Beatriz Eva Elena Cortés was born on the fourth of July, 2020 at 11:33 PM, three days before her due date. At birth she weighed 8 pounds, 10 ounces and she was 20.5 inches long. We usually call her Bee! We also call her Baby Girl, Honeybee, Honey Bunny, Sweet Girl, and M'ija.
Labor started at 12:35 PM. Tim and I were watching TV and had just finished lunch. We had no plans to gather with family for the holiday because of the raging pandemic. I remember having that first contraction and thinking "this finally must be what a real contraction feels like!" I don't think I had any intense contractions at all before that. Just some mild, though frequent, Braxton Hicks contractions.
I started timing from my second contraction just for practice, so I thought! But they continued to get stronger, longer, and closer together as time went on. I focused on breathing through the pressure even though it didn't feel too badly yet. When I wanted support I asked Tim to press on the outside of my hips as I leaned forward on my hands and knees or bounced on an exercise ball. I asked him to press really hard because mild pressure did nothing for me. He was really good at it! He helped a lot.
Throughout labor I also asked Tim to count aloud to ten repeatedly. For the first six counts I breathed in deeply. For the final four counts I breathed out and moaned or made whatever sound felt most natural in the moment. This technique, along with constant prayer, is what let me manage contractions without medication for 11 hours!
I had been feeling anxious about going to the hospital because of the pandemic and because of some negative experiences that I've had in medical settings. I talked with my family, friends, and counselor about the anxiety in the days leading up to Bee's birth. They were all very supportive and encouraging. My Mom connected me with a friend of hers who is a doula and we had a helpful conversation on the morning of July 4th. I felt way more prepared, comforted, and confident after that chat. If we have another child I hope to hire a doula from the start! But I thank God that we had that hour phone call. We actually finished talking about an hour before I went into labor.
After a short time laboring I couldn't really focus on the show we were watching. I have no memory of what it even was. So we switched to watching something that didn't require my attention to enjoy. Tim suggested we watch an animated movie that would bring me comfort and joy so we watched Tangled! It's one of my favorites. Then we watched Monsters, Inc.
I was able to enjoy the movies between contractions and ignore them when I needed to focus my energy. I called my parents to come over after about three hours of early labor. We all just hung out watching the movies and chatting. They told me later that they really doubted Bee would arrive that day because I was calm and chatty between contractions, and relatively quiet during contractions. I doubted she would arrive that day too, but I felt like it was real labor.
Tim started getting our things ready for the hospital once my parents arrived. He made sandwiches and prepped other food because we weren't sure the hospital would be able to accommodate my dietary restrictions. We were right to be concerned. They actually said they could not make food without some of the things that would make me sick. So we ordered "my food" for Tim and I ate food that we brought from home throughout our stay.
So back to labor, I checked in with the doula after the first two hours to see if it sounded like real labor in her opinion. She said it did sound real and suggested I take a bath to soothe the contractions and make sure they didn't slow down. It was tough making it to the tub because I vomited and continued to feel nauseated between contractions. I had planned to eat during labor while at home but I could not keep anything down. I eventually took a brief bath but it didn't stop the contractions and I remember wanting to get out and be dressed.
I called the midwives group after my parents arrived, maybe around 6:00 PM. The midwife said to hang in there and to call back in an hour if the contractions got more intense. I think she doubted that I was truly in or approaching active labor so quickly since this would be my first birth. My contractions had been less than five minutes apart consistently since one hour into labor, though they would fluctuate in frequency sometimes with 4 minutes between, sometimes only 2. And, unless I was timing them all wrong, they were lasting for 1 or 2 minutes on average.
I called back after an hour or so, around 7:30 PM, and let the midwife hear the difficulty I was having even speaking to her. I'm pretty good and sounding like I'm fine when I'm struggling so I had to consciously stop doing so. She agreed that I should head to the hospital at that point.
We gathered our things and my Dad went to pull up his car. Tim and I made a slow journey to the first floor and out the front door of our building. It went slowly because I stopped walking for every contraction and leaned on Tim so that I could focus on breathing through it.
On the way to the hospital I remember hearing discussion among Tim and my parents about the best route to take. I think there was some confusion about at which door they should drop us off and we circled the block a couple of times. I was mostly just focused on breathing through contractions so none of this bothered me. I figured I'd rather spend more time in the car and less time in the hospital anyway.
There was a really cool moment between contractions when I opened my eyes and looked out the window and saw a big copper moon! I thanked God for that beautiful sight which I considered to be a good and perfect gift. It was especially sweet to see it after being at home and indoors most of the time due to the pandemic. Of all moments to be outdoors, being in labor was a great one for enjoying that special view of the moon.
We arrived at the hospital around 9:00 PM. Someone brought me a wheelchair (I have no idea who) and we went inside. Tim and I went into the office to check in with a nurse. She asked us some questions about our possible exposure to COVID-19. We are all wearing masks, by the way. It was not fun to labor in a mask. The check in process went smoothly but we still had to wait around for maybe 20 minutes before going to a triage room.
In triage, another nurse came to get my vitals and make sure I was in or approaching active labor. I was praying they wouldn't send me home because I felt like my body was almost ready to deliver Bee. The nurse checked me and said I was 4.5 centimeters dilated. This was around 9:30 PM We waited some time for them to decide to keep me and then I was given a COVID-19 test. This was one of those swabs (not cotton!) that they put up your nose. It felt like it was made of plastic with little spikes on it. It was actually more bothersome to me than the contractions because I couldn't "breathe through" the pain of the swab since it was in my nose!
I labored for 20 or 30 minutes while waiting for the test result. If the result had been positive they would have sent Tim away and taken me to a separate floor to finish labor and delivery without him. But it was negative!
Tim and I went with another nurse to a labor and delivery room and I no longer had to wear my mask after that, though Tim still wore his until we made it to the recovery room. Once we arrived in the room, Tim left me with a nurse and he went back down to the lobby to get our luggage from my Dad who had been standing and waiting with it while we were in triage.
My water finally broke while Tim was downstairs. It was messy and I was startled by the sudden gush so that I had to really focus to regain control of my breathing. Contractions were almost back to back at this point, around 10:30 PM. After the water stopped flowing, I told the nurse I felt like I needed to push. She told me to wait for the midwife to arrive. I did not like that. I said I would try to wait despite the urge.
Once Tim returned to the room I asked -- no, I commanded him to count to ten for me again, over and over on a loop. Things felt pretty intense so I didn't have time to ask politely. Tim's counting really helped me get through the final contractions. At some point the midwife arrived along with more nurses. I was not paying attention to them. I was on my knees laboring while holding onto the back of the bed which was raised up on an incline.
I had hoped for intermittent fetal monitoring rather than having a monitor strapped onto me but I didn't have time to share my birth plan with the nurses that were present. A nurse continually adjusted the monitor on my belly while I was laboring and moving around a lot. I think both she and I were frustrated by the need to keep adjusting it to hear Bee's heartbeat. This is yet another reason I would hire a doula next time!
The midwife checked me for dilation right away and said that I was at 9 centimeters and should hold off on pushing if I could. But after a few more contractions my body just started pushing on its own. Then the midwife checked me again and encouraged me to push as hard as I could. This was my only regret during labor. I wish I had let my body keep pushing at its own pace. I had just progressed 4.5 centimeters in about an hour so I trusted my sense of how labor was going and what my body was telling me to do.
The midwife and nurses kept telling me to push and cheering me on. I wanted them to be quiet but I didn't have the time to tell them so. This is another reason to hire a doula! I pushed because I wanted it to be over and I didn't have the soundness of mind to remember that I had originally intended to let my body do the pushing.
Bee wasn't coming out. They could see her head. I reached down and touched her head. It was squishy and wet! The midwife told me to lie down on my right side for the next contraction. I had been on my knees up to this point. The midwife had been holding a warm, wet towel on my perineal area to help my skin to stretch safely as I pushed. They told me Bee's head was really big. I thought that was unhelpful in the moment but it's kind of funny now!
When I was on my side, I pushed one more time as hard as I could and Bee slid out. I think I pushed for about half and hour in total. I tore but not a perineal tear so it wasn't measured by degrees. If you're curious to know where I tore, text me!
We were overjoyed! We praise God for keeping us all safe and healthy throughout pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
About her name:
- Beatriz means "she who brings happiness; blessed"
- Eva means "life"
- Elena means "bright, shining light"
- Bonus! Cortés means "courteous" in Spanish
- We call her Bee instead of the more traditional Bea for Beatriz because of her initials (B.E.E.) and we think it's super cute
- Tim's mother is named Eva
- Rebecca's mother is named Elaine (like Elena)
We stayed at the hospital for two nights since Bee arrived so late that Saturday. My parents picked us up in our car with Bee's car seat on Monday morning. We've been loving life with Bee and constantly reminded of God's faithfulness by this beloved babe.
In gratitude and joy,