My name is Michaela Knight and I have been married to my husband, Michael, for almost 8 years.
We have a beautiful 2 year old daughter named Indie who was born in Denver, Colorado during the week of the COVID-19 stay at home order, and I am currently pregnant/due with baby number two!
With Indie, I prepared my entire pregnancy to have a natural unmedicated water birth. My mom and 3 of my best friends all had unmedicated births. They are all so strong and gave me hope and motivation. I knew if they could do it, so could I. This is something that was important to me. Little did I know I would also have to navigate a worldwide pandemic on top of it. I am so thankful to have such amazing and supportive women in my life. Here is my story.
Indie was our rainbow baby.
We had a loss in November 2018 and I was completely devastated. It took us 9 months to get pregnant again with lots of stress and tears along the way. Every negative test just made me relive my pain; I thought about it day and night. I then decided to go on a trip to Paris with my mother to get my mind off things. I was a flight attendant at the time, so it was fairly easy to plan a last minute trip. We had the best time, and I decided on that trip that I was going to stop taking ovulation tests and try to stop stressing. I got pregnant the week after we came home in July 2019! I actually found out I was pregnant while I was working, and since I was a flight attendant, I had to wait 4 days until I was back home in Colorado to tell my husband. It was the longest 4 days of my life! I told my crashpad roommates (other flight attendants you live with while you work) because I just needed someone to celebrate with.
My pregnancy with Indie was pretty smooth, other than the fact that I had anxiety every day that something was wrong because I didn’t experience morning sickness and honestly didn’t “feel” pregnant.
Everything was great up until the last few weeks. All of the sudden, we were hearing about shutdowns, food running low at the store, and just a panic surrounding everyone because of Covid. I never imagined I would be having my first baby during a pandemic. It was so surreal and crazy. I would wake up everyday wondering if labor was going to start, and how in the heck we ended up in a pandemic. I went into labor a couple days after the stay at home order started!
Because of Covid, there were new hospital rules popping up everyday.
My mother was not allowed to attend my birth and it was still up in the air if my husband could attend. The plan was to have a water-birth at the hospital with the on-call midwife. I was a nervous wreck that whole week and didn’t know what to expect.
It all started on April 3rd, 2020 when I went in for my 40+6 week appointment.
I was hitting a week overdue and my midwives would only allow me to reach 10 days overdue. They scheduled an induction a few days from then just in case I didn’t go into labor. At my appointment, they decided to do another membrane sweep. I had a membrane sweep the week before and I cramped for maybe an hour and then nothing. I was measuring 36 weeks because Indie had dropped so low into my birth canal. I was 1.5cm and 70-80% effaced. This sweep was very painful because I had a posterior cervix, meaning my cervix was back behind the baby’s head, making it harder to reach. Indie was at a -1 station (low in my birth canal – typically what you are at halfway through labor), and my midwife could feel her head. She stripped me for about 15-20 seconds and I can’t lie, it was intense. I started contracting as soon as I left the office. The rest of the day I walked up and down the stairs, bounced on a yoga ball, and tried to stay active. I went to sleep early and got a full 12 hours; it was amazing.
On the morning of April 4th, I woke up at about 6:45am with period-like cramps, except a little more intense.
I decided to get in the tub at home and I started timing contractions at 7:03am which were about 5-7 minutes apart. I was in denial that I was in labor but I texted my best friend and after talking to her for a little bit, I finally accepted, this is it! I woke my husband, mom, and sister up to let them know it was go-time. Within the first hour my contractions were 3-4 mins apart – lasting one minute each. This went on for a few hours and then the pain started getting more intense. I was doing my hypno-breathing: inhale for 4 seconds, exhale for 7 seconds. I was repeating in my head, “open like a flower”, “you won’t be in this pain tomorrow”, “you can do anything for one minute”. Finally, I got to the point where I was falling asleep in between contractions and couldn’t talk. Michael called my midwife and she said to head in within the hour. My mom and Michael helped to dress me and we headed out the door.
The car ride to the Denver hospital was brutal.
Every bump we hit during a contraction was horrible. I was breathing so hard but so grateful there was no traffic (one perk of a pandemic). We pulled up to the hospital valet and they brought me a wheelchair. My eyes were closed the entire time – it was the only way I could focus on my breathing. They wheeled me up to triage and checked me in. I was dilated to a 3.5cm-4cm, and 90% effaced. They asked if I wanted to stay or labor at home more (good joke!). No way was I going back home! I was in a lot of pain and asked to stay since I was a week overdue. They agreed and we waited for a L&D room to open up, which took about 45 mins. Since it was just the beginning of the pandemic, masks were not recommended for non-medical personnel unless moving from one room to the next, and I did not have to receive a Covid test.
My husband requested for me to get in the tub right away since it relieved a lot of pain for me.
I was initially planning a water birth, but the hospital changed the rules THAT WEEK!! They were not allowing anyone to actually give birth in the water due to higher chance of infection. I was super upset but they did let me labor in the water until I was 7cm. I received a hep lock (saline lock that is capped off so I didn’t have to be hooked up to any machines; this made it easy to connect an IV when needed), and they did intermittent monitoring with a portable Doppler. The nurse would have me stand up in the tub and listen to Indie’s heartbeat. I labored for 2 hours before they checked me again. I was then a “good 4”. I was so discouraged because I was in so much pain and expecting to be much further along. My mom and my best friend were on Facetime the entire time (which normally wouldn’t be allowed but they were allowing it as was a way for family to be there) and actually watched me give birth. When my mom heard the midwife say I was a good 4 she said “a good 4 means a 5!” So in my head I had to tell myself I was at 5cm and halfway there. I started thinking if I don’t progress more in the next two hours, I don’t know if I can do this. I labored on my knees while leaning over the side of the tub and rocked back and forth. My husband was so sweet and would rub my arms and honestly was the best birth partner. He would tell me he was proud of me and that I was doing so good.
After about 1.5 hours they decided to check me again because my laboring sounds were becoming more intense and I had a contraction that lasted about 5 minutes straight.
I needed to go to the bathroom before I was checked and I started bearing down on the toilet (my body started involuntarily pushing). When they checked me I was 7cm dilated. I stayed on the bed from this point on. The nurse told me not to push because I could swell my cervix. Indie’s heart rate was dropping a little bit so they had me turn on my side. The nurse grabbed a peanut ball and said that it can help the baby drop more into my pelvis and open me up. I had two contractions and they were sooooo intense. Then I started bearing down each contraction! I couldn’t NOT push. They said “don’t push”, and I said “I CAN’T NOT PUSH!!” So they checked me again even though it had only been a few minutes.
My midwife said, “you’re a 10, let’s start pushing!”
I pushed 3 times for each contraction for 3 complete contractions. My first 3 pushes were not very productive. My nurse helped show me what muscles to use to push and said to use the bottom half of my body and relax the top. I pushed again 3 times and they said they could see her hair!!!! My water broke sometime during these 13 minutes and apparently splashed Michael pretty good, oops haha! Then on my last contraction one of the midwives said, “okay, your baby didn’t like that last one and her heart rate dropped – so let’s push your baby out on this next push”. Mind you, my eyes were closed my ENTIRE labor unless I had to walk from the tub to the bed. It was how I focused and stayed in the zone. I just pictured everything in my head and kept up with my hypno-breathing. When I finally pushed her out they pulled out half her body and let me pull the rest of her out and onto my chest. I only pushed for 13 minutes and let me tell you, pushing is the best part. It felt good to feel like I could finally do something about all the pain.
Indie was born at 5:59pm after 11 hours of natural, unmedicated labor.
I still can’t believe I did it! My adrenaline was crazy high and I was in complete shock. I thought I would cry a lot but I couldn’t cry, I could hardly believe what just happened. I said ”Hi baby, she has so much hair”. I couldn’t believe this baby laying on me was mine. They had to take her for a minute because she was struggling to breathe a little bit. She then scored an 8 on the Apgar test which is great. They handed her back to me and I got to do skin to skin for almost 2 hours before they weighed her or did anything. She latched right away but had a tiny mouth and lip tie so she needed a little help. The baby nurse came back and weighed her and she was a whopping 8 pounds 9 ounces! I was one week overdue but not expecting a baby that big – we were all shocked! She was 20.5 inches and had the cutest chubby cheeks.
They moved us over to our final room about 3 hours later.
They taught me how to do all my postpartum care and we ordered dinner. Michael did skin to skin with her for the first time and it was so sweet. It’s true when they say you will fall in love with your spouse more when you see them become a parent. He was the best support and is the best dad. We decided to stay only one night in the hospital because of Covid. We wanted to get home asap and my mom and sister were at our apartment waiting for us. Also we were not allowed to leave our room at all. Everything had to be delivered to us. They told us if my husband left the room they wouldn’t let him back in!
Although it wasn’t at all how I pictured it, I feel really lucky I had a healthy baby and that my husband was able to be there for me and have my best friend and mom on the phone.
My husband had 3 months off from work because he ran a trampoline park at the time and it was shut down. There were definitely a few perks of the shutdown for us, spending lots of quality time as a new family was the best part! We are now about to have our second baby in the same pandemic but in a different country. We have been living in Costa Rica for the past year. I am hoping this time around my mom will be allowed in and that I will get the water-birth I dream of.