Laboring During a Hurricane in Jacksonville, Florida by Melissa Pickett
Photographer: Melissa Pickett
"My birth story isn’t the one I wanted, but nevertheless, it’s mine. It’s real, it’s raw, it’s emotional, and it’s one that I’ll never forget.
I had planned a birth full of love and harmony, peacefulness and calmness. I wanted a water birth and prepared for it by taking a Hypnobirthing class and Bradley Method class. My husband and I were on board to learn as much as possible about birth and how to deliver a baby as naturally as possible. I talked about natural, unmedicated birth to anyone who would listen and wrote about it online. In many ways, I talked about it as though I had already gone through it because I was so sure of myself and what my body was capable of. It didn’t help my case that my pregnancy was so smooth and easy. I never had morning sickness. I wore my wedding rings to the birthing room because my fingers never swelled up. I never got cankles. I gained exactly 25 lbs; no more no less. I worked out on my elliptical until I was 41 weeks pregnant. I was never tired and wasn’t “dying to get the baby out.” So I was sure that my delivery was going to be as wonderful and uneventful as my pregnancy. But, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I went into labor in Jacksonville, Florida on October 7th, at 41 weeks and 6 days, and it happened to be the day that Florida was about to get hit with the huge category 3 or 4 Hurricane Matthew. My husband and I evacuated our home because we were in a flood zone, and had to go to my sister-in-law, Sarah’s house. Instead of laboring peacefully at my home, in the shower and tub like I had planned, I was in a house full of people, kids, and animals, staring outside at the increasingly terrifying weather. I labored at Sarah’s house for over 24 hours while everyone told me to go to the hospital. I was still hoping that baby would stay put long enough for the birth center to reopen after the storm passed. I was adamant about my water birth and held onto my goal of having the baby unmedicated, out of the hospital, and in a bathtub with my midwives, doula, and husband.
Eventually, the storm passed, and on October 8th, my husband and I, and my cousin (who was my doula) went to the Birth Center. I excitedly texted Melissa to join us there after my midwife Sharon confirmed I was indeed in active labor. The first few hours were wonderful. I spent time in the tub going through contractions which were around 5-7 minutes apart. I imagined my husband and I blissfully catching our baby (whose gender we opted not to find out) in the tub and couldn’t wait for Melissa to capture that moment. Instead, the hours passed by, the sun went down, my contractions weren’t getting any closer together, and my labor was not progressing.
I had two midwives helping me, and during the course of my labor, we tried a variety of things to get my contractions to speed up and move baby down the birth canal. I walked up and down stairs with my husband, contorted my body in various positions, and moved from the tub to the bed to the bathroom, willing my baby to move from the posterior position to anterior. Melissa was there capturing every moment, but I’ll admit I didn’t notice where she was, and what she was doing. As the hours progressed, my pain heightened, and sleep deprivation was kicking in. I was starting to feel a bit delirious.
October 8th turned to October 9th and there was still no progress. I cried a lot. I screamed a lot. I saw different faces of people trying to help me, motivating me to keep going, keep pushing, keep trying. My husband encouraged me the most. I was exhausted and I know he was too, but he was with me, not giving up on me and not allowing me to give up on myself. We’d talked about this kind of thing happening while I was pregnant. What if I wanted to give up? What if childbirth really was painful and everything we learned about in our Hypnobirthing class was wrong? He always said he couldn’t tell me, a laboring woman in pain, not to give up. What right did he have to tell me to keep going? But during my 71 hour labor, that’s exactly what he did, because I had asked him to make sure I didn’t give up.
Finally, at 4:30 a.m. on October 10th, three days into labor, in utter exhaustion, partially asleep yet screaming in despair, my midwife helped me deliver my most perfect, beautiful baby. It took around five minutes before I even checked to see if it was a boy or a girl. I can’t remember if I cried or laughed or smiled. I’m glad Melissa was there to capture all the moments my sleep deprived brain was not going to remember. I just held my beautiful baby who was screaming and wriggling, and finally found out that I’d given birth to a boy, my son, my perfect little man. I was in awe that I had done it and survived. I couldn’t believe that this little person - whose tiny fingers I clasped in mine - was here in my arms. I was 42 weeks and 1 day pregnant on the day I delivered my Samuel Wolf.
I didn’t have the calm peaceful birth I wanted. My birth story doesn’t include a short timeframe, a smooth transition, and a calm delivery into warm waters. In fact, the bed in which I delivered him looked like a crime scene. I was completely worn out, and every muscle in my body hurt from pushing for over 24 hours. But, it’s my story, and it’s raging and magnificent anyway. I pushed my body to the extreme. It went through hell and back, and I fought against the agony, despair, sleep deprivation and pain, and I succeeded. In the end, I still got the most precious prize, which is my healthy baby boy. But I also learned something about myself. I am a warrior. I couldn’t have done it without my husband, my doula, my midwives, and even Melissa, who dropped her camera to help hold my legs during one particularly grueling pushing session. But I could have given up, and almost did. I could have backed out, backed down, succumbed to going to the hospital for an epidural and a c-section. But I knew my body could do it and I did it. There’s no way I could ever look in a mirror now and complain about a few extra pounds on my frame, dark red stretch marks, or saggy skin. I am in awe of my body and what it is capable of, and I am so proud of myself for my determination and unyielding willpower. And that is what makes my birth story even more incredible."
These photos were edited using the Basic Presets from Birth Becomes Her. Click here to get your own presets.