by Laura X. / 3.16.23

My Birth Story: The Twists, Turns and Some Key Takeaways

Many of you already know that my husband and I welcomed our first child in December (baby Stella!). In my email to you at the end of last year, I hinted that the birth didn’t exactly go according to plan. Now that I’ve had some time to heal, decompress and soak up all of the newborn moments, I’m ready to share more about the birth and the days and weeks leading up to it.

I want to preface this by saying that this is simply my personal pregnancy and birth story. I’m not speaking on behalf of anyone else, and I definitely do not assume that what I experienced was by any means the worst that can happen. It absolutely wasn’t, and I’m beyond grateful for our healthy, happy Stella. I’m also not placing judgement on anyone else’s pregnancy or motherhood path and decisions. So many of you shared your intimate and vulnerable stories and gave me advice - a lot of it which was invaluable - and I want to return this kindness by sharing my story. By doing this, I hope some parts and key takeaways will help other women who will soon embark on or have already started their own journeys.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I’m going to do my best to share bits and pieces about my pregnancy and the birth of our precious Stella, aka Squishy, Squish Squish, or Stellsies. I'm hoping to get a decent amount of writing in now when Stella's asleep. When she wakes up from her nap, she'll most likely demand Le Boob STAT.

As someone who’s very Type A and loves to organize and plan everything, I learned early into the pregnancy that it’s very difficult for everything to go according to your plans. During my pregnancy, I experienced a lot of the classic symptoms (e.g. brain fog, fatigue, hunger, nausea, round ligament pain, etc.), most of which I had heard about beforehand and was relatively mentally prepared for. What I didn’t expect or prepare for was heading to the emergency room at 10 weeks with acute urinary retention due to a low uterus and my bladder almost rupturing, getting weird bleeding and other symptoms that baffled my OB-GYN and midwife, or having my left ear sound muted like I was underwater for five months. I also certainly did not anticipate being misdiagnosed with multiple health conditions (such as polyhydraminios and late term gestational diabetes), getting berated for questioning the diagnoses and having to spend countless hours doing my own research to prove that I was misdiagnosed.

Despite the above, I was still in a pretty good headspace for the majority of my pregnancy, a huge part of it due to my wonderful, loving husband Axel (the sweet blonde Swedish guy many of you have already seen frequent our Henné Instagram Stories) who really stepped up to the plate in every possible way. The hubby and I had created our natural home birth plan early on, found a midwife and team we trusted, read plenty of books, took a Bradley Method birthing class and met some awesome expecting parents and had a perfect 20-week anatomy scan where Axel was elated to discover he was going to be getting his daddy’s girl.

Side note: I had actually hoped for a boy beforehand but was of course over the moon when I found out the news, and then I spent the rest of the pregnancy telling baby Stella that OBVIOUSLY I never really wanted a boy, duh ;)

Pregnant founder Laura sitting at cafe
Celebrating with a “fika” after our anatomy scan and finding out that it was a baby girl. This fika was when we officially decided to name her Stella.
All in all, I felt pretty confident that even with some hurdles, we’d still get the birth I had envisioned.

Well, that’s not exactly how the universe works sometimes. At 38.5 weeks, we found out that Stella was in breech, meaning she was upright instead of upside down. This meant that if she did not turn, not only would the natural home birth no longer be possible, but a vaginal birth might be out of the question entirely and I’d likely have to get a C-section. I was terrified at the thought of a major abdominal surgery and wanted this beautiful natural home birth that I had envisioned and dreamed about for months.

Being Type A, I stepped into action immediately in a not-so-healthy way. I scheduled an external cephalic version/ECV to try to get her to turn (despite a higher than 50% success rate, it was unsuccessful), did Spinning Babies exercises for hours each day including in the middle of the night, had Axel help me with this moxibustion thing on the pinky toes that made our sunroom smell like we were smoking who knows what in there, went to a Webster Technique chiropractor almost daily during my 39th week and tried a bunch of other things I found on YouTube that any person in their right state of mind who was not desperate and not named Laura Xiao would be skeptical of.

By the end of week 39, I knew the chances of our baby turning were statistically very slim. I still held a sliver of hope but had also started researching and preparing for the most likely outcome. Axel and I hired a doula we fully trusted, and together we created an alternative birth plan that would give me the most holistic version of a C-section possible.

At 40 weeks and 5 days, our little celestial star finally decided it was time for her to meet us face-to-face. My midwife and the hospital OB-GYN had told me that your water rarely breaks the way it does in the movies. They told me it would probably be like a slow trickle, and women often don’t recognize it and mistakenly think they might have peed themselves. Not mine! Axel simply rubbed my belly like he usually did, and this time our feisty Stella kicked back so hard that it broke my bag of waters, and the amniotic fluid shot out like a cannon. It scared the crap out of me, so much so that I may or may not have shouted a few expletives and crawled to the bathroom on all fours in case anything else fell out of there along with the amniotic fluid. Ironically, I had begged Axel to deep clean our white bedroom rug the day before so everything would be pristine before Stella’s arrival only to have my brownish amniotic fluid drench said rug less than 24 hours later.

I didn’t have any contractions at first, so I went to the kitchen and started having some snacks. We had planned to labor naturally a bit (for the respiratory benefits of the contractions in the likely chance that I’d have a C-section), but my contractions got longer and more frequent pretty quickly. After about an hour, we decided to start heading to the hospital and called our doula.

When we go to the hospital, my contractions were three to five minutes apart. I was pretty sure Stella was still in breech, but I asked them to triple check at the hospital. Lo and behold, she was as breech as can be. I was disappointed but knew I had to accept it. We had a fairly lengthy discussion with the surgical staff to advocate for our alternative C-section birth plan, which wasn’t the easiest thing to do, as my contractions were about two minutes apart and I was doing my best to speak calmly and coherently while really feeling every one of those painful contractions. A lot of the requests were very similar to what many hospitals these days call a ‘gentle cesarean’, such as delayed cord clamping, skin to skin and breastfeeding as soon as possible, skipping the baby bath and leaving vernix on, being awake and fully present during the procedure, etc. Some of the other requests that were equally important to us were delayed antibiotics, vaginal swabbing, no opioids of any kind prior or after procedure, removing auxiliary drugs such as fentanyl from the spinal block, double sutures and no exteriorization of the uterus.

To my pleasant surprise, they agreed to all of the requests that were the most important to us and most of the smaller, less important ones as well. It probably didn’t hurt that we brought a thick folder of clinical studies we’d printed off and very nicely offered to hand them over in case they were needed; yup, I’m Type A all the way! They even agreed to let my husband play our special Stella playlist in the operating room, which obviously wasn’t a deal breaker for us but was a nice added bonus nonetheless. This put my mind and nerves at ease a bit, although I was still super nervous and slightly terrified. The surgical team was very friendly and constantly reassured me, which further helped to calm my nerves. Axel later told me that he was a nervous wreck as well, but he held it together and stayed calm for both of us.

Our Stella playlist was playing in the background, and I tried to focus on the music and hubby’s voice. They told us when she was about a minute from coming out. Axel changed the song to La Vie En Rose on my phone (the song I sang to Stella the most when she was in my belly). I burst into tears, knowing that we’d finally meet in just a handful of seconds. I heard her cries and then all of a sudden, there she was.

Woman with baby on chest

I sobbed and barely got the words “Hi Stella” out. In that moment, I felt such a strong sense of love, happiness, protectiveness, relief…words truly can’t describe it. Axel held Stella up to my face while I kissed her and tried to console her, tears streaming down my face. A few minutes later, she was no longer crying and was nursing on my chest while the surgeons finished stitching me up.

Woman nursing baby with husband next to her

Axel and I kissed and looked at each other in disbelief and joy. Here she was! Our little bundle of joy. I didn’t even care that I just had a C-section. Anything and everything would have been worth it for our little girl.

Woman lying on hospital bed holding newborn baby

I could go into even more detail about the hours and days after the birth, but with the length of this blog already and Stella about to wake up soon for her breastmilk latte, perhaps that’s best left as a Part II blog post. Instead, I’ll mention some of the key takeaways from my experience:

Create a birth plan that you are 100% comfortable with.

Yes, I had planned and hoped for a natural home birth, but I have friends who had birth plans entirely different from mine, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! There is no one-size-fits-all for anything in life, and pregnancy and birth are no different. Just make sure you choose a birth plan that you’re fully comfortable with. Don’t let family members, friends or even a significant other pressure you to choose a path you know deep down is wrong for you.

Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself.

This ties into my previous sentence. Whether it’s your OB-GYN, midwife, spouse or mother-in-law, don’t be afraid to speak up. Ask questions when something doesn’t feel right. During my pregnancy, I was misdiagnosed with multiple health conditions that I didn’t believe I had. The first time I questioned it, I was belittled for it and made to feel like they knew best and I knew nothing. Turns out they were wrong, and while these misdiagnoses caused a lot of unnecessary stress during my pregnancy, it would have been far worse if I hadn’t spoken up.

Accept that you can’t control everything.

Your path won’t be the same as others; you won’t be able to predict and map out your whole pregnancy down to a T, and that’s completely okay. If there’s one regret I had about my pregnancy, it’s the way I stressed myself out trying to get Stella to turn after we found out she was in breech. Next time around, I want to be much gentler with myself and hopefully be more at peace with the journey, regardless of the outcome.

Stella’s starting to wake up and will soon be ready for her last feeding before bed, so it’s time for me to wrap things up. Thank you again for all of your love and support, especially during my pregnancy but also now after. I appreciate it more than you know.

If you’d like to see a Postpartum/New Motherhood Part II blog post or have any questions, feedback or other blog post suggestions, please reply to this email or send an Instagram DM over to our @henneorganics account. And if you want to see more photos and updates on Stella, be sure to check our IG Stories regularly. I’ve totally become one of those parents who takes dozens of photos of my baby daily and can’t bear to delete any of them.

Now I’m going to snuggle with my little Squish Squish while I nurse her to sleep. Good night and sweet dreams!