By Chelsea Harmon

Throughout my pregnancy, I practiced hypnobirthing.  I was skeptical at first, but I decided to buy a few tracks on Amazon and listened to them during naps and going to sleep at night.  I didn’t feel like I prepared myself like I should have with my daughter, so I wanted to make sure I did this time around using any possible method. As soon as I felt my first contraction (they started Friday before my 41 week Monday appointment), I started practicing my breathing and stayed in tune with my body to stay relaxed. They weren’t very intense like I remembered with my daughter, but gradually increased tightening little by little as the weekend passed.

I woke up the morning of my 41 week appointment feeling defeated that I didn’t already have a tiny squishy nursling in my arms. I was mentally prepared to go overdue, but never expected to make it to this appointment. We only have one car, so I had to drop my husband off at work before I could make my way to Chapel Hill. It was an hour drive to the center and wasn’t one I wanted to make again until I was having this baby. I decided to pack our things, just in case a miracle happened like going into labor on the way to my appointment, but I already knew we were absolutely not having a baby that day.
I got to the hospital early for my ultrasound so I could grab a cup of coffee.  As I’m checking in for my ultrasound, the front desk lady asks if I am alone or if I had someone to watch my daughter.  I was alone, 41.1 weeks pregnant, and now being told I was probably not going to be allowed to have my ultrasound.  I wanted to go hide in a dark corner and cry.  Finally, they decide they would try as long as my daughter would sit still. As far as I knew, everything looked healthy except the fact that I had slightly elevated fluid.  He didn’t go into detail about what that meant exactly, so I was pretty clueless.  I texted my mom and husband and told them how it went.  My mom texts back “don’t be surprised if they want to induce you.”

Wait, what?

After my ultrasound, I headed straight to the midwife’s office to talk about what next steps we were going to take. Emily asked if I was comfortable with my daughter hanging out with the ladies in the front, and I knew something wasn’t going as planned. Unfortunately, because of the elevated fluid levels, I was automatically risked out of birthing at the center. I was immediately flooded with tears and a huge lump in my throat.  I felt like my body had failed me. We discussed my options, but ultimately the safest way was to get the baby out as soon as possible by way of induction. There was no way I was going to risk the health of my baby, so I loaded up my daughter and drove an hour back home to pick up my husband from work.
I cried the entire way. I had to get it all out before picking him up. I was sure he had already started googling all the problems and risks (prolapsed cord being the biggest one) associated with elevated fluid (and he did).  I felt I had to be strong so we would both stay calm.
We quickly grabbed lunch to go and made our way back to Chapel Hill. We dropped our daughter off with my mom and headed to the hospital.  The ride to the hospital to have a baby is a weird, surreal feeling.  It never feels like how you imagine it to feel. It was around 3:30 PM when we finally checked into the hospital.  We were clueless and had no idea where to go.  I tried to prepare myself for being induced, telling myself it was okay, and that I wasn’t a failure.  This had to happen to keep our son healthy. We were about to meet our son! We finally reached our room, got set up, and I was put on the monitor.

We were waiting for the induction to start when my midwife, Sarah, came in and asked if I could feel my contractions. I could, but they weren’t really intense and only felt slight pressure. She had been watching them as she was about to send in the request for Pitocin, realized how close they were, and we came up with a new plan: castor oil. I had heard of this before and was honestly terrified of it. My first gut reaction was to say no; however, I was more scared of Pitocin, so I decided to give it a try.  By this time, it was around 5 p.m. She told me to chug it like a beer, which I did. Except castor oil, mixed with grape juice, is not as easy to chug as a beer.  It’s safe to say I will never be able to drink grape juice again.  Sarah said she was giving me until 9 PM to see if the castor oil would do the trick. I was told all the other nurses and staff made fun of us while swearing up and down it wasn’t going to work. I wanted it to work. I made myself believe it was going to work. It had to work. I didn’t chug this nasty concoction for nothing!

While waiting for the castor oil to kick in, we tried to relax and watch a movie. Instead, we ended up watching the contraction screen almost the entire time.  I went to the bathroom twice and by 7:30 PM, I was swaying through each wave in my husband’s arms.  The baby had to be monitored 24/7, which basically meant it was a huge pain to get into a nice position to help ease the intensity.

When things started to really pick up, I quickly got into my zone. The room was dark and quiet. I was able to get myself into a comfortable position on the bed where the baby could still be monitored. To endure each contraction, I counted. When I got close to 30, I knew it was almost over. Nausea hit around 10:30 PM and throwing up was unavoidable at that point (even with the help of a little friend called Zofran). After throwing up multiple times all over my husband and myself, I had hit my breaking point. I was done and completely over it.  I talked to my nurse and asked to talk to the anesthesiologist for an epidural. I quickly signed my natural birth over.

That’s when my birth fairy, Sarah, stepped in (forever thankful for her). She supported me any way I wanted to go, but asked if she could check me to see my progression. I was at 7 centimeters, and she assured me I was almost there.

Holy crap, I could really do this!

Sure enough, about an hour or so later I felt the urge to push.  I have never felt such huge emotions; it was an out-of-body experience. My instincts took over, and I had no control over my voice.  At last, after 5 or 6 pushes, my sweet, slippery baby boy was handed over and placed on my chest.

Sebastian Fox Harmon was born at 12:37 AM on May 10th.  I was in a mixed state of complete euphoria, exhaustion, and intense relief from it finally being over. At least until it was time for the placenta, which felt like giving birth all over again.  He latched right away like a champ.  Six months later and I am still in awe of him – not to mention my body for pushing out an 8-pound, 3-ounce  human being.  I have given birth with an epidural and without. I have never felt more empowered and proud of myself than I have after my natural birth experience. 

Women are incredible and strong any way they birth.