Valor Shae Berlanga-Hodges Born 3/15/18
*Trigger warning- retained placenta*
I was 40 weeks and 10 days pregnant on March 14, 2018. I am not sure if you are aware, but that is most certainly NOT 9 months. That is one of the many lies you hear about pregnancy. Anyway, since we had reached the 40 week mark I was insisting this baby come Earth side soon, so I got the go ahead from my midwife to take a castor oil shake. I did, and it was delicious. Ingrid (my midwife) told me to go to sleep and maybe in the morning I will start having contractions. Well, it was about 3 hours later, and I was finally having contractions! Things got real, real quick. My partner Liberty made all the important phone calls, making sure the birth team was on their way over. My birth team was my Midwives (Ingrid, Miranda, and Liberty's mom) and my photographer Nicole. My support was Liberty, and my sister and mom were present but not in the room, I wanted this very intimate.
A natural birth is interesting, because I felt like I wasn’t there. There was so much that happened in my 700sqft house and I don’t remember any of it. SOMEONE made my sitz bath and herbs, SOMEONE got the birth pool ready, SOMEONE got everything ready, and I don’t recall much of it. It really was an out of body experience and another reason I am so glad I decided to hire a birth photographer! My birth photographer Nicole arrived first. A few contractions later Ingrid and the rest of my crew arrived and started watching me and checking in on baby.
As the contractions grew stronger and closer together we moved into my room. I remember looking up at the ceiling thinking “ I am never going to see the other side of this” and “This is my life now.” It felt like it was going to last forever. My midwives- bless their heart- kept trying to get me to change positions but I am stubborn so they left Liberty and I to labor alone because they figured he could get me to move. They were right, and the alone time to just work through the waves of contractions just the two of us was nice. I wanted this to be really intimate and calm, but I wanted the safety of my midwives so them being right outside the door was so comforting. I think it is so sweet how you can see with each big contraction, Liberty would instantly look at his mom for assurance that everything was ok. She would just smile and go back to waiting.
Finally, Valor started to move his way down. I can even remember him flutter kicking his feet to move down! It was absolutely crazy to feel. I really believe he knew exactly what to do. I was given the go ahead to get in the birth pool and the warm water felt so nice. I don't remember much, but I know that I was pretty out of it. I guess this is what they call "labor land". There was this really bizarre moment when everything was fine, and it was like I had two minutes of being lucid. I was talking about the cat doing something weird, and then boom back to child birth! My body was kind, it gave me the breaks I needed. I wouldn’t change doing a drug free labor, not in a million years. Liberty and I got into a groove of sleeping in the in-between moments. I would not let him leave my side. Sorry dude, no bathroom breaks or food for you! He was my rock. I held onto him for dear life and he kept me grounded. I am so grateful for these photos because if I didn't have them, I would never have known how he supported me.
About 12 hours later, (no I didn’t change my mind, I still would do it drug free!) the real birthing began, my plan of water birth didn’t work out and we had the little guy on my bed only after an hour of pushing. The pushing folks, IS THE BEST PART! Besides the fact that you’re fighting for the energy, it isn’t the most painful part like I was expecting child birth to be. It was the best part and of course, the most satisfying. The crowning part wasn’t fun, but right after you get the biggest relief and he just came out so quick! Somewhere around 4:50pm Valor was born! Double nochal (chord), but perfectly healthy baby boy!
When I got Valor in my arms I couldn’t believe it. I said, “ Is this real life?!”. I tried to imagine what that was going to be like, but it was way cooler than I could have ever guessed. I just couldn't believe he was here. He had meconium right after he came out so he was a little yellow, but oh so perfect! I kept staring at his little hands and I guess I was affectionally calling him "Zombie Hands".
Soon after delivery we needed to try to get my placenta out, we realized it wasn’t going to come by itself ( This is called a retained placenta and is not super common, usually the placenta is delivered 30-60 minutes after baby). Dad held the baby, and I worked with my midwife team to get the placenta to come. My midwifes have combined, delivered close to 2000 babies. My partners mom, who assisted in the birth has delivered over 700 on her own. Valor was number 684. With their combined expertise nothing was working, and we tried for over three hours. Apparently my placenta is just as stubborn as I am. We tried breastfeeding, skin to skin, potocin, cytotec, catheter, manual (ouch), me standing, and even putting some umbilical cord in my mouth! Nothing worked, in the mean time I was losing blood. I am thankful for a midwife that doesn't mess around. She decided we needed to go to the hospital for them to assist in the retained placenta. As Ingrid was warming the car, I got very light headed and with no hesitation she called for an ambulance. Darn Placenta! After this beautiful, calm homebirth, why couldn't you just come out! I remember one of the medics, making me feel much better after giving me oxygen and an IV. I had another “episode”of feeling faint and was white in the face. The medic and Liberty (my partner) did great at making me feel “safe”, but I won’t lie, I thought in my head “ after all of this, I am going to die and not ever see my baby”. A retained placenta is nothing to joke about and can lead to hemorrhaging.
After hours (2+) of waiting for an OB and almost 1 Liter of blood later, I got into a room. Once an OB arrived we decided we would attempt (again) a manual removal while me not being sedated. The pain of this was so awful and traumatic, It hurt far worse than any of the birth. Two attempts later she removed the placenta, then with unfortunate news she needed to go in one last time to get a clot. I could have lost my mind. It hurt so bad and I got fainty again! I panicked and asked “What is happening to me!?” All the Dr could say was, “Just breathe”. In my head I was saying, “Oh my god, I really am going to die here!” I needed to stay for observation for several more hours. My son, only hours old hasn’t been with him mom. Luckily he was with his midwife grandma, for observation; and Nicole my photographer, for nourishment (she can add wet nurse to her resume)! After a few hours I asked if I could leave, and since they couldn’t make me stay, they told me the risks and we took them knowing getting back to my baby would make a huge difference. Being home with him felt complete, like it was where I was meant to be.
It took me a few weeks to gain back any energy from losing so much blood, my face and lips stayed white for a few days. I slowly got more energy, and am only getting back into movements now after a few months. I went to the chiropractor and a pelvic floor PT after the baby. I suffer from uterus and bladder prolapse which could have been from labor or the procedure (I am guessing it's all the attempts to get that placenta out). It has been a very slow recovery, and it is much harder than I have ever imagined. However, my baby boy is a thriving, active, and healthy boy. I wouldn’t change it for the world.