The Birth of Sienna Ocean (in words)

I was prepared to spend my 25th birthday very pregnant. I came to terms with this the moment we learned that our first child’s due date was August 13. I kept saying that it certainly wouldn’t bother me to “share” my birthday. If anything, it might be lame for her someday… you know, having the same birthday as your mom maybe isn’t so cool or something.

I also joked that it would be quite a birthday indeed if I happened to spend it in labor.

August finally rolled around and I was experiencing the typical “I’m going to be pregnant forever” mindset. Evan went ahead and made us a dinner reservation for Saturday. I was craving Asian food so we planned to go to PF Changs, something I was pretty excited about.

It was 3am on the morning of August 10 and I shot out of bed the moment I felt like —for lack of a better word—I was leaking.

“Oh my God,” was all I could manage as I stood beside the bed, feeling the warmth make its way down my leg.

“What? What is it?” Evan was instantly alert.

“My water just broke!” And with that I was running up the stairs with my hands between my legs like a toddler who just wet herself. The moment I reached the bathroom I realized it was the infamous bloody show, and I thought, “Okay… so is this it or what?”

Suddenly everything that we learned in our 12-week Bradley class, along with the endless hours of reading and researching online and talking to other parents, went out the window. So we did as we were instructed and called the midwifery emergency line. Colleen, the one and only midwife that I never met or had a prenatal appointment with was the one who called back.

I informed her of what happened and let her know that although I was feeling some minor cramping, I wasn’t feeling any contractions yet. Colleen advised me to sit tight and call the midwifery office when they opened at 8am, that way we could go in and be seen without needing to go through the ER and possibly get sent home. I completely agreed that I wanted to stay home as long as possible, and fully expected to be in it for the long haul once labor really started.

By now everyone in the house was awake. I changed into a fresh pair of underwear and yoga pants and sat at the computer to write up driving directions for Nan and the girls for whenever it was go time, since Evan and I decided that it would be just us in L&D until Sienna arrived.

The moment I stood up from the computer chair another massive gush made its way down my legs and I was once again waddle-running towards the bathroom. It was completely clear this time – and all I could do was laugh. Perhaps she was going to come on my birthday after all.

I changed again and ate some eggs and toast that Nan made. It was 4:30am and I still expected this to take quite some time, plus I had it in my mind to just wait until 8 so we could see the midwives first… but the contractions were kicking in and getting stronger.

I couldn’t quite finish my plate of food, I was feeling a little anxious and the need to breathe through each contraction had me wondering if things were progressing faster than I thought they would. I remember constantly being reminded that first time mom’s labor for an average of 15 hours or so.

Evan and I ended up going back downstairs to lie down, but not before running around trying to pack because my procrastinating self didn’t see the need to ahead of time. Contractions continued but were still pretty inconsistent and ranged in intensity. It became clear that sleep was not an option so I got up to see if sitting on the ball would feel better. Once again the moment I stood, more fluid. I had now gone through three pairs of underwear and yoga pants. So I changed into a maxi skirt, hoping to spare my clothing should it happen again.

After about an hour, I could just tell that waiting until 8 was no longer an option. The contractions were strong and were definitely coming less than 5 minutes apart. We made another call to Colleen and when I explained to her what happened since we last spoke, and then had to stop to breathe through a contraction, she announced “you’re definitely in labor!” and told us to head to the hospital.

I was nervous about the whole showing up to the hospital and only being 3cm and needing to walk and not getting admitted and being sent home. Then we got in the car and I had to literally brace myself when the contractions came on to the point of vocalizing to get through them. The 25-minute ride to the hospital was a blur. I was so uncomfortable by the time we made our way into the ER, which was at 6am. I sat in the wheelchair while Evan filled out the paperwork and requested a bucket as a wave of nausea swept over me.

After what felt like forever one of the nurses came through the doors to take us up to L&D. I wasn’t really able to make small talk at this point, as I became more and more unsettled by the minute. The thoughts already started going through my head… how am I going to do this? No meds, really Amanda? I don’t feel like being a hero.

I was taken into a room to get assessed and was 6cm. They put the fetal monitor on me as well and started my IV. I would need antibiotics for group B strep but they had to get everything okayed through the pharmacy first, so I sat in bed cringing as the contractions came on stronger and stronger.

Then I had to use the bathroom and ended up hurling violently into the trash barrel. It was awful, especially when Evan came in and saw me lift my tear-streaked face out of the bucket, my glasses lopsided.

“I told you, that you’d be seeing me in rare form,” I said, breathing a sigh of relief that the nausea was now gone. He helped me back into bed.

“I just want to be in that tub,” was all I could think to say as Evan waited with me for the word that the Holistic Birth Center was ready. There were two other women in L&D, but I was moving along the fastest so luckily the room was all ours. I walked my IV down the hall, unsure if I would make it into the HBC before the next contraction rendered me unable to move. Once inside I wrapped my arms around Evan’s neck and rocked back and forth, doing my best to focus on my breath which took more energy out of me then I imagined it would.

Deb the nurse was busy setting up the antibiotic drip as I climbed up onto the bed and draped myself over the back. It took me by surprise when my body started to push while I vocalized through the waves of contractions.

“She’s getting pushy,” I heard Deb say. “Don’t push just yet!”

“Can I get in the tub?” I asked desperately. She glanced over and said that it’s possible it could slow down labor, but at that point I was 7cm so why not. They started to fill it and I moaned and groaned through several more contractions.

Soon enough the tub was full enough for me to get in and I stripped down to just my nursing bra. There was absolutely no room for modesty at this point. Deb placed a rubber glove over my right hand with the IV and helped me step in. The 92 degree water felt absolutely amazing, a quick reprieve as contractions became more intense but started to slow. I found that being on my hands and knees was the most comfortable, in addition to leaning over the edge of the tub where Evan sat.

Evan was amazing. He had the iPod hooked up which was playing a mix of songs that fit the situation perfectly: our wedding song “You and Me” by Dave Matthews, “Is This Love” by Bob Marley, “Send Me On My Way” by Rusted Root. He kept me hydrated by offering me water constantly, and cool by wiping my forehead and neck with an ice cold cloth. All the while he was in my ear telling me how great I was doing, how amazed he was at my strength, constantly reminding me that I could do this.

I was much louder than I thought I would be, so much so that I scared myself a little bit. When I started to push through the contractions I was practically yelling. It took me a while to figure out the best position and how to breathe through them instead of backing away from them. I heard Deb and Colleen’s encouraging words in the background, offering suggestions for positions to get in and how to bring on the next contraction.

What I enjoyed most about this was how they let me lead this part of my labor. They didn’t tell me what to do or tell me to stop pushing or make me stop to get checked. The only thing I had to do was use the Doppler from time to time to get a read on Sienna’s heart rate.

I remember that after each contraction I pushed through, I wondered how long it would take until I’d feel that infamous ring of fire. Colleen kept encouraging me to reach down and feel her head. At first I had no idea what I was feeling for, and I let it overwhelm me. But each contraction truly did bring her closer and closer and eventually I felt her starting to crown. The feeling was intense but it got me to a point where I was giving it my all, more determined to bring her here.

You don’t realize at the time just how much of your whole body you use. I grabbed the handles inside the tub and braced myself with my feet against the tub wall and literally used my entire body to push. I never felt the ring of fire; I just knew when her head was almost there…

Colleen didn’t even have her gloves on when I looked down and saw that her head had popped out. Immediately I flipped onto my back and braced myself to push the rest of her body out while Colleen assisted. One last push was all it took.

Sienna Ocean was placed into my arms at 9:40am. Evan and I marveled at her as she looked at us with wide eyes. I had no words; I just held her and rubbed the vernix into her skin and kept thinking how beautiful she is.

Colleen and Deb allowed us to sit for a minute while the umbilical cord stopped pulsing. They clamped it and allowed Evan to cut it. Deb scooped her up to get her measurements: 7 lbs. 8oz. and 20.5 in. Meanwhile I delivered the placenta which was promptly placed in a container and put on ice to be picked up and encapsulated by a wonderful lady named Melanie. She actually came to the hospital that night and delivered it to our home a few days later.

Colleen and Deb helped me get out of the tub while Evan had some skin-to-skin time with Sienna. I was so weak and shaky at this point; I literally put every single ounce of energy I had into delivering her so it didn’t surprise me. Both ladies were fabulous at wrapping me in blankets while I lay back in bed so Colleen could stitch me up. I ended up with a 2nd degree tear and four stitches.

Once I was all cleaned up Evan brought Sienna over to feed. I was happy to see that she latched on right away, and she nursed for a good hour.

The next two days were pretty typical for our time in the hospital. Lots of nurses coming in and out to take vitals, run tests, give me Motrin, etc. Every single nurse and doctor that we met was wonderful and we have nothing but great feelings towards all of the staff at St. John Medical Center. We were discharged Monday afternoon and have been living in the “blur” ever since.

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