It’s been just over two weeks since I became a mama to two. Baby Eleanor finally joined us on April 9th…checking in at 10 pounds even, 22.5 inches, and sporting a 14.5 inch head. Here’s our birth story!
Eleanor decided to be a bit of a trickster from the start 🙂 Callum was born the day before his due date, so I’d assumed all along that I’d go “right on time.” Eleanor had other plans – like being almost a week and a half late. For about a week before she made her appearance, I’d noticed very faint but there contractions; with Callum, I never felt a thing until 24 hours before he was born so I kept thinking “this is it” only to have the contractions vanish. So we waited. On Wednesday the 6th, I was officially one week overdue, so we were sent for a biophysical profile (ultrasound to check fluid levels, etc.). I also had a NST (fetal non-stress test) while at my 41 week appointment at the birth center.
I should take a time out here to note that my delivery and pre-natal care was all done through a fabulous free-standing birth center with wonderful midwives. Callum was a midwife attended hospital birth. I knew that I wanted a med-free birth again but this time in a non-hospital setting. So we went with the birth center and, as you’ll see, I can’t recommend it enough! The birth center’s model of care is designed for low risk pregnancies and mamas interested in intervention-free birth.
The standard procedure for “overdue” mamas at the birth center is to wait and see through week 41. At that point, they offer membrane sweeping if you want it; as you get closer to 42 weeks, they have some other tricks to try to get things moving along. So I went for the membrane sweep on the 6th – pretty uncomfortable and didn’t seem to do much but cause some minor cramping afterward. The 7th was pretty uneventful, so back I went on the 8th for a second sweep. I saw Leigh Ann who was the midwife on call that day; she jokingly remarked that I “have a great pelvis” and “could easily deliver a 10 pound baby” – little did we know we’d be testing that theory!
Callum and I stopped off at Target on the way home (because where better to go when you hope to be in labor soon!). As soon as I started walking around I knew we were about to get things going for real. Jesse had already left for work for the night, so I gave him a heads up call when we got home. An hour or so later, he got a “you really should come on home” call as things were starting to feel pretty real. He got home around 8:30 and got Callum down to bed while I tried to figure out when we should head in to the birth center. I had been promised a “quick” labor based on Callum’s birth (about 6 hours of painful labor and 45 minutes of pushing). I was also positive for Group B Strep so I had to get two rounds of antibiotics over 4 hours while in labor. I was also worried about getting Callum situated (my wonderful friend Charlotte volunteered to look after him while I labored); having a toddler around complicates things a bit.
By 10:30 it was feeling like things were moving faster so we decided to head on in. Jesse dropped me off at the birth center and went to take Callum to Charlotte’s. I felt like a celebrity walking in as I was greeted by Leigh Ann, Tamara (the student midwife), and Missy (the RN) who were just waiting for me. It was really quiet and relaxed, very different from arriving at L&D at the hospital. The birthing suite consists of several labor/delivery rooms, a nurses’ station of sorts and a waiting area. I was the only mama there until right after Eleanor was born; we apparently kick started quite the weekend though as another 5 babies were born over the next 48 hours.
It turns out my timing was perfect as less than 10 minutes after I arrived, I puked. Apparently, I’m a labor puker; it seems to happen from about 4-7/8 cm so at least it goes away at the end. I was offered a progress check – nice that it’s an option and not a must! – and was happy to learn I was at 4.5 cm (I’d been only at 1 at my appointment earlier that day). Jesse had returned at this point, I think it was around midnight, and contractions continued to get more “interesting”…as in painful. For the first hour or so we just sort of walked around, stopping to ride out contractions. I tried to take some anti-nausea herbal pills…but those came right back up along with the Gatorade I’d been trying to keep down. Eating and drinking during labor just isn’t in the cards for me.
Before being in labor, I hadn’t really thought I’d want to use the tub. I didn’t with Callum (although my only choice was a regular sized tub at the hospital and I couldn’t push in the water there). But as my contractions picked up, suddenly a hot bath sounded really appealing – so in I went. The birth center tub wasn’t huge but was deep enough that I could sort of float a bit in the water. I have to say, I was very skeptical about water labor/birth until I tried it; now I can’t recommend it enough! It was so soothing to be able to float between and during contractions. I was actually able to relax and rest in between because of the water – a welcome thing as it was now around 1 AM and I’d been up since 4 AM the morning before. Towards the end of my tub time I kept feeling a sort of urge to push; the midwives encouraged me to push if I felt like it. I remember saying, “I’m not sure I remember what it feels like to push but I’m pretty sure this isn’t it.” Still, it felt good to push a bit against the contractions. I think it was somewhere near the end of my tub time the first go round that my water finally broke as well – a big pop as I was sitting sideways in the tub.
It had been raining/storming off and on the whole time we’d been at the birth center. Every once in a while we’d hear a rumble of thunder; the lights were very dim and the room very quiet (another big difference from my hospital experience). I was really surprised what a difference those small things made in how I felt during labor and how relaxed I was able to stay. So, yeah, I’m all about the tub!
Sometime after 2 I seemed to stall out around 8 cm. For the last few weeks, it had been somewhat unclear as to whether or not Eleanor was in the optimal anterior position for delivery. She had definitely been posterior (“sunny side up”) at times and the midwives felt that she still might be even as I was in labor. Not that you can’t deliver a baby that way, but it does often mean a longer labor. I hadn’t had any back labor though which is generally a tell-tell sign of a posterior baby. However she was turned at that point, Eleanor’s head still wasn’t directly aligned on my cervix; this likely explains my stall and maybe even why she was over a week late in the first place – just taking her time getting into position!
The midwives suggested I try some different positions out of the tub at that point to try to get her to roll. I did hands and knees for a while while they “rebozoed” my belly to try to get her to turn. I also tried side lying on the bed – which really made me feel the contractions more so I asked to get back in the tub. Once back in (so this is getting close to 4 I guess), I was laying on my left side – again trying to get her to roll.
I must have made some crazy new noises or something because at that point Leigh Ann said “I think you’ll be pushing in about three more contractions.” Pretty much on the next contraction I suddenly remembered exactly what a real urge to push felt like! Eleanor started doing some crazy movements as well – insane feeling. I think I shouted something like “what the hell is she doing in there?” because it just felt so bizarre and intense. I can’t help but wonder if that’s when she finally rolled over. In any case, when they checked me at that point her head was finally properly aligned and I was pretty much fully dilated.
I swung sideways in the tub at that point sort of bracing my feet against the side (so basically I was sitting but leaning back). With the next contraction, out came her head. I never felt the “ring of fire” (didn’t with Callum either) – mostly just relief that pushing was productive! This next bit happened all in probably 30 seconds. The midwives quickly realized that Eleanor’s shoulders were stuck (shoulder dystocia). They first swung me around so I was back on my back (still I’m in the tub at this point) and had me pull up my knees. That didn’t work. Next thing I know, Leigh Ann is telling me I’ve got to get out of the tub; I’m thinking “um…I’ve got a baby hanging out here!” I’d been holding onto and pulling up on Jesse’s hands. So he grabbed the top of me and they grabbed my legs and in seconds I was out and flipped on to hands and knees. One more push and out she came! It was about 4:30AM.
It really is amazing how your endorphins/hormones/etc kick in at that point. Despite having been up for over 24 hours, laboring for the last 5, I felt absolutely amazing in that moment. I couldn’t see her when she came out since I was on hands and knees – I think I asked if she was ok (given the dramatic 30 seconds between head out and body out). And she was. I was helped up on the bed and handed my new wee babe 😉
Eleanor wasn’t finished surprising us yet. She was a bit “grunty” in her breathing so she was suctioned and given a bit of O2. I had to hold off on nursing her as a result. At some point in between all of that, she had her official weigh in – 10 pounds! Who would have guessed as I measured several weeks behind for most of 3rd trimester. My first thought was “is that scale right?” and then “how many stitches do I need?” Her size was likely the cause of the shoulder dystocia; amazingly despite all of that, I didn’t need a single stitch.
Somewhere in there I delivered the placenta and started to get cleaned up. They did give me a dose of pitocin as I was “gushing” a bit more than they would have liked. Meanwhile Eleanor was still needing O2; she was breathing on her own but was still grunting and having periods of rapid breathing. This was most likely a result of not having all the fluid cleared from her lungs when she was born (maybe because of her size, or the shoulder dystocia, or how quickly she was born – or all 3). When her breathing didn’t improve after a bit, Leigh Ann made the decision to transfer us to the hospital as a precaution.
What happened next is a story for next time…although the short version is that she spent 3 days in the NICU for “transient tachypnea of the newborn” and a precautionary 48 hours of antibiotics. Not the ideal ending as I’d hoped to be home with her within 6 hours or so, but I can’t say enough about how wonderful the actual birth experience was. Certainly the shoulder dystocia had the potential to be very scary. But it was handled with such skill and professionalism that I never felt the least bit in danger. And of course, I came home with a perfectly wonderful (not so) wee baby!!