Felicity Brian McCready-Flora is currently five days old and is napping, swaddled on my lap as I type (I know, I'm talented). It has been an exhausting week, but thanks to my amazing mother and husband, an amazing week. I've typed out her birth story, and then there are pictures below.
Love from New York!
Love from New York!
Felicity Brian’s Birth Story
On November 30th, two days after my estimated due date, I had my first contraction around 3:30 PM. I’d been having prodromal labor contractions for four weeks, but could immediately tell that this contraction was different and most likely “the real thing.”
I started rocking on my birth ball and timing contractions. They started at about 45 seconds in length, two minutes apart. Within fifteen minutes, the contractions were within a minute and a half apart and were already intensifying and getting longer. As I was leaning over the bed through one, I had a small felt a small gush of water. I had my mom call Ian around 4:00 PM and tell him to come home immediately, and threw a few final things into our bags.
Ian was home within 10 minutes (he works two blocks away) and we were out the door a few moments after that. We have been working with the Brooklyn Birthing Center, which is a good 45 minutes away not in rush hour traffic. We attempted to hail a cab, but no one would take us so far due to changing shifts. I was on the phone with our midwives, telling them what was going on when a car service dropped someone else off across the street and offered to drive us. As soon as we were settled in the car, my midwives called to say they wanted me to get to the nearest hospital – with rush hour traffic and the president and Justin Beiber in town for the tree lighting at Rockefeller Center, they were concerned that we wouldn’t make it to them in time as the contractions were already over a minute in length and getting steadily closer together.
We changed course and were at a New York Presbyterian (Columbia University) within 10 minutes. When I was checked, I was at four centimeters. They admitted me within the hour and we set up in a birthing suite. The staff was very respectful of my wishes for a completely natural birth (barring no complications), said I would be free to move around, use the shower, and would be able to push in whatever positions I chose.
By the time we’d been in the labor suite for an hour or so, they checked me again and I was at six centimeters and my water fully broke (apparently it only “leaked” earlier in the day). The contractions were getting increasingly painful and at this point I was getting little to no break in between them. Although I had planned on moving around as much as possible during labor, I had intense back labor (baby was in a posterior position) and my left hip had been giving me extreme pain for over a week, so it was most comfortable to labor sitting up in the bed; I could barely stand or walk. They did let me get into the shower at one point, which didn’t necessarily help with the level of pain, but the water was soothing.
My mom and husband were so helpful during this whole time – they put pressure on my arms and feet and legs when needed (not sure why, but that felt amazing), let me squeeze their hands, let me stare into their eyes during contractions, and even went through my positive affirmations with me (these were not really worked out beforehand, but, as I recall, ended up being, “I can do this,” “I’m working with my body, not against it,” and “Yes, yes, yes”).
By 11:00 PM, I wasn’t getting any break whatsoever between contractions, they pain level was at a 9 or 10, the back labor was getting worse to the point where I was having difficulty breathing even when I wasn’t in the peak of a contraction, and my whole body was shaking. I began to really lose focus, could not longer keep my breathing under control, and started screaming through contractions. I thought I was in transition and knew that if I was eight or more centimeters dilated I could keep going. I asked for a check, and found I was still at six centimeters.
I was getting really tired and could not imagine going on much longer and was so disappointed to find that I wasn’t in transition. I asked about pain management options but was told the only option was an epidural. I had been dead set against getting one the entire pregnancy but kept thinking about a discussion in our birthing class about the difference between pain and suffering, and I had definitely moved out of the working-with-the-pain and was in active suffering and could not imagine going on any further. I reluctantly agreed to get an epidural.
My labor and delivery nurse was so encouraging throughout all of this. While she completely respected my desire to do things naturally, she also pointed out that I’d been in active labor for over seven hours with little to no break between really intense contractions with back labor and was unable to get into many positions that would help my labor progress more quickly. This helped me immensely; I had done my very best, and pain management does have its place.
The epidural took a little while to administer, but the relief was immense and unbelievable. Where I’d literally been writhing in pain and screaming thirty minutes before, I was completely calm. My body completely shut down and I curled up into a tight ball to be able to sleep. I was unable to do much more than doze, but it was good to rest and my mom and husband were able to sleep a little.
They checked me around 2:00 AM and I was just fully dilated. They turned down the epidural and had me start to push about thirty minutes later. Unfortunately turning down the epidural did not allow me to feel much of an urge to push, but the back labor intensified again. I pushed in a few positions and was even able to get into a squatting position for a few contractions, but I they couldn’t tell that I was making any progress and the baby’s heart rate was getting very high. The doctor came in to help deliver and unfortunately would only allow me to push in a supine position (from my reading, the worst position to push in). I was told that if I was unable to get the baby out within thirty minutes, they would strongly suggest a section. I did my very best, but without being able to feel the urge to push and the pain really amping up with the position I was in, the baby couldn’t get past the 2+ station. The doctor told me he was worried about the baby and wanted to do a section. I told him I really wanted to try to push squatting, but he wouldn’t let me. I was so tired and in so much pain at this point and felt I could not do anything more. We agreed to do the section.
Felicity Brian was born at 5:48 AM, 8 pounds, 6 ounces, 20 inches long. The pain medication left my body shaking for a couple of hours, but I was able to nurse her briefly in recovery and actually hold her, which was amazing.
I never intended to give birth in a hospital, to get an epidural, or have a cesarean section (recovery is, frankly, a bitch). However, in light of how quickly my labor progressed and then stalled, I think that even if I had made it to the birthing center, we would have most likely transferred to a hospital in Brooklyn and the results would probably have been the same. I was told many times while I was pregnant that my body was made to give birth, which I still believe, but also that birthing never goes according to plan, you just have to do your best and roll with what happens. The only thing I wish had occurred differently was the option to push more in different positions. I will never be positive that I did everything within my physical power to push the baby out naturally on my own.
That said, we are so in love with and amazed by our little daughter and grateful that she is healthy and well.