When this mama went past her “due” date, she tried everything to go into labor. After a few bumps in the road she experienced the delivery she worked so hard for. In the end she learned some valuable lessons about trusting her instincts and the process of birth.
The Birth of Lydia Riley
By Allison Slaughter
When my due date, April 9th, came and went ever so quickly, I have to admit…I was pretty shocked. I fully admit I was one of those women who fell into the “I think baby is going to come early trap.” My mom and twin sister delivered their babies on the early side (38 weeks) so I was convinced Lydia Riley would make her memorable debut weeks in advance. I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions since 36 weeks! They were never really painful but were becoming progressively more uncomfortable with aching in my back and pubic bone. My best friend, Lia, and I would sit at work gawking at how frequently I would contract. As she was also pregnant (only a few days ahead), we were constantly reading birth stories, talking through “eviction” plans, and (of course) finding the cutest dresses and bows possible for our girls to wear! For weeks, we had been taking evening primrose oil, 5W birth prep, and drinking as much raspberry leaf tea as possible! I had a midwife appointment on my due date and I was so excited. I was determined she would check my cervix and strip my membranes! That’s when I met JoAnn!
A new face walked into my room and I just assumed she was a student! Much to my surprise, she was a midwife who was new to the practice! I could tell right away she had tons of experience, and I loved her personality! Immediately after she felt my belly she told me Lydia was OP (facing up/”sunny side up”)! I quickly realized why my back had been bothering me the last few weeks. I really fell in love with her when she instructed me to go home and clean floors on my hands and knees. She reassured me there was no need for intervention (checking and stripping) at this point as my pregnancy had gone perfectly! I’ll never forget her saying, “90% of babies come within 10 days of their due date!” That statistic became my new calming mantra. She spoke my language completely. Matt and I both felt disappointed to learn she was still on orientation and wouldn’t be working in the hospital for another week! We couldn’t imagine Lydia would stay comfy much longer so we figured we definitely wouldn’t be seeing her in the delivery room!
My friends Lia, Emily, and I decided we had to take what we called “induction bootcamp” to a whole new level! We were all intending to evict our daughters as soon as possible with the fear of “induction talk” coming soon! We spent our days walking, hiking, preparing, relaxing, drinking milkshakes, and taking baths! It was a fantastic week I truly cherished; however, 41 weeks quickly arrived! I headed to the midwife office for my non-stress test “NST” only to find out I was a fingertip dilated and 25% effaced! My heart sank! The midwife was already throwing out the word induction (as she knew I had been (controversially) diagnosed with gestational diabetes). Because of this, she wanted to induce sooner rather than later! I kept explaining that my sugars were stable my whole pregnancy and I didn’t believe I was really diabetic. After many tears, she told me I could come back in two days to be rechecked. If I had dilated more, she could strip my membranes to see if that would help start labor.
I felt completely defeated! I couldn’t believe I had spent so much time preparing and dreaming about a perfect natural delivery and I could be stuck with an induction! I also couldn’t believe I wasn’t dilated at all and was hardly effaced at 41 weeks! But, I tried to remind myself of what I had learned just days before while attending my best friend Lia’s birth. Her doula, Merrill, reassured me that many women walk around at 5 cm dilated for weeks and aren’t in labor while other women go from 0-10 cm in no time at all. After talking to Jeannie, our doula, Matt helped me prepare for “induction bootcamp 2.0.” He helped me work through my many emotions and worked from home the rest of the day so we could be together. His support was amazing. We went to whole foods to gather more supplies and got Newk’s chicken salad sandwiches for lunch (my favorite). Castor oil, black cohosh, and blue cohosh were added to my routine at different intervals throughout the day! We were going for it..pulling out every possible labor kick-starting trick we had learned in our amazing Bradley class! I woke up several times throughout the night feeling crampy, but I had been drinking castor oil cocktails so I thought nothing of it! The next morning I felt great and made plans to spend all day with Libby and Emily to get my mind off of things! Looking back, I was having contractions all day as we hung out and went to lunch at Flip Burger. The contractions weren’t stopping me from doing a thing so I just kept moving and enjoying the day with friends! My sweet friend, Libby, knew my anxiety was high and prayed over my belly before I headed home to relax! When Matt got home from work, we decided to go walk the 3-mile loop around McCabe Golf Course. I remember it feeling much harder than normal and having to stop several times to rest! Matt insists that I looked up at a slight incline and said, “I’m not sure I can make it up this hill!!” Supposedly, that’s when he started to think things might be moving along.
Somehow, we ended up at Flip Burger again for dinner. However, I certainly was not complaining about not having to cook! When we got home around 9 pm, I was trying to finish my deep cleaning for the day but was starting to feel really uncomfortable so I got in the bath tub! I had just consumed another castor oil drink and could not relax in the tub at all! I struggled to get out as the contractions started to intensify and cluster together! I could hardly put clothes on so I walked to the living room to ask Matt what was wrong with me. The denial of being in labor remained strong. Matt laughed at me as I reiterated that I didn’t know why I couldn’t get comfortable. He also alerted Jeannie that things might be picking up. All I could think was, “I thought my whole stomach would hurt!” But, it was my back and my pubic bone that were killing me every contraction! The contractions were already 3 minutes apart and lasting 2 minutes. In all honesty, I thought they were brutal. I didn’t feel like I was getting any relief so I got “in the zone” early!
Jeannie arrived around 11 pm and I remember thinking, “wow this hurts…but, I’m an idiot and called her too early.” I kept telling myself the contractions were just going to fade away! I remember asking over and over if this was active labor. I was having trouble relaxing because I was so nervous that I wasn’t actually in labor!
When I finally admitted this was labor, we turned on music in our room and I started to work through the contractions alternating positions (on all fours, standing, and lying down in bed). I did not feel like I was getting much of a break because the back pain was continuous. Thankfully, Jeannie had a tens unit that really helped the back pain during contractions. Matt was really encouraging the entire time as he would talk me through the contractions, control the tens unit, and give me sips of coconut water. I really wanted some extra hands and support to help me relax so I asked Matt if he could call my best friends, Lia and Libby, and get them to come over for a couple hours.
Just their presence helped me relax even more! Even in my quiet, zoned out state, I remember Jeannie commenting on how calm I seemed once Lia and Libby arrived. These girls were my preggo sisters! God knew we needed each other and allowed us to walk through this amazing time side by side! We all became best friends through Libby’s gym! Libby is an amazing fitness trainer, and she had been encouraging us through the most intense workouts for over a year. I knew I would feel strength with her presence! She prayed over me, gave me epic foot massages, and made the cutest “pink kool aid cupcakes” for Lydia’s birthday celebration!
Just days before, I had the honor of supporting Lia as she flawlessly brought baby Adair into this world! She had been discharged from the hospital that very day, but still hurried over and laid by my side encouraging me for many contractions. To this day, I don’t know how she did it. But, I am so very grateful! When she needed to leave (to go nurse her two day old), I begged her to bring Adair over and stay with us! I was really clinging to both friends being there!
Around 0030 Jeannie suggested we do some large step walking through the house to open up my hips! I remember I couldn’t make it to the end of a room before I had another contraction. Sometimes it was only a few steps! I didn’t feel like I could get any relief! I started getting hot and nauseous trying to walk and started vomiting! In my mind, nausea and clustered contractions meant transition. But how could it be transition just 4 hours in? Somehow I had forgotten (after all of my preparation) this could mean bad positioning. I could not figure out how to relieve the stabbing back pain and intense pressure on my pubic bone. At 0130, I tried the shower for about 30 minutes but just kept feeling hot and nauseous. The pubic bone pressure kept making me think we must be getting closer and I was asking if we should go to the hospital. Libby rubbed my feet for awhile and I remember that feeling glorious and taking my mind off of things as Matt packed the car.
I don’t remember much about the drive. I know we had the windows down and the air felt wonderful. The contractions did not seem as overwhelming while driving as I had imagined, but we had the road to ourselves in the middle of the night. We arrived at the Vanderbilt ER around 0330 and waited for the labor and delivery staff to come get us for what felt like an eternity. I remember the walk upstairs being tough just because of the close contractions and the pubic bone pressure.
When we got almost to triage, one of the midwives walked up to meet us. I recognized her immediately as she had been in Lia’s delivery just nights before. To be completely honest, my whole demeanor changed to fear. She was the last person I wanted to see because of her jumpy personality during Lia’s delivery. She was literally the only midwife I had not met in the office for an appointment. I couldn’t relax. She checked me as I got to triage, and her face immediately told me I was not going to be happy. I asked her how dilated I was and she responded with, “Do you want to know numbers?” This question angered me. Of course that’s what I wanted to know. She informed me I was 4 cm dilated and 90% effaced. She proceeded to tell me I could go home after this 20 minute baby check and labor more there if I pleased.
Defeat. That’s all I could think. How could I come in so early? In my mind, I wanted to be at least in transition if not ready to push walking through the door. In the next few minutes, everyone left the room and Matt helped me refocus. I had to relax to achieve the outcome I wanted. I was not very verbal at the moment, but I could not really fathom driving back home. I also could not fathom staying at the hospital for hours. Turmoil.
I remember trying different positions in the triage room and the nurse and midwife were constantly coming in because baby either wasn’t picking up perfectly or was having decels. They instructed me to get back in bed and lay still on my side so they could see how baby was tolerating labor. I was so frustrated. After 20 minutes and several decels, my midwife rechecked me and told me I had made no change. I wanted to burst into tears! However, I clearly remember thinking “you are strong and you have to get back in the game.”
The staff wanted to admit me because of the decels and moved me to a labor room. I had no energy to object at this point. All I wanted to do was try relaxing in the tub. I think I asked about the tub ten times or more, but the nurse kept reiterating that I had to stay on the monitor for now. She also got a blood sugar that she claimed was abnormal. I was furious because at a prenatal appt a midwife told me I would be treated as if I did not have gestational diabetes since I was completely diet controlled. Of course my sugar was elevated. I was in labor. The midwife was nowhere to be found for what seemed like hours.
The next few hours are extremely fuzzy in my mind. I was lying as still as possible on my side with an oxygen mask and continuous monitoring. This couldn’t be further from my dream delivery. But we pressed on. I forced myself to relax as deeply as possible. In fact, I am pretty sure I just blacked out everything in order to cope. The contractions were intensifying and my back continued to be the focus of the pain. I got up to go to the restroom several times and that was my only movement from 4-8 am. The only other time I remember seeing my midwife was when she checked me around shift change and told me I was now 5 cm.
At this point, I think Matt and I started to panic a little. There was very little change, and he was doing everything he could to help me relax! He sent out a text asking all of our closest friends to pray because I was starting to feel worn down. It was daunting to think I was only halfway there. I went to the bathroom to get out of bed and try to refocus. As I was getting back into my side-lying position, my water broke. I was starting to feel really out if it and I remember the only thing I could get out of my mouth was, “I’m not sure how much more I can take!” I also asked if I could try nitrous. With it being shift change, the nitrous was certainly not coming quickly. And for that I am thankful as I unknowingly was getting so close and it wasn’t really part of my original goal.
At about 0745 am as I literally felt like giving up, my day shift midwives Joann and Annie walked into my room! My eyes welled up with tears because I was so overjoyed to see them! The atmosphere of my delivery room completely shifted! It was peaceful, joyful, exciting, and intense. I wanted to laugh, cry and shout with joy knowing that they would be there to help me! But I had no energy for any of this! All I could say was, “We met you at our 40 week appt..do you remember us?!”..in between intense contractions where I was starting to push spontaneously. JoAnn noticed me bearing down with contractions so she checked me and I was COMPLETE! In just two hours, I went from 5-10 cm. The nitrous finally came and I remember saying “no thanks, I’m just going to push her out!” Little did I know, this would be a long process.
Thankfully, Joann suggested we take the oxygen mask and monitors off so that I would feel more comfortable. I was so thankful to feel supported. She encouraged me to push in whatever position felt comfortable, so I started in a squatting position upright in the bed. In my mind, I expected Lydia to just fly right out and when this did not happen, I started to panic. The pain was so intense in my back that I struggled to push through it. I would have been fine with working through the contractions rather than pushing. Joann encouraged me to move to the toilet to try pushing. I think I made some progress, but it was so much harder than I expected. This position was so uncomfortable and I felt like I was losing control. The number of times I said I couldn’t do it was too many to count. I was continually asking how much longer it would take and how many more pushes I would have to endure. Joann would have to get my attention and reassure me that I was doing it and I needed to focus.
We tried pushing standing up..on my side..on my back..hands and knees..and I continued to struggle to push through the pain. After all, friends had informed me that the pushing phase was instinctual and I wouldn’t even remember it. This was surely not the case for me! To this day, I’m not sure if it was just fear or if I really did not have the urge to push! I was much more coherent than I had been for hours, and I didn’t understand why I did not have the extreme urge to push.
When I was positioned on my back, the pressure of the bed countered my back pain and I wanted to stay in that position. (I would have told you before labor never to let me push on my back.) I was making so much more progress this way and I could finally feel her moving down! I remember sweat rolling down my face in between contractions and feeling like I was working harder than I ever had in my life. Lydia’s heart rate stayed steady and the medical team was thrilled! They were my biggest cheerleaders and I couldn’t have been more thankful!
It felt like forever that I was trying to push her past my pubic bone and I could literally feel her slide back between contractions. I would get so discouraged and ask JoAnn to just get her out! When I finally pushed her past that point, the ring of fire got incredibly intense. It felt like everything was ripping inside me and I wanted her out so badly! Joann kept encouraging me to wait until I was contracting to push, but I couldn’t even tell when I was contracting because the feeling was so intense! I finally just pushed with everything I had and she flew out.
The first thing I saw was meconium. She seemed pretty stunned so I felt like I jumped into NICU mode trying to help stimulate her to cry. My nurse ended up STAT calling the NICU team because of Lydia’s slow start, so Matt quickly cut the cord and they took her to the warmer. I was happy to see Gloria, Belinda and Lynn (all extremely experienced) taking care of her! She started crying pretty quickly so I knew she was ok!
I think I was more shocked by her size than her finally being Earthside. I could not stop saying how huge she appeared and felt on my chest. She weighed in at 8 pounds 5 ounces and 21.5 inches. Her poor little face was all chapped and bruised so it was hard to tell if she was favoring either of us. I remember being so excited that she was so awake and alert! Matt got to snuggle with her while Joann repaired my second-degree tear. The nurse continued to check my blood sugar and because it was slightly elevated after delivery I received a shot of insulin. I had an all-natural delivery with no IV, no fluids, and no pitocin yet I needed insulin for a blood sugar elevated by labor. I rolled my eyes at the ridiculous hospital policy and chose to move on quickly.
Honestly, I did not have the overwhelming emotional response I expected. I didn’t feel the instantaneous attachment I imagined. I was overwhelmed by the experience and kept repeating, “That was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life!” It took me awhile to actually process my thoughts and feelings about the birth as a whole. However, I felt so proud and thankful I reached my birthing goals! I was also so thankful the birth process was over and could not wait to get to know our little girl. The birthing high kicked in as we got to spend more time with our sweet daughter. Our adrenaline raced as we shared her arrival with family and friends.
It was impossible for me to wrap my mind around the range of emotions I would feel through this life-giving process…
It left me with strength. Birth is hard. It challenged me in ways I never thought possible. My body and mind were strengthened.
It left me with joy. True joy. A new, beautiful life. The closest thing to perfection I have ever experienced.
It left me with scars. My body will never be the same because it carried life. What an overwhelming and beautiful thought. What an honor to carry those scars.
It left me with love. The deepest love I have ever experienced for the man I know intimately. The deepest love I have ever experienced for a new, little life.
It left me with faith. Deep faith. Faith to trust. Faith to surrender. Faith to endure.
Lydia, I was given the gift of growing your little life in my womb..and the intricate process grew me tenfold as a woman of God. “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Phillipians 4:13) I love you so.
(Stay tuned for the home birth story of my second baby!)