Community Birth Story: Alistair

Community Birth Story: Alistair

As told by Elizabeth: In the summer of 2014, we were driving down the road listening to music and enjoying the warm breeze while our 15 month old snoozed in the backseat. Andrew turned to me and said “what do you think of the name Alistair? You know for one day when we have our boy?” Given our history of Infertility before our first baby was born and the complications that occurred during her birth; up until that point I hadn’t really allowed myself to dream of more children. I wanted more but I was trying to protect my heart. But hearing him speak that just as fact… *when* we have *OUR* boy! It lit a fire in my heart. And when I heard that name! Alistair, it was as if I’d run into a brick wall. I laughed and gasped and kept repeating it over and over. There’s was just something about it. And for the next 14 months that name would never be far from my mind… from January-may of the following year we were TTC… with no success then I began to have some health issues so we stopped and I focused on getting well. We started trying again in August.

Fast forward to September, just a few weeks later, our life was suddenly upside down. Andrew (our sole provider) very unexpectedly lost his job, we immediately stopped TTC. But 17 days after he lost his job, I woke from a deep sleep early in the morning from a horrible dream; and very clearly heard the Holy Spirit say “go take a pregnancy test” so I got up and took one LOL and it was immediately positive. I was in such shock! My dear grandmother who was much more like a mother to me was very ill (and would pass away not 6wks after we found out about the pregnancy) we were surrounded by stress and uncertainty. I was afraid of the pregnancy and birth being the same as Mira’s had been; I didn’t want that! This time I wanted to keep my power. I wanted to labor and birth on MY terms. I wanted to make choices based on my instincts and not someone scaring me. This time I had something to prove… Not to anyone else, but to myself.
The holidays of 2015 were surrounded with having a preventative cerclage placed and recovering from that and then being on bed rest for the next few months til we were out of the danger zone, which for incompetent cervix last until 28 weeks. I basically held my breath during that time; I tried to enjoy my pregnancy but it was hard for being so worried. After we passed the 28th week the excitement kicked in. We spent a lot of time at the encouraging of our doulas considering what our ideal birth would look like… This really helped us, not because our birth went exactly how we envisioned but because it was important to think and consider all the possible details we may encounter along the way.
Around 37 weeks I began having regular bouts of consistent contractions. I was hopeful every time. As my due date came and went, I was anxious and so excited. My daughter had been born at 40+5 days. So that was like a beacon of sorts in my mind. I’d tell myself “he’s going to wait til then” not because I necessarily thought he’d gestate exactly as long as she did… But it help me cope with waiting to remember how long she cooked. On my due date I got a massage and it caused some contractions. I got excited! They stopped. This continued every day for the next 2wks. Each time they would be very close together and increasing in intensity before just abruptly stopping. I got frustrated. My doula reminded me that this was my body preparing. So we waited… And waited… And waited… At 40+6 days (the day I was officially the most pregnant I’d ever been lol) I started acupuncture to bring on labor. This is what I did with my daughter and she was born two days later! I continued getting acupuncture everyday for a week. It never once caused me to contract lol. The anxiousness was building.
The following Saturday evening I was 41+3 I had 6ish hours of intense contractions! They were double and triple peaking and I had to be on my feet… I was squatting a lot. I thought for sure this was it. We finished packing. Alerted my friend that would come and stay with my daughter. And then as quickly as they started… They.just.stopped. I spent the next 24hrs or so in a really dark place… I was just consumed with the “forever pregnant” feeling. I spent hours that day sitting in my rocker in my room and staring out the window at the trees blowing in the wind and wishing I could just fly away… Just fly away and come back when this was all over… It was such a head trip. And I wanted off the crazy train. I wanted to escape my body. I just sat there crying and singing “It is well” softly… Intense! By that evening I was overcome with the feeling that it was time to meet this baby. I was never worried for his safety, just had a strong feeling his birthday was soon!
(Last bump pic 41+4)
The next morning my phone rang pretty early; it was my doctor calling to talk. He was never pushy and repeatedly said it was my decision, but at the very least as I was approaching 42wks he wanted to check the baby and make sure he was hanging ok. So we decided to head to the hospital later that afternoon. I loved how when I asked him what time I should come he just responded with “whenever. We’ll be here just come on up to L&D and we will hook you up for a bit” so respectful of this being my body and my baby. On the way to the hospital we went and saw my favorite chiropractor for one last adjustment and acupuncture treatment. We were laughing so hard as I sat there and she pushed on all the pressure points and I didn’t have ONE contraction. Not one! LOL! We stopped and got some lunch at five guys and arrived at the hospital a few hours later and they checked the baby out and he was perfectly happy and doing very well. I asked them to check me because up to this point I hadn’t had any vaginal exams, so I had no idea if I was even dilated at all! Turns out I was 2cm and about 50%! Progress! At that point knowing how much I wanted to avoid meds… The dr offered to place a Foley catheter, to manually open the cervix to 4-5cm and hopefully kick me into labor. He gave us some time to think it over and we decided to go for it. Once we told them we wanted to do the foley, they told us it would be a while since they had an emergency to deal with. So I texted my friend and arranged for her to meet Andrew at the house. Then he left to head home with Mira… My first baby. I hugged and hugged her and squeezed her within an inch of her life. She was giggling and squirming to get away but I couldn’t help but feel suffocated by the feeling that this was the very last time I would hold my only child in my arms… It was heavy and surreal. And when they left, I sat there alone and sobbed and sobbed.
(Last pic with my only child)
After an hour or two the dr came in and placed the Foley around 9pm, and was told it could take up to 12hrs to get me to 5cm. It wasn’t the most comfortable experience, but I brushed it off… I mean, I’m going to be in labor soon! Nothing about this will be comfortable haha they monitored me for a bit and by that time Andrew was back from meeting my friend and getting Mira home and to bed. Before long the nurses came to move me to a new room. Because the current one was 87 degrees! Crazy hot! Not what a pregnant lady never mind one that’s in labor wants! The nurse pulled the catheter taught and taped it to my leg. Holy Cramps Batman!! Woah! They were heavy right away. I felt so excited, I couldn’t stop smiling. I waddled across the maternity ward to a much cooler room, 68 baby! They brought me a fan too. Before long everyone that came in the room was shivering haha
I settled in and was encouraged to rest, but I was way to excited. After being on the monitor for a bit I decided since I couldn’t sleep, I would get up and walk. (Notice how I said “I” decided? Because I did. Every single thing that happened was my choice!) only the walking would have to wait a bit… I sat on the toilet to pee, and felt the weirdest sensation! And plop! Out came the catheter! Not 3 hrs after they put it in! My first reaction was a bit of panic… Thinking “I can’t be 5cm yet! Omg are they going to have to put it back in!? Ugh I don’t want to do that again…” Andrew got the nurse and before long the dr was checking me and sure enough! 5cm! Yay! It was the strangest feeling to be that dilated and yet… Not in active labor. Lol at this point the dr offered me the option to go home if I wanted… and come back when labor began. Looking back, I should have gone home and gotten some sleep LOL but I was waaaay to excited! So I decided to stay. So Andrew and I walked the loop of the maternity ward, holding hands for an hour. The activity helped! Every few minutes I was getting mild contractions. After the hour passed I went back to my room and the contractions stopped. I decided to try and get some sleep. Between 1-6am I probably slept for maybe an hour, possibly two. My body was revved up! I didn’t know exactly when but I could feel the crescendo rising! I would meet my baby soon.
Andrew and I woke up as the sun was rising and showered, that shower was SO nice. Like nicer then any shower I’ve ever had! Haha I stood there and looked down as the hot water and soap hit my belly and I knew the next shower I took my bump would be empty. And my baby would be in our arms. I stood there for the longest time just marveling at the miracle of life. How amazingly God designed our bodies to grow, carry and birth new LIFE! A person! A human being all their own; comes from within my body! It’s almost to much to fathom even when right in the middle of the experience. After we showered Andrew left to go and get me some chick-fil-a hash browns and nuggets I’d been craving and he needed to return a call about a job and schedule a phone interview for the following week. He later said it was so odd to do something so ordinary in the midst of such an extraordinary time in our life.
While he was gone I walked a bit… But that wasn’t doing it for me and I decided since I was alone I was going to have a party with my baby! I put a sign on my room door that said “Do Not Disturb” and I put my ear buds in and pulled up the black eyed peas on you tube on my phone. The first song was “I got a feeling” and it just pulsed through my body, every fiber of my being knew that indeed Tonight was gonna be a good night! I danced my heart out for the next 40 minutes totally undisturbed. I can close my eyes and feel all of that again in a heart beat! I was crying and laughing and grinning so hard my face was hurting. I could NOT wait to meet my baby! And sure enough… Regular contractions began. And the more I danced and lost myself in the excitement the stronger they got. By the time Andrew got back with my food I was a sweaty mess (so much for that shower ha!) and I was having steady contractions. And for the first time since the night before my contractions actually showed up on the monitor! Woooo! Progress! I sat there eating and had consistent contractions for 20 minutes! So exciting! After 20 minutes the nurse came in and unhooked me and i wanted to walk. I walked, danced with Andrew and sat on the birth ball for a little over an hour. It was around 11am and things were getting intense… I asked Andrew to call our doula Bergen.
Over the next hour before she arrived things were getting quickly intense. I didn’t have much of a break in between VERY long hard contractions. Maybe a 30 second break at most and sometimes not more than 10-15 seconds before another one came. I was sitting on the birth ball leaning forward and laying on the bed. My glasses had long since been taken off. I couldn’t see anything and didn’t care lol And when I heard Bergen come in the room I was overcome with emotion. Her presence meant this was really real. It was happening. I was having my baby.
Throughout the rest of the day I was laboring and riding the waves. Such INTENSE waves. Squatting, dancing, hanging… Andrew and Bergen taking turns rubbing my back and squeezing my hips… Hot stones, hot rice packs, the tens unit… The back labor was just beyond any pain I’ve ever felt. All encompassing, the kind that takes you to another world. Because if your mind didn’t give you that escape? If you were fully aware of the passing of every moment and fully present you’d never make it. There were times I needed monitoring and laying in bed was excruciating. Lots of eating and drinking and vocalizing. I remember getting so annoyed when I had to pee, because I knew sitting on the toilet would give me insane contractions. Lots of time spent stuck on the toilet in the dark bathroom roaring through contraction after contraction hanging onto Andrews neck and afraid I might just break it off! And praying for a break long enough to stand… At one point we tried getting in the tub at the hospital. It felt amazing for about 20 minutes. And then the contractions were just coming and coming and I felt trapped. I couldn’t move like I needed to. So I got out of there. Movement was key during all of this laboring. Well that and vocalizing. It’s amazing how a certain sound can help pain and another can give power. I later learned that the nurse who was assigned to me during the hardest parts of my labor was sitting at the nurses station (which was right by my room) and charting my contractions based on the sounds I was making. See I wasn’t being monitored to often and even when I was most of the contractions weren’t being picked up. But she commented to me the next day that the fact that I was so vocal was fantastic! Because she was able to chart me still for the Drs even tho the monitor wasn’t picking up much.
(Two moment captured by our Doula, heavily into labor)
At a certain point (what I now believe was early transition) I began to feel so panicked. I was progressing very slowly. (Likely because of the scar tissue on my cervix. That needs to be broken through for dilation to continue to occur) And with contractions double peaking and just seconds to recover, I was exhausted. For about an hour I was quietly arguing with myself about wanting an epidural. I was scared of it leading to a bunch of interventions I didn’t want. I was feeling like choosing that was failing. I was so unfocused on my contractions during this time because I was so conflicted. And all that made me feel even more panicked. At one point I was laboring in the bathroom alone with Andrew and I said “if I get an epidural will you be disappointed in me” he got tears in his eyes and said “of course not! What? Never, ever! You’re amazing!” But then he just said “let’s focus on these contractions and you just let me know” some more time went by…. And The dr came in at one point and asked if I wanted to be checked. I did. It had been hours since the last check when I was told I was 7cm. At least 4-5hrs. I wanted to know. He patiently waited for a few contractions to pass before I was ready. That was BY FAR the VERY worst part of my labor. I couldn’t catch my breath it hurt so bad. I felt horrible and I was screaming. He kept apologizing and did it as fast as he could but it felt like an eternity. And just the worst all encompassing pain. So when he said I was still 7cm. I just cried. Everyone left the room except Andrew and Bergen and I laid there through a couple contractions and finally just said to mysef “screw it! I’m not trying to be a hero. Or prove anything to anyone! I’ve already proven more to myself then I ever have before!!!! I am SO strong! I can’t even believe how awesome I’ve done all day!” And I looked at Andrew and told him to go ask the nurse if it was to late. He came back and said no, I still could have it if I wanted. And I told him yes! I did!
From the time I said I wanted the epidural to the time it started working was like 45 minutes or so. The anesthesiologist was SO sweet! Honestly one of the very sweetest people I’ve ever met. He kept rubbing my shoulders and telling me how strong I was. Andrew and Bergen had to leave when they placed it but that was ok, I had my awesome nurse there. I sat on the edge of the bed and stared at her necklace. It was just a simple heart pendant but made me feel so surrounded by love. I was laboring sitting on the edge of the bed for contraction and after contraction and trying to focus and sit still that before I knew he said he was done. The labor was so painful I didn’t even feel the epidural needle!! Now I’ve had spinal anesthesia before when not in labor and nearly passed out it hurt so bad… How wild it was to have it done and not even feel it! I felt like a total rockstar!
As soon as the epidural meds kicked in my body was finally able to relax. My leg muscles that had been so tense they had been rock hard for hours, we’re finally soft and relaxed again. It felt amazing to be able to breathe. And yet my contractions kept up frequently and strong! And it was ALL my body doing it on its on, my contractions never needed augmented with any medications which I was so grateful for! I was supposed to rest but boy was that hard when I was on a high with relief from the intensity. Eventually I got tired and we all got some rest… Very shortly after I got checked again and I was 10! And my bag of waters was bulging. I declined having it broken. It was clear to me with how quickly I got to 10 after the epidural that my body was so tense, and unable to relax that I wasn’t progressing. Over the next few hours we all rested in between nurses checking on me… I was checked a few more times and every time asked if I wanted my water broken. But I didn’t. Baby was doing great and I wanted to just let him come down at his own pace… The last few times the Dr was getting a little pushy about it. At around 1am or so I began feeling a lot of pressure. I didn’t share this info at first because I wanted him and my body to do all the work. I was so exhausted from the hard laboring that I didn’t want to start pushing to soon. Eventually the pressure was intense enough that I told the nurse that the dr could come and break my water, it was time. Admittedly, I was disappointed they were going to break my water. I really wanted it to break on its own. So when they got everything set up and the doctor (that had been really pushy about breaking it earlier) went to break it? She discovered it had already broken! Yaaaass!!! I just didn’t realize it because there wasn’t a big gush because he was right there…
I started pushing and felt completely overwhelmed and like I didn’t know what I was doing. The other doctor there was so supportive and just kept telling me that I could do this. After a couple minutes. I found that holding onto Andrew and Bergen’s hands while bracing myself with my heals in the stirrups, lifting up a bit and tucking my pelvis upward moved him nicely. At this point the light epidural I had was pretty much worn off. After a few pushes I was doing it on my own. It was so surreal. At some point during the pushing the resident that was assisting on my birth took a call! Like really? Standing there with her hand waiting to catch my baby and she’s talking on the phone!? All I cld think was what bad manners lol I began to feel his head no longer moving back up as I pushed. At one point I started coughing, my throat was sore from the hours of roaring through contractions, and the doctor gasped and said my coughs were really moving the baby! She said “goodness your gonna just cough him right out!” We all laughed. I small moment of tense relief was nice. Within moments I felt My body take over and I felt it pushing harder and longer. I had little control at this point; muscle memory took over. My body had done this before! Then his head was out. 10 minutes total of pushing. And one more little push and I felt that all familiar feeling of him sliding out of my body… what an immediately and amazing relief!! I did it! He was placed right on my chest. Just how I’d wanted it with Mira. It was so healing. I couldn’t believe I was holding my son! He almost immediately put his thumb in his mouth. He was so perfect! All the fears I had about being able to love another child melted away… I loved him so much. I looked over and saw andrew crying and a nurse commented how big he was… (turned out he was over 2lbs bigger then his big sister was! 8.6lbs!) when his cord stopped pulsing Andrew cut it and almost immediately my placenta just leaped out of my body, it was so done, poor thing LOL. The doctor kind of jumped and caught it. Very thankful for her quick reflexes lol! I needed one stitch where an old scar had split, but I didn’t even feel it because I was holding my precious boy. What a vastly different healing experience!
(Just moments after birth)
I was up and showered within 3hrs of his birth and then walked down the hall to my recovery room. The next 36hrs of just Andrew and I with our baby were so special! And exhausting haha and seeing Mira meet her new baby brother was a moment I’ll never forget. Holding both of my babies in my arms was incredible! I am so grateful for our healing birth. And for our sweet wild free spirit! Our Son, Alistair! He came at just the right time, our light amidst the hardships all around us! His birth was the promise that healing was possible; and was a window into strength in never knew I had. His arrival showed That the possibilities for the future were wide open. He’s shaken up our lives in a Big way; They will never be the same and I couldn’t be more grateful ❤
Photo credit: The Darling Family
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Click HERE to read Alistair’s big sister Mira’s story

Click HERE to learn more about the Community Birth Stories Project or to submit your own birth story

Community Birth Story: Mira Klaire

Community Birth Story: Mira Klaire


As told by Elizabeth: Mira Klaire was born April 6, 2013. But her birth story began many years before. My husband and I married July 4, 2006 and knew immediately we wanted to be parents. We didn’t realize we were entering the darkest time of our lives… we then began what would be a 7 year journey of infertility, recurrent pregnancy loss, failed infertility treatments, being told we would never have biological children, and two failed adoptions… along with the tragic unexpected death of my mother. By the summer of 2012, we were battered and completely worn down; totally defeated. Two days after we spent the evening with our social worker to renew our adoption homestudy, we got the surprise of our lives. I was pregnant.

Saying we were shocked would be an understatement. After seeing the baby was healthy we started to get excited. Over the next few months we had bleeding scare after bleeding scare. Then at 19wks I was diagnosed with Incompetent Cervix and rushed for emergency surgery. My cervix was basically non-existent and beginning to dilate. The doctor actually had to put her bag of waters that was bulging back into my uterus without breaking it, before he could stitch my cervix closed. The success rate with our circumstances was less then 10%. We prepared before the surgery for our baby to be born and die. The surgery took 45 minutes (normal is about 10) and the Dr came into recovery afterwards with tears in his eyes and said “I don’t know why that worked! But it did!” We were terrified. I was on strict at home bed rest… lying down with the end of the bed elevated. No stairs or even sitting up. I laid in that bed terrified from 19-35wks. My cervix was a mess the entire time but somehow the stitch worked! It was removed at 36wks and we assumed I’d go right into labor. But I didn’t!
The weeks continued to pass… at 39 weeks I went to a routine OB appt and it was discovered she had flipped breech. The dr absolutely terrified us and told us at that point it was less then 3% she’d flip back head down. We had to schedule a cesarean or she could die. Yes. That’s exactly what they said. So obviously, we scheduled it, for 3 days later. I spent 3 days crying… everything about it felt completely wrong!! I could NOT accept that March 29 would be her birthday or that she would be born via cesarean. None of it felt right in anyway. We showed up to the hospital for our cesarean and I was shaking and crying through all the pre-op. I couldn’t talk to anyone. I was a mess. Finally the dr came in and sat with me and I sobbed and just said “this feels so wrong. It just isn’t supposed to be this way” and he was so kind. He tried to reassure me and then took my hand and patted it and said “you know what? This baby is perfectly healthy! We are ONLY doing this because she’s breech. So let’s make sure before we go to the OR” he brought in an ultrasound machine and began to scan my belly and he started laughing! He looked at me and said “this feels so wrong to you, because it is! Your baby is head down. You are not having surgery today. Nurse? Take the IVs out, she’s going home!” I was gasping and yelling and crying! I asked him if I could hug him. I could NOT believe it!!! I jumped up outnof that bed and got dressed so fast LOL I took my 39wk pregnant self and was running down the hall out of that place. I remember my husband laughing and tell me to wait up! LOL
I spent the next 8 days high on life and so happy! At 40wks 3 days I had some acupuncture to help encourage labor, 12hours later consisted contractions began. After 12 hours of laboring at home I felt like I was in active labor so we headed to the hospital. Upon arriving it was discovered I was 2cm dilated… it would be a while yet. I felt a bit disappointed but that was quickly overruled by overpowering contractions. I couldn’t be disappointed, I had to focus. Over the next 22 hrs we danced through labor, cried, screamed, dismissed a rude nurse (who told me I needed to get dressed because she was uncomfortable! Ugh!) had labor stall, got an epidural, started pitocin, felt completely defeated… had a dr check me and “accidentally” break my water (i.e., break it without my consent after I’d said no) which lead to hours of heart rate decels and nurses rushing in panicked constantly scaring me… I was spent. And exhausted. I just wanted to be done. I remember talking to myself and telling myself to focus; one way or another we were having a baby TODAY! It was the craziest mental place I’d ever been.
(29hrs into labor. About 3 hours before her birth)
At one point the dr came in and said he was concerned about the baby and he could only give me one more hour before we’d have to go for a cesarean. I hastily agreed. I didn’t want surgery but I also didn’t want the awfulness to continue… I was beginning to feel as if I was loosing my mind. Before long I began to shake uncontrollably; mind you the epidural I was given never worked correctly; my legs were totally numb but my abdomen and vaginal area was only partially and by the time I began pushing the numbness was totally gone except for my legs. Suddenly the dr came back in… I was pissed! My hour wasnt up! He said I could have an hour! I began getting upset… he smiled and said he was not taking my hour from me; he just had a hunch and wanted to check me. I agreed, and he happily told me I was fully dilated and ready to go. The room was a buzz getting ready for delivery and all I could think was “OMG. I can’t do this. I’m too tired.” I hadn’t eaten anything in nearly 24hrs. I was so weak.
I actually told the doctor I didn’t think I could push. And he patted my hand and said “I know your tired but just wait for the urge… once that urge to push comes you’ll find the strength” I was sure he was nuts. But sure enough surge after surge and I found myself pushing… I fought and tried to avoid it every contraction but every time it took over and I had to keep going… a nurse and my husband were holding each of my numb legs and I pushed and pushed. For an hour! Before the dr came and told me if I didn’t get her out soon he’d have to get the vacuum… hearing that set some kind of fire off in me. I didn’t want my baby pulled out. That scared me! I found power I never knew I had and pushed with all I had. I felt her head pop out… I breathed as they unwrapped the cord from her neck and then pushed again and felt her little body slide out of me. It was incredible! I sobbed and sobbed. I couldn’t stop. Her cord was short so she was on my belly. She pooped everywhere as soon as she was born. I was touching her and crying and wiping her poo all over my face lol it was the biggest rush I’ve ever felt in my life.
(Daddy cutting the cord)
After her cord was cut they took her to the other side of the room. They were wiping her down and weighing and measuring her. And I still hadn’t seen her. I tore badly and the dr was busy stitching me back together. She was crying for me and I was in so much pain. I kept asking for her and kept being dismissed… Her daddy tried to pick her up at one point and was told no. it was the worst feeling, I’ve ever had in my life. Finally after 40 minutes of listening to her cry, they brought her to me when I started getting loud and demanding they stop everything and give her to me. She stopped crying as soon as her head was pulled in to my chest. She was home. And I was home with her finally in my arms. And I had never felt such an incredible love before in my life. She had her first and second nursing session the following hour and it was pure bliss. A few hours after her birth I texted my friend and the text simply said “OMG! I had a baby! Out of my vagina!!!!” Even though so many things went not as we expected, and many of our wishes were dismissed and disrespected, I had my baby. After all the darkness and rain; our rainbow was in our arms! And our lives would never be the same.
Mira Klaire Joy
4/6/13
6.4lbs 19.5inches long.
(4hrs old. I was Totally blissed out)
Photo Credit: The Darling Family
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Click HERE to read Mira’s little brother Alistair’s story

Click HERE to learn more about the Community Birth Stories Project or to submit your own birth story

Community Birth Story: Leonid Ardent

Community Birth Story: Leonid Ardent

Leodin’s Birth on New Years’ Day

imageAs told by Julia:

I lived in a rural location with no homebirth midwives and no birth center. I hired the closest doula and she lived two hours away. I was not pleased with the OB practice, and one of the rotating doctors told me that my natural birth plan was not going to happen. I was ecstatic when, at 39 weeks and 6 days pregnant, the only certified nurse midwife in the area got hospital privileges and joined my birth team. With a doula and CNM, I was sure I could get the natural hospital birth I wanted for my baby.

The same day I found out that I would have a midwife, I woke up to bloody show. When I had a check up, I requested a membrane sweep. I regret asking for it and had no reason not to just be patient for labor to pick up on its own. Contractions started about an hour later. I ignored them and was able to sleep through them until about 4:00 a.m. when they really required my attention and I was too excited. For most of the day, contractions were 3-5 minutes apart lasting 1.5- 2 minutes.

Over the phone, my doula suggested I take a shower which felt good and contractions sped to 1-2 minutes apart. However, they slowed back down after the shower. My doula decided to come down and arrived at 7:00 pm. She suggested some positions since I was having a little back pain and I did lots of hip circles and pelvic tilts. As it got later, my doula gave me some homeopathic tinctures. We went on walks. I was in a lot of pain and making noise, not wanting to talk between contractions, but I could walk through contractions. I think this alerted the doula that I was still in early, decidedly prodromal, labor. She decided it would be best for her to go home and sleep and us to do the same. I was devastated because it was the end of the second day of labor and I felt I was in serious painful contractions. I cried but accepted it and went to sleep right away. We slept or at least were in bed for 12 hours. I had contractions in my sleep and they were strong when I got up to pee but my body did some rest.

The next morning, I got a lot of physical contact from my husband and repeated the word “open.” I visualized flowers opening with my husband’s guidance. I tried to hold off for a while in calling my doula to avoid another false alarm but she called and decided to come back. We continued doing lots of walks around the apartment complex. I did need to stop for every contraction now. My favorite during those times was to put my arms around hubby’s shoulders and lean down a little, putting weight on him and swaying. When he or someone else was not in reach at the time, I would put my arms up on the wall, head down, and lean. The worst was when I had a contraction while peeing or just after peeing and had to run to a wall or person. I spent a ton of time sitting on the birth ball or floor. Some hip squeezes which felt good and counterpressure on my sacrum for slight back pain. My doula had me use cleansing deep breath at the end of contractions. We all wanted to speed up labor since water kept slowing it so I pumped with a hand pump sitting on my birth ball by my bed. It made contractions much more painful so I stopped after a few minutes.

She said that my contractions were definitely longer than the norm, staying around 1.5- 2 minutes in duration. I was starting to be in a lot of pain, moaning and crying at the peak of contractions. She said it sounded like time to head to the hospital and that sounded good to me. Contractions in the car sucked because I could not move.

It was 10:30 or 11:00 pm so we had to go through the emergency room, which was empty. They were going to send for a wheelchair but I asked them not to. A nurse walked us up to labor and delivery. The lights were dim. I put on a hospital gown. did some contractions on a birth ball. My midwife arrived as well as an L&D nurse for 20 min electronic fetal monitoring which we had discussed at an appointment and I was fine with. I asked if I needed to lie on the bed and she said no, I could be in any position so they set blankets on the floor and I got on my knees leaning on the birth ball. It was officially midnight, New Years’ Day 2012, but I had no sense of time at all, a very inward focus and oblivious to all around me. We used intermittent monitoring; baby heart tones checked with doppler every 1/2 hour and my blood pressure checked every hour. I declined routine IV.

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I had not had a cervical check but I had some typical signs of transition. I was burping a lot and then threw up a few times. Lots of crying. The nurses brought in the delivery cart because everyone thought I might be ready to pop! After sometime, that proved not to be the case yet. My doula suggested we try to whirlpool which was next door. It felt wonderful but contractions slowed down and I spent the next few hours getting them back to where they had been before the tub. My doula reminded me to take it one contraction at a time, but I kept thinking ahead to how much longer and worse they would get and feeling that I did not have recovery time in between. I went back to my room and did a squat to try to move baby down. When I sat up I felt very wet and told my midwife. She did a pH test that showed my water had broken.

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I was feeling desperate and needed encouragement. I knew that a cervical check would be risky as I could have a low measurement, but I requested one. I asked that if I am in transition, to tell me the number, and if I am not, to just say ” not in transition.” I heard “not in transition.” I was disappointed but just kept doing what I was doing. I did not attempt any visualization or other coping techniques because I was just too exhausted and could not think beyond the pain. I cried through every contraction and was saying “I can’t do this” “I need this to stop.” I got in the shower and sat on the bench and cried. There was no room for my husband so he sat outside the shower curtain which made me sad. My doula gave me an herbal drink approved by my midwife which had cohosh. I walked through the hallways with my parents and my birth team started taking turns sleeping. I was encouraged to eat and drink but I was not interested. I was likely dehydrated, hadn’t eaten in a long time.

After hours more of labor, I made a plan which I didn’t share with anyone. I would get another cervical check and if I was not in transition, I would ask about drugs. What I really wanted was a break from labor so I could sleep, fearing that my exhaustion would necessitate a c-section. I could deal with the pain but I was just so indescribably tired. I asked the midwife to tell me everything this time. She said that at the last check, I was 4 cm and 100% effaced which was a staggering announcement. That means it had taken me over three days of labor to get from 1 cm to 4 cm. At this check, I was 5-6 cm. With that news, I immediately asked about my pain relief options. My options besides water were an opiate called staydol or an epidural. She went over the details of each as well as the risks. My doula reminded me that epidural could slow labor and might not relieve me very well or in the right places. I decided to get each, though I had planned for no pain medication.

I was absolutely exhausted after days of contractions and little sleep and my body was involuntarily collapsing between contractions. I thought that the drugs would allow me to sleep while my body worked so I could wake up with the energy to push. I chose to get the staydol to take the edge off during the two hours before I could get an epidural. The midwife said that I would need to get electronic fetal monitoring but I was fine with that because all I wanted at that point was to be in the bed.

I got in the bed and was fitted with contraction strap, baby heartrate strap, blood pressure cuff, IV in my wrist with a saline/electrolyte solution and later the staydol. The drugs started setting in and allowed me to sleep between contractions. The contractions were slightly numbed and I made hmmming sounds through them which helped. My husband was very sad during this time as he felt he had failed as my birth partner (he told me this later when I pressed him, at the time I was high on staydol and not much aware of how he was doing.) The anesthesiologist came in and everyone had to leave but my husband. I was terrified to move for fear of paralysis or spinal fluid leak, which was so hard during contractions. Then, I went to sleep immediately. The room was dark and my whole birth team slept which was much needed.

We slept for about 4 hours and when I woke up, my midwife was there. I was 10 cm dilated! I opted for an in-and-out catheter. She had me labor down for an hour which just meant letting my body bear down and move the baby without pushing. I got another vaginal exam and the baby was at +2 station. Time to push! There was a discussion between my midwife, doula, and myself about whether to leave the epidural as is or turn it down for pushing. The anesthesiologist agreed to let it be turned down half way and I was glad to get some sensation back to work with. I was still tired but had some energy from sleeping. At first, I could not feel the contractions so I had to be told when they were going on but I could push at my own pace and will. I started on my left side with legs bent and apart. Birth team helped to hold my legs. My first two pushes were ineffective. I tried exhaling while bearing down. I ended up peeing with both first pushes!. Finally, I got a real push and knew what they were supposed to feel like. The epidural was wearing off.

On the first push, everyone saw baby’s head with hair! I was asked if I wanted a mirror and I said I didn’t want to see myself tear and everyone said I should have it. I was expecting something small but it was a full length mirror. It did help to see which pushes were bringing the baby forward. After a while, I flipped and pushed on my right side. It was taking a long time to get baby’s head to clear my pubic bone because my pelvic floor muscles were too strong. My doula and midwife agreed it would work better on my back semi/reclined position. My knees were up and I would grab my legs and lift my chin to my chest. I still slept between contractions which I was feeling somewhat now. The OB who had to oversee my midwife since she was new was called in because they thought I would be delivering in any second. Delivery took longer than expected and the midwife actually apologized to the OB who left for a time. That was discouraging. Four pushes per contraction that were each eight seconds long seemed to be best. The most effective part was at the end of each contraction so they kept trying to make me sustain it.

The room was all natural light and Eva Cassidy music. I puked on a nurse. Finally, baby cleared the pubic bone and did not pull back into the vagina each time. It took many more pushes for him to crown. The contractions got closer together and stronger. I pooped a little bit. Finally, I felt a ring of fire which was the best motivation to keep pushing. The worse pain was in the upper part of the vulva around the clitoris. They said the cord was around baby’s neck so I stopped pushing and panted though I felt my body continuing to bear down a bit. He was out with two hours pushing total. I reached down and helped move him to my belly in the position advocated by Birth Without Violence with belly down and knees bent. It had only felt like seconds when my husband cut the cord, but my midwife said that it stopped pulsating after only two minutes at which time she clamped it.

Baby was grunting and nurses tried to stimulate and suction him while he was on my chest. Lots of mucous was in his lungs. I agreed for him to be brought to the warmer for suction and oxygen. At first, I declined pitocin for the placenta so the nurses got to worse massaging my uterus. I had excessive hemorrhaging so they needed to give me pitocin to control the bleeding. My midwife said that I had “countless” first degree tearing everywhere, including one in the labia which needed suturing because it exposed a blood vessel, and a second degree perenial tear. Because of the extent of the tears, the OB stitched me up. It hurt like hell and she did not give me a local analgesic. When I asked her about it, she said that I shouldn’t be able to feel it and the only thing she could do was turn my epidural up. Nope.image

After about 15 minutes, baby Leo was back on my chest and we attempted breastfeeding. Ian had his hand on Leo’s back ala Birth Without Violence. I learned that I had elevated blood pressure for the last few hours of delivery and postpartum so I needed to be on the watch for preeclampsia but I did not get it. From my first contractions, labor was four days long and my doula counts it as 25 hours active labor.

I am conflicted about my choice to get an epidural. I was exhausted and it allowed me to sleep and possibly gave me the energy I needed to push. I am grateful for a vaginal birth with no augmentation or assistance. Recovery was horrible. Tearing hurt. My back hurt where the epidural was inserted. My arms and torso were in extreme pain from the effort of pushing. My face was swollen from pushing. Leodin had feeding issues which I think were at least partly caused by the epidural. He was so sleepy, he would not eat anything from any source. He went 18 hours without peeing and longer without eating. I pumped endlessly and had to force feed Leo, tracking every cc he was able to keep down. All of these issues were temporary and we did come out of it healthy!

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Find the birth story of Leo’s little sister Ary here.

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