keep up my energy. I started to feel an increase in pressure during contractions around 6pm. I decided to rock and bounce on my birth ball in our bedroom for a while so I could have the lights off and try to relax. At this point my contractions started to space out quite a bit. Around 7pm I decided to try sitting backwards on the toilet so I could lean on the tank as it seemed that every time I had sat down to pee during the last 24+ hours I had a strong contraction or two. Of course, I didn't have a single contraction for the whole 20 minutes that I sat there. I became frustrated at this point and my midwife suggested moving back into our bedroom and doing some lunges with one of my legs up on a chair while leaning on Justis. The hope was that this would allow Justis and I to spend some time together alone and get some more oxytocin flowing. We tried this for another half hour or so but I only had 2 contractions within that half hour. I tried to eat another small meal and we tried using a few different rebozo techniques, bouncing on the birth ball and doing an inversion during and between contractions to get them to pick back up. By 9:30pm my contractions still hadn't picked up much so I consented to my first exam. I was about 75% effaced, 6cm dilated and baby had descended to -1 station. At this point, my midwife suggested trying to lay down and get some sleep. I decided to take a quick bath to help me decompress and relax a bit, and then laid down in bed with Justis around 10pm. I was able to sleep between contractions as they were only coming every 10-12 minutes at this point and Justis was timing them and rubbing my back as I slept. Everyone else laid down at this point as well to try to get some rest.
Around 11pm I tried to sit up to go use the bathroom and my water exploded all over the bed. I went out into the living room to let everyone know what had happened and my midwife said that my contractions would likely pick up quickly now and be more intense. She was not wrong. My contractions started again and were now 4-5 minutes apart and much more intense than they had been before. My mom and mother-in-law quickly started filling up the birth pool while I labored. My contractions continued to intensify and I started to feel a lot of pressure between and during contractions. As my midwife was listening to the baby's heart tones, she noted a few decels. I consented to another exam around 1:30am and I was 100% effaced, dilated to 9.5cm with an anterior cervical lip and baby had descended to +1 station. We tried to do an inversion to help get rid of the cervical lip, but as soon as I leaned over baby's heart rate dropped. My midwife immediately told me to sit up and the heart rate recovered. At this point my midwife brought up the possibility of needing to transfer to the hospital due to the recurring decels. After some discussion we decided that if there were 3 more instances we would transfer.
Around 2am the birth pool was filled up and I wanted to try laboring in the water. I was in the birth pool for maybe 15 minutes when my midwife let me know it was time to get ready to transfer to the hospital because the baby was continuing to have decels. My mom and mother-in-law quickly helped me get dressed as Justis started the truck. We left our house shortly after 2:30am and made the decision to drive to Grand Forks instead of Fargo due to the weather and the road conditions. I laid down in the backseat of the truck with my midwife sitting next to me as Justis drove, and my mom and mother-in-law followed in the car behind us. My body was starting to bear down on it's own and contractions were now coming every 3-4 minutes.
We arrived at the hospital around 3:15am. We got settled into our labor room and I was grateful to be able to use wireless monitors and only have a saline-lock so that I could continue to walk and move around as I pleased. My body continued to push and bear down on it's own. I consented to another exam around 3:40am and I still had an anterior cervical lip and baby was at +1 station. I continued to labor until the OB came into the room and I consented to another exam around 4:30am. Everything was the same, except that baby had moved down just slightly and was now closer to +2 station. For the next 3 hours I tried every pushing position we could think of from standing, leaning over the back of the bed, using the squat bar and stirrups in a few different ways, squatting with support from Justis, etc. We also tried doing some more side-lying with the peanut ball. Around 7:30am the OB returned and I consented to another exam. It was then that she brought up the possibility of needing a cesarean because I still had not progressed any further. I immediately said that was not what I wanted and since the baby's heart rate was doing fine I said I wanted to continue pushing.
Around 9am my contractions started to space out again and were only coming every 5-6 minutes. After some discussion, we decided to start some Pitocin to try to get my contractions closer together so I could keep pushing. My body was so tired at that point, and now that I was hooked up to an IV pole my movement was more limited, so I started pushing while laying down on my back. The Pitocin helped to get my contractions coming every 2-3 minutes again, and I kept pushing. The OB came back in again a little after 10am and I consented to another exam but still had not progressed. I felt so defeated. I hadn't slept much in 4 days, had been in active labor for over 48 hours and had been pushing for over 6 hours at this point. After some discussion with Justis and my midwife, I decided to move forward with a cesarean because I knew my body wasn't going to be able to do this for much longer. I was absolutely devastated and hysterical. I sobbed while Justis held me and told me how proud he was of me. I will never forget that feeling of defeat after all of the preparation I had done for this birth. Deciding to move forward with a cesarean was something I never thought I would have to do.
It's worth noting at this point that the baby did not have any abnormal decels while we were at the hospital, even throughout all of the hours spent pushing and the addition of Pitocin. I didn't know this at the time, but as I look back on the way everything played out I can't help but think that those decels at home were a blessing in disguise that allowed us to get to the hospital prior to this point of my labor. Early in my labor Justis and my mother-in-law spent some time praying for a safe delivery and healthy baby, and I believe those prayers were answered.
After going through all the paperwork and signing consents (which is not fun to do while having contractions), I headed back to the OR around 11:30am. My mom came with me as Justis didn't think he would do well in the OR, so he, my mother-in-law, and my dad who had shown up while I was in the OR, waited in the recovery area.
Gordon Michael Garrett was born via cesarean at 11:58am on Monday, December 2nd and he was (and still is) absolutely perfect. He was 8lb 13oz and 22in long with a 37cm head and 34cm chest. We had decided before I even got pregnant that we weren't going to find out the sex of any of our babies. I spent my entire pregnancy thinking that I was going to have a baby girl, so I couldn't believe that he was a boy. All I could think about was how happy Justis was going to be and how much he looked like my dad. Although my prediction about his sex had been wrong, I was right about his birthday which he shares with his great-grandma on my mom's side and his great-great grandpa on my dad's side. I was able to do some immediate skin-to-skin with Gordon in the OR before I asked my mom to bring him out to meet Justis, which I am so grateful that my midwife and mom captured on video for me. By 12:30pm we were all in the recovery room together and Gordon latched for the first time around 12:50pm, less than an hour after being born.
I am so overwhelmingly grateful for all of the support I had throughout my pregnancy, labor and Gordon's birth, and we are so incredibly blessed to have such a healthy and beautiful baby boy, but I want to take the time to point to the fact that the physical and emotional recovery from having a cesarean, especially one that is unplanned, is incredibly challenging. It's so difficult to constantly wonder if my labor would have resulted in a cesarean if I had done one thing differently during my pregnancy or labor. As a birth doula, it's also very difficult to question why my body failed me when I have always told other women to trust their bodies. It's hard to put all of the emotions I've felt surrounding Gordon's birth into words. It took us 18 months to get pregnant with him (that's a story for another time), and while I have experienced so much happiness, joy, gratitude and overwhelming love for this tiny little human, I have also experienced so much fear, guilt, sadness, and anger. All I have ever wanted in my life is to be a mom, and I will never take this time with Gordon or all of these new experiences for granted. Just like the journey to getting pregnant taught me so much and led me to the world of birth work, I have no doubt that this journey will lead to something as well - we just have to trust in God's plan and wait to find out what it is.