So when I was writing my last post about Aubrey Isla's birth, I was flooded with memories of Ryenne's story too. I never wrote out Ryenne's birth story because truthfully I was very traumatized by it and felt extremely insufficient as a mother for months afterwards because of all that happened during her labor and then later during her NICU stay. I did not even feel comfortable talking about it with people, and looked back at her birth with feelings of doubt and shame. However, having a natural, beautiful birth experience with Aubrey Isla has been extremely healing for me, and I think that that can be encouraging to other moms who may be feeling as I did after a traumatic birth experience. I'm proof that one traumatizing birth story does not have to equal another!Labor with Ryenne Ashley started on a Thursday after a ladies' bible study that I was a part of. We had been laughing at the study because at that point I was already a day overdue with Ryenne and the other ladies were joking about me going into labor there ;) Contractions actually started that afternoon though, and they progressed over the next 3 days. By the third day, the contractions were so consistent that I could not get any sleep, yet they were still about 7 minutes apart which meant that theoretically it was too soon to go to the hospital. By Sunday I couldn't stand it anymore and we went into the hospital, hoping that all those sleepless days and nights would have resulted in me being dilated and ready to go with the birth. We got there and I was at 5 cm. Our doula, Chaka, met us there (she had stayed overnight with us one night at our place when the contractions were still 7 minutes apart). Thus began our very long hospital stay.
When we were admitted, the contractions slowed WAY down. Pretty soon they were spaced apart even farther than 7 minutes, and it seemed that my labor was stalling. The doctor on call that night was a man who was in a pretty big rush to get the baby delivered. He talked about pitocin and also about breaking the water bag. At one point he actually said, "You can't just stay here like this" - obviously the birth wasn't moving fast enough for him. It was extremely stressful being faced with intervention options already, when I had hoped to deliver as naturally as possible. At this point it had been about three nights straight of no sleep, and I felt that I had absolutely no strength to push a baby out. David and I talked about getting an epidural so that I could hopefully sleep for a couple of hours and regain some strength. The anesthesiologist was about to leave so we had to make a decision quickly: we chose to get the epidural.
Of the whole labor, the epidural was my least favorite part. I will and can never forget the awful sensation of having that liquid drip down my spine! For over a year afterwards, I could still feel the exact place where they inserted the epidural - and when I would trip or lose my balance I would feel it most acutely in that spot in my back. Also, in order to get the epidural they needed to insert a catheter and they required David and Chaka to leave the room for both the catheter and epidural. I felt horribly alone for those 15 minutes.
Well, although the epidural would not have been our first choice, it was definitely a situation where we felt we needed it in order for me to regain that strength. Once the contractions faded out and the epidural seemed to be working, I was able to sleep for about two hours before the doctor (Dr. Doom, maybe we should call him lol) came back, pushing us to consider pitocin or breaking the water bag as an attempt to hurry along the labor. We consulted our doula and it seemed that breaking the water bag would be the least invasive, despite the fact that the doctor strongly cautioned us that one of the risks of breaking the water bag would be a cord prolapse which would result in an immediate C-section. Lovely.
We prayed and decided to go with breaking the water bag, so the doctor came back to do that (I didn't feel a thing because I had the epidural) and thankfully there was NO cord prolapse. Contractions did pick up after that, and steadily progressed.
By the time I was ready to start pushing, enough time had gone by that the epidural had begun to wear off. I remember I could feel and move my left leg without any problem. We asked about the epidural and one of the nurses replied that one of the nurses had turned it off hours ago so that I would be able to feel the urge to push. Little did we know that it would take over 2 hours of pushing before Ryenne was born, so that meant that the epidural was hardly doing anything at that point.
This right here is why I believe that in Ryenne's case an epidural was necessary: by the time 2 hours of pushing had passed, I was literally falling asleep between contractions, waking up just in time to push. At that point I did not have it in me to push the baby out. I remember hearing a C-section mentioned, but they opted instead to try a vacuum assist - which meant they placed a vacuum on the baby's head and as I pushed, they pulled. The first attempt popped right off with a VERY loud POP (it sounded like the baby's head popped off), and the second attempt resulted in a very wiggly baby. I remember seeing her for the first time and my very first thought was "She looks exactly like David" ;)
Throughout the 40 weeks and 5 days that I carried Ryenne, I imagined things possibly going wrong with the pregnancy or the birth, but never once did I imagine something going wrong with the baby.
As soon as they placed her on my chest, it became very clear that she was not breathing right. She was gurgly and gasping, and after about one minute they whisked her off to the NICU. I was very thankful David could go with her and Chaka stayed with me. From that moment on, I believe God gave us a very special grace as we were about to go through one of the longest weeks of our lives. Looking back, I don't know how I didn't fall apart when they took my baby away or when I didn't get to see her for hours or when I did finally see her, she was hooked up to a bunch of different monitors beeping and buzzing. It never really hit me what a sober situation we were in until a friend of mine came to visit, and when she looked me in the eyes I could see pity there. It struck me then that this was not a normal experience (though certainly not as bad as some).
Ryenne had a pneumothorax which basically was a little pocket of air in the "skin" of her lungs that would not allow her to fully expand her lungs when breathing. They had to keep her on oxygen and monitor her for a week in the hospital before the issue resolved itself and we were finally allowed to come home. Apparently a pneumothorax can be a common side effect from having a vacuum assist - something about the baby getting pulled through the birth canal faster than when a mother naturally pushes her out.
Because of all this, we had a very rough start to breastfeeding, but after much encouragement from several sources, we pushed through and I was able to nurse Ryenne until 18 months - something I never ever would have thought would be possible in those early days and weeks!
Honestly, it still feels very vulnerable to share Rye's birth story - I think a large part of that is because of the major guilt I struggled with for weeks and months after she was born: that it was my fault that she had had such a rocky start because I had failed to push her out on my own. But this was the way that it happened and I trust God that He knows best, and more than anything I am so so thankful that I have a beautiful healthy girl now with no issues whatsoever! Some people have a hard labor and then things only get harder, but after that NICU stay, things just went beautifully for us. So I am grateful and so glad that God was right there with us during that whole time.
So there it is. Ryenne's birth story after all these years. It may not have been as beautiful as Aubrey Isla's in the sense that it was harder and scarier, but it was also different from Aubrey Isla's in that Ryenne was the one who made me a mama and David a daddy, and there is truly something so so special about looking at your firstborn child and letting all of that sink in.
Thanks for reading again! I'm glad to have gotten all of this off my chest after all these years :) And here's a picture of our bright, sunshiney, healthy 3-year-old now <3