My pregnancy with Luca came right after a miscarriage in May of 2017. He is our rainbow baby and little miracle. I had pretty bad nausea/morning sickness for the first 20-ish weeks of the pregnancy, and was anxious because I had gone through a miscarriage, but still I cherished every moment I carried him inside my body, and from 20 to 40 weeks I honestly felt incredible. I was the happiest I had ever been and I felt beautiful. I gained 40lbs with Luca but there’s something about growing a life, I’ve never felt more proud of my body and for that I felt beautiful. I know that might sound crazy, that’s just me!
I’ll be doing another post of our pregnancy story so stay tuned for that, for now I’ll just get right into it.
Late in my pregnancy I had one of those “Oh sh*t I have to push this thing out of me” moments. I don’t know why it took so long but around 34 weeks I started feverishly researching different birthing methods and practices. I was finding it fascinating that women could go through labor and birth with no pain medication or intervention, this was so contradictory to what I had been led to believe so I grabbed a hypnobirthing book and decided to take the class to learn more (and in true Christine fashion, very last-minute). I was so inspired and empowered by the stories of these women both in my hypnobirthing book and on the podcast I listened to, The Birth Hour, that Alex and I decided to make our birth plan follow suit.
Side note, I think it’s very important to make your birth plan flexible. You really never know what is going to happen and it’s best to be able to roll with it. Our plan was more so our “wishes” or “preferences.” Alex and I understood that things would most likely not go as planned and we had discussed our feelings about certain scenarios in advance that way at least we were on the same page. I also think a birth plan is helpful for the doctors even if it just gives them a heads up about your general vibe.
I did everything possible in the weeks leading up to Luca’s birth to ensure I would be strong enough to do it without pain medication – I read/listened to lots of positive birth stories, studied various breathing and meditation techniques, drank raspberry leaf tea, sat on my birthing ball, stretched daily and did yoga specifically for pelvic floor strengthening. I couldn’t have been more physically prepared.
40 weeks rolled around and I still felt great, no swelling, blood pressure was great, energy levels were up, I honestly wasn’t scared at all, just excited, empowered and ready to meet our baby! I had an appointment on the day I was due, February 12, only to find out I was not dilated even the slightest bit but I was about 90% effaced. I tried not to get in my head about it and did my best to not think of my “due date” as an end-all-be-all. But according to my practice I was technically “overdue” and I wanted to avoid induction at all costs. For two days we did a few things to try to get my labor going – walks around the orchard, spicy food, even intercourse! Some of you may cringe but again, I felt great and semen actually softens the cervix. And guess what? IT WORKED!!!
My water broke at 3am on Wednesday morning (February 14). I was sound asleep and woke up to a HUGE gush, tons of liquid! I remember thinking it was crazy how much fluid came out and there was also a pop noise. Luckily I had towels nearby because I was ready for anything! I jumped out of bed and yelled for Alex to wake up, I said, “This is happening,” and immediately broke down crying. So many emotions flooded in and Alex just held me for a while. As excited as we were to meet our baby, I thought about it being our last few hours as just us so in a way I savored the moment.
My contractions started right away and were about 10 minutes apart. They weren’t terrible, it felt like really, really bad period cramps and I was able to breathe normally through them. I called my mom and let her know and then texted my doula (side note: highly recommend getting a doula, again probably another a post in itself, but I was so so thankful for ours!). She said since my contractions were manageable and far apart that we should try to rest for a few more hours and she would come the first thing in the morning.
I noticed there was a greenish tinge to the liquid which my doula informed me was meconium, the baby had pooped inside which I later found out meant he was in distress. Birth doesn’t have to be, but a lot of times it’s a very traumatic experience for the baby (this is what I was trying to avoid). So I remained calm for the baby and we went back to bed.
I didn’t sleep much but finally at 8am we got up. I took a nice, long, warm shower; it helped a ton with the contractions which were growing stronger. I remember thinking oh my God, I’m going to become a mother today and again I was overcome with emotion (common theme during labor I think, yes?).
I called my doctor and told her my water had broken overnight with meconium and that I was still in early labor; she said to make my way in if the contractions got stronger or closer together or by the afternoon regardless. Part of our plan was to labor as much as possible in the comfort of our home so I was happy when the doctor didn’t want me to rush in.
My family came over to visit and Hilary, our doula, also arrived in the morning. The company was a nice distraction but my labor seemed to completely stop! The contractions went from consistently every 6-7 minutes to very sporadic, no real pattern.
Hilary was great at keeping us focused and trying activities to get the labor going again. We did certain positions/stretches (like the side-lying release), walked around the property, but the most interesting thing was nipple stimulation. The idea behind this is that it should mimic a baby nursing and start the release of oxytocin, which we know is what induces and progresses your labor.
Unfortunately nothing really worked and my contractions were barely happening anymore, about once every 15-20 minutes. 3pm rolled around and we collectively decided it was time to head to the hospital, it had been 12 hours since my water broke.
We arrived at the hospital and got all checked in (had one more emotional breakdown too) and the contractions picked up again to about every 7-8 minutes. They also became stronger and a bit longer, but I was still able to manage with the calming breaths and focusing my mind. I had been practicing this stuff in the months leading up so I felt very comfortable with managing my labor. It’s amazing what your body can do when you sync it with your mind, I would kind of go into my own world and then come back, it’s a very unique experience.
I was not checked when we arrived because one, when your water breaks the protective seal between the outside world and your baby is broken making them more prone to get an infection if foreign objects are poking around in there. And two, my contractions were inconsistent so they knew I couldn’t be very dilated.
I had envisioned our room at the hospital to be very chill and zen, kind of like a spa, and I wanted my surroundings to reflect my plan for calm, private labor and delivery. I was lucky this part went to plan – we were able to set up a small speaker and play soothing/happy music, we dimmed the lights and set up fake flickering candles and diffused lavender essential oil (I know I’m over the top, just wait for my hospital bag post haha!). I was so thankful the staff were accepting of our wishes, I think it set the tone for anyone who walked in the room to immediately be chill, which, if anything, was exactly what I wanted.
I was able to be intermittently monitored so we did some walking around the halls of the L&D wing, did more stretching, acupressure massaging, resting with the peanut ball and sitting on my birthing ball (yes I brought my own to the hospital!).
This was something that I did not know or even think about prior to experiencing it, that labor can be very long and drawn out. In the movies its always quick and there’s a lot of screaming, but everyone is different and that was not the case for me. I’m so sooo happy we had Hilary there with us to help pass the time with different labor-progression techniques.
I spent the afternoon/evening and night laboring, the contractions kept getting more and more intense and closer together. Even though it was taking forever, I thought YES this is a great sign! Alex was a trooper, he was right there with me for everything, and so was Hilary. They took turns rubbing my back or holding my hand even though they were exhausted too. I remember Alex wouldn’t take his eyes off the baby’s heart rate monitor and I thought that was the cutest thing. He also somehow remembered to get flowers delivered to our room for my Valentine’s Day present, literally the sweetest.
For a few hours of the labor, when it really started getting intense, I felt the need to sit on the toilet. I didn’t have to go to the bathroom, I just wanted to sit in that position. And be in the pitch dark with relaxing music. So Alex came into the bathroom with me and we shut the door and turned the lights off. Around this time I also had to begin moaning to get through the contractions because they were so intense. It was getting really late now and they were coming every 5 or so minutes. I still hadn’t been checked but I was ok with that because I knew my labor was progressing. At this point I realized I was not going to be having a Valentine’s Day baby and I remember being happy about that!
We labored in the dark bathroom for another 5 hours and around 3am utter exhaustion was starting to take over me (I had been awake and laboring for 24 hours now). I asked if we could have the doctor check me to see if we were getting close and a few minutes later he came in. I thought if I were close I could rally and do this thing and my hopes were high because my contractions were so close and intense. But he checked me and I was only 1cm! I was crushed. I like to think of myself as a strong woman, and I was especially thinking I was strong for laboring like that for so long, but to hear that news absolutely crushed me.
I was so physically and emotionally drained that we decided the best option was to get the epidural (again, flexible birth plan. I knew going in that if something like this happened I wouldn’t be opposed to the epidural). But I got it together and remained positive, I thought if I could get a couple of hours of rest they could back off the epidural and I could totally push this baby out.
Because I was only 1cm they also wanted to give me Pitocin, I didn’t love the idea, I still wanted my body to labor in its own way, however, I did want to meet this baby at some point in the near future so I asked them to give me the lowest dose possible.
The next few hours are extremely blurry to me so I had to have Alex help me with this part. I received the epidural around 4am, the anesthesiologist looked less than amused to be doing this at 4am but hey I’M SORRY I can’t decide when the baby wants to come!! I did not like this part at all. It’s very uncomfortable to hunch over and stay perfectly still, I went through about 10 contractions and it was really, really, really hard. I was squeezing a pillow and the nurse’s hand SUPER tight. The anesthesiologist messed up the first time too and had to redo it so it took double as long. But I finally felt the cold run through my back and the relief was immediate, the contractions started feeling more like Braxton Hicks.
Side note about the epidural, I could feel my legs the entire time, I couldn’t walk on them but they definitely were not completely numb. That was something I was nervous about so I was pleasantly surprised when I was still able to feel them!
I laid down with the peanut ball (best thing ever, check with your hospital to see if they offer them, most do) and was able to get a couple of hours of rest, not total rest, but at least I wasn’t having to do my breathing/meditating so my mind and body relaxed a little.
Then around 9am woke up to ungodly, excruciating pain and pressure in my butt, to be specific my butthole area. This was back labor, it was NOT FUN, much worse than the regular contractions! The contractions came on so suddenly and they were coming so fast (about every 30 seconds) I couldn’t catch my breath or focus my mind at all. I was crying from the unbearable pain and upset that the epidural stopped working, but still, I remained positive and thought, “Ok it’s go time, I feel like I’m ready to push!”
Everything was happening so fast, I didn’t know it at the time but along with these super intense contractions the baby’s heart rate was dropping and almost being lost. There was a tizzy of nurses running in and out and the decision was made to stop the Pitocin and up my epidural. I found out later they had upped my Pitocin to 12 within four hours, it was just too much for my body and the baby.
It took a while to get the anesthesiologist back to up my epidural so I labored with that insane pain for two hours (I don’t really remember this). During this time my doctor came in to check me and we found out I was only at 3cm. Another major blow. Here I was in the so much pain and feeling the pressure to push that I thought I was in transition but we weren’t even close.
Luckily the epidural kicked back in and I could breathe/think again, this was around 11am. The good news was that contractions stayed very regular and very strong, even without the Pitocin, the bad news was that the baby’s heart rate kept plummeting. Alex and I discussed our options with our doula and the doctor and decided we would let my body labor (no Pitocin) for another two hours and check dilation again. If there was little to no progress by then we’d go for the C-section.
These two hours were back to being very calm, my body was doing its thing but our eyes were glued to the monitor watching the baby’s heart rate. I should also mention my water had now been broken for over 24 hours and there was meconium in it. But honestly the doctors were very lax about that aspect, the main concern was the baby’s heart rate and that my labor wasn’t progressing.
Collectively at 1pm, we made the decision to have a C-section. We made the decision very calmly and happily. I wasn’t in any crazy pain, the baby wasn’t too distressed, I was checked and had only dilated to 4cm. The contractions were very regular and strong and we probably could have kept going but I was exhausted, I had been in labor for 35 hours and I had to listen to my body.
There was absolutely not one ounce of shame in choosing the C-section. I was extremely ready to meet our baby after that very long day and a half. And I did not want to risk any more heart rate drops, the baby obviously wasn’t doing well with the extreme contractions and I accepted that a vaginal birth was just not meant to be this time.
Everything happened very quickly during that next hour. Nurses walking in and out, having us sign papers, asking all sorts of questions, changing up my IV’s. The anesthesiologist came in (a new one luckily) and upped my epidural all the way to completely numb. I could still move my legs but my abdomen and upper thighs were totally numb.
They wheeled me into the OR, it was bright and cold and there was music playing. I couldn’t believe I was about to meet my baby. They started prepping my body, things were really happening fast and Alex still wasn’t in the room. I asked them where he was and finally he walked in. He sat right next to me and held my hand as they strapped both my arms to the table (straight out like Jesus on the cross).
The doctor told us every move he was making. He said, “Ok I am making the first incision let me know if you feel anything.” I felt pain on my right side so I yelled out and the anesthesiologist did something. It was ok again. The doctor said he was making another incision and then I felt a ton of pressure and pushing on the top of my abdomen, one of the nurses pushing hard to help get the baby out through the incision. My body was being pushed and pulled and I felt lots of intense tugging and pressure both inside and out. I was just a crying mess and I was praying.
Literally one minute later he was out, we heard the cries and they dropped the blue curtain. There was a clear curtain still up, they announced he was a boy (freaking incredible moment) and put him on my chest for a couple of seconds (through the clear curtain). He was perfect and all three of us were crying so hard. I could not believe I was looking at my baby finally after all this time!!
There was a neonatologist in the room to receive him first because of the meconium in my fluid (they have to make sure the baby doesn’t breathe in any poo). He was fortunately ok and it only took about two minutes to get him cleaned, swaddled and into Alex’s arms. The feeling of looking at your husband hold your baby for the first time is one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced. It was the most special moment of my life. Luca was crying but it didn’t matter, he was here. Alex put him right up next to my face and I tried to focus on my little guy for the first time.
My tears didn’t stop the entire time it took them to stitch me up. It took about 40 minutes, Alex and Luca had to leave the room and I was left alone. I hated this part, just giving birth but not being with your baby OR your husband.
It felt like an eternity but finally I was wheeled into recovery and got to hold Luca for the first time. We did skin to skin and he latched on right away, he was a voracious eater right from the beginning. I feel like this was my reward for nothing else going to plan – breastfeeding came very naturally and I’m happy to say we’ve had a great experience together so far!
They told us in recovery that they had to work extra hard on getting Luca out because the cord was wrapped tight around his entire body (I noticed later I had bruising on my stomach from all the pushing and pulling the nurses did on my abdomen). The cord was restricting him from descending, there was no slack between him and the placenta. Every time a contraction came it squeezed him tighter and caused him to stress which caused his heart rate drop. This is why I didn’t dilate or progress over the 36 hours. It was nice to find out the reason but scary to think that he had been in distress. All the more reason I was happy with the Cesarean and thankful that we live in a time and place where they are an option!
We did not get an intervention-free birth, we did not get delayed cord clamping or immediate skin-to-skin, but we did feel in control the whole time and were able to make informed decisions which ultimately brought us a healthy baby boy.
This was always the way Luca was going to enter the world and I’m very happy with the experience overall. The doctors and nurses were amazing and did everything to respect our birth plan and make it a positive experience. My labor (minus those terrible few hours) was peaceful and I did it for a full 24 hours the way I had wanted, with just my hypnobirthing techniques, no intervention. I could not be more proud of what my body accomplished. And the end result of having a healthy baby and healthy mom was all I could ask for.
Our family was complete and I was in utter awe of this miracle. The experience is still hard for me to put into words. I knew it was going to change me but I had no idea the love would be this overwhelming and all encompassing. I would relive these 36 hours a million times over for this beautiful baby boy of ours, he is everything to us!
*I wrote this post more so as a memoir for myself so I can always remember our story, but also to empower other moms-to-be out there! My lab and delivery did not go perfectly and it was so far from my plan but despite all that I had a very positive experience and I truly believe most women can if they remain flexible, confident and have good care. Remember that you are a woman and your body was designed to create and birth new life. You got this!!
Thank you for making it to the end of my story, I would love to know if you made it this far, let me know by leaving a comment below!
Luca Alexander Covino//February 15, 2018//2:03pm//6lbs. 5oz., 21in.
Below I linked some of my favorite robes from Pinkblush (similar to the red one I’m wearing). Maternity or not I LIVED in my robe for the first two weeks with Luca and they have so many great options, I highly suggest browsing their site! Also linked my favorite nursing bras, underwear and nursing pillow! For more essentials look out for my “New Mama Must-Haves” post coming to the blog next week and for my “Newborn Essentials” post click here!