I wanted to share with you the birth story of my second child, my daughter, Elizabeth Rose. The support and strength that I’ve gained from following you through social media these last two years, as well as attending two BWF conferences, helped get me through this sweet baby’s birth without my husband or my midwife. I never in a million years would have thought it was possible to do something so challenging without them both, but I did thanks to you. My mom had given me a Birth Without Fear Moon Over Maizes necklace when my son was one year old for Mother’s Day. Throughout the pregnancy of my second child I wore it often and towards the end of my pregnancy I wore it every day. It was a reminder to me that women all over the world give birth every day with strength and courage and that I could do that too. Little did I know how much I would need this extra boost of encouragement during the labor of my second child.
My due date was June 17th. My husband’s nephew was getting married May 30th and my husband was a groomsman in the wedding. We decided that since it was still three weeks until baby’s due date (and since I went right on my due date with my first child), it was unlikely I would go into labor that early and we felt comfortable with my husband traveling six hours to attend the wedding. The weekend was approaching and I sent my friend this text on Thursday May 28th:
“Did I tell you Carl is going out of town Friday for his nephew’s wedding (he’s a groomsman)? I have this ridiculous overwhelming feeling that I’m going to have this baby while he is gone. It’s a six hour drive so he likely wouldn’t make it. I realize I’ll only be 37w3d this weekend…and the chances are SO slim…but I can’t help but worry!!! Please stay in baby!!!”
I had convinced myself that this fear was simply there, because it was a possibility, not because it was any type of “gut feeling” that something would happen. That Thursday evening, I went on a walk with my two year old son, my husband, and my mom. At one point during the walk I had a Braxton Hicks contraction that made me stop walking and I had to breathe through it. I had a lot of Braxton Hicks throughout pregnancy and this one felt different, but I didn’t put much stock into it. I just figured we were getting closer to 40 weeks and my body was just getting ready for labor in a few weeks. Good job body! Later that evening, while getting ready for bed, I had another Braxton Hicks that I felt in my lower back. I told my husband and we both thought it was weird, but we didn’t really consider it the start of labor or anything that we needed to cancel his trip over. Throughout the night I had a few more and noticed that the contractions were pushing on my bladder much more. They weren’t painful, but enough that I felt them when I was sleeping and I had to get up and pee a lot.
Friday morning I was feeling good and hadn’t noticed any contractions, so I went to work as normal and my husband left for his six hour drive north. I had a very busy morning of meetings and presentations, and didn’t notice too many contractions, but knew I had had some. Around 11:15, I was back at my desk and had one that I actually said, “OUCH,” out loud to. After this, I decided I probably should pay attention to my body (what a novel idea!) and see if I was having more contractions. I started tracking them while half attempting to work and they were coming about every 18 to 25 minutes. I set up some meetings with colleagues for the following week and sent a few emails. I called my husband just so he knew what was going on and even said, “I have no reason to believe this is actual labor. I very well could have these for a week before baby comes.” We agreed there still was no reason to have him come home (by this point he hadn’t yet made it to his destination but he was almost there). I told my husband I would keep track of them and call my midwives if I thought things were progressing.
I had lunch plans with two friends from work, both mothers themselves. At lunch, I told them I had been having what felt like contractions and had been keeping track of them. They were shocked I was still at work and as well at lunch with them, and provided the sound advice that I probably should call my midwives, because they were kind of consistent. We had a 1:30 meeting after lunch, so I said I would just call them after the meeting. They again gave me the sound advice that I needed to call before that. We returned to the office around 1:15 and I left a message to have a midwife call me. I went to our meeting at 1:30 and told my boss somewhat non-nonchalantly that I might have to step out and take a call as I might be in labor. After a look of somewhat surprise/somewhat confusion, he said, “Ok no problem,” and the meeting started. I continued to have contractions throughout the meeting, still about every 15 to 20 minutes. I could relax and breathe through them, and still managed to contribute some thoughts to the meeting. The whole time thinking, This isn’t real labor…my husband is out of town and I’m 3 weeks to my due date. I received a call back while I was still in the meeting and stepped out to speak to a nurse from my midwives’ office. The nurse had suggested that I go home, take a bath, and see if the contractions change. She said if they change/slow down/etc., then it’s probably not “true labor.” If the bath does nothing to my contractions, then it’s probably the real deal.
I headed home (which thankfully was my parents’ house at the time, whom we were living with while we were waiting to move into our new house) and took a bath in their large tub. I put on some relaxing classical music and got comfortable. I used my son’s Babyganics bubble bath, because I owned no adult bubble bath – I couldn’t even remember the last time I had taken a bath. During the 45 minute bath, I had two contractions that were getting a tad more intense than they had been, but the bath really helped to relax me. Upon standing up to get out of the bath, I had one more and this time I peed during it (only had a momentary concern it was my waters, but a quick color check in the water directed me to the proper conclusion that I did, indeed, pee myself). I remember with my son during contractions I had to pee during contractions in the early stages of labor. This is when I thought, Hmmm maybe this is real?
After the bath, I laid down before I had to go pick up my son from daycare. My contractions had slowed to about every 45 to 50 minutes. I excitedly thought this was a sign that it wasn’t real labor. I went to pick my son up from daycare around 5pm, continued to have contractions throughout picking him up, bringing him home, playing with him and feeding him dinner. My parents had dinner plans and had already left the house, so it was just me and my usually rambunctious two year old. He was as sweet and calm as could be that night, playing well by himself, and going to bed very easy. I was grateful for him to go to bed at 7:30 and immediately laid down myself in bed. I texted my husband and told him I was going to sleep and would wake up in the morning contraction free. Ha. In a way, I did. I fell asleep around 8pm and continued to have contractions while sleeping.
At 10pm I had a contraction strong enough and real enough that it got me out of bed. After contemplating ignoring it, I realized I needed to accept the fact that I was actually IN LABOR, as much as I still sort of thought it wasn’t real! I immediately called my midwife on-call service to leave a message and wait for their call back. In the meantime, I called my husband to tell him I needed him to come home. I felt awful and was crying that I was causing him to miss his nephew’s wedding and maybe it wasn’t real labor and we might not even have a baby that weekend. I spoke to his nephew on the phone, who of course understood and tried to calm me down. Of course my husband and his family were not concerned about him missing the wedding, after all this was A BABY!
Around 11pm, my husband began the six hour drive back home. I think at this point I was still sort of in denial, but knew I had to be serious about it all. I called my parents and told them to come home, I was in labor. I spoke to my midwife and told her what had gone on that day, and what was going on right now. She said to call her when I’m going to the hospital. I asked her when that should be (with my first they said contractions every five minutes lasting one minute, but with my 2nd baby one of my midwives told me to go when intensity changes)? The midwife on call (whom was newer to my practice and I had only ever met once) told me to go at five minutes apart. I thought that seemed odd and I should have reinforced with her that I had a eight hour labor with my first child, so this was likely to be just as short if not shorter…but again, I was a bit frazzled, being all alone in labor, without my husband, my teammate and my favorite ‘doula’ of sorts. The contractions at this point were still around eight to nine minutes apart, but the intensity was gaining.
For a while, I labored all alone in bed, on my hands and knees, which was the only position that felt good for my back labor and doubly helpful, because I could rest in between. During this time, I had a fleeting moment where I wanted to cry, not because of pain, but because I was all alone. I wanted my husband with me. I wanted to go hold my son for the last time before he was no longer an only child. I wanted to not be alone. I felt sorry for myself. Everything felt unfair. But during a particularly intense contraction, I looked down at the birth without fear necklace dangling and remembered that I could do this alone, and I would do it alone. I was strong and I could do anything for a minute at time. There was no time for crying or breaking down, my baby and body didn’t need that extra stress.
I gathered my composure and started adding things to my hospital bag that I had only started packing the night before. I went to my parents’ basement and carried up the infant car seat and base (poor decision now that I think about it, as I was still alone in the house). I checked in on my son and held back the tears as I watched his sleepy breaths and soft blond hair in the dark. He was going to be a big brother the next time I saw him and it was emotional. I put dry shampoo in my hair and deodorant on (because labor brain thought this was important?). I continued to labor alone until my parents arrived home and then my amazing mom (seriously, moms are amazing) laid in bed with me as I worked through each contraction and rested in between.
My husband had started out on the road and I was nervous that he would have to drive through the night. I made him promise to be safe and stop and rest. Around 2am the contractions started getting more intense and closer together – four to seven minutes apart. My mom said, “Maybe we should go,” and I said, “I really don’t want to get there, find out I’m only 3cm and have to walk around triage for an hour,” (which is what I had to do with my son). So we labored more at home in bed on my hands and knees.
After about ten more minutes and three more contractions, the last one that had me making all sorts of odd noises, I agreed with my mom that we should get going. I asked her to make sure to get the cooler for my placenta and we gathered up the rest of our stuff. I called my husband and he talked me through a few contractions I had on the phone with him. I stopped in the downstairs bathroom to take a selfie before heading out (why? labor brain thought it was an important moment to document and I’m so glad I did). I asked my mom to get a bucket for the car, because I was sure I was going to throw up. Before pulling out of the driveway at 2:15am, we took a picture together to remember this moment always. It’s the worst picture of our entire lives, but we are somehow smiling in it.
Before we got out of the neighborhood, I had hit transition and began throwing up and then dry heaving. I was expecting this, as I also threw up during the birth of my first child during transition. It was around this time I was also telling myself, “It’s ok if you get an epidural, you’re husband is not here to help you through a natural birth and you can get one if you want.” I had a natural birth with my son and wanted one with this birth as well, but as transition goes, the doubt started setting in.
The drive to the hospital was about 25 minutes and I continued to work through contractions in the car. At one point I realized that I hadn’t heard back from my midwife, whom I called around 2am to let her know we were leaving for the hospital, so I called the on-call service again and they said they would page her again. She called me back immediately and I told her I was on my way, things were progressing quickly. She said after I get checked in triage they would let her know where I’m at then then she would come in. At this point, I should have thought to tell her that I was going to have this baby very, very soon, as I was already in transition, but again, labor brain. My husband would have been doing all the talking and probably would have told her that, but when you’re in hard labor and trying to have conversations that make sense, it’s not the easiest thing in the world.
I managed to give my mom directions to the medical campus, which we navigated to find the right parking garage, my mom dumped my bucket of puke out over the side (got yelled at by someone below who happened to see) and we made our way in. As we were pulling into the parking garage, I saw another pregnant woman and her husband getting out of their car and my first thought was, We have to beat her in. I can’t wait behind her at check in. She looked like she was feeling absolutely fine, while I was leaning on anything and everything (think disgusting parking garage trash cans, hand rails, etc) to work through contractions on my walk in.
Thankfully they stopped in the lobby to try to make a call and we caught an elevator before them. My ridiculous labor brain thought, Haha – we beat you! Arriving at check-in, I was grateful we had pre-registered and I only had two or three contractions while the nice old lady got me checked in, while hiding her concern that I was going to have the baby on her desk. They whisked me back to triage where I changed into my green pretty pushers gown I had won at my first BWF Columbus meet-up. The nurse said, “Are you ok getting that dirty?” I wanted to say “This isn’t my first time giving birth, lady.”
My mom helped me change into the gown and I went to the bathroom. Throughout laboring at home I had to pee and poop after almost every contraction for a good hour and I think this was my last “get it all out” bathroom trip. I had a contraction while on the toilet which was amazing, the amount of pressure that was taken off while sitting there, and then came out to get checked. The nice resident on call who was checking me gave me a towel to “cover myself up with,” because apparently I just got up on the bed and hiked up my gown. All I could do was laugh…I’m about to push a child out of my vagina in front of ten people and you want me to ‘cover up’ while you check me, sir? I was six cm dilated. To which I said, “Holy shit!” I then got on the bed on all fours while they monitored baby and continued to labor that way for a few minutes. They then told me it was real labor and I was ready to go to labor and delivery (well no shit!) and I asked where my midwife was. They said they called her and she was on her way.
They brought me a wheel chair and asked if I wanted to walk to the room or ride in the chair. The thought of sitting down was excruciating and I was pretty sure I couldn’t walk at this point without the baby falling out. I stood up out of bed to try to lean against the wheel chair and had a huge contraction where I opened my legs and the nurse grabbed me and said, “Get on the bed and lay down!” I said, “NO! I’m not lying down; please let me get through it this way!” She said, “I don’t want a baby falling out on the floor,” to which I said, “No baby is going to fall out on the floor!!!” Then she left me alone and let me labor leaning my elbows against the bed.
After that contraction, I got back on the bed on hands and knees and told them I needed to start pushing. I remember this exact feeling with my son, but at the time I wasn’t as confident. This time, I knew it was time to push and this baby was coming. They flipped the side rails up on the triage bed, and about six of them surrounded the bed and ran me down the hall with my ass up in the air while I was on all fours. I remember feeling a strong wind on my face as they were running and it felt really good.
The second we got in the room, I looked at the bed they wanted to transfer me to and I said, “NOPE I’M PUSHINNNNGGGG!!!!” I grabbed on to the front rails the bed and pushed my baby out in one very hard push, accompanied by a bellowing scream from me and a gush of fluids. I completely couldn’t believe it. I kneeled there, stunned, not having seen my baby yet, but knowing I pushed something out. I kept saying, “Did that just happen? Did I just push my baby out? Is that my baby crying?” They told me, “It’s a girl,” born at 3:24 (only 40 minutes after arriving at the hospital) and I was completely shocked and overwhelmed.
I always envisioned myself as a mom of all boys and I couldn’t believe (in the best way possible) I had a little daughter. Our birth plan included delayed cord clamping, but at this point I think the only person who had a chance to look at our birth plan was the triage nurse, so the resident began to cut the cord immediately. I remember my mom trying desperately to yell out different wishes to the doctors and nurses. “Delayed cord cutting!” “Immediate skin to skin!” “No eye stuff!” “Save the placenta!”
It was part terrifying, part heartwarming. Baby girl had a true knot in her cord, and the resident explained that when this happens they like to cut the cord right away. If my husband was there he would have advocated for more information from my midwife, but since both were missing, I agreed to have the cord cut and my mom was able to do that. I was still on my hands and knees at this point, desperate to get a look at my baby girl. While they cleaned us both up a bit, my mom was yelling, “No! Put the baby on her chest, don’t take her away!” We both didn’t realize how tiny she was. They told us with babies that small they need to check them right away. They checked her and she was 4 lbs 4 oz of perfection, so they brought her back to me immediately and we did skin to skin. I remember her hair was covered in vernix and it appeared dark and curly, just like my husbands was when I met him in college. At this point, they were working hard to help me deliver my placenta, because I was bleeding a lot. I told them I wanted a natural placenta delivery and they said with all the bleeding they were trying to help it along gently – I remember them pushing on my abdomen and wondering if the midwife was there if anything would be different.
I wasn’t upset or angry, just disappointed that I didn’t have the advocacy I so desperately wanted and trusted. Baby girl latched a few times while on my chest and the placenta eventually came out naturally. “Save the placenta! She’s going to encapsulate it!” my mom yelled again. Bless her heart. I think I asked the resident five times if I tore, and he said every time, “Nope, you look great,” and I was so appreciative of his overly nice description of the completely wrecked and bloody mess between my legs.
The residents attempted to clean me up the best they could, as I continued to bleed a lot. They ended up giving me a shot of Pitocin in my leg. During all of this, I hadn’t had an IV line yet, because everything happened so fast – so while holding my fresh babe on my chest, I remember the nurses working for 15 minutes to find a good vein in my hands for the line. The pricking and failing was almost more painful than childbirth – I was extra sensitive due to my state of exhaustion and losing blood. They finally gave up for a bit and another nurse came in and was able to get the line in – I was given Pitocin through the line for the bleeding as well.
At some point during all of this I called my husband and said, “It’s a girl!!” He couldn’t believe it either. I also told him, “I just pooped her out on my hands and knees in one push!” which he loves to tell people to this day that I “pooped out” my daughter. I must have called him before knowing her birth weight, because when I texted him her stats later he was very worried due to her size. Thankfully, the only thing she needed was a little warmth from the nursery, because skin to skin with me wasn’t getting her temp up enough. Later that night I found out if we need her temp up, just to do skin to skin with dad, because he practically cooked her. Another reason I hated him not being there at birth was to do skin to skin when I couldn’t.
Thankfully my husband was able to stop and rest after I gave birth so that he could continue his drive home. He finally made it to the hospital at 11:30am to meet his baby girl and I’ll never forget for the entire first few minutes of his meeting her, the staff came in to take my lunch order and was asking me all sorts of questions: “Do you want fruit or yogurt with that,” “Do you want juice or water to drink?”….I could hardly answer their questions, because I was trying to soak in the memory of my husband and his little girl’s first encounter.
At this point I realized nothing is perfect and the entire experience was nothing like I imagined it would be, so all I could do was laugh. My husband missed it, my midwife missed it; I didn’t get to use the labor water tub I so badly wanted, and so on.
Ultimately, I was so incredibly proud of baby and myself – we worked together as a team and I truly was able to birth without fear. I am forever grateful that she knew it was time to come meet me and get the nourishment she needed from my milk that she was no longer getting through her knotted cord. We were discharged two days later and baby had only lost 2oz. She continued to amaze me with her strength and determination in the weeks following, nursing like a champ and gaining 1 to 2 lbs. per week. Now, at a whopping 9lbs at two months old, she is the song our hearts never knew it needed.
Without the BWF movement, I’m fairly certain that I would have been a disaster during the birth of my baby girl, but from reading these amazing birth stories from other moms on your blog and following your support and inspiration through FB and IG and attending BWF meet ups, I had the strength I needed to birth my baby regardless of the circumstances. I am forever grateful for what you do for women and families everywhere, January. I can’t wait for my next birth experience, whatever hurdles that may throw at me. Next time, my husband is on house arrest until baby arrives, and I’ll inform all six of my midwives how quickly my babies arrive. First I just have to convince my husband we need a third.