In this series we share birth stories of all kinds from mothers around the globe — with the hope that they inspire, educate and inform expecting mothers. Interested in sharing your birth story? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org Read more birth stories here.
*Read Amanda’s story of postpartum depression here.
At 39 weeks, 4 days I woke up at 8:00am Saturday morning after what seemed like the first full night’s sleep in awhile, and felt like my water *might* have broken. The night before we had tried everything “natural” to get labor going, including eating these shrimp quesadillas. When I stood up to tell my husband Matt, it was pretty clear it had! We called our midwife, since we were planning a home birth, and she came over to confirm and told us to just chill out and wait for contractions to begin. Matt went to take a shower and I decided to clean the house.
At 11:00am contractions started. They were regular from the beginning, at around 4 minutes long and 1 minute apart. We labored at home for basically the whole day. Contractions were intense, but totally manageable. I even decided to bake some homemade blueberry muffins in the afternoon! After a few hours the contractions hadn’t gotten any closer or more intense or longer, so we hooked up the breast pump to get them going. That helped a little, getting them to around every 3.5 minutes and lasting around one minutes, ten seconds. I kept bouncing on the yoga ball and watched HGTV, and sent Matt to get some Sonic ice for me to chew on.
At 9:00pm, our midwife came back over and checked me. I was at 5cm, and still rocking through contractions that seemed pretty do-able. She decided to stay and she and Matt got everything ready for birth at home. My best friend Kara arrived around this time to be our photographer (which is where all of these beautiful photos come from).
Contractions were definitely painful at this point, but I was getting a good break in between and felt like I was still staying on top of them. Around 11:00pm I moved into the birth tub, we dimmed the lights and put on some music and waited for things to really get started.
Around midnight I was checked again, and was in transition at 8cm. It was like a light switched—all of a sudden contractions were 2 minutes apart, insanely painful, and I wasn’t getting a break in between. Essentially there was no moment from that point on that wasn’t without pain–it was just a matter of how much pain.
We tried moving to the bed, and then back to the tub, but it was all terrible. I started getting the shakes, and somewhere around 1:00am I started vomiting. I knew that I was expending energy I didn’t have, but there was definitely no stopping it.
At 3:00am I hit my breaking point. I asked to be checked again, and was still at 8cm. I’d been in transition for three hours at that point, and was totally shocked to hear I hadn’t progressed. I was still throwing up and shaking violently. All of a sudden I instinctually knew it was time to go to the hospital. My midwives and Matt tried to stall me, since I’m sure that everyone thought I had to be so close to delivering her. They suggested I try 5 minutes in a hot shower, and see how I felt after that. So I got in the shower with Matt and it was like knives—I was screaming, and at some point looked at Matt and said CALL 911 RIGHT. NOW. (For the record, I only wanted paramedics to come because I thought they carried narcotics on the ambulance and it’d be the fastest route to relief—but they don’t so it didn’t matter!)
At 3:30am I finally made it clear to everyone that we were going to the hospital. I’d been in labor for 17 hours at that point, with 3.5 hours in transition. There was a very real chance that we’d get to the hospital and there wouldn’t be anything they could do to relieve the pain, since I was so far progressed. And my midwives were concerned with me delivering in the car (my thoughts? great! get this freaking baby out! I don’t care where!). But I knew we had to go anyway. So we packed up and headed there, with everyone (including myself) thinking that surely I’d deliver her in the car. (Side note: Matt and Kara were frantically grabbing a diaper and a onesie to bring with us, and Kara laughs now thinking how I stopped to tell them exactly where the packed emergency hospital bag and diaper bag were. #typeA)
We made it to Shands Hospital and got to L&D around 4:00am. Our midwives had called ahead and I think everyone at the nurses’s station thought for sure I’d be delivering any minute. I was admitted into a room ASAP and was told they’d paged the anesthesiologist for an epidural. When there was talk about having to do a CBC blood test first to test my platelet levels, and then wait for the results, I asked what narcotics they had—but none were available since I was so progressed and Emory wouldn’t have enough time to get them out of her little system.
Our nurse Olivia was a saint. She was exactly what I needed. She kept talking to me, and kept me focused. The anesthesiologist arrived and thankfully decided that I could have an epidural. I was checked first to make sure she wasn’t crowning (again, everyone thought I’d be delivering any second) but I was STILL AT 8CM. I think it was then that I had this overwhelming feeling that I had made the absolute right decision to transfer to the hospital.
Everyone left except Matt, our nurse Olivia, and the anesthesiologist. It took her about 30 minutes to place the epidural, which was basically torture since you have to hold completely still while they’re doing it (it’s incredible how still you can hold in the midst of excruciating pain, but I think the fear of paralysis was the driving factor). I was still contracting every 2-3 minutes at this point. Once it was in, I had a hot spot on my right side, so we had to up the dose. Thankfully, the epidural was on a pump system, so I could determine how much or how little I wanted—this was important because I wanted as little of a dose as I could manage. We had to increase the dose to get my right side covered, and around 5:00am, after 18 hours of labor, including five hours of transition, I finally got relief.
Matt got a quick nap and I settled into a state of alert delirium. I had the epidural in for about an hour or so and was checked again. 10cm! Finally. At around 7:30am they decided they wanted me to start pushing, which is weird when you have no urge to push. We just had a shift change, and our new nurse Katie was literally an angel. She had attempted a home birth herself and had to transfer, and then had a successful home birth after that. I think she was also a midwife. God totally sent her to us because she knew what we were wanting out of this experience.
I started pushing with Matt holding one leg and our midwife holding the other, and Katie was sitting coaching me through it. There weren’t any doctors yet, so it was pretty calm. My pushes were strong and effective, and I thought we were pretty close at that point (um, wrong. not quite). We tried a few different positions, like on my side and on hands and knees (which I was shocked I could even move into since I had an epidural in place, but again, I was keeping it at the lowest dose I could). I was most effective lying on my back, which, ironically, goes against most things I know about birth physiology.
For some unknown reason, I had this belief that I’d push for like 30 minutes and she’d be here. But she got stuck behind my pubic bone, and it took a while for her to navigate her way past that. I was so discouraged to hear after an hour of pushing she was still stuck! But, you push like you eat an elephant: one push at a time.
After 2.5 hours of pushing, the OB team came in and prepped for delivery. Since we were at a teaching hospital, this meant everyone and their mom. At this point my epidural had pretty much worn off, so I was feeling it all again. I’d push and then cry, push and then cry. I remember looking at different people in between pushes and asking them to “please help me!” I couldn’t understand why the heck she wasn’t out yet. But then at 9:43am, after 23 hours of labor, sweet baby Emory arrived with a head full of hair and a good cry! The doctors told me to reach down and grab my baby, and it was totally surreal. I think that moment is burned in my memory forever. She laid on my chest and grabbed both my finger and Matt’s finger and we were so relieved and everyone was crying. I wish I had it on video!
Some additional thoughts on the experience:
I have absolutely zero regrets about transferring to the hospital. Do I wish we got the home birth we wanted and prepared for? Of course. But we had to do what was right, and that was getting mom some pain relief to finish the race.
Will we try again in the future for a home birth? (That’s IF we have more kids, which right now sounds down right nauseating!) Maybe. The pain I experienced was borderline traumatic, mainly since it lasted so long, so that’ll always be in the back of my mind. But I’m also not against trying again and seeing what happens. Ask me again in a few years :)