Mother: Jennifer sbrocchi
Baby: Carina Marie
Date: May 7, 2018
Location: NYU Winthrop
In most of my prenatal yoga classes, you can usually hear me say every pregnancy and every labor is different. You would think I would heed my own advice... Since my pregnancies felt very similar, I assumed the labor would probably look and feel the same. My labors with Ava and Carina weren't vastly different in the sense that I had the unmedicated, spontaneous delivery that I hoped for. However, the way we got there varied greatly!
At 36 weeks I started to see my midwife for weekly checkups. Each visit, she would remark how low Carina's head was in my pelvis and say, "I'm not sure how you're walking." (She was right, it wasn't easy to walk or teach or do yoga for that matter!) Then she would end the appointment saying, "You probably won't make it to your appointment next week, I'll see you soon." After going almost two weeks past my due date with Ava, I was so ready to have Carina early! I am not one of those glowy pregnant mothers, telling everyone that I love every kick and flutter. By 36 weeks, the novelty of sharing my body with another human, even if it's my baby, wore off. Every cramp had me on the edge of my seat, thinking maybe this will be it. Yet, there I was at my 37, 38 and 39 week appointments feeling frustrated and doubting that I would birth Carina by our "due date".
The Friday before my due date, I had a few contractions that felt different than the mild cramps I felt for the last 3 or 4 weeks. It was 4:30 in the morning, when Matt's alarm goes off, and I went into the bathroom and was excited to see that I had lost my mucous plug or so charmingly named "the bloody show". This was how Ava's birth began and to err on the side of caution I asked Matt to stay home from work. An hour passed and then the whole day and there were no more contractions. Saturday was much of the same, absolutely no contractions. Disappointed, I decided to see my acupuncturist on Sunday morning, the day of my due date. I was hoping maybe a session could get things started, or at least ease my anxiety.
I tried to keep myself busy after acupuncture, just accepting the fact that Carina was not arriving on her "due date" and that I must make cozy homes for my babies! Around 10pm that night I started to feel more of the mild cramps that I was experiencing for the last month. The cramps started to increase in frequency, but not in intensity. I figured maybe I should start seeing if a pattern emerged and opened up the contraction timer app. I was having one every 20 minutes. Then it went to every 10 minutes then back up to every 17 minutes. By 1am I was second guessing if I was even having contractions... could it it be gas? I finally fell asleep and woke up around 3:45am with a contraction that felt nothing like those earlier ones. It was different, it felt deep, very deep. And then I felt a pop and liquid. I tried to arouse Matt from his deep sleep and told him I thought my water broke. Without even turning over, he said, "Are you sure you didn't pee yourself." Cue my eyes rolling. I ran to the bathroom and indeed my water broke and it was slightly tinted brown which worried me. If your fluids are brown, baby passed meconium and it can be a risk, you usually have to go to the hospital right away. We called our midwife and she told us to wait until my contractions were 5 minutes apart.
I started having the more intense contractions but still found myself second guessing whether each feeling I had was actually a contraction or not. My mom got to our house at 4:30am and the contractions picked up in intensity. I breathed my way through and Matt decided it was time to leave. I was so torn on leaving, my contractions still weren't as painful as I had remembered with Ava and they weren't exactly 5 minutes apart but having some brown in the fluids made me concerned. So off we went on the dreaded car ride to the hospital. Thankfully, early in the morning we zipped right to the hospital and I had maybe one intense contraction in the car.
It wouldn't be one of my birth stories if I gave birth in the hospital before becoming an official patient. We got to the hospital and at admitting they couldn't find my pre-registration paperwork. The staff member wasn't allowing us to enter until our paperwork was complete. Matt was amazing simultaneously dealing with filling out forms while massaging my lower back through a contraction, just how we practiced. My midwife found us and told us to forget the paperwork and just get in the room. I was expecting to hear that I was only 5 or 6cm dilated, based on how the contractions felt. To my surprise, I was 9cm and she said almost ready to push. I couldn't believe it. At that point I had maybe 5 intense contractions where I couldn't speak and needed to focus solely on my breath and movement to get through. My midwife was amazing and helped me onto all fours on the hospital bed. She made me as comfortable as I could be in the hospital. She had me just breathe Carina down in this position until I felt ready to push. I worked though a couple of contractions in this position until it was time. During my checkups, I had discussed pushing in different positions. As a yoga teacher, one specializing in prenatal yoga, I had become hyper aware of my pelvic floor and told my midwife that I felt the left side was tighter than the right and I was worried about damage being done during the pushing phase. We agreed that pushing while lying on my right side might be the best, but we would always re-evaluate when the time came. There I was lying on my right side, everything was going according to plan.
Here's the part that was very different to my labor with Ava. The pushing phase was hard and intense. I think with Ava I got to the hospital after 6 hours of labor and she was on the way out, there was not much "pushing" I needed to do, my body did most of the work for me. She was crowning before I even got to the delivery room. This time around there was a lot more conscious effort on my part to get Carina out. Matt was holding my top leg and I was overthinking the whole process. I was trying to find my abdominals instead of straining and pushing with my upper body, as I tell my students in every class, and suddenly my core was nowhere to be found. We were doing intermittent fetal monitoring and my midwife told us that Carina's heart rate was dropping and there was definitely meconium in the fluid and we needed to change something fast. I started to panic and she calmed me down and coaxed me into rolling over onto my left side. Honestly, traveling from my right to laying on my left side was probably the most painful part of the entire experience - my body didn't want to cooperate. But, that change in position was exactly what Carina needed and her heart rate became normal. I became more focused and found pulling on my top leg activated my abs to assist with the pushing. I finally started to get my breath and body coordinated and was making progress getting Carina down. When the nurses exclaimed they could see her head full of hair I was able to muster up every ounce of energy I had left. For the last few pushes, I rolled onto my back and pulled on the back of both legs. Carina's head was out, then her shoulders. At 6:02 am, my midwife had me put my hands on my belly and with one last push Carina was out and in my hands and I got to pull her onto my chest, a moment that I will never forget.
My midwife was instrumental in getting us to have a few minutes of skin to skin before they whisked Carina away to be evaluated because of the meconium present. Soon enough, Carina was deemed to be healthy and intervention was not necessary. She was back in my arms on my chest and we could finally begin enjoying that golden hour.
All in all, my labor was just over 2 hours. I felt an immense appreciation for my breath, Matt's calm demeanor and for the wonderful care my midwife provided, advocating for us every step through the process. That's exactly what I wish for parents, to feel surrounded by a positive and supportive birthing team.