Evelyn’s Birth Story

In honor of Evelyn's six-month birthday: the story of her birth. I wasn't originally planning to share this, but I've found it so helpful to read others' experiences since beginning this journey - maybe someone will find the story of our Cesarean birth helpful or reassuring.

I wanted a natural birth, and I was ready for it. Patrick and I prepared with months of Hypnobirth classes, I took prenatal yoga and strength classes to prepare my body, and every time I envisioned our birth it was natural and calm and all about this amazing thing my body would do to bring our baby into the world, with Patrick keeping me steady all the way through. 

Our first parenting lesson was in letting go of plans and expectations.

March 20, 2011
All along, our baby was head up: ready to take on the world, facing forward right along with me. By the time I reached 35 weeks, I knew that the baby had to flip or we’d be facing a certain Cesarean birth. We did everything we could to get the baby to turn: SpinningBabies.com became my handbook, I did inversions all the time (laying upside down, kneeling on the couch with my head on a pillow on the floor), laying on the floor with my hips propped up while Patrick played music and shined light at the bottom of my belly, we even worked with Johanna, our Hypnobirth teacher and doula, on visualizations and meditations to get the baby to turn. Johanna was amazing in her willingness to help us encourage the baby to turn-- we would Skype and she would talk us through the breech visualization, she recorded a visualization script for me to listen to on my own, and she checked in with us all the time.

The week leading up to Evelyn’s birthday, we were busy. We went to the All Over Albany birthday party at The Point. We bought flowers at the Lark Street Flower Market- Pat bought me a small bouquet of beautiful yellow ranunculus. We had a birthday dinner with Patrick’s grandmother- Chinese food at her house with some family and lots of talk about the baby. We went to the police station to have the baby's car seat installed. We decided it would be our last busy week, and that for the two weeks (or however long it was) prior to our April 11 due date, we would take it easy and focus on resting up and preparing for the baby’s arrival. 

On Friday March 25, we had a doctor’s appointment. I was having weekly appointments at that point, and since baby was still breech, ultrasounds at each appointment. I hadn’t felt the baby flip, but I was hopeful that maybe just maybe it had turned in the night and the bump that I thought to be the head was the rump. Alas, the ultrasound that Friday revealed that our stubborn little baby was still head up, butt down. After the ultrasound, we went in to see the doctor. She walked in, greeted us, and said “I think we have to deliver.” Patrick and I were both stunned. Now? What? Why? I was not quite at 38 weeks, and I had no intentions of intervening in the natural process unless absolutely necessary. Certainly not before 40 weeks. And here was this statement that threw all of that out the window. 

There were concerns that the baby was small, that my fluid was low, that the baby was still in a breech position. “You’re full term, and there are more risks than benefits to waiting.” The doctor said. We asked about trying an external version, where a doctor manipulates the belly and baby from the outside to get the baby to turn. It’s a possibility, she said, but carries risks and often ends up in a Cesarean delivery at that point anyway. We asked about what would happen if we just waited and didn’t take action, leaving the timing up to the baby and my body. Very close monitoring: appointments, ultrasounds, and non-stress tests a few times a week, she told us. She reminded us of what she saw as the risks and told us that she strongly recommended a Cesearean delivery be scheduled for early the next week.

We asked if we could have the weekend to think about it, and she agreed, as long as we scheduled an appointment for Monday. We did that, and left the office feeling defeated. Months of preparing and vowing to follow my body and the baby, and here we were: being encouraged to schedule a Cesarean birth. This is not what we had envisioned and it felt as though it was all out of our control. I knew there was a lot to be thankful for: the baby and I were healthy. I’d carried the baby to term and had a very healthy and pleasant pregnancy. I tried to remind myself of all these things, but the feelings of failure were already creeping in.

We each went to work consumed by the ‘what ifs’ and ‘what nows’. I tried to put it out of my head until the evening. My co-workers threw me a little shower and ordered Indian food. There was a Baby Pool to guess the date the baby would be born and whether it would be a boy or a girl. One of my colleagues joked that I’d be going into labor over the weekend. I told him no way, that’s crazy, I hadn’t had a single sign that labor was anywhere close to happening. He swore, yep, soon. No way, I said, I’ll see you Monday. (Perhaps one of the only signs I had of impending labor was the deep cleaning and organizing I gave my desk that afternoon).

Pat and I spent the evening discussing our situation with each other, our parents, and our friends, and finally decided to put it away for the night and sleep on it. We ordered Thai food and watched TV. Our cat Calvin stared at my belly, which we thought was funny enough to take a photo of. My computer froze up and I decided I’d deal with that in the morning. We went to bed too late.

At 4:00 a.m. I was awakened by what felt like a strong kick from our little one. I got up to use the bathroom, and was greeted with a gush that just kept gushing. I had a moment of fear - the sudden realization that my water had broken. I walked back to the bed, turned the light on, tried to see if there was wetness in the bed. Pat sat up, asked what was going on. “I think my water just broke.”  
“Ok, alright, are you ok? Do you need anything? We need to call the doctor.” (We had been told that since the baby was breech, we needed to call the doctor right away if I went into labor.)

We called the doctor, and I spoke with her. She asked if I wanted to stay home for awhile. I said yes, but reminded her the baby was breech. Oh, yes, she said- well then, you need to get to the hospital.

Everything was surreal. There was the vision we had for this moment: that at this point we’d be preparing to labor at home for as long as possible. And the reality that we had: we were going to the hospital right away. The doctor asked if I’d eaten anything, I said no, we hung up.

We packed our things (I had started gathering the hospital bag earlier in the week, but wasn't fully ready). I accepted that we wouldn’t need all of the things we had planned to bring for labor- the yoga ball, tennis balls for massaging my back, the hypnobirth CD and signage.  Packing our baby’s teeny going home outfit and my nursing gown reminded me that in the end, we were having this baby. I was flooded with excitement and nerves that gave way to calm- a feeling that whatever happened, we were ready and eager to meet our babe.

I was hungry and ate a banana. It was 4:40 am and we headed to the hospital with a suitcase and a carseat. 

We live a few blocks from the hospital, and I remember the feeling of that short drive. The world was silent and still. Spring was arriving and the air had a new warmth to it. It felt like we were the only ones in the world awake, quietly on our way to have a life changing experience.

We walked through the (under construction) hospital toward the Labor & Delivery floor, just like we’d practiced on our tour a few weeks earlier. I was beginning to feel contractions. We stood together waiting for the elevator, looked at one another, Pat commented on how huge this moment was. Everything was about to change. We took a few deep breaths, kissed, the moment crystallized.

Once we were checked in, we were given a room where I changed into a gown and climbed into bed. They verified that my water had indeed broken, and an ultrasound was done to verify that yes, baby was still head up. My doctor wasn’t on call- in fact, no one from my OB’s office was- and we met the OB on call that night. He was kind and explained what needed to happen. He had spoken to our doctor and knew that we had been hoping to avoid a Cesarean. He told us exactly what would happen, made certain we knew and understood that at this point, a Cesarean was the only option. My contractions became more intense.

We met the anesthesiologist, who seemed to still be waking up (har har) when he stumbled into our room. He described the process for administering the spinal anesthesia, which I would receive just minutes before the baby was delivered. I asked again if Patrick could be with me when they did the spinal. He said no, because (honestly, this was his story), one time a dad came in during the spinal, passed out, hit his head, and died. I wasn't sure what to think of this guy.

When the doctors all found out I’d eaten a banana, they weren’t thrilled. In order to be given the spinal for the Cesarean, you aren’t supposed to have eaten for 8 hours. Because of that banana, they’d be delaying the delivery. 

Secretly, I was very pleased. I didn’t know the banana would play any role at all in this birth story, but it turned out to be central. The banana meant that I would experience labor. I would feel the contractions as my baby prepared to meet the world. The baby would have a few hours of getting those labor hormones. Thank you, banana! 

We settled into the bed, Pat put movies on the laptop, my contractions grew more intense. The doctor had said that if they grew so intense that I couldn’t speak, they’d prep me for delivery, regardless of the time. 

I labored until 11 am, at which point contractions were fairly intense and coming just a couple minutes apart. I used the Hypnobirth relaxation methods to stay relaxed and focused as each wave came over me. Patrick did light-touch massage on my arm and played our favorite music. I am grateful for those hours.

I was given IV fluids along with some anti-nausea medication to ease my recovery from surgery. When the decision was made that labor was progressing and it was time to deliver the baby, things moved fast. The doctors and nurses were in the room. Patrick suited up in scrubs. I was shaved and prepped and wheeled down the hall, where I was brought into the operating room. Those were the worst few minutes of the whole ordeal. The room was bright and cold. Patrick wasn’t allowed to come in while the spinal was administered. An inexperienced nursing student held my arms while the anesthesiologist gave me the injection in my lower back.  A deep pinch while held by unsteady arms. The rush to lay me down after the anesthesia was delivered. The curtain raised between my chest and the lower part of my body. 
 And then, Patrick was there. And then, peace. He was there, with me, our eyes locked the entire time. All was full of love, even in this cold setting. 

The anesthesiologist who seemed bumbling won my heart when he requested the chatter among the doctors and nurses quiet down, reminded them that this was a birth. He stayed with me as well, reassuring, making sure I was okay, talking both Patrick and I through what was happening. 

We had requested that Pat announce the baby’s sex (we maintained parts of our birth plan as much as we could). I was told I’d feel pressure and pulling when they delivered the baby. It was all happening. Nothing like I imagined, but our baby was almost here.

And then, there it was- some pressure. The doctor telling Patrick to stand and look over the curtain as our baby was born.

My husband’s voice announcing that we had a daughter. Her strong strong cry.
 My heart swelling and swelling. All was right in the world. It was all right.

Patrick went to be with her as they cleaned her. He snapped photos of her first moments. I craned my head to see behind me, my daughter. Glimpsing her face, her hands, her feet. Hearing her cries. Oh my God, I kept repeating. Oh my God. Crying tears of joy and release. Our baby was here. She was here. 

She was cleaned and wrapped and Patrick brought her over to me. I saw her gorgeous face up close, said hello. That beautiful face. The tears would not stop streaming down my face- tears of joy like I’ve never cried before. We had a daughter. Amazing.

Born at 11:37 a.m. on March 26, 6 pounds, 4 oz. Her birth stats say that she was 20.5 inches, but at the pediatrician’s a few days later she was 19 inches, so I’m guessing someone's measurements were off in those first minutes.

Patrick went with her to the recovery room while I was sewn up, and then I was wheeled over to join them. She was put on my chest - so tiny and perfect. She nursed. We had skin to skin time. Pat and I studied her features. Marveled at her. The nurse took our first family photo. 

We had our list of names, but nothing was decided- we planned to choose the name when we saw our baby. We had narrowed our girl’s names down to Eleanor and Evelyn. When we met her, we agreed easily that the name to give her was Evelyn. Evelyn Hart.  

Evelyn, a family name on Patrick's side and one that we love the sound and feel of. Strong and beautiful. Hart after my great-grandmother, Madeline Hart, who was bold and intelligent, who gave me a love of books and demonstrated a bold spirit through and through. (The middle name came to me in the early weeks of my pregnany, sitting around the campfire at our family cabin that Madeline bought in the 1940s. That part of Evelyn's name was decided from the start.)

When they took Evelyn’s vitals a bit after birth (could it have been an hour?), her temperature was low and she needed to go to the nursery for some time under the heat lamp. Patrick went with her while I stayed in the recovery room (they wouldn’t let me move until I regained feeling in my legs- it was the strangest thing, not being able to feel my legs). We called our parents to share our joy. A girl! We have a girl.

Patrick came back in time to walk beside my bed as I was taken to our room in the brand new Mother-Baby area of the hospital. By this time, I was beginning to feel very nauseous. I was wheeled down the hall- very quickly- and began vomiting by the time we reached the room. I was sick for most of the afternoon, a reaction to the anesthesia. It was an awful feeling, wanting nothing more than to be with my baby, but to be so sick. Meanwhile, she was still in the nursery warming up. I just wanted to hold her. That part of the afternoon was tough, but I’m thankful it was brief, and that we weren’t separated for long.

I was feeling better by mid-afternoon, and Evelyn was released from the nursery and returned to us- warm and cozy. We had some time alone together - our new family of three. Evelyn was placed on my chest for more skin-to-skin time, Patrick held her, we took photos and, of course, marveled some more.

Meanwhile, we had all four new grandparents and a new uncle in the waiting room, where they’d been for hours. They'd been able to see her in the nursery, but were anxious to meet their grandbaby. When we were ready, the grandparents came in, two at a time, to meet and hold their granddaughter. Our room was filled with happiness and love, with our little Evy at the center of it all.

The day Evelyn was born was sunny and beautiful - early spring after a long and very snowy winter, a few days after the vernal equinox. March going out like a lamb. The light filtered into our room casting a warm glow. Evy was small but strong from the start: a good eater, hands that were always moving, a full head of hair.

Our birth was nothing like I imagined, nothing like we’d planned. After months of learning about why I didn’t want a Cesarean birth, it was hard coming to grips that we had no other options. I spent a lot of time fending off feelings of disappointment and failure that we didn’t have a natural birth, but of course the important thing is that I delivered a beautiful healthy baby. We were so blessed that there were no complications and that everyone was healthy. We never had to make the decision to have a scheduled Cesarean- after all our fretting, Evelyn chose her birthday.

I would never choose a Cesarean birth.  While recovery was quicker than I imagined (I felt pretty good after a week, great after two), the first four days were full of soreness and limited mobility- and all I wanted to do was snuggle with that baby.

Having said that, I also want to say, for those facing a similar situation:  A Cesarean birth is still a birth. You are still giving birth, and every birth is amazing. Don’t let that experience be lessened or taken away from you.  So many women find themselves in this situation, a birth that wasn’t what they imagined, a feeling of having failed. Even if you are unable to push your baby out, due to positioning or complications or some other reason that is out of your control, you are bringing life into this world.  

I didn't have the birth that I imagined. I didn’t push my baby out, she was lifted out into the world, and I have a small smile-shaped scar to remind me of her first moments. Evelyn came into this world head up, healthy, with a strong voice, a strong will, and surrounded by love.  How can I be disappointed in that?