Alexis and daughter Luella –
I don’t quite know how I can possibly recount every emotion or describe every detail so I won’t even begin to try. What I can do is retell the story to the best of my memory while it’s still very fresh in my mind. The following is an account of the agonizing pain, exhaustion, and frustration, along with the unparalleled love it took to get to this moment of pure, euphoric happiness – the moment I finally met my daughter.
November 26, 2012 – My husband, the community of midwives I had been working with throughout my pregnancy, and I needed to make a decision. My insurance was expiring in 3 days – we had to explore every option to have this baby as soon as possible. This was the last concern I had in my pregnancy. I was so caught up with the idea of making sure the Birthing Center at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital would be staffed so I could deliver there that it didn’t even cross my mind I would go past my due date and then some. I was now 1 week past due (the Birthing Center was no longer an option since among the long list of rules to deliver there, one is to be within 37 weeks to 40 weeks and 6 days.) At this point it no longer mattered that I would have to be in the Labor & Delivery ward because I was fighting against time. There was absolutely no way I could have this baby after November 30. The thought of overwhelming medical bills was looming over my head and we needed to take serious action. My heart dropped at the thought of artificial induction. I felt duped. I worked so hard throughout my pregnancy to avoid this very scenario. I had been religiously practicing yoga a few times a week. In my 3rd trimester I had gone to see an acupuncturist that had a phenomenal success rate in naturally inducing through acupuncture. In the last weeks, Walt and I used acupressure points to try and get things moving. We ate spicy food. We had sex. We tried everything. A couple of days past my due date, I decided to take an enema as a gentler approach to castor oil. While I was able to relieve myself in an extremely satisfying way, labor didn’t start. I was starting to grow increasingly desperate as the clock continued to tick away.
November 27, 2012 – As morning rolled around I paged the midwife on call. Sylvie Blaustein (the head honcho at Midwifery of Manhattan) called me back shortly after and I explained to her my concern. She wanted me to come in for an exam to see if I had dilated anymore before advising an alternate approach. Walt and I headed into the city and to their office. Everything looked great as usual – the baby was very low and I was now dilated to 3 centimeters. She and I agreed the next logical step would be to try a castor oil recipe in the hopes that contractions would start. If this didn’t work we decided I would be admitted to St. Luke’s the next morning to start Pitocin. As soon as we got back home, I drank a delicious cocktail of 3 ounces of castor oil to 4 ounces of grapefruit juice. It actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be if you don’t mind drinking oil, that is. The midwife said I would start to feel some major movement in about 4 hours. WRONG! An hour and half passed and I needed to run to use the restroom. I have never shit like that in my entire life. I’m talking major blowback. This continued for the next 6 hours. I stayed hydrated with water, coconut water, and lots of Gatorade. Finally around 9 p.m., I began to feel contractions! It worked and Walt and I were beyond thrilled. We began timing them to see how far apart they were. They started at consistent durations and intervals, ranging anywhere from 40 to 50 seconds and 5 to 7 minutes apart. This continued for a couple of hours and then things changed. The contractions started becoming shorter and further apart. I paged the midwife on call in a panic. She called and explained that sometimes castor oil can cause contractions to become irregular. She told me to try and get some rest, so I did.
November 28, 2012 – Around 9 a.m., my contractions hadn’t really intensified and they were still inconsistent. Walt and I decided we needed to get things moving quickly if we were going to be in and out of the hospital by Friday, the 30th. The joint decision was made to meet Jocelyn (the midwife on call that day) at St. Luke’s to start Pit. I’m glad I had a chance to come to peace with resorting to the use of Pitocin. I reminded myself I had explored every other option and this was the last ditch effort. I focused on what was best for my family and that was not being in financial ruin over my own pride of wanting a completely natural childbirth. We arrived at the hospital around 10:30 a.m. and were escorted into a labor room. Jocelyn explained to me that she was going to give me the lowest dosage possible and increase it slowly until major progress was being made. Around 5 centimeters, I really began feeling the change. I could no longer continue conversing with Walt and Lindsey, our doula, through each contraction, but I was still able to manage them. I went into a zone and it was a great opportunity to practice ujjayi breathing. Once Jocelyn checked my cervix for the 2nd time and I had reached 7 centimeters, the difficulty of each contraction became increasingly harder to endure. Being on Pitocin and hooked up to an IV for hydration meant I was limited to body positioning. I could get out of the bed but only be a few feet away. It was frustrating to be hooked up to machines but Walt and Lindsey managed to help me get into positions I wanted to try, to find some sort of relief. I was on hands and knees, side lying, standing, and sitting on the birth ball. In the end, the birth ball was most favorable because I could rock my hips back and forth without having to hold any of my own body weight. I labored in this position for hours with a few different positions in between. Walt held my hand and cradled my face into his chest during the most violent contractions while Lindsey squeezed my pelvis to apply counter pressure. As the wave of each contraction got higher I started doubting whether or not I could actually do this. I had been adamant about no one asking me if I wanted an Epidural. I made it very clear that if I felt I needed it I would say so. I remember thinking towards the end I just couldn’t do it anymore. My body was physically exhausted for laboring for so long and I had no more energy since all I could eat was ice chips. I wanted to give up but I didn’t know how.
The wee hours of November 29, 2012 – In the middle of transition (the time my cervix dilated from 7 to 10 centimeters,) I kept repeating out loud that I couldn’t do it anymore. I looked to Walt and all he kept saying was “Baby, you’re doing it.” In the heat of it all, I didn’t feel like I was doing it. I felt like I was losing this fierce game where I would ultimately be defeated. I kept asking my doula how much longer this would last. “When am I going to reach 10 centimeters?” Of course I knew every labor progresses differently but I was begging for a time frame. I needed to know it was going to end because I just knew I wouldn’t be able to do this for much longer. Lindsey’s response was “You’re so close. You’re getting there.” The last hour of my labor felt like time had stopped. Walt held me up as we slow danced through each excruciating contraction. I clung to him and moaned like a dying animal. Then it happened – I felt the baby drop. This tremendous amount of weight filled the birth canal and the intense pressure I had been feeling for hours had doubled in an instant. For the first time I felt scared. How am I going to be able to do this? I was barely getting through the contractions I had been having. How could I possibly manage any more pain? I explained to Jocelyn what I was feeling and she told me during each contraction I needed to continue moaning but as low as possible. She told me to do whatever my body was telling me to do. I can’t quite articulate it any other way but I became a beast. Animal instinct kicked in and I became someone I had never met before. I was in so much pain but I knew I needed to do everything in my power to get this baby out of me. Looking back now I realize there was this great juxtaposition in play. Here I was experiencing the most agonizing pain of my life yet there was this underlying romance taking place. Walt and I continued to slow dance between contractions and when one would hit he held me as I poured my entire self onto him. He pressed his face against my face and told me how proud he was of me, and how much he loved me. 15 minutes passed and I told everyone I was ready to push. There I stood, hanging on Walt, and bearing down for the first push. Extreme pressure filled the birth canal. I told my midwife I thought I had pooped in the disposable panties I was wearing. I moved closer to the bed, still standing, and braced myself for the second push. I reached into my panties and said out loud, “I feel hair!” Jocelyn calmly said we would be making our way over to the bed and pulled down my panties. “Oh my God! Okay, I need to get my gloves on,” she said. Everyone in the room, including myself, was in complete shock. In 2 pushes my baby was crowning. We made it to the side of the bed and another contraction was quickly approaching. “Alexis, you’re going to deliver your baby standing up. We don’t have time to get into the bed,” said Jocelyn. I couldn’t see the baby’s head because my pregnant belly was still in the way. At that moment, I looked around the room and watched the amazement in everyone else’s eyes. There was Lindsey, standing across from me and she was in awe. I began to pan over to Walt and he had the biggest smile on his face, and kept repeating, “Oh my God, she’s right there! Babe, look down! Can you see her?” I suddenly got this huge rush of adrenaline. Hearing and seeing everyone else’s excitement gave me the encouragement to push for the 3rd and final time. The contraction hit me and I pushed down so hard that my legs began to shake. I bent my knees to ground myself with the earth and gave every bit of strength and force I had left in me. Jocelyn caught the baby – she was out.
Since I was standing up, Jocelyn placed Luella on the bed right in front of me. I hovered over her and was in complete shock over what had just happened. Every ounce of pain left my body in an instant and I focused on this vernix covered, red-lipped, peaceful human being. She wasn’t crying so I wanted to make sure she was okay. Jocelyn and the delivery nurse told me she was absolutely perfect and healthy – she was just quiet. They waited until the umbilical cord stopped pulsing and asked Walt if he wanted to cut the cord. He did. They helped me into the bed and placed the baby on my chest. We were skin to skin in a matter of minutes. We began to breastfeed and she had a perfect latch. Everything in my world stopped. Whatever I had gone through before didn’t matter. Whatever was happening around me was blurred. I stared at this beautiful baby I had waited for, cried for, moaned for, and finally, was now able to care for. It felt like it was just she and I on this planet and everything spun around us.
Jocelyn was the most patient and nurturing caregiver I could have ever asked for. She spent so much time in the room with me and went above and beyond her duties as a midwife. Lindsey, my doula, was fantastic. She helped relieve so much of the pain I was feeling with her constant touch and never-ending encouragement. Lastly and most importantly, I have endless gratitude for my husband. He’s the ultimate reason I was able to labor for 29 hours without the use of an Epidural or any other sort of pain medication. There is a newfound respect and love I feel towards him. He carried me through the most difficult challenge of my life, and for that I will forever adore and admire him.