We would like to formally announce the birth of our healthy baby girl:
Emmanuelle Kieu-Trang Turner Valverde
What follows is our birth story. At the 38 weeks mark, Hsiu-Li, our midwife checked me and reported that I most likely would go to post-term. I was already having a lot of anxiety about when I’d deliver since my midwife, though legendary, has basically a 9-5pm working schedule uncharacteristic of most midwives. Plus she would be out of town during my anticipated due date. So, saying I’d have to wait longer was a downer
Surprisingly, the same night after our check-up, I began to have strange new pains, beyond my Braxton Hicks cramps (some call practice “contractions” you get during pregnancy). By the following night I was clearly beginning my labor. Per our midwife's advice, we went to Alta Bates, our chosen hospital, for a general evaluation. We learned Emmi was doing great and I had officially started laboring, 1 centimeter dilated and 90% effacement (mumbo jumbo for, my body was getting me prepared for the impending delivery). After two days of contractions, 1 centimeter out of 10 was hardly the result I anticipated; but, at least the triage nurse said I’d probably have a baby within 24 hours.
The 24-hour prediction came and went as I entered into my third day of pre labor (apparently not even "active labor" yet). The whole time I experienced excruciating “back” pains with contractions of 3-15 minutes apart. They tell you it’s “back” pains but mine felt like the worst bowel movement (BM) you’ve ever had times 1k. When it reached 3 minutes apart, we returned to Alta Bates thinking this was it; we were going to have Emmi. Instead, we were sent home again.
Nurses were unsympathetic towards my moans and groans and wanted me to take "something to take the edge off" when they discovered I was only still near 1 centimeter dilated. Turned out this “something” that was supposed to not affect me nor Emmi was in fact, morphine. Side effects does cause issues with the baby and mother that later have to be corrected with more drugs and “intervention.” Sounds typical mode of operation (MO) for the effed up medical system.
Nurses were down right shocked when seeing that I seemed so desperate for pain relief, that I flat out refused meds. I was determined. We just didn’t want to do down the meds road that leads to c-section. Though many people we know have had epidurals and they delivered healthy babies. That said, I did occur to me that if I could not get through the pain, eff it, give me meds. I'm no hero. My idea of a natural birth is vaginal, that's all.
Pain really messes with your head, though. After hysterically screaming in the hospital bathroom, Que and I made it home. My thoughts were, I'm going to have the baby at home because there's no way I can make it back to the hospital with current levels of pain. I also thought, if it's cool with Emmi, she can chill in my tummy as long as she wants. Years is fine, just as long as the pain goes away.
Just when I thought I was not made for this natural birthing thing, Que reminded me of a method we learned from Bradley class called "counter pressure." This is where he puts pressure my pelvis to relieve back pains. Lo and behold, it worked. So we did that the rest of the night on 3 minutes sleep in between contractions. Sometimes I slept even longer because Que was diligent about the massages. I kept dreaming, “wow, this epidural really works. What a lifesaver my epidural is” (aka my husband, Que).
The next day there would be no reprieve from my pain, no matter what Que tried. My contractions increased to 1 minute apart and the excruciating pain continued. I’m talking the kind where I cried with every contraction and really thought I could faint from it. I then felt my vagina and honestly thought my baby was already crowning. That’s when I knew we were ready for the hospital again.
I really wanted to leave for Alta Bates the day before but the fear of being returned forced me to delay that as much as possible. So, by the time we decided to make another trip, I was literally crawling out the house, no longer able to walk. I could not even sit forward in the car. Instead I was on my knees faced to the backseat trying to keep consciousness.
We got to the hospital around 11am and thank goodness I was already at 5 centimeters dilated. I overhead the triage nurse calling Hsiu-Li confirming that I have progressed and ready for admission. Being taken seriously was so much better than the previous visit. When Hsiu-Li arrived, she checked me once more and we were carted off to our room.
We immediately got into the hot shower that offered minimal relief but relief nonetheless. I was thinking if the pain increased anymore, as it is supposed to before delivery, I just didn’t know if I could keep to my natural birth plan. Hsiu-Li explained the sensation I would go through for the next 4-5 hours as I was supposed to dilate one centimeter per hour. I explained to her that I was experiencing that type of pain for the past two days! Looking slightly alarmed, she asked to check me again and I had dilated to 9 centimeters in 20 minutes! My water finally broke in the assessment and she then announced I was ready to see my baby.
Being the crazy person that has to document everything, we had planned to have my brother, Mel, video the birth and another close friend, Winnie, to take pictures. We also had intended for our toddler son, Tous, to witness the birth. He had seen dozens of birthing videos on youtube at this point. But, there was not even enough time to get our personal point-and-shoot from the car before I was on my back ready for delivery.
The next part is a blur to me so Que filled most of it. I vaguely remember Hsiu-Li saying she would help me move my last centimeter of dilation along. She showed Que a pressure point near my shoulder and asked him to apply that constant pressure throughout the delivery. Then she used pressure points across my face and another near my ankle. I was then turned to my side for about 10 minutes. Then she asked me to roll over on my back and checked to see if I had reached 10 centimeters dilatation, which I did.
Hsiu-Li was in the catching position, Que was to my left and the Alba Bates nurse, Laurie, to my right. I can honestly say from this point forward, I felt no pain. I received regular instructions from Hsiu-Li including when to push and not to push, how to push, how to breathe, and even to not scream. Both Que and Laurie helped suspend my legs and reminded me of the birthing methods like keeping my chin down when pushing.
The interesting thing was what went on during the 1-2 minutes break in between contractions. At that time the attendants talked about everything under the sun. I remembered conversations about adoptions in Tibet, traveling to Alaska, etcetera. It crossed my mind to say, “I’m not a water cooler folks, please focus on me now.” Instead I just said, “READY,” every time a contraction came on.
Even with a few distractions, I felt very calm. I looked around from one person to the next a lot and thought, “gosh, these people are wonderful, I love them.” I tenderly touched both Que AND my nurse. I thought I was very focused and so did the nurse. Que later said I seemed lucid enough but looked high the whole time. I also showed no signs of pain whatsoever. In fact, when the so-called “ring of fire” appeared during the crowning of the baby, I thought to myself, “Is this all you got? I spit on the ring of fire.” Natural hormones are a powerful drug!
Born au naturel shortly after 1pm, Emmi cried before being fully pulled out by her daddy. Que also got to cut the umbilical cord, which he said felt like butter. I pulled Emmi to my chest where she stayed on wide-eyed and fixated on mommy. She even managed to put her fingers on my lips and in my mouth. So amazing this little one is mine, I thought. At that moment our thoughtful nurse snapped pictures of the moment on her iphone. Just seconds after Emmi was born, you can still see beads of labor sweat on my nose. These few images are all we have of the precious time. Emmi was then cleaned and tested while lying next to me. So rewarding. Oh, and then Hsiu-Li delivered the rest of my oversized placenta and asked me to touch it…ew. I touched it, of course.
The next morning when Hsiu-Li came to my postpartum room for a follow-up, I was able to ask her about my labor and delivery. She said I had an asynclitic pregnancy where the baby’s head was not optimally positioned causing her to lay crooked. This resulted in a prodromal labor or prolonged and painful labor with no to slow progression of the cervical opening. And here I thought all labors were this difficult.
As for my state during delivery, Hsiu-Li explained that the pressure points helped and that she was able to connect our “energies.” There was never a doubt of her skills. I mean, I did pick her because she is known to make birthing magic. She comes from a long line of midwives and delivered over 7k births with only a 4% c-section rate. And she teaches midwifery at Stanford. As for my rather difficult labor, when I was recovering, a head nurse told us that Hsiu-Li is the only person who could successfully deliver a prodromal positioned baby without intervention (aka naturally).
Additionally, Hsiu-Li confessed that she had to be a “Tiger midwife” with me because I was so hell bent on delivering naturally. She suspected I would have an asynclitic delivery so she prepared me mentally for the pain. Psych out methods included claiming she didn’t think I had an adequate threshold for pain. Hearing this upset me, shattered my confidence, but also motivated me to prove her wrong. So Asian!
Hsiu-Li also gave props to Que who she said was the perfect coach and that I didn’t even need a doula with him around. Apparently they were in a secret partnership to make sure I had a successful natural birth. Whatever the reasons for a painless delivery, I am glad to have the team I did and that Emmi came out healthy.
We are settling in and still putting the house in order for Emmi since she came on the early side. She’s one of us now. Tous was only confused about Emmi the first day, now he gives sympathy frustration cries when she does. He knows her name is Emmi and goes in for regular tender kisses on her head. He’s also designated himself her hat police by picking up her fallen hats and attempting to put it back on for her.
We are excited to show Emmi to the world but also want time for her to build her immunity system as well. Family and friends have been kind enough to leave food so we gratefully accept that and short visits. Just give us plenty of notice ahead of time and don’t be disappointed if Emmi is asleep, and that we look like zombies and cannot entertain too well.
Que, Kieu Linh and Tous