Four weeks ago today I brought my daughter Coralai into this uncertain, but beautiful world. This is her story.
Coralai is my second child. My first, Leland was born 42+3 in June 2018. He was 10lbs 11oz. Had a 15” head, a 20’’ chest and was 22 inches long. He was huge. But beautiful, and so was his birth. This isn’t his story, but their stories seem to intertwine and affect each other.
My pregnancy with Cora was lovely. I didn’t have large complaints. Other than being huge, really uncomfortable and emotional. Mild nausea, and exhaustion, but nothing unbearable. Due to Leland being so late and large, and eventually needing to be induced with him, my OB and I planned on inducing early with her. 39 weeks. Both my husband and I felt comfortable with this as she was measuring well and we didn’t want for me to have a hard recovery with her. As well as having a toddler at home to chase.
With Lee’s birth I tore past my two episiotomy incisions, and ended up with fecal and urinary incontinence in postpartum. I had diastasis recti and was left with almost no abdominal strength. He tore through my body, and my body broke him as well. He was born with a broken right arm, and although he healed wonderfully, we didn’t want to relive that if avoidable.
So, on Tuesday the 30th of March we went in to be induced. This time was different in some ways, we weren’t able to have our wonderful doula, who was an amazing support and help with Lee’s birth. It was just my husband and I sorting this journey out on our own, but it ended up being perfect. We were handed masks upon arrival to wear until we got into our room. You could see the extra care the staff was taking to make everything safe. It felt strange knowing no one would visit us in recovery. No one would come to the house after. My heart broke thinking about our families having to wait to meet her.
Covid-19 changed a lot of things about our prenatal, delivery and postpartum care, but the things that didn’t change were the love, care and support of the medical staff, the ability and strength of my body during labor and the support I felt from my husband and everyone involved. Pregnancy and Delivery during the pandemic has asked me to breathe and surrender the things I can’t control. As staying calm was imperative to my health as well as hers.
After I settled into our room, they gave me a vaginal prostaglandin to help my cervix soften and hopefully efface and dilate. This kicked up some even but mild contractions all night. I worked on my breathing. I stimulated my nipples to kick up harder contractions. I visualized my cervix opening and tried to relax any muscles that tightened. And eventually I was able to fall asleep.
In the morning they checked me again. I was still 1cm, but softer. Today the plan was oral prostaglandin in hopes that I would continue to dilate and efface.
I spent all day resting, bouncing on my ball, siping beverages, peeing and standing/swaying/rocking. My contractions were consistent but still mild/moderate all day. By evening time I was tired and weary and hungry. I had only been able to have apple juice, broth and water. I was feeling calm, but run down. I wondered how I was going to do another day full of contractions. The pain wasn’t unbearable, it was just endless.
The nurse staff was wonderful and kept me distracted as best they could. They were all isolating. Some away from their loved ones they usually live with in hopes of keeping them safe. So, I was the only new interaction they had. One nurse and I talked for hours about her life story as I bounced on my ball. How she ended up in our little town from NYC. How she got into nursing/OB how she missed her kids and worried about them. Other nurses talked to me about their gardens or how lonely they were feeling. Or that they were so grateful for their jobs and had something of importance to do. For me these interactions and connections were a huge gift. For my last birth I didn’t have this sweet time of connection with the staff. Everyone was busy. Everyone cared, but everyone had too many things to do. There weren’t enough hours in the day then. Here in this weird time of our lives time seemed to slow. Or at least this was my experience.
When my OB came in that evening to check my cervix and make the next plan, I was only 2 cm dilated. I expressed my concerns of being weary, and my husband expressed concern of me needing food. So our next plan was to get me a good meal, rest, try and keep my spirits up, and in the morning he was certain that I would be dilated enough to rupture my membranes and have the baby. He really wanted to take it as slowly as my body needed too, and not rush the process more than we already were, so that it would be as easy on my body as possible.
I asked him how he got into obstetrics. And he gave me his whole life story. He spent over an hour talking to me about where he grew up, med school, how he switched fields and fell in love with delivering babies. What this profession cost him as far as relationships. Again, I was so grateful to have this beautiful connection and time spent on a more human level.
After I ate they started my medicine at 11 pm. And I tried to get some sleep. At 1am I started having trouble sleeping through the contractions and found myself practicing my breathing techniques and massaging my back. I did my best to rest until 3am when my nurse came in to check me again. 3.5 cm but my membranes were bulging. I was so thankful for progress. She gave me my next dose. And about 15-20 minutes later I felt my water start to leak. My contractions were getting harder and closer together. I called the nurse in and she helped me get back onto the ball to get gravity working with me and get some relief on my pelvis. By 3:30 I could feel my body bearing down to help my cervix dilate. My husband sat with me through every contraction and assured me I could do this, when I was going through transition and struggled to know how long I could keep up. We called the doctor at around 4 am. My Doctor checked me again and I was 6 cm! He offered to help me dilate the rest of the way and I was relieved to have some help. I know that not every woman would want this type of help and assistance, but for me it was so appreciated. On my next contraction he asked me to gently push, and he reached in and simultaneously massaged and stretched my cervix. Having something for my vaginal wall to squeeze against was so relieving. I was able to relax during the last few centimeters of transition. I quickly dilated the rest of the way, they broke down the table and I got ready to push. My two nurses stood on each side of me gently encouraging me as my husband stood at my side holding both my hands so I could channel all my strength. In the most quiet moments of the morning time stood still. When my body moved from transition to pushing I had this beautiful moment of clarity. I felt the deepest feeling of gratitude. For my daughter. For my body. For my husband and his support throughout our entire relationship, this pregnancy, and delivery. For my nurses and doctor, and the kindness and care they were showering me with. As quickly as that moment came, it moved on and I moved all my energy down. I reached deeply into myself and pushed until my daughter’s ears peeked out. My doctor encouraged me to touch her head and that helped me muster more energy. Knowing I was so close to the end helped me not resist so much. Once again leaning into surrender. As my perineum slowly stretched I gave another push and her head came through. Another few pushes and her body slipped into this world. 4:45am. Welcome my little one. Time sped up again as the buzz of caring for Coralai surrounded me and my body relaxed with its’ job well done. My doctor gently handed her to me and I cried as I met her on the outside for the first time. The heaviness of her body against mine is something I hope I never forget. Her dark hair and tiny fingers. There are so many little things in first those moments that make all that work and effort worth every second of pregnancy and labor. Relief and gratitude overwhelmed and surrounded me as we welcomed Coralai Iris into our family. Forever changed.
It’s easy to become fearful and overwhelmed in these times. We are allowed to be concerned. But, also allowing myself the freedom and peace to walk through this. To lean into acceptance and surrender, and allowing the process to unfold instead of allowing fear to take over, changed my experience. I was able to have joy, peace and gratitude for the time, the process and all involved. It would’ve been easy to focus on the things that weren’t able to be, but shifting my perspective changed my whole experience. And as I sit here writing this, rocking my sweet daughter to sleep, I feel the shift in my mind, and I am forever grateful. Forever changed.