Paxton’s birth story
I was 9 days overdue. All was well. I was finally having my home birth with you, my little man. The girls were supposed to be born at home, too, but that’s another story for another day.
I went in for my non stress test to confirm you were doing well. And you were, until they were about to take the monitor off. And then, your heart rate plummeted. I could sense the panic increasing in her voice.
“Okay, please get on your hands and knees right now. I need to move this monitor.” I obliged. Nothing. “Ok, turn to your side. No. Okay back on your hands and knees. Okay come back and face me.” Her breath changed. Her movements quickened. “I can’t get it. I’m trying to move you in case he is on the chord. It’s not changing.”
My world went from fine to standing still in an instant. I knew he was okay. I could feel him telling me that he was alive. But I couldn’t wrap my head around what was to come.
Suddenly, she pulled a bunch of chords and started pushing me out of the room. Then started jogging. Then sprinting. Breathing so hard. Pounding metal buttons to get the doors to open as she rushed me into labor and delivery.
I stayed calm. Because I knew you were okay. Because I was in disbelief.
By the time I was moved into L&D, your heart rate recovered. I called my midwife Davi. I waited for the nurses and doctors. I stared at the monitor.
No. No. No.
And like that, it was over. My dream of homebirthing a baby for the last six years was robbed from me again.
Davi: “Amy, I hate to say this, but the baby is talking. And we don’t know why, but there is a reason this happened while you were in a check up. I can’t believe it, but we need to stay in the hospital.”
The doctor was willing to release me.
So now what?
“Amy, nobody wants to talk about it, but I’ve delivered stillborn babies.”
I took a deep shaky breath and sighed. “Okay, let’s stay here.”
I stared at the monitor with glossy eyes. How was this happening? Again?
I felt blank inside. Hopeless. Helpless. Empty.
Birthing in captivity felt so unnatural to me. Hooked up. Checked up on. Beeps and lights and crowds. A caged animal during the most primal act. It was cruel. And it began a deep deep mourning that still rises to be healed 8 months later...lifetimes later.
“At least the baby is healthy.” I could hear it in my head. No. Not “at least the baby is healthy.” That’s how people console you when they don’t know what to say. When they don’t understand home birth. When they feel you are secretly safer in the hospital. And as a low risk birth mother, you’re not. So not, “at least the baby is healthy.”
I matter. I am the divine goddess transporting this soul into the world. My birthing experience matters. It is a transformation left on my soul, imprinted into our DNA that is carried on for generations. No “at least.” I lost my home birth. Again. And that gets to stand alone.
And so, the arrangements were made. My midwife came to check on me, to bring me another meal. To be my rock as she has always been. My in laws came to watch the girls. Jason came to the hospital. My midwife left to take care of some patients and waited for my call that I was in active labor.
The rest was a blur. And not. I had to make some decisions. How do we get labor going with the fewest interventions? Would the baby be able to tolerate the birth, or would the contractions make his heart rate drop again and require a cesarean? Spoiler alert, he was totally fine during birth. Only one quick drop in heart rate. Great. And not. Because I could have had my home birth. But I didn’t.
The pitocin drip started after the foley bulb fell out. The doctor ruptured my waters. I did not want to be in labor all night like I was with Monroe. Never mind the four days with Addie. So we did what we could to keep things moving.
The contractions weren’t too intense so I asked for more pitocin to speed things up. Kelly, my favorite nurse said, “I can’t. Can’t you feel that? You’re contracting every minute.”
“Yeah, I feel it. Nothing to write home about.” And it wasn’t. I labored quietly for 6.5hrs with almost no pain. Maybe I paid the price already, and this ease was the grace of God.
And then it got real. Jason called Davi. She was there in 15 minutes. I spent the next hour and a quarter laying down in almost complete silence. When I had a contraction, I held their hands and pulled the baby down. Then released. Took a breath. Endured another. Then released. I understood the surrender. Not a peep from me. The only indication of a contraction was the monitor.
“Steady mind. Steady mind,” Davi whispered.
And then the feeling. “I need to go to the bathroom.” “Let me have them check you first,” Davi said. Smart woman. Monroe was born on the toilet. Surfer traveling nurse Kelly came in. “Oh yes, okay, you’re ready to push.” I had a moment of sweet satisfaction. Upon being admitted I was asked a handful of times if I wanted an epidural, and I confidently declined. I could hear their disbelief. I saw the sideways glances and curled up smiling lips. It was an invisible snickering as loud as the 4th of July fireworks. I heard the statistics that less than 20% of women at Kaiser had births without epidurals. Like they didn’t believe I could do it.
And here I was about to conclude my birth, silent, ready to push, and without any pain assistance. “Geez, I want you at my birth,” Kelly said to me. You are really good at this. My insides smiled.
So there I laid as the doctor came in and put on her gloves. It was time for me to push the baby out, but I had no desire to push. I mean, I wanted to push, but my body was not on board. I waited for a few contractions to roll through, and still nothing. No urge. And I knew better than to push without the urge. A total waste of energy.
I was uncomfortable. I was getting frustrated. I wanted the baby out. I needed labor to end. I was at that place of wanting to jump out of my skin. “I just want to go to the bathroom,” I shouted. “I don’t like this position. I just want to get up.” I was starting to get agitated.
“Okay, okay, let’s get you up,” Davi tenderly responded. I sat on the edge of the bed, grabbed Jason’s hands and got on my feet.
And then, with the swift shift of gravity, my little boy came forcefully down.
“Help. Me. Please.” I gasped in choppy syllables as I held onto Jason. The nurse reached through, just in time to grab your body. You were here. Fast and furious. You had arrived.
The scariest part of birth for me is always after the baby is born, and I forget it every time. The postpartum shakes set in, and I feel like I’m going to drop the baby. I can’t stop convulsing and pouring out blood. the chord is still pulsing. The placenta never releases. I’m trying to have a peaceful skin to skin moment with the baby. Initiate breastfeeding. The doctors and nurses are moving at warp speed. I have people injecting me with pitocin to restore my uterus and stop the bleeding. I have nurses pounding on my womb with their entire body weight to get my uterus to contract. All with my newborn baby on my chest. Welcome to fucking motherhood.
You wailed out a fierce hello to the world for what seemed like an hour. “It’s a good thing, Amy. It clears the lungs. It’s a healthy baby.” Davi always knows what to say to keep me at ease. She could see the panic slowly rising in my eyes as I started to drown in all the commotion. She was there. My steady mind.
I’ll never know why I didn't get to birth at home. Three failed home births. It’s unreal. I try not to go there, but sometimes I can’t stop myself. Maybe it was because you wanted me to yourself, you wise little guy with demanding big sisters. Or maybe I had something in my energy field that pulled me toward a hospital birth, like karma. Or maybe not. But for whatever reason, we did our dance how it was destined to be done, and we made it out alive—perhaps a bit changed, broken and tattered—definitely more full of love—but we made it, and we have a lifetime to celebrate.
In honor of you, Paxton Case Lao. Born 3:03am 8/27/19. In honor of me. This is your birth story.