Lila Kate’s Birth Story – Hypnobirthing and a Surprise C-Section

Well, our girl is here! She arrived on 11/18 at 5:19 am at the Carson-Tahoe hospital. 6 lbs 9 oz and 19 inches long.

Here’s the story of how our sweetheart came into the world. I wanted to share it only because when I was pregnant I was slightly obsessed with reading other women’s birth stories. Something about knowing how the process went for different women comforted me and made me realize that I could handle whatever was thrown my way.

On Saturday the 17th, Luke and I went out for what we hoped would be one last date night before baby. We went to Dragonfly in Truckee and I had a curry fish dish. It’s about a 35 minute drive each way on some bumpy, windy roads. It was a really nice evening out spent with my #1 guy.

Earlier in the day I thought I MIGHT be feeling some of the signs I had read about as indicators that labor was coming soon. I had a burst of energy earlier in the day and found myself in hyper-nesting mode, which included ironing all the placemats and napkins we were going to use for Thanksgiving. I noticed that Lila was especially quiet and not doing as many kicks as usual (although she was still moving). And finally my heartburn was much worse than it normally is.

After we got home from dinner, around 8:30 pm, I was in our closet getting ready for bed. I bent over to put on my sweatpants and felt a POP and then a gush of fluid. I immediately yelled “LUKE!! Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh.”

His response “What? Is there a bug?” LOL.

I ran into the bathroom and stood in the shower while we discussed our next steps. It was such a SHOCK when my water broke. I immediately got a rush of adrenaline that left me shaking and pretty freaked out. My first reaction was to start crying because I suddenly became very scared about what lay ahead of me. Labor. Delivery. Becoming a parent. Despite having nine months to prepare, it all hit me hard in that moment.

Luke stayed calm and reassured me that we were ready and everything would go great. We called my sister, who drove down that night from San Francisco with her husband and baby. And our parents to let them know what was happening. We called the hospital and they told us to come in. Since my water had broken, I would have to deliver within 24 hours to ward off risk of infection.

Luke showered while I packed a few odds and ends into our bag. My contractions had not started by this point, so I was getting worried I would have to take Pitocin to start labor. Luckily about 20 minutes later, they came while we were driving the 45 minutes to the hospital. They weren’t anything I couldn’t manage with some relaxation and breathing, although they were coming every 5-8 minutes.

Throughout my pregnancy, I had been doing a pre-labor preparation program called Hypnobirthing. It sounds hokey, but Hypnobirthing basically teaches you how to go into instant relaxation through “hypnosis.” It’s not the hypnosis you see on TV with people doing ridiculous things. More like relaxation audio scripts and breathing you practice 4-5 times a week so your body gets conditioned to relax as soon as it hears it.

In the car, we listened to the audio called “birthing affirmations ” which reminds mom that birthing is a natural process, done by women for all of time and that our bodies are designed to bring our babies into the world in a healthy way. It immediately helped me get over my initial fear and relax my muscles. I began to get really excited to meet my baby girl.

Once at the hospital, we spent about 30 minutes in the admitting room where they confirmed my water had broken (duh) and asked me about a million questions. Thankfully my contractions were still bearable at this point and I could talk through them.

Soon we were put into our own room where I would labor, deliver and recover. I was just getting settled into my relaxation tapes when a new nurse came to our room and started a whole other admission process – aka another 100 questions and 45 minutes. By now my contractions were coming every four minutes and were strong enough that I could no longer talk through them. Luke took over answering all the questions like “how many years of college did you complete?” Why they needed to know all this stuff is beyond me.

Finally at about midnight we were done with all the Q&A and were left alone in our room. We dimmed the lights and I got to work practicing my Hypnobirthing. In my case this meant listening to a “rainbow relaxation” audio and focusing on my slow breathing – 20 seconds in, 20 out – during each contraction.

I told Luke to get some rest, because I figured if the average first labor is 15 hours, I would need him rested and alert the next day to help me through the hardest parts. I closed my eyes and worked through the contractions as they came.

Before going into labor I wondered what a contraction would feel like. For me it was like my stomach muscles were tightening and slowly that tightening would move up my abdomen and around my lower back. The only time they became painful was when I wasn’t relaxed. Otherwise it felt like pressure and tightening.

I had heard ahead of time that it’s best to move around while laboring. To sit on a birthing ball, or sway with your birth partner, but for me the best position was lying in bed, on my side, completely still. Like I was a marionette doll with all the strings cut. The few times I did get up to go to the bathroom or to try the rocking chair, I was immediately overcome with pain during my contractions.

Time went by so quickly that night. The nurse would come check on me ever hour to hour and a half, but it felt like I saw her every 15 minutes. I was so focused internally on my contractions that I had no concept of time, which was fine with me!

At one point, around 3:45 am, I went to the bathroom and immediately started to shake uncontrollably. My teeth were chattering so hard I thought I was going to chip a tooth. I had heard that some women shake during transition – the hardest part of labor between 7-10 cm dilation – but I didn’t want to get my hopes up.

Soon after the nurse came back in and said “well since you’re able to still sleep through your contractions, it doesn’t appear your labor is progressing as quickly as we’d like. The doctor wants to start you on Pitocin soon.” I was really confused – what did she mean I was “sleeping” through my contractions?? I realize now that she was mistaking my lying in bed with my eyes closed while I was laboring as sleeping – ha! Luke confirmed, that he too thought I was sleeping the whole night. Apparently I was still as a stone and made no noise except for some heavier breathing at times.

Anyway, I really wanted to avoid Pitocin because I had read that is makes contractions MUCH stronger, closer together and painful – almost always meaning you’d need to get an epidural. So I asked the nurse to please check me before we make any decisions about starting Pitocin.

She obliged and at first said I was still only at 1 cm dilated. I literally said yelled out “Oh dear god, NO!!” But quickly she changed her mind and said “wait, no, you’re actually at 7 cm!!” I was so excited, 7 cm dilated in just 4-5 hours! That elation was quickly stymied though when she followed up with “there is a complication” and started paging other nurses to come to my room.

After a scary few minutes, she finally told me that Lila was breech. I was so confused. My doctor had been telling me for weeks that her head was very low and engaged. The nurse at admissions had even told me she felt her head down. How could she have flipped so last minute?

Turns out Lila inherited at least one trait from me … a boney butt. Apparently the round boney thing everyone was certain was her head for so many weeks, was actually her butt!

My doctor came in at 4:15 am (even though she wasn’t on call that night) and confirmed the breech prognosis via ultrasound. She was so far down the birth canal that flipping her wasn’t an option – I was definitely going to need a c-section.

I felt a mix of fear, disappointment, anxiety and PAIN. Through all the commotion of figuring out what was going on with Lila, I was in the thick of transition. Completely unable to relax anymore, the pain I had successfully avoided so far, hit me hard. While the doctors and nurses discussed my surgery, I was writhing on the bed, moaning and yelling out with each contraction.

After what seemed like an eternity, the nurses gave me a shot of something to stop my contractions. I had about ten minutes before surgery to prepare myself mentally. A c-section was not in my birth plan and I really had no idea what was about to happen, so I was pretty scared.

On top of that, I began to shake uncontrollably again. The shaking didn’t stop until well after surgery. The poor anesthesiologist had the hardest time getting the spinal in that three nurses had to hold me down!

The actual surgery was a total breeze. I felt no pain and within 10 minutes of starting, I heard my daughter announce her arrival with a shrill scream. Everyone in the room gave me the play by play – “she has a lot of dark hair!” “She’s long and lean like her parents!” “She is perfectly healthy.”

That first minute after a baby is born via c-section can be incredibly lonely for the mother. You’re sort of just laying there alone, looking up at the bright lights while everyone in the room gets to see and touch your baby before you do.

Soon enough though, they lowered the curtain and lifted Lila so I could see her. She was so beautiful I immediately burst into tears of joy. Right after that, Luke brought her over to my head so I could stare into my girl’s eyes for the first time.

We were lucky enough to be at a hospital that focuses on breastfeeding, so very soon after surgery and before any shots or eye goop, I was able to hold Lila skin-to-skin for more than an hour. She fed for the first time and knew exactly what to do. I credit this first hour together as the reason why she’s such a good eater now. She’s already gained 12 oz from her “leaving the hospital” weight in just a week!

We spent the rest of the 2.5 days in the hospital in our own room, bonding, recovering and getting to know the newest addition to our family.

We’ve been home a week now and couldn’t be happier. While recovering from a c-section (after also laboring to 7 cm) is tough, we are lucky in that Lila is an excellent eater, sleeps soundly and hardly cries. Plus we have gotten a lot of help from family these first few weeks.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disapointed in how her birth went. I would have loved to have avoided a c-section and delivered her naturally, but I am incredibly thankful for the talented and caring nurses and doctors at Carson-Tahoe hospital who made sure that Lila entered the world as safely as possible. That’s all that matters.

Now we’re just focused on getting me healthy and loving on the sweetest little girl we’ve ever met.