Meet Alex Caspero
Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, New York Times Bestselling Plant-Based Chef and mom of two. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.
These last two months have been absolutely wild. Perhaps that’s why it’s taken me 10 weeks to sit down and share Emery’s birth story. In some ways it feels like time is flying by and other moments when it feels like there’s no way she can only be two months old– haven’t we been hunkered down for a year already?
When we entered the hospital the day before she was born there were a handful of reports of closures and self-quarantine recommendations; by the time we left a few days later, COVID-19 had turned into a full blown pandemic. It’s odd bringing a child into a world that feels like it’s burning. I’m thankful that we had terrible cell reception while inside as we were able to shut out almost all the noise and be as present as possible.
Ten weeks later and I feel like not much has changed, even though everything has changed. Being a mom to two kiddos under 3 is really hard some times, but also the absolute best. Often at the same time.
I find that I’m either smiling from ear to ear in joy, in some sort of post-news watching panic, overcome with love, nervous about how I’m going to work without any help or sad that we can’t share our baby with friends and family. I’m pretty sure I cycle through each one of those feelings at least once an hour.
As I wrote with Vander’s arrival, I love a good birth story. I’ve cried on stories of people I’ve never met and felt comforted by the births of strangers. There’s something really magical in knowing that I’m part of this knowing tribe of mothers: no matter how different we may be, we’re bonded by the experience of creating life.
As my due date drew near, I knew I’d likely have to be induced. While I had a fairly healthy pregnancy overall, there were complications with my placenta that required me to birth in labor & delivery instead of my preferred location of the birthing center where I started with V. In the last few weeks I was cautiously optimistic that while I’d likely have to have a medically induced birth, I could still birth the way I wanted in an empowered, natural way.
The thing about being a second time mom is that you know exactly what to expect which is comforting and terrifying at the same time. I don’t know if you ever really forget what it feels like to birth a baby and I’m fairly certain that the pain of contraction after contraction is buried deep into my memory. That being said, my goal this time around was still to try for a natural birth. I knew that this was my last baby; which helped to motivate me into giving it one last chance. I hired the same doula that we used for Vander and carried with me the mantras that got me through when the going got very tough the last time around.
A quick word about natural birthing– now that I’ve done both; an epidural birth and a natural birth I honestly don’t know which one I’d recommend to other moms. Yes, there is something so incredible about giving birth and feeling every single thing, but you know– it’s pretty miserable until you get there. I know I had such a warrior complex about giving birth without drugs and now that I’ve done it, I don’t know why I put so much pressure on myself. Every birth is a natural one.
The morning before Emery was born, I went in for my 40 week checkup and knew something was wrong. Because of my placenta and Emery’s heart concerns, I’d been tracked by several doctors throughout my entire pregnancy– every time one of them would sound an alarm, it turned out to be OK in the end. So when the nurse who was doing my ultrasound abruptly stopped the scan and told me that she was going to get the doctor because I was going to be induced today, I didn’t believe her at first.
Cut to calling my husband an hour later letting him know that it was go time, to please arrange for my mom to grab Vander from school and to get to the hospital with our bag immediately. In hindsight, I should have known that being induced still meant I had hours and hours to go before our baby was here. BL really didn’t have to race to be by my side.
I really didn’t want to do Pitocin right away. From my experience with Vander, I knew that if I started on Pitocin I would likely end up with an epidural and not starting labor on my own increased my odds for more complications and possibly an emergency C section. Therefore, I was given a round of cytotec to try and thin my cervix. I had to be on that medication for 4 hours before they would try anything else, so BL and I laid in bed and watched a few episodes of The Outsider. Nothing like a little Stephen King to get you in the mood to have a baby!
I had made zero progress with cytotec, so was told that it was time to start on Pitocin. Thankfully, I had checked in with my doula and she gave me a little pep talk about trying to do what I could, and allowing things to unfold as they needed to. It was almost 4PM at this time, and I wanted to get this baby out as quickly as possible. I had such a long labor with Vander and knew that my energy would wain in the early morning hours. As with last time, I was nervous to be overly exhausted when she finally arrived.
BL and I walked around the hospital for hours– him holding my IV bag of Pitocin and me squatting and lunging through the corridors trying to increase the intensity and frequency of my contractions. After 7+ hours, we decided to call it quits around midnight. My contractions were all over the place and I still hadn’t made much progress; I was told that I needed to have this baby relatively soon, but they were willing to give me more time to try to get her out on my terms. I went to bed with two more rounds of cytotec (and a sleeping pill!) and got as much rest as I could.
I woke up ready and committed to the hard work that was ahead of us. I ordered a large breakfast and tried to eat what I could, savor a cup of coffee and try to calm my head for what was about to happen. Halfway through breakfast, my contractions started to pick up again though they were still as sporadic as the night before. BL and I got to work again– walking the hallways, stopping to ride a contraction wave and then lunging/squatting until another one came on.
An hour later, things started to feel pretty intense, though I was told by my nurses who were watching my contractions through my monitor that they were still very irregular and without any pattern. Damn, I thought, this is going to be a very long day. I had done hypnobirthing throughout my pregnancy and figured now was a good time to try and relax myself. I put on my giant noise cancelling headphones, laid down and listened to ~30 minutes of my centering tracks.
After that, I couldn’t lie down any longer. Things were really starting to hurt, though I was still being told that my contractions were all over the place even though they felt like they were coming nonstop. I told BL that I needed to get my doula here as quickly as possible and that I was fading fast; I really wanted an epidural but decided I would wait until she arrived to make that decision.
Thankfully, BL has all these text messages saved between him and our doula, so we have some rough estimate of how quickly things progressed. He texted her at 11:31 asking her to come as soon as she could, and Emery was born 10 minutes later!
By this point, I was feeling awful. I was super sweaty and kept thinking I was going to throw up. I remember feeling vey annoyed that every time I would tell my nurses how much my contractions were killing me, they kept insisting that there wasn’t any pattern to them. I was only at 2cm dilated a little less than 2 hours ago; so no one thought there was anyway I could be so far along.
BL and I went back into the hallway to keep walking, and I knew I couldn’t do it anymore. I started crying and begging for the epidural. I wanted out; I felt like I was going to pass out and the pain was overwhelming. From there, we started to walk back into the room so I could try and throw up and then was told that they would call the doctor for me. Phew, relief felt so close even though I felt like a failure for a brief minute that once again, I couldn’t do it.
Suddenly, I had this overwhelming desire to get onto the floor. I couldn’t walk anymore and reached out to BL to help me down, pulling him violently to the floor with me so I could get on all fours. I honestly don’t remember this portion, but have been told it by both the nurse who ran to me and by BL– who was subsequently trying to deal with the pain of his back spasm. I guess in my quick efforts to get to the floor, his back went out. Whoops!
I honestly thought I was either going to throw up or go to the bathroom but as I looked down towards my belly, all I saw was the top of her head. Thankfully, the nurse got to me in time to rip off my underwear and put her hands underneath me as I reached down and pulled Emery out! That moment is a blur, but I do remember holding her, kneeling and just looking incredulously at BL who was still off to the side and saying to him, “our daughter is here!”
Crazy, right? It’s still amazing to me that no one, including myself, realized how far along I was. I’m actually very thankful that we ended up getting induced because I don’t know if I would have made it to the hospital if I was doing this first from home. In roughly two hours I went from things starting to pick up to holding Emery in my arms.
This post is already longer than I planned it to be, so I’ll save much of the after details. In short, because of my recurring placenta issues, I lost a significant amount of blood after delivery. I honestly don’t know what was more painful: childbirth or the two manual sweeps of my uterus to try and remove as many blood clots as possible. I still wince when I think about that. As with Vander, I had to have surgery afterwards to remove retained tissue.
There’s something oddly comforting in knowing that I am done having kids; the stress of not knowing how things were going to unfold with this babe was tough as times and I’m glad it’s all behind me. In fact, minutes after I gave birth, BL says that I turned to him and said, “I’m so glad I never have to do this again!”
I’m sad that none of my friends and most of my family hasn’t been able to hold her yet, but I’m glad that I’m able to share her story with you. Our friend Felise came over a few weekends ago to take a few photos of our family behind our glass front door. Not exactly the newborn shoot I was hoping for, but I’m incredibly thankful that we were able to capture these moments before she got any bigger.
To anyone who is also having a quarantine baby, I feel for you. In some ways, it’s magical. You are allowed to do exactly what you want to do: stay home, not go anywhere and just be with your baby. It’s those same things that also make it very, very hard sometimes. Not being able to reach out and ask for help, not being able to share the sweet first moments with other family and not being able to take a break.
A little over two months in and I’m slowly feeling like I’ve got somewhat of a handle on things. BL and I have managed a split-workday schedule and I’m easing back into the projects I put on hold before Emery was born. Some days are harder than others, but it’s mostly sunny over here. Thanks for all of your support and patience as I took time off from posting.
Leaving you with one of my favorite quotes for these years, “because the truth is this– the first few years of postpartum are going to pull you so far away from who you used to be — and then they’re going to put you back together as the person you’re meant to become.”