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Birth Story Series: Courtney

Updated: Mar 24, 2021

My First Birth Story

My birth story started actually long before I went into labor. I started having contractions about 8 weeks prior to delivery. I didn't know I was having contractions until a midwife pointed it out at a routine visit, but I did know I wanted to have this baby early. Since I found out 37 weeks was considered full-term early in pregnancy, I was sure I wanted to have her at 37 weeks. Why? Because that meant a few things: 1) she would be smaller and it would probably hurt less. I learned later that her size makes no difference in how contractions feel, but only during stage 2 delivery 2) during Bradley classes and other birth education sites, there is much reference to “first time moms” and going past the due date along with a longer labor. I didn't realize why at the time, but I felt as though I would be more of a mom if I delivered before the due date. Later I realized that the reference to a first time mom sounded like someone who lacked experience. Of course, we do lack experience no matter how much we have with children, our bodies have never given birth before. And 3) when I first discovered I was pregnant, I announced it right away at 5 weeks – 3 weeks gestation and my dad, who lacked convincing because it was a home test, also made the comment “we'll see what happens”. And later said that I would go about 2 weeks past my due date because he found the term/week calculation odd. I guess I felt I needed to prove the validity of my pregnancy to the end, and I actually wanted to deliver early, in part, for spite. I must have conveyed being very close to delivery quite powerfully, because for the last 5 weeks of my pregnancy, everywhere I went total strangers would approach to comment saying “wow, don't go into labor now!”, “YOU are going to have that baby in 2 hours!!!” “you should be in the hospital” “we are going to deliver a baby in the store today, here hop up on the cart” “don't let your water break in my isle” “i can tell you are going to have the baby within 2 days, I can see it in your face, there is a look women get right before they go into labor” “well, see you after your baby is born, you won't be back before then” “you should be induced, you are too pregnant”, etc... In the Bradley book, there is a section on different types of labor based on how they start. Mine, obviously was the “any minute now” scenario taking place before ever going into labor, and yes, it was torture. I was even having regular contractions and some of them even hurt, like cramps or being sucker punched by a 10-year old. I was getting frustrated and had a ton of what felt like unbearably uncomfortable aches and pains. It hurt to walk, literally, to move my right foot 3 inches was terribly painful. I was sick of people telling me to go on walks to stimulate labor. I couldn't sleep for more than 2 hours at a time before waking in pain or to pee. I was sleep deprived, physically miserable, and emotionally worn out. One day I was crying, we were in the car and Sean was driving, I just broke down, then I got a glimmer of hope because I heard that an outburst of emotion can be a sign of the onset of labor, then I started balling harder and said “I feel like an idiot!!! I always think it's gonna happen, but it doesn't! I never go into labor!” I laughed at the comment just hours later. :)...

July 20th, I went to bed at 11 pm, and at 1:45 am I woke up flailing around on the bed writhing in pain. I knew instantly that this was really labor. This was not anything like the cramps I had been having or like getting sucker punched, this was like being stabbed in the guts by a villain. It also made me have to poop. I got back in bed, contractions were 10 minutes apart, and every time I had 1 I had to poop again for the first several. (I think I pooped 10-15 times throughout the duration of labor) I could not fall back to sleep, I was terrified because I knew there would be another contraction. It was torture knowing that I was going to feel that again. I got out of bed at 3 am and called my parents on the east coast, knowing they would be up. I called my dad first knowing he would be on his way to work. He was so excited he stopped the paper boy to tell him as he drove by that “his daughter was in labor in CA!” Sean woke up at 3:40 to go to the bathroom and I told him I was in labor and he went back to bed. At 6:30 I woke Sean, I had been in labor for almost 5 hours and needed support, plus Betty the dog threw up on the floor & he had to clean it. :) My parents both called again, my mom a few times on both phones when she couldn't reach me right away and I had to jokingly tell her that it wasn't a great time to talk because I was in labor.

Sean and I took the Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth Classes (with Liza Janda as our awesome instructor) and we had a plan that Sean would be my doula and birth coach. The only thing that helped take some of the edge off the contractions was for Sean to squeeze my hips with all his might throughout the whole thing. I ate a loaf of homemade zucchini bread while we were still home and Sean gave me a massage around 2:00, pausing to squeeze my hips during contractions. I took a long hot shower and was just roaming around aimlessly waiting for contractions and to get into active labor. Sitting on the birthing ball hurt, I hated it. Nothing was comfortable and knowing another contraction was around the corner was a bit scary. Finally at about 3:00 we started discussing going to Best Start Birth Center. We were an hour away, rush hour was approaching, and I had no way of telling how dilated I was and had now been in labor over 13 hours. I knew I was close to active labor if not in active labor, so we packed the car and headed down. We got there at 4:45 and I was just under 4 cm. We were bummed. They sent me on a walk and we walked about 3 blocks away to my favorite vegan fast food joint (Evolution) and I hate a huge sandwich. It took us about an hour to get those 3 blocks, stopping along the way for contractions. We got back around 6:30 and was now about 4.5 cm and they admitted me. One thing that really foiled my birth plan (and I am even tempted to omit from the story) was the mandatory preventative IV antibiotics for GBS. Most hospitals require 3 doses minimum, in the end I got away with only having about 1.5 doses, but was (still am) upset about it.

The midwife on call was only going to be on for another hour until the next one came in from 8-8. I was excited to have Jana be my midwife because I knew she would really make every effort to prevent tearing. All I wanted to do was get in the tub, but she felt it would slow down labor too much and instead gave me exercises to speed it up. Unfortunately, these enhanced the contractions so much some of them made me cry, hysterically. We did lunges, squatty type things, and the worse – a stair lunge maneuver that Sean had to help with. He helped with them all, the stairs were the worst! At one point when Jana suggested the stairs again, I went to the bathroom and hid in there as long as I could to avoid the exercise! I was good about drinking a ton and eating avocados all through labor. Then I wasn't hungry anymore and Jana really wanted me to keep snacking. She was very concerned about me not eating so I started drinking Doc Broc greens in my water for nutrition. The contractions were getting harder and harder to relax through until I physically had no control and COULD NOT relax through them or control my tone to keep it low and open. I begged (for about the 5th time now) to get in tub and made the argument that since I can't relax through the contractions, it might help. She finally agreed and got the tub ready. I really never showed the typical emotional sign-posts of labor. Even in active labor I was still cracking jokes between contractions although, Sean says, I did at some point lose my sense of humor. I never showed the emotional signs of transition. When I got in the tub, I spent a lot of time kneeling on these foam pads so my knees would hurt less, I was disappointed that the tub was not more comfortable, offering some relief. I had to get out at least twice to go to the bathroom. I got back in the tub and was trying to get situated when my water broke under water. I was in the middle of a contract when I felt this huge pop and it was like a dam broke under water, although I couldn't see anything, I could feel the rush, then the contraction resumed, and with a vengeance! I remember it having a metallic feeling to it, like my muscles were contracting around bits of metal, and from that point on, they all had that metallic pain to them. Sean got in the tub to help me and he sat behind me and massaged my shoulders and tried to keep me calm. He was awesome. Every time I had a contraction, I would lean forward and he would squeeze my hips with all his might. We were exhausted. His muscles had been shaking during those hip squeezes since before we left the house, it was now about 1:45 am and I had been in labor for 24 hours. Between contractions, which were lasting about 2 minutes and only 3 or 4 minutes apart, we were actually falling asleep in the tub. We must have been sleeping about 45 seconds at a shot, but fell into such deep sleep it felt like an hour, and then my contractions would wake me, and the hollering would wake him and he would squeeze my hips until it was over and we fell back in the tub, and back to sleep. Jana checked me in the tub at about 3:00 and I was 9.5 cm dilated and she suggested I get out for stage 2 and push on the bed with Sean's help to hold my leg back. She wanted me on my side to prevent tearing. I didn't care, I just trusted her judgment. I thought I wanted to deliver in the tub, but was actually too tired to hold myself up to push, so I was more than willing to go lay on the bed. I felt disgusting, my hair was a giant wet knot, I stank, was covered in dirty water and so wiped out I just made my way to the bed. Jana called for back up, which made me nervous, but she explained they always call for back-up for Stage 2. Dawn was the back-up nurse and she was awesome, a great blessing to have there. I pushed from 3:30-5:30 am. These contractions were different than the rest. No more metallic feeling, but deep with an overwhelming urge to push and I was making every effort to push with my mouth open and breathing out to prevent tearing. My exhaling, pushing yells were deep and grungy and my throat was sore after. When she said she could see her head I thought we were almost done, it was only the 2nd or 3rd push when she could see the head. She asked me to feel it, but it felt too soft to be a head to me so she showed me in the mirror. It looked squished and it was freaking me out, so I didn't want to look. I was trying to get her out with every push and was so irritated when she would rock back in after the contraction. I was beyond ready to be finished with this and it was a kick in the pants every time she slid back in. And it hurt. The pain was incredible. I started yelling “GET IT OUT!!!!!!” when she said she saw the head. I was so mad that I had to do all the work, I thought if she can see it, why can't she just give me a hand and help pull her out. I would have let someone use the vacuum or forceps at that point, so I am glad I was birthing with a midwife who had my babies best interest in mind and not her desire to go home and get it over with.

Finally, during one of the contractions, I was pushing and yelling, and then there were other screams, not mine...Jana said “the head is out”, and she came out with her arm up next to her head. Yes, I felt the ring of fire, and wow – it burned! Jana and Dawn couldn't believe it – Elise was screaming while she was still in my body with just her head out! It took another push or 2 to get the rest of her out. They put her right on my chest and Elise hollered for 2 hrs. At 41 weeks, 5 days, she was 7 pounds 1 oz and 19 ¾” long, born at 5:46 am – after 27 hours of labor, and scored a 10/10 on her APGAR tests. (Good thing she wasn't born when I wanted 5 weeks prior, she probably would have only weighed 4.5 pounds) The next half hour while lots was happening, the contractions continued to deliver the placenta. I was shocked at how much it still hurt after she came out, and how much it hurt to deliver the placenta. I was expecting a great relief, but didn't really get it. Because she came out with her arm over head, I did tear a little, and when Jana was stitching me up the Novocain wasn't working in one area and I screamed. Sean had enough of me being in pain and was very persistent in helping her realize something needed to be done differently so I would not feel this. He was amazing during the entire labor, he never gave up or stopped helping no matter what. I never felt that I wished we had a doula. In fact, I was glad we didn't because Sean did everything right and it brought us even closer as a couple to be alone for this. We were on a relational high when it was all over and it was an amazing process to go through together like this.

They insisted I eat something, but I had run out of food, so Sean drove to the health food store to get me a vegan breakfast – tofu scrambles, potatoes, and granola. Jana left at 8, but Dawn was there for a few more hours yet, she was great! Another nurse came for a while and she was helpful, too. We rested a while and went home at noon...with our amazing baby girl: Elise Claire Charles.

Camille's Birth Story

By the time I started labor we moved from uneasy/nervous to excited! I was in pre-labor for 40 hours. During this time I had contractions but they were anywhere from 2 - 10 minutes apart and lasted anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Nanna was coming for a long visit to help with Elise while I was in labor and help a bit after. The night she was scheduled to fly in I had been in pre-labor all day and was about to hop in the car to pick her up while Sean stayed back with Elise who was in bed for the night. I was running late and ran to the bathroom one last time before hopping in the car and there was blood. This is common and nothing to be afraid of but I called the midwife on call (our midwife we hired was on vacation) and she said I could not drive - and neither could Sean - he had to stay with me! So a good friend picked up Nanna at the airport an hour away at the drop of a hat (Thank you JamesandDelilah Pinckney!) and brought her back home, it was now 10:30pm. Sean did run out to the midwife's house to get a different birth tub since the one we had we was missing a plug and then set it up so it would be ready. Went to bed and had contractions through the night, but less since I was sleeping and it was only pre-labor. The next day we went to church, contractions and all. That afternoon I called our midwife in training (Kaytee) who would be at the birth even if our midwife (Michelle) was out of town and she came over to give us some great encouragement and check on my progress. She discovered to our thrill I was already 3.5 centimeters dilated and gave me some great tips to help. She even told Sean and I to go on a date. So we went to Ocean Thai for our favorite and before we had finished our meal pre-labor progressed into hard labor! :) On my way to the bathroom before leaving I got stuck in a contraction. I was standing in the hall for what seemed like forever and every time I tried to move my leg the contraction would resume and paralyze me. I was surrounded by the staff and Sean came over to help. We went home and tried to go to bed but the contractions were too strong and close together and would not quit for sleep so we decided to just go ahead and do some work to help the labor along. We did exercises and movements to enhance the contractions and bring them on faster so we could welcome Camille into the world sooner. Around midnight we called the midwife on call (Andrea) Kaytee came for the birth. We woke up Nanna, who was sleeping in the other part of the house where we would be birthing Camille and she slept (or rather laid awake) in our bed for most of the labor. At one point she came over to see how it was going and I was in the birth tub moaning through the contractions. Nanna cried :). Labor was typical hard, painful, excruciating labor. It felt like it was never going to end, and at one point I really believed that. Sean was worried that I was giving up. I really had no choice, though...I couldn't stop being in labor. I think I was about 9 cm dilated and Kaytee did the most amazing thing: she helped manually dilate me the rest of the way. I didn't know this was possible but I am thankful she did some of the work for me. She gave me the option, sternly warning me that it would be painful. Lol, I believed her but it was already so painful I didn't know how it could get more painful. It did. Wow, what a 2 minutes. But then I was fully dilated and she said I could push the baby out. I continued to have contractions. I was having a mental difficulty because when I gave birth to Elise I remembered the pushing stage contractions not to hurt as much but give me more of a strong urge to push with all my might and strength and every fiber of my body and soul. These still hurt terribly. For some reason, that made me afraid to push because I didn't think it was time since they still hurt. I was on all fours on the bed crying, and stuck in the position for SOOOOO long my arms were giving out. Everytime I moved any part of me the lightest bit painful contractions would resume so I was unable to move. Sean and I were working alone at this point and I was yelling and crying and pushing - but half halfheartedly, just trying to get pushing going. Then the midwives came in and said "okay, lets push this baby out". And Kaytee helped me, she was perfect. I laid on my side and she held my leg on her shoulder... it is all a daze. Andrea (who was also awesome and just perfect) said her fist was also coming through and I panicked, because with Elise that was the reason for the tearing! They said that it was 1/2 hour of hard, focused, intense pushing and to get Camille out. And she came out at 8:16 am Monday June 12, 2013. No stitches! Shortly after, Nanna and Elise came to see and daddy cut the cord. I complained a lot during the birth about how much it hurt and how awful it was, lol. Afterward I said to Andrea that I complained a lot and she said "that's okay, it worked for you". :) They kept telling me how great I did. I had to ask "Do you ever tell someone they did not do great?...because I know I carried on and complained the whole time" They just smiled. Kaytee said that for every baby that is the number of weeks ideal for healing. Second baby - 2 weeks and the after pains hurt more. Oh my, yes they did. But it was all worth it and I wouldn't change a thing! After 40 hours of pre-labor and 12 hours of hard labor which was just grueling, we prefer to adopt next time...but if God blesses us with another pregnancy, we will still choose a natural, unmedicated home birth God-willing! Having a 2 year old and a newborn has proven to be quite a task for me since it has taken me over 3 months to write this birth story!

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