What woman doesn’t love a good birth story? I know as soon as my close friends or a family member has a baby the first thing I want to hear all about is how labor and delivery went, with details. I’m not exactly sure why hearing another woman’s story is so enticing, but it is. Personally, having a baby is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and the experience of it all I will never forget. I’m not just talking physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. When I had my first child it was almost like the world just stopped for a few days. It was exciting, painful, frightening, emotional, exhausting, and many other things.
I reached out to five women and asked them to share one of the most intimate days of their lives with us and they kindly agreed. One contributor did ask why I was interested in sharing her birth story. Here is why: I want to share with women who may or may not have yet had the experience of child birth what it’s really like, what they can possibly expect, and what some of their options may be. Five women with five different birth stories are going to do just that. I hope you enjoy reading their stories as much as I did.
Kaycee McAllister’s Story
First let me tell you that pregnancy was not fun for me. I was nauseous or puking the entire time. I lost almost 20lbs in two weeks at the beginning of my first trimester. I ate apples, popsicles, bagels, cereal and French fries because they were the only things I could keep down. I figured that if I could survive this pregnancy, I could stick it out for an unmedicated birth. I was not opposed to an epidural, but I really wanted to challenge myself by not getting it if I could take it.
At 38 weeks I was so excited to hear that I was dilated to a one and very soft. My doctor told me he wouldn’t be surprised if we spent Christmas, which was about a week before my due date, together in the delivery room! I knew he was going to be out of town on my due date so early was fine with me! At 39 weeks I was at a 2.5. Progress! I did everything short of castor oil to get to meet my baby girl. Throwing up just wasn’t comfortable anymore! 40 weeks came and went and still no baby! At 40+4 I saw my doctor and we decided on an induction date two days later. I still did everything I could to spontaneously go into labor, but nothing worked, or so I thought.
When I arrived at the hospital at midnight for my induction appointment I was having consistent contractions, I just didn’t know it! The nurse was baffled that I couldn’t feel them. My IV hurt more than my contractions! I was dilated to a three so at two in the morning they started the pitocin drip to speed up the process. I tried to get some sleep, but I was just so anxious! My cute husband, Kade, put on something for me to watch while I waited and eventually I got a couple hours of sleep. When I woke up at about 5:30, they told me the doctor on call was going to come in and talk to me. A massive doctor with exceptionally large hands came in and broke my water. It is such a weird feeling that I so wanted to hold in, but you can’t! The nurse remarked that she had never seen that much amniotic fluid in all her years. I guess my babe was just happy inside her little water globe! After they broke my water I actually started being able to tell I was having a contraction without having to touch my stomach to see. I tried to sleep more and then I worked on thank you cards from my baby shower that should’ve been done weeks prior. My sister braided my hair to keep it out of my face. The monitors on my stomach refused to stay put, so nurses were rushing in about every 20 minutes or so to check on everyone. When they finally got a good reading of Zuri’s heartbeat, they realized that even though I wasn’t in pain yet, whenever I contracted, her heart rate dropped. Dr. Paul decided that it would be best to put an internal monitor in her head. When they were placing it in her head was one of the two times I cried from pain throughout labor and delivery. There was so much pressure and it was my least favorite part.
At about 10 a.m. I was at a 5 and feeling alright, but actually starting to feel a good amount of pain. It was mostly in my back so I took a couple laps around the unit and then they told me that because of her heart rate, the doctor wanted me hooked up at all times. So I paced my room instead. At around 11:30 the nurse (and her freezing cold hands) came in to check my dilation and I was at a 7. She told me that the anesthesiologist was going in for a C-section in half an hour so if I wanted an epidural, then I had to get it soon. I wanted to talk it over with my husband, my mom and my sister, who were all in the room with me. My father-in-law was on his way to the hospital to assist my husband in giving me a blessing. I felt strongly that hearing my husband ask my Heavenly Father to give me strength to push through would help me. I really wanted to wait to see how I felt after that. I told the nurse that I didn’t want it yet and if I couldn’t get it, then so be it. That felt like a huge step, but I was ready for it. I texted my birth photographer and told her that I was at a 7 so that she could head over. At this point, everything was about pain management. Back labor is killer, and the most comfortable position was on my left side, so I stayed there for quite some time. They gave me ice packs for my back and my mom would reposition them to wherever I needed her to. When a wave would hit, I would close my eyes, clench the side rail of the bed and count the seconds of every single breath. My sister got lotion and rubbed my legs to help me relax. My mom tickled my back and my husband held my hand and cheered me on. He hated seeing me in so much pain, but just continued to tell me how great I was doing. They told me I needed to be on oxygen because Zuri wasn’t getting enough, so I had to wear a mask. My mom would hold it to my face throughout a contraction as Kade held my hand. So many times I doubted myself and kicked myself for not getting the epidural because it hurt, but those three just continued to tell me that I could do it. My sister-in-law came to the hospital when I was at about an 8. At this point Zuri was in major distress and every time I contracted her heart rate would dip down to the 70s. They made me roll over and lay on my right side because that position was what was making her the most comfortable, even though it was killing me. I remember asking, “It hurts so bad! Why can’t I just roll over?” As soon as my mom told me that it was better for Zuri, I figured out how to suck it up. That’s motherhood, right? Always doing what’s best for our babies! They brought in a peanut shaped yoga ball and positioned me on my side so that I could help her turn. That sweet little thing was posterior which is what was causing the back labor! At this point I told them that I had to pee so bad, but they wouldn’t let me get out of that position, so I ended up with a catheter. I’m fairly certain I peed on a nurse. Sorry! Labor is a strange thing, because once the serious pain started, I remember almost nothing. I remember tiny snippets, but even the pieces I remember are not exactly accurate. I don’t remember crying when they put the catheter in, but that was the second and last time I cried from pain throughout labor and delivery. The nurse who positioned me on the peanut ball also stretched out my cervix shortly after the catheter. After she did that a few times, I felt it. I had no choice. It was time to push. It’s not at all how I expected it, how much relief you get from pushing. I expected that to be the part that hurt, but it didn’t for me! I vaguely remember them talking about how they were calling the doctor and he said he didn’t know if he was going to make it. I was freaking out. I was puking. This is how I rationalized that it was okay that she was overdue. Dr Paul wasn’t out of town anymore. He had to make it! I pushed and with each push I got more worried that a doctor I didn’t know was going to have to deliver my baby. It was excruciating. Pushing eased the pain, but not my anxiety. As soon as my doctor walked in, though, it all melted away. I don’t remember feeling a bit of pain after he walked in. Everything was going to be okay. I think I actually told my husband that I could’ve kissed him for making it! Ha! I pushed and pushed, but Zuri was stuck. My doctor did an episiotomy (with a local anesthetic, thank goodness!). I pushed through about three more contractions when it became clear that something else had to be done. He cut some more. A few pushes later and my girl was placed on my chest. His calm demeanor and reassurance was what I needed. The moment you meet your tiny human is unlike anything else in this world. It’s such a high and such a spiritual experience to know that you and your hubby helped the Almighty create this little person. They were a part of you, and then just like that— they’re in your arms. On a less romanticized note, I’m fairly certain the first thing I said when they placed her on my chest was, “She has huge hands!” HA! I held her for a couple minutes and spoke with my husband about how perfect she was, then they whisked her off to bathe her. They weighed and measured her, all the while she’s showing off her pipes. Azure “Zuri” Quinn McAllister was born at 8lbs5oz and 20 inches long, wide-eyed and just the most perfect little being we’d ever seen. My doctor stitched me up as our family gushed over her. I would do it a million times over for her. It was so so exhausting and hard, but most things worth doing aren’t easy! Everyday I stand in awe of my baby girl and how much she teaches us. She’s everything, and being her mama is my greatest blessing!
Lindsay Burden’s Story
My first birth was a planned C-section. My doctor told me that due to a prior surgical procedure, I would never be able to deliver naturally. Turns out that was not the case. I found myself in the company of some incredible natural birth advocates soon after my C-section. They encouraged me to do some research and to consider the possibility of a homebirth in the future to avoid another unnecessary medical procedure. Two years later, that’s exactly what happened.
I felt my first contraction as I was getting into bed one night. I was so excited that I sat on the couch all night by myself timing my contractions. Worst idea EVER. In hindsight, I really should have slept. Once the sun came up, I sent the hubs to work and told him I’d call him when it got serious. My best friend came over to check on me a few hours later and things were still pretty slow. Soon after that, my doula, Maggie, came over. She had had a new baby just two months prior, so he was in tow. Maggie was amazing. At that point, I was feeling the contractions in my back so much that I couldn’t stand up straight. She massaged my back and kept a heating pad on me. My mom came by to take Addison (who was two at the time). Once Addison left, things began moving. Once Wyatt got home, I was in full blown labor. I opted not to be checked for dilation. I didn’t want to know how much longer I had to go. My midwife arrived sometime after dark. By the time she came I was already in the birth tub. We moved our kitchen table and put the birth tub in it’s place. Wyatt figured out a way to rig the hot water heater up to the tub with a hose. It was GLORIOUS. The problem was that the water kept slowing everything down. But I hurt so bad when I got out that I begged everyone to let me back in. My midwife finally made me get out and sit on the toilet. She somehow knew my water was about to break. Sure enough, two contractions later it broke…and no mess! My midwife checked the baby’s heart rate and saw that it was slowing a bit. I had been in labor for SO long. The baby was tired. I was tired. My midwife finally told me that I had to get out of the tub and push my baby out, or I had to get in her truck and go to the hospital. I looked at her with FIRE in my eyes and said I am NOT going to the hospital because I’m tired. The baby needed a little help coming out due to a cervical lip (google it if you’re looking for more info…that’s a whole different post!) Anyway, I pushed for a while…like a long while. I was lying on a memory foam mattress topper on my living room floor. After 36 hours of labor, Doc William was born. He was perfect, and feisty, and gorgeous. Hubby cut the cord, and he was swaddled up in a soft blanket.
After that, I was led to the shower…my OWN shower. My midwife and Wyatt weighed the baby using her awesome fish scale!
When I was dressed, I found that my midwife and doula had made me eggs and toast. They sat me in a rocking chair and told me to eat. Then they put me to bed…in my OWN bed, with my baby. They helped me latch him on to nurse. Wyatt went outside to make phone calls and I drifted into a blissful sleep. When I woke up, my house was clean, the birth tub was gone, and I had a perfect, tiny human next to me in bed. It was magical.
Two years later, I did it all again.
I felt the first twinges of labor at around 2 in the afternoon. My mom came to take the other kids around 4, and when Wyatt got home from work at 5:30, I met him at the door. I told him not to take his shoes off because I was in labor, the kids were gone, and we were going on a DATE! He looked at me like I was crazy. But, hello!! We had a BABYSITTER! So we piled in the car and went to HoneySalt for dinner. I was having contractions every 5-6 minutes. Once we sat down, I ordered a filet, and a glass of wine! If I was in for the same long haul that I’d experienced with my last home birth, I at least wanted to go into it HAPPY. So we ate, and I breathed…and Wyatt laughed at me. Once we got home, I called my midwife and my doula to tell them I was in labor. My midwife asked if it was time for her to come. I said I didn’t know…it felt serious, but last time, it felt serious for a whole DAY. She decided to make her way over. And I got a guest bed ready for her so she could sleep in case things slowed or stopped. As soon as she arrived, labor DID slow. I was so frustrated. But my best friend came over and offered to walk with me. So we walked around the neighborhood over and over again. Each lap had me stopping more often, and each lap had me doubling over with the contractions. Finally we went home. I asked my midwife to check and see how dilated I was. I told her if I was at least a 5, I would stay up and keep moving, anything less and I was going to try and sleep. I knew from experience how miserable it is to push out a baby when you haven’t slept in 3 days. I was a FOUR. Ugh. So I got into bed. Wyatt was already asleep. Within minutes of lying down in the fetal position, I was in transition. That baby was coming and coming QUICK. My midwife told me to go to the toilet and have 3 contractions there. I yelled at her and told her she was mean. But off to the potty I went. My water broke on the third one. Then I got into the birth tub. Pushing came about 30 minutes later. I think I may have pushed 6-10 times before Henry James was born. It was a perfect birth. I caught him in the water myself. I could not have asked for a more textbook perfect birth to offset the marathon that I’d gone through two years prior. And just like the first time, my midwife and doula led me to the shower, made me breakfast, and tucked me into bed with my sweet boy.
I get it that homebirth seems CRAZY to most people. But birth is inherently a beautiful, miraculous thing. It is NOT a medical emergency. For this healthy, low-risk mama, homebirth revolutionized my view of birth, of the strength of my body, and of the incredible gift that we are given as mothers.
Ashley Long’s Story
My birth story was anything but what I imagined it would be, but that’s the thing about birth, you have to be prepared to be flexible! To be honest, my entire pregnancy was not what I expected, including hyperemesis gravidarum, preterm labor, and preeclampsia. Then at 37 weeks 3 days, I was admitted to the hospital for high blood pressure and told I was being induced. After being admitted, and settled in to my room, the doctor came in and placed a Foley catheter in me to dilate my cervix. I felt miserable and was so ready to be done being pregnant but when the nurse left the room for the night, my husband fell asleep next to me, and I started to feel the cramping contractions I had become so accustomed to being scared of; I suddenly felt a horrible panic come over me. I got very shaky and nauseous as thoughts raced through my head; could I handle labor? What did the next 24 hours hold for me? Would I be a good mom? Was a ready to be a mom? Now looking back I can tell I was having a full blown panic attack but at the time I didn’t understand what was happening, in fact I thought I was just being weak…
The next morning, I got up to use the restroom and the Foley catheter came out which meant I was 3 cm dilated and making good progress! The doctor on call then came in the room broke my water and started me on Pitocin. I know a lot of people say Pitocin is awful, but I had no other experiences with labor to compare it to and personally it wasn’t too intense for me. I continued to labor until I was 5 cm dilated, at this point the contractions got slightly more strong (I had to focus a little to breathe through them but still not unbearable), and my BP started to increase. Eventually the nurses came in and told me that if my BP did not stop rising, I would need a C-section, so my best option was probably an epidural to help me relax. Unfortunately the epidural did anything but help me relax. The anesthesiologist missed 3 times, while I was hunched over on the bed with my son pushing his feet so hard in to my ribs, I thought for sure they would break! Once he got it placed it only covered my right side, and after another adjustment it covered everything but a couple of large areas on the left side of my abdomen. I continued to labor until about 5pm. At this point the nurse who came in to check my progress told me she thought I had gone backwards in dilation to 4cm, my BP was continuing to rise, and my epidural was not working. This is when they started really pushing a C-section. To be honest, at this point I had been in labor for 24 hours, I was exhausted, felt so sick from the high BP, and I just wanted the process to be over. I agreed to a C-section and immediately felt panic come over me once again.
Unfortunately, my doctor was tied up in a surgery, and I had to wait another 3 hours for my C-section. During this waiting period, I sent both my husband and my mother to get some food so that they would not faint in the operating room, and I tried to just breathe, comprehend, and absorb what was about to take place. I felt like a failure for taking the C-section but I felt too weak to continue with labor. I wondered if the surgery would be as bad as a previous surgery I had had, and no matter what anyone said about labor or the C-section I panicked. I felt like a failure for not sticking to my plan, not being strong enough, and not having the energy to fight for my wishes more. I remember shaking the entire way to the OR, I remember shaking as they did the C-section, and I remember shaking as they put my son up to my face so I could see him for the first time. I actually didn’t stop shaking until I was in recovery, with my baby in my arms, my husband at my side, and my nurse teaching me how to breast feed. Then everything just felt right. It was like no matter what I went through to get to this point, it was all worth it! My son was early, but healthy and a natural at breast feeding (which I know is not the norm). I was exhausted but totally overwhelmed with love!
The next few weeks were hard, as I ended up with a uterine infection, that caused a couple of ambulance rides, and was forced to stop breastfeeding due to the medications the doctor had to give me and the contractions breastfeeding caused, inhibiting my uterus to heal. I had many more panic attacks, and actually started having intense PPD. With the help of my PCP getting me on depression/anxiety medications, my OBGYN’s support, my counselor to walk me through my feelings about the birth, my family by my side, and eventually my acupuncturist, I healed. I honestly thought I would never again want to have another baby, but I can happily say now with my 2-year-old next to me, my body finally healed and back to normal, and lots of help, I would be happy to have another baby someday soon!
Let me also just add that I am a registered nurse and was at the time my son was born, I still had doubts, I still was scared, and I still didn’t know how to deal with the hard stuff, so do not beat yourself up for your emotions, decisions, or thoughts during your birthing process. I hope my story gives mothers hope that even when things don’t go as planned, even when things are so bad you feel you are losing your mind, there is STILL healing that takes place, and that baby in your arms will feel absolutely worth every minute of it!
If you want more details of the birth, or my struggle with PPD feel free to follow my blog at lifewiththelongs.weebly.com.
Stephanie Gunderson’s Story
I was that woman who was very very nervous about the pain of childbirth. Could they hook me up to the drugs the day before? Just how early CAN we induce? I had two fairly easy and good births, a girl and a boy, but after my second child was born I started to see a pattern in the way my body responded to labor and giving birth. As soon as I would get an epidural my body would just stop. Stop hurting yes but also it would stop contracting, stop progressing in every way. I would just stall – for hours – HOURS and HOURS – both times as soon as I got those awesome drugs I would just sit and the nurses would come in and up my Pitocin, and turn me from side to side and up my Pitocin again. Both times it would take me 7-12 hours to dilate from a 4 to a 7.
During my second labor I was stalling out and the nurse came to check on me she upped my Pit again and said “oh your uterus is just saturated” and walked out the door. UUUhhh? Is that ok? Is that bad?
After the birth of my son I started reading books, and articles about natural childbirth. I found out that sometimes uteruses like mine do stall after an epidural and that often that will lead to a cesarean birth. I started looking at all my options, homebirth, natural childbirth at the hospital, birthing centers, birth pools, etc. After some prayer, long talks with my husband, Kevin, soul searching, and even more reading I decided my next child would be born at home. When I became pregnant with our third child we interviewed midwives and found someone who we felt super comfortable with. I cannot tell you how much I loved being more in charge of my pregnancy. I saw my midwife just as often as you would see an obgyn but I would visit with her for an hour each time. I was scared of the actual childbirth, but the birth of our second daughter went so well that when we became pregnant with our fourth child we decided to do another homebirth.
My babies like to bake a little longer than most. My fourth pregnancy was no different; my due date came and went. My birth pool was inflated, just waiting for the water, my birth box and all the supplies my midwife would need just sitting there… then another week came and went… then another 6 days… that’s right, I carried my fourth baby to almost 42 weeks! Early Saturday, morning February 7, 2015, I woke up and just felt like this is the day- this is it. I woke up at 3 a.m. hungry. So I went downstairs to eat. After that early breakfast I slept a little longer. As everyone in my house started to wake up and move I started to feel a tightening. We called the midwife around 8 a.m. and told her I was starting to feel contractions. They were not super regular yet and not very hard. She told me to call back in an hour and let her know how I was doing. She lives about 45 minutes away and with this being my 4th child she knew things could happen very quickly. At 9 a.m. not much had changed. I was still having irregular ‘easy’ contractions. I could walk and talk through each one. She showed up at my house around 10:30 and I was outside in the backyard walking and pacing. I remember telling her that I was sorry she showed up so early, I wasn’t ready yet -I didn’t feel anywhere close. Well, I was close. My amazing husband and dad went up to my room where my birthing pool was and filled it with warm water. Downstairs my contractions where becoming more regular and much more intense. I now couldn’t walk or talk during the contractions. I would tell myself- “Ok, that was a pretty good one, I don’t think I can do many more like that,” “Ok, just one more and I’ll get in the water”, “Ok, just ONE MORE.” I finally had enough and got into the warm water in my birthing pool, which helps a little with the pain and takes so much pressure off of your body. We hadn’t had an ultrasound later in the pregnancy and we didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl. When you have a baby with no pain medicine, you must learn to move through the pain, and you can get through it. I would count or move or sway, whatever it took. The second time I was able to know better what to expect and how to handle it. My body was ready to push and so I did. I could feel a little head starting to move lower and lower. 1:07 p.m. I gave my last push and with my midwife and husband right there, I was the one who ‘caught’ my son as he was born.
Ashley Baker’s Story
The birth of my first son was the most life-changing event of my life. Everything went perfectly and in the end I held in my arms a beautiful little boy. When I found out I was pregnant with my second baby, I thought I would have a similar experience. Little did I know my life would change drastically, but in a completely different way. At 24 weeks, I went in to see the doctor and have my gender ultrasound. It was a great day and we found out that baby #2 was another boy! We couldn’t be more excited. Following the ultrasound, we met with the nurse practitioner who told us that my placenta was “low lying”, but that I shouldn’t worry because I had plenty of time for it to “move”. I went home and googled “low lying placenta” but the only thing I could find was placenta previa, and since the Nurse practitioner didn’t say “placenta previa,” that must not be me. She told me that I could continue my normal activities (I am a very active person and was running and lifting a lot) and that I shouldn’t worry too much. Fast forward to 26 weeks 6 days. I woke up in the middle of the night soaking wet. I was so irritated that I had peed the bed! WHAT?? I had just changed the sheets the night before and I had NEVER peed the bed! I got out of bed and walked to the bathroom. When I turned the lights on, to my dismay, blood was running down my legs and pooling on the floor. I panicked and yelled for my husband to call the paramedics. It took the paramedics what seemed like forever to reach me. When I finally made it to the hospital, the nurses were also panicking and telling me that as soon as my doctor arrived, they would more than likely deliver my baby. I was heartbroken. I knew that my baby could survive outside my womb at that gestation, but I knew it would be a very long road in the NICU and I was not prepared for that. When my doctor arrived, he told me that he was going to monitor me for a few days since my baby was not in distress. They admitted me to the hospital. I was told that I needed to lay completely flat, rotating between my left and right side and could not get out of bed. I was also told that I had complete placenta previa and would have to delivery this baby via c-section. Two days later, during morning rounds, my doctor told me that I was not going to be leaving the hospital until my baby was born. (I later found out that he didn’t think that would be very much longer). I didn’t know what I was going to do with no family within 1500 miles, a husband who was working a hospital residency and a 2 year old at home. Angel women, that I was lucky enough to call friends, jumped to my side and took care of all my family’s needs. I lay in that hospital bed for 5 more weeks. I remember clearly the Sunday I turned 32 weeks. Such a major milestone! I spent the day feeling on top of the world. And then, that evening I sat up to throw up and I felt another huge gush of blood. I was rushed to labor and delivery and when my doctor arrived, he told me that he was going to wait a little longer since the baby still wasn’t in distress. A couple days later my bleeding mostly stopped and I was sent back to my room to wait a little longer. 5 weeks later, at 37 weeks 1 day, I delivered my second baby boy via c-section. (It took me a long time to come to terms with delivering c-section. I never imagined that it would be me and I never wanted that mode of delivery. I thought I would feel robbed of a “magical delivery”, but I wasn’t. In the end, after so many weeks in the hospital, all I wanted was a healthy baby. That’s what everyone wants, no matter how that baby arrives). After Brock was pulled out, I waited anxiously to hear his cry. I waited what seemed like forever. And after a tiny cry, I heard the NICU doctor tell my OB that they needed to get him to the NICU immediately. My heart, again, was completely torn apart. I saw him for one second as they held him to my head and snapped a picture on their way to the NICU. Brock and I spent another week in the hospital together—he in the NICU and me in post-partum. 77 days after I arrived at the hospital, Brock and I left together. It was a monumental day, one that I thought would never arrive.
Thank you to all the women who have shared their special day with us.
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