When I was 35 weeks pregnant, my husband and I decided to switch from a hospital birth to a birthing center. It was the end of March, Eric Garcetti had announced the lockdown a week earlier, and frankly, the idea of giving birth at a hospital full of COVID-19 particles didn’t sound too appealing, so at the very last minute (birth centers don’t accept you after 36 weeks), we made the switch.
Now, if I learned something from labor and delivery, it’s that most things will not go according to plan, because you are not in charge – your baby is. After 40 weeks plus 5 days, I was getting very nervous because if the baby wasn’t out by the end of week 40, my doctor would induce me and all the money and hustle would go in vain. So I did everything in my power to get that baby out; walks of hours around the neighborhood, endless bouncing on a birthing ball, squats, squats and more squats, sex (which is not the easiest thing when you are that pregnant), ate 6 dates a day, raspberry tea leaf, acupuncture…you name it. But on May 5th, recognizing there had not been much progress, I called my midwife and asked her for a natural induction method. That same day, at 11 am, I got a membrane sweep and a secret formula smoothie (that contained some castor oil) – and that’s how I got my Cinco de Mayo party started.
At 3pm I started with contractions, at 5pm my water broke, and by 6pm I was having contractions every 4 minutes that last about 40 seconds to a minute each. How was it possible things would move along that fast? Whatever was in that smoothie WORKED! We rushed to the birthing center. I was ready to get in the bathtub and push that baby out. However, there was a plot twist (the first of many). The midwife saw meconium in my water, and she told me I had to go to a hospital in case the baby inhaled some on his way out.
With no time to process the change of plans, off we go to Kaiser West L.A. When we get there, we had to go through a control like in the movie Contagion. They checked our temperatures, they do a mouth swab for me to see if I have Covid-19 and ask my husband to wait in the car until I’m admitted. I checked in for labor and delivery wearing an N95 mask. I asked if I can take it off. “Not until we get the results from the test,” the nurse said. They hooked me into a machine for fetal monitoring and within two hours I was in a room.
At this point, my contractions were getting stronger and closer together. I still couldn’t take the mask off, and even though I’m a big proponent of people wearing masks in public – when you are delivering a baby, it’s a different story.
The results came in when I’m 6.5cm dilated, and I was Covid-19 negative, so my husband is finally allowed to come in and I’m allowed to take the N95 off. At this point, I’m in excruciating pain. I had refused the epidural when I checked in because I was going to have a non-medicated birth regardless, but now I’m regretting it; it’s not the same setting, I’m not in a warm tub with candle lights and essential oils and I can’t move around (I’m hooked into a machine for fetal monitoring) and up until a minute ago, couldn’t breathe properly, so I BEG for one. “The doctor is performing a c-section, you’ll have to wait an hour.” An HOUR?? Yes, about an hour later the doctor comes in and I’ve never been so happy to see an anesthesiologist in my life. Also, a group of 5 nurses join him as well and ask my husband to wait outside. I want my husband next to me, but I’m in too much pain to say anything. I finally get the epidural and felt the relief almost immediately. I asked my husband who is back in the room to put on our playlist and chill. By song number two, I’m asleep. I’m exhausted.
Someone wakes me up from my nap. It’s the villain of the story, Dr.Kaplan – he tells me I’m 10 cm dilated and it’s time to push. “Is the head of the baby already in my pelvis?” I asked. “No, but you can start pushing already,” he replies. “Shouldn’t I wait?” I remembered clearly about the birth preparation classes I took with a doula. She insisted to wait until the baby’s head is in station +1, meaning already in the pelvis, otherwise, you exhaust yourself for nothing. But the doctor told me something about some studies showing that it didn’t matter and I wasn’t in the position to argue so I started pushing.
Two hours go by and I’m still pushing. Then a nurse came in to tell me the prophecy of this tale: “If by noon the baby isn’t out, the doctor will perform a c-section to prevent maternal exhaustion.” Wait, what? A c-section? Also, I knew I shouldn’t push yet! It’s 10am, I have 2 hours to get that baby out and the prophetic nurse suggests I get pitocin so I get stronger contractions. I really don’t want pitocin, but I want a c-section less, so I agree.
And here comes plot twist number three. At some point during the pushing, the epidural catheter falls off and no one realizes until I started to feel the worst contractions ever. They are pitocin contractions that are way stronger than the natural ones. Finally, one of the many nurses going in and out realizes the catheter has not been connected and they fixed it. In the middle of my crying, 3 doctors come in to let me know that I have about 30 minutes to push the baby. I asked for the midwife since Kaiser has midwives from 7am-11pm, and I can’t have another doctor tell me about the “c” word. Latonya comes in with high spirit and good vibes: “Don’t you worry, sweetheart, you’re pushing that baby, I’m here to make that happen.” Finally, someone on my side.
And just like a good Hollywood story, my baby knew how to keep the suspense right until the very last minute. At 11:50, the room is full; there is a team of doctors ready to take me to the operating room in case I fail the deadline for the c-section (which is in 10 minutes) and a team of pediatricians in case he is born vaginally and needs the aspiration of the meconium. And my little angel, as a good action hero, saved the day making a grand entrance into this world at exactly 11:59am.
You would think I didn’t have the most ideal labor – and you’re right. But the truth is, I wouldn’t change anything = because even with all the plot twists, it was the most magical experience of my life.