luca leo’s birth story

Luca Leo's birth story.

For those of you that were following along during my pregnancy knew that I was (im)patiently waiting baby’s arrival after I hit 40 weeks. Every day, I’d wake up in the middle of night, hold myself really still and try to “feel” if I was having any contractions. Each night, nada. I was convinced I was going to go into labor in the middle of the night. I was just so anxious to meet my baby, see what he looked like, smell him, and hold him. Also, I really wanted to have a vaginal birth, and the thought of having to go for an induction after 10 days (mandated by my doctor) scared and disappointed me, so that made me even more anxious to go into labor – I wanted him to come naturally!

On the morning of Sunday, September 24th, I told Lu I wanted to do nothing but RELAX. No errands, no walking, no exercising (I had been working out 6 days a week in hopes that all the movement would move the baby out!), no nothing. I wanted to curl up on the couch, watch movies, and hang out with my husband. So, that’s what I did.

So, we cozied up in bed until about 9:30am and then had some endorphin boosting sex. TMI? Well, I consider that detail important, given what followed shortly after. Then, we showered, made breakfast, and I curled up on the couch with my comfiest blanket with Lu next to me and closed my eyes, feeling a little tired.

My parents and grandmother were coming over at 1:30/2pm to go out for lunch in Jersey City along with my sister, Felicia, and her fiancé, Ben. So, I wanted to get in a little relaxation beforehand.

My water breaking

Literally 15 minutes into laying on the couch (at about 12:30pm), I felt a trickle of liquid. I thought I may have peed myself (not uncommon at that point in my pregnancy), but it felt different – almost, heavier and more gushing, and like it didn’t come out of my urethra, but somewhere else. I said, “Whoops!” and hopped off the couch and the second I did that, a big gush of water followed, soaking my underwear and soaking my sweatpants a bit. I rushed to the bathroom, looked down and there was a bit of pinkish discharge along with totally clear, odorless liquid. My heart started racing – this was it!

I told Lu and he looked at me and said, “This is it?!” and literally he started running around the apartment, getting “battle ready.” He was hilarious – making sure the apartment was set for our return, doing a load of laundry, making sure all of our devices were charged, and so on. I also Googled all about water breaking to make sure this was truly it. I called the doctor’s answering service and the doctor immediately called me back. I told him my water had broke and he just said to wait until contractions were 3-1-1 (three minutes apart for 1 minute each for 1 hour consistently.) He also said they typically don’t start for 12-24 hours, so just to hang around.

Starting contractions

I was SO excited. The baby was on his way! I put on an adult diaper (thanks for everyone’s recommendations to get Depends for this moment!) and walked over to the windows in our apartment with Lu and looked outside over the water. We were in disbelief that it was truly, finally happening. As I looked out the window, a beautiful Monarch butterfly fluttered by. Now, I live on the 27th floor of an high-rise apartment building, so the chance that a butterfly would be that high up is very rare. I immediately took it as a sign that this baby was going to be delivered safely and soon – and that someone was looking over us. I thought of my grandfather, who passed in January. At his funeral reception, my grandmother told the priest I was pregnant and he touched me and told me that my grandfather was going to be looking over this baby. During the early days of pregnancy (the first trimester), I’d talk to my grandfather and ask him to keep this pregnancy and this baby safe. Needless to say, I got the chills looking at that butterfly.

Fifteen minutes after my water broke, at 12:45pm, the contractions started. I started writing them down to track and time them. Sure enough, they were 15 minutes apart and 20 seconds and then quickly escalated. I still had lunch with my family at 1:30pm, so I decided to go and get a big meal in and relax. When my family arrived, we told them my water broke and the excitement really started! Then, at the restaurant, the contractions only worsened but were still manageable. They just felt like very intense menstrual cramps and I had to concentrate on something while they passed and focus on breathing. By the end of lunch (I ate a turkey burger with sweet potato fries), I was ready to get out of there and go home to truly start laboring.

Laboring at home & leaving for the hospital

I got home (my family came home with us), jumped in the shower, and then, the contractions were 4 minutes apart and lasted 45-50 seconds and were becoming too much for me with everyone around, so I sent my family away (they went to my sister’s apartment to wait for updates.) For the next 3 hours, I labored at home with Lu. He put on our soundtrack and helped me breath through every contraction and did massages on my lower back to help counteract the pain. The pain in my lower back was the hardest part – the only way I could relieve it was to bend over the kitchen counter, sway my hips side-to-side and have Lu put pressure on my lower back.

Soon enough, we were pretty much at the 3-1-1 mark and I was worried about getting into New York City at 5:30pm on a Sunday (hello, Holland Tunnel traffic), so I called the doctor and he said to come in. We got in our car and drove to the hospital – it took about 35-40 minutes (would have only taken 20 minutes if there hadn’t been such bad traffic) and those car contractions were excruciating, not being able to stretch out and move. It was at that point that I knew I’d have to get the epidural, that the pain was too much and I wanted to enjoy and embrace labor, not fear it. At that point, I had labored from 12:45pm to 6pm and was ready for some relief.

Arriving at the hospital and the epidural

We got into the hospital and I suffered through a few contractions as we made our way to the delivery room. Once we arrived, I told the nurses all of my birth plan wishes and that I wanted the epidural. The nurses examined me and I was a little more than 4 centimeters dilated and my cervix was very thin. They attached the baby monitor to my stomach and inserted the IV into my arm.

The anesthesiologist came in and told me that I had to make it through a full bag of IV fluids before they could administer the epidural. That hour and a half, while I waited for the bag of fluids to empty into my system, was the absolute toughest of my life. I really thought at one point that I wasn’t going to be able to continue, because the pain was so severe. I kept focusing on a point and just trying to breath through the best I could, but sometimes the pain was just so bad. I kept saying, “They only last a minute, you can do anything for a minute.” As corny as it sounds, I thought about my workout classes – doing 1 minute of burpees or powering through a resistance climb in a spin class seemed impossible, but the instructors always say, “You can do anything for a minute!” That got me through a lot of those last contractions before I was able to get the epidural.

The epidural wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. I had to sit upright on my hospital bed and bend over as they administered the epidural. I also had a catheter inserted for my bladder. I felt no pain (a slight pinch, maybe) and then, my legs started feeling tingly and when the next contraction came, it seemed shorter and less painful and by the second or third contraction, I felt zero pain at all. I was absolutely blissful – my baby was coming and I didn’t have to fear the next few hours, I could enjoy them with Lu as my body contracted and the epidural took the pain away!

A bit of a scare

Then, we had a scare. I heard beeping on the monitors and my nurse started to get flustered. She called in some other nurse and soon enough, I had an oxygen mask on my face, there were about 5 nurses around me, and I couldn’t see Lu as everyone swarmed around me. One nurse came up to me and had a needle and said, “The baby’s heart rate dropped and we need to get it back up, so we’re going to give you a drug to help.” I didn’t know what was going on and just trusted the doctors to do what they had to do to make sure this baby was safe and I nodded my head and said, “Okay.” Immediately, the baby’s heart rate came back up. Phew.


Basically, once the epidural was administered, my body was able to relax and the contractions escalated so quickly, I dilated from 4cm to 8cm in 35 minutes and the baby’s heart rate dropped. The drugs helped the baby but then slowed down my contractions and slowed the labor. I still felt no pain, thankfully, and slowly but surely (another two hours or so), I dilated to 10cm and my doctor came in and told me it was go time.

Time to push

The pushing was tough, but this is where my fitness came in – I never tired, I was able to push hard through every contraction. With every contraction, I would have to push for 10 seconds, three times. Lu held my hand and legs up as I pushed and I just closed my eyes and focused on meeting the baby. I visualized my vagina and I pushed as hard as I could without stopping until the nurses counted down each time from 1 to 10. I could feel a ton of pressure and it was slightly painful, but at that point, I knew the baby was so close that I didn’t even care. I knew I would be holding my baby in my arms shortly and that helped me push. Mind over matter

They never actually said, “Okay, the head is out!” but instead asked me, “Do you want to feel the top of the head? It’s coming out!” I was so determined to birth my baby, I said, “No that’s okay!” and just kept pushing and working. Then, two monumental pushes came and soon enough the doctor said, “Okay, here we go, one more big push!” and sure enough, I felt the most intense relief of pressure as the baby was born (it was indescribably satisfying and amazing) and the doctors immediately put the baby on my bare chest.

When the baby came out, purple and covered in icky baby fluids, I was in utter disbelief. I could not believe I was holding my baby. I’m not even going to try to put my feelings into words, because it’s just the most beautiful feeling in the world. I looked at Lu, we kissed, and we both just stared at this tiny, adorable human that we made together. Lu cut the cord and we just spent the next 10 minutes staring at our baby together.

So, after 12 hours of labor and just 40 minutes of pushing, Luca Leo Cerda was born into this world at 1:31am, weighing 7 pounds and 8 ounces and 20 inches in length. We are so in love and savoring every sweet moment with our son!

Can’t wait to share more with all of you – and my advice to those mamas (im)patiently waiting for their baby’s arrival: it truly is worth the wait.

with love, Ali

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