Category Archives: Birth Stories

Long Awaited – The Birth of Everett

After struggling with infertility for several years, my husband Devin and I were shocked and overjoyed to find out in March of 2016 that we were finally expecting!

Those 10 months were full of excitement, joy, and frankly a lot of fear. After trying to get pregnant for so long, we struggled to believe that it was finally our turn. We had a few moments during our pregnancy that fed into our sense of fear including a subchorionic hemorrhage.

We finally decided it was time to tackle our fear. Attending psychotherapy and our 12 week-long Bradley Method class significantly helped our fear. As we neared or due date, we continued to work with the Minnesota Birth Center midwives who helped us feel confident and at ease about our upcoming labor and delivery.

Unfortunately, my body was still pretty anxious, which started appearing in my blood pressure results. Whenever I would take my blood pressure at home it would be fine, but the minute I was at the birth center and thinking about how important it was for my blood pressure to be normal, it would shoot up.

This became concerning to our midwives and as my due date approached they suggested that I consider being induced at the hospital.

I came home from this appointment heartbroken and discouraged, thinking the birth Devin and I had planned for would not happen the way that we had dreamed. This happened on Tuesday November 8th, after a long and stressful day of work. We decided that night that I would start my maternity leave the next day and we would spend the day doing whatever we could to induce naturally, just in case our little guy was ready to make his appearance.

The next morning I scoured the internet for “natural ways to induce labor” and proceeded to try pretty much every one of them. I hooked myself up to my breast pump for awhile before Devin and I headed to see an old friend who is an acupuncturist, Dr. Ma. I used to work for Dr. Ma when I was in college and knew that he had great success inducing labor with acupuncture.

After my acupuncture treatment we headed to St. Paul to meet our midwife, Brigette, who wanted to monitor my blood pressure and our baby’s movement. Our little guy was looking great and my blood pressure was normal. I had been having consistent Braxton-Hicks contractions since week 30 of my pregnancy, but during our non-stress test Brigette informed us that they seemed to have a bit of a pattern. Brigette checked me and I was already three centimeters dilated. She offered to strip my membranes in an effort to get things moving and we agreed.

Devin and I went out to eat and enjoyed a delicious burger. We decided that our dogs needed a little bit of exercise so we decided to take them to the dog park. As we walked out the door I began having what I assumed was another Braxton-Hicks contraction, but this one felt different. It had a period cramp-quality to it. I remember looking at the clock and noting the time, 4:30pm. I felt excited but tried not to get my hopes up, knowing that this can sometimes happen after the membranes are stripped and it may not lead to anything.

We met my parents at the dog park and walked for about an hour. My contractions continued, about every ten minutes or so. On our way home from the dog park we stopped at the store and bought a going-home outfit for our baby. We returned home and by the time I was ready to sleep for the night my contractions had stopped.

I was able to get a full night of sleep and was woken up on Thursday morning with the same contractions that I had been having during the previous evening. They remained between 7 and 10 minutes apart and were easy to manage without many comfort measures. I spent the day setting up my out-of-office replies and getting ready to be away from work for three months. Devin had a doctor’s appointment and wanted to stop into the office to make sure everything was ready for him to take paternity leave as well. For some reason, even though I was in labor and already on maternity leave, it still hadn’t clicked that I would be having this baby soon.

My contractions stayed pretty steady throughout the day, between 7 and 10 minutes apart. When Devin got home from work, we decided to take a walk around our neighborhood. The weather that day was incredible for November, almost into the seventies! That evening our doula, Esther, came over for a few hours. We talked, prayed, and used the rebozo to help our little guy get into a good position. Within an hour after she left my labor began to change dramatically. My contractions became stronger and closer together. I decided to get in the bath to see if they eased up at all. They did not.

Devin and I got into bed and I quickly realized that I would not be able to stay still through the contractions anymore. I got up and decided to let Devin sleep. Despite being in early labor for a full 24 hours already, I still had not finished packing our bags. I decided to head downstairs and do some packing. At this point it was probably around 10:30 pm. I spent the next three hours or so laboring in the basement and attempting to pack our bags for the birth center. Around 1:00 am I realized that I could no longer distract myself from my contractions anymore and decided it was time to use some of the comfort measures we had learned in our Bradley Method classes. I went upstairs and decided to take a shower.

Unfortunately our water heater was not working very well. After a few minutes in a warm-turned-cold shower I got out and had a nice loud contraction right outside our room. This woke Devin up and he was instantly in birth partner mode. He reset the water heater and helped me through the next few contractions in the shower. Sometime just before Devin woke up I vaguely remember texting our doula to let her know that labor was getting intense. Soon after Devin got up he started communicating with Esther to update her on labor.

This is where things get a little fuzzy for me. In the early hours of Friday morning I went into the zone and could only focus on each contraction as it came. Around 3:00 am Esther came over and joined our contracting team. Like I said, I don’t remember much, but I remember trying different positions: sitting on the birth ball, leaning over a chair, on the toilet, and laying in bed, and even crawling on the floor! I remember having the urge to pull on things as each contraction hit and sometimes that thing was Dev’s hat, shirt, hair, anything!

While all this was going on, Devin and Esther were intermittently calling the midwives at the birth center and letting them listen to my contractions to help them decide when we would go in. There was some debate about whether or not I could still deliver at the birth center due to my blood pressure. Around 7:00 am my chiropractor, Dr. Ann, stopped by and adjusted me in our living room.

Around 9:00 am we decided it was time to head to the birth center. I remember stepping outside and feeling the crisp morning air on my face. It felt like I finally “woke up” from my labor-daze and I felt my awareness increase.

The midwives called just as we were leaving and let us know that they would let me start laboring at the birth center and that I would only need to transfer to the hospital if my blood pressure rose. We were overjoyed!

Devin hopped in the front seat of our van (yes, we bought a van for our one baby and two dogs- ha!) and I climbed into the front seat. Instantly, I decided that the thought of contracting sitting in the front seat of the car sounded terrible so I proceeded to climb to the very back of our van and squat. Devin laughed because I didn’t open the doors and walk back there, I crawled. Very dramatic. Dev looked at me with excitement on his face as we left our alley and said, “The next time we’ll be here we will be coming home with our baby!”

I had two contractions on our 7 minute drive to the birth center. I remember trying to get Devin to run a few red lights and feeling confused and mad that he wouldn’t do it, even though he kept kindly explaining to me that he couldn’t run lights when there were cars coming.

When we pulled up to the birth center we were greeted by Esther who was waving to us with a huge grin. She had just gotten the news that we could deliver at the birth center!

I came up to the door of the birth center and started frantically banging on the door and ringing the doorbell. The birth center is a big beautiful house located in a South Minneapolis neighborhood. I was keenly aware that we were close to the MBC neighbors and that I was pretty loud whenever a contraction hit.

After my frantic door banging our wonderful midwife Brigette met me at the door with a smile on her face. I stepped into our birthing room and noticed how bright and peaceful it was. The morning sun covered the big bed, the birthing tub and the chandelier. Brigette checked me and said I was already 6 centimeters dilated! She also checked my blood pressure which was perfect! It turns out I just needed a big distraction, like labor, to keep my blood pressure and anxiety down!

I headed straight for the shower and climbed right in, very thankful for a functional water heater. Devin joined me in the bathroom and we had a beautiful moment alone. He told me how proud he was of me and how he didn’t think he could ever love me more than he did today. It was a perfect moment.

Over the next few hours I labored all around the room, in the tub, on the bed, on the floor, and backwards on the toilet. Esther kept reminding us that our sweet boy knows our voices and encouraged us to talk to him. I found this deeply connecting and it helped me focus on the purpose of my labor.

At some point while I was in the tub I noticed I was feeling kind of “pushy.” Brigette offered to check me and said I was close to a 10; there was just a bit of a lip of my cervix left. I pushed while she helped my body move the lip with her fingers.

I hopped back into the tub and felt a rush of energy! This was it! The next step is baby! After a few pushes I was sure he must be ready to be born soon. I soon realized that pushing was not going to be a quick process for me and I began feeling discouraged.

After pushing for awhile I ended up backwards on the toilet again. For some reason that position felt the most comfortable to me. Soon I felt my water slowly break. It was totally different than what I was expecting, a slow trickle instead of the huge gush you always see on TV. Brigette offered me some peppermint oil to smell and it gave me energy. Devin was there for every contraction singing to me, squeezing my hips, and rubbing my back.

Soon it became clear that I was losing steam. Brigette told me it was time to eat something. I didn’t really feel hungry and I remember feeling a little annoyed that I had to try to eat. “Don’t they know that I’m busy contracting over here?” Between each contraction Esther would give me a bite of applesauce and a sip of coconut water.

After pushing for awhile it became clear that our little guy was stuck. Esther and Dr. Ann, my chiropractor who had arrived sometime in the afternoon, helped by suggesting different positions for me to push in, to help our little guy move down. At one point they had me doing a Spinning Babies move where I would pull my belly in toward my back during each contraction. I remember those contractions being super strong. At some point I moved to the bed and ended up pushing on my back while Brigette held a mirror up so I could see the progress I was making. The pushing on my back seemed to do the trick to get him unstuck. I remember feeling discouraged each time I would see his head making his appearance, only for it to disappear as the contraction subsided. At some point on the bed I remember feeling like my contractions were not really stopping in between. I remember Brigette telling me to rest after each contraction but I felt like they were coming one after another!

I was getting tired, hot, and discouraged after pushing for over three hours. They had moved a fan to me that was blowing on me to cool me down. Just as I thought I couldn’t keep going I heard Brigette tell the birth assistant to move the fan once the baby was born so it didn’t mess with his breathing.

I remember thinking, “What?! He is actually coming?” I got another rush of energy and realized that I had to push him out NOW! My body must have known that I needed gravity to help me. All of a sudden I found myself crawling off the bed and grabbing the labor sling hanging from the ceiling. With the next contraction I pushed out my baby’s head. I felt like I had accomplished the world and I felt like resting and waiting for the next contraction to push out the rest of him. It became clear that this was not going to work and my team instructed me to keep pushing! Evidently our little guy came out with his hand at his face. No wonder he had been stuck for a few hours! I got down on my hands and knees and pushed him out completely, and Devin was right there on the floor with me to catch him!

At 6:24 pm on November 11th our son was born.

Devin and Brigette handed our sweet boy to me through my legs and, still on my hands and knees, my sweet boy and I locked eyes for the first time.

He looked up at me with this adorable squinty pout that melted my heart. He was perfect and he seemed so familiar to me.

Brigette suggested I bring him to my chest and I held his small warm body against me. Devin cried and held us and we enjoyed our first moment as a family of three.

I moved to the bed and delivered the placenta, which I barely noticed because I was so enthralled with the little person on my chest.

As soon as I delivered the placenta, I looked at Brigette’s face and knew something was not quite right. She quickly and calmly called for backup and within seconds I was hit with a shot of Pitocin in my leg. Brigette administered cytotec and a nurse was hooking me up to an IV. I was hemorrhaging.

To be honest, I was so overcome with baby-induced bliss that I barely understood what was going on. I had so much faith in my birth team and they were so professional and calm that it barely registered that I had been in danger.

It turns out my uterus was pretty tired from contracting for so many hours and it couldn’t be bothered to keep contracting without a little help. I lost almost a liter of blood in a matter of minutes.

Once I was stable I got all stitched up, with our baby still on my chest. I remember experiencing this flood of energy and happiness. It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I could not stop talking! Maybe it was the cocktail of oxytocin and other hormones or the fact that I had barely said anything but all of a sudden I wanted to TALK! Our wonderful birth team obliged me.

At some point we realized that our precious son needed a name! We had already decided on his first name but spent some time going back and forth between two middle names. We finally settled on Everett John. Everett means strong and brave, the blessing and prayer we wanted to speak over him after we experienced so much fear during pregnancy. Our prayers for strength and bravery were answered during labor and delivery and his name is a reflection of this.

While I was being stitched up, sweet Everett, who was peacefully laying on my chest, latched for the first time and began to nurse. I remember feeling so overcome with awe. How do babies know to do that!?

After getting stitched up, Dr. Ann offered to adjust Everett and Devin. This was the first time since he had been born that he left my arms, two hours later.

At some point our wonderful birth team brought in a plate of fresh-made bread with honey and butter. After not really eating much since the night before I don’t think anything had ever tasted so good! Soon Esther and Dr. Ann said their goodbyes and it was just the three of us, laying in bed and snuggling.

After spending some time resting and snuggling, Brigette came back in to do the newborn exam. The birth assistants drew me a postpartum herbal bath and I relaxed in the tub while Devin and Brigette did the exam. It turned out our little Everett was 9 pounds, 3 ounces! No wonder it took so much work to get him out!

Soon after, Devin and Everett joined me in the tub. On my labor playlist there was a lullaby by the singer Sara Groves. Whenever I would hear it in labor I remember thinking that eventually I would get to sing it to my baby and it gave me strength. Devin played the lullaby as we all snuggled in the tub and I started crying for the first time since Everett’s birth. It was a perfect moment. We finally had our baby.

After our bath we got all packed up and climbed into the car. I immediately started shaking. It seemed my body finally realized the ordeal it had been through. We made it home in five minutes and my parents and sister were waiting for us.It was midnight. They met Everett and there were lots of tears and laughter. My mom had made us lasagna and they tucked us into bed with our lasagna, which I remember was the best thing I’d ever tasted. It turns out birth makes me ravenous. By 1:00 am the three of us were all tucked in and ready for bed. It was incredible to spend our first night in our own bed. All three of us slept all night and woke up refreshed at 9:00 am the next morning. We basically spent the next three weeks in bed marveling at our beautiful miracle.

I am writing this just under a year later. Everett will be one this week. He has been the biggest blessing we have ever received and has brought our family so much joy and strength, just like his name.

~ Sara P.

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Hello Fella: The Birth of Liam

On Sunday, April 2, 2017 I was still a week out from my due date. It was my husband’s last shift for work; he is a pilot so he had to take off three weeks just to ensure he would be home and not in another city at the time of my baby’s birth. My contractions started that morning at 7:20am while I was taking a shower. I thought, “Perfect timing! My husband lands at 8. I will labor for a while, go pick up my husband and have the baby later today. This is perfect; he will now have three weeks off to spend time with me and the baby.

However, as I was showering and shaving my legs, I got through one leg and felt like maybe I should get out and get ready. So I got out, woke up my 4 year old and told him to get dressed. I sent a text message to my husband saying that labor had started and all was well. Then I sat down in front of my mirror to do my makeup and my water broke. I looked at the clock; it was only 7:40am.

At this point, labor progressed fast! I changed my clothes, having several contractions, and sent a text to my husband again saying he needed to get a taxi to meet to at the birth center. I called my midwife, babysitter, and doula and asked them all to meet me at the center. I couldn’t even time the contractions because I was in so much pain, so frazzled, and trying to get everything in line. My sweet little 4 year old, Aiden, was running around helping me pack, throwing in granola bars into my bag and trying to comfort me. During one contraction, he was so concerned and asked me what it felt like. By 8:00am, I was in the car, everything else thrown in with me.

At this point, my husband had finally landed so he called me to see if I was okay. I was driving at this point, through contractions and debating where to pull off if needed. My voice cracked and I just told him to meet me there. He could hear the panic in my voice and he said, “Honey, you are doing good. I will meet you there.” To be honest, the drive was a blur. My poor son had to listen to my howls and my cries. I kept saying, “I cannot have this baby right now”.

I remember thinking that I needed to breathe through the contractions but they were coming so fast, so intense and I couldn’t focus until I was at the birth center. I had to focus on driving. I arrived at the birth center at 8:16am. Being Sunday morning, no one was there. I called my midwife again and asked her how far she was. At this point, I got out of my car and stood, holding onto the car for support. I thought I might have the baby right there. The pain in my hips was so intense. I was worried about my son in the car too but he was just quiet and concerned, not making a sound. My primal instincts took over from the time my water broke and I just didn’t want to have the baby at home with my son there or in the car or in the parking lot. I remember thinking the neighbors around the birth center were probably hearing my cries and thinking there was a wild animal outside.

My midwife, Mary-Signe, arrived and ran to the building to open the doors. I walked in, sent my son to the foyer to play while I walked back to the room. At this point, I felt like I was pushing, worried I was going to poop and fluid was coming out so my clothes were soaked. Being too concerned about everything else, I stopped to have a contraction in the hallway, saying to my midwife that I couldn’t have the baby yet because my husband was on his way. She helped me calm down and get back to the room. I went to the bathroom, again, feeling like I needed to poop so I sat on the toilet. As I sat down, another contraction came and I screamed for her to come in, “The baby is coming”. Mary-Signe ran in, no gloves or anything to see my baby’s head half way out. She pulled off my pants, grabbed his head, told me to push and out came my baby’s whole body. She handed him to me and ran to grab some towels. Liam was born at 8:29am. At that point, I went from the most intense anxiety and intense pain to the calmest and most peaceful I have ever felt. He looked back at me, big beautiful eyes and not a single cry. I asked if he was okay and Mary-Signe said he was perfect. I sat there, holding him in awe. He was so perfect and so calm. Mary-Signe got the bed ready; I carried him over and laid him down on my chest as I lay down. Such a beautiful moment.

A few moments later my babysitter arrived to take my other son, the birth assistant arrived and then my husband knocked on the door. He came in, looked at me in shock to see a baby on my chest. I told him that our son, Aiden, needed to be taken care of, my bags were still in the car, and BTW, “Here is your new son.”  He was in shock for a few minutes not realizing either what had just happened since we were on the phone about 10 minutes prior. Our doula also arrived a few moments later.

Liam got there before anyone else; I am just grateful that we made it to the birth center and that he waited for Mary-Signe to arrive, too. My first son was born in a hospital with a much different story and I was extremely drugged up. My birth center birth was amazing, although it was very short. I didn’t get the birth I had planned for but it was amazing nonetheless. I would highly recommend a natural birth at the Minnesota Birth Center. The staff was amazing; I felt such peace and love the whole time there. Thank you for helping me and for welcoming my sweet little Liam into this world.

~ Heidi C.

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Worth Every Effort – The Birth of Arthur

Our baby’s due date was Tuesday, Jan. 19, the day after the Martin Luther King Day holiday. I left the office the previous Friday determined not to come back. I was going to have the baby that weekend, dammit.

The weekend happened to be one of those “polar vortexes” we’re prone to in Minnesota. The temperature hovered around 0 starting on Saturday, and dipped to -11 by Monday morning. My plans for walking the baby out were not going to happen, so instead I passed the time cleaning, coloring in my Outlander coloring book, bouncing on my birth ball, eating pineapple, drinking red raspberry leaf tea, and timing my Braxton Hicks contractions. By Monday they hadn’t gotten any closer together than 5-10 minutes, and were still very irregular. Matt and I were about to try the only other indoor activity you can do to get things going, when I felt a trickle of something that was definitely not pee. I bounced out of bed and told Matt, “Um… I think my water just broke?” Then I felt another trickle. “There it is again!” I said. “GET OFF THE CARPET!” he yelled.

We had a composed a song for exactly this event to the tune of Robyn’s, “Call Your Girlfriend“:

Call your midwife
Tell her your water broke
Tell her the color
Odor, amount, and time!
Cuz youuuuuu
Might have that baby soooooon

The midwife on-call at the Minnesota Birth Center that day was Sarah, one of our favorites. We made an appointment to test the fluid to be sure it was amniotic and do a non-stress test to see if the baby was still doing OK. The results were clear: my “bag of waters” had indeed released! I triumphantly texted my boss to tell her I wouldn’t be coming into work the next day. Because I wasn’t yet in labor, Sarah told us to go home and try to get some rest, and to check in with her that evening. We made a quick pitstop in the ~*Donna Room*~, which is where we hoped we’d meet our little babe in the coming hours.


The Donna Room at the Minnesota Birth Center in Saint Paul. Very luxury. Much comfortable. So soothe.

We decided to go to Brasa for lunch, which we assumed would be our last meal before the baby arrived. We were so, so excited to meet the little buddy who had lodged its foot in my ribs for the past several months.


I bet Anna the baby would come at 2 a.m. Tuesday morning. Anna guessed 7:43 p.m. on Tuesday. We were both so young and naive.

We returned home and I resumed my coloring book/birth ball routine. Contractions got to be about 7-8 minutes apart lasting a minute, but they were irregular and not getting more intense. The midwife on call advised me to return to the birth center the next morning for another non-stress test if things didn’t pick up. The baby was still comfy as could be and healthy at that appointment. Midwife Courtney said they could only really give me another 24 hours to go into labor on my own, and then they would need me to go to the hospital to be induced due to the risk of infection. I was feeling very discouraged but determined not to let that happen. I had spent months envisioning a peaceful water birth in the calming, spa-like ~*Donna Room*~. The hospital was not part of my plan.

I made an appointment with my girl Kennedy at Selby Acupuncture and told her to light me up like a Christmas tree. I waddled down the hallway for a pedicure appointment at Estetica immediately afterward. Matt then picked me up and we went across town to the Minneapolis Institute of Art to try to stimulate labor by walking. There we ran into Molly, a friend from Duluth. She was two weeks overdue and up to the same tricks. Matt and I wandered through the Asian art galleries, stopping every 10 or so minutes while I had a Braxton Hicks contraction. We had another evening of irregular contractions that didn’t add up to much.The midwife on call that night told me if I still hadn’t gone into labor by the next day they’d insist on a trip to United.


Two pregnant AF ladies trying to waddle their babies out at the MIA.

The next morning I tried acupuncture again, followed by some prenatal yoga at Blooma. NOTHING WAS WORKING. After class I returned a missed call from Midwife Katie, who told me my time was up: I needed to get my stubborn butt to the hospital that afternoon. Just then my yoga teacher came downstairs to find me sobbing, and I snotted all over her shoulder as I conveyed how devastated I was to have the birth I’d been dreaming about and planning for suddenly ripped out of my clutches.

I should probably explain a bit about why I was in such a glass case of emotion beyond your usual pregnancy hormonal swings. An abridged version: Matt and I decided to start trying to get pregnant on my 28th birthday in June 2013. I went off the pill, but didn’t get a period for seven months. I finally saw a doctor about it in January 2014, and he diagnosed me with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a form of infertility that basically screws with my ability to ovulate. He referred me to a fertility specialist, who started me on hormonal treatments that would force ovulation. Miraculously, I got pregnant after the first round, but I soon suffered a devastating miscarriage. I tried a few more rounds of the hormones until I developed an ovarian cyst. That made me want to try a different approach, so I started weekly acupuncture treatments in December 2014 that I continued through the following spring. In May 2015, I found out I was pregnant again.

Throughout that whole process, I felt like my body was failing me in the most basic, primal way. This delay in labor felt like yet another time my body couldn’t get it quite right. Every single part of my journey had felt completely out of my control, and having something yet another choice taken away left me feeling impotent. The one upside was that I would continue to be cared for my the birth center midwifery team.

Quite a change from my heart’s desire.

Matt and I spent a sullen afternoon taking care of last-minute chores around the house and repacking our bags — what we had assumed would be an overnight stay at the birth center was now gearing up to be a multi-day sojourn at United Hospital. We arrived at my recently remodeled, space-age birthing suite at about 5:00, and I got outfitted with a belly band that would hold in place my two constant companions in the coming days: a contraction monitor and a fetal heartbeat monitor. If the latter got dislodged and couldn’t detect the heartbeat, it would beep incessantly until a nurse came in and adjusted it. Both produced piles of graph paper from a machine by the bed that tracked my progress.

Giving birth and pooping: not dissimilar.

*** Please note: shit’s about to get real/graphic/real graphic. If this stuff squicks you out abandon ship here!***

At around 7 p.m. (which I am counting as the start of my actual labor) I received my first method of induction: a prostoglandin called Cervidil. It looked like a small sliver of paper attached to a tampon string, and it had to be manually inserted behind my cervix. They wanted to start me on this one because if the contractions got too intense it could easily be removed. I’m sure my lovely midwife was being as gentle as possible, but, dear readers, there is only one way to describe how this felt: like being fisted by a lion. Because I had intended on birthing without pain medication, I had worked on creating a “happy place” I could go to in my mind that looked an awful lot like a beach in Belize. The problem was, there was no scenario that visualization worked for me in that moment unless a crab had decided to climb up my hooha.

I soon started to feel real, regular contractions. They weren’t particularly debilitating yet, so I tried to get as much sleep as possible before the party started. I was foiled by the steady stream of nurses in my room every two hours to check my vitals, the constant, irritating beeping of the fetal heart rate monitor every time I changed positions and it got dislodged, and the hip pain that had been a constant companion in the latter stages of my pregnancy and was exacerbated by the uncomfortable hospital bed. Oh, and our room was directly above a loading dock. It made me mourn the loss of the ~*Donna Room*~ so hard… with its real, comfortable bed, spacious tub, soothing color palette, and lack of bright, beepy things. At around 2 a.m. (Hour 7) they gave me a sleeping pill that allowed me to get a little rest.

When the next morning’s on-call midwife Courtney arrived at 7 a.m. (Hour 12), she removed the Cervidel and checked my cervix. I was still only 1 cm dilated, despite my contractions getting stronger/more painful overnight and more regular (3-7 mins apart). The decided to move on to Cytotec, a more powerful prostoglandin that looked like a tiny pill and also had to be manually inserted (but far less painfully). Each dose lasts about 6 hours. After the first one I was still only a few centimeters dilated, so at 1 p.m. (Hour 18) I had a second dose. Things were starting to get really painful, and my hips were NOT LYING.

A nurse told me they had a massage therapist on staff who was “part of the package” and asked if I wanted to see her. Yes. Yes I did. She wafted into the room a few hours later on a cloud of patchouli. I told her that what I wanted the very most in all the world was to have someone squeeze my hips as hard as they possibly could, because it felt like they were falling apart. “Hmm,” she said. “What I’d really like to try with you is some gentle acupressure.” Gentle did not sound fun, it did not sound good, it sounded infuriating, but I said, “Sounds good.” She had me lean against a wall while she put the lightest, most feathery pressure on my haunches. After staying there for a contraction or two, she suggested “something a bit unorthodox.” She wanted to form a sling with her arms between my legs so she was cupping my bits and “breathe with me.” I believe I said something to the effect of, “Girl, whatever.” Matt and I avoided eye contact as we tried not to laugh. She left me with a cotton ball soaked with essential oils and took her leave as my saint, my savoir, my beautiful French doula Justine of Midwest Doulas arrived at around 4:00 (Hour 21) and I immediately felt better.

Want to know why you should get a doula? I’ll tell you why. Birthing, at least in my experience, gets lonely. The nurses flitted in and out and change every few hours, and I saw my midwives every 4-6 hours for a status check, adjustment to my care plan, or to administer the labor-making meds. A doula is your rock. She stays with you, she answers your questions, she gives your partner a break from being an emotional punching bag, and, most importantly: SHE SQUEEZES YOUR DAMN HIPS WHEN YOU ASK HER TO.

Justine took charge and was exactly the fierce mama bear I wanted her to be when we hired her. At  7 p.m. (Hour 24), Midwife Courtney inserted a Cook catheter, which has saline-filled chambers on either side of your cervix that are supposed to naturally force it to dilate to the point where it just falls out on its own. As soon as that was locked and loaded, Justine took me and my telemetry unit on a jaunt around the hospital floor and distracted me by having me tell Matt’s and my meet-cute story. Every time I had a contraction, she had me hold on to the wall and squat while she provided blissful counterpressure on my hips and whispered sweet nothings in my ear in French. (Just kidding; she was reminding me to breathe.) We eventually wound our way back to my room, where we found my nurse on the hunt for us; apparently we’d gone so far afield that the telemetry unit wasn’t functioning. Le oops.

That night contractions got bad. Real bad. I wish I could describe what they felt like, but I honestly don’t remember (evolutionary amnesia?). I think I described them to Matt as having 10 bad periods at once. The nurses kept asking me to rate the pain on a scale from 1-10, which I found impossible to do. It was definitely the worst I’d ever felt, but I knew worse was coming so maybe it was only really a 6?  Justine was by my side, letting me death grip her hand every time one came on while Matt tried to get some rest. I called the midwife when contractions were so intense I thought for SURE the catheter was about to fall out, but she gave it a quick tug and it was still wedged tight. They gave me some morphine at around 10 or 11 p.m. (Hour 27/28), which chilled me out enough that Justine decided to head home and sleep around midnight (Hour 29) since I wasn’t making much progress. She asked us to call if anything happened, but said her partner doula Staci would be on call and ready to head over the next morning. I did manage to drift off after she left, but awoke as the morphine wore off and the pain got very extra awful, until I projectile vomited all over my monitoring equipment and piles of graph paper at 2 a.m. (Hour 31) .

I shakily pressed the call button, and the nurse that answered was, like, real disappointed in my aim. She huffed and puffed as she cleaned everything up. I hid in the bathroom while she changed the sheets and apologized to Matt for waking him up. He was able to get back to sleep after the commotion died down, but I was in a real bad way. Instead of calling Justine or waking Matt up or getting literally anyone to help me, I decided it was my job as a martyr from a long line of martyrs to suffer completely on my own and not trouble a damn soul until Staci was on call at 6 a.m. I remember closing my eyes between contractions and promising myself that the next time I opened them it would be *at least* a half an hour later.  In reality, only two minutes would have gone by. I labored on my back, moaning as quietly as I possibly could. When that got too miserable, I crept over to the birth ball and labored on that. I threw up a few times. I thought maybe I was going to be in labor forever. I thought maybe I was dying. I fantasized about them just cutting the baby out of me so I could be done with it. It was the longest, darkest Dark Night of the Soul I have ever known.

Finally at 5 a.m. (Hour 34) I couldn’t take it anymore and called Staci. “I’m so sorry,” I martyred, “But I need you.” She said she’d hop in the shower and be right on her way. Midwife Courtney stopped by before going off duty at around 6 a.m. (Hour 35) and checked the catheter. After  the night I’d had, I was positive I’d be *at least* 7 cm dilated. Nope. Try 2. Staci, sweet, wonderful Staci, showed up as I started to spiral, and had the first good idea I’d heard in years: I should get in the bath. The bath! I forgot about the bath! I love baths. Baths are my friend. As I eased into the water I felt the best I’d felt in days. I was so relaxed I actually managed to fall asleep betwixt contractions. And then I threw up and had to get out.

By 10 a.m. (Hour 39) I was in was in The Dark Place. I hadn’t slept in days and I had absolutely no sustenance in my system. I tried so hard to rally and make jokes, but all I could do was quietly weep. I’ve never felt so weak and powerless. They were talking about putting me on pitocin within a few hours to get things moving, and that terrified me. I had spent years consuming everything on medication-free childbirth I could get my paws on: watching Ricki Lake documentaries, reading Ina May Gaskin’s books and listening to interviews with her, taking natural childbirth classes, etc., and my takeaway was that pitocin is the actual devil and will send your body on a roller coaster of pure pain and evil. (Note: It’s not, and it has many useful applications, but LABOR DOES NOT A RATIONAL HUMAN MAKE.)

At this point I put my pride (and birth plan) in the garbage and requested an epidural. I was already so weak I couldn’t imagine tolerating pain more intense than I was already experiencing. Because you can’t eat or drink while the epidural is in effect, they hooked me up to the biggest, slowest-dripping bag of IV fluids in America. While we were waiting for that to finish, a curious thing happened. Staci was helping me go to the bathroom when I felt something shift and water came gushing out of me. None of this trickle business I’d been experiencing all week. I really hoped my nurse would be proud that I’d managed to keep the mess contained to the toilet. Soon after, my contractions changed and became more… grunty. I wanted to push.

By this time it was around 11:30 or so (Hour 40.5). The midwife (this time it was Sarah again!) checked me again and I was 9 cm dilated. “Cancel the epidural,” I said, with what I want to imagine was a glint in my eye and a look of fierce determination on my glowing, maternal face. “I can do this.”

They made me wait another half an hour until my IV bag was done before I could start pushing. I started out facing backward on the toilet (which is actually a really good pseudo-birthing stool because of the way it positions your pelvis). I got some good pushes in before deciding I couldn’t let my child  be born on the terlet, so they had me move to the bed. It felt the most natural to be on my hands and knees. Between contractions I flopped over a peanut-shaped birth ball, and rocked side to side while Matt fed me ice chips. When I had to push, I’d grab one of Matt’s hands and one of Staci’s, and bear down. I guess I was squeezing the life out of them, because they soon threaded a sheet through the back of the bed for me to pull on instead. Pushing felt good. Like, really, really good. Middle of a great workout good. I hated feeling the baby’s head recede back between contractions, and I just wanted to keep pushing and pushing until he was out. When they wouldn’t let me I channeled my frustration by howling like a wounded animal.

At some point Matt asked, “So how’s that beach in Belize?” And I said, “SHUT UP!”

At some point one of the nurses said, “Mom and Dad and Uncle are waiting in the lobby!” and I said, “I wonder which uncle,” and Matt said, “Probably your Uncle Nate, right?” and I said, “The BABY’S uncle, IDIOT.”

Soon enough, I felt the baby’s head heavy in my pelvis. It was incredibly uncomfortable not to keep pushing between contractions, but they didn’t want me to tear. I fought my way through the Ring of Fire and then… the baby just seemed to tumble right out into the midwife’s arms behind me at 2:09 p.m. (Hour 43).

I took him – it was a him!- into my arms. He was warm and slippery and weirdly not at all goopy and perfect and smelled like the sea.  I looked up at Matt, who was as completely ecstatic as I’ve ever seen him, clutching his hand to his chest and laugh-crying, not able to take his eyes off our son.

In that moment, nothing else mattered. Meeting my son was the strangest feeling of recognition and pure and total love. “That was you inside me, the whole time!” I marveled. “Those were your little feet and your little hiccups!” I have no idea what else was happening in the room because the universe had contracted to just our little triad.

During the whole labor I’d thought to myself, “This is so horrible that when it’s over Matt has to give me whatever I want. And if this is a boy I want his name to be Oscar.” But I took one look at our little meatball and acknowledged that the name Matt had chosen was actually perfect. “OK fine he’s totally an Arthur WHATEVER.”

And that is Arthur’s birth story.

~ Nina G.

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