Below you’ll find the story of the birth of our Graham David. Special thanks to our doula Tara (Small Wonders Doula) for taking detailed notes so we could look back and have an accurate timeline.
It was 2:40am on Monday, February 23rd (one day after my due date). I had been up for about an hour timing contractions that were consistently five minutes apart and lasting 45-60 seconds. At this point I decided it was time to wake up my husband, Taylor. It was strange to think that just a few hours earlier I had been watching the Academy Awards and eating Papa Murphy’s as my family’s way of keeping me busy on my due date. I was nervous to have Tara come too soon and it be a false alarm but I’m so glad we called because for the next hour the pain did not let up. I took a shower, we gathered all of our last minute items into the “go bag”, and made calls to the “important people”.
Tara arrived a little before 4:00am and we were all in pretty good spirits. I was sitting at the kitchen table petting one of my dogs and munching on a granola bar, seriously curious about what the next day would hold. In addition to granola bars I also ate dates, Uncrustables, honey oat bread made by Taylor’s dad, GoGo squeezes, and Gatorade (and manicotti for an early morning “dinner”, but we’ll get to that later).
A little after 4:00am my sister Mariah arrived. We spent the next few hours laboring in the living room, working on breathing and finding comfortable positions. A heat pack on my lower back and resting the upper part of my body on the couch seemed to offer the most relief. At some point (around 7:30am) my dad picked up our rather rambunctious puppy, Iver, to spend some time at Grandma and Grandpa’s. Ruger, on the other hand, was calm and always very near me. Man, I love dogs. Their companionship is even evident during labor!
It must be noted that we made it to sunrise! At 7:45 am I said, “I love that the sun is out.” Taylor responded, “Now get your son out.” He was cracking jokes most of the time.
At 8:50am I talked to midwife Mary-Signe about going to the birth center. Mary-Signe asked us to wait until 10:00am to arrive. At this point I really wanted to make sure we were in active labor so we didn’t have a “false alarm” so we waited for all the signs like contractions close together, not being able to talk through them, etc. before thinking about heading in. At 9:20am we left home and headed to the Minnesota Birth Center in Minneapolis.
The birth center has a blue room and a green room, both very nice but I really wanted the blue room. We got there and they said there was a problem with the tub in the blue room but that we could get checked in in 10 minutes. Later we found out that one of the midwives had flooded the room, ha! This meant that they used up almost all the towels. It was pretty funny when they told us that after GB was born.
At about 10:30am Midwifery Student Tasha checked my cervix and said I was 5 cm dilated, 100% effaced and baby GB (short for Gummy Bear) was at the 0 station. I was pretty excited about the progress!
At 11:00am I met my favorite labor comfort measure: the shower. I was in love with the shower. I was in there as much as they’d let me be. It helped so much with the pain and actually gave me a lot of emotional comfort as well.
Between 12:00pm and 5:00pm I switched off between the shower, tub, and laboring on dry land. At 4:05pm our doula pointed out to Taylor that I had a purple line in my butt crack. She let him know that this was usually a sign that pushing was close – we joke now that she was wrong.
At 5:05pm Tasha checked my cervix and said I was 6 cm dilated and that GB was asynclitic, meaning that his head was tilted to the side and wedged in my right hip. Even though I knew it wasn’t all about dilation, I still felt really bummed. They had mentioned breaking my water at this point but thankfully my birth team stepped in and said we’d try some different positions first. I guess it’s really nice to have the cushion of the bag of water so the exercises can work better. I was still determined to give the natural route everything I had so it was on to three different movements for three contractions each. It was torture. One of the worst parts was doing squats in the shower. The pain was almost unbearable, and at this point I started telling Graham to just come out and started doubting that he would ever make his appearance.
At 7:00pm I was feeling a lot of pressure in my bottom.
At 7:40pm Elizabeth the nurse checked my cervix and said that there was no real change from the last check. Cue the tears and feelings of defeat.
At 8:10pm Tasha checked my cervix and confirmed that there was no change in dilation or station but that GB had rotated and his head was now in a good position. At this point we decided to go forward with having my water broken to try and speed up labor. Those terrible exercises worked! Praise the Lord. I knew that we needed to move things along because I was getting really tired. I really was never opposed to breaking the water because, to me, it didn’t seem like that detrimental of an intervention. This is about when transition started.
I finally started feeling a lot of pressure at 8:30pm and started bearing down at the peak of contractions. At 9:00pm Tasha checked my cervix and said that I was 6-7 cm dilated but that GB was very low, +2 station. I went back to my happy place (the shower) and continued to feel a lot of pressure and urges to push.
At 9:30pm I got out of the shower and went into the bathtub. I was having a difficult time coping with the contractions and was still feeling like I needed to push. This was where I almost lost it. I had pretty much lost control of my body during the contractions.
I remember having a heart-to-heart with myself and saying, “Ericca, your body is making this pain, you can handle it, God will give you the strength.” This is where I started really considering how long it would take them to get me some kind of pain medication or epidural. I told the birth team that I really didn’t know how much more I could handle. At this point Taylor and Mariah were also having a real difficult time.
Thankfully the midwives and doula were there to support them, too!
The birth center had just started offering Nitrous Oxide. I wasn’t planning on using it but once again, I knew we needed to do something or we were going to have to transfer to the hospital. Nitrous does NOTHING to help with pain, they were clear about that. It does, however, help your brain shut off and not care as much. I had to sign a waiver as I was falling asleep between contractions. We got it going at about 10:00pm and I was on it for maybe 10 contractions which got me over the hump. I was in the tub and the pain was still horrible but I started pushing during every contraction and so this brings us to something that was a surprise to me. Everyone always says you’ll have “the urge to push”. I totally thought I understood what they were saying, but it was totally different!
I could not NOT push.
At 10:30pm I was feeling like I needed to push with every contraction and more than just at the peak. Tasha checked my cervix and said I was 9 cm dilated and GB was at +2 station. I was SO excited and started feeling some hope. After they checked me they also checked the baby’s heart rate. Even though I was at the end of my rope, I knew that something serious may be going on because it took them a while to find his heartbeat. Thankfully, it was just because he had changed positions.
At 10:40pm I got out of the tub and was sitting on the toilet. This is where I began pushing strongly throughout each contraction. Taylor basically had to carry me to the birthing stool at this point. He started counting with every breath I took through a contraction, “1….2….3….4…” all the way up to 10, but never past ten. It seemed manageable to make it through several rounds of “10” during a contraction versus counting all the way up to 30+. Oh, the way your brain works when you’re in labor land.
At 10:45pm I sat on the birth stool with Taylor behind me and pulled on a cloth Tara was holding, while pushing with all my effort. When I sat down I heard the midwife say, “she’s crowning” and I was again SO excited. I didn’t know if I had it in me to push for hours, which was what I was expecting but 20 minutes later…
We welcomed Graham David at 11:06pm! Obviously pushing him out and getting to see him for the first time is the best part, but I really do look back at that time frame and it was so rewarding, celebratory, and relieving. I really didn’t think it was going to happen. But God was faithful, even after 22 hours of labor.
After Graham arrived…I did have a 2nd degree tear that took about 20 minutes to stitch up. I was able to have Graham on my chest for the majority of the time which was great. After that I went to the bathroom and had to stay there for awhile with the incredible nurse Elizabeth because when I stood up I’d almost pass out. After some Gatorade and food I was able to make it back to the bed by myself. Then it was time for Graham to meet the family! They had been upstairs in the family area since 6pm! I felt terrible they had waited so long but we had no way of knowing it would take so long. I wish I would not have been so exhausted but it was still a really special time. Once the family was in the room they weighed and measured him. It was so special to experience that as a family.
In the end, this labor and delivery contained several miracles. The way he was positioned usually ends up in a C-Section and my mental state was waning quickly. I could never thank Taylor, Tara, Mariah, the midwives, nurse, and our family enough for the love and support they gave me through labor! Taylor got props from the whole birth team. Knowing he was there for me the whole time gave me strength to make decisions and keep going. I think most births take unexpected turns, some big, some small. I am so thankful I was able to experience my first labor and delivery in a beautiful place with beautiful and competent people. Graham’s birth has shaped my heart and I think I might actually do it again someday.
PHOTOGRAPHY CREDIT: Odyssey Photography
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