Baby Caleb’s Birth Story
When I was pregnant, I wanted to hear as many birth stories as I could – as if somehow that would help prepare me for my own delivery. It didn’t.
There’s no way to predict what your labor and delivery will be like, and despite your best intentions, plans don’t always pan out. But they’re still fun to hear! So if you’re interested, here is mine. If you’re not, come back for the food next week :)
Warning, this is going to get a little graphic.
Baby Caleb’s Birth Story
People always tell you that when your water breaks, it not like the movies. There isn’t a huge, embarrassing gush of water that requires you to rush out of a public place and book it to the hospital. So when my water broke in the middle of the Trader Joe’s produce section, my first thought was, “Do I have time to finish my grocery shopping?”
It was Monday, May 14th around noon, one week and one day prior to my due date, and I was driving home from an OB appointment. I decided to stop at TJ’s to look for healthy frozen meal options to stock up on for after the baby came when I knew I wouldn’t feel like cooking. In the parking lot, I shot a quick Instagram story that I intended to upload after the trip, updating my followers on my prenatal status and asking for frozen meal recommendations.
I was checking the bananas for brown spots when it happened. I felt a pop and then a gush and in about 15 seconds, as the water began to pour down my legs, soaking my Lululemon leggings, I realized, “No. No, I do not have one second to spare. I need to get out of this store – stat.”
I ditched my full cart and ran to the parking lot as fast as I could, waddling along the way and wondering if people noticed that I was drenched from the waist down.
When I sat down on the car seat, the amniotic fluid began to pool up between my legs. As I drove up to the parking ticket machine, I realized that in my hurry I hadn’t gotten my parking validated. Frantic and frazzled, I tried to explain to the 70-year-old parking attendant what was happening – “Sir, I am nine months pregnant and my water just broke and I forgot to validate…” The man furrowed his brow, “Well, next time you need to get it validated,” he grumbled as he turned to open the gate for me. Hmm, I’m guessing he didn’t fully appreciate the situation at hand!
I drove home as quickly – but safely – as possible, with water continuing to gush out and over the front of the driver’s seat like Niagara Falls.
Luckily at this point, I wasn’t having contractions. I remembered my doctor had said that in the case my water broke and I wasn’t having contractions, I had six hours to get to the hospital. So I managed to stay focused and make a mental checklist of the things I needed to do when I got home: call Abe, walk Mr. Chow, post that sponsored Instagram, pack the car, eat something!
While walking the dog and trying to get a hold of my husband, the contractions began, very mild at first. Within about an hour though, they’d progressed to the “4-1-1” point and I knew I needed to get to the hospital (every four minutes or less, for one minute, for one hour). Abe, unfortunately, was at work, in a very important deposition, and unreachable.
Looking back we laugh because that morning he’d told me, if you really need to get a hold of me, you’re going to have to have my secretary track me down and pull me out of this depo because otherwise, I’ll be out of pocket all day. “Why would I need that?” I told him. “The baby’s not coming today.”
Eventually, I reached Abe and by three hours post-Waterworld, we were in route to Cedars Sinai.
When we got to the triage department of labor and delivery, I was in serious in pain. My contractions were coming every 2-3 minutes and they were more painful than anything I’d experienced before.
The nurse checking me in asked if I had a birth plan. “Well, I’d like to have an unmedicated birth, if possible,” I said, before sharing the pain management tools I’d brought along – essential oils, a calming playlist, a stability turned birthing ball, and my husband, aka Doula Abraham.
She gave me an incredulous look, “Have you prepared? Taken any classes?”
“No,” I responded, getting concerned. “But I do yoga.”
Another nurse standing nearby laughed. “She’s not getting an epidural?” she asked the first nurse. “OK (insert eye roll).”
I suppose now would be a good time to discuss the stigma around pain management – both for and against.
Throughout my entire pregnancy, I felt an extreme amount of pressure over this choice. The judgment is real folks, and it’s not pleasant.
On one side of the fence, you’ve got pro-“natural” birthers espousing the virtues of going med-free and warning of the complications associated with drugs.
On the other side, you’ve got pro-epidural advocates insisting that there’s no reason to not take drugs and thinking that those who don’t are either pseudo-science hippies or self-righteous masochists with something to prove.
I was caught in the middle. Never one to back down from a challenge, I wanted to prove to myself that I was strong enough to endure this biological rite of passage – something my crunchy birthing books told me I was “born to do.” On the other hand, I’d done my research, and the only evidence-based downside to an epidural (for mom or baby) was possibly an extra hour of labor. Although, what’s another pain-free hour when you’ve already gone 18?
I decided to play it by ear and make a decision in the moment.
Well, when that moment came, between the all-consuming agony radiating throughout my body, the dispiriting lack of confidence from the nurses in triage, and the fact that I was only at 3 centimeters despite back to back contractions and insane pain, I immediately gave up hope that I would make it through this challenge without a little help.
We were eventually transferred to L&D and after about two more hours of bouncing on my ball, hunkering down on all fours, and trying to calm myself with my breath, I caved and got what’s called a “walking epidural.” Basically, it works like an epidural but isn’t so strong that you lose control of your legs, so you’re still able to walk around.
It worked like a miracle and I was immediately pain-free, able to relax and walk around the hospital.
However, I was emotionally defeated. I obviously wasn’t as strong as I thought I was. While my husband and I lay in my hospital bed watching a pregnant Ali Wong describe the horrors of birth in her Netflix special Hard Knock Wife, I couldn’t even laugh. I felt like I’d let myself (and those rooting for me to have a “natural birth”) down.
Fast-forward ten hours. I was still only 6.5 centimeters and extremely grateful I hadn’t spent that time trying to fight the pain. We decided to get up and walk around to try to get the baby moving. My husband and I began strolling the corridors, laughing doing squats, lunges, and football shuffles (you can watch on my Instagram highlights) while holding the rolling pole with my IV drip.
By about 4 am the following day the pain had returned with a vengeance, as they warned me it would, and I was at 8 centimeters – still not ready to call in the doctor. That’s when I made the decision to get a full epidural. It didn’t feel much different than the walking epidural, but I was instructed not to attempt to stand up. I really wasn’t in the mood to cruise the halls anymore at this point, however.
After the pain subsided, I fell asleep for about two hours. When I woke up, I knew it was time. I felt the pressure of the baby pushing down and I had the nurses check my cervix – 10 centimeters. My doctor arrived shortly after and by 8 am I was pushing.
She said it would be a quick delivery – apparently, all my yoga squats were paying off. But an hour later, I was still pushing, so hard that they gave me oxygen and told me to relax my face. Later, I’d realize I popped a blood vessel in my eye – hot.
My doctor asked me if I wanted her to give me a teensy snip (aka an episiotomy) to speed up the process. Having witnessed my sister’s gruesome 4th-degree “snip,” I politely declined.
I bore down and did what needed to be done, and in 20 minutes she pulled a terrifyingly white and silent little being out. The umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck three times but the doctor expertly whipped it off in one second.
After a bit of poking and prodding, our little guy gave his first cries and was placed on my chest for the climatic skin-to-skin moment.
Caleb Gabriel Tabaie entered the world on Tuesday, May 15th, 2018 weighing 6 lb 10 oz and measuring 19 inches. He had a full head of hair and was the spitting image of his father. Well at least we know one of us is the parent, I joked.
Typical of a food-obsessed dietitian, I immediately requested a Starbucks latte and oatmeal and reminded my husband of the promise he’d made to me months before of Sugarfish for our first postnatal dinner.
As I enjoyed my sashimi in bed that night with my precious little boy next to me, I was overwhelmed with happiness and any prior disappointment about the birth process was a faded memory, replaced by joy and gratefulness for my healthy baby.
This process taught me my first valuable lesson about motherhood. What works for one family doesn’t always work for another. As a health professional, I’m hardwired to seek objective answers to all problems. But in this case, and already in many issues I’ve had during our first month, I see that the answers aren’t always black and white.
You just have to do what works for you — do whatever it takes to get through this challenging process.
Your carefully laid plans may not come to fruition and you may have to veer off course or try things you vowed you’d never do. As long as baby is safe and healthy, it’s all good.
A few things I swore I wouldn’t do that I’ve already succumbed to: giving baby a pacifier, using “normal” non-eco-friendly diapers, and co-sleeping. I’m sure this list will get longer and longer as time goes by.
One thing I know for sure, I will NEVER judge another mom again for her choices. We’re all just doing the best we can.
Thanks for reading my birth story. I hope you enjoyed it!
Weigh in: If you’re a mom, did your birthing process go as planned? What things have you done in motherhood that you vowed you never would?