Indigo June: Our Home Birth Story

Vanessa De Costa

As I soak in the last few weeks and adjust to our new reality, I’ve been trying to find a way to succinctly describe Indie’s birth while doing it all justice. So many words come to mind when I think about how it all went down- intense, raw, beautiful, empowering, funny, fast, extreme, harsh, animalistic, powerful, did I mention raw? But I keep coming back to one word. Surrender.

In order to fully understand how the word surrender came about, I’m going to take you back. Surrender is an accurate description of the past 10 months really. I feel guilty admitting this since I know so many yearn for it, but in an effort for complete transparency, I hate pregnancy. If you know me personally or have been around me while pregnant you know what I’m talking about. I get sick. Sick to the point that in the first 3 months I lost over 15 pounds. At my lowest, I was 95lbs, with Golden it was even lower. I prayed so hard this second time around that it wouldn’t happen. I tried to eat healthy and frequently to curb it but like clockwork, as soon as I hit that 6 week mark, it was game over. I began an intimate relationship with the porcelain God that lasted way too long and took too many sacrificial offerings. I’ve become a pro at vomiting and was always mapping out the nearest bathroom, rubbish can, or bush. Even 2 days before going into labor I lost my Korean bbq for no apparent reason. The universe/God/my children were trying to teach me patience and endurance.. not that I really had a choice, but I surrendered. (Not without a lot of tears and whining though!)

So as I inched closer and closer to my due date, I had prepared myself to experience another long, arduous labor like my first. After all, the pregnancies were pretty identical, right?! Half of my prenatal care was done in Italy, which meant only one option- the local Italian hospital. They use mostly midwives, but in classic hospital fashion, still have doctors that attend and oversee births. My care was as normal as could be for a non native who didn’t speak the language, the staff was nice, and I never had an issue. My favorite part was living within a mile or 2 of the hospital so I would walk to and from the appointments, enjoy the fresh air, beautiful architecture, and bustling street life. By the second half of my pregnancy we had moved here, to San Antonio Texas. The options and choices for OB care were endless. It was a bit overwhelming to be honest. So many hospitals, so many midwives, so many birth centers. But before we even got on the plane back to the states, I knew who I wanted- Nikki McIver-Brown. I chose Nikki, a certified nurse midwife who attends home births. I love her, love her office where I went for all my prenatal appointments, loved everything about my experience leading up to birth. If you have read Golden’s birth story then you know how I feel about doulas (I love them so much so that I actually took a class and became one while we were in Italy. Surprise!). Again the options were endless and luckily Nikki gave me a few recommendations. I spoke with a few and found Desiree. And of course the photography! I found a local photographer I had been following on Instagram for awhile who’s name also happens to be Vanessa. So I had my dream team lined up, and tried to get in the right head space. Although my body took a bit of time getting there as well. My last trimester was riddled with disease: a nasty staph infection, a couple of colds, and an ear infection to be specific. Again I admitted defeat and surrendered. And with the help of a few urgent care trips and tons of antibiotics later, my body was FINALLY prepared.

On March 10th (my due date) I had been having very minor cramping on and off after a family walk. My mom had come into town since she only lives 3 hours away and had the week off of work. She made a hearty chicken and rice soup for dinner and we stayed up too late talking (AGAIN. The night before went to bed at FOUR am.) I finally settled into bed a little after midnight. I awoke maybe only minutes after falling asleep to a tiny, baby contraction. I kept tossing and turning due to the mild discomfort. But I tried to ignore it. By 1:30am I couldn’t sleep. In an effort to slow everything down so I could get some rest, I quietly tiptoed into the bathroom, ate a banana, and drew a warm bath (Josiah had a big test that morning that he REALLY needed to pass. So I tried to be as quiet as possible). By 2am I started to feel antsy. The contractions were most definitely NOT slowing down. I texted a friend who’s labor was imminent as well, letting her know I might just beat her to the punch. Then in my restless, anxious state, I texted my midwife Nikki at exactly 2:07 saying “Been having consistent contractions since 12. They’re not too long, but close together.. maybe every 2-3 min. Been in the tub to try to get sleep for over 30 min and it definitely hasn’t slowed down. Just wanted to update you! Trying to hold off until around 5am at the soonest to call everyone in.” I even typed out “I think I’m gonna try to go for a walk around the neighborhood at 5:30/6am to get things moving.” But quickly erased that after realizing I couldn’t even finish the text before I had to stop and focus on the next contraction. HAHA. I was in denial and still preparing myself for a long labor (in my mind I was hoping for a short 8-9 hours). Within just a few minutes of sending Nikki the text I couldn’t stay silent any longer. I began letting out low, slow “ohms”/groans. Josiah woke up and busted through the door all confused and groggy, “are you okay? What’s happening? What can I do?”

Me: “um.. it’s fine.. OHMMMMMMMMM.. uh… um I think I need to get out of the tub.. get me a towel.”

Joe: “should I call Nikki?!?”

Me: “OMMMMM.. uh.. just get me the towel!! I already.. OMMMMMMMMMMMMMM… texted her. Told her not to come till 5..

OMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM..

But maybe go wake my mom up and we should start cleaning/setting stuff up”.

Needless to say, not even a full 20 min later I was on my hands and knees on the floor and every sound coming out of me became deeper and louder than before. At this point, Joe calmly told me my mucus plug came out (just minutes after getting out of the tub and putting underwear on… of course). After scrapping my undies, I was crawling around and panting trying to tell Josiah what to do between contractions. In my head I was like “DAMN I NEED TO DO MY EYEBROWS. And make sure the bathroom counter and mirror get wiped down Josiah! F*** dude I forgot to shave my legs while i was in the bath. Did we eat all the bacon yesterday?? Josiah’s wearing those god awful Ed hardy looking board shorts.. he better change before our photographer gets here. BAHHH.” But really what was coming out of my mouth was more like this- “AAHHOOOMMMMM… okay. *panting* get.. the.. pool. *panting* blow it up. But..*panting* put the tarp down first……AAAHHHOOOOOOOOOOMMMM… *panting* okay.. ya actually call Nikki. Tell her to come”. Josiah called Desiree and then Nikki at 2:31am. Luckily my birth team is so well connected they had already called Vanessa by the time he got around to it. Only minutes after that I was crawling between the the bathroom and bedroom when my water broke (thankfully on the bathroom side portion). Nikki arrived by 3 and I think Desiree was already there by the time I even consciously knew anyone was actually in the house. I was trying to focus on my breath but waves of contractions were coming in strong and crashing hard against me. I pictured a choppy, churning ocean whose current was getting stronger and the waves colliding intensely into a rocky sea coast. If I could just ride the waves a little longer. I was gripping the carpet so hard I thought I might rip some up by the end of it. I remember telling Josiah at one point, “HOLY SHIT THIS IS SO INTENSE.” A lot of it was a blur. With Golden I remembered things a bit more distinctly and I felt a little more, I don’t know, in control? But this time was different. My body seemed to be taking over and every thought went out the window so my mind was only focused on getting through each second. I could hardly talk, even in between contractions, and unlike like last time, I couldn’t make eye contact with anyone or barely look up from the floor (which gave me a great view of the tiny poop pellets that I was leaving behind.. yep, just being honest here and staying humble!). I remember asking Nikki what I was dilated to. She responded, “you’re so close Vanessa. Almost there. You got this. Try to feel the baby’s head” It suddenly dawned on me that she didn’t give me a number, nor had she even touched me besides taking my blood pressure at one point and checking baby’s heart rate. But I trusted her and realized I actually didn’t really want her fingers all up in me at that moment anyways. And then I decided to use my own fingers to feel the baby’s head. And sure enough I felt it. I was getting so close. Around that time a long and insane contraction ripped through me and I literally felt baby shift and move down. It was BIZARRE but incredibly empowering. Even my doula Desiree felt it as she was giving me counter-pressure.

Between another intense contraction I asked if I could get in the pool. I couldn’t hold back the urge to push any longer and I almost felt frantic. They told me “almost” I heard muttering about possibly just filling up my bathtub since the pool was taking too long to adjust the temperature and fill up and they didn’t think I could make it. Nikki asked if I could go pee. I sat on the toilet and let another contraction or 2 crash through me. I could not pee. The urge to push deep however could not be avoided any longer. I surrendered and let out some animalistic sounds I didn’t know I was capable of and worried everyone in the room that I was about to give birth on the toilet. It was then I decided no pee was coming out but a baby was about to and my toilet was not clean enough for that. So up I got when I was hit with another powerful surge. I remember that one distinctly. And luckily Vanessa captured it on camera. I remember thinking I was going to rip the door frame off I was gripping so hard. It wasn’t feeling quite like intense waves in the ocean anymore.. it was starting to feel like a full blown category 5 hurricane.. no one rides those waves unless you want to die. But I let go and let my body do the work. I surrendered yet again. And then it was pool time!

I had a very welcome break in between contractions as my body prepared for the crowning moment (yep I got birth puns ;). In the stillness I realized music was softly playing in the background (Joe had put on an old playlist I made for Golden’s birth) we laughed as the Enya song came to a close. Then a beautiful instrumental version of Amazing Grace began playing. My mom teared up as she held my hand and told me this was one of my grandmother Suzette’s favorite songs. I felt chills since this grandma, who was on my dad’s side, had passed away when I was a teenager. It was such a serene moment. Josiah took this time to get in with me to give me support from behind since my legs were cramping up and a few contractions later I looked down and there was baby’s head.. RIGHT THERE, not going back up into my body but just.. sitting there. It stung but I was so happy to see it. Nikki grabbed a mirror for Josiah to see. I tried to breath short breaths and remember uttering, “it burns. Wow it burns so much” but I didn’t want to tear so I tried to calmly wait for another contraction to push. Then it came with full force. I mustered my strength and listened to everyone cheer me on as I roared that baby out. I felt like a badass lioness in that moment. When I finally caught my breath and looked down, Nikki told me to reach down and pull my baby up. I saw baby’s shoulders and head just chilling there as I reached and lifted her up out of the water. I was in awe of what was happening and what I was doing. I just birthed my baby and caught her with MY own hands. Totally supported by the most loving and positive team I could ask for. That moment will always and forever be seared into my memory and heart.

Nikki immediately helped me untangle baby’s cord and rubbed her head to get the lungs and reflexes going. Not even seconds later baby let out a few waterlogged squeals and quickly started crying that cute newborn cry. I finally could see “its” genitals and at the same time my mom excitedly cried out “IT’S A GIRL!! Oh my goodness IT’S A GIRL!!!!” I burst into tears of shock and excitement while Josiah laughed in surprise and glee. We had thought “she” was a “he” almost the entire time. Needless to say I think I’m forever sold on surprise gender at birth!

The next few hours were full of laughter, good food, bonding time, and of course, the placenta.  My birth squad came in clutch with a fantastic breakfast that I munched on while enjoying the relative ease of 3rd  stage labor. Josiah and I had a few quiet moments for ourselves but most of the time was spent chatting with everyone and feeling like I was just hanging out with some great girlfriends. After birthing my placenta, Vanessa and Nikki had fun arranging some pics of it on my belly next to my “9 months” tattoo (in case you didn’t catch it, it’s temporary.. no need to get your panties in a twist!) We even got my mom to grab a marker and cross out the “9 months” and write “born” underneath. Josiah helped weigh and cut Indie’s cord before he had to promptly leave to take a microbiology test (yes, in his PT uniform.. it’s weird, I know. Their rule, not ours. And yes, the army doesn’t mess around, that micro test was important!!). With only a few hours of sleep that night, he ended up making his highest score up to that point in the class.

By 7am everyone had cleared out and my mom, Indie, and I got some alone time before I went back to sleep. We processed the past four hours together and were both in awe of what had just happened. I could not stop beaming as I realized my entire labor from start to finish was hardly FOUR hours long. Four people. This coming from the lady who’s first baby took FOURTY SEVEN hours to get here. We both cried as my mom told me how happy she was that I had such an excellent, supportive, and FUN birth team. She began telling me about a memory from when she birthed me. At the tender age of BARELY 18, my mom was rocking her natural (not by choice, I came relatively fast!) labor and began making low moans to cope when a young, ignorant, and highly insensitive male doctor in residency began to sharply ask her “why are you making those noises? It’s not going to make the pain go away.” My mom immediately felt shame and embarrassment. Luckily she had her supportive mother by her side and the sweetest nurse from South Africa who kept making positive comments like, “wow! You are doing this naturally! You are SO STRONG! WOW! Do you all see this wonderful woman!” However, that didn’t take the sting away of the resident’s comment. Clearly that has stuck with my mom all these years. I cried (angry and deeply sad tears) as she told me this and she cried tears of joy and expressed she was SO glad I had such positive, supportive women around me to cheer me on and let me birth how I needed to. You guys. THIS. This is what it is about. I know home birth is not for everyone. I know an unmedicated birth is not for everyone. I do not ever want to come across that I am shoving “natural” down your throat as if it is the ONLY RIGHT way to birth a baby. But what I wish I could shove down everyones’ throats is the reminder that you should feel COMPLETELY supported by those around you while you go through such a life altering event. Labor and birth IS hard. There is physical pain involved, no doubt. But there should not be emotional pain. EVER. This moment should be one of the most joyous, epic, and empowering events you will experience in life. Take charge of the divine goddess you are, find your inner lioness, surround yourself with those you trust fully, and surrender to the process. You deserve that and you can do it!

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P.S. Joe did in fact change his shorts (without me saying a word!) and no, we did not coordinate the pink hair and pink swim trunks for baby girl. Like I said, we thought it was a boy… maybe subconsciously we both knew we were wrong 😉

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A Korean Birth Story

To start off, I love birth stories. Actually, I love birth in general and everything that surrounds it. When I was in kindergarten we had “occupation day” and every cute little 5 year old came in dressed up as what they wanted to be when they grew up. I specifically told my mother I wanted to dress up as an OBGYN. And when someone would look at my 5 year old size scrubs and say, “oh you want to be a doctor?” I would say in the sheer determination of a 5 year old, “No, I am gonna be a BABY doctor.. OGBNY or something. I want to deliver babies”. As I grew older and that dream faded (after the realization of all the training needed just to deliver babies half the time while the other half would be spent staring at vaginas) I got to be around when my aunt delivered her baby naturally with a midwife. This sparked an enthusiastic obsession with natural birth and midwifery. In fact, that year for Christmas my mom got me books like Ina May’s Guide to Natural Childbirth and nutritional guides for pregnancy. (I know, I was an abnormal 17 year old) Again, life took a different track and I didn’t become a midwife (..yet! 😉 ) Upon finding myself pregnant I re-read Ina May’s words of wisdom and found such strength in all the uplifting birth stories from women throughout the book. I completely agree with her when she talks about how we, as Americans and Westerners in general, like to share “horror” stories about birth. Even in TV shows birth is portrayed a certain way, whether for shock value or laughs it is always a scary and painful experience. So I love when I hear people speak positively about birth and share inspiring stories… especially for first time mums who have yet to experience such a life changing event. That being said, I also understand birth is in no way easy or painless. So here’s my story- with all the details! Proceed with caution- I use the word calm about a million times, I discuss hemorrhoids, and you get to see some pictures of my killer tan lines on my lower half. You’re welcome really.

To start off, I chose to give birth at a Korean birth center in Seoul (specifically the Gangnam district.. we joke that we have a Gangnam baby now hehe). I knew I wanted to go as natural as possible and heard nothing but praise for this birth center- MediFlower. From the very beginning my husband and I both loved how we were treated and how experienced they were with Americans. Dr. Chung, the presiding OBGYN at the center, is extremely passionate about natural birth and very proud to be the first doctor in Korea to open a birth center and try to normalize “natural” (Korea has an even higher rate of C-sections than the USA, so natural, unmedicated birth is definitely unique in this country). He is a very gentle, thoughtful, and calm man who was always smiling and softly explaining how wonderful birth is, telling us not to worry about a thing. The language barrier never posed much of a problem, except once. I was getting my 20 week anatomy ultrasound scan and the very quiet Korean tech was gently pointing out different body parts as she went, “10 toes, 10 fingers, yes.. good. Okay now, baby face.” At this point everything was fine and she pointed to the eyes (which noticeably looked different from each other) and said, “Crossed eyes.” “Oh no. Oh no no” I thought. “my baby is CROSS EYED?!?!” My mind went wild. “okay. this can be fixed.. right? baby glasses. will our insurance pay for baby glasses? who cares. baby glasses are a must. this is fixable right? ” Instead I calmly replied, “cross eyed? Okay. Okay.” Then I looked over at my husband with big eyes. She again said, “Cross eyes.” Okay ya, lady, I got it. My baby is cross eyed, you don’t have to rub it in. My husband started laughing and said “no, CLOSED eye.” The tech gave a huge nod, “Yes, CROLSED eye.” Ahh, the old crolsed eye. She then showed us that he had one eye closed and one eye opened (which is why they looked different). Josiah and I could barely hold back our laughter as we walked out of the room afterwards, how silly I was to not catch that right away haha. Other than that, all of our prenatal care was top notch and we had no issues with a language barrier. 😉

Okay FINALLY for the birth story:

Tuesday August 23rd 3AM (5 days after my original due date): I had been having a restless nights sleep and finally woke up with decently strong, consistent contractions. By 4am Josiah woke up to me eating a banana in the kitchen while randomly cleaning things. We decided to shower, get ready, and head to the birth center. I texted my midwife, Su, to let her know we were on our way. By 6:30am we checked into the tranquil birth center where Su immediately checked me to find that I was 6cm dilated. Within an hour of arriving my water broke and my contractions were still strong and consistent. At this point I think everyone thought that by dinnertime I would have a baby in my arms. (at least that’s what I thought!) Our room was large and I was able to walk around and labor as I pleased. Our friend Jen was there to capture these special memories.

I tried my best to stay hydrated and eat bites of food as often as I could. By dinner time I remember thinking, “why has nothing changed?”. Su explained that baby was still sitting high and even though my body was progressing and my dilation was at 9cm, we needed to get him to move down further. At this point, since my water had been broken for so long, they also had to put a port in my hand to administer antibiotics every so often.  As the night drug on my energy levels really took a dip. I was wiped out from a long day of laboring and began to feel like the end would never come. Josiah and Su were with me the entire time and helped with every contraction- rubbing my back, holding my hands, breathing with me. We all tried to catch a snooze, even if I was interrupted every few minutes with another powerful surge. Finally, morning came..

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Wednesday August 24th 7AM: Exhaustion. Pure exhaustion at this point. Josiah and Su were equally tired, yet Su continued to care for me and even mentioned she had to leave for a few moments to check on another patient she had! (What the?!? She is superwoman I swear.) Once Su left to place our breakfast orders (ps the food was INSANELY amazing- even though I could hardly eat more than a quarter of each meal. We had a choice between a Korean and American menu the entire time.. Which I mostly got Korean food because I told Su to choose for me since I couldn’t really think or focus on that haha. We had the most amazing roasted chicken and ginseng rice soup with delicious Korean sides and seaweed soup a plenty. Su even made me a tasty pumpkin puree during the night and would feed me bites in between contractions. Josiah received his own meal too and gobbled down whatever was left of mine.) and check-in with other patients, Josiah and I had a bit of quiet time to discuss on our own. I told him how tired I was and I couldn’t do this much longer. I expressed that I felt weak and even though I didn’t want to quit or be cut open, the idea of a C-section sure was becoming more of a relief than a scary intervention. We decided when Su came back in to discuss what options we had. Su returned with a yummy rice porridge breakfast and we began to talk about my progression, epidurals, pitocin, C-sections, and doulas.  She told me she believed in me and that she knew I could continue naturally if I wanted, just that her biggest concern was how little energy I had. She asked how I felt about bringing in a doula… “yes, yes that’s fine. More than fine. Sounds great. Call anyone in that could help ha.” I had originally thought I didn’t need a doula- I felt I had “prepared” for birth by reading books, reading birth affirmations, squatting, stretching, doing figure eights on my exercise ball, walking on the treadmill.. and to be quite honest since my mom had short labors under 6 hours, I didn’t think I would have a long labor.. plus I had a supportive husband who attended birthing classes with me and knew all about Ina May- I didn’t need a doula I thought. HAHA, silly me. We decided to continue with the doulas and I told everyone that I needed to have this baby by dinnertime or at that point I would ask for drugs or a C-section or SOMETHING that resulted in getting this kid out. Dr. Chung stopped by shortly after to check in and gave me some encouraging words and told me he would check in again later that day. Even Haley, the Korean lady who is in charge of the international clinic and our first point of contact, came by to talk to me and said Su had been telling everyone how hard I was working and how impressed she was by my stamina and breathing techniques, especially for a first time momma. It was such a nice pick me up! By 11am I was squatting in the shower getting through contractions when two American Army wives walked in.. “Hi, we’re the doulas! ..we’ll let you have your privacy and we can talk once you’re done.” “Oh it’s fine. I’m pantless, I have a killer hemorrhoid already -that you’ll see momentarily i’m sure-, i’m leaking bodily fluids everywhere and I don’t really care who sees me. I have no pride left.” We all laughed and the next hours spent with those amazing doulas were a total Godsend. They were full of energy and laughter but knew when to quiet down and just rub my legs/hips as I contracted. They got me moving around the room and had “stations” setup where I would stop and do squats with one of them, figure eights on the exercise ball, lunges against the bed, and anything else that helped open my hips and bring baby down. Those ladies gave me the energy and confidence to keep going and give it my all. But as dinner neared, I still wasn’t to the point of pushing. I could feel my energy waining again and I began talking to the doulas about what they thought I should do. We discussed the pros and cons of every part of our situation and the different interventions. Ultimately though they told us it was our choice, MY choice and to be proud of that choice and not feel defeated. “Only you know what you need, take confidence in knowing this is your decision- OWN IT! And be proud! This is YOUR labor and birth experience.” Once Su came back in I said, “Su, it’s dinnertime.. And I don’t have a baby. I can’t do another night of this. Let’s talk options. I need this baby out.” She responded with a sympathetic nod and said she’d check me one more time to see if I had progressed and then get Dr. Chung to talk about interventions. After about 20 minutes of monitoring Su excitedly announced I was 10cm dilated and my contractions had picked up in strength and consistency AND that she could feel baby’s head! Hallelujah! Progress, finally! She said baby boy had finally started to move down but was still a tiny bit too high. The room filled with excitement as Su told me there was definitely no need for pitocin at this point and that she figured I could do it and this baby would be born TONIGHT! I got my third (fourth?) wind and agreed that I could push forward without any interventions (no pun intended). And so began the pushing, which at this stage was such a relief. I was having a hard time trying to breathe through the contractions and hold back when the pressure was so intense. I pushed using the birthing stool. I pushed as I squatted on the floor. I pushed using the hanging ropes. I pushed as I lunged with one leg up on the bed as I held onto Su or Faith, the doula. Again, the minutes started rolling into hours. Once both of the doulas had to leave to get home to their own kids and Su stepped out of the room for a moment, I looked at Josiah a bit frustrated. “Be real with me. You said you could see the head during my last push. Everyone is cheering me on. Is that real? Or are you guys just saying all that to keep my energy up. I feel like i’m being lied too. I feel like there’s no progress again and I can’t feel him moving down.” Josiah smiled and laughed, “Seriously, I saw the head. Here look in this mirror and on your next push check it out for yourself.” Well, needless to say when you’re on a birthing stool pushing with all your might it’s a bit hard to try to look down and see your baby’s head coming out of your vagina. So instead he told me inbetween contractions to just try to feel his head for myself. Probably TMI for everyone, but I did and with the help of the mirror I saw a tiny bit of his head.. and hair! It got me excited and kept me going for a bit longer. Su began filling up the birthing tub (for the fourth time since I checked in haha). Finally it all felt so close! She strapped the monitors on me once more to check baby’s heart rate and my contractions. I was growing exhausted as each minute ticked on. While I sat on the edge of the bed I looked wearily at her, “Su, can I really do this? I’m just getting so tired again. I don’t know how much longer I can go.” She calmly sighed and with a slight smile and her soft Korean accent said, “Vanessa, I believe in you and the baby boy. But I also think you’re just so schmall (small). You’re body is schmall. No mushel(muscle).” Leave it to Koreans to be 100% honest with you haha. Dr. Chung appeared soon after Su checked me and sat on the floor as I pushed against the birthing stool. He breathed through a few contractions with me and checked me as Su was monitoring the fetal heart rate. He then suggested we try a few contractions on the bed where Josiah and Su could help hold back my legs and he would try to help stretch me as I pushed. It was painful.. to say the least. After that Dr. Chung (ever so calmly I might add- Koreans are excellent at the whole calm, tranquil state) told me that baby boy’s heart rate was dropping every time I contracted and that he wasn’t moving down as they had hoped. He gave me a few options at this point. “Okay Vanessa, it will take 30 minutes for the anesthesiologist to get here to administer drugs for a C-section. We can wait.. Or we can give you an episiotomy and we can try to help push baby down.. But if this doesn’t work you’ll still end up with a C-section and an episiotomy. We need to decide now though.” 30 minutes? That sounded like eternity. “Episiotomy.. Let’s try it.” I looked at Josiah and we both nodded. Everything became a whirl as one by one another Korean came into the room.. wheeling in oxygen, coming in with gowns, preparing a baby station with an oxygen mask- But again, everything was so calm (at least to me!) Dr. Chung was at the end of the bed, Josiah by my right side at the top of the bed, one nurse standing on my left side, one nurse kneeling over me on the bed at my right side, and Su squeezing my left hand. It felt like just a minute or two of quick movements.. someone had placed an oxygen tube on me and before I knew it Dr. Chung, again calmly, told me to push as hard as I could during my next contraction. As I pushed the two nurses pushed the top and sides of my belly- HARD. Meanwhile Dr. Chung was reaching inside of me- ouch. But honestly the pushing on my belly was the most painful. As the next contraction was about to begin Dr. Chung again told me push as hard as I could and get ready to meet my son.. With all the strength I could muster in my exhausted body I pushed. I felt like every vein in my body (especially my neck and face) were going to explode. And just like that there was a giant gush and baby boy’s head and body came sliding out. I could barely see how quickly Dr. Chung pulled him up and untwisted the umbilical cord around his neck. Su immediately took him and yanked my bra up and placed him on my bare chest with a few towels wrapped around him. Suddenly time stood still. MY baby boy was lying on my chest, eyes wide open staring up at me. I could hear Josiah laughing/crying as happy tears rolled off his cheeks. Baby boy gave us a few whimpers to let us know he was breathing and one gusty yelp, but immediately calmed down and just stared at the new world around him. Su smiled proudly and leaned in to tell us that his umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck a total of three times! She figured that’s why he wasn’t coming down and why his heart rate was dropping every time I contracted towards the end. I hardly noticed Dr. Chung stitching me up until he said, “okay, I did a very great job on your stitches! You will have no scar and be very beautiful.” Haha, thanks Dr. Chung, thanks. Cause you know, at that point, that was my biggest concern. He then said, “okay time to deliver the placenta! One more push!”. It was easily delivered upon which Dr. Chung excitedly showed us (he’s super passionate about the whole birth experience I tell ya!) “Here, look. This is the side that was connected to the uterus.. This is where the umbilical cord attaches. Look at all the veins.. Nourishes baby, all the food and growth came from this.. Here touch it! Yes, touch it!” So as he pulls apart my fresh, bleeding placenta he gets us to touch it and admire it with him before placing it in a plastic bag to lay beside me so that the umbilical cord could pulsate a bit longer before we cut it. Finally everyone had exited the room as Su finished dressing my stitches and placing some pads on me. She left for a bit to give us some bonding time alone before returning to help Josiah cut the cord and weigh him. Golden Wilde De Costa born at 1:58AM on August 25th weighed in at 7.5lbs and was 20in long. He nursed after his umbilical cord was cut and latched like a champ. That night was a much needed blissful night’s rest where all three of us slept for almost 6 hours straight. My mom arrived later that day around dinner time. All was well in the world. So that was it! 47 long hours of labor that included 5 different vomit sessions (thanks to everyone who quickly grabbed a bag or trashcan for me to puke in!), 4 catheters (I tried my hardest to pee on my own towards the end there but I just couldn’t.. Everyone was impressed by my full bladder and levels of hydration though.. so props to me! haha), 3 attempts in the birthing tub, 2 spotify playlists I made that played over and over since I didn’t account for such a long labor, all resulting with 1 beautiful baby boy!

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As i’ve reflected this past week and a half, i’ve felt so many happy emotions. But gratitude is the one that supersedes the rest. I feel so beyond blessed and grateful for my little Golden- for his health. The last ultrasound we got at 37 weeks showed that the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, but we didn’t know to what extent and were assured by everyone that it was common. And it is common, but anything can go wrong in the blink of an eye.. So for his safety and health, I am beyond grateful. I’m also so thankful and humbled by my midwife Su. I truly believe she is an angel and was assigned to be my midwife by divine inspiration. My eyes still tear up when I think about how she never rested during those long hours.. How she laid by my side through that first night and would wake up and help me through each contraction. I know I could not have made it without her. Su holds a such a special place in my heart and will be one of the people and memories I miss most from Korea. And my heart is full when I think of the entire MediFlower staff- each person who came and checked in on me, giving me such encouraging words.. Dr. Chung for his calm, precise, and positive demeanor. The doulas, Faith and Darla- what angels they were.. coming to my aide at the perfect time and bringing laughter and smiles with them. It really is amazing how quickly you bond with strangers during moments of “crisis” or “trauma” (not that this experience was either of those, but it definitely brought the same levels of intensity). I am so grateful for my sweet friend Jen, who not only spent long hours away from home capturing my labor on camera (and returning during the middle of the night for the grand finale!!) but who was such a support to me. Knowing I was surrounded by loved ones who would give me a smile and gently encourage me meant more than anyone will know. And finally, my Josiah. That darling husband of mine didn’t leave my side for more than a minute to fetch me ice water throughout my labor. At one point I heard him praying for me, and after later discussing with him, he told me how worried he was and how everyone, even the doulas were a bit nervous for me but he made sure to keep me positive. Watching him become a father has been a joy in and of itself. So yes, this birth story is long. If you read this far, I hope the one take away you gain from this is that it was a beautiful time that I am forever grateful for. I am beyond proud of myself.. If you came to me before and said, “hey you’re gonna be in labor for 47 hours” I would have laughed and said, “give me an epidural then.. or a C-section even!” But when you’re in the moment and surrounded by such amazing people whom you trust and are cheering you on, you muster the strength to keep going, even for just another few hours. I’m proud of my body, and as I said before, even more grateful and humbled by the outstanding human beings who lifted me up.. both physically and emotionally. I feel like most people would walk away with a negative outlook on this outcome, but there is no way that I can. I smile and am overjoyed for the experience. For all you future mommas out there, let this be a testament to you- when YOU take control of your labor/birth experience and form a trusting bond with your doctor/midwife/provider then you will walk away happy with zero regrets… even if it ends up lasting 2 days like mine! 😉

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No one will probably enjoy and/or appreciate all of the following pictures as much as I do, but but I thought I’d add all the behind the scenes pics anyways.

Dr. Chung congratulating us on our babe

My angel midwife Su

nursing for the first time

First family selfie 🙂

Dr. Chung excitedly showing us my placenta. Hands down one of my favorite pictures. I literally laugh out loud when I see it.

Getting us to touch the placenta

Lovely Su



Not everything was so serious. We had some happy moments too 🙂