Here is the birth story of my daughter, Wren. It’s a bit long so get comfy before you start to read! Go ahead and grab your popcorn, I’ll wait. (Warning: I try to keep the story positive but there is talk about blood, pain, and some complications for both me and my baby.)
I was tired of being pregnant. It was mid-August so it was hot and humid. It was a normal Tuesday evening at the end of my 38th week of pregnancy. I was feeling really tired so I went to bed early. Around 10:45 I woke to a strong, different feeling in my belly. “Was that a contraction?” I wondered, but I went back to sleep. I had noticed more discharge in the previous days (my mucus plug) and when I used the toilet I noticed some dark blood (bloody show). I had another contraction and woke my husband after 1 am. We got up and were too excited to go back to sleep! Was this really happening? I showered, cleaned, and snacked before eventually going back to sleep.
When I woke up in the morning, I was definitely sure I was in labor. I was craving bagels, so we went to get bagels and smoothies. I was having steady contractions and remember needing to hold onto the booth while waiting for our food. My husband decided to work from home and I napped, packed our bags, and tried to keep myself fed. My contractions varied in intensity and were pretty sporadic with timing. We started to get discouraged as the day went on – my husband even told a coworker that he would probably be in the next day when he logged off of work. My water hadn’t broken and there was no clear contraction pattern, but we began timing contractions using an app as they seemed to be getting stronger and more intense. The contractions would be an hour apart, then 20 minutes, then 4 hours.
We decided to walk around Lake Harriet to provide a distraction and hopefully get things moving. On the way there, things seemed to begin picking up. At this point, it was 6 pm, and walking must have done the trick because by the time we were halfway around the lake, my contractions were between 2-10 minutes apart lasting from 10-30 seconds. Still sporadic, but getting intense enough that I had to hold onto benches and trees. Towards the end of our walk back to the car I was feeling the need to vocalize through some of the contractions and just wanted to go home. (I bet I was getting some interesting looks on our walk at the lake, holding onto trees and moaning through my contractions!)
On our ride home, my contractions got more intense and frequent, and I was vocalizing through all of them. I also started to realize that I was experiencing back labor, and I wasn’t too thrilled about it! We decided to call the midwives at the Minnesota Birth Center when we got home. My midwife suggested I eat, take a bath, nap, and try some Spinning Babies movements. We did pelvic tilts and forward-leaning inversions, to ease my back pain and help baby get into an optimal position. They were not comfortable and I didn’t make it through all of the suggested movements, but they definitely worked because by the next hour my contractions were consistently 3.5 to 4 minutes apart. I tried to rest and took another bath and a shower. We eventually decided to head to the birth center around 11:30, just over 24 hours after my first contraction.
At the birth center
We got to the birth center at exactly midnight. I remember looking at the clock when we got out of the car and it hit me that it was the day we would meet our baby! That was one of the moments that has always stuck with me from my birth experience. Once we were at the birth center my midwife, Kaitlyn, checked my cervix and told me that I was dilated to 5-6 centimeters and 100% effaced. This was great news! I remember being really worried about ruining the beautiful white sheets, which is hilarious because birth is what they do. (And bleach is a thing.) Since I was Group B Strep positive, I needed to receive IV antibiotics so we got those going. I was having contractions every 1.5 to 2 minutes and thankfully was able to sleep in between. I never would have believed that I would be able to sleep in labor!
I was able to enjoy the birth tub while we had the IV running, which was incredibly comforting and soothing. I drank water, coconut water, and bottled smoothies. Using the toilet was extremely uncomfortable due to the pressure on my tailbone, and I spent a lot of time holding onto the towel bars in the bathroom. They’re pretty sturdy! Kaitlyn checked me again and I was at 8 cm. We discussed breaking my waters but I wanted to avoid any interventions so we decided to wait. About 10-15 minutes later, I felt a pop and a gush while laying on my side and knew my water had broken on its own.
My contractions definitely got stronger, more intense, and closer together. I got back in the tub and things started to get REAL. The contractions were on top of each other, back to back, and I wasn’t getting a break. I was very vocal, moaning and screaming through the contractions. This is clearly when I hit transition – it was the peak of strength in my contractions. I remember yelling “no no no” and telling everyone that I couldn’t do it. Back labor is intense, and coupled with baby’s head moving down, the pressure felt like too much. I didn’t want to drink, I didn’t want anyone to touch me. I started feeling like I needed to poop and I was terrified. The contractions were radiating from my back to my front, and it was really intense. I just wanted to be done.
I tried to listen to the midwife and birth assistant when they told me to push, but it was too intense. I was hyperventilating. My body was pushing on its own and I was fighting it because I was tired, overwhelmed, in pain, and scared. I got out of the tub and they got me an oxygen mask, then talked me through pushing to get my baby out. She was having some troubles keeping her heart rate up and I remember the birth assistant telling me to breathe oxygen down to my baby. That helped me focus on breathing vs completely losing control. I continued to push, screaming and crying.
After what felt like forever, but was really only about 30 minutes, I heard the words “there’s her head!” and my husband told me what he could see her hair. I pushed a few times and her head was out. Everyone got very serious and started talking very quickly, and I was told that we needed to get my baby out now. It turns out that she was pretty blue and her cord was wrapped around her neck. I could feel her shoulders and it was so intense that I didn’t want to push anymore. But two pushes later, she was born at 4:34 am.
They got her cord unwrapped and suctioned her mouth and nose so she could breathe. They gave her my oxygen mask and rubbed her. Finally, she started to cry. My husband cried and she was placed on my chest. We were bundled up with blankets and laid there for the next 1.5 hours. She finally started to “pink up” and slowly looked less purple. My husband cut the cord, and I eventually delivered my placenta. They were concerned about my bleeding and thought I might have a cervical laceration. There was a piece of tissue in my uterus from the amniotic sac, plus Wren was grunting and not keeping her oxygen levels up. So they called an ambulance to transfer both of us to the hospital. Thus, we both got to have our first ambulance ride at 6 am on August 14, 2014.
At the hospital, I had a D&C where they removed 12 cm of tissue from my uterus. Wren was taken to the special care nursery where she received an x-ray and antibiotics for fluid in her lungs. It could’ve been pneumonia but they don’t really want to biopsy a newborn’s lungs so she got IV antibiotics instead. I was finally able to go hold her and nurse her at 12:30, 8 hours after she was born. She latched on immediately and stared up at me with so much love in her eyes, and I cried. After all the drama, chaos, and exhaustion, I was finally able to hold my baby and stare in her eyes, and all the love and adoration that I didn’t feel that morning came flooding to me.
I was admitted that night and trudged from my room to hers every 2 hours to nurse and snuggle. She stayed another 3 days in the special care nursery after I was discharged, so my husband and I slept together on the tiny couch in her room. I was exhausted, hormonal, and emotional. As I talked about here, I felt so guilty. Her birth ultimately did not go as planned and was traumatic, even though the care we received was incredible. My midwife was with me during the surgery and came to check in on me the next day. My husband was very supportive. The nurses in the special care nursery were amazing. But it was a rough start to life with our new baby.
After my experience, I began to understand why support is so crucial during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Would having a doula have changed anything that happened during our experience? No, I’m sure it would have ended up being the same. But I really do believe that the way I felt would be different. I wouldn’t have been alone in the recovery room for 6 hours. My husband wouldn’t have had to choose to leave me or our daughter alone. I would have had an extra voice in the room that could’ve possibly broken through the terrifying thoughts and overwhelm in my head. I would not have felt so alone when we left the hospital and had to go back to “real life.”
This is why I believe doula support is important, and this is why I doula. Because of my experience, I hope to help others avoid feeling helpless and alone. I was a birth doula intern at the Minnesota Birth Center in 2018-2019 because I believe the care they provide for birthing people and families is incredible and I loved my experience supporting families there!