Oakland is 15 days old today and I’ve spent these first two weeks postpartum unexpectedly engaged in a complete mindset shift. I’ve learned about traditional practices across the world for new mother’s and have come to understand the importance of rest, of connection with other mothers, and of ritual.
To the last point, ritual, I’ve written Oakland’s birth story. After giving birth I read a lot about the importance of making/finding ritual in this postpartum time as a means to emotionally process the massive change you’ve under gone. To feel that you are supported, understood, and growing into this new role. As I read about these things I could just feel in my bones how deeply they resonated me.
One of the rituals that I came across time and time again was to take the time to write out your baby’s birth story. Doing so can provide comfort, clarity and a recognition of this massive life event. It can help you transition from your old life to your new one, honoring who you were before and looking forward with excitement and an open mind about who you are now and who you will become as you take further steps on your journey into motherhood.
To that end, I wrote a long, long letter just for myself outlining everything I could remember and everything I felt about Oakland’s birth. Alex also wrote a version of Oakland’s birth story – writing a story TO Oakland about the steps he and mommy took to bring him safely into the world. I cried when Alex read it to me, it was so beautiful.
Finally, I wanted to have one more birth story written – one to share with friends, family, and of course all of you! I’m so grateful for the LegalLee Blonde community and the support I received on instagram in our first week postpartum when we were stuck in hospital and worried about Oakes was something I’ll never forget. All of you helped me through one of the scariest times in my life (worrying about Oakland) and I am beyond grateful and want to continue to share this journey with you. So, here is Oakland Roger’s birth story:
On Wednesday June 22 I was relaxing at home when I noticed I had “leaked”. Without giving graphic details, I’ll just say at this point all the signs pointed to it not being my waters and therefore not labor, just regular third trimester leakage. My doula, who happened to be over that night for one of our pre-birth classes agreed it was likely nothing out of the ordinary.
So, on Thursday morning I went to work as usual. However, when I got there and just had a nagging feeling that something wasn’t right. I called my OB who recommended I head into urgent care at just to be checked out. I did, and found out that in fact my waters had broken! I was in complete shock since 1) only 10% of women have their waters break naturally and 2) it wasn’t much “water” at all. I later learned that sometimes your waters don’t break in a gush but rather they can have a tear which results in slow, light leaking.
Because I had no other symptoms of active labor, and because apparently the birthing suites at BC Women’s were full, the doctor told me to go home and that they would call me with a time to come back later that night to be induced. They told me they would need to induce me since it was already approaching 24 hours since my waters broke.
Being me, I went back to work so that I could wrap up as much as possible before going on leave. I actually went into court and did a 2PM hearing! Let me tell you, never in my life did I think I would say the phrase “Your Honor, my apologies but no I can’t come back for a continuation tomorrow because I am currently in active labor and so will not be available at all after this afternoon”.
Pretty sure my colleagues are still in shock and I think it’s a story that will be told around the courthouse for quite some time lol.
Anyway, after I finished in Court around 4pm I headed home and Alex and I tried to relax and await the call from the hospital. We ordered our favorite takeout and watched a Netflix documentary on baby bears (random, but oddly soothing haha).
At 9pm we got the call to come back to the hospital. I wasn’t sure about this whole being induced, as my birth preferences specifically included not being induced because I’ve heard how awful Oxytocin can be and how painful it can make contractions. I was really glad to have my doula via text for questions during this time (she wasn’t with me yet) as I was really torn about what to do. While the doctors made it seem like there was really no other option, in fact you can wait longer than 24 hours, and as usual in the medical system you just need to be your own biggest advocate. Having to really fight for yourself and advocate for your wishes is something that, as you’ll see below, became a huge part of birth experience.
After giving my body a few more hours to see if any signs of labor would naturally progress (they didn’t), I decided to accept the induction. I made this decision because at this point my waters had likely been broken already for around 30 hours. At this point I was only 1cm dilated so they didn’t foresee things moving quickly without the Oxytocin and so I reluctantly went this route.
Once I was admitted and the Oxytocin drip got started my labor contractions came on quickly. My understanding is the whole point of Oxytocin is to speed up this process and get past the “early active” and into the “active” (post 5cm dilation) stage quickly.
I’m told the first stage of early labor is up to 5cm dilated and the 4 in 10 contractions. I was in this stage from 11pm – until noon on Friday. Ie. 13 hours of early stage active laboring unmedicated. It was BRUTAL. The reason for this? I was somehow put into a state of constant contraction wherein instead of the contraction building and then declining my uterus was basically stuck in permanent contraction without release. To say this was painful would be the understatement of the year, it was pain like I had no idea was possible. At this point the nurses also seemed to be getting frustrated that they couldn’t get the contraction pattern they needed and everyone seemed mystified that after 13 hours I had only dilated another 1/2 of a centimeter.
Because of all of this baby’s heart rate was starting to rise and it was suggested that I opt for a c-section. I really didn’t want a c-section and one of my main goals in this birth process was to have a vaginal birth. **Note, I am not saying anything bad about C-sections, simply that it wasn’t what I wanted. The doctor’s said I could continue for another 1/2 hour and if baby’s heart rate stabilized then I could continue to labor on. After a 1/2 hour, luckily, baby’s heart rate had stabilized and so this was option of continuing was offered to me. The doctor still strongly suggested I go for a C-section at this point given how long it had been and how tired my body was. At this point my doula brought up the idea of an epidural as a way to give me a bit of relief but allow me to continue on my plan for a vaginal birth.
I came into this birth knowing that I wanted to make a decision re epidural or no epidural once I was actually in labor and knew what it was like. I got the epidural at this point and I am SO glad I did. Suddenly I could handle the contractions with ease but because it was a light epidural I could still move around a fair bit and try different labor poses suggested by my doula. This was the best decision I made during the whole process.
The epidural dulled the pain but my contractions still weren’t able to get to the 4 in 10 level the nurses wanted and so I kept laboring on like this for another 11 hours. During this time I spiked a fever – normal apparently when your waters have been broken for over 24 hours, – but because of the risk of infection they had to start me on antibiotics. Once again I was nudged towards a C-section and told that if my temp didn’t come down in an hour I’d have to have a C section. Once again I was really lucky and within the hour my temp went back to normal and baby’s heart rate was still good so I chose to keep laboring.
At 1 am Saturday morning the contractions were finally at a steady 4 in 10 and I was 9 1/2 cm dilated. What really surprised me about this part was how quickly I progressed in dilation. Given that it took nearly 24 hours to dilate one cm I remember being shocked when they checked me a few hours after still being 1.5 cm and they said I was at 9 1/2cm.
I pushed for 4.5 hours, which apparently is insane. They don’t like letting moms go more than 2 hours I’m told and a lot of second time moms even do it in an hour or less. The only reason they let me keep going is I was making progress – incredibly slowly – but baby was technically moving down the stations.
Towards the end of hour 3 is when I remember starting to get really panicky. I remember asking the doula how much longer and basically saying I needed to draw a line in the sand because I was getting so tired and so I said I’d do X number of pushes and If he still wasn’t where he needed to be I’d agree to a C section.
This was probably the scariest / hardest part of Oakland’s birth. Not because the physical pain was so unbearable but because I wa emotionally and mentally so drained that I was starting to think ahead to actually pushing the head out and starting to panic about “if I’m this tired now there’s no way I can do that”.
My doula and Alex were amazing and they supported me either way but also encouraged me to continue with my plan. Once I found out baby’s head was “so close” I felt a sense of complete determination. I felt like, I haven’t come this far and gone through all of this to be *this* close and not deliver baby the way I wanted. So I pushed myself.
At one point I remember them saying he was Sunny side up and having the OB attempt to manually turn him. It didn’t hurt like I thought it would. It turned out that they got him 75% turned the right way but he still came out at a bit of an angle which lead to his head being slightly cone shaped to the side and some bruising and swelling on the one side of his face.
I don’t think I’ve ever pushed myself for something so hard. I felt out of body at points and could just see everyone in the room as if I was in a haze and not in my body. Then the moment between his head coming out and then pulling him up onto my chest felt like it took less than 1 second , it went so fast. Next thing I knew he was on my chest!
We wanted to do delayed cord clamping which the doctors were initially okay with but I guess when the pediatrician saw him she thought he looked a bit grey so they ended up cutting it short. I still think he got about 1 min more than the standard, but still I was hoping he’d get 10min.
At this point they took him off me and I remember starting to feel panicked. I looked over at Alex and told him to go be right beside him the whole time which he did.
While that was happening they started trying to deliver my placenta. I don’t remember this hurting much at all (and I know many women say it does). But I do remember a lot of hands (at least three doctors) and them having difficult saying it was tearing and party was stuck or something like that. Afterwards I learned that this is when I lost a lot of blood, 1.5 liters, and that they were *this close* to giving me a blood transfusion. Alex said there was blood everywhere and I even got it on his shoes. I’m glad I was blissfully unaware of all of this party and give major props to the doctors / nurses for not letting me in on any of their concern / lack of calm.
After the placenta was out they brought Oakland back to me and I learned he was fine, what they thought was grey was just the shadowing of his bruising. I don’t remember much about him being on my chest at this point- just that he was there and Alex was back and I was able to hold baby and stare at Alex.
I also remember at this point how many nurses and doctors came over to congratulate me and share their praise and amazement that I kept on going for that long and finally got my vaginal delivery.
I remember thinking throughout that I was unlucky because this was such a traumatic birth but now I think that while parts were quite traumatic and I had to make a lot more decisions than the average woman in labor it really did turn out well. I feel ,ore strong and powerful than I’ve ever felt before. I literally feel like a superhero for having birthed him and I have a new appreciation for all moms.