I have such a strong conviction to tell my birth story in every detail for several reasons. First, I want to encourage other moms and moms-to-be to be open when your moment of labor and delivery approaches. Don’t feel bad if you have to have a scheduled c-section or if you want an epidural. Don’t be ashamed if you feel weak or scared. You were designed for this and you couldn’t be any stronger!
Second, I want to share this with everyone as a testimony that God still performs miracles. Mine came when I least expected it. I’m not talking about a coincidence here, but a real miracle that couldn’t even be explained by my doctor.
So, here we go…
One week ago (Saturday, April 16, 2016) I started getting contractions. The moment we had been waiting for not only for 9 months, but for an extra nine days (which made it feel like a lifetime) was finally upon us! They felt like mild menstrual cramps and I had never been happier to experience physical pain.
The days before had been filled with many joyous moments, spending time with Ryan’s dad watching movies, going on walks anywhere and everywhere, watching the boys work on household projects to pass the time and improve our home for Olivia’s arrival. We had a lot of fun as we eagerly awaited those first real labor contractions that would bring her into our arms, and we prayed that she would make her appearance in time for Gramps to see her.
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When I started having contractions at 5:30AM on Saturday morning, we all thought there was much hope for her to make her way into the world before Dave’s flight took off at 8AM on Sunday. However, that isn’t how our story goes.
In fact, there were a lot of hopes and desires we had for the day of labor and delivery that simply didn’t come to be, but in the end, all that matters is we have our healthy baby girl here with us.
My dream was to have a birth as natural as possible, and everything had really come together so that this could happen. Our insurance was going to cover both a midwife and OBGYN for us, and I had found the most perfect ones! Rebecca Turecky has lived in Costa Rica for more than 25 years and has attended thousands of births. Not only that, but she is originally from the US and speaks English, so it made it really easy knowing I would have a midwife there to coach me and comfort me in my heart language. Similarly, our doctor Adam Paer spent part of his childhood in the US and then moved to Costa Rica, so speaks perfect English as well. Not only that, but he is the only doctor in the country who performs water births. I had found my perfect team.
I imagined myself easing into the birthing pool with the relieving sensation of the warm water to ease my contractions, Ryan and Rebecca supporting me through the stages of labor until the moment got close, then Adam coming in and delivering Olivia with perfection, and placing her into our arms for the first time. I wouldn’t need an epidural, or an episiotomy, or any type of intervention. It would be tough, but we would do it.
That was my ideal birthing experience plan, and I knew there was a chance that not everything would go according to my wishes, but what ended up happening was what I least expected: at the moment of delivery I was on that hospital bed, three doses of epidural later, drifting in and out of consciousness, my baby in the wrong position with a dropping heart rate, an umbilical cord wrapped around her neck and myself hooked up to IV fluids and oxygen with 42 hours of labor behind me.
How did I get here?
Flash back to Saturday morning. Here I am having contractions that are gradually increasing in length and becoming closer together throughout the day. By 8PM they are consistently hitting me every 5 minutes and lasting 50-60 seconds each. “We’re getting close to the second stage of labor!” I’m saying inside my mind. I send a text to Rebecca and she says she’ll meet us at the hospital in two hours. I can’t believe this is actually happening. We call our friend Hannah who will be taking photos and tell her to get ready to go. We’re really gonna have our baby soon!
At nearly midnight we are finally checked into a room in the maternity ward but it seems like my contractions are getting further apart now. I’m only dilated to 1cm. Rebecca and Hannah crash out on the couch and floor of the hospital room, Ryan does whatever he can to stay awake, and his dad wanders around the hospital (probably wondering if he will get to meet her before he has to leave for the airport in 7 hours!) throughout the night while I fall in and out of sleep in between contractions.
At 6:30AM I still haven’t progressed, and Ryan’s dad has to leave now. Our hearts are broken. I’m strapped down to the hospital bed with my contractions and Olivia’s heart rate being monitored on a machine as Dave leans down to hug me goodbye and I can’t even speak because I know that I will burst into tears at my next breath. I can’t believe this is happening. He came all the way here for 13 whole days and has to leave without holding his first grandchild in his arms. I’m completely crushed, yet there is nothing I can do.
About three hours later the nurse checks my cervix again and I am still only 1cm dilated. “Seriously, I’ve been having contractions for 28 hours and I’m only 1cm?!” I say to myself as deep discouragement sets in. We take some time to discuss our options with Rebecca and even consider going back home. The nurse presents the idea of trying a gel called prostin, which imitates the hormone prostaglandin to help soften the cervix and encourage stronger contractions.
I didn’t want to intervene with the natural process but after hearing from my midwife Rebecca that this is probably a good idea and that it is totally safe for the baby, we decide to go for it, otherwise if my body doesn’t move forward on its own we could end up forced to use unnatural interventions like Pitocin or a cesarean.
We were all on the same page, so Rebecca went to get us some lunch to fuel up, and two hours later the nurses administered the gel. It began to take effect almost immediately and I was hit with excruciatingly painful contractions over the next 8 hours. Unfortunately, they only got me up to 4cm dilated and my body was giving out. I was so exhausted that I was falling asleep for 2-3 minutes between contractions that would jolt me awake and have me wailing with pain. At this point, everyone was concerned that if we tried to allow the process to continue on its own, I could easily be in labor for another 12-15 hours, which could be a high risk for both me and the baby.
The moment had arrived which I had always feared – I needed an epidural. The nurses called the anesthesiologist and he was there within an hour to administer the anesthesia. The nurses had me hooked up to IV fluids and put oxygen tubes up my nostrils, and then everything got a bit fuzzy.
Within a few minutes all the pain was gone, but both mine and Olivia’s heart rate were dropping and my contractions stopped altogether. A half hour later, the nurse checked my cervix again and I was still only 4cm dilated, and they found out that Olivia was posterior, which means she would need to be turned all the way around before she could be born. I tried to stay conscious as I heard Rebecca explaining to Ryan how the process of a cesarean would go as this is what the doctor and nurses were saying was the only option at this point. They would have allowed me to continue laboring with the epidural already administered, but they did not want to because my blood pressure and the baby’s heart rate were too low.
Within a couple of minutes I started feeling pain again in my legs and lower abdomen. The epidural had worn off in 45 minutes (not the first time this has happened to me with anesthetics) and Dr. Adam needed to put his hands inside of me to turn Olivia around. Before he did, a nurse had come in and checked my cervix “it’s only 4cm,”she said. About 10 minutes later Adam checked my cervix again and said that I was “almost completely open,” around 9.5cm dilated, “This baby is coming now.”
As Adam said this, Rebecca turned and looked at him, “The nurse just checked 10 minutes ago and she was only at 4cm. She hasn’t had any contractions. This is a miracle!” I was in so much pain at this point that I didn’t really register anything else that was happening, but Ryan later told me that during this time, the monitor actually lost Olivia’s heart rate for 8-10 minutes. The anesthesiologist came back and administered another dose of epidural, but it didn’t take effect on me, so he gave me even more anesthesia and within minutes I was back to feeling nothing at all.
I tried to stay conscious as Rebecca held up one numbed leg and the anesthesiologist held the other. Adam perfectly turned Olivia to the correct anterior position and everyone told me to push. I couldn’t feel anything but I tried with all my strength to do what I thought would push her out as they pressed down on my abdomen from the outside and Adam very briefly used forceps to pull some of her head out. Within minutes, the long awaited moment had arrived – Olivia was skin to skin with me and mine and Ryan’s hands gently securing her close to my body. A few minutes later I delivered the placenta and Ryan cut the umbilical cord after it stopped pulsating. The next thirty minutes were a complete blur for me.
Ryan would tell me later that after my initial moments with Olivia they had to stitch me up before the epidural wore off again, so they had Ryan take off his shirt and hold Olivia. She tried to nurse on him! The pediatrician then did all the standard tests and measurements while Olivia screamed and cried, until Ryan started singing a song that he used to sing to her while she was in the womb. She immediately calmed down. She scored a 9-10 on the Apgar test, measured 19.3 inches, weighed 6.9 pounds, and came just in time on April 17th (11:33pm) to share a birthday with her great grandfather (Ryan’s maternal grandpa, who we call Dido, had his 84th birthday the same day).
She was perfect.
They handed her to me and she started nursing right away with no issues. Praise the Lord. The anesthesia had worn off and for the first time in hours I felt like I was actually present in the room. I was overwhelmed with so much emotion in that moment that I can’t even describe what I felt.
She is real!
She is here!
Thank you God for this wondrous miracle.
Thank you to everyone who prayed for us on that day. Several of you knew we were in labor, and many others had no idea, yet chose to intercede for us when God pressed it upon your heart. Thank you for standing in the gap for us, we couldn’t be more grateful. We cannot believe we get to hold this baby in our arms. God showed us He is near, He showed us His love and power in a new way. Most of all He showed us, once again, that He is a God who is intimate and personal with us.
I also want to recognize my doctor, Adam Paer, who will most likely never read this, and my midwife, Rebecca Turecky, who both did an absolutely amazing job to bring Olivia into this world the safest way possible. Without them I would not have known what decisions to make in the critical moments, and without them, I probably would have ended up with a c-section. If you’re looking for the best, safest, birth experience in Costa Rica with caregivers that you can really trust, make sure you have one or both of these incredible people there for you!
***Photo credits to the lovely Hannah Capeling, who endured a sleepless night and still captured these moments so well!***