Mom – JENNY’S Natural Birth Story:
Paul and I are overjoyed to have had our little man at home with us for his first Christmas! Everett was born 12/22/2018 at 11:29 a.m. He was one week late- and I didn’t realize how difficult waiting for labor to start would be! I spent that last week of pregnancy continuing to shovel dates in my mouth, going on long walks, and willing labor to start and the little man to come.
38, Cervical Checks?, 39, 40, Fluid Checks, Non-stress Tests – Let’s Avoid Labor Induction
At each prenatal appointment starting at 38 weeks the Dr. asked if I wanted a cervical check and I declined each time for fear that I would be talked into a membrane sweep which I knew I did not want. Our goal was to have a natural birth. Our doula also told us the cervical check was more for the doctor to gather information but wouldn’t really give us any valuable information. Our doctor was great about it and didn’t push it. I had two non-stress tests as well as two amniotic fluid checks starting after week 40. At the non-stress test on 12/21 the doctor wanted to talk about labor induction with me and discussed the risks of not getting the baby out soon. I told her I would talk about it with my husband but that we were confident we wanted to avoid labor induction and have a natural birth.
Walk the Steps, Dance to Whitney, Eat Burger Lounge
At the end of that appointment, a nurse recommended I go to Swami’s beach to walk the steps. She said many expectant mothers had found that helpful to get labor started. I took it a step further and, with my friend, danced out on the beach to Whitney Houston’s greatest hits as the sun set over the ocean. I asked Paul to pick up Burger Lounge take out. For some reason I always thought that would be my big meal before labor.
Ignore Your Labor
I went to bed early that night and started feeling something that hinted at contractions at 9:00 p.m. I ignored this early labor and slept until about 12:30 a.m. when I woke up from the contractions. I tried to ignore them and started tracking how far apart they were and sleeping in between – the contractions were about 8 minutes apart. At 1:30 a.m. I couldn’t sleep through them anymore and got up. I didn’t tell Paul at this point that labor had started, as I wanted him to keep sleeping and they weren’t so intense I couldn’t breathe through them on my own. I learned in our Bradley class that if I wanted a natural birth, I needed to stay calm and do 5 things: Eat, Sleep, Drink, Walk, take a Bath or Shower.
More Food – Yum! EAT!
I went into the kitchen and made myself a 3-egg breakfast burrito. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be hungry later. I also prepped snacks for the hospital and baked cookies for the hospital staff (I had pre-made the dough so just popped them in the oven) and juiced oranges for fresh OJ to have in the hospital. At 3:30 a.m. I told Paul I was having contractions but that he could keep sleeping. I was timing the contractions and they were getting a bit more intense and were coming pretty close together as well- around 3 minutes apart and some as close as 2 1/2 minutes. A little after 4 I told him that it was getting pretty intense. We decided after some contractions together that I should jump in the bath.
Bath Bombs and the Gate Control Theory
Paul drew me an awesome bath and threw in a bath bomb he had purchased for the occasion. He also put up some battery powered candles and put on some music for me. I spent over two hours in the bathtub using the hand shower on my skin (on my belly) to try to get those sensations to get to my brain faster than the contraction (the Gate Control Theory). The labor contractions in the bathtub were really intense but I was able to sleep/rest in between. I got out of the tub once they got uncomfortable enough that I wanted support from Paul.
I Need My Coach Now
At 7:15 a.m. I got out of the bathtub and woke up Paul (who took a short power nap to make sure he had energy to support me the rest of the day!) Paul called our doula and gave her an update. We labored in the living room for some time after that where the contractions got much more intense and were coming very close together. Since I hadn’t been laboring for too long (only really since 1:30 a.m.)
Self-Doubt – A Classic Sign of Transition
Paul and I thought I was in early first stage labor. I was surprised by the intensity of the contractions and started to experience a lot of self-doubt. I was not sure I would be able to keep going and told Paul that we might need to get an epidural. He comforted me and encouraged me and told me I can do this. We tried a lot of different comfort positions but the ones that worked best for me was when I was on hands and knees and Paul compressed my hips together. Walking and hanging on Paul was the other position that we used but wasn’t as effective.
At 9:24 a.m. our doula, Joy, was on her way to our house and I felt a lot of pressure during a contraction and then heard a popping sound and felt a huge and amazing release. I was so surprised by this I had no idea what had happened. Paul knew immediately that my water had broken- some of it even landed on him! Immediately after I felt a strong urge to push and started pushing in a squatted position on my kitchen floor. Paul (with advice from our doula) told me to blow out the birthday candles and not push. We decided it was time to go to the hospital.
All Fours in the Back Seat
The doula came to the house and helped me get into the car (all fours in the back seat- only way I was going to make it) and then we were at the hospital four minutes later at 10:10 a.m. Once we got into the hospital and checked in, they gave me my first cervical check. Much to my surprise and relief I was fully dilated and in station +1. They gave me the green light to start pushing. I pushed in a few different positions (runners lunge, a few contractions on the toilet, squatting using the squat bar) and once his head was out I lay on my back with the doula and Paul holding my knees and me pushing against them. He was born at 11:29 a.m.!
A Natural Birth, One Bad-Ass Mom, Followed by Two Golden Hours
We delayed the cord clamping and got a full two golden hours! (We hadn’t told anyone we were in labor and told the grandparents at 3pm- so we had him to ourselves in this world for about 3 1/2 hours- it was magical.) They were able to give his shots and check his vitals with him on my chest. I did have some tearing because his arm was up near his head when his shoulder came out, but, honestly, I have felt really good. The doctor gave me a few internal stitches that will dissolve. The hormones have kept me on a consistent high and while I am a little sore it is really fine. I had some Motrin the first couple of days for the post-partum contractions but really have been feeling great.
Natural Birth – More Amazing Than I Ever Imagined
Having a natural birth was so much more amazing than I could have imagined. I was lucid and, while I didn’t necessarily know everything that was going on, I knew I had a doula and an awesome coach who had my back (like with the fibroid matter Paul describes below). I also was treated really well at the hospital and the nurses called me a “badass” for walking into the hospital fully dilated and having a natural birth. I would be lying if I denied how good it felt hearing that. I also just FELT really good after the birth- I had a ton of energy like Liza said we would and I was able to walk myself up from labor and delivery to the recovery room. Paul and I feel so close to have shared this experience together. My recovery has been awesome- I actually went to a yoga class today! I was really worried it would be traumatic and it has been anything but.
I am so grateful we had this Bradley Method class and this information. It was essential for us to feel confident in our decisions leading up to labor and even answering questions in the hospital during and after birth.
Dad – PAUL’S STORY
The last day before my employer’s holiday shutdown, Friday, December 21st, I got off work early to celebrate happy hour at Bottle Craft with my friend Justin on his last day of our old startup job. Jenny was walking the Swami’s stairs at sunset (a positive energy vortex for starting labor, said her nurse that day) and dancing to Whitney Houston songs on the beach (also, apparently, an energy vortex) with our friend Katie B. On my way back to Encinitas to watch Katie play some pickleball, Jenny requested Burger Lounge takeout because she had a mystical vision of eating that particular veggie burger just before going into labor.
Later that night Jenny went to bed around 9:30 pm and I stayed up to watch a new Pete Holmes comedy special on HBO. I went to bed around 11:30 pm, feeling lucky to be on a 2-week vacation from work. At 3:30 am, I heard my name being called from the bedroom doorway, it was Jenny saying “Paul, it’s happening….but it’s still early labor so go back to sleep.” I smiled to myself anxiously (regretted having had 4 beers over the course of the evening) and tried for 45 minutes to fall asleep. At about 4:30 am Jenny came back in and said “OK I think I’m at the point where I need support” so I rolled out of bed, popped two Excedrin, drank a glass of water, and put on my game face.
Early Labor – Time for a Bath
It still seemed like early labor so we didn’t call the doula, but instead got out our worksheets and started exploring relaxation techniques. We did some swaying and side-lying but the contractions were very frequent at 2 minutes and (seemingly) mild, so I suggested getting in the tub to get her mellow and try to space out the contractions. With my free time every other 2-minutes, I set her up in the bathtub with the shower sprayer, some electric candles, a soothing bath-bomb, and the Avett Brothers album collection on shuffle. I kept checking for 15 minutes and she seemed to be slowing, at which point she said this was the most comfortable she’d felt and that I should get some rest until she called me…I felt like a genius as I lay down for nearly 2 hours more sleep!!
Time to Call the Doula
After we got her out of the tub at 7:15 we called Joy, the doula, gave her the full update, and got Jenny dressed in her laboring nightgown. At this point the contractions maintained the same 2-3 minute frequency but began quickly gaining intensity. With some text exchanges with Joy, I started using other techniques to get Jenny on all-fours, belly-sift, and squeeze the hips. Unfortunately for me, squeezing the hips for 1-minute contractions every 2.5 minutes was her best relief. The frequency stayed the same as the intensity gradually increased, and at 9:10 am Jenny started truly doubting that she could do this.
She Is Powerful, Beautiful, Amazing
I recall telling her how powerful, beautiful, and amazing she’s been so far, that she’s already doing it and soon this struggle will be our baby boy. It was transition, and I was missing the sign because I was working and talking too much and trying to time contractions. I finally had a second to text the doula that we needed her presence….ten minutes later while kneeling behind her I heard a pop, felt a rush of hot hit my thigh, and heard a splash hit the blanket on the floor. Jenny asked with fear and exasperation, “What the hell was that, something’s wrong?!”. I replied, “Honey we’re good, trust my sweatpants, that was just your water breaking.”
Urge to Push and Still at Home
I notified Joy that Jenny was progressing really quickly, started getting the urge to push, and that I started prepping for the hospital. She called and said that was a great idea. I put her on speakerphone to coach Jenny how to breath without pushing, while I recklessly slid back and forth the house in my socks, trying to load the cooler items from the fridge, grab our go-bags, and squeeze Jenny’s hips every 2 minutes. So much for my other genius idea to have a nice coffee, breakfast, and shower when the doula arrived. Joy got to the hospital and asked if we were close….we were still on all-fours in the kitchen….so she drove up the hill to help get Jenny loaded in the car. And thankfully so, because I had no idea how Jenny would sit in a car. The solution from Joy was obvious; on all-fours in the back seat with her face in the baby’s car seat.
I carefully drove the 4-minutes down the hill to Scripps Encinitas, pulled up to the front door, and unloaded Jenny just in time to stand her up and let her lean on me for a big contraction (with awkward stares from people walking into the hospital). Joy showed up a minute later and walked Jenny into the delivery ward to check her in while I parked the car and grabbed our gear. When I ran back in it was just in time to meet up with Jenny walking down the hallway to our delivery room.
10 cm and +1! Woohoo!
We helped her get on all-fours on the bed, the nurse did a cervical check and announced, “She’s plus one.” That information took a second to settle…and we thought for a moment of dread ‘one centimeter dilated?!’ but then the nurse near Jenny said “OK, you’re fully dilated and station is ‘plus one,’ so feel free to push when if feels right.” As Jenny started her first pushes, the nurse, MaryAnn, began scanning her belly with the doppler for a heartbeat. Since the baby was so far down it took the nurse some time to find it, and that caused Jenny a moment of grief and panic, which I jumped in to calm and let her know the heartbeat is definitely there and she’ll hear it as soon as they get the right position. Inside I shared her same panic and horrific vision, but that was cast aside in 30-seconds when a powerful whoosh-whoosh heartbeat came over the speakers .
Protect the Process
I watched Joy and the nurses for a moment to admire how swiftly and confidently everyone jumped into their roles to catch up with Jenny’s status. I felt so taken care of that I could just focus on encouraging Jenny’s strength and support her where she needed it. At around 20 minutes, however, a nurse came in and said that a delivery OB was on her way but noticed there was a uterine fibroid on Jenny’s chart and they’d need to do some additional blood tests before delivery. That threw me out of coach-mode and into protect-the-process mode because a blood draw at that moment seemed highly disruptive. The non-continuous doppler heart monitoring was already distracting Jenny, and the concern of a blood test result would have only made it worse. I politely said that we know that fibroid quite well, it wasn’t in the way of delivery, and our doc knows the birth plan and would have warned us that tests during delivery were a possibility. We seemed so close to pushing out a baby that anything outside that focus was unnecessary. They complied without issue and said it’s something they can do after deliver (and after delivery the OB said the tests were unnecessary).
Keep On Pushing
Jenny wanted to try peeing to gain any bladder space available, so Joy and I helped her walk to the bathroom. She didn’t urinate, but I squeezed her hand and let her bury her face in my stomach while she had some intense pushes. The staff said not to push on the toilet, but it seemed to be working well so Joy nudged the door closed and gave permission to push while I comforted from above and she monitored the status below. After six good pushes, Jenny suggested trying the push bar and we walked her back to the bed while they set it up. She squatted on the bed, hung her arms over the bar, and Joy and I held her knees to take some weight off when she leaned forward. I knew it would happen soon because I had my own rush of emotions and, despite her wild hair and puffy red face, Jenny never looked more beautiful, capable, and gracefully determined. I told her all those things, how much I loved her, and that our baby boy was almost here.
“It’s a Ginger!”
2 pushes…hair….2 more….half a head….1 more and a half-twist….face!….”It’s a ginger!” cried the nurse, Tatyana. That got Jenny to laugh with tears of joy and exhaustion, shoulders to go! Last push, however the next thing out was a left hand, which meant she’d have to push a curled arm and shoulder at the same time. It came with the next push, but that’s the one that caused some minor tearing. Pure elation as they pulled out the rest of a little blue body covered in blood and white stuff…this life-bringing moment is indescribable and I’ll never try. I looked at Jenny’s face to capture the moment as they brought him to her chest, and I pulled in close to feel everything.
Gazing Into Each Other’s Eyes
Jenny was torn and needed stitches, so Joy and I held her knees from shaking while the OB did her work and Jenny held our son, Everett, gazing into each other’s eyes with moments of beautiful cries and silence. With the medical necessities complete, we had our last emotional moments in the room with Joy, a wonderful woman who brought strength, confidence, and a woman’s experience to my coaching and our birth story. We said our goodbye and the three of us held each other in the room for the next two hours, a new family and a new person that was our secret to keep for a short time, until the feeling of parental pride took over and we had to announce his healthy life to the people who already loved him.
Postscript: After walking out of the delivery room to our hospital suite, our 2nd floor nurse attendant, Alexis, asked, “Wait, are you that badass momma that walked into delivery fully dilated and just pushed out a baby this morning!”. Yeah, I’m pretty proud of that woman and what we just did together.
Yes. She is That Bad-Ass Momma!