This story begins with empty shot glasses on the counter, my friend passed out on my couch, and me leaning over a toilet.
Oh not the night our baby was conceived... this was the night he was born.
I'm finally sifting through the blurry montage of partial moments and memories of Everett's arrival. There are few pictures and no video to go by. There are images and sound clips pinned all out of order in my mind and new ones pop up as I sort... certainly nothing like any of our other births, but that's one reason we keep doing this... it's always an adventure!
We never planned to take this pregnancy to 40 weeks, but a GBS positive diagnosis, my first one, stayed our plan to nudge this birth along at 38 weeks. I had gestational diabetes for the fourth time and had previously birthed my babies at 41, 38, and over 42 weeks. Our sons were 10 pounds 3 ounces, 8 pounds, and 11 pounds 5 ounces. Only our second son was born naturally and without complications. I worked out almost every day of my pregnancy until the end. I didn't fear another big baby, but we were planning a home birth and I wanted to avoid any possible complication. My only fear was having to transfer after the birth.
Our estimated due date was Thursday, December 18th. I never felt "done" with this pregnancy. I loved this pregnancy, but I could feel baby dropping lower and lower... and little feet reaching higher and higher. That week I stayed calm, but booked a labor encouragement massage, acupuncture appointment, and asked my midwife, Jacqueline, to do a cervical stimulation (stretch, sweep, strip... whatever you like to call it). I went to prenatal yoga on my due date... keeping relaxed but active. On the recommendation of a doula friend, on Sunday morning I went to Ribera beach in Carmel to climb the stairs and stand by the ocean. I felt great, but I also felt like this baby needed to be born.
Anyone who drinks has probably sworn to never do it again. I've sworn off Crown Royal, Southern Comfort, Tequila (though I always go back to that one)... and castor oil. I drank castor oil to induce labor with my first. There is a video. It was disgusting and it didn't work. I swore never again, but I talked to my midwife about it anyway. She thought it was a reasonable option. I decided to take the first of three doses at 4pm... but the anticipation became too much and I poured the first shot at 2pm. I took another two ounces at 4pm, and downed the last shot (barely) at 6pm. We warned our birth team.
About an hour after each dose I would have to use the bathroom, it wasn't bad. We put the kids to bed and settled down to watch a documentary that my brother recommended, Harmontown. We went to bed around 10pm, all was quiet... guess it didn't work.
I got up to go to the bathroom again probably an hour later, maybe less. I was spotting. I called my midwife. For me, spotting usually means baby is coming. I was having contractions, but they weren't regular and they felt a lot like the prodromal labor I had been experiencing for weeks. Sometimes I was shaking and nauseated, even dry heaving into the toilet... sometimes I couldn't tell if I was even having contractions. I think she offered to come, or said she would, or I asked... I don't know. She was on her way and I tried to go back to bed.
Then the contractions were gone. I called and told Jacqueline that she probably didn't need to come, but she was on her way. I think I probably sounded like I was in labor... I think I was tired and confused sounding. I would have come too.
Eric blew up the tub and I tweeted a picture of the room at 11:45pm. I have no idea where I was or what I was doing while Eric set up the tub. I remember waves of "omg just get this tub up hurry hurry hurry" followed by periods of not even knowing if I was in labor.
Jacqueline arrived and set up. I continued to try to go back to bed but would get up again to go to the bathroom, which was happening about every hour and getting very tiresome, followed by 30 minutes or so of fairly hard contractions... but they'd fade and I'd try to sleep again for 20-30 minutes, and then the whole cycle would begin again. Basically I was laboring on the Hunger Games Mockingjay Clock Arena drunk on a mess of labor hormones.
My midwife decided to try to sleep on the couch. I would have these pretty long periods of no contractions and total clarity. No one knew if I was in labor. I was probably having the baby soon, but maybe it would be the next day, the next evening. I was tired of getting in and out of bed so I propped pillows up on the other couch and tried to sleep leaning over them.
Eric was in bed and I don't know if he was sleeping either. At some point I got him up and told him to make up the bed with the plastic and extra sheets. I labored in the doorway, holding onto the door frame when contractions hit. Sometimes I'd call Eric over to press on my back, but I wanted to let him get everything done so I didn't every time. I alternated between leaning on the kitchen island, the bedroom door frame, and the bathroom door frame. I wish we had done the bed up sooner, I missed laboring with my husband.
At one point when I went in the bathroom I decided to check my cervix, just to see if I could feel it, or baby's head. I put my leg on my bathroom counter and got about half a finger in before hitting a bulging bag of waters and I think a head. In my fog I didn't think "Oh shit, the baby's coming... maybe I should tell someone." I just... don't remember thinking anything... it didn't register. I'm sure this is information that my midwife would have found helpful.
For some reason around 4am we started really preparing for the birth... I think... I really don't know if we all thought this was it. I should have known... but I had proven to be pretty worthless in the communication department at this point. I remember telling Eric to call the birth team at 4:11am... I think contractions were just getting really close... but I wasn't totally convinced that they wouldn't stop again. Eric began calling, and also working with Jacqueline to fill the tub. No one answered except my doula, Brittany, who was soon on her way, along with the assisting midwife Caroline. We couldn't get a hold of our birth photographer, my cousin, or my sister-in-law. It was frustrating, but I also couldn't concentrate on that.
I labored on my own as Jacqueline and Eric tried to fill the tub. There wasn't enough hot water because I had asked Eric to start a load of laundry, not realizing that we were going to need to fill the tub so soon. I remained pretty unaware as they boiled pots of water on the stove. I wanted in the tub so I didn't want to take Eric away from preparing it.
At 4:49am I messaged the birth team on facebook to come. We had already called a couple times. It was so hard to try to bend or sit, just typing "come! baby is!" took everything I had. I leaned on the kitchen counter again. I had a really hard contraction that I had to moan then pretty much roar through. Roar isn't right... it was just louder than a moan. I got Eric to hold me through it. My body was starting to push some. I really wanted in the tub, but there wasn't enough water yet.
Brittany arrived and asked me what I needed. I told her I didn't know... that's all I remember..
Then I'm in the hallway holding onto the bathroom door trim. I'm telling Eric to get my bathing suit top (actually it was my friend Lindsey's) and he can't find it. It's the only teal thing in a very small drawer but he can't find it. I think Brittany and Jacqueline are both close, and I have another really hard, loud contraction. I don't know what I sounded like, I imagine I sounded like Whitney of Leaves of My Tree. At one point I thought I was screaming and then Eric said I was totally quiet and barely grunted so I'm not a good judge here... but I think I was getting pretty loud. Jacqueline says I did good, that was a hard one... something like that. I just have to get in the tub. I decide to just take off my shirt and wear my bra in.
I remember pulling off my shirt and it's like when I close my eyes to pull it over my head I never open them again. I don't remember seeing anything from the hallway to the tub. I keep trying to remember. I don't know when my underwear came off, I don't know if Eric was close, I know Jacqueline was. Every time I try to remember I go back to when I was 19 and at this party and drank Tequila Rose and held onto the kitchen wall trying to make it to another room... and I don't remember seeing anything, just feeling... and then not feeling... and then just being somewhere new like in a dream where all the transitions are cut out.
I think my hands are on the side of the birth pool. I think my eyes are closed because there's still no visual to accompany this part of the story. Another really hard contraction. No visual or audio for this part, I just know that it was hard, my body pushed so so so hard... and gave way. 5:13am. I heard my midwife say "there's the water" and all I could feel was a big hard head, and then like I was going to pass out. I said so and Eric caught me and leaned me on the seat of the couch behind me just in time for my body to bear down again.
I was along for the ride, the baby was coming now, here, just a couple feet from the pool. I put a foot up on my midwife's leg and pushed.
It hurts and it sucks. It doesn't burn... it's just this massive force trying to come out, and my body holding it back and I decide, once again, that I'll never do this again. But before I never do this again I have to get this one done. I push and the head is born. No wriggle out. Fuck. I NEVER get a wriggle out! I push again for the shoulders, maybe twice... too many times as far as I'm concerned... and the baby is here! December 22nd at 5:14am. On my chest, so warm! Freshly born babies are the best warm.
Eric grabbed the camera and is taking pictures. I think that he did get a hold of the birth photographer before the baby was born, but she didn't make it. I finally open my eyes and look at my baby. Eric and I didn't consult on who would announce the sex, but this time I looked. Another boy! This is the little person that I had spent the last 40 weeks with... little Everett. We have four boys.
My sister-in-law, who was going to take video, walks in the room and I say "So I had a baby." She missed it by a few minutes... she started taking pictures, I'm not sure if there is video from after the birth, but I know there is no video of the birth, or labor... first time we have missed it.
Leaning back on the couch (I'm not exactly laying on it) is getting uncomfortable as we wait for the placenta. It hasn't been long. I ask if I can just push it out and my midwife says sure. I push it out and Brittany holds it in a bowl (thanks Brittany). The cord is done pulsing so Eric cuts it. I didn't want to linger on this, I wanted to get up and in bed.
We settle into bed and our photographer, Kirsten, arrives and our older boys, Milo, Ashley, and Indiana wake up.
I'm having terrible after pains. They are miserable and I don't feel like I can really enjoy this time. It's so true that they get worse with every baby. I'm still so grateful to be in my own bed. The other midwife, Caroline, arrives once I'm in bed. I'm sure Jacqueline probably appreciated having help to clean up... thank you to whoever cleaned the blood and amniotic fluid out from under the couch, I saw the pictures.
It's time for the midwives to look over me and the baby. I didn't tear, once again, only a very small something to the side. Everett looks great...
Everyone seems to think Everett will be around 9 pounds. Nope, 10 pounds even and 22 inches long. I've had two heavier babies, but he is my longest.
So Everett was born after basically an hour of active labor. Every time I am tempted to complain about having such a short labor I think about how I feel when thin girls complain about being thin... and that feeling is a little murdery... Everyone wants a short labor, but honestly, I would have liked a little more. I've heard of women with short labors having a harder time... kinda being in shock because all the hormones of birth don't get to gradually build. I get that. I feel like I missed my whole birth, I've described it as my blackout birth a few times. I've struggled to know that it even happened which is so weird. But how can I complain about that? We had a home birth, not a water birth, but a totally uncomplicated birth at home with the midwife I adore, a fantastic doula that I regret not getting to labor with more, my older babies sleeping just down the hall and my unwavering husband at my side. No matter what I told myself then, I really can't wait to do it again... I can't be trusted to make good decisions when pushing out a human. It was an awesome birth.
You are so welcome here Everett Levi, thank you for the amazing story.
Henry Parker Young's Birth Story
As we wait for our own home birth story to begin, I thought I'd share with you one of my favorite recent local home birth stories of one of my couples who took my natural childbirth class. Thank you Corey and Lindsey for sharing it with me!
July 26, 2014: I woke up at about 6:30 a.m. with menstrual type cramping. I had been having this for a few days and just laying down with a heating pad usually sent it away. I got up and took a nice long, hot shower hoping to send these cramps away as well. I shaved my legs for the last leisurely time. Of course I denied this being the "real thing". I tend to be a hypochondriac, so for fear of overreacting to things I tend to underreact. Corey and I went to breakfast. I insisted on driving despite Corey's objections. I denied I was in labor even after driving there and making Corey park the car, because I couldn't parallel park through contractions. After breakfast was the farmer's market, Vitamin Shoppe and Costco. My contractions were about 7 minutes apart and 45 seconds long. I chalked it up to being too active. I checked in with my midwife Carol (told her not to cancel her plans just yet) and set home to park myself on the couch with a heating pad. Corey was supposed to record vocals for a band at noon, I wouldn't let him cancel it until about 11:15. I was still convinced that if I could only relax enough they would go away, they had slowed to about every 15 minutes for about 30 seconds after all! I started a bath, used the toilet and noticed I had lost a bit of my mucous plug (still in denial). While I was in the bathtub reporting the mucous plug to my midwife, I felt the sudden urge to pee, or rather, that I WAS peeing. I hopped onto the toilet and still wasn't certain but thought that might have been my water breaking. What came out was yellowish and cloudy, not what my urine usually looks like but not what i was expecting amniotic fluid to look like either. Ok, I was ready to admit I was in early labor! I have like 24 hours ahead of me, right?
I called Carol again and she suggested she come by to take a look at me. Ok, I agreed, but first we have another errand to run! Corey and I had been planning on baking a birthday cake and I didn't want to even buy the ingredients ahead of time, because I figured I had a long labor ahead and wanted ways to make time pass quickly. We took a leisurely trip to Nob Hill, complete with contractions in the ice cream aisle. Yes, we got concerned looks and comments. Corey assured them that yes I was in labor, but I'd suck him back up until we got home. We made one more stop on the way home to borrow a rebozo from Cori, our Birth Boot Camp instructor before returning home to find a Comcast truck in front of our house. I completely forgot about our 2:00 p.m. appointment! Business was conducted quickly and the worker left, I was prepared to watch my Breaking Bad marathon while I labor for the next 22 hours!
Corey and I started together to make Henry's birthday cake. I don't think I lasted longer than pulling out the pans. I instructed Corey to keep at it while I labored in the shower for a bit. I put Jim Gaffigan on Spotify and got in the shower. Corey kept coming in and checking on me. He asked me if he should set up the pool, of course I said "not yet" but I saw him roll it past the doorway anyhow. I asked him to call his mom and let her know this was happening.
My mother in law Kathy arrived and I remember her observing from the bathroom doorway. I was butt naked, I didn't care. We knew what we were in for. Carol arrived, watched me for a little bit and informed me that we were having a baby! Yay! Carol said she would call my other midwife, Jacqueline. I kept looking at Kathy and saying "SHE did it. She did it with Pitocin. I can do it." Corey later told me I was in transition at this point. He overheard Carol relaying to Jacqueline that I was grunting during my contractions.
I could hear Corey baking and filling up the pool in the kitchen. I heard something about a connection giving him a hard time. Later, I found out that instead of hooking up to the kitchen sink and pumping warm water into the pool, he had to fill it with the garden hose and boil pots of water to pour in to warm it up. Baking, boiling and pool filling, so far labor seems more labor intensive for him than for me! By now it was around 5 p.m. and Corey let me know the pool was ready when I was, so of course I got right out of the shower and into the pool. Jacqueline arrived by then. The water. Felt. Amazing. I spent a long time there. Sometime around now Henry's birthday cake came out of the oven and was set aside to cool. I made Corey sit on a chair right in front of me. I would go in and out of consciousness. I woke up and asked if I time travelled. I was aware that there were no less than 8 eyes on me, but no one was in my face. It was very quiet, I could hear whispering.
Then came the pushing. It wasn't an "urge". It was happening. My body was doing it, it had a mind of its own. I hung onto Corey's leg for dear life. I threw up. I had Corey drape the rebozo over his shoulders and stand up so I could pull down on it. I think somewhere about now I asked how dilated I was. I kept asking, as if laughter wasn't a clear enough response. Finally Carol (or someone) told me my cervix was long gone. Wow, that was quick! More pushing. Carol checked Henry's heart rate several times in between pushes. She gently recommended I get out of the pool and walk around. Nope, I'm in my happy spot. "Ok but maybe now you might want to walk around?" No way, Jose. "Ok but don't you have to use the toilet by now?" Someone promised me I could go back into the tub afterwards. Trickster. I realized by how they wouldn't let "getting out of the pool" drop it was probably in mine and Henry's best interest to listen to them. I found out later that Henry's heart rate had slowed a little, that the pool had slowed my labor and they were hoping some movement would get it going again.
I reluctantly waddled over to the toilet, my entourage helping me on my way. I labored on the toilet for a bit. I remember at one point wanting, TRYING, to throw everything off of the pony-wall next to it. Someone explained to me that I needed to get Henry out, I needed to push with the contractions in an effort to tear my perineum because he had been in the birth canal for a while. If I couldn't tear, I could receive an episiotomy. Carol said she could see his head and suggested I feel for myself, as it would give me a better idea as to my progress. I asked if he had hair, several times. I was assured that he did and encouraged to feel for myself. I stood up and reached down. I felt... not what it usually feels like down there. I couldn't tell where I ended and Henry began so, frustrated, I gave up on that venture. I moved to the birthing stool in front of the toilet. I pushed. Corey wanted me to wait a moment for him to adjust the rebozo during a contraction, my response was to pull harder as if I was trying to break his neck. I pushed as hard as I could. Carol massaged and tried to get my perineum to give up my baby. The words "perineum of steel" were used at one point. I called it, I couldn't keep pushing like this, I asked for an episiotomy.
Jacqueline explained to me that it wouldn't hurt, it would just feel like relief. She was right. I realize having written this far that this is the first real mention of pain in this story. The thing is, I don't recall it being painful. Sure there was pressure. Sure it was uncomfortable, but nothing like the insurmountable pain like they show in the movies. I leaned back on Corey for support as Carol (I think) performed the episiotomy. I didn't feel a thing. The next contraction, I had an urge to stand up. With Corey's hands under my armpits, I reached out for more support. I grabbed onto the pony wall with my right hand and reached up for the towel bar with my left hand. In one fell swoop both my baby and my towel bar were liberated from their restraints. My head was spinning. Carol placed something warm, wet and squirmy on my chest, it went "waah" once. I gathered my wits enough to wish Henry a very happy birthday. It was 7:58 p.m.
Henry was squinting, alert, holding his head up. I offered him my breast to nurse from and he took to it immediately. Carol asked me to cough. I half-heartedly obliged and my placenta was liberated as well. We brought our family bubble to the bed for some much deserved bonding. He was beautiful. Corey and I both just stared at him as he nursed and slept. Corey continued the skin-to-skin snuggles as Carol repaired my episiotomy. Henry proceeded to christen Corey "Daddy" with meconium. Eventually Daddy left to clean both of them up, himself and Kathy putting Henry's first cloth diaper on as I tried to. describe how to do it from across the house. We discovered our cat helped himself to a layer of Henry's birthday cake. We measured Henry, he was 6 lbs 2 oz, 19 inches long, 13 inches circumference and "100% adorable". I think we'll keep him.
Wendy's journey is a good reminder that our birth stories begin long the first labor contraction. Thank you Wendy for sharing your story, I'm honored to know you... and happy 10th Wedding Anniversary!
After trying to start a family for nearly two years, my husband and I were diagnosed with a rare cause of infertility. Our lives changed forever in that moment. We spent the next two years meeting with doctors, undergoing testing and treatments. We finally succeeded with IVF and our perfect baby was born in December 2011.
During that extremely difficult time in our lives, my mantra was this - Someday a family. Someday a yard littered with toys. Someday the sweet pure love of a child. Someday the loving embrace of my husband with a little one tucked inside. Someday a Christmas Card with our family picture. Someday.
This past year, especially this past month have been full of "last year at this time" memories. The most significant being in March, on our anniversary, when our IVF transfer occurred. Then on April Fools Day when Dom got the call that our beta was positive and had doubled - he texted me a smiley face that I'll never forget. My baby shower in October that was so overwhelming at the time, but such an amazing day, a dream come true so full of love and friendship. Our office Christmas party, that I missed last year as it fell just after my due date after I'd mentally checked out.I worked until 39 weeks at which point I was so tired and uncomfortable, and mentally checking out.
My due date - that passed without any fanfare. and then the waiting, and waiting, and waiting. 40 weeks, 41 weeks, 42 weeks, with not any hint of any sign of labor on its way. I'd spent a good portion of my pregnancy willing this baby to stick with me til the end, begging it to stay put and grow big and strong, not fully believing that we would actually have a baby at the end. I remember our midwives telling me that it was okay to let go, to let the baby know it was time to join us, and realizing just how much mental energy I'd been devoting to keeping that baby growing inside.
Somewhere around 41 weeks we started talking about scheduling a biophysical profile to check on the baby. Since we'd planned a home birth, it was a bit of a to-do to get an appointment with an OB. Luckily I had some connections and was able to get in fairly easily. It was stressful to go to the hospital, but everything looked great and the OB even asked us about our dates, convinced from the BPP that we must have miscalculated conception based on the results. As if! HA
We went back a few days later to test again, with things still looking good, but the 42 week mark making the OB uncomfortable sending us home. They pushed induction, but we decided to wait. Christmas was quickly approaching, we were hosting, and we had to make the call to cancel. We were trying everything in the book to induce labor at home. I asked my midwives to do a stretch an sweep, at which point we discovered that my cervix was shut tightly closed, still tilted far back, and that the baby hadn't dropped yet. My Bishop score was not favorable for induction, which was stressful.
We inquired about the OB schedule for our preferred docs and made an appt to induce on Christmas evening at 42 1/2 weeks. Dom and I spent Christmas driving down the coast, just the two of us, looking out at the ocean, stopping for hot cocoa and asking a stranger to take our photo - our last as a couple. I panicked at the thought of a hospital induction and we canceled the induction. Instead we went in for another BPP the day after Christmas and while things still looked good, we were approaching 43 weeks. As much as I wanted a natural birth in my own home, I wasn't about to do anything to put my baby in danger. I'd done massive amounts of research about the risks we were balancing. It was not an easy choice, but amid many tears, we decided to pack out bags and again schedule an induction for that evening. I cried on the drive to Natividad Medical Center.
We arrived, birth plan in hand, and got settled into a room. From the get go, I retained as much control as one can when you are checking yourself into a hospital. Knowing that they couldn't turn me away I felt empowered to assert my right to respectfully refuse anything that I wasn't comfortable with, starting with the hospital bracelet they wanted me to wear but that I promptly took off. I'd read a ton of birth stories, including many of minimally invasive induced births. I was committed to birthing my baby.
Dom set up our room, with a sarong over the bright light, my blanket on the bed, our music on the iod, snacks for the nurses laid out by the sink, copies of our birth plan distributed widely... We claimed the space as our own. I dressed in the special nightgown that Bestie had given me. I texted my mom and the midwives to come join us.
Sometime around 8pm the OB, one we trusted to support our desire for as natural a birth as possible, inserted a cytotec pill near my cervix. Shortly thereafter he attempted to place a foley bulb in my cervix, but because it was still closed up tight was only ably to fill 5cc (vs the usual 50cc) in the bulb. I rested with monitoring for a bit, then got up to walk around. I started having regular contractions, strong enough that I had to stop and breathe thru them, strong enough that I wanted to be back in the comfort of our room. By midnight I was on all fours on the floor, leaning on the birth ball, working hard to get through each really intense painful contraction. I felt a pop, on the inside, and everything intensified. We didn't realize that my water had broken until I got up and my waters leaked.
The nurse had wanted me on continuous monitoring, but I wasn't willing to get in bed, so she had to work hard to manually monitor me a few minutes a few times every hour. She also was under orders to get an iv placed, but I didn't want one and kept asking to put it off for a while longer. She was doing her job, and I was doing mine - with both of us remaining respectful of the other. I had a lot of support, with Dom and my mom, and the midwives too, which I can only imagine made her job easier, but she did have to document every time I refused her requests.
The waters showed signs of meconium, which was to be expected considering we were nearly 3 weeks past my EDD. I knew that there were risks with meconium, but also knew better than to worry about those risks at that point. I do recall that the nurse mentioned putting the NICU on call for delivery due to the meconium, but was so consumed with the labor at that point it was all I could really pay attention to. Since the pop everything was so much more intense, during the contractions, and in between the contractions. The nurse took the foly bulb out and noted that I had dilated a little to about 1 cm. I was struggling thru each contraction and needed to get into the shower. I remember feeling really happy that labor had started and proud of my body for working to deliver my baby.
I spent the next 8 hours laboring in and out of the shower, mostly staying in the bathroom where there were safety bars I could hang onto. I really don't have words to describe how intense that experience was. I was screaming through each contraction and had very little relief in between. It was so way beyond harder than anything I had prepared for - so much more intense that any labor I had read about, or birth video I had watched.
I was giving absolutely everything I had to birth this baby.
At some point I started feeling nauseous and began vomiting in between contractions. I told myself over and over that each contraction was bringing me closer to meeting my baby, the baby I'd waited so long for, the baby that I'd fought so hard for. I believed in my body, I knew that I could do it. And at the same time I was astounded by the intensity of the experience.
The passage of time is fuzzy in my memory, but I do have clear memories of Dom and my mom at my side the entire time, the shift change of nurses although I was so immersed in myself that I was unable to acknowledge it, the text affirmations that Bestie was sending to my mom and my mom was reading to me, closing the door to the bathroom so that I could labor with Dom without any distractions. More than anything though, the intensity of each contraction taking over my entire body and the lack of what I'd thought would be a break in between each contraction are what stand out in my mind.
Sometime in the morning I emerged from the bathroom and perched myself on the birth ball. I was exhausted and desperate for a break. As if my body knew, the contractions started to space out a bit and I give me some time to regroup. There was talk among the midwives and nurse about possibly being complete and this being a break before the need to push. I was afraid to move fearing that the contractions would pick up again, but agreed to climb onto the bed so the nurse could check my cervix. It was the first check that I'd had since the foly bulb was removed the night before.
I was spent, exhausted, feeling like I had given everything I had in me, wondering how in the world I could possibly have anything left to push the baby out. Contractions that radiated down each leg consuming my entire torso came back with a vengeance when I climbed onto the bed. I was crying, vomiting, and no longer able to hold my bladder. Intense is the only word I have, but doesn't come close to describing the experience.
Expecting to find that I was fully dilated, the nurse turned with shock to look at my mom and announced that I was barely 2 cm dilated. No one could believe it.
At this point I was on the bed, gripping the bed rails, and looked at Dom and begged "Please help me". I was ready for some pain relief - I was desperate for some relief - I wasn't sure I could manage another contraction.
I don't remember details, but I was so grateful that no one questioned my request for drugs. We had a birth plan that specified as natural a birth as possible and had talked a lot about the possibility of holding me off for a bit if I asked for medication. Looking into Dom's eyes I could see that he was going to do anything in his power to get me some pain relief as fast as humanly possible. Things happened quickly. The IV that I'd refused earlier was quickly placed and the anesthesiologist was called for an epidural.
While I received IV fluids to prepare me for the epidural, they gave me a dose of some medication telling me that it would act quickly and 'take the edge off'. My desperation and sobs intensified when it did no such thing. How the hell could I have been so unprepared for this labor?
An epidural was soon placed, which I really don't remember much of, and although I could still feel the contractions they were so mild and manageable. Dom climbed into bed with me and we must have slept for a while. The epidural was amazing.
Not sure when exactly but I started itching all over, a side effect of the epidural. It was so strange to not have sensation on your skin, but to feel it itching. The nurse gave me a medication to calm the itching and it basically made me loopy and sleepy.
I was having to roll from side to side every 20 minutes to keep the epidural working correctly and we joked about the "epidural rotisserie."
Six hours into the epidural and pitocin I was still only barely 2cm dilated. Talk about 'failure to progress' and the possibility of a c-section began. I was really out of it, and honestly felt like I'd given it my all and wouldn't have any regrets about how our baby finally came into this world. The doctor came into the room and there was a team meeting. It had been over 20 hours of really hard labor and 18 hours since my water had broken. I was exhausted and still barely dilated. But the baby was holding up well enough.
They asked me what I wanted to do. If I wanted to proceed with a section. The anesthesiologist had reviewed our birth plan and was willing to accommodate all of my requests.
I honestly didn't care what happened next. But I knew that I wasn't in any shape to make such a big decision so I deferred to Dom. I can remember everyone weighing in on the decision before us, and ultimately taking a vote. My mom, a home birth mom herself, Bradley natural childbirth teacher, super advocate for natural birth, had never seen such a hard labor and was ready to send me in to surgery - but she abstained from the vote.
My amazing support team believed in birth. Believed in me. Dom listened to them and it was decided to wait another hour before making any decisions. As long as the baby was tolerating the labor we would wait another hour and hope that I made some progress.
The contractions were gaining strength, and getting stronger than the epidural. I was once again moaning through them, asking the nurse to turn up the epidural. Once she had exhausted the amount of increase that was up to her she was going to call the anesthesiologist back to increase the dosage but decided to check me one more time. It had been almost an hour since "the meeting."
Again the nurse recoiled in shock when she reported that I was fully dilated with a baby descending down the birth canal. No one could believe that I'd gone from 2 to 10 in less than an hour, with a baby ready to deliver.
The room was suddenly full of activity.
The epidural was turned off.
A pushing bar was set up on the bed.
A mirror was pulled into the room.
I could reach down and feel the head of the baby I was about to deliver. Against all odds I was about to become a mother.
I remember pushing, but feeling like I wasn't doing it right. I kept wanting to change positions because it was so uncomfortable, because I felt like it should feel more natural. Everyone talks about an 'urge' to push, but I don't remember feeling anything like that. And everyone also talks about how delivery is nothing like the movie scenes, but all I could do was scream and push. I can only imagine that I looked just like a crazy movies scene - a naked women screaming through every contraction, pushing with everything I had left in me, clutching the sides of my hospital bed.
Before I knew what had happened, there was a baby laying on my chest. It was shocking.
What was this and where had it come from? It was lying on my chest, all wet and warm. I was so relieved to be done with the labor, but completely shocked at the outcome.
All I could do in those moments were to focus on Dom. The intensity of love I felt for him in those moments was overwhelming. And yet there was a wet warm baby laying on my chest. Oh my god, a baby, our baby. While I was trying to get my head around the fact that there was a baby lying on my chest, someone asked 'what is it?' and Dom lifted our child to announce:
There was still a lot of activity in the room. The OB, Dr. Liem, was calmly yet firmly shouting orders at people, and I could remember my midwives telling me that delivering the placenta was an important next step that would require my attention. Apparently I was hemorrhaging, losing more blood than anyone was comfortable with and the OB was methodically doing everything he needed to do to get the bleeding under control. I don't recall exactly what all was done to address the situation, but it was finally deemed okay. Significant tearing took the OB the next hour to sew up. Many multiple second degree tears was what he called it later - on the internal vaginal walls, labia, everywhere. He didn't even bother to count stitches.
All this while, there was a baby lying on my chest. Our son. He looked up at me and Dom with clear bright calm eyes.
Our someday was upon us.
I am a nurse, I worked in labor and delivery for five years. I currently work for a high risk maternity home health care company. Not only have I seen a lot of births- I've seen it all. The good (a beautiful normal delivery), the bad (a full term baby that passed away for no reason), and the ugly (labor wards are full of drama).
Given my experience I think it blew everyone away when I decided a home birth was the way to go. Thankfully, my husband was great and backed me 100% as did my family. Everyone else thought I was nuts (and said so) but I knew it was right for my baby and me. I never once questioned my decision.
What’s ironic is that had I had a baby 6 years ago I would have thought I was nuts too! When I first started working LD my attitude was "If you don't have to be in that amount of pain, why would you be? Bring on the epidural- can they meet me in the parking lot???" Then a few years ago three things happened in under a month that changed my mind.
Now, before these three things ever happened I had already noticed something. The LD unit I worked on induced a lot of women. I worked on a small unit with five labor beds and Monday through Friday we induced two to three patients A DAY with the doctors pushing to add more patients to the schedule. It can make one think that babies wouldn't come out if we didn't kick them out! However, my favorite patients were those who came in on their own in labor which, given our induction rates, were few and far between. Those were always the best labors though- the babies almost always looked beautiful on the monitor, the mothers very rarely pushed more than 15 minutes, and the babies almost always came out without assistance and were healthy as could be.
The first of those three things that happened to start to change my mind was not so much a "thing" but a patient. I came on shift one night to a woman having her fourth baby. This woman was from Jamaica and had all of her other babies on the island completely natural. Her doctor had sent her over for induction because she was 40 weeks and the doctor was going to be out of town that weekend. My orders were to watch the patient and start Pitocin in the morning to get her delivered. I felt so bad for this woman because I knew there was no reason to induce her but come 5am we would start Pitocin. Thankfully, her body wasn't thrilled with the thought of being induced either because she went into labor on her own around 2am!
Standard protocol at our hospital is to ask all patients what kind of pain relief they want. Once my patient went in to labor I asked her if she wanted an epidural and she said no and kept breathing through her contractions. I was fine with this and helped her cope but when my charge nurse came in the room she practically brow beat the poor woman about an epidural. Finally the woman said "What is this epidural!?!" So we explained what the epidural was and when I got to the part of "A needle goes in the space around your spine" she looked HORRIFIED. "In my spine!?! No, no... I'm ok." The woman delivered within an hour of this conversation but something in my head had clicked- an epidural isn't normal. I saw it every day and assisted with starting them all the time but it was not normal. Light bulb on- somewhat dim- but on.
The second thing that happened was stumbling across a documentary called 'The Business of Being Born' directed by Ricki Lake. I'm not going to lie- I had heard of it and thought to myself "What does a talk show host know about birth that I don't already know?" Apparently- a lot. I had never seen a homebirth before and the only experience I'd had working with them were those brought to the hospital that needed assistance of some sort (IV fluids, vacuum assistance to deliver a baby, c section, etc.). In my head they weren't safe and working every day in LD with women who “needed” constant monitoring supported this. Now I realize how faulty this logic was- it's like sitting outside a mechanic shop seeing cars brought in and thinking all cars are going to break down at any moment. Wrong- they were only there because they needed to be and I never saw the other hundreds of women who delivered just fine at home because they didn't need to be brought in. Light bulb was starting to glow a bit brighter now...
The final thing that happened to push me over the edge was a conversation with a fellow nurse. It was one of the rare slow nights we had and we started talking about inductions and how few normal deliveries there were and she just casually said she planned to go all natural when the time came. We talked for a couple hours about unnecessary inductions, how epidurals affect labor, c sections, the birthing documentary, my Jamaican patient- everything. Light bulb was now fully glowing and by the end of the conversation I had decided when I gave birth it would be all natural- and I was instantly petrified. It might be how nature intended it but I just knew I was in for a world of hurt.
Fast forward a few years and I had gotten married and my husband and I decided to start a family. I honestly don't even remember the conversation we had about doing a homebirth once I was pregnant- it just wasn't a big deal after all the research and statistics I had seen over the years. Kind of ironic considering the fear I used to have over a natural birth. Sometime in the previous few years the fear had dissolved and now it wasn't this eccentric, risky thing- it just seemed normal and felt right. I didn't want to pack a bag to go be delivered- I wanted to prepare my home to birth my baby in.
Once I was pregnant the reading began in earnest and I read everything. I requested and checked out a stack of books from the library then went and bought my favorites. I devoured tons of homebirth stories online- I couldn't get enough. I also read birthing preparation books including Hypnobirthing, The Bradley Method, Birthing From Within, Ina May's books- anything and everything on natural labor. My husband asked me why I was doing all the research since I knew what to expect and what to do. It was something I couldn't put my finger on and then I finally figured it out- I was preparing for a right of passage and I wanted to hear everyone else's stories now that it would soon be my turn. I wanted to know what worked, what they wished they had done more or less of, how they felt during birth, EVERYTHING. I was no longer afraid- I was excited and could not wait for my turn.
One birth story I read a woman said she had envisioned her birth and it went exactly how she had imagined it. I've never been one to meditate or envision anything and, even though I do believe there is a very real mind-body connection, I don't think anyone can bring on labor just because they're ready (it's a nice thought though and I know many women would LOVE that). This being said- it did make me think. If I could envision my perfect birth what would it be? In a perfect world my labor would be on a Sunday because that's the most relaxing day of the week. I would labor all day at home with my husband while cooking (in early labor) to keep busy. I would watch a Dallas Cowboys football game to keep me distracted and maybe go for a walk (I was due in November and we live in Ohio- I may not have thought that through all the way). Then, once I was far enough along, I would get in the birthing pool in the living room and labor while overlooking the lake out of our back window. I also wanted a fast birth but not so fast it was overwhelming- I figured 3 hours would be good. Who was I kidding though? The average first time mom labored for 14 hours and I figured I would too.
The Birth Story
A few days before I went into labor I just felt off. Not bad or anything- but off like something could happen any moment. Even with this feeling though and only slightly increased discharge (which I attributed to my husband and I trying to speed things along by remaining active in the bedroom) I was only 37 1/2 weeks pregnant and the average first time mom delivers at 41 weeks, 1 day. Knowing this, I chalked it up to wishful thinking and the only people I let know about my little off feeling were my parents who lived 14 hours away and planned to be here within 24 hours of the baby's birth (we didn't know the gender) and my birth photographer since we still hadn't nailed down a few details. In hindsight, I also should've told my midwives but I really did think I was being silly. This baby wasn't coming for another few weeks!
Sunday morning I woke up around 5/530am and went pee. When I went back to bed I felt like I could've wiped a little better but I was 9 months pregnant and tired and didn't care- I would take a shower when I got up in a few hours. 830am rolled around and I finally get out of bed and when I pee I see what discharge that looks like amniotic fluid. Not a lot, just a smidgen that I probably would've missed had I not worked LD. I coughed and nothing came out so I decide to take a shower. After my shower I put on my thong (yes- I wore thongs my whole pregnancy) and then a few minutes later I thought to myself “if my water breaks, I'm screwed.” So I grabbed a pair of underwear I bought the week before and a pad and as I went to change I felt a pop and managed to plop on the toilet right as I gushed fluid. I called my husband and told him my water broke but we could still go to his parent's house for lunch... which was about 45 minutes away... in the middle of nowhere. Once again, in hindsight, I may have been in denial and there was no way in hell I should've been suggesting that but my logic was I was a first time mom, no contractions, water just broke- I figured the baby would come in the middle of the night sometime. Thankfully my husband very nicely said no to my suggestion.
At this point I let my parents and the birth photographer know what was going on. I don't suggest this, but I delayed telling my midwives for a couple of hours because I wanted to see if contractions would start soon and then I could tell them how far apart they were. Around 1030 I realized I was having contractions that were no stronger than the Braxton Hicks I had been having for the last three months but they were about five minutes apart- so mild I almost missed them. At that point I let the midwives know what was going on and that baby was moving well so they didn't need to come. They said ok and to let them know when something changed.
I started cooking (banana pancakes, honey roasted sunflower seeds, bacon, general yumminess) and my husband scrubbed the house down- and I mean SCRUBBED. I think he nested for me! At 1pm the Dallas Cowboys game started and I got on the birthing ball still only having mild contractions and watched the game while snacking and texting/calling a few friends and family. I told my husband I thought the baby would come in the middle of the night and since I wasn't hurting anyway he went and took a nap to make sure he was nice and refreshed later on. I should've joined him but my team was playing and my best friend was available to talk so that wasn't happening. I believe it was while he was lying down that I remembered a girlfriend of mine had given me a few essential oils- one of which was clary sage. Once again, in hindsight, I should've mentioned to the midwives I was going to use a bit to see if it would bring on stronger contractions- oops. Anyway, I mixed the clary sage with some coconut oil and applied a few drops to my wrist as well as my lower abdomen in hopes of bringing on stronger contractions. It was time to meet this baby!
At 3:55pm (I checked my phone records) I was on the phone with my best friend when she said I stopped talking in the middle of a sentence. I said "No, I didn't" and kept talking. Then she said I did it again a few minutes later. At that point I realized my contractions were getting strong enough to distract me but they still weren't even as painful as period cramps. She had to go anyway so I got back on my labor ball and continued to watch the football game. About 45 minutes later the contractions were a bit more uncomfortable so I text my midwife and photographer to update them that the contractions were a bit stronger- maybe a 3 or 4 out of 10 on the pain scale but not horrible. My photographer was super nice and offered to come and I insisted no because I wasn't even really hurting and I didn’t want her to have to sit around for 12 hours waiting on me. By now it was almost 5pm and I got in the shower to relax a bit and clean up since I had been leaking all day (icky feeling) and shave my legs. About 20 minutes later I got out of the shower and the first contraction I had out of the shower I got on my hands and knees in the hallway and swayed my hips- I felt like that was my first real contraction and I thought “Here we go!” My water had been broken for 12 hours and I finally felt like I was in labor!
*Side note: Most hospitals insist on augmenting labor if your water breaks and you don’t start contracting within a couple of hours to prevent infection- numerous studies have shown that as long as vaginal checks are kept to a minimum (I refused all) the risk of infection is quite small and 95% of women will start contracting on their own within 24 hours of their water being broken. To expect a first time mom to be delivered within 24 hours of their water breaking is very unrealistic. Now back to the story.
My husband and I had a blow up mattress in our living rook from the time I was about 6 months pregnant on because it was better for my back so I laid down on it to rest and listen to the rest of the football game (he was next to me in the recliner- he asked if there was anything he could do but all I wanted was to breathe). During my next few contractions I would get on my hands and knees and sway my hips and breathe until it passed. I tried staying on my side for one contraction and it was horrible and I don’t know how women in hospitals strapped to beds do that. At one point I was in the middle of a contraction when the Lions quarterback snuck the ball in for a touchdown when everyone thought he was going to take a knee and won the game… and I dropped a F bomb. My husband thought it was a contraction until I told him I was just pissed we lost! On a scale of 1-10, my contractions were about a 6 and more intense but kind of a weird pattern where two would be close together and then nothing for about five minutes (on LD we called this 'coupling') and it can sometimes mean the baby is in a funky position so I asked my husband to text the midwives and have them come over to check me (this was at 545pm).
Right after this my contractions went from intense to painful so I got in the birthing tub. I thought to myself that I was being a baby and getting in way too early and I would probably have to get out again once the midwife came and checked me and said I was 3 cm but I didn't care- I was hurting and I was getting in.
About 15 minutes later we hadn't received a response from the midwives and I had started moaning through contractions. I never thought I would be vocal during labor-I figured I would mostly turn inward and just breathe which I did until this point. Now that I felt the urge to moan I did and it felt so good. All I kept thinking was "keep my jaw loose and my moans deep to let my cervix open up"- thank you, Ina May! I asked my husband to call the midwives since they hadn't responded and later on I found out when they asked how I was doing and heard me in the background moaning they said they would send the apprentice out to check on me without him even asking (they weren’t getting our texts and were wondering how things were going anyway). With their practice each patient normally has two midwives but since we agreed to an apprentice we had three which worked out well. I also had my husband text the photographer and ask her to come over. In the meantime, I just kept moaning and swishing my body around in the water during contractions while on my hands and knees.
After my husband got off the phone I had a few more contractions and started to feel slightly nauseous and asked for a bowl. I got a bit snippy when he put it on the floor instead of the tray he had set up next to the birthing pool but I didn't think much of it. The next contraction I had I felt myself start to bear down and push. I thought I was imagining things since I had only been hurting maybe an hour so I put my finger in to check. I didn't feel anything but then it happened again with the next contraction. That time when I checked I felt the baby’s head! Shocked doesn't even begin to cover how I felt in that moment. Well- shocked and elated! I was almost done!
I told my husband to call the midwife back and tell them I could feel the baby’s head an inch in. He said her response was "Oh shit, we're on the way." My husband came and sat next to me and I had him feel the head. At one point in between contractions I looked at him and said "don't get me wrong- this hurts but it isn't near as bad as I thought it would be!" A couple contractions later the apprentice midwife showed up and she could see about a quarter of the baby’s head crowning. With that contraction I finally fully pushed- I felt the head go out then slide back in a bit which was actually fine with me because it had just dawned on me- a head... a SKULL was coming out of me. For a split second I faltered. From that moment until the baby delivered (which wasn't long) I thought to myself over and over "6.5lbs, the baby is only 6.5 lbs." I had no way to know if that was true or not but mind over matter, right? The apprentice told my husband once the head was out she would check for a cord, then with the next contraction he could deliver the baby. The next contraction I pushed again and got her head half way out then I had to wait for the next contraction. While I was just hanging out waiting for another contraction (with a head half way out of me) the other two midwives arrived and asked how I was doing. Of course they were talking to the apprentice but I looked at them and said "the head is half way out." When the next contraction finally came I pushed and out shot the baby- I turned over and she had a loose nuchal cord (around her neck) that my husband and I unwrapped and then I brought our baby out of the water. Arms spread out, eyes wide open, and blue (very normal). I rubbed the baby's back and a few seconds later we heard a healthy scream then saw a nice pink color. The apprentice asked me to get out of the tub because I was bleeding more than she would've liked and my husband helped me out and onto the mattress which the midwives had covered with a chucks pad and towels on top of our sheets. I felt like I was high as a kite- those endorphins are amazing!
After a few minutes of bonding my husband and I figured we should look and see if the baby was a boy or girl and as I held the baby up we realized she was a girl! I didn't realize how much I thought I was having a boy until I double checked for boy parts. I then looked at my husband and said "What the hell are we going to do with a daughter?" Don't get me wrong- I was thrilled, but teenage girls scare me! I was immediately in love with Scarlett though- all 6lbs 12oz of her. About 10 minutes after Scarlett Deja was born the photographer arrived and got some great shots of our first hour together. I still hate that I waited too long and we missed getting the birth on video but I am so grateful for the pictures we do have. Apparently my husband was even sneaking pics of me in labor so I have those too!
In the end, I got exactly the birth I wanted just not the video of it... I went into labor on a Sunday, got to see my Cowboys play (even if they did lose- I should've been more specific) and I got a fast but not overwhelming labor. Maybe it was coincidence, maybe not. All I know is there is very little I would change. I got the perfect labor and perfect daughter and I can't wait to do it again!
I just got this in my inbox and I'm excited to share it with you! No one thinks their birth story will take a long time to begin, but prodromal labor, or labor that starts and stops over a period of days or weeks, is more common than you'd expect, we just don't hear of it happening much because so many women opt for an induction instead of trusting the process. Prodromal labor can be a real trial, but knowing that it is a normal variation in labor is important. Thank you to Sam and Aaron for sharing another birth story here, you also read about the birth of their first son, Epic, who was also born at home.
Ace’s Birth Story
From the moment I saw the little blue plus sign, I knew what was to come. This was my second baby--I had gone through this before and it was a walk in the park. Two years previous I had a textbook pregnancy and at home water birth. To quickly recap that moment, 5 days before my due date, contractions began, slowly grew stronger (with breaks between them of course!), and 7 hours later (2 hours of which was pushing), my 9lb baby was born. This was my “birth pattern” and I fully expected #2 to follow in those footsteps and hopefully not push 9lbs much further…but he had another plan.
Once again we decided to stick with the at home birth along with the same midwife, and family friend, who delivered Epic, Leslie Drew. The nursery was ready, the supplies gathered, the tub inflated, we were ready. The last month of my pregnancy, my pelvic floor was killing me. It hurt to walk, it hurt to lay, it hurt to roll over. Baby was buried so deep into my pelvis, I thought that I could sneeze him out, but my cervix held him back tightly.
At 4am on Sunday (6 days before my due date) I was awaken by strong contractions. Could this be it?!? Grab a stopwatch!! 10-15 minutes apart. Awesome, I still have time before I call the midwives. I decided to go back to bed only to awake at 8am with no more contractions. Well, that was odd. Contractions didn’t stop with Epic. Maybe it’s just a case of that “false labor” I always hear about. The rest of the day I had irregular, random contractions, but nothing to write home about. I decided to call Jill, an acupressure masseuse, who put me into labor with Epic. I was determined that this birth would be the same as the first. She was available the next morning-Great! We will send Epic to stay with the Grandparents for the night.
Monday morning, 4am, I awoke to more contractions. This will be good! I won’t go back to sleep, Jill will come, and this labor will begin just like last time! Contractions are 5-8 minutes apart...better than yesterday. Good sign. I decided to eat an early breakfast, do some laundry and other ‘nesting’ chores, and go for a walk. Aaron and I went on a mile and a half walk so that my contractions would keep up. By 9am, Jill came and set-up for the massage-Yippee! I am getting my baby today! As soon as I lied down, I could tell my contractions were beginning to die off, but I wasn’t worried because this worked last time. I had a few good contractions throughout the massage, but it wasn’t happening like last time. Labor wasn’t beginning right now. As she finished her massage, I knew the effects could take up to 24 hours. We still have time. Throughout the day more irregular, random contractions, but still nothing to be concerned about. Aaron and I went on another walk. Epic stayed another night at the Grandparents.
Tuesday morning, once again at 4am, more regular contractions. THIS is it! It has to be! We are still less than the 24 hour window since the massage! Grab the stopwatch! GREAT! 3-5 minutes apart! I went to the bathroom only to find a “bonus” sign of labor—my bloody show. I will call Leslie this time. I was confident that my contractions would continue to get stronger and closer, so I decided to go lie down and rest for the big event ahead of me. Leslie told me to call back in an hour. I woke up 2 hours later, contractions at 10 minutes apart and getting further. You got to be kidding me. This baby is NEVER going to come. He is just playing with me by this point.
Family and friends keep asking how I am feeling…do you really want to know? AWFUL! JUST TERRIBLE! I have been a prisoner to my own house for the past 3 days, my pelvic floor hurts sooooo bad that I can’t even walk around the house, I haven’t seen my eldest son in 3 days and miss him dearly, and between my hormones, false labors, and the strange quietness that fills a home when a two year old is gone, I am going insane! INSANE! I just may punch the next person who asks me how I am feeling (which 8 out of 10 times is my poor, unsuspecting husband. I am pretty good at putting on a happy face no matter how I am truly feeling). How long can this drag on? I could have accomplished so much more work these past few days, but no…who knows when these contractions will really turn into labor. This is frustrating. I just want to be left alone.
Wednesday morning, 4 am, contractions 2-3 minutes apart. By this time, I felt defeated. So what? They will probably go away too, but I better call Leslie. She seems to think my labor will go fast once it truly starts (if it ever starts). She decides to come over, prepares her necessary items, and we wait. And wait. And then I went back to bed. They stopped once again and she measures me at barely 1cm. This is ridiculous. I have had contractions for four days now and have gotten, not even, 1cm. She suggested I go to an acupuncturist that she has had a lot of luck with. I call and get an appointment at 1pm. It’s worth a try.
By the time we got to the acupuncturist, it began to sprinkle rain. I wobbled my way up to her second story office to take my place on the table. She placed about 25 needles deeply throughout points on my feet, shins, hands, ears, neck, and scalp. She then “intensified” them by hooking up a machine that sent an electrical current through two needle points. She left me on the table for about 2 hours so that my body would really take it all in. I had about 6 contractions during that two hour time period…woohoo?
After the session, I decided to make the best of getting out of the house. I wanted a hot cocoa and a couple of toys that baby brother could give to Epic. My sweet husband ran through the rain to get me a delicious hot cocoa, toys for Epic, rented a movie, and even brought me flowers. These little things cheered me up. It felt nice getting out of the house. I wanted to see Epic too, so we picked him up from daycare. It was great holding my first baby. I snuggled him close as we drove him back to the Grandparents house for him to spend yet another night. I watched him play as everyone was getting settled down to begin eating dinner. I felt a couple more random contractions and then was ready to go home across the street. I was tired. It was 5:30pm.
When I got into our house, I had the urge to go to the bathroom (a very common occurrence with pregnancy). As I went, another “bonus” labor sign—diarrhea. Lovely. Let’s see if contractions begin. Sure enough, a contraction began…and held…and held…dear goodness has my uterus seized up?? My toes began to curl, I couldn’t get off of the toilet. “Aaron! Get me a stopwatch, call the midwives, and fill the tub!” He was on it. Ahhh, finally a break. Let me get off of this thing…I refuse to have my baby born in a toilet.
As I am leaving the door, another contraction hits me. I began the timer. I wasn’t able to start the stopwatch with the first contraction, but I knew it had been less than 2 minutes. I just got my pants up for heaven’s sake! I threw myself upon the bed into a hunched position to endure the uterine hug. After 2.5 minutes, the contraction began to release. Dear lord these are strong and last FOREVER. I feel like I have just been hit with a bag of bricks. I have to make it to the tub...nope, I need to go back to the toilet, another contraction is coming, and it has only been 45 seconds since the last one ended! BAM! Another contraction, once again not letting up for another 2.5 minutes. This is it! I AM IN LABOR! A smile filled my face…only to be followed by a frown. I was in labor 7 hours with Epic. This is going to be a looooong night.
I finally made my way down the hall to the other bathroom (between the master bedroom and my ever cherished birth tub). I underwent a few more contractions on that toilet. “Aaron! Where are those midwives!? Shouldn’t they be here!?!?” It had only been 20 minutes, which meant it was at least another 10-20 minutes before they arrived. These contractions are ridiculous! I don’t remember Epic’s birth having contractions this strong to begin with. They started out slow and grew as labor progressed. They were not like this until right before the pushing stage.
I finally made my way to the partially filled tub. Aaron was still boiling water to add to it. I didn’t care. I needed that tub now. I climbed in and instantly felt some relief. I took a deep breath. Another contraction. I was paralyzed with each one. As I tried to change positions between the short breaks, if I didn’t quite make it to my desired position, then that is how I would have to labor through the next contraction. I had to be quick during those breaks. It was hard to be quick though as the contractions were taking every ounce of energy I had. They were so intense, so strong. There is no way I have experienced this before. Epic’s birth was not like this. How in the heck did I survive my first home birth?? Am I crazy?? There are no drugs here. Well, maybe…the midwives did leave everything ready from this morning. I bet there’s something in those bags of theirs. If only I could get to them. Never mind, there is no time for that. Just go get a shovel from the garage and beat me until I pass out. Please, I beg someone. Another contraction, this time with an urge to push.
I can’t be pushing yet.
Hold off the urge.
The midwives arrived. Oh thank goodness a witness to these crazy contractions! No time to say hi—another contraction once again ending in an urge to push.
I need to be checked. It has only been an hour since this madness began. I can't be wanting to push. Don't push. I look to my midwife. She doesn’t check me...she doesn’t need to check me. “You are ready to push.” No…no I am not. I have at least 5 hours left. I’ll wear myself out if I begin to push! No pushing. Not yet. No way.
Another contraction, my body still wanting to push. I reached down and felt the tip of his head only about a knuckle deep. This was really happening. He really was coming. My body really was ready to push. I got into a frog like squat position. I slowly relaxed with each contraction to allow the baby to descend deeper and deeper. As soon as I felt burning, I would blow air upwards and out to allow stretching to occur. The pushing phase felt much more relieving. This was all going to come to an end soon. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I felt a pop—my water had just broken. I flashbacked to that feeling from my first birth and the thought that my uterus had just burst. I giggled under my breath. A few pushes, and his head was out. I could see his right ear and his fuzzy, hairy head. I waited for the next contraction to push his body and to catch him. Aaron was behind me helping to bring him forward. As I gave the final push, he rotated to sunny side up. We brought him out of the water, and I fell backwards into Aarons arms as our new baby lay across my chest.
Ace (still thinking of a middle name) Magenheim was born at 7:16pm, approximately an hour and a half after my first set of contractions. 9lbs 1oz and 21.5 inches long, he didn’t make a peep. He just looked at us quietly, no need for crying. Everything was at peace.
As I sat in the tub, I waited for the after burn. I recollect it more than anything else from the first birth--The two weeks of not wanting to pee because it hurts so much. The constant frozen ice packs between your legs. The throbbing from all of the swelling. But it wasn’t there. Nothing was burning. I slowly got out of the tub to get dried off. I didn’t need that much help. I wasn’t hurting like my first birth. Leslie checked and sure enough, there was no tearing. Not even swelling. Oh praise the Lord! I will still be able to somewhat chase after my two year old!
During my check, Ace began rooting on Aaron’s chest. Aaron handed him to me and he immediately latched.
After getting all cleaned and dried, we had all four grandparents and Epic come down to see the new addition. It was so nice being able to share this special moment with our whole family—especially Epic, who was now a big brother!
A Precipitous VBAC with 3 True Cord Knots
Sara took my birth class while preparing for her second VBAC. She is an MD going into obstetrics so teaching Sara made for some interesting birth class moments... like... "so in the event of a c-section..." Sara: "oh yeah, when I do a c-section..." Haha oh yeah... you're a DOCTOR. I hope you enjoy the miraculous birth story of Sara's third baby, thank you for sharing it with us Sara!
This is Raphe's Story
We took our seats in church just as we do every Sunday. We’d been in a bit more of a hurry to get settled after running later than usual. This Sunday was my oldest daughter’s fifth birthday, and she’d spent most of the morning playing with her new toys and scarfing down chocolate chip pancakes. Getting dresses on and hair done had been particularly difficult, but I promised I’d help her build her new Lego set later that afternoon. As we sat down in the pew and started to sing the opening hymn, I felt a familiar tightening in my very swollen belly. Today was my due date, but I’d been having Braxton-Hicks contractions for weeks. I’d even had a few “false alarm” evenings when the contractions were particularly strong and increasingly regular. But nothing had panned out yet. I’d joked with A that she might get a baby brother for her birthday, but didn’t really think he’d come so predictably. By the time we were done with the song, the contraction was starting to subside. Twenty minutes later, the first speaker took the stand and another tightening started. And twenty minutes after that, another. Like clockwork, two or three more series of contractions happened every twenty minutes.
My second baby, my first VBAC, had been what they call a “precipitous” delivery. I’d labored for about two hours with a transition of 15-20 minutes, 15 minutes of pushing, with five pushes total. I’d ended up with a perfect, VERY alert baby girl and a third-degree tear (this kid had flown out!). With my third, I was planning on delivering in Salinas at Natividad Medical Center despite living in Monterey (30 minutes to the Southwest), because the Community Hospital in Monterey Peninsula does not allow VBACs. Period. They are 100% b-a-n-n-e-d. I figured if this little guy was as precipitous as R had been, I’d better start heading toward the hospital as soon as I suspected active labor. My contractions had only been going on for a little over an hour, and they weren’t painful yet, but they were regular, strong, and getting more intense. I told my husband we’d better head out to the hospital just in case – better to be sent home than risk having the baby on the road!
We left our two girls with some close friends who had planned on hosting them when the “big day” came. We grabbed our pre-packed bags and set out for the hospital. By the time we were halfway there, the contractions started getting intense enough to take my breath away. They still weren’t painful, just incredibly strong with a lot of pressure, and closer together. I was so glad the roads were clear and lights were green. If we’d attempted this drive during 5pm weekday rush-hour, I think I would have throttled the driver. At the sign-in desk, I had to stop talking during contractions and pace back and forth until they eased. Still no pain, but lots of pressure. Due to R’s quick delivery, the nurse completed my admission and showed us to our room. She took vitals, placed my hep-locked IV, and checked my cervix. I was dilated to 4 and 75% effaced at 0 station. Within 20 minutes my contractions had escalated from pressure to pain, and I used a birthing ball to moan my way through them. My husband let me hold on to his neck to take pressure off my belly, and I bounced slowly until the wave passed. During the next 20 minutes, the pain became impossible to “bounce” through, and I started throwing my upper body across the patient table (the one on wheels that they serve your meals on) and squatting down as close to the floor as possible. Stretching my body as long as possible was the best way for me to get through each increasingly intense crest of pain.
I’m a pretty vocal laborer, and my nurse was very intuitive. She read my cues and decided to check me again – dilated to 7, 100% effaced. The pain gave way to intense pressure and the urge to push became unbearable. I asked her to check again within five minutes, as with R I’d gone from a 3 to 10 in less than 15 minutes. Sure enough, I was fully dilated.
The doctor arrived (he was a hospital fellow on weekend call) and I started to push with each contraction. My water had still not broken and baby’s heart rate was starting to drop between pushes. They broke my water, but it took a few attempts – had they not done it manually I’m pretty sure he would have been born in the caul! I get pretty focused during the pushing phase, so I was only vaguely aware of what they were saying, but I could see the looks on their faces. “Meconium in the fluid.” “Late decelerations.” When they asked me to give him a break on the next contraction, I knew they were concerned for his well-being, and that if I didn’t get this kid out (and quick!), I’d be getting cut again. I tried to pause on the next contraction, but there was no stopping him. I knew he’d started crowning when I felt that familiar burning sensation, and I knew I could have him out with one more good push. They’d told me to wait again, but he was having none of it. Ten seconds later I felt the last rush of relief as his body slid out into the world.
They’d warned me I wouldn’t hear him cry initially, that they wanted to suction him well before they stimulated a good, robust breath out of his lungs. I saw him only briefly before they took him to the warmer, and he looked bluish and floppy. He’d had a knot in his cord just above where they’d clamped and cut, which explained the disconcerting heart rate during delivery. I didn’t worry though – I just knew he was okay and wasn’t even remotely concerned. He would cry when he was good and ready – it was as if he was telling me this himself. After a minute of suction and stimulation, I heard his first little growl. It wasn’t a cry per se, but it was strong and reassuring. As soon as his heart rate and oxygen saturation were stable (about five minutes), they brought him to my chest and he began nursing vigorously. This kid was alert and ready for life!
After I delivered the placenta, the doctor and nurses were astonished to find two more knots in his cord. That’s a grand total of three knots, three complete, true knots this kid had managed to tie in his cord. Now one knot increases the risk of infant mortality during delivery fourfold. This kid had THREE. Dr. Chandler would later tell me he’d never seen or heard of three cords in any medical literature, that my little guy might be a recorded first. But Raphe (short for Rapheal, from the Hebrew for “God has healed”) had absolutely no problems, no damage of any kind, no complications whatsoever. He was a nursing champ from the get-go and alert as a hawk. It didn’t hit me until much later what a blessing that was – with all that could have gone wrong, he had come to us, safe and sound, like some crazy Olympic gymnast with a perfect dismount.
Raphe was 6 pounds 15 ounces and 19.5 inches long. I think the knots may have kept him from getting much bigger, because my girls (also full term) were 7 pounds 8 ounces and 22 inches, and 7 pounds 13 ounces and 22 inches. Raphe has grown over 5 inches in four months and now weighs 15 pounds.
We’d arrived at Natividad around 2:30 in the afternoon. Raphe was born at 3:17pm, so I’d labored for even less time than with R. Had we not left when we did, had we not packed and arranged childcare previously, had we hit traffic, had we delivered in the car on the side of the road next to a lettuce field, had we, had we, had we. . .
We were truly watched over and blessed. I have no doubt Raphe is destined for great things, as I’m sure most parents feel about their children. If nothing else, with such a dramatic entrance into this world, I’m sure the next 18 years will be nothing if not entertaining.
A Natural Hospital Birth... w/ hashtags
#BirthBootCamp #naturalbirth #onlineclasses
As soon as Ray and Dana announced their pregnancy I began looking forward to their birth story.Dana is a talented writer and hilarious, and I couldn't wait for her take on birth. I'm so honored Dana is letting my share it with you, I mention her birth in every birth series I teach.
Ray messaged me asked for good resources. I listed a few of my favorite books, but told them they really needed a natural childbirth class if they wanted a natural birth.
There were no Birth Boot Camp instructors close to them at the time so I suggested they take Birth Boot Camp online. I was thrilled when they signed up. You can read about Dana's journey to a natural birth here. She calls me fanatical... #nottrue #oksometimes.
The Birth of Washington Ray
Washington’s story begins Friday, June 14, 2013. I had a doctor’s appointment that afternoon, but since I wanted to go into labor naturally (including not having my membranes stripped), Dr. Carnes didn’t check my cervix. My due date wasn’t until the 22nd, and as a first-timer, I was prepared to go late and battle my doctors for the right to deny induction. I had no reason to believe I would be going into labor. I hadn’t had any Braxton-Hicks contractions at all. My only “labor symptoms” were a pinky discharge that I didn’t think qualified as the bloody show and a cold, which I was informed did not mean my body was preparing to give birth. (How was I supposed to know? Last time I got a stuffy nose and sore throat, I thought it was nothing but a cold. Turns out I was pregnant!)
Ray had left that morning at about 8:15 am to work a dreaded 24-hour shift. The night before, we joked about how inconvenient it would be if I went into labor while he was on (or recovering from) an overnight. We laughed it off. I was confident I had plenty of time. But just in case, I petitioned God. I wrote in my prayer journal, “Ray works overnight tonight which is a bummer. So I pray I don’t go into labor in the next two days so Ray has enough time to rest up.” Bahahaha. I went to bed at 1 am (because I’m a night owl who never gets to stay up late anymore!), and at 4:45 am, I woke up with what felt like serious menstrual cramps.
Having never experienced Braxton Hicks contractions, I didn’t know if this was a contraction or just me not feeling well. That line right where your underwear sits across your lower abdomen ached. I lay there and focused all of my attention on What The Heck My Body Was Doing. And I realized, Ah...the pangs were coming and going! And it felt like my insides were tightening! So it must be a contraction! Cool. I thought, This is no big deal. I can do cramps. I mean, they hurt, but whatevskis. I got up and drank my glass of water and laid on my left side just like you’re supposed to when you first get contractions. If they were BH, they would go away after about an hour. Well, an hour later, they were still going strong. So I figured, I should let Ray know.
So I picked him up at 5:45 am. We both had a little breakfast snack and went back to bed. I woke for each contraction, even though these early ones were mild, until finally getting up around 10. I let Ray get a couple more hours in (remember he’d been up for nearly 24 hours). We spent the early afternoon getting last minute things done. I was mostly straightening up the apartment. Ray at some point decided to perform surgery on the vacuum cleaner because it wasn’t working right. Obviously. *insert eyeroll here* (Looking at all the evidence, I firmly believe I did not “nest” a single moment of my pregnancy. Ray did all the nesting in our family. I cleaned lightly because it was on a checklist of things to do Before Baby.)
Later that afternoon, Ray convinced me to chill out and watch my early labor distraction movies. So I showered and then labored on my “birthing ball” (AKA the yoga ball) while watching Star Trek: The Motion Picture (circa 1979). This was probably when I looked the most like all the birth videos I had watched. I was in my bathrobe with a heating pad on my lower back, head resting on my arms resting on the ball on the living room floor. I felt very zen. The contractions weren’t fun. But I was managing fine. I tried not to call them painful (a natural birth no-no), but they were. By 2:30 pm, they moved firmly from the mild to the moderate column. My body also prepared for war, evacuating me of every last substance in my body. I continued to eat like normal, because...well, I was hungry.
Around 8 pm, Ray left to get groceries. (Obviously.) While he was out, I made myself a bath, then we went to bed. At 10, contractions were undeniably strong. At midnight, I wrote that they were “starting to wear on me. Trying to stay strong.” (Code for: “This freaking hurts. But I know it’s going to get worse.”)
I could no longer lay down and sleep. I started out in bed, standing for each contraction while Ray slept. (I was trying so hard to be tough. I didn’t want him to help me until I really needed help. And it’s a good thing too…)
At 1:45 am, I took bath/shower. But regular home bathtubs are not equipped to handle a giant pregnant woman with contractions. I wanted to relax. I would lay back during off minutes and, when the next one hit, heave myself over onto my hands and knees, leaving only part of my giant belly in the water and the rest of me exposed to the cold air. It was awkward and ultimately not all that relaxing. So I eventually gave up on the tub altogether.
Then began the circus of sleeping arrangements. I couldn’t lay on the bed anymore. So I slept on the floor in the baby room and labored on my hands and knees. But that didn’t last long. I decided I needed Ray’s help. Poor guy. I slept upright in chair with my head resting on my arms resting on 2-3 pillows resting on our kitchen bar counter while Ray slept on the floor by the piano. I’d jump up and lean on the chair for each contraction with Ray squeezing my hips through them. We did this for HOURS. Not the best rest by any stretch.
Around 7 am, we decided to…help labor along in the most natural way we knew how… Ahem. Gotta say, during labor, it’s not nearly as fun as not during labor. For me, this was for birthing purposes only. (And I’m glad for my husband’s sake we did because the following six weeks were a doozy.) Afterward, I labored straddling toilet, attempting to sleep propping my arms on the tank. I chose Sleeping At Last to be my labor soundtrack. It was a great choice.
Around 10 am, contractions were coming hard enough and close enough that I wanted my doula there with me. Danielle arrived around 11 am and did counter-pressure with me for a little over an hour until we all decided it was finally time to go to the hospital.
Riding the car with contractions wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, but still wasn’t fun. I’m glad our hospital is only 15-20 minutes away. We shuffled through the parking lot. I walked around the lobby, squatting for contractions which hadn’t felt good earlier but was a requirement for these intense ones. Before we went upstairs, I decided to use the bathroom. Danielle asked if I wanted her to come with me. I balked. I’ve always been pretty shy when it comes to my body. I never stripped naked in the locker room even when my fellow volleyball players did. My roommate in college never got a really good look at EVERYTHING I’ve got going on. I’ve peed in front of like 2 people and my husband isn’t one of them. I reallyreally wanted to tell her, “No, I can pee by myself.” But then a contraction hit. Ow. So I decided, okay, this is the moment my modesty goes. I’m in labor. She’s gonna see a lot more of my parts than me sitting on the pot. So I let her join me. It was weird trying to pee and it felt like I didn’t really have to go as bad as I thought. By this time, I really felt like I had to poop (TMI?). I kept trying, but nothing was happening. She helped me through the contractions (I was already getting kinda vocal).
When I left the bathroom, I remembered it was Sunday now. Father’s Day! This might be my last chance to call my dad. He didn’t answer so I left a message that basically went, “Hi dad. I just wanted to call and say Happy Father’s Day. And as a gift I’m giving you a grandson. I’m at the hospital and IhavetogobecauseI’mhavingacontractionsBYE!”
We moved slowly toward L&D, but I couldn’t walk through these contractions. I stopped and squatted for each one. I even labored in the courtyard outside L&D, hoping to make as much progress as possible before surrendering myself to the hospital.
At 1 pm, I checked in. This was the worst part. To be admitted, you must be contracting for 1 minute, 4 minutes apart, and 4 cm dilated. I was SURE I hit all of those qualifications but there’s only one I couldn’t check for myself. (What? I don’t know where my cervix is. I’ve looked. It all looks like...you know what? Let’s not get metaphorical about my lady business.) I got into triage and ditched my pants. They belted me. I had to wear the horrendous contraction monitor for 20 minutes so they could confirm active labor… and I wasn’t allowed to move with it on. I agreed to this when they put it on me. But when those first contractions hit, I thought, there’s no way. I need to move. I’m in crazy intense pain. And I’m just supposed to lie there and take it? It gets worse.
The nurse came in. She seemed professional…and unimpressed with me. She had me scoot down and spread ‘em so she could check me. I had never felt pain like that in my life. I don’t know what it is they do exactly when they reach in to “check” you, but it hurts like a swear swear swear. I screamed and tried to back away from her intrusive prying unkind hands. She retracted and with a smack of her latex gloves announced, “You’re closed.”
“What?!” I said, traumatized and no longer even resembling a person holding it together.
“You’re 80% effaced and closed.”
“What do you mean ‘closed?’ How many centimeters is that?”
“Zero?” I couldn’t stop the tears them. How was this possible? I mean, I’d heard plenty of stories about people who come to the hospital too early. But I waited 33 hours. I waited until I was sure it was the real thing. And I wasn’t dilated AT ALL? My prayers started sounding pathetic at this point. I was begging God to help me because I couldn’t imagine doing this for 12 or 16 or 24 more hours.
A doctor came in. He was young and also looked unimpressed by me. I’d been making a lot of noise. So yeah. He said he was going to check me now too. Which terrified me because I already knew I didn’t want him to do it. Why go through all that pain just to hear the same thing? What could have changed in 5 minutes? I scooted and spread for him (Joy.), and he reached for the stars. My scream was a visceral thing. I said, “YOU HAVE TO STOP NOW!” And tried to back away again. He unreached and said stiffly, “Yeah, you’re only 2 cm dilated, 50% effaced.”I was crying a lot now. I felt every kind of violated. I know they were just doing their jobs (and I learned later it hurt so badly because I was still posterior), but I held it against them personally for also making me feel like crap. I hated both of them unequivocally and that hasn’t change. I still don’t know why I went from 80% to 50%. But going 0 to 2 wasn’t really an improvement because they still wouldn’t admit me. It was all terrible.
So I put my pants back on and began the long shuffle back to the car with a spirit I can only describe as utterly hopeless. The contractions had gotten worse from the inactivity. The pain was excruciating. The squats were harder to get down into and especially to get back up out of. We made it to the lobby and I had to pee again. Danielle came with me again and as I peed I noticed it seemed...different. When I thought I had stopped peeing there was still something leaking. We waited and the trickle continued. I was almost certain I wasn’t peeing (but things get crazy during labor. Maybe I was losing sensation down there!). But maybe that bro had broken my water with his nether reach. She left me alone in the bathroom to find me a pad because obviously I didn’t bring any because obviously I’m a moron. I feel bad for the mother and daughter who came in while I was alone and moaning and groaning. The mom explained I was having a baby. But I’m sure the little girl is scarred for life.
Danielle returned with a pad and helped me begin my journey back upstairs. Along the way though, my legs started shaking. I felt exhausted and I wasn’t even admitted yet. How could I keep doing this? I could no longer labor in squats. I got on my hands and knees every time and walking became all but impossible. I finally made it to L&D again, this time just to check if my water broke. We asked not to have my cervix checked. I wouldn’t do it. I just wanted to know if my water has broken. If so, they’d admit me regardless of my dilation. If not, I’d request some Ambien to help me get some rest and go home.
The doctor (who I’m convinced hated me) begrudgingly agreed. The nurse (who I’m ALSO convinced hated me) got out the speculum. She said, “Okay, I know this is uncomfortable. But I need you to lie as still as possible. No flailing and moving around.” As in, not like last time. I agreed and gripped Ray’s hand and forced myself to relax even though contractions were coming and I was laying down with a monitor belt around my waist and them putting things in my hooha when something else wanted to come out felt like death. But it didn’t hurt as bad as being checked. They swabbed me and quickly confirmed my water was leaking and I can be admitted. Yay. Because regardless of how many centimeters I was, I was SURE I was in labor. I thought, My baby is coming soon. He better be, or he’ll be born in serious trouble.
I changed into a gown. And a new nurse, who would be my nurse, came to give me my IV. This was something we fought for a while. I abhor needles and have terrible veins and always wind up getting stuck over and over. Or they search for a vein for so long that the anticipation makes me want to hyperventilate and vomit. But ultimately we agreed, because 1) it’s their policy and we really couldn’t NOT agree, 2) they agreed to just give me a saline lock without fluids, and 3) I wound up positive with GBS and had to have antibiotics anyway. Joy.
Shannon was my nurse’s name. She was blonde, pretty, happy, nice. But she stuck me twice in my left arm and didn’t get a vein. She told me she only tries twice then she gets someone else. And she rarely misses a second time. But I was the lucky winner that day. (#hatinglife) A different nurse came in to stick me and got it the first time. But I’d have a bruise on my left arm for two or three weeks from where Shannon tried.
The doctor came back and said they had to wait until I’m further dilated before they could give me an epidural. I told him with as much confidence as I could muster through my drying tears that I planned to do this naturally. To his credit, he didn’t laugh, roll his eyes, or do anything that confirmed he thought I couldn’t hack it. I was already doubting myself, but he just said, okay then. I asked if my doctor had been informed that I was there. He said she’s off duty/doesn’t work on the weekends so she wouldn’t be delivering me. I almost had a conniption.
“She told me you would call her when I was admitted, and she would come in. She assured me she would deliver me.” He said he’d see what he can do. I have no idea why this conversation even happened. I want to call the doctor a moron. Of course she has regular office hours, but she is my maternity doctor. She’s not an OB, but she is responsible for my obstetric care. So...get her the frick on the phone.
Now my plan was always to walk myself to my room because letting them sit you in a wheelchair projects an image of needing to be saved, so the medical staff tries to intervene/interfere more. Walking projects strength and capability. I made it one step out the door and a contraction hit. I dropped to the floor like I’d been shot, got on my hands and knees and yelled through the pain. I didn’t feel strong. My legs felt like they couldn’t hold me anymore—even on hands and knees. The nurse said, “You can’t do this here. We’ve got to get you to your room.” And she and Ray tried to get me up. But I couldn’t move. I wanted to be able to walk myself there so bad, but when they rolled up a wheelchair and plopped me in it and whisked me down the hall, I didn’t protest and I was secretly very, very grateful.These contractions felt like Satan and all his demons trying to break out of hell via my body. Which is to say—OW. They wheeled me straight to the bathroom and suddenly my doula had returned to me. I have no idea how that happened. Maybe Ray went to get her as I was flying down the hallway. Either way, I was glad to see her. I still felt like I had to poop (TMI?), but clearly I was not in transition or even near ready to push. In retrospect I believe this sensation was because Wash’s head was already SOOOOO LOW in my pelvis that he was putting pressure on my rear. (Result of hours and hours of counter-pressure?) I was not able to poop for all my trying. In the bathroom I had my first of many hysterical breakdowns. I labored on the toilet for a while, then tried to walk back to the bed. I didn’t make it out the door. The next contraction had me back on the floor. I remember looking up at Ray on one side and Danielle on the other yelling, “I don’t think this is right. I can’t do this anymore. I’m too tired. My legs are dead. I can’t even stand.” I looked at Ray, crying, panicking, and said, “Please, please let me get an epidural. I know it’s not what we wanted. But I’m too tired to keep doing this. I feel like I am breaking in half.” He said I was doing fine. Everything was okay. I could do this. At the time, I felt like he didn’t understand. This couldn’t be normal! He didn’t believe how my strength was really GONE. He thought I could get up and walk to the bed and push out a baby, but I was sure the only thing I could do was lay on the floor and die. #melodrama
I was so scared. I begged him to pray over me. I wanted to feel calm. I wanted to feel reassured that God was with me. That I wasn’t alone, because for all my support from Ray and Danielle, I felt the weight and the burden and the pain in my body on my own. I can’t imagine going through that WITHOUT support people. But they are emotional and moral support. They are there to get me out of my head and believe in myself and my body. But my God is the God of my body. He made me this way. He made women for birth and motherhood without the interventions of medicine and medical professionals. And I wanted to talk to him and remind him that I was down here doing what he made me to do and could he please for the love of Himself help me?! Ray didn’t want to encourage my panicking. He reaffirmed that I could do this. This is normal. I was doing great. And he helped me get back out to the bed.
When my next contraction came, I hit the floor again. My legs were shaking, giving way to muscle failure. Suddenly I felt hot all over. All I had on was the robe, but it instantly became much too much.
I yelled, “Get this thing off me!” And yanked at it. Ray and Danielle helped too, Danielle going so far as to pry one of the more difficult snaps with her teeth. They got me up onto the bed where I continued to labor on my hand and knees while spewing aggressive barbs at Shannon The Nurse because she forced me to wear the baby HR monitor, the band of which wrapped directly over my lower abdomen where my contractions were attempting to rip me in half.
At one point I tried to use the squat bar, but I hated that so I went back to hands and knees. Apparently I was very calm between contractions. Quiet, zen. I honestly don’t remember this much. The doctor kept wanting to check my cervix to see if I had progressed, but I said no. I didn’t need more pain. Give me time to dilate without sticking your germy hands all inside me please and thank you.
With each contraction I thought I would pass out. The pain would be too much and I’d just go unconscious. Thinking of the ocean, reciting poetry or Psalms, all of that was gone. I would cry and say over and over, “I can't do this any more. I don’t think I can do this anymore. Please please please.” I was a basket case. I’m so embarrassed by this.
At some point a couple hours later my doctor, Dr. Carnes, came—hallelujah. I was so relieved to see her. It’s not that I particularly love her. I just know her. She is a family medicine doctor, young, introverted, and sometimes...she seemed like she didn’t have a freaking clue about hospital policies or practices involving birth. But she’s assured me several times that she has delivered lots of babies. I kept her because she agreed to work with me toward a natural birth and was open to laboring AND delivering in any position, which sadly I didn’t get to prove.
I finally let Carnes check my progress even though I was terrified to hear another depressingly low number. She announced I was 7 cm! I had gained 5 cm in 2 or 2.5 hours. Just one away from transition. And I’d been feeling like I was in transition since I was admitted. I couldn’t imagine it getting worse. But I was ready to move on. I was ready to get that freaking baby out of my freaking body. “Seven centimeters,” I said, in awe. “I’m doing this. I can’t believe it. I’m doing this!”
Danielle says this was her favorite part. She and Shannon apparently looked at each other and got a little teary watching me realize that I could do this and was in fact already doing it. I had this incredible moment where I thought, I’m actually going to be able to give birth naturally. I’m getting close to the end. And then my baby will be here. And I’ll have “done” birth. I’ll have succeeded. That was a heady awesome feeling.
Soon I began shaking uncontrollably. My stomach roiled, and I said, “I think I have to throw up.” Shannon immediately placed a bucket under my face. And hurl I did and did a lot. But this was the LEAST scary moment for me. My contractions didn’t change in a way that I noticed (not yet), but feeling the shakes and throwing up, I knew what was happening to me. This was normal. This happens. It meant I got to push soon.
So I was surprised to hear an hour had passed since I was checked but I was still at 7 cm. I swung from confident in what my body was doing to extreme frustration that my body hadn’t progressed. Maybe my attitude affected my perception of these next contractions, maybe I was exhausted and fed up from consistently severe contractions, or maybe this was real transition and the contractions became severe-er—but I started to lose it. I went deeeeeep into the psycho place. I did exactly what Donna Ryan said you shouldn’t do if you want to keep yourself under control. But it was involuntary. I tried to back away from my body. I pushed with my arms as though I could physically distance myself from my waist. Ray tried to help me. Told me I was panicking. Reminded me that I could do this. But I was freaking out. I wanted this to end. And I was willing to do almost anything to get there. Shannon stepped in and asked me then what my baby’s name was. “Washington.” She told me to say it again. So I did. Over and over and over. Washington. Washington. Washington. It became my new mantra. Just his name on my lips was encouragement to me.
Six pm finally rolled around, and with it the news, that I had at last, at last reached 10 cm. (For those keeping track, I went from 2 cm at 2pm to 10 at 6!) Doc said I didn’t have to push yet if I didn’t feel the urge. But I said, “I want to push.” I didn’t have the urge, per se. *rolls eyes* But I had decided that it was time. Mentally, I thought if I’m at 10, then there’s nothing stopping me from speeding this thing up. She said she’d let me push once to see if that brought the baby lower in station. My very first push, I moved the baby from a 0 station to +2. Everyone was impressed, and Dr. Carnes said I could keep pushing if I wanted since I made so much progress. Sadly, I could never push as well as I did that very first time.
Indeed, a lot of metaphors were thrown at me in an attempt to help me push the right way. I did it right probably one in five times. Not breathing for 10 seconds in a row, I discovered, was not possible. It led me to screaming out the last few seconds which was a waste of my voice and strength and got me in trouble with everyone every time. I wanted to yell though. I wanted to scream myself hoarse with frustration and anger. Why the heck was I doing this? Let them cut the kid out of me for all I care. I just wanted it to be over. (#heckamelodrama) Anyway, going for a 7-second push was better. But my contractions no longer seemed long enough to make progress. And pushing without the momentum of a contraction cost me strength I didn’t have and didn’t progress me at all. It was aggravating to make it all the way to the pushing stage and to feel again like I couldn’t do this anymore.
Laying slightly reclined, I had to get creative with the position of my legs. Stirrups were never offered. No, instead I stuck my giant horse legs up in a proud exultant V on the squat bar. I imagine when I’m on my death bed, if I decide to pinpoint the least dignified moment of my existence, this will be it. Naked as the day is long. Screaming my head off, spewing mild to moderate profanities. Legs, like steeples, pointed toward heaven. And all of my private bits very publicly exposed to God and everybody.
They offered me a mirror several times. I thought the only thing worse than exposing everyone to all my private parts is to see for myself exactly what they are seeing. But soon, the next worst thing was about to happen. Leg cramps.
The act of pushing requires you to pull your knees up to your chest and curl forward like a sit up and squeeze your whole body, including your legs. I can’t explain how impossible that seemed at the time. The only issue I really had with pushing was how exhausted my legs were. Each time I felt defeated by them. And when the leg cramps—which I had been staving off for hours—finally set in, I thought I would go mad. My toes curled and my calves twisted wretchedly, leaving me panicked (again) because how could I focus on having a baby when my legs were trying to break themselves?!
Apparently this was quite an ordeal. Danielle insists a good chunk of time was devoted to me trying to work out the cramps in my legs. I would sit up pathetically, impeded by my still sadly gigantic and baby-full belly, and reach for my legs, which were too far away, and squeeze them in imitation of how I wanted to massage my calves. I put Ray on one leg and Danielle on the other, but I couldn’t show them where the cramp was. And they didn’t know how to rub them. All the doctors and nurses didn’t offer to help, and I felt like they thought I was crazy. The consensus was that my priorities were out of order. I was having a baby and needed to ignore my spasming legs to push him out. Ha! Easier said than done. That is like saying I’m going to squirt salt water and lemon juice in your eyes while you shoot a bow and arrow. And the consequences of not hitting the center target is major abdominal surgery.
At 7 o’clock, the nurses change shifts. Shannon told me she’d stay. She’d stuck with me this long and she needed to see this baby. I was grateful. Her replacement was already there, a black lady named Pam with good best-friend-in-a-sitcom qualities, if you know what I mean. She is not the only extra body in the room. Roll call: me, Ray, Danielle, Shannon, Pam, Dr. Carnes, her attending, douchey doctor from earlier, and a male pediatric nurse waiting for Wash. Every time I pushed they would ALL yell to keep going, push harder, almost there almost there ALMOST THERE. But I couldn’t sustain it. I would let go, and they would fizzle like popped balloons. Each time, Dr. Carnes would press inside, I’m assuming this was a perineal massage and she was trying to protect all my bits from tearing. But it hurt like a mother and started to piss me off. So I may have exasperatedly said, “What the heck are you doing down there? I don’t like it.” And she stopped. Shannon found a warm compress and THAT felt heavenly.
Then things got kinda crazy. The monitor around my waist couldn’t track baby’s HR anymore because he was too far down, and since I’d been pushing for so long and his heart rate naturally dipped with each contraction, they thought it was important to keep monitoring him. They wanted to attach one to his head. This was one of the things we didn’t really want to do. Ray and Shannon conferred over me about whether this was something that could be avoided and decided it wasn’t. He agreed to it, and I trusted him to make that decision because I was starting to become delirious.
Suddenly Pam was there helping me push. She gave me the best direction for pushing. And with her on my left by my face and Ray next to her and Danielle on my right, the chorus of encouragement was overwhelming.
After a long while of useless pushing, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. I accepted the mirror and watched myself push. When I saw that my baby’s head went out out out OUT when I was pushing and then aaaaaaaall the way back in when I let go, my head literally tilted to the side. Huh. That’s ridiculous. I thought all this time he was inching his way forward. But it’s more like a suction than a train. On the next push, his head stayed halfway out. Danielle was excited, “He’s not going back in!”
I grunted. “I’m holding him.” She also loves to tell that line. She makes me sound like a feisty pirate saying, “Aye, matey!” Which I guess is pretty cool. In any event, I had decided he was not going back inside. He was only going out. Whether this was a good decision or not, I don’t know. At the time, it was the only thing that made sense. With the mirror, I became much more motivated. I remembered I was the only one who could get that baby out. I had to focus, try not to think about my legs and push. The next several minutes are a blur to me. Literally. I took off my glasses (I wish I’d been wearing my contacts. Maybe I would’ve really seen Wash born. :/). I was in a state of absolute delirium. I pushed. I cried. I was all over the place. Mostly I had no clue what was going on. I was just going through the motions. I remember the ring of fire as my baby boy crowned and I watched that happen. I was freaked out by how much blood I could see and didn’t know if that was because I was tearing or if it was normal.
Then finally his head was out! But suddenly his heart rate dropped. In my memory, the room became a hurricane of motion. They told me I HAD to push. He had to be born RIGHT NOW. I dug deep. I thought if I didn’t get myself together something horrible would happen. Without my glasses and in the craze, I was sure I saw my doctor reach her entire hands inside me and pull my baby out. But she didn’t. I was sure she had to cut me wide open to get him out. But she didn’t. I pushed one final incredible time and he was out. Because the professionals in the room were freaked out by his dropped heart rate, they forced Ray to cut the cord immediately and ran Wash over to the side to check him out. But within seconds, he started crying. And Ray said, “He’s okay. Hear him? He’s fine.” And I could hear him, and I was so so happy. I kept saying, “It’s over. It’s finally over.” Since Wash didn’t immediately start breastfeeding, I let them give me Pitocin to stop the bleeding. Shannon congratulated me and told me he was beautiful and she was glad she stayed. A few moments later, they placed Wash in my arms, and I was immediately overwhelmed by him. His beautiful face. His tiny hands. His adorable curls. His wrinkly skin. My button nose. He began breastfeeding right then. His skin on my skin. He was all mine. And I was all his. In that moment, I was fundamentally altered. I thought I was a whole person. And in a way, I was. But with my son in my arms, I discovered this whole other side of myself that has been dormant and waiting to be revealed. And that missing piece is fierce and passionate and tender and impenetrable. It’s the mommy piece. I’m not sure I ever knew who I was before. I’ve spent years trying to figure it out. But I know I was made for this. For pregnancy. For birth. For motherhood.
I’m a mom. And I love it.
Washington Ray Moore was born on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 16, 2013 at 7:39 pm. He was 7 lb 10 oz, 20 inches long. I labored a total of 40 hours (34 hours early labor 4.5 hours active labor, 1.5 hours pushing). And I did it all naturally. I’m so proud…of both of us.
You can read Ray's thoughts on our birth story in my friend Cori's article "Birth Matters to Dads."
A Rainbow Baby Home Water Birth
with a cord wrapped around his neck, arm, and chest!
Rosie and I had our second sons the same month, at least, we were due the same month, mine came early. We have remained friends in the years since and watched each other grow our families. I'm honored she was willing to share the birth of her third son and rainbow baby (a baby born after a loss of a baby) here.
The Birth of Bronn Everett
Friday, January 10th, one day before my due date, I woke up at 3:30am to use the restroom and had several prodromal labor contractions 4-5 minutes apart. I became antsy hoping this would turn into "real" labor and so I started my last load of laundry and ate breakfast. I decided that if I'd had a few more that I would alert my mom and midwife Shannon since my last 2 labors were very quick--I didn't want them missing it. I sat on the couch to play a little Candy Crush and the contractions quickly petered out back to just crampy braxton hicks and 10+ minutes apart. At 4:30am I declared it prodromal labor and went back to bed to try to get some sleep before my boys woke up.
At about 4:45am, my 2 1/2 year old son Axton came to bed with us. I got him settled in our side-carried crib and patted his back. I was quite uncomfortable with the back cramping I was experiencing (and had been for the last 4 days) and was having a hard time falling back asleep. At 5:15am, just as I was drifting off to sleep I felt something that I couldn't decide if it was a huge punch from baby or my water breaking. I decided to get up and check, and sure enough, it was my water. I put on a pad and got breakfast and the TV going for Axton, since he woke up when I got out of bed. I called Shannon, who asked if I'd like her to go ahead and come on over. I felt really silly asking her to come since I hadn't had any contractions since my water breaking, so we decided she'd get up and ready and I would text her when I started having contractions. I called my mother and sister Candice to go ahead and come over, woke up my husband, and put my in-laws on alert.
At 5:30am I texted Shannon that I'd had a couple contractions. I was having a hard time timing them, as I'd have one, then forget to hit stop as I tried to take my last pregnant belly picture, brush my teeth, fix my hair, and put on makeup (hey, so I'm vain...).
My guess is about 3 minutes apart. I had a bit of bloody show at 5:40, but not much. I updated my Facebook due date group and my personal page that I'd be having a baby that day and turned on my water in the bathtub. My mom showed up about 5:55am and Shannon showed up about 6:10am. She checked my blood pressure, temperature, and checked baby's heartbeat as I sat on my birth ball. At this point the contractions were becoming very tough and intense and required my full attention. I leaned over the bed and closed my eyes and tried to relax through them, but was already having a hard time doing so; the pressure was so intense in my lower back, and I was also experiencing very painful cramps in my lower back and lower abdomen in conjunction with the tightness and pressure of the contractions. They began coming every 2 minutes and lasting over a minute. After a few more contractions, I was already feeling overwhelmed with the intensity and pain and began crying. I promptly decided it was time to get in the tub, even though it wasn't even half full.
I donned my "traditional birthing tank," as my sister calls it, and climbed in the tub. The water felt great, but unfortunately didn't provide as much relief as I remember it having with my other two water births. My husband Corey climbed in after me and I assumed my position draped over his knee. Upon seeing the two of us in the tub, Logan (5 1/2) and Axton decided they wanted a bath too. My mom helped them put on their swim trunks and they came in with us for about 10 minutes or so.
They played a bit and hugged me a bit, then I needed them out. The contractions weren't quite letting up between each peak; they would peak and die back down, but the cramping in my back didn't let up and then I'd have another wave of contraction. Sometime around 7, the time really escaped me this labor, my sister Candice, student midwife Amber, and my father-in-law arrived. My father-in-law helped watch the boys and warm more water on the stove for the tub, as I later learned we were having problems with the water pressure and so the warm water ran out before the tub was full, and my mother and sister took pictures and videos for me.
Shortly thereafter I began feeling my body squeezing with each peak of the contractions and called Shannon into the bathroom. The contractions felt too much to handle at this point and I began repeating "you can do this. Come on, baby. Come on down" in my head. I also remember telling my husband "this is stupid. I can't do this anymore" :) Shannon gave me encouragement telling me how strong I was. In between these "pushy" contractions, my body gave me a little rest as I felt like there was more time in between these contractions than what I was feeling before. I knew my body would begin pushing soon and tried to prepare myself mentally for what I knew would be hard. At about 7:30, my body began to bear down, and my first thought was "no, I'm not ready," but there was no stopping it. I was involuntarily shaking and crying, the intensity was just too much to bear. I had to make myself try to keep my sounds low as I cried out (embarrassingly loudly) "owwww" and "whoooo". After two pushing contractions I announced that I felt his head. Two more contractions, crying, and grunting and his head was out. He had a tight nuchal (around his neck) cord, and my body hadn't given me another contraction yet. Shannon asked if I was ready to have my baby and helped me deliver the body. I could feel his body wasn't in the best position coming out, so birthing his body was not as easy or painless as it had been with my other two boys whose bodies slid out with a push. She passed him to me and I pulled him out of the water. He did not instantly pink up out of the water since his cord was not only wrapped around his neck but around his arm and around his chest. Shannon and I did a quick fumble/scramble to get him untangled and I brought him to my chest.
I did it. It was soo hard, but I did it. My baby was here. He wasn't crying, but I knew all was well when he turned his head and looked directly at me with wide open eyes. When he rooted and tried to nurse through my shirt, all worries melted away--he was going to be fine. I rubbed his back, cooed over his tiny head full of dark hair, and watched him pink up as his brothers came in to meet him. We marveled at how tiny he was, which Shannon and Amber laughed about, but he is my smallest baby, so to me he IS so tiny.
After we cut the cord and I delivered the placenta, he nursed like a champ and Shannon did his assessment.
I forgot to mention that since he had turned head down around 28 weeks, he had been direct occiput posterior, OP, with a hand on his face that would slip down into my pelvic inlet at times (his back at my back and a hand that might possibly come out at the same time as his head...basically the most unfavorable position for labor and birth). Most OP babies give their mamas lots of prodromal labor, a hard and long back labor, and a long pushing time (not to mention if that hand came out with his head). January 6th and the 9th, I saw my chiropractor for the Webster adjustment to hopefully get my pelvis in line for him to turn anterior (his face at my back, or the most favorable position for labor and birth), and while it did help alleviate the pain I was feeling in my pubic bone, he still remained posterior. He remained OP throughout labor, giving me intense back labor, but did emerge anterior. I can't say exactly when he turned, but I'm sure it had something to do with him being nice and tangled.
My beautiful rainbow baby Bronn Everett was 7lb 13oz, 19 1/2", born at 7:39am on January 10, 2014, after a very hard 2 hours and 20 minutes of labor. And he was worth every second of it.
“To be a rainbow baby does not negate the ravages of the storm. When a rainbow appears in the sky, it does not mean that the storm never happened, or that the family is not still dealing with its sadness aftermath. What it means is that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds…..and that light is you. Storm clouds may still hover but a “rainbow baby” provides a counterbalance of color, energy, and hope.”
My student and friend gave birth to her second baby this week. Her first was a "the works" birth with an IV, pitocin, epidural, infection, episiotomy and vacuum extraction followed by a stay at the NICU for baby. Both births were at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.
6:09pm, 2 1/2 hours after baby's arrival
S: All natural!
Me: I'm so proud of you! I cannot wait to hear ALL ABOUT IT!!!
IS THERE SOMETHING BIGGER THAN CAPS????
S: 5 lbs 14 oz.. 19.5 Inches. No tearing or episiotomy..
Baby went right to chest and J cut cord.
Me: Well done! What position did you push in?
S: I pushed sitting but only because that's what I wanted.. It was only like 5 pushes and she was out.
Me: Sitting is still a great position.
S: I had the bed at 90 degrees, they wanted me to lay it back.
They did offer to break my water at one point.. I was like NO!!!!!
But shit that transitional phase was something else.. Ugghhh...
Me: Yeah... we don't lie, transition is when everyone is ready to tap out.
S: LOL ya I was like I can't do it I can't do it!
They were like umm well u are.
Me: And was J excited?
When I say that Eric gets stoked because he knows we're almost done.
S: He was super excited! Dr. wasn't here yet and the nurses were like don't push!
I was like too damn bad I can't help it! Water broke as I was pushing and Dr. came in right after.
Me: How long were you at the hospital before she came?
S: We checked into hospital at 10:30 she was born at 3:23.
It literally has been a night and day experience from C's birth.
Me: So... you aren't mad I sold you on a natural birth?
S: Haha not gonna lie.. I had moments. But ultimately it was much better.
The recoop has been 100% times easier already.
S: Seriously though Cori.. I am so glad I did it naturally the way it was suppose to be. Best thing I've ever done. So huge thanks to you for getting me the tools I needed to get there!
Me: I'm so glad!
And portions of this convo is becoming a post right now...
Congrats S+J! It was an honor teaching you and I'm beyond thrilled that you achieved the birth you wanted. And welcome to this amazing, crazy world baby B, we are all so glad you are here!
Anna and Shaun's first baby was born via cesarean in Selma. Ca, but they had little Emma Faith here in Salinas. Lots of pictures, you know I love pictures! Anna is now the leader of Monterey County's local ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) chapter which meets the first Thursday of every month. Anna was also my photographer at my third birth.
My first child, Brennan, was born via cesarean section after a very long labor and 2.5 hours of pushing. It was a pretty upsetting experience for my husband, Shaun, a chiropractor, and I after we had spent our entire pregnancy preparing for a natural birth. Soon after my daughter was born in February 2008 I began vigorously researching vaginal birth after cesarean and discovered many things that could help me to avoid a cesarean a second time around; one of those things being to have a home birth. It took over a year for us to conceive our second child, but when we did, right away we knew things were going to be different.
Immediately I began interviewing local home birth midwives and after one meeting, Shaun and I knew that we’d found the woman who was going to help us have our home birth; her name was Maggie. Maggie has been a midwife for over 35 years and was a pivotal part of the movement that legalized midwifery in the state of California. She’s a wise woman and recognized as such in the community and all over the world; she’s even a published author. I knew that I was in good hands in choosing her to be my midwife and felt that the Lord had brought us to her area to aid us in the birth of our next child. Maggie also practices the art of apprenticeship and we felt equally as confident in her apprentice, Carol. They seemed a perfect fit for us.
During my pregnancy, everything went off without a hitch. We decided to opt out of all testing and didn’t use Doppler or ultrasound. We first heard our baby’s heartbeat at our 20-week appointment with a fetoscope and the midwives always palpated my belly to find the position of the baby. It was a wonderfully relaxing pregnancy in which my husband, our midwives, and I trusted that my body would do what it was made to do without any interference, and it did.
At 40 weeks 2 days gestation, January 27th, I had my very first contraction at 9:30 p.m. These continued all night and were irregular, but were strong enough to wake me up at times. I knew then that this was really “it,” but it could be a while based on my experience with my first child. These contractions continued, but were still irregular for most of the day.
Just over twenty-four hours later my contractions started to regulate and were consistently about 9 minutes apart. I knew at this point that I’d better try and get some sleep, but I figured it would still be a while before the contractions were close enough to really keep me from sleeping. It was a good thing I went to bed when I did because I was up again a few hours later.
At about 3:00 a.m. on Sunday, January 29th, I was awakened by some pretty strong contractions and was shocked to find out that they were only about 5 minutes apart and were lasting for over a minute. Again, I figured I still had lots of time so I tried to get some more sleep, but I couldn’t so I decided to get up and listen to my Hypnobabies birthing affirmations and prepare myself for the day ahead.
I had bloody show for the first time at about 4:00 a.m. and called Maggie at 5:30 a.m. to let her know that things were happening, but told her that she didn’t need to come just yet because I felt we were a ways off and I was doing okay. She told me to call her back in an hour and let her know how things were progressing. I also called my friend, Andrea, who was going to be coming to photograph/videotape the birth for us.
There was more bloody show at 6:20 a.m. and that’s when I lost my mucous plug as well. I called Maggie again at 6:55 a.m. to let her know that my contractions were about 3-4 minutes apart and lasting for over a minute. I asked her and Carol to come and she said they would be over around 8:00 a.m. unless I needed them sooner.
Around 8:00 a.m. Maggie and Carol arrived, and then shortly after, Andrea arrived as well. With everyone present, I felt I could really relax and focus on allowing my body to do its work and open up to allow my baby down. The apartment was bustling with excitement and preparation for the birth. I was breathing through contractions in bed while everyone was preparing the birth pool, getting out supplies, making coffee, and watching the morning news. I continued to listen to my birthing affirmations and relax my body.
Shortly before 9:00 a.m., I asked Maggie and Carol if they could do a vaginal exam to see how far I’d progressed. (This was the very first vaginal exam I’d had throughout my entire pregnancy.) I was happily surprised to find out that I was 4-5 cm and I couldn’t believe how quickly things were progressing!
I continued to “ohhh” and “ahhh” through contractions (the tonal sounds are supposed to help open the cervix up) and swivel my hips to try and work the baby down. Around 10:30 a.m., I asked for another exam because I felt like things were really getting intense. Again, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I was about 7 cm and my bag of waters was bulging with each contraction.
Around 12:30 p.m., I was dilated to 8 cm and decided to have my water bag broken to try and speed things up. Afterward, I immediately noticed my contractions were stronger and I got into the birthing tub to see if it would make things more comfortable. The pool ended up not feeling as nice as I had expected, partly because I couldn’t find a comfortable way to sit in it, and I didn’t stay in very long. It was only about an hour later when my body started involuntarily pushing a little bit.
The midwives suggested that I try a couple of “test pushes” to see if it brought the baby down anymore. So I leaned over the side of the birth pool and pushed with some contractions while Carol checked to see if the baby’s head was coming down. With the exam, we found out that I was almost complete (10 cm), but had a “lip” to my cervix still so Carol tried to hold it back while I pushed. It took an hour-and-a-half for the lip to disappear. This, after I tried all sorts of pushing positions: standing, squatting with support from Shaun, sitting on the toilet, on my hands and knees, side-lying, lying on my back, and squatting while hanging from the knobs on my bedroom door.
During this time, I’d been having trouble urinating so Maggie suggested I get in the shower to see if it relaxed me enough to be able to go. It didn’t work and I had some of the worst contractions yet while I was in the shower with no one to help hold me up for support. While I was in there, I started to think the baby wasn’t coming out and that I was at peace with going to the hospital if that was the case. One of the only things that kept me from absolutely deciding to go was having to ride in the car, which I knew would be agony. Maggie said that if I was going to the hospital we were at least going to get the baby down far enough so that a vacuum could be used and I could avoid a repeat cesarean. So around 4:30 p.m., I got back on my bed and kept trying to bring the baby down.
As I kept pushing, we soon noticed that my urethra was extremely swollen and bulging out right above the baby’s head. This is something Maggie said she had never seen in her 35+ years of practice as a midwife, and so she began icing my urethra in between contractions. At this point, I reached down and felt my baby’s head. There was a caput succedaneum, meaning that there was swelling on top of the head that is caused by a prolonged or difficult delivery. (After the fact, Maggie told me that the baby’s head was asynclitic, meaning the head was tilted to the side, and that it straightened out during one of the times that I was pushing and the head was inching out and then going back in a little bit. That would explain the prolonged pushing and the caput.)The exhaustion was starting to set in as I neared 4 hours of pushing and I really began doubting myself as I started to swell just like I did with my first birth, and I feared that the same thing was happening as did before. It was then that I reached down and felt my baby’s head and Shaun held a mirror for me to see exactly how close I was to delivering my baby. And after some words of encouragement and working through some mental blocks, I never had the idea of going to the hospital or being too exhausted enter my mind again - and I pressed on. Much to my surprise, the most effective position for me to push was on my back with my legs pulled back (the lithotomy position commonly used in the hospital), which is generally the second worst position to have a baby aside from hanging from your feet.
After some amazing encouragement and coaching from my birth support team, I finally began to make real progress. I was crying out to the Lord to give me strength and Andrea was praying for me out loud. Maggie and Carol were telling me not that I could do it, but that I WAS doing it. Shaun was my rock and was ever so loving and encouraging through the whole process, and his excitement was contagious. Around 5:35 p.m., the baby’s head started to crown. To my surprise, I never got the “ring of fire,” but the only burning sensation and immense pain I felt was in my swollen urethra. It took what seemed like forever to have another contraction so I could push the head out, but in reality it was probably 2-3 minutes. I began praying for another contraction to come so I could relieve the pressure and get the baby out.
At 5:49 p.m., the baby’s head was out. The cord was loosely around her neck once, and it was easily unwrapped. I wasn’t having very strong contractions anymore, most likely because my uterus was so exhausted and so was I, and so I just kept on pushing until the rest of the baby came out. Her first shoulder came out easily, but the second needed a little help from Maggie. At 5:50 p.m., our baby was born and put right onto my abdomen. She looked right at me and let out a little cry, and she was perfect. I asked Shaun to check the gender and when he said “it’s a girl” I was shocked because I thought it was a boy, but I was thrilled for our daughter, Brennan, who had really wanted a little sister. Brennan ran in right after hearing the baby’s cry and she was instantly in love with the baby, not even noticing the blood and fluid. I’m so thankful that this whole experience is what she will view as “normal” birth.
A few minutes after the baby’s birth, Carol said we should cut the cord because she thought I was bleeding a bit too much and I needed to hand off the baby to Shaun so we could get the placenta delivered. I ended up not bleeding much at all, but it did take 28 minutes to get the placenta delivered. I sat on the toilet for a while waiting for contractions to start up again and eventually got 2 shots of Pitocin and then lay on the floor in my room where I delivered the placenta, which the midwives said was one of the largest they’d seen. The placenta was completely intact and had no irregularities.
Upon examination by Maggie and Carol, I was found to have no tearing, which they thought was due to the length at which the baby’s head was crowning because it allowed for gradual stretching of the perineum. Within a few minutes, I was cleaned up and sitting in bed with my baby girl, whom we named Emma Faith, in my arms. She immediately turned for the breast and latched on right away with her big sister lovingly stroking her head and holding her hand. While I spent time bonding with my girls, the apartment was getting cleaned up. An hour after the birth, you would have never known that anything happened there.
Before leaving, the midwives examined Emma and made sure that she was nursing well. We talked for a bit about the day and I thanked them for all they had done and for believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. We all toasted with champagne to the beautiful new life that was in our midst, and then we were left to enjoy our new family of 4.
During the whole process, not once did I feel in danger or afraid that something bad was going to happen. I knew the whole time that I was in completely capable hands and I trusted Maggie and Carol knew what they were doing, and I trusted that my body and baby knew what they were doing. If I had been at the hospital to have this baby, I would have most definitely been forced into a repeat cesarean for a number of reasons. I’m so grateful for the choice that Shaun and I made to have our baby at home and to trust this body that the Lord gave me and the process of birth. So many people thought I couldn’t do it, and especially at home, but I had my home birth after cesarean and now I feel like I can take on the world. I pray that someday home birth will be more normal than hospital birth and that women begin to trust the innate intelligence of their bodies and not the educational intelligence of doctors (unless absolutely necessary, of course). It is my hope that all women get a chance to know the incredible joy that I feel when I remember the birth of my daughter, Emma.
If you'd like to share your birth story please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Natural Birth Series
Sept 28 – Nov 15
Infant Sleep for Expecting & New Parents
6:30pm - 9:00pm
Gentle Cesarean: Planning & Recovery
Toro Park, 3-6:30pm
Natural Birth Refresher
Salinas, 1– 4pm
Preconception & Early Pregnancy Class
Salinas, 1– 4pm
Sibling Prep for Parents & Kids
November 4th & 5th
Toro Park, 2:-4pm
Fall Home & Birth Center Birth Series
Nov 7 – Dec 12
Natural Birth Series
Nov 29th – Jan 17th