Zoe Grey - Birth Story

The story of Zoe Grey begins one day before I took a pregnancy test,  to be exact, it began when I was teaching the boys how to braid flower crowns out of a million daffodils they picked up for me, then Cass casually mentioned something like “it would be nice to see see you doing this for a little girl”. And in that moment, I felt something, some peculiar certainty that I will, and she is coming and she will be so special… Everything about ZoZo girl was special ever since, even her due date, scheduled on Christmas Day. 

She was my most physically challenging pregnancy, but also the one that taught me the most about my resilience, and how strong I really am, even if I don't believe in it, or ridicule myself for even saying that. I felt the most nauseous and the most tired with her. These symptoms lessened but never went away, I kept on going though and surprised even myself with how much I managed to deal with, while feeling so miserable. 

At about 30 weeks, I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes, I had blood sugar issues with both boys, but never enough to end up on insulin, but like everything else, ZoZo girl, pushed me one step further, and I had to take an insulin shot every night. Because of the official diagnosis, Zoe growth was under surveillance and if there was ever a concern she is getting too big, I would be induced. Since I had a large baby before (Leo was 10 lbs) with hemorrhage afterwards, my doctor was worried about it happening again and didn’t want her to grow too big again. If I were not to deliver before Christmas, my OBGyn and midwife decided it would be best, if I get induced the day after. I was certain I would deliver early, with Simon I didn’t even make it till 37 weeks so I constantly worried about going into labor prematurely. After all, I was working full time, traveling and chasing two kids on the daily, but she decided otherwise, my ZOZO girl knew it wasn't her time. 


Fast-forward to December 26th, early in the morning Cass and I drove to the hospital for my scheduled induction. The hospital was very quiet, many people were still on their Christmas break. When we checked in at around 9am, it felt like a ghost town. We were admitted to the antenatal unit shortly after, I glanced over to the other side of the corridor to Labor& Delivery with a slight jealousy of women who would check in that day there directly. It felt like I was a million years away from being in labor (apart from Braxton Hicks that I had since like 26 weeks, I felt nothing or very little) and I felt like it will be another one of those episodes, when it takes days to get there. My regular doctor wasn't on call, so I was seen by someone I didn’t even know, but she was very friendly and informative at the same time, I trusted in her judgment just moments into talking to her. She explained the procedure and that no pitocin will be given that day and that they would try to ripen my cervix by giving me a pill, called Misoprostol… I haven never heard of it, and the OB told me not to even google it "cause “a lot of weird stuff would come up", so I took it all at face value and tried to think positively, which is hard for me actually ;) Later, I found out that the pill is actually used to terminate an early pregnancy, and has lots of side-effects, but many OBGYNs testify to its less invasive effects and it being a more “natural” way to induce labor than pitocin. Anyhow, we decided to give it a try, since at that moment I felt like no matter what I do my hands were tied, and it would take a lot of battling to stand my ground and persuade the doctors to leave me alone, and allow me to wait for the labor to start on its own. Also, my in-laws were staying for only few more days and I would loose a chance to have someone with the boys while in the hospital so I felt like I didn't have much choice either way, but let the interventions begin… and yes, I sort of felt like that  it seems to be the case with me. I was however trying to stay positive and not let my mind sink too deep into self-pity, that core disappointment that I never have the birth experience that I had imagined for myself. But what is that anyway? why does it have to be a certain way? why do we always do it to ourselves?

The hours have passed, the contractions strengthened enough to become noticeable, however being in labor twice, I knew this was nothing significant to signal the onset of labor, it was a mere abdominal muscle contraction, almost pleasant cause I felt like I am flexing and maybe possibly I still have some muscle left down there. We continued to watch TV, ordered some food from the menu, which always has me excited that I get to choose a starter, a main course and a dessert, followed by coffee, juice and soda! and I don't have to pay for any of it? say what? in truth, it is probably the most expensive meal from a very average cafeteria, we get to order (looking at the hospital bill later on) but who cares, right?! 
After lunch, I was given another dose of Misoprostol - since the first one started contractions and my body responded pretty well to it. The baby and I were monitored after each dose on the monitor for two hours to ensure either I or she were not going into any distress. After that obligatory two hour-watch, we were released to walk around, we had to stay on hospital premises, but other than that we could do whatever we wanted. This hospital was by far the smallest one I labored in, some parts are still in renovation, so there wasn’t that many places to walk to. We kept looping between a coffee place and cafeteria, between one entrance and the other, we goofed off on the staircase, which I decided to climb a few times to strengthen the contractions, but nothing major was happening… and time was passing by. 

By like 4pm, I was to be checked again and due for the final dose of the drug for the day, supposedly I reached the limit to take in 24 hours, so depending on how I was doing, I would be sent home. After the final dose, we walked again and I started to really notice each contraction, they were getting stronger and closer together, but still not too painful and more like muscle spasms, still unlike the true bone-moving pain I remembered from the full-on labors. It started getting dark and even more quiet around the hospital, the entire shift of nurses and my doctor went home and a new shift had started, my new nurse brought in my new doctor because she thought on the monitor I looked pretty much in active labor. The new OB was a middle aged man that seemed a bit reserved, almost skeptical about this method and approach, he didn't quite impress me with his personality either. He described me as ‘’too comfortable to be in labor” and “even though on the monitors I contract-up a storm, in person I don't seem in labor”, he said he would come check me in an hour and send me home. In the meantime, a nurse from labor and delivery came to ask how I was doing, because my readings were shown on their monitors and they thought I was in labor and would be checking in shortly, cause as she concluded “this girl wants to get out tonight”… she couldn’t believe I wasn’t in a lot of pain, because my contractions were looking very much as active labor to her… with a perspective of time, I think the drug augmented them, but didn’t move my body along quite yet. 
Anyhow, the L&D nurse told me that I should stay and maybe they would give me some pitocin to speed things up, then left to talk to my doctor and nurse. When they all came back into the room, he checked my cervix which hadn’t moved much since the morning. With that being said he recommended that I go home cause I was not in labor and the strong contractions would subside on their own at night. My nurse kept looking at the monitor readings and showed something on that super-long roll of paper to him, but he didn’t even flinch and let the room, so it was decided. They went to get my release papers and I would wait to be dismissed. I was a little bummed at that point, had my hopes up but then let down…. but at the same time I was getting tired of the contractions and all the walking and hyping myself for labor, thus the thought of going home to give my body and mind some rest didn't seem so bad. I thought that since I can not get it done quickly, I needed a reset to be able to face this long pilgrimage to labor once more tomorrow morning. After all, all my labors  feel like a marathon, not a sprint.  

When the nurse came back with the release papers, she looked a bit concerned and said that I should know my body best, so if anything feels off, I should give them a call or come back. She kept asking how I was doing to which I responded that now I would probably be calling my doc to go to the hospital - not leave it - but if it was just the pills tricking my muscles to contract and my body was not ready, then there was no point in sitting there, and I should be okay resting at home before the next day… We then quickly packed up and drove home, it was a quick and easy drive since the highway was pretty much deserted at that point, one of my initial worries about choosing this particular hospital was that even though it wasn't far away per se, it was a few miles on a highway and during rush hour, it could take up to an hour to get to it from my house. We made it home pretty quickly, even made a stop at a gas station to fill up a tire, cause a light was blinking at us that the pressure was low, I even went into the store to see if they had any fresh decaf, but they didn’t, wha a bummer, not my lucky night I thought…. That whole time while feeling the contractions, I was trying to block them out of my mind, telling myself they were false and will go away soon… When we got home, the kids were in bed and my in laws were watching something on TV, Cass and I quickly grabbed some snacks in the kitchen and I decided to take a long bath to relax and give my body some needed rest. We made some herbal tea and Cass heated up some leftover chilli, cause he didn't get dinner, he took his bowl upstairs to the bathroom to keep me company, and to make sure my mind stays in the right place, as he always does… we talked and made a little picnic on the bathroom floor, I managed to relax and forget for a moment about the next day pressures… Cass was reading something on his phone to me and eating his chilli, I decided the water was getting too cold so I said I will take a quick shower to rinse off, Cass stepped outside to get me a fresh towel, I got up, and bent over to unplug the drain, and then felt a weird pop inside of me…. I wasn't sure what it was, I thought I was either imagining things, or something in the tub popped or my back did… I finished the shower and stepped outside, once I did all the sudden I felt a much stronger contraction, it was different, more painful, I immediately recognized that familiar, dry pull in the lower abdomen, that throbbing pain, as if something is trying to move your insides around. I sat on the toilet and felt a little twinkle that wasn’t pee, and then again and again, then I knew my water broke, I noticed that the water is slightly greenish and panicked… at that moment I decided there is no point in calling the hospital and we needed to head out whether it was time or not. Within the next ten minutes my contractions got stronger and stronger, there were getting closer together and way more painful… we started to rush, I wasn't sure what I was doing, let alone thinking of putting proper clothes back on, so I put on some undies and wrapped a towel around my hips cause pants seemed obsolete at that point since I was leaking anyway with each contraction. I put on the same sweater I had before and grabbed my cosmetic bag cause I thought  maybe I will be able to at least put some mascara back on and maybe some highlighter, in the car….all day I was excited that i had good hair and makeup done so I wont have those first pics looking like a drab, but here i was, with leftover mascara under my eyes, in a towel, cowboy boots, my giant teddy coat wobbling back to the car. I grabbed some necklaces into my pocket cause I thought I will put my jewelry back on too, between the contractions, oh silly me…because by then, I had to stop everything I was doing each time the contraction started cause they were too intense. Cass was panicking a bit too so we don't remember much from getting packed back into the car, it was after 10pm but it felt like we were driving in the middle of the night. I started timing the contractions, they were happening every 3 minutes and lasted for more than a minute each and hurt pretty bad, I remembered that with Leo, I had horrible contractions for over and hour and made little progress, but then once my water broke, I was ready to push within the next twenty minutes… naturally I was getting just a little bit worried… everyone always laughs at the thought of people driving like maniacs to the hospital and a woman is huffing and puffing and screaming she will give birth right in the car… but I was worried it would be us for a moment there, I think Cass was too, but we both were trying to keep a straight face and not say it out loud… we kept doing what we do best when stressed out, joking about this whole ordeal etc…. the drive felt like one of the longest and shortest at the same time on this exact part of the highway, funny enough I knew exactly every turn and every exit as it was my route to work every single day, it felt so quick yet like the time stood still, it was from one painful contraction to the next one, from one exit to the next, five more exits more and maybe three more contractions… I was doing my best to stay calm and breath and not get too scared or paralyzed… I was focusing on the excitement that I had a breakthrough and I won’t have to force my body tomorrow to keep trying… I was so excited and proud of it that it responded well that I think I was fine dealing with the pain and kept the fear away, a fear that would always paralyze me so much in my other labors. 

When we got to the hospital, we parked what we thought was the closest spot to the entrance, I didn't want Cass to drop me off and park the car, I needed him by my side, so i said i would walk with him from the parking spot. When we got to the door, the sign said that the entrance was closed for the night and the only one open was by ER in the other building behind the one we were in. I was getting really uncomfortable and each contraction was in its full force, they were back, I knew how they feel, the bone-crushing, gut-wrenching, insides-bursting kind of pain, it was burning fire through my entire uterus and hips and back. I walked like an old lady, small steps, leaking water and stopping every two minutes to breath through a contraction, it took us about three contractions to make it to the right entrance, some people leaving the hospital passed us sort of staring at me squeezing my husband and stopping every few steps, wearing my white bathroom towel and cowboy boots…but then they just kept on walking, I guess scenes like that are normal around a hospital at night… once I got to the ER entrance, the nice lady upfront didn't even ask questions, she said we have a “Labor and Delivery one, get the wheelchair!!!” she looked at me and said “hold on sweetie, we will get you upstairs, don't have this baby here”, I told her I promise I would not, she pushed me into the elevator and we got upstairs. Flashing lights, a bunch of people in and out of elevator, long corridors, electric doors, everyone sort of looking at me if I am having a baby right that moment or not, all felt so surreal and out of body, i almost felt cool, like in some comedy sitcom or something, arriving at the labor and delivery check-in in style, in a towel, boots and a giant teddy coat. I even joked about it to the nurses as they rushed me into a room and said they would finishing the admission process there. I don't even remember getting on the bed and undressing, by then I was in so much pain I couldn't think straight, the contractions were longer than the breaks between them and they were unbearable, I kept dripping water everywhere and felt like I am peeing my pants each time, they took off my underwear and took my towel away, i asked to be checked by the doctor cause I don't know how much longer I could take that pain without any pain relief. They said the doctor was finishing a delivery, but there was a midwife from my practice that I have never met on call and she could come and check me, I had really high hopes then, I was like,”if i am at 8-9 cm, I will say no drugs, I must be at least at 7 cause it hurts like hell, just as much as it did with Leo when I was at 7 and then almost to 10 when they were setting up mu epidural, I knew that high progress pain, I have done it before”… I was so certain I was getting really close…. when the midwife came, she was all friendly and chatty and calling me sweetie and acting like I shouldn't be acting so uncomfortable cause… “I was a solid… 4”…FOUR!!!!????????…… I was so angry! a solid four!? four!? was she kidding me, someone must be pranking me or I am myself a sad joke, cause this is impossible to be in this much pain and not even make it to any respectable centimeter!!! I thought she was patronizing me with her “solid four”, “solid”, what was it, am I a toddler to get rewarding adjectives? thanks a lot! Anyhow, I was disappointed and broken and angry and defeated and disappointed and “here we go again, thanks a lot for nothing body”, I felt sad that I just cannot overcome this, this mountain of pain and yet my body lagging behind trying to torture me with it for hours, so much for unproductive contractions doing nothing but hurting me…. hurting my confidence, my ability to feel like I got this… every contraction was like an avalanche of pain, the two minute long pain marathon… it was getting impossible for me to lay on the table, the room felt hot and stuffy and lights too bright, the nurses were running around me not sure what to do with me, cause the midwife just told them I am a four, so why was I acting that way, I guess they might have thought I was a wimp, a baby who cannot handle a slight contraction… I mean I would….I didn't understand why it hurt so bad, why it felt so grande at a mere four centimeters???… one of the nurses said she would put an IV to get some mineral salt to ease the contractions, they would need the catheter in anyway for the epidural that i angrily requested… to get it in, she kept poking one arm, then the other but couldn’t quite get  it in, cause I was tensing up every minute or so for yet another super strong and painful four-centimeter contraction. I think she tried at least four times in each arm, before it finally got in there, I felt so uncomfortable and wanted to move, or get off the table but with all the tubes they were trying to hook me on and leaking water every two minutes, I felt like an animal on a leash, just tossing on the bed, trying not to scream from pain…. just holding my breath and sweating to death… the OB finally came in, I asked about the anesthesiologist who was supposedly on its way, the same OB who earlier said I wasn't in labor and sent me home, checked my cervix and said that I made some progress and I am at a 6…. so….. now a SIX, but still A six!! it was definitely soul crushing every time they gave me these numbers, like a failed test you find out you did even worse on, I knew there was no way I could endure that pain much longer so I asked for an epidural again. At that point, I don't know how much time was passing from one thing to the other, cause everything was hurting and there was no breaks between my contractions. I remember sitting up a little on the table to look around the room, it was filled with people coming in and going, they called in for NCIU to come in and check in as the baby with meconium in water was supposed to be handled with extra precautions. There was a different labor procedure, in case the baby inhales a bit of water while coming out. When they admitted me 20 minutes prior, they thought the baby would be there soon, so they alerted the NICU, but my cervix laughed at all this commotion and said “not so fast everyone, calm the off down”, so they came and went and it seemed like everyone was just waiting around not knowing what to do… then suddenly another big contraction hit and it tensed my stomach in a way I never felt before, or maybe as if I had bad stomach issues, I felt like I need to release the rest of that water, like I just need to give into this bursting from within pressure… a bunch more water gushed out and I felt this weird sensation of needing to move things out of my body. I think I said that I had no idea what is happening to me, that my body is pushing out things and it is going to be even more messy… I felt like I would pee and poo my pants at the same time and I wanted to get off the table to get to the toilet.. I started getting up cause I wanted some relief and peace to collect myself from this bothersome leaking in pain on the table, I felt like in the bathroom I could get my body back in some control… but they held me down and I remember the nurse saying, “no stay on here, it is your baby!”… the room got busy again and I heard voices saying “she wanted an epidural, it is too late, the baby is coming out”, “should we wait for him? what should we do?”… the doc was confused too, I don't remember what he said exactly, but I remember people saying something like “we can get this baby out right now”. Everyone waited for someone to finally say lets get it done, it seemed like they all wanted my confirmation too, I think I noted that I think we should just get it done, maybe I sad it too, not sure, all I knew was I couldn't be like that much longer, I either had to push or get off the table, maybe go to the bathroom cause I couldn't control that feeling… from then on, I am not sure what was happening around me, I think for two more contractions I was to hold still and not push, which was actually pretty hard… I had this pressing need to use a bathroom but I had to hold it in, weirdest feeling ever… I was never in this part of labor before, I didn't know how exactly all this feels “live”, at this point before I always had an epidural, so this moment was always behind the curtain of drugs. I could feel things before, but more like on mute, las if all was separated from me, filtered, to make it just enough to know what is happening, but not enough to fully participate in it…. and this… this was unedited, unscripted, it was a full blown strength of my body wanting to do its thing despite every single statement made about its progress fifteen minutes ago. It was such a weird sensation, like it was trying full force to prove everyone wrong. The room was filled with muttered voices, some commotion, I couldn't fully register who was in, who was out and what is happening, the light of the lamp straight above me was beaming too bright, I couldn't focus on anything. I had only one thought in my head.. “I can do this, I am doing this, let’s get this finished”…. Another contraction hit and yet again I think I said something that I think I need to push, the nurse told me not to, to try not to push because they are not ready, at this point the pain eased up a bit but the feeling was equally unbearable with its forceful strength. It was some sort of full-on cosmic force to bare and … finally, I saw a doctor in his plastic spacesuit and mask hover over me and some extra nurses and possibly some other people gathering around and I was finally allowed to push at the next contraction. I remember the nurse asking me “so what do I remember about pushing?”, I muttered that I remember being really good at it in the past…(but in my head I was already doubting in myself that I have no clue since I have never done it without drugs…), by then the contraction was almost over and I pushed just a little… And then another contraction hit not even 20 seconds later giving me another green light to push full force, at this point I cannot talk about my actions or thoughts in any other way than the one of telling a dream… I think, I was just following what my body was doing, giving in, not thinking but doing, submitting to the intuition, trusting in my own biology, trusting the process, since the cosmic energy was doing this thing for thousands of years…. i remember hearing that I am doing great and the baby is almost out, everything was way more uncomfortable and painful but at that point I was in some other dimension, almost like I could see myself on that table under that giant medical lamp and whisper to my ear that one more push and it will be all over. So I pushed and then pushed over that push…the voices around me were getting more encouraging and higher pitched, everyone was cheering and saying that IT was almost done, I really wanted IT to be over too... I lifted my head because the doctor said he needed my leg moved - it was in the way, i wanted to move it, but couldn’t, it was all clenched with the muscle spasms and pain, I didn't rally control it nor felt it, i had no mental capacity to relax and move it myself. I think finally Cass grabbed it and yanked it sideways, everyone yelled for one more final “push!” I haven't made a noise up to that point… this whole time I was more concerned with my appearance of not being overly dramatic or not disturb anyone with my whines, “cause God forbid, what would they think of me”… (especially if they told me I was at 4cm), but for this one, I couldn't hold it in and released a long, raspy moan, i couldn't control it, I couldn't hold it in any longer, the intensity of the moment and pain gathered inside of me, moved up my chest and came out of my mouth by itself, after that… everything went quiet, and pitch black for a second. I had this weird visualization in my head, that all images folded themselves into a little hole and disappeared into nothingness, everything was still for what felt like a while, but most likely was just a nanosecond…it was the closest I think I will ever get to some sort of spiritual out of body experience, it felt like for a moment there I have gone to another universe, I was there but not, it was the most intense  pain yet most out of body experience of the whole process, I could feel it but also couldn't… Then slowly the exact same hole opened and filled with lights, i opened my eyes and saw that giant lamp again and then… I saw HER…. there she was, she was here, we made it, it was over, she was the sweetest sight, my most hairy baby hovering over me, she was a good size, I quickly glanced over all her features, with the most primal instinct checking her legs, hands, face, and she was crying, crying loudly and furiously, that was my girl, my brave girl giving us a loud reassurance that there was nothing to worry about, her crying was a great sign, it meant she didn't inhale any water on the way out and was quickly clearing her lungs from anything that could be trapped inside. I think there was some delay in her being put on me because someone from NICU had to take a peek too, but I couldn't recollect what was really going on. I saw her and everyone else was moving in slow motion, all blended into one human blur.  She kept going, she sounded strong and angry, so they put her down on me, I was just able to catch my breath when her warmth laid on me and i felt this amazing, one of a kind sensation, having a part of my body returned back to me immediately after loosing it, yet again…. it is such an incredible moment, that we get to experience just after birth, it is truly like, loosing a limp and then feeling it back,  but in a different form, like all her little movements, how she felt were still all so familiar, but also already so different from the outside. I could feel her warmth that she got from inside of me, now warming up my cold and rough skin of my body outside. That skin to skin moment is truly the final manifestation of the incredible transition we witness in birth, a body living within, with its warmth and softness touching the body it knew all along - but now from the other side, the side that is much more rugged. It is the moment when the two familiar with each bodies are gently preparing each other for what is to come.. that next level of existence, like a tender goodbye, a send-off for us both...  I feel the last moments of unity with her, and she feels what is going to be her new reality… and then we are apart. I will sure miss that metaphysical aspect of birth. 

When I looked into one of her opened eyes, she had this intelligence about her that I think babies during birth gain specifically for that moment, she looked around, scanning the surroundings, then she rooted on my chest and latched on the breast, I am always amazed how much they can move to find their first source of nourishment and tranquility… she calmed down and nursed… and it was calm everywhere, the moment was here, the “it is done” moment, “it is over” moment, this was it, a moment of victory, of triumph, of bottomless happiness, i have arrived, yet again to the fountain of love and serenity… I was there before… I felt a strong connection to the moments just like that in my “past”, unique in their transcend nature, yet all the same, it was “me”s birthing a soul into this world and making that soul mine. I thought of other times, I got to experience this miracle and that thought united all flooding emotions into what we have created over the years, our family. In moments like this, time is no longer relevant, our essence can be in other dimensions, simultaneously, so all my motherhood energy  bursted into a tie-in with my born souls welcoming this one, the brand new one and hugged me and her altogether with the rest of them. Birth is one of the exceptions in motherhood when logic does not apply, nor reason, it is excluded from the laws of physics, there is no brain facts here, only feelings. And they flood you so much, your heart bursts in seams.

Speaking of brain facts, gosh brain, MY BRAIN… as if it always speaks the truth, but does it? our brain wouldn't lie to us? would it?… we tend to trust everything it says, sometimes mine says so many cruel and horrible things, especially about myself, my body and its abilities,yet I continue to listen to it, yet I never trust my body, I know my body isn't perfect, that it didn't always deliver on what I hoped it to do, but the rules were always dictated by my brain, and my body was always trying to just do its best, never tried to hurt “me”, never tried to do anything other than what it can. My body never lied to me, but my brain did, many times. And yet, it always gets priority, the brain tells me what my body is and what it can do, a lot of times unfairly, angrily, putting it down as if it was my enemy, or my brain/s enemy. But this time, my brain lost and my body won, in its imperfect ability, it pulled through and delivered for me, with a little nudge, it finally helped me and instead of an agonizing track of a labor, it finally took care of business and I mean business in less than an hour! I was so proud of it, maybe for the first time in my entire adult life, I felt like it proved everyone wrong, nobody believed in it, but it didn't matter.

If having Zoe were to teach me nothing else, I already received the greatest lesson of all, to trust my body more, accept its limits, shut down my brain more often and hope that maybe my body can still surprise me, and most definitely serve me well…

1 comment

  1. I love this! This story is almost exactly like my first born’s story. Being told I wasn’t in real labor, The intensity, my Dr. not being on call so I had a strange staff, feeling like it was the end to be told I was “only 6cm”, the confusion amongst hospital staff because I wanted an epidural but was ready to push, not wanting to make noise and then letting out that primal birth yell, the meconium, and yes - a total out of body experience, just amazing. I had two wonderful home births after my hospital experience, and am due with my 4th in October but am going to a hospital for insurance/money reasons. I’ve been nervous about another hospital experience, but your story reminds me that we are strong women and can get through it no matter where we are, or what we are wearing ;)