Welcoming the Unexpected: Mairéad’s Birth Story


So many people told me how lucky I was that I made it through the first trimester of my pregnancy with no morning sickness. I thought I was pretty lucky, too. As my pregnancy flew by and I was still feeling great and had no complications, I remember thinking to myself,

“Pregnancy can’t actually be this easy, can it?”

Apparently not, for me at least. Around 28 weeks I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes, despite having no risk factors. Though initially devastated, I soon settled into the diet and felt confident that I would still be able to have a natural birth at the birth center. I had been measuring a couple of weeks small for my entire pregnancy, but nothing that seemed alarming. However, at my 36 week appointment, the midwife suggested that I have an ultrasound to make sure the baby was still growing well. The ultrasound determined that the baby weighed only 4.5 pounds, which was small enough that she was considered to have a growth restriction. I would be induced at 37 weeks. To add to that, my blood pressure was rising and Dr. Calvin was concerned that I might be developing pre-eclampsia (thankfully I never did).

After a long, emotional week, March 28 came and we went to the hospital in the late afternoon. Immediately after starting the induction, I started having contractions, and my baby’s heart rate plummeted. For twelve minutes, MBC midwife Amy and nurses from the hospital did everything they could to get her to start moving again, including giving me an oxygen mask and a shot to stop the contractions. Finally, they succeeded. I was shocked when I was told that they still wanted me to have the baby vaginally, but as the evening progressed and baby’s heart rate continued to drop a bit with each contraction, it was decided that I would have a C-section.

By 10PM that night, my daughter Mairéad Allegra was born, weighing 4 pounds, 9 ounces. She stayed in special care for six days with no major problems. Though her birth ended up being nothing like I imagined or wanted, my husband Josh and I really have so much to be thankful for:

  • That our daughter is alive and healthy thanks to Amy and the nurses and their calm and skillful work to get her heart rate back up (and somehow keep me calm in the process!)
  • That I was able to have the C-section after only six hours in the hospital instead of after hours or days of labor.
  • That our doula Julia was still at the hospital with us when I started having contractions. In ten minutes more, she would have been gone for the night, assuming my labor wouldn’t start for several hours. We were grateful for her reassuring presence.

Three months later, our daughter is happy, thriving, and quite chubby! She has come a long way, and we are grateful to everyone from Abbott, Children’s, and MBC who helped to bring her safely into the world.

-Megan H.

We love birth stories! If you would like to share your story on the blog, please email karen@theminnesotabirthcenter.com.

An Unexpected Entrance: The Birth of Thomas

Beginning in Week 28 of pregnancy with Thomas, my husband Sam and I were given the notion that T would be born before his ‘guess’ date, October 2nd, 2016. During that week, I had experienced some contractions and had a positive result on a fetal fibronectin test. Max (our firstborn) was 2 1/2 weeks early so we expected our second to be early too. It was surprising when October 2nd came and went and I was still very pregnant. One of my very good friends gave me some pregnancy/birth/postpartum affirmation cards in the last few weeks of my pregnancy and the one I went back to over and over read, “My baby will come when ready, I am patient and enjoying this moment.”

On October 4th, Sam went to work in the evening as usual. Max and I were playing when I felt the first rush around 6pm. I continued to have rushes every 5-10 minutes. About an hour later they became more regular so I called Sam and let him know, but thought he should stay at work because it was still too early to tell if this was the real deal.

I put Max to bed at 7pm and relaxed on the couch. The rushes kept coming pretty rhythmically so Sam called in his back-up for work and made his way home. We called our neighbors and let them know I was in labor as they were going to take care of Max, should we need to go to the birth center.

Around 10:30pm Sam called the on-call midwife, Sarah, who suggested I try to take a shower/bath or try to get some rest. I did get a little rest, but periodically woke with strong rushes and finally had to get up around 1:30am. We labored at home a while longer and ended up getting to the birth center at 3:30am.

Sarah met us at the front door and we got settled in. Sam rubbed my back through the rushes and in between would hand me the affirmation cards I mentioned earlier. One of my favorites during labor was, “My vagina stretches like a yogi and performs like a rock star.” They were so great and so very helpful.

I remember having to pee quite a bit and labored on the toilet a lot. After the rushes got really intense I got into the tub. I really wanted to have a water birth which you’ll soon find out was not in the cards for us. I had to pee again and got out to go to the bathroom. This time I had an insanely intense rush and for the first time felt the urge to push. I pushed and my water broke (something that never happened with Max, who was born en caul). Everything happened pretty fast after my water broke. Sarah came back in the room and we went to the birth stool. Every rush felt like my uterus was vomiting out my baby. I never felt rushes that intense with Max’s labor. I got to the point a couple times when I thought to myself, “I can’t do this. . .” and then I would think about Max and remind myself, “You can do this. You’ve done it before. Eventually this will end and there will be a baby.” I just had to keep telling myself, “This will not last forever.”

After pushing for about 20 minutes on the stool, Sarah did another check on the baby. She grabbed a flashlight, looked and felt around again and said, “Okay, the baby is breech. Our protocol now is to do a hospital transfer. We’ll call 911 and wait for the ambulance to get here.” She had me walk over to the bed and hang my butt off the end. Meanwhile, I was still having these crazy intense rushes in which I feel I had no choice but to push. I asked if I could still push and Sarah said, “If you have to, yes.” Sam asked what would happen once we got to the hospital and she said, “They’ll do an emergency C-section.”

Time stopped for a moment and somehow I had two thoughts simultaneously, “Thank goodness I don’t have to do this anymore” and “I have to get this baby out before the ambulance gets here.” I went into full-primal-beast mode. I completely let go and my body took over. I kept pushing with contractions and Sarah said something like, “This baby is going to be born, I think this baby is going to be born.”

I kept envisioning an image from Ina May Gaskin’s book of a statue figure holding open a gaping vagina. In my head, that was my vagina. I’m happy to say I didn’t tear at all while pushing T’s body out. I pushed out his body up to his armpits, his arms and head were still inside.  I asked if I had to wait for another rush to push out his head and they said I should. It felt like it was taking too long and I started getting nervous, so I pushed and I pushed once more and his head came out.

They put T on my chest but after a few seconds he hadn’t cried or breathed yet so they put him on a resuscitation board next to my head. They gave him a little puff of air. I was holding his little hand and looking at his little blue body. A second later he started to cry and I started bawling. They handed him back to me and Sam said, “Jacque, we have a little boy.” (I should mention we didn’t know the sex of the baby before Thomas was born and through all the commotion that was the first moment we realized he was a boy.)

Seconds or minutes later, paramedics came in, assessed the room and said surprised, “Oh, she had the baby.” Sarah let us know that since Thomas and I were both stable we could stay at the birth center but we had the option to go to the hospital. We opted to stay at the birth center. The paramedics said, “Congratulations,” and headed out.

Overall, Sarah and the nurses in our room stayed very calm and I think handled the breech situation perfectly. It may be naïve but I wasn’t aware of the risks of delivering a breech baby vaginally before I had Thomas. The whole, emergency C-section, trip to the hospital thing should have clued me in but I felt like we were safe and everything was under control the whole time. Thank you, thank you, thank you to our labor/support team. You are the reason Thomas made it out safely. . .  even though he did it his own way.

-Jacquelyn P.

We love birth stories! If you would like to share your story on the blog, please email karen@theminnesotabirthcenter.com.

Worth the Drive: The Birth of Callie

My pregnancy and Callie’s birth were wonderful experiences. Although I loved going to the Minnesota Birth Center with Linnea, my first child, the long drive (22 miles and about 30-45 min) was not pleasant so I considered finding something closer. I looked into the brand new birth center that was attached to Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids – not even 1 mile away from us. It was a nice looking place but a very typical hospital. And after making some phone calls I found out that they do not employ midwives and don’t allow their doctors to do water births. With that information it made it easy to decide to go back to MBC. I made an appointment for about nine weeks gestation for my first MBC appointment. And lucky for us, it was with Tasha, who also delivered Linnea while she was still a student. I was happy, we love Tasha!

Around 12-13 weeks I had a scheduled appointment that included the first heartbeat check. The midwife couldn’t find it! Because she couldn’t, Mary-Signe decided to do a quick ultrasound to find the heartbeat and check on baby. We got to see my little chicken nugget, healthy as can be with a strong heartbeat. She was just so low it was hard to detect with the Doppler.

As the pregnancy progressed we worked with Linnea trying to get her to understand that we were having a baby. I bought her books that had pregnant mommies and little kids in them. We talked a lot about how she was going to be a big sister soon and what that meant. We went to my friend’s house after she had her little girl a few weeks before I did, and showed Linnea the newborn. She was so gentle and in awe of the baby, I knew it would work out!

Sometime around 34-35 weeks I started thinking that I would have the baby around 38 weeks. It’s hard to explain what that felt like—not a premonition or a “vision,” just a feeling. The day I turned 38 weeks I still hadn’t had some important vaccines (flu and Dtap) so I went to CVS to get the shots. It was late in the pregnancy to do it but I wanted the baby to be protected. Later that day, Trey made delicious green chile stew for dinner. It was mid-October and a little chilly outside and we were playing outside with Linnea and had a bonfire that night in our fire pit. By 7:30PM I was starting to notice that I was having regular contractions, although I thought they were Braxton Hicks because although they came with a little pain it was nothing like “real” labor pains. I started to time them, and they were 30 seconds long every 5 min, and this went on for over an hour. I thought that seemed very labor-like, so I called the MBC on-call midwife who turned out to be Mary-Signe, the same midwife who was mentoring Tasha who delivered Linnea, so she was at Linnea’s birth too. She said to take a bath and lie down. We had put Linnea to bed by then, and I didn’t even want to tell my mom because I knew she’d be up all night worried. So I waited, but I did ask her if she’d decided not to drive up north this weekend (I had just told her not to go because it’s too close to my due date). She said no, and I said, “GOOD.” I called our neighbor, Charlene, who offered to sit with Linnea if we went into labor at night. I told Char just to be on the alert, still not convinced I was really in labor.

By the time I got out of the tub nothing had changed– -very mild contractions yet very constant. At this point I’d been feeling them about 2.5 minutes so I let my mom know what was happening, but I said it’s likely a false alarm. Around 9:45-10PM I felt them suddenly get strong, I told Trey, “I think these are real now”. I got into bed to lie down and felt a distinct “pop!” just as I lay down. Then felt the gush of my water breaking and the surge in painful contraction. I told Trey, “Oh yes, it’s real! My water broke!” and he was shocked because we had just discussed how typically this doesn’t happen until much later in the labor. The rest happened very quickly–I called Char and she said she’d be right over. We got dressed and made sure the dogs were ok, Linnea asleep in her crib, and got in the Jeep and waited for Char. She got there about 10:30PM, and we headed to MBC. The drive was easy and uneventful (thankfully!) and we got there right at 11PM. We met Mary-Signe at the back door and she filled the tub for me.

Jennifer, our birth photographer, showed up at some point (we called her when we left the house) and then it was time to have a baby! A birthing tub has a significant calming effect, despite the hectic feeling of being in labor. Between contractions I could take in my serene surroundings and the calmness of the warm water. While I was in a contraction nothing else mattered and I didn’t care where or what was going on! I was mostly sitting straight up and down in the tub with my legs to my side, then later laid back in the tub with my legs against two handles. At some point I asked Mary-Signe for the nitrous oxide machine to be brought in. She showed me how to use it and how to get the most relief from it. I’d say it took a while but it did start to dull my senses. To be honest, I did not like it very much. I felt very “drugged” while using it; it made me feel fuzzy-headed and didn’t relieve any pain. However, I do think it relaxed me between contractions which may have helped labor over time. I probably used it for around 30 minutes or so, however estimating time during childbirth is hard and I really don’t know how long it was.

It was interesting for me having already gone through this once before, I starting to know the signs of getting ready to push. I was in a lot of pain, however I had been having distinct contractions separated by 20-30 seconds or longer periods of no contractions. This wasn’t the case with my first, I had been having many contractions on top of each other with no relief in between for quite some time towards the end of the birth. The labor was about seven hours long and I had felt that having such strong and constant contractions probably shortened how long I was in labor. This time though I had gaps between contractions, so in my head I was worried that the labor would go on much longer. But to my surprise after what felt like not very long, I realized that the baby’s head was very close to pushing out and started to moan just like I did with my first in the pushing stage. I could feel it was getting close, yet I wasn’t able to form the words. All I could say was, “Mary, Mary” and was whimpering a little. She knew exactly what was going on and just told me that I’m doing great and to start pushing when I needed to. She’s an amazing midwife that way– -she knew my progress just by watching me.

She never checked my cervix once during the entire labor. She was ready for the pushing stage even before I indicated I was. Now came the amazing part. I pushed once and her head came out! She seemed a little stuck, and Mary-Signe yanked on her a little. She said, “Terri PUSH!” with a little urgency so I gave it everything I had, and on the second push out came my precious girl. Two pushes. It lasted about two minutes! She put her on my chest and just like her big sister she had a short cord so I had to kind of crouch over to hold her. She was screaming and so covered in vernix, and had quite the flattened forehead, probably from hanging out on my cervix for so many weeks before going into labor. I was in absolute shock from how quickly she came out. We arrived at the birth center around 11pm, and she was born at 12:35AM the next morning. I had been in labor technically from about 7:30PM-12:30AM, but really felt more like 10PM-12:30AM because the early contractions were essentially painless. The baby was small, only 6 lbs 2 oz– which I was expecting because she was a little early and had been measuring small in utero—and perfect. We were able to do the wonderful birth center rituals like skin-to-skin family time with my husband right after birth, first breastfeeding hour, herbal bath together, and delicious birth center bread with honey and butter.

Krystin and Karees were the nurses on call and they arrived not long before I had the baby, having come from a St. Paul birth right before ours. They were so helpful and took care not to disturb us too often as we bonded with our little girl. By 4AM we felt it was time to go. We packed up and were on the road by 4:30. We arrived home by 5AM, our older daughter still asleep in her crib! We were even able to take a short nap in the morning before Linnea woke up and got to meet her new baby sister. It was a magical experience, one we couldn’t have even hoped for, because of how seamless and perfect it went. We are truly grateful for our Callie Wren Patricia.

~ Terri P.

We love birth stories! If you would like to share your story on the blog, please email karen@theminnesotabirthcenter.com.