When I first sat down to write Abdaly, Jr.’s birth story, I knew it would be hard. I knew I hadn’t quite healed from it, and that this is how the healing would come.
I wanted the writing to be poignant, describing all the excitement and resilience surrounding my story. In the end, I wanted the story itself to tie up in a nice little bow like any good sitcom episode; a hard life lesson, well packaged in smiles and completed all within 30 minutes. But this isn’t that story.
This is a story about a mom who wanted a natural childbirth but instead was introduced to her son after an unexpected cesarean birth. This is a story of a family who has faith and hope even when our reality doesn’t meet our expectations.
And apparently, this is a story where the reader gets to know the end before the beginning.
Abdaly Jr.’s Birth Story – an Unexpected Cesarean Birth
When I found out I was pregnant I felt like I knew everything and nothing about birth, all at the same time. I was certain of one thing: When it came time to give birth, I wanted the best of the best. And I wanted to be in control of the experience.
The Perfect Plan
Though it was my first baby, I had the luxury of learning from the birth stories of friends and family; thanks to them, I could custom design my own experience with only the best parts. So I chose a doula-taught childbirth class, a midwife office, and a hospital birth.
The plan was to have as natural of a birth as possible but in a hospital setting. I wanted the natural whole nine: no drugs, essential oil diffuser in the delivery room, immediate skin-to-skin contact, delayed cord clamping, the list went on (and by “the list” I mean all the things my husband Abdaly and I knew nothing about but learned about as quickly as possible because pregnancy has a deadline).
I even chose a breakfast alternative for the glucose test (Ezekiel bread, apple sauce and orange juice for the win).
A Perfect Pregnancy
My pregnancy was amazing, encroaching on perfect. I felt great and looked great and was truly enjoying every moment of it. People always say, “you must be so miserable,” “I bet you’re so ready to get the baby out,” or things of that nature. But I wasn’t, and I let them know I wasn’t. After all, once the baby was out, I couldn’t just put him back in; he was on the outside for good.
Plus, I loved being pregnant! I mean I still had the puffy cheeks and swollen feet situation, but I was happy, and that’s how I looked.
Work didn’t slow down and I continued as a chiropractic assistant up until 39 and a half weeks, and as a dance instructor up until I was 37 weeks. I even continued to take dance class far longer than anyone thought I would. Many people joked that my baby would “come out dancing.”
They had no idea how annoyingly right they were.
Sunday – Early, Early, Early Labor
I was 39 weeks and 5 days on a Sunday. That day, I slept until noon. That is unheard of for me. I was kicking myself for not going to church since I knew it would have most likely been my last time for a couple of months.
About an hour after I woke up I started losing my mucous plug and feeling what I thought were some cramps. I decided it was probably a good idea that I slept until noon instead of going to church. I’m sure I needed all of the rest.
That day I started having super mild contractions. At night they woke me up every couple of hours. I was really grateful that I already had a midwife appointment scheduled for Monday, the day before my due date. I was hoping I was already in some form of extremely early labor.
Monday – Early, Early, Labor
At my appointment I learned that what I had been experiencing could mean labor was close or still days away. That seems to be a theme with pregnancy; you just never really know.
I don’t remember the exact terms but I remember feeling discouraged even though what they were saying was supposed to be positive. I was 1 centimeter dilated, something percent effaced, the baby felt good and ready position wise, etc etc.
But I was in pain.
I was told to set up an appointment for the following week, so I did. But on the way out I was sure to check that if I was in labor or had given birth I wouldn’t be charged a no-show fee. The thought of needing a 41-week appointment was daunting.
Abdaly stayed home with me the rest of the day and it was really nice to just be with him. Even though I was hurting, time with him was relaxing and sweet. The pains also reminded me that I would see my baby soon. That night, I woke up about every 30 minutes.
And suddenly it was Tuesday.
Tuesday – Are We There Yet?
Abdaly went to work that morning since he had gone to our appointment and then stayed home with me the day before. After all, we certainly didn’t want to start his two weeks off just because of a few contractions!
So I was home alone, in apparently something that was not labor, trying to distract myself from the pain.
By 10 AM I was highly considering getting a pedicure to take my mind off the pain, and so that my toenails would look pretty during and after childbirth (or at least I had heard from other moms that this was quite the priority). But I knew driving was probably not a good idea.
I texted my friend Autumn to see if that’s something she would be interested in, since she was coming over later anyway.
(Backstory: at first I wanted only Abdaly and I in the room during delivery; until I realized that that meant if I needed literally anything, he would be the one to get it. So my friend Autumn, the daughter of a doula who had assisted her mom in 8 or 9 births, offered to be in the room with me as both a doula and a friend. Gladly, I took her up on the offer).
I called Autumn so that she could hear me breathe through my contractions to see how I was doing.
I didn’t realize I could feel so comforted over the phone. She gave me so much emotional space for all my breaths and moans. She definitely thought it was time to at least begin tracking the time between my contractions.
Early Labor for Real
Over the next couple of hours I tried to eat and drink little by little even though I didn’t feel like it. I labored in our bathtub for awhile, which was delightful. I never saw myself as a bathtub labor kind of girl, until I got in the tub and I stayed in until I figured I should get out and eat.
At around noon, I texted Abdaly and asked him to come home. He was running a Target errand on his lunch break (probably our 17th baby shower gift exchange) and came straight home instead of going back to work to grab anything.
For the next few hours, we labored together. He talked me through my contractions. He helped me (after lots of trial and error) find a way I actually liked utilizing the birthing ball and he fed me bits of protein cookie while I laid sideways in our tub.
Laboring together was really great, and I see why it comes so highly recommended. Autumn said to let her know when we were heading to the hospital and she would go too. She also had her mom (the actual doula) call me to listen to how I was doing.
I was amazed that Kris (Autumn’s mom) could guess about how far along I was by listening to how I breathed through my contractions. Kris said we had a choice: we could either go to the hospital now, or wait another 45 minutes or so.
We decided to go now. After all, I had officially become a tub-labor-girl. Our tub was small and getting cold and I knew the hospital had awesome tubs.
So Abdaly packed up any last minute things including the diffuser that had been going strong all day, I grabbed the remainder of the protein cookie, and we were off.
Off to the Hospital
My contractions were 4-7 minutes apart at this point. Abdaly talked me through each car contraction, just as he had at home. “Relax your head, relax your neck, now your shoulders…” all the way down to my toes. It was incredibly helpful.
Apparently the hospital was the hottest place in town to be, as there was zero parking when we arrived. Abdaly dropped me off so that I could check in and he could park and walk. I was sent to triage, and he met me there.
When my midwife arrived, she checked me and said I was 3 and a half centimeters dilated but that she couldn’t feel his head. I wasn’t worried, no biggie. She grabbed a doctor, who took an ultrasound.
Baby boy was breech.
He Was Feet Down
He was in perfect position THE ENTIRE PREGNANCY – including the day before his due date. Not only was he breech, but he was feet down. Not crunched up with his butt down – just feet. This boy was standing in my uterus.
*ahem* I would now officially like to thank everyone who said he would come out dancing. You were right.
We were told he would need to be born via cesarean birth. I remember hearing my midwife say the words, but they weren’t processing. She was apologizing, saying she knew this wasn’t what I wanted, and yet I couldn’t fully grasp it. She was so sweet.
We asked to be explained the risks (something about the umbilical cord falling and having no oxygen) and the alternatives (there were none), and then Abdaly and I asked for a moment alone to talk and pray it over.
Meanwhile, labor was progressing – seemingly for no reason at this point. I melted down. I told Abdaly labor was awful and pointless. My sweet, calm husband continued to talk me through each contraction and remind me that it wasn’t pointless; in the end, no matter how he was delivered, we would get to see our baby boy.
We talked and prayed some more, and Abdaly played worship music on his phone. And for some reason I called Lindsey, the doula who taught our childbirth class. I’m still not sure why I called. I think I just knew she would be honest but compassionate, and make me feel better about the fact that cesarean was clearly the only choice for our child. She would know that it sucked but that it was okay.
Change of Plans
So there I was, half naked in a hospital gown and hooked up to monitors – 2 things that were specifically not a part of my birth plan. I was supposed to wear my own nursing bra and mumu that I would eventually remove, and I wrote that I did not want to be hooked up to monitors.
Didn’t it matter that I wrote it down? I suppose plans are made to be changed.
Yet another doctor came in, not too long after we learned about our breech baby. He addressed my husband by his first name and greeted him like they were old friends who hadn’t seen each other in years . Oh wait– they were. The small town I live in never ceases to amaze me. And yet, this is how I meet my husband’s friend for the first time: Nice to meet you, here’s my freshly shaved and surgery-ready vagina. (If you couldn’t already tell, both humor and hope are always a part of my family’s story).
I Wasn’t Scared
The crazy part was, I wasn’t scared. I didn’t feel afraid of having a cesarean birth. I was just bummed. Super bummed. But despite the disappointment, I felt prepared thanks to our childbirth class.
I felt grateful that even though it wasn’t my ideal, there was a safe way for my baby to be born. And I even felt proud that while being in seemingly pointless labor, I was still able to process my emotions well enough to identify what I was feeling and why. I’d say that deserves an adult gold star. Or twelve.
Once the time the operating room was ready, my contractions were about a minute apart. I was vomiting into a bag as they rolled me away.
Can I just say something I never ever thought I’d say? By the time I was given my spinal, it was welcomed. *and all the natural birth lovers gasped*
But really. I was shaking, and vomiting, and I knew progressing labor was all for seemingly no reason because my body was not going to have the chance to push (or breathe or any other verb) my baby out. So yes, I was grateful in that moment for the needle and the drug that put me out of my misery and made it safe for my baby to be born.
The rest went exactly as the doula that taught our childbirth class said it would go. She had described every detail, right down to the OR smell, the chit chat of the nurses, and the mirrored ceiling. Abdaly was right by my head the whole time, exactly where I wanted him to be.
My Whole Mood Changed
At this point, I was so glad that the next step was birth. My whole mood changed. We would get to meet our son so soon! I remember being so happy that I started to just encourage everyone around me. I think I even told one of the nurses she had pretty eyes (after all, that’s all I could see behind the masks and scrubs).
The birth went so well. Abdaly, Jr. (AJ) was born at 8 pounds even, 19 inches long. We were thrilled.
Even though clearly our birth plan was out the window, the medical team honored as many of our requests as possible. They milked the cord even though they could not clamp it, and Abdaly even got to cut the cord.
The excited new dad also got 45 minutes of immediate skin to skin contact with his brand new son in another room while I was being sewn up.
Soon I moved to recovery to meet my boys. I immediately breastfed, only about an hour and a half after AJ was born. Even though I couldn’t feel my body from the ribs down, I felt just enough to experience my son’s first latch. It was the absolute coolest.
Sometimes I still get sad about the way AJ came into this world. But then I remember just that: he came, he’s here, and he’s safe. These moments of sadness leave as quickly as they come. It helps that my now five-month-old is a ridiculously naturally happy baby.
I’m Proud of My Scar
I’m proud of the way we handled this curveball as a family. I’m proud of my scar and of Abdaly Jr.’s birth story. And I’m proud of myself.
So in the end, maybe it was like a sitcom. We learned the hard life lesson of being able to adjust when expectations aren’t met, tied up nicely with a beautiful baby boy in our arms. If only the whole thing took just 30 minutes.
Share Your Birth Story!
Did you enjoy Amy and Abdaly Jr.’s birth story? Want to share your story? Send it my way. (I can’t wait to read it!)