Emmett’s Birth Story
My due date of November 23rd came and went. On the evening of Tuesday November 28th I started having pretty painful contractions about 10 minutes apart around dinner time. I didn’t mention it to Jay because I had had so many false starts in the past 3 weeks. I was starting to feel like I was crying wolf every time I said I thought something was happening. The contractions were strong enough that night that the sleep I was able to get was really crappy and intermittent. At one point I got out of bed and watched some TV. At that point they got way mellower and I decided to go back to bed. When I woke up in the morning, they were gone. I was really sure that it hadn’t been the false labor that I had been having, though. I even called my mom and my doula to tell them I was pretty sure it would be the day.
Jay and Elsie and I went to the midwife that morning and she told me I was about 3cm and the cervix was “soft as butter”. I’d already decided that if I made it to this appointment I would have her sweep the membranes, so she did that. To my relief, it didn’t hurt at all. Right afterward I started cramping again and it felt different, so I was still sure I’d be in labor later that day. I called my mom and made arrangements for her to come up.
When I got home I was having contractions I had to breathe through. Jay went to work, but I told him he probably wouldn’t be there for long. I laid down for a nap with Elsie, but couldn’t sleep. The contractions stopped again while I was laying down. My mom arrived and they started up again pretty strong. Later in the afternoon I laid down for another nap, but couldn’t really fall asleep. Again, while laying down, they stopped. They didn’t really pick up again after I got out of bed. I began to feel silly for having my mom come up and couldn’t figure out why they would stop while laying down. Around bedtime (Wednesday the 29th) I decided to go to bed really early and I slept from about 8:00 to 9:00pm and then woke up. I got up to pee and decided to call my doula and just vent with her about how out of touch I felt with my body, how I couldn’t believe this wasn’t it AGAIN, etc. Then I went back to bed. I laid there having anxiety about not going into labor. The Non-stress test got scheduled for Friday (41 weeks and 1 day gestation) and I wondered about the possibility of being induced, which was a huge fear of mine. I knew my due date was really accurate so I was really annoyed I was going past my due date so far. I never did fall asleep, but at about 1:00am a contraction ripped through me and I KNEW it had to be it. About 8 minutes later another one happened. I got up to pee and there was tons of bloody show, so I went back into the bedroom and woke Jay up and told him this was it, finally. We went to the living room and labored a bit, with contractions becoming about 7-10 minutes apart and about 1 minute long.
Around 2:30 we called our doula and she came over. We sat in the living room with candles lit just coping through the contractions. She encouraged me to continue to labor on the toilet, since that’s where my contractions were the strongest and closest together. They were about 5 minutes apart when I did that, so I stayed there for awhile. I continued to have a lot of bloody show. Finally I had a contraction and I felt some kind of pressure and I said “that one felt different” so they both said “I think we should consider going to the hospital now.” I was relieved because one of my big fears was that I would not want to go, or wouldn’t know when to go, or we would have waited so long that getting there would have been a huge ordeal (riding in a car during transition did not sound fun to me). So we got all our stuff ready and left around 4:00am. The car ride was ok because I only had one contraction (it was about a 15 minute ride) during it. We were in a light mood and joking about how stupid the term “bloody show” is. Like, “that was a damn good bloody show” (said with british accent). We laughed imagining a bloody bit of mucous with a top hat and white gloves doing a show.
We got to the hospital and my contractions were still pretty manageable—they slowed to every 7-10 minutes but were still over a minute long. We went through the rigamaroll of getting an initial “strip” of 20 minutes of monitoring the baby’s heart rate and my contractions and did the paperwork and whatnot. Then around 6 or 7am the midwife came in and just talked to us about how it was going. She asked if I wanted to be checked and I was unsure. Our doula really felt that I shouldn’t go there, but my curiosity took over and I let her. I was only between 3 and 4cm and I can’t even remember how effaced—like 30% or something. I felt really discouraged because I had been in labor for about 6 hours at that point. She told me the baby’s head was malpositioned, which made me feel even worse because this was the problem with our daughter’s birth and resulted in a ludicrously long labor—47 hours. The midwife said “I don’t think you are in active labor” which kind of pissed me off. Fortunately the staff rotated at 7:30 and she left. At this point I went and got in the birth tub. Jay was looking really tired and my contractions were pretty spaced out, so I told him he could go back to the room for a little nap if he wanted, so he did. The contractions were really mellow, which I knew wasn’t the best, but it felt really good to be in the tub. Occasionally I would get out and sit on the commode to bring on some more contractions. It was around this point that I lost all modesty concerning public bodily functions, if you know what I mean! I decided that I should try to get a little rest while the contractions were so spaced out, so I laid down and so did our doula and we psuedo-napped for about 15 minutes. I was really concerned about fatigue during this labor because I’d had one night of bad sleep and one night of no sleep going into it. I didn’t know how long it would be, but I figured if we went into another night I would be in trouble. From this point on in the labor, I have no idea about times because we covered up the clock and I went deeper into “laborland” where time has no meaning.
As we were leaving the tub room, our new nurse introduced herself and said she had read our birth plan. She said she liked to assist the “natural” labors, since that’s what she had done with her kids, blah blah. She said she needed to do another heart rate strip. I found these incredibly annoying. They were wireless, but the stupid belts always fall off and then they pick up my heart rate instead of the baby’s, and having a belt on for 20 minutes is annoying. So I asked her why and she said they had to do one 20 minute strip every hour! I told her I was really not into that, and she said it was federal regulation. My doula and I exchanged skeptical glances and asked if she could find out if there were some way around it. She said she understood it was annoying and she would see what she could do. We went back in our room and she came in and said that the way around it was for her to hand-monitor the heart rate through a contraction every half hour. I found this a lot more agreeable, so we sat down to do that as I breathed through a contraction. We bounced on the ball for awhile and danced around and did the hula.
The next midwife was a man, which I knew there was a man midwife in the practice, but I was still taken aback. He introduced himself and was very nice. He asked if I had eaten anything lately and I said that I ate right before going in the tub. He recommended the cafeteria food in the morning and said the cafeteria breakfast was the only decent meal. So Jay went down to see what kind of food they had. He said to keep dancing and rotating my hips to encourage the baby to get in a better position. I told him I was discouraged about the position and progress, but told him that every time I sat on the toilet I had tons of bloody show. He said I should take this as a very good sign that my cervix was doing a lot of work, so from then on I used that blood to make me feel better when it seemed like I was making no progress. He asked if I wanted him to check me, and I said no thanks. We decided to get things moving again, so I went and sat on the toilet a lot. This made the contractions really strong and close together. I made Jay rub my feet while I sat there.
After awhile I decided to get in the shower. I started feeling fear creep in at this point, as the contractions got harder and harder to cope with. The shower felt good. For the first time it was just Jay and I. We sat there talking and breathing through the contractions. He encouraged me to “bring it on” make each one stronger and longer. I started to feel more in control and powerful and like I was really womanly and could do it. He told me later that he got tears in his eyes watching me labor in the shower, that I looked like the perfect form of a pregnant woman and so beautiful. Our doula came in after about half an hour and said the nurse needed to monitor heart rates, and did we want some French toast? It sounded really good to eat, which was a tradeoff for having the nurse do our vitals, so I sat down and started eating. I had multiple contractions while I was eating. Finally, one of them felt really different. I commented that “that last one just tore me in half” to which our doula said “GOOD!” I stopped eating and we started moving around the room. I think I did some more toilet laboring at this point. The contractions were really close together now and were really strong. After some time, the midwife came in and said “things seem to have changed” and we said that they had definitely picked up the pace. He said “ok, good” and left. I started to get a little scared and said that I wanted to get back in the tub. Our doula, Jay and the nurse said they thought the tub may have relaxed me a little too much last time and they didn’t want me to slow down. But I was starting to freak out a little bit and starting to think ahead (always a bad idea in labor)… “I still have to go through transition and push…Oh my god! I can’t do this!” Etc. To me the tub seemed like a kind of safe harbor where everything would be OK. The nurse was really pushing me taking a walk in the halls. She took a last heart tone and said she thought she saw a decel (heart rate deceleration) during the contraction and wanted to get a better read. I felt like I could barely get around the room at this point, the contractions were about 3 minutes apart. Finally I just said that I was getting in the tub and they all agreed (of course).
So we went back in the tub and this time Jay got in with me. The contractions stayed pretty fast and furious—someone had uncovered the clock and I looked at it periodically and noted that even in the tub they were still 4-5 minutes apart and very long and strong. Sometimes I would get out and sit on the commode and have some really strong ones. As we were sitting in the tub, I started to feel really scared. I just started thinking about all the things to come and how hard it was already and how I could barely handle the pain during those contractions. After each contraction I would say something negative like “I don’t know if I can do this” or “I feel panic creeping in.” Jay and the doula talked to me about remaining positive and take it one at a time, etc. Finally I just said to myself (out loud) “shut up, Laura. You CAN do this.” Then I said to Jay that doing this without drugs was going to be my first gift to our child, and we both started crying. This brought on another contraction and ended the moment.
At one point, I got out of the tub to pee and I couldn’t get back in because the contractions started coming on so close together and strong. The nurse started trying to get another heart read and mumbling something about that decel she saw awhile back and was fumbling with the belts. The problem was that the monitor in the tub room didn’t have sound, so she was having a hell of a time finding any heart rate and her messing with me and the belts was really starting to piss me off. She said something like “but these do seem to be getting really close together…” and I thought “no sh*t, lady!” and wanted to tell her to go away. Finally I crawled into the bed and demanded that someone push on my lower back as hard as they could. Now the contractions were incredibly hard to deal with and the breaks in between them were incredibly short. As she had been doing all along, our doula encouraged me to vocalize with “open, open, open” and imagine that circle (the cervix) opening up.
It felt like about a thousand hours, but it was probably only a half hour before I demanded that the midwife come back in and check my cervix. I was starting to feel tons of pressure and thought I might be complete. Our doula said that he might not say I was complete, and was I ready to hear that? What if he said I was at 5 cm? Was I ready to hear THAT? I said no, and if I was f-kin 5 cm I was getting an epidural. I could barely manage the pain at that point and was really starting to freak out a lot. I think I was saying things like “I can’t do this anymore” “I can’t breathe” etc. Of course I was in transition, but you don’t think rational things like “I’m in transition, this is almost over” when you are in that state of mind. The midwife came in and told me to at least lay on my side to check me. I told him I couldn’t move (I was on my hands and knees) and every time I did, I had a contraction so I was scared to go on my side. Finally I did, and he checked and said I was 6-7cm with bag of waters bulging out. Everyone was like “oh good!” except me I think I cried and said “SIX-SEVEN?!?! NOOOOOOOO!” or something to that effect, but Jay and the doula were like “no! that’s good! You are so close!” I demanded that they tell me how close, which they couldn’t tell me of course. I started saying that I needed something, give me some drugs or something, that I needed a break and I couldn’t get any break here. The midwife said, very calmly, “you knew this was going to be tough. You knew you were going to have to be tough. This is where you have to be really, really tough.” And I said I didn’t think I could do it. Jay and our doula kept saying “but you ARE doing it. You are doing it right now” and all that stuff that sounds great before you are in labor, but when you are in transition just sounds horrible and all you want is for it to STOP right now. So the nurse said “well, Laura, you know your options. There’s drugs to help you relax, and of course the epidural.” And I knew in my heart I didn’t want those things, that I never wanted an epidural and it was close to the end, even though I needed it to be over right then and there. Later when my doula and I were discussing this, we agreed that it was weird and kind of pissed us off that our nurse who was supposedly so into “natural” birth methods (and was very chatty about this during my entire labor) snapped into regular nurse mode and was ready to hook up the epidural the moment I became weak and asked for it.
I overheard the nurse and the midwife talking about getting a new strip (yes, she had been trying to put the freaking belt heart rate monitor on this whole time) and the decel she thought she saw. The midwife was like “well, did she have a good initial read?” and she said yes. He asked if it had been fine otherwise, and she said yes. He said “well, then that’s fine. Forget about it.” I was so relieved because it was really annoying me that she was struggling with the belt and monitor while I was trying so hard to cope.
Anyway, I gathered myself together and said, no, ok, I can do this. The midwife reminded me to stay in the moment and really use my breaks, even if they were short. It was really only 15-20 seconds of each contraction that were very hard to deal with, to get through that and then stay in the moment of having a break. My back was hurting so bad that even my breaks didn’t feel like a break at all. Jay was applying counterpressure so hard that he actually had to sit on his hands on my back. The midwife told me that he could break my bag of waters and then float me in the tub, and that things would get more intense but would probably move faster. I nixed this, as ‘more intense’ definitely did not sound do-able at that time, although getting it over faster was really appealing. So he said, “why don’t you get in the tub?” So I did.
I stayed on my hands and knees in the tub with jay applying counterpressure the whole time. I swear I was in transition for like 3 hours, but I think it was really only like an hour. I started saying “I can’t, you guys, I cant do it” constantly. Maybe I was really only thinking this, because my doula says I didn’t say it that much. I asked for an epidural a bunch of times, even though I knew I couldn’t/wouldn’t get one. Just the idea that such a thing existed—something that could make this pain stop instantly—was something to hold onto. During each contraction I forced myself to focus on the mental image of a little baby all swaddled up with a hat on, the way newborns look after they are all dressed. This image really helped me cope and stay focused. At one point I stopped loudly vocalizing and everything seemed to become a lot more difficult. Jay pointed out that I wasn’t vocalizing any more, and encouraged me to start again and things were a little better after that.
When I said I couldn’t do any more, my doula asked if I could do 5 more minutes to which I said no. Asked if I could do 1 more minute and I said no. She asked if I could do one more second and I said I guessed so, and she said then just stay in that moment. It seemed like it was about 30 seconds later Jay said “remember when you said you couldn’t do 5 more minutes? Well, its been twenty!” and I couldn’t believe it. It really seemed like it had been under a minute. About 30 seconds later (in my mind) the same thing happened and he told me 15 minutes had passed. Time seemed to be completely weird.
Finally I reached down and put a couple of fingers into my vagina. I could feel the bag of waters bulging out and I could feel the rim of the cervix barely outlining it. I imagined I was complete, or really close to it. I told them to get the midwife back in there. I think they all thought I was going to ask for an epidural or something, but I couldn’t get words out to say that I thought I was complete and I was feeling tons of pressure. He came in and asked “has the bag of waters broken yet?” and before everyone could say no, my doula said it was like 10 seconds later, I felt it burst with a POP under water. It was the most awesome feeling and I said “my water just broke!” and everyone in the room cheered.
So they hauled me up out of the tub and I was immediately freezing cold. All I could say was “I’m cold. I’m cold” for a minute while they put a bunch of towels on me. I got back on the bed and the midwife checked me and said “you are complete with a little lip. I can try to push it back through your next contraction.” Now for some reason, pushing involuntarily with a lip was a big fear of mine. I was afraid the cervix would swell shut if I did this so I started freaking out about the lip. He tried to lift it but the pain was excruciating so I literally kicked him away from me and said NO! I started feeling pressure more and more. I think I said a few times “I want to push.” But the urge wasn’t huge yet and I didn’t. Finally, the midwife said “are you feeling the urge to push?” and by then I really was and I said yes. He said, “well, then, do it!” For some reason I had been sitting there thinking I wasn’t supposed to push or that there was some problem. We went through a lot of contractions, some pushing and some not. I started coping by wiping my face around in circles on a cold washcloth that was laying on the bed. I think I was rolling my eyes back in my head and kind of in a trance trying to cope. I can’t remember if it was now or earlier, but when I said I was done and couldn’t take any more, the midwife said, “this is almost over. By dinnertime you will have a baby at your breast and be relaxing.” And I yelled “DINNERTIME?!?” because I knew it was only about noon. He fumbled about trying to explain that he didn’t mean the baby would be pushed out at dinnertime, just that everything would be totally over by then. It seems funny now, because I know what he was saying, but at the time even one more minute seemed unbearable.
I pushed a few times and the urge to do so became incredibly strong. I didn’t have this during my daughter’s birth so it took me by surprise. I started making those involuntary bearing down noises. The midwife said that he really wanted us to move to our room back across the hall. I think it was partly that the short walk would get everything down low and make pushing faster, but also that the tub room was tiny and there wasn’t room for him and the nurse and their “instrument tray” or whatever they need out when a baby is born. Plus, the stupid monitor in that room still didn’t work and at this point even my doula was telling me how important it was to make sure the baby’s heart was ok, that he wasn’t on his cord, etc.
So, somehow, they got me up and walked me the 50 feet back to our room. I remember Jay on one side and the midwife on the other basically holding me up. I was kind of shuffling my feet, but walking wasn’t really possible at that point. As I was looking at my feet I realized I had been so inside myself trying to cope that my eyes had been closed for hours and I hadn’t seen anything going on around me. We got back to the room and I was leaning over the bed with my feet on the floor. At this point my back was killing me so bad I started kind of screaming and writhing around like a crazed animal; I was really not in control of myself at that point. I got on the bed on all fours and told them to raise up the head of the bed. Then I pushed my head against it and Jay kept pushing on my lower back with all of his strength. Now I couldn’t help but bear down and I was yelling and saying that deep, guteral, animal “RRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRR” sound that you say while you are doing it. It felt good to push, but it also hurt incredibly bad at the same time. Again, I started irrationally saying “you just need to pull him out of me! PULL him OUT of me NOW!” and the midwife just kept calmly repeating “no, you are going to push him out. You are pushing him out right now.” I feel like I told him to pull him out of me like a hundred times, but again my doula said it was only a couple so maybe I was just thinking it. I so needed it to be done right then. Again I knew I would never let them use forceps unless it was an emergency, but the idea that someone could pull him out was really comforting. I pushed and pushed for about half an hour. Finally Jay and our doula started saying “I see hair!” It started to feel like he was pushing ALL the way out of me and then sliding all the way back in, and I told them that (more like yelled “he’s going all the way back inside me!”) and they reminded me that it was good to let my perineum stretch.
The midwife started applying the oil at this point, which I had requested to avoid a tear. But it felt really distracting and uncomfortable and I kept yelling “stop! Stop!” (can you tell I was a really fun patient?) Jay kept telling me he was seeing the head, etc. I was pushing and yelling with all my might. Finally the midwife said “you are going to feel an incredibly strong urge to push, but don’t. Just give it a half-push.” Amazingly, I was able to do this. He kept coaching me like that “good, a half push—not very strong” and then the head was out. A lot of women complain about the “ring of fire” when the baby’s head crowns, but I’ve never understood that. With both of my births that kind of stinging sensation hurt, but not even close to half as bad as the contractions or my back aching. The midwife slipped the cord, which is wrapped around his neck, over his head. He says the cord is very long and he really just kind of “flops” it over. I felt another contraction and felt his body slide half out. On the next one, he came all the way out and his daddy caught him.
I can’t even describe to someone who hasn’t experienced it the sensation of feeling the baby’s body move out of you and the intense, deeply satisfying sense of relief that immediately follows. Like going from a 10 on a pain scale of 1-10 to a 0 in one moment. It’s just the most awesome relief ever. It really ends just like that. He was born at 1:10pm 11/30/06, almost exactly 12 hours after “real” labor (like contractions I couldn’t talk through) had begun the night before.
He was crying the moment he came out and had apgars of 8/9. They put him right on my chest and we just relished the moment. We were all crying, and I was saying “oh my god, oh my god,” but I was mostly crying from just being relieved that it was over. I felt really proud in that moment that I had done it.
He was born occiput posterior (OP or “sunnyside up” meaning his back was pushing against my back. You want the baby’s back to be facing your stomach), which surprised me because he had been in a good position prior to going into labor. The nurse said she had begun to wonder if he was posterior when I started screaming for people to push on my back during the labor. OP is considered one of the most painful kinds of labors to have because during “breaks” between contractions it still hurts really bad. Also your back hurts like a mo-fo. This is what is meant by “back labor.” He was 8 lbs 12 oz and 21.5” long, a much bigger baby than our first. We waited until the cord stopped pulsing and then Jay cut it.
After laying there with him for awhile, and me trying to get him to nurse, the midwife mentioned that the placenta was “right there” and to just give a good push. I did and it came out. The cool thing was that the membrane was still attached with just a hole in it where it had burst and he had come out. So when the midwife held it up, you could see the whole “housing” where he had been living for the past 9 months. The bag felt incredibly strong and leathery. I love looking at the placenta…I just think it looks really neat.
I had a second degree tear, but I was OK with that because it wasn’t a 3rd degree like with dd’s birth. The midwife stitched me up. He stayed awake for more than five hours after the birth and was totally engaged and looking around. That is the neatest part of doing it naturally—they are so alert after they are born. We refused the eye ointment so he could see and look around. They were totally cool with us waiving that and vaccines (although we did get the vitamin K shot).
So that’s it. I was really happy with the way it went overall (although in retrospect I wish I hadn’t begged for the epidural so much—oh well! I guess you can say whatever you want when you are in labor.) I really liked the hospital and the staff. It was set up almost like a birthing center. We named him Emmett Curtis Carver Allen. He nursed like a champ right away—I never had to help him latch on. As of this writing, he is exactly 2 weeks old and has gained over a pound and a half in those two weeks!
L married to J 8 years. Parents to 6 y.o. dd and 3 y.o. ds :nana