Friday, June 1
I woke up to the sound of the ticking clock in our bedroom and I remember hearing the faint, faraway sound of the Amtrak train horn going down the tracks about a mile from our apartment. I had to use the restroom (something that I had gotten well-accustomed to during the pregnancy). When I returned to bed, I thought about the few baby items I wanted to take care of on my very first day of maternity leave and about the possibility of getting a pedicure. I quickly fell back asleep.
I woke up again, this time to the sensation of what turned out to be my water bag breaking. I sat up and immediately made my way to the restroom. I told Kevin on my way out the door, “I think my water broke.” Kevin’s reaction may or may not have included a curse word which, thinking about it now, I find hilarious. I took a shower to get cleaned up and got back into bed. We laid in bed for a while, trying to figure out what we should do next.
After snoozing in bed for a while we decided to call our doula, Lauraina. She said that we still had plenty of time to get some rest, eat a good breakfast, and get things together before calling the hospital. After hanging up with her we decided to call the Labor & Delivery line just to make sure and the nurse who answered told me that I needed to be there in thirty minutes and that we would most likely be admitted to the hospital right away. This really stressed me out—I hadn’t pictured our birth story starting out this way (very few women actually have their water break before going into labor, unlike what the movies show) and I had hoped to labor at home for as long as possible. We knew that it was relatively safe and acceptable for a baby to remain in the womb for 24 hours after the water bag breaks so we decided to nap and then take our time getting to the hospital.
7:15 AM – 1:30 PM
For those few hours at home we slept, showered, ate a significant breakfast and lunch, and cleaned our apartment. We even took Lola on a walk up and around the block. It felt good to do normal things because at the back of my mind I was terrified of what was to come. I didn’t feel 100% prepared mentally or emotionally to give birth within the next 24 hours and I am so glad we decided to stay home to get things taken care of and for me to work things out in my head before heading to the hospital.
My contractions had started within those hours at home but they were very mild, like menstrual cramps.
We arrived at the hospital parking lot and sat there for about 10 minutes—I was still terrified and Kevin helped talk me through my fears. I told him that I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to give birth naturally and unmedicated like I had hoped and that as soon as we were admitted I would be pressured to do things on their schedule, their way. He assured me that the nurses and doctors were there with the best interests of me and Sirena at the forefront and that I had to be positive and give everyone the benefit of the doubt before making any assumptions about them. After some deep breaths, we decided to make our way down to the hospital.
We were admitted by a very friendly nurse name Cathy in triage (the room where laboring women are evaluated before being officially admitted to the hospital) and she immediately calmed my fears. She wanted to determine if my water had actually broken and tried to do a few tests which turned out to be inconclusive.
With a smile on my face in triage!
The doctor on duty came in to check me—she said that if my water had broken they were going to limit the amount of times I was checked internally by a doctor because the more times I was checked, the more times I and the baby would be subject to new germs being introduced. She determined that my cervix was 4 centimeters dilated (a very good number to be at so early on!) but that it needed to thin out some more. She also said that she was pretty certain my water had broken even with the inconclusive tests because…she could feel Sirena’s hair! She said that they were going to admit us to the hospital and that, in the next couple of hours if my contractions didn’t start to pick up in intensity, that she’d like to start me on a pitocin drip (pitocin is a synthetic form of the natural hormone oxytocin and it is used to induce labor). I was very honest with her in that pitocin was not something I was interested in so early on (the reason being that, generally, contractions are extremely intense after pitocin is started and it can lead to a “snowball effect” with interventions, possibly leading to an epidural and/or c-section) and that it was my hope to induce labor naturally.
Cathy led us down the hall to the Labor & Delivery (L&D) hall, we were in Room 11. The room was, to our surprise, HUGE and although it was most definitely a hospital room we were encouraged to make it our own (even being encouraged to rearrange some of the furniture if we wanted to). The most surreal moment was when Cathy said, “And this is the room where your daughter will be born.” Incredible.
3:00 PM – 4:30 PM
The nurse on duty for the evening, Anissa, was amazing and we really took to her quickly. I shared my concerns about the doctor’s recommendation to start the pitocin that afternoon and asked her opinion–she said that we still had plenty of time for labor to start naturally and that the best thing for me at the time was to walkwalkwalk the halls to try to get things moving along. She had to hook me up to an IV, though, for an hour—I tested positive for something called Group B strep (a very common bacterial infection found in many pregnant women that can be passed on to babies during birth so they had to give me penicillin via an IV every six hours)—so I couldn’t walk around much in the beginning. While I was hooked up to the IV they also put a fetal heart monitor on my stomach so that we could hear Sirena’s heartbeat (to make sure that she wasn’t in distress) along with a monitor to time my contractions and monitor their intensity.
The number on the left is Sirena’s heartbeat, the number on the right is the intensity of my contraction (very low at the time Kevin took this photo)
Kevin and I were on our own for the majority of this time—we kept ourselves busy setting up our room, eating snacks to stay nourished for the long night ahead, trying to relax, and talking about the little lady that decided to grace us with her presence a week early. I couldn’t get over the fact that she decided to begin her arrival on the very first day of my maternity leave–for the 2-3 weeks leading up to my maternity leave all I kept telling her was to “wait until June 1!” and guess what? She listened.
My contractions were coming pretty regularly by this time, about five minutes apart but still very mild in intensity.
My sister Jessie arrived at the hospital with a huge smile on her face—she was so excited to be a part of the birth but obviously very nervous too. The three of us sat in our room and talked for a while.
Our doula, Lauraina, arrived at the hospital to check in with us—because things were progressing pretty slowly she wanted to come in for a visit to try to help things move along naturally with massage. She enlisted the help of Kevin and Jessie and all three of them worked on me while I laid in the hospital bed.
My mom and her boyfriend Steve arrived at the hospital after having taken a last-minute flight from Long Beach to Oakland. Generally they only allow three other people in the L&D room but our nurse said that until things started progressing they didn’t have a problem with the number of visitors. Mom jumped in to help with massage and acupressure and we all passed the time away talking about the night ahead of us.
My massage team getting to work!
My contractions had actually started slowing down by this time and I was starting to get nervous again. Lauraina asked me if I noticed that they started slowing down once everyone had arrived and it seemed that they did. She asked if I thought it might be better if Kevin and I were left alone to rest and focus on the baby and the birth ahead of us and although I didn’t realize how much I needed it at that time it was such an appreciated suggestion. Jessie and Lauraina both went to their respective homes to get some sleep and my mom and Steve went out to the lobby. Before Lauraina left I shared my fears about potentially being induced with pitocin and I asked her if she had ever witnessed a birth where a mom was given pitocin and things were still able to progress naturally and, luckily, she said she had. This gave me an extra boost of confidence and set my mind at ease if we were to eventually go that route.
When everyone left, Kevin and I decided to take a nap to see if things started picking up when we woke up.
Kevin’s parents, Dorothy and George, arrived at the hospital after the long drive up from Long Beach. We were afraid that they might not make it in time and we were so happy to finally see them!
Dorothy so obviously elated that they made it in time!
11:00 PM – 1:30 AM
At this point we were feeling more rested so decided to get up and out of the hospital bed to walk the baby out! The loop we had to walk was pretty short and we must have walked that hallway over 100 times. At one point we decided to switch things up and go in the opposite direction, just to keep things interesting. It was great that the L&D halls were so empty during these hours so there wasn’t a lot of foot traffic to have to walk around.
Kevin and me on lap 79
In the center of the loop we walked was the visitor’s waiting area so my mom, Steve, Dorothy and George were all hanging out and watching us walk around and around and around. My mom and Dorothy joined me for a few laps to give Kevin a break.
Dorothy going for a lap with me
The family was starving at the late hour (since none of them had eaten dinner) so they decided to order pizza around midnight.
After walking the hall for a couple of hours and talking things over with the nurse, Kevin and I decided to start the pitocin drip at 1:30 AM. She was going to start me at 2 drops per hour and increase it two more drops every hour until everything was at the level it needed to be.
Saturday, June 2—Sirena’s birth day
The nurse began the pitocin drip but told us it would take thirty minutes to kick in so it was advised that we try to get some rest. Kevin got onto his reclining chair again and I laid down in the hospital bed for one last pre-baby nap.
2:00 AM – 4:00 AM
Right on schedule I was woken up by much more intense contractions at 2:00 AM. At first they were pretty manageable just with the use of deep breathing. Kevin and I were in our room together with the lights kept down low, working through each contraction one at a time, just the two of us.
Kevin would keep his eye on the monitor to see how far apart the contractions were coming along. The funny thing was that on our monitor we could also see the contractions of the other laboring women who were also hooked up to the monitors–it was hard not to compare where we were at with all of the other women’s contractions we were seeing on the monitor.
At 3:00 AM the pitocin drip was increased to four drips per hour. This ended up being as high as the pitocin needed to get–my body got the kick-start it needed and basically took it from there!
Towards 4:00 AM I was starting to have a harder time coping with the intensity of each contraction. I had read a lot of books about natural childbirth and there were a few things that stuck with me that helped me a ton–I would wrap my left arm around Kevin’s shoulder and lean into him sideways, rock back and forth, then I would relax my jaw, take a deep breath, and on the exhale I would make a low “ahhh” sound. This is what we would do every few minutes for a few hours, over and over again. We were honestly living life in five minute increments, just getting through each contraction together, one at a time.
There were a few thoughts that kept going through my mind during this time–I would keep in mind that Sirena was working just as hard as I was to come into the world and that we needed to continue to work as a team to get through this experience together; I would also imagine life with Sirena, camping with our family, playing with Lola, spending time outdoors in the sunshine–these thoughts helped me get through the brief moments of relief in between each contraction and helped me prepare mentally and emotionally for the next big wave.
We called the nurse in because things were feeling a lot more intense and we wanted to know how we were doing. She said that things were coming along and that we should call Jessie and Lauraina to let them know and that they should start making their way back to the hospital but that they could take their time. Kevin called them to let them know our status.
Within 20 minutes (about four contractions) things became extremely intense. I was having a harder time standing during the contractions and began feeling the urge to push. We called the nurse back in and told her how I was feeling–she said that things weren’t far enough along for me to be pushing and that I should try other coping techniques but that things were definitely progressing and that Jessie and Lauraina should really make their way to the hospital. Kevin texted Jessie and Lauraina and told them that they needed to get to the hospital NOW.
The intensity of my contractions was overwhelming–I felt such an incredible pressure and a need to push that I couldn’t get relief from. We called the nurse in again and she suggested I lie down on my side and she said that she would call the doctor in to check me. As I was lying on my side I felt so many different sensations that were overpowering–I felt nauseous, like I was going to throw up, and Kevin held up a bag next to my face just in case I did; and at the same time I felt such an urge to push that I could not control. The nurse suggested to Kevin that he help me with quick, shallow breaths so he sat in front of me and mimicked the fast breathing that I was able to follow (and this helped a ton with keeping me from pushing as much as my body really wanted to).
Dr. Gray arrived to check me and said that I was only six centimeters dilated so I still had a ways to go. Hearing this was so incredibly frustrating and I began feeling overwhelmed and defeated. I didn’t know how much longer I’d be able to keep myself from pushing when the urge was so incredibly overpowering.
Neither Jessie nor Lauraina had arrived yet so Kevin texted my mom and told her to come in.
Within 10 minutes (about three contractions) I could no longer control the urge to push and told the nurse. She called Dr. Gray back into the room and the doctor quickly noted that I was ready to begin pushing. They had me lie down on my back and put my feet in stir-ups. By the next contraction, I began pushing.
Jessie arrived just as I was placed on my back and she joined me opposite Kevin at my right shoulder.
This time is both extremely vivid in my mind but at the same time, a blur. I was aware overall of my sister arriving and my mom being in the room but I also was only focused on what I was feeling and how I was going to get through each push.
At first I didn’t really know how to focus my pushes, it was just an urge I had but I wasn’t sure if I was doing it right. Dr. Gray placed her fingers on me and told me to focus my pushes there which I tried but I still wasn’t sure I was doing it right.
They brought a standing mirror into the room and Dr. Gray asked if I was able to see the top of Sirena’s head. I tried to focus enough to see her clearly but there was so much going on in those moments I really couldn’t focus on anything other than what my body was doing.
For each contraction I was able to get about three pushes in–when the urge would arrive I would lift my knees up (which Kevin and Jessie helped with), take a deep breath, then push with all of my might for around 10 seconds (which Kevin and Jessie would count out for me), then take another deep breath and do the same thing two more times. After three pushes I would get a break of around 45 seconds when I would relax my legs, try to breathe and relax my body, Kevin would pat my head with a cold washcloth, and I would prepare myself for the next set of pushes.
5:00 AM – 5:15 AM
Lauraina arrived at this time and went to my left shoulder while Kevin went to my feet with Dr. Gray.
By this time there were so many more doctors and nurses in the room, just standing around and getting ready for Sirena’s arrival. In between the contractions I remember glancing around and taking note of how many people were standing there in the room while I was lying there with my feet in stir-ups wearing nothing but a sports bra (but of course, I couldn’t care less in that moment! It’s completely true that any and all modesty goes straight out the window when a woman gives birth). Luckily no one thought to tell my mom to leave the room but she stood in the back and tried to blend in with all of the other people in the room as much as possible just in case.
I continued the cycle of pushing three times in a row with about 30 seconds of rest in between each set of pushes. Lauraina told me later she noticed that I had gone very much into myself during this time and I couldn’t agree more–I was semi-aware of what was going on in the room but was mostly focused on the work my body was doing. I had to close my eyes shut during each push and all I remember listening for was the countdown to 10 Jessie would say aloud during each push and Dr. Gray saying, “That’s it, that’s it” which was so helpful to hear while I was pushing, hearing validation that I was doing it right and that things were coming along.
Kevin was having a completely different experience while at my feet with Dr. Gray–she asked him if he wanted to touch Sirena’s head while it was crowning which he did and he says it was amazing.
Kevin’s smile here makes it so apparent that he was having an amazing experience while watching his daughter be born
As her head was emerging, Kevin continued to have his hand on her head and Dr. Gray was supporting it with her hands. Then as the shoulders emerged, Dr. Gray began to help pull them out while Kevin continued to hold Sirena’s head–it was at this time that Kevin barely dodged a stream of fluid that came out with one of my pushes (something that Sirena and I had been planning all along 😉 ). Once the shoulders were out, it was with one more big push that her entire body squirmed its way out of me and into Kevin’s and Dr. Gray’s hands. I remember a very warm, wet sensation (and a huge relief) when she was finally born. The nurse looked at the clock and declared her time of birth as 5:15 AM.
Dr. Gray had to remove the umbilical cord from around her shoulders and then Kevin immediately placed Sirena on my chest, umbilical cord still attached and allowed to finish pulsating as we requested.
Kevin and Dr. Gray lifting Sirena to my chest
I cannot quite describe the feelings I had when I first saw her. It was an extremely surreal moment that I still have not found the words to describe (and I’m not sure I ever will). This photo that my mom took captures the moment beautifully and it makes me cry every single time I see it.
I was in total and complete awe of this creature that had just come out of me, this creature that had been growing inside of me for nine months, this creature that I had wanted and dreamed about for so long, this creature that was me and Kevin.
Love at first sight
First family photo. Head over heels in love.
She was finally here and our lives have not been the same since.