Our son Rio Camberlango was born on March 28, 2012 at 2:37 in the afternoon. We had a long journey, and his birth confirmed a couple of the suspicions I’d had throughout pregnancy. First, that he’s a boy! Most everyone else had predicted girl. And second, that since my pregnancy was so easy, fun, and complication-free, his labor and delivery might not be as easy.
Rio’s water broke around 2 am on Monday, March 26. It was a relatively small amount of liquid and continued trickling out throughout the day. We had an appointment with the midwives who confirmed that it was amniotic fluid, and that his labor should begin soon, and would have to be underway within 72 hours to avoid an induction. We waited around ALLLL day that rainy Monday, went to Costco, Marty bought razors and shaved his beard so he could meet the baby clean-shaven, made a few last minute preparations for what to take to the birth center, saw a movie at the Flicks (Friends with Kids) to distract ourselves for a few hours.
We went to bed on Monday night still without any signs of labor. I started feeling some mild contractions around 3 am, and I suppose I slept through the part of labor that you can “ignore.” By 5 am my contractions were fairly strong and regular, and by 7 am we were timing them at around 7 minutes apart. We labored at home for most of the morning, and while I wasn’t able to do much but labor, I wasn’t in a great deal of pain, either. I ate a little but wasn’t very hungry. Around 2 we called the midwives and headed over to the birth center.
As we were getting ready to go, I felt a little nauseous, so stepped out onto the front porch, in case I needed to throw up outside, rather than in the kitchen. The warm air and sunshine felt wonderful, had I realized this sooner, I might have labored outside instead. As I leaned on the porch railing feeling the roll of another contraction, two young men on bikes rolled up, dressed in white shirts and ties. Yep, Mormons.
I couldn’t catch my breath long enough to say more than “Hi…..Marty?” He explained that we were having a baby. They nodded understandingly and asked if we needed anything. It’s one of my favorite parts of the story, bet THAT never happened to them before.
At the birth center, three midwives were ready to meet us, Kathleen, Violet, and Grace. (At our birth center, there are several midwives, and you are attended by whoever is on call when you go into labor, usually a midwife, an assistant, and a student.) They helped me into the birthing room we would be using, sat me down on the birth ball, and silently watched me take 2 or 3 contractions. I felt such a sense of serenity and calm surrounded by them, as I was in the presence of strong, focused women who had done this before and would securely guide me down this road. Our three witches, Marty later called them. They thought that I was coping with the contractions just right, and I continued this way for a long time more, alternating between different positions, chairs, the birth ball, the tub. Our midwives keep cervical checks at a minimum, but I was at 7 cm after my first check and nearly complete by the second.
After the first check Violet knew that the baby’s position wasn’t ideal for birth, probably his head was turned to one side rather than coming out straight. At this point, she gave me some ideas for laboring positions that might help him turn, including walking up and down the stairs. There was a covered, outdoor stairway in the back of the birth center, and Marty and I walked up and down these stairs for a long time, plus did some lunges on the stairs. Both of these felt good, and the cooler outside air was nice.
So…we labored like this for a long time and by around 1 am, I was fully dilated and ready to start pushing. The dilation stage went fairly normally for a first birth, though it took a while. The pushing stage lasted an even loooonger while, and this was definitely the more difficult part. As the hours wore on, the midwives coached my pushing pretty directly, putting me in many different positions, and even touching points inside me and directing me to push toward those points, which helped a lot. Because the baby was badly positioned, they had me alternate between lots of different positions that they thought might help, including squatting, laying on my side with someone holding one of my legs up in the air, and using the birthing stool. None were very comfortable, but as long as I kept moving and changing positions, everything seemed fine. Sometimes they seemed convinced the baby was about to be born, and other times, doubting whether I was making any progress at all. Apparently because Rio’s head was turned to the side, he had trouble fitting under my pubic bone, and would come down a little bit and then regress. A few times I thought I could feel his head getting closer.
The midwives also tried the rebozo on me. This is a traditional Mexican technique in which they wrapped a long shawl around my belly and shifted the weight of it using the shawl, in several different ways. I also spent some time resting in the tub, to relax, rest, and regain my strength before trying to actively push again.
I pushed from about 1 am until around 9 the next morning, when the midwives finally told me that 8 hours of pushing aren’t really part of a normal birth. I guess I didn’t know, I mean, I knew it was lasting a long time, but they were also checking the baby’s heart rate after every contraction and reassuring me that the baby was fine, and I actually felt fine, just in pain. I thought that this was what my body had to do, and eventually I would have a baby.
Anyway, they suggested trying for one more hour and then getting ready to go to the hospital, where they could offer me some assistance that the midwives couldn’t offer. An OB could try to manually reposition the baby, which according to the midwives would require an epidural, though this turned out not to be true. They could also try something like the vacuum extractor, or if necessary, I would need a C-section. They told me that they wanted me to feel like we had tried everything, and that it was my decision to go, and I did feel pretty ready by this time, or at least pretty sure that what we’d been doing wasn’t going to work.
Marty, on the other hand, had been ready to go to the hospital for quite some time. For an active farmer guy like Marty, sitting in the same room for all these hours was wearing on him, even though he was playing and active part in helping me labor. My mom, who is a nurse and lives in Maryland, had been texting him for some time that I’m just too stubborn and needed to get on my way to the hospital. Marty’s wonderful mom was also present for most of my labor, as Marty had requested her rather than a traditional doula, which worked out great. She was the most patient of all of us probably, and it was great to have an extra support person on hand.
Anyway, we got to St. Lukes, checked into a room, all three midwives still with us, and the OB on call came in to meet us. She was a very tall, striking young woman, and turned out to be great, but came in to meet us wearing a very short, tight, black cocktail dress. This gave us all a bit of a snicker, she just didn’t look ready to catch a baby. Her suggestion was to try to reposition Rio, and then to labor a little bit longer with a Pitocin drip, since my pushes were pretty weak from exhaustion at this point. If this didn’t work, I would need a c-section. It turned out that she was able to manually turn his head, without an epidural (and wearing a cocktail dress), this didn’t hurt any more than anything else already going on.
So, I labored for another hour or so, and she came back and checked me, and saw that Rio had turned back to his original position and hadn’t moved down much. We decided to go ahead with the c-section. By this time I was pretty convinced that nothing else was going to work, and everyone agreed that it was better to proceed now, before either the baby or I was in distress.
So, Marty and I both got prepped up for the operating room. I got a spinal which numbed me from the waist down, and it was a huge relief to finally be done with the contractions. Rio was finally born at 2:37 in the afternoon on Wednesday the 28th of March. He came out pooping, with the OB exclaiming how chubby he was and Marty announcing that he was a boy, and witnessing more than he wanted to of my surgery in the process.
It turned out that Rio weighed 9 pounds, one ounce, big for a first baby. He was born with a fever and had trouble breathing. He had a grunting cry, and the people attending him were suctioning out his nose and mouth. This was done on a table near my head, so I could see him. Before they finished stitching me up, Rio and Marty were whisked off to the NICU where they could stabilize him and check him for infections. By this time, it had been more than 2 days since my water had broken, so both of us were considered high risk for infection.
So, in the end, we got none of what we had planned or wanted. I had the most medical birth possible by cesarean, and Rio ended up in the NICU where I couldn’t even hold him til hours later, and where he had to stay for 2 days with wires and such attached to him. Of course, the ultimate goal is a healthy baby and a healthy mama, but at first I felt like we only marginally got that, as both of us were considerably worse for the wear. Rio recovered faster than I did.
I don’t necessarily regret our birth experience, I’m pretty satisfied that we did all we could, given a large, badly positioned baby, and my water breaking so far ahead of labor. I’m grateful to live in a place where C-sections are available when women need them. If anything, we should have probably done the C-section sooner, since Rio was born with a lot of stresses from my long labor. As our birth teacher reminded us, pain is ok, but suffering is not. I don’t think I really suffered (except maybe when they took Rio away to the NICU instead of giving him to me!), but I’m not sure whether Rio did.
I have to say that the staff at St. Luke’s was great. I was worried that we’d get eye rolls, and “oh great, another one who couldn’t deliver with the midwives,” but that didn’t happen at all. Both the NICU nurses and the nurses who took care of me were amazingly supportive and accommodating of my wishes for Rio, helping me get out of bed and to the NICU to feed him throughout the day and night.
Since we brought him home, Rio has been an amazingly happy and easy baby, he hardly fusses at all. He eats well, eats a LOT right before bedtime and then lets us sleep for about 4 hours before waking up. Plus, he’s gorgeous. Daddy and I are totally in love.
We named him Rio, which means River in Spanish and Portuguese, because we wanted both a nature-inspired name, and a name that does justice to his gorgeous Italian last name, Camberlango. Rio is also easily pronounceable in several languages, in hopes that Marty and I someday might resume our careers as international travelers! Some of you might know that we had a different boy name picked out, but we came up with Rio about a week before he was born and decided we liked it better. We had trouble deciding on a middle name, and I ended up giving him Painter, my last name.
Thanks so much for all the love and support, everyone, we can’t wait for you to meet Rio! -Katie