In order for this birth story to make any sense you need to know that Marvin and I took a 12 week Bradley Method Class to prepare for this natural childbirth. Marvin knows very, very little about the technical details of labor and the main thing he got out of the class was “say no to everything”. I just wanted to be left alone and I didn’t want anything done to me. I didn’t want cervical checks. I didn’t want pitocin. I didn’t want my water broken. I didn’t want any of the things doctors do to “speed” labor along. His role was to support me and speak up when I couldn’t speak for myself. He took his role VERY seriously.
This is a birth story. Birth isn’t a neat or clean thing. There’s blood involved. A baby comes out of your body. If you have a problem with the word “vagina” you should stop reading now. I’m going to tell you the story exactly as it happened because I’m Diana and it’s how I tell a story: unnecessary details added. Dane was born on May 30th at 3:13 AM. I “knew” I was in labor every single day beginning on May 20th when I had some slight spotting and started to lose pieces of my mucous plug (remember the disclaimer about birth not being neat?). “Knowing” I was in labor and then waking up pregnant was a real blasty blast. It made life drag by SO slowly. I won’t spare you the details of all of those days, but just know that waiting for labor is harrrrrrd!
So, on Wednesday May 29th I wake up pregnant….again. I was so sure that he would be born before this point that it was making me slightly crazy. I wake up around 5AM because of a contraction. I’ve had random contractions all week. I roll my eyes. I shift and try to get comfortable. I try to ignore it. Blah. It’s not working. Whatever. I accept defeat and surf Facebook. Marvin wakes up for work and asks me why I’m not sleeping. “My stomach hurts,” I say. I don’t even want to say the word ‘contraction’ at this point. I figure that a stomach ache is as close to telling him why I’m awake as I can get without flat out lying. We both are so tired of hypothesizing when labor will begin and trying to figure out if “this” is real that I decide to at least spare him. Marvin goes to work.
I get up to pee and there’s some bloody mucous on the toilet paper. I’ve had blood. I’ve had mucous. I have NOT had bloody mucous. Maybe that means something? I continue having contractions but they are not lasting long and they are sporadic and not getting closer together. I have a feeling this might really be it. Maybe? Probably not, though. I decide to alert the pregnant ladies in our secret Facebook group and tell no one else. I mostly go to them so they can all tell me about the time that they had blood tinged mucous and it meant absolutely nothing. I don’t need to get my hopes up for the millionth time. I decide to do my normal morning cleaning and ignore these contractions that way when they go away in an hour I will at least be happy that I have a clean house. I refuse to look at the clock when they come. I don’t want to time them.
The house is clean and I’m still having contractions. They still aren’t getting closer together. Sometimes I have to move through them, but mostly they are just slightly uncomfortable, sort of like a period cramp. A normal person in maybe-labor would stay home and, ya know, labor. I’m so done with being in fake labor that I decide to go run errands and ignore these stupid, pointless, annoying contractions. This will probably fizzle out anyway, and I would rather not notice when they do.
Elaina and I go to the bank and then we decide to walk around K-Mart and waste time. We spend about two hours running errands, and by the time we come home it is Elaina’s nap time. My contractions haven’t died down, but they haven’t really picked up either. They come randomly and with no pattern. I never experienced false labor with Elaina and I’m so over this whole thing. I decide to google “prodromal labor” to see how long this junk can last. Bad idea. The answer is: forfreakingever. This fake labor is for the birds! Elaina is napping and the house is clean, I may as well take a nap. I lay on the couch and am unable to sleep. Boo. My sister-in-law, Dee, comes to stay with Elaina while I go to my doctor’s appointment. She arrives and I head out. My doctor’s appointment is at 2:45, but it always takes at least an hour until I’m seen. Marvin doesn’t get off of work until 3:30, but we’re sure he’ll make the appointment with time to spare. At precisely 2:46 I get called back. Wowzers. They are actually on time? This is THE FIRST time they aren’t running behind. Typical. I text my mom to come hang with me at the appointment since it looks like Marvin won’t make it and she works right next door.
The nurse listens to Dane’s heartbeat and I have a contraction while she does. It’s a strong one and she looks at me like I’m crazy. “Maybe he’ll tell you to go to the hospital,” she says. I think to myself: He may, but I’m not going. I ask her how Dane’s heartbeat responded to the contraction and she says it went up. Not a decel! Good to hear! The nurse leaves. My mom and I spend our time waiting for Dr. Brown laughing and cracking jokes. I think my water breaks while I’m sitting on the table because some….. stuff comes out. I contemplate not mentioning it to Dr. Brown because if it did break he’s going to make me head to the hospital, and start pitocin and I am not about laboring naturally on pitocin, plus I’m not crazy about what pitocin (and the unnaturally strong contractions it causes) could do to Dane’s heartrate. Pitocin = stronger than normal contractions = possible stress on baby = c-section. That’s how it works in my head. One intervention leads to another and then another etc. etc.
My mom thinks I’m crazy at this point. I decide to mention it to Dr. Brown so she doesn’t freak out. I decide I’ll just ignore him if he tells me I have to go to the hospital. “So, my water either broke or I peed myself while I was sitting here 3 minutes ago, but if it did, I don’t want to go to the hospital until labor has a chance to establish naturally,” I say. “If your water broke, it’s not negotiable,” he says. He checks and it turns out my water didn’t break. He gives me a speech about how IF my water breaks I need to come to the hospital immediately. I agree when he tells me that he will give me 12 hours from the time my water broke to let labor begin naturally before beginning pitocin. I can always fib the time my water broke, too. Ok, ok, I agree that if my water breaks, I’ll come in!! I am 3 cm and 90% effaced. Dr. Brown says the way I’m contracting he thinks it will be very, very soon.
I go home and Marvin is home at this point. He, Dee and Elaina are in the play room visiting. I tell them about my appointment and have a few contractions that are painful enough that I have to change positions. Dee leaves and Marvin suggests going out to dinner. Why not? I’m still contracting, but I still haven’t timed them. I am in major denial at this point. We drive to Mongolian Grill and when we get out of the car I have a contraction so strong that it makes me sweat and I have to REALLY focus through it. I wonder if having dinner out was such a great idea afterall. Throughout dinner I am contracting and they are coming rather frequently and they’re getting more painful. I’m having dinner at a restaurant and I’m in maybe-labor. Am I dumb? I’m trying to play it off for the onlookers, but the sweat, big pregnant belly and swaying may be giving me away?
Marvin decides we should rent some movies and then we head home. Marvin is in denial, too. At this point no one is talking about the contracting-regularly elephant in the room. Marvin and Elaina lay in bed and watch a cartoon movie and I go to take a bath. My contractions are pretty intense at this point. I need to move through them. I can’t lay down in the bathtub, it hurts too badly. I sit in the tub sideways and rest my head forward against the side of the tub. Marvin asks me to do something and I snap at him, “I’m in labor here, can you handle it?!?”. He looks confused: “Wait, you are?”. “Yes, duh!! What do you think is going on?”. “I don’t know,” he looks confused. He gets a big smile on his face and comes and kisses me and tells me we are going to get through this labor with no problem and to let him know if I need something I’m saying the words “I’m in labor” out loud, but I don’t really, truly believe them. I still keep waiting for things to fizzle out. I’m so worried that everyone will have been alerted for nothing and I’ll look stupid.
After I get out of the bathtub, I decide it’s a good idea to text my mom and let her know I’m in labor and, since she will be taking care of Elaina while we are at the hospital, that she should be on alert for our “it’s time” phone call. It’s about 7:40 PM.
I decide to start timing contractions. They are coming every 4 minutes and are lasting about a minute. That’s the time frame that we are taught to go to the hospital in our class. I decide that we’re going to have to ignore that and go by the intensity of the contractions because it still feels too early to me. I spend the next hour packing Elaina’s bag. It takes that long because I have to focus through the contractions. I put Elaina to sleep and Marvin and I decide to watch a movie. He keeps telling me to lay down, but the contractions are roughly 378 times harder to manage while laying down. I watch the movie rocking on the birth ball and walking when I get the urge. I officially know that I am in labor now. No ifs ands or buts about it. This hurts too bad and too often to be a tease. I’ve been having contractions since 5AM, and they haven’t died down once. This is labor. Wow. Ok, so, this is labor. They are now strong enough that each one needs my concentration and I have to breathe through them and focus on relaxing.
When the movie is over I tell Marvin that we should finish packing our bags. We pack through my contractions. When the bags are packed we put on music and work through labor together. The contractions are really strong now. Talking is not allowed during the contractions and in between contractions I am not my lively normal self. I start to notice that I’m nauseated. In my Bradley class we are taught that nausea can be a sign of transition. I know this can’t be transition because it’s too soon, and it doesn’t hurt like I imagine transition will, but the nausea coupled with the intensity of the contractions makes me think we should head to the hospital now. I definitely don’t want to be on the road when transition comes. I tell Marvin to let my mom know it’s time. It’s about 11:00 PM.
At this point Marvin is the world’s best husband. He times the contractions, packs up the vehicle, helps me sway through them and keeps praising me. So far, he is allowed to be awake (remember Elaina’s labor?). “You are doing so good!! I know it’s not easy, but you are making it look so easy.” I worry that when things REALLY get hard and I start acting like a crazy person I’ll let him down. “It’s still early, though,” I say. “Don’t judge me later when it’s harder.”
We head to the hospital. My mom reminds me to wear my seatbelt. Yeah, right. No seatbelts will be worn tonight. I cannot sit in the seat in the conventional way. I lean the seat all the way back and face the back of the vehicle. Picture: my ass facing the windshield. I have three contractions on the way to the hospital. I want to get into the room and not have to move again. Traveling through labor is stupid and I hate it.
We arrive at the hospital and I have a contraction in the parking lot. We get to the ER entrance and Marvin goes to handle the paperwork. He is still allowed to be awake and I still love him at this point. A woman comes to me and asks me if she needs to send for someone from Labor & Delivery to come and get me. “No, thanks, I’m good,” I tell her. She responds that she just wanted to make sure because she’s never been in labor before. A contraction comes and I lean over the desk and breath and sway. I am not making any noise, just breathing through it. The same woman comes back. “Miss Diana, I need to put this bracelet on you,” she says. I’m having a contraction and it effing hurts so I do what any woman in labor would do: ignore her. She doesn’t get it. “Miss Diana? MISS DIANA? MISS DIANA”. Yep, she definitely hasn’t been in labor before. Is she effing serious?? The contraction is over and I look up at her like she is the dumbest human being alive. She doesn’t notice. It’s about 12:00AM.
We go on our merry way upstairs and I have a contraction in the elevator and the elevator starts to beep because I’m not getting off. I force myself to walk out of the elevator. Someone meets us in our room. It’s the huge L&D room reserved for mothers laboring naturally. There’s a tub in there. I have never seen something more beautiful in my life.
A nurse comes in and tells me to change into the gown. I tell her that I am going to be laboring in my own clothing. She tells me that it will make checking me and delivery very difficult, and they really need something more loose on bottom. They are already challenging the things in my birth plan. I’m not being polite! I’m going to get what I want. I’ve been ready for this fight all along. Try me, woman! “Dr. Brown signed off on my birth plan. It says I can labor in my own clothes.” A contraction comes and I close my eyes and sway. The nurse says, “That’s fine, but you….. Oh, are you having a contraction? Ok, you can wait till it’s done to answer me or tell me to shut up if you want.” Instantly I love her. I trust her. That’s all it took. This woman is my friend and she gets it. I take off my bottoms and put on the oober sexy mesh panties she gives me.
It’s hospital policy that they get a “strip” on you. Meaning they have to monitor your contractions and the baby’s heartbeat on the monitor for about 20 minutes. I’m ok with this and was prepared for this part. They hook me up and I sit on the birth ball. They have some questions to ask me. The nurse asks the questions in between contractions and she is completely silent during contractions. On purpose. Like, she takes her time asking these questions waiting for my contractions. Wow. Thank you, God, for this nurse. Dane’s heartrate goes up during contractions. No decels. All is good.
Now it’s time for my initial cervical check (the only one I plan on having, apart from when I’m ready to push). Brittany, the nurse, waits for the contraction to be over to check my cervix. (Have I mentioned that I love her?) I am 6cm and Dane is at 0 station. I’m done with all the intake stuff and it is tub time. Brittany, also known as God’s gift to laboring mothers, runs the water for me and I cannot wait to get in the tub. It’s about 12:45AM.
The tub is a magical, magical place. We have the music going. Brittany dimmed the lights (I know, right?). At this point, my contractions are bad enough that I have to really, really focus on them. They feel like they last a really long time. Our birth photographer, Annie, walks in during a contraction. When the contraction is over I say hi to her and tell her it’s nice to meet her. “Y’all don’t know each other?!,” Marvin asks as if I’m crazy. I don’t even notice Annie is there after that. She is so quiet and out of the way. She is now on the “I love these people” list along with Brittany and Marvin. For clarification purposes, the intake lady who has “never been in labor” is NOT on this list.
The contractions get out of control. Making noise feels good. Up until this point I have been silent. They are double peaking. Meaning, they start off dull-ish and reach I’m-going-to-die levels and then become less intense and then reach I’m-going-to-die levels again before dying off. They last about a minute and a half. There is no comfortable position during the double peak contractions. The contractions are coming close together now and while I do have a break in between it is short. The noises coming out of my mouth are getting more Cristina Aguillera-ish and less cow-ish.
I have a few more double peaking contractions and feel alot of “down below” pressure. I know it’s not time to push yet because I haven’t reached the “I can’t do it anymore, give me meds” irrationality that transition brings. I say nothing. I have two more contractions and I feel like I am going to poop in the tub. I decide to mention it to Marvin. Brittany comes in to listen to Dane’s hearbeat on the doppler. After the contraction is over I tell her that I feel like I need to poop. “It’s too early to push, though, right?” She suggests I go through two more contractions and see how they feel. During the next two contractions Marvin suggests I “put a little pressure” behind the contraction to see how it feels. He says this twice in a row and it pisses me off and I tell him to “shut the fuck up”. Oops. I go through two more and I want to be checked NOW. I think I need to push! In my head it feels too soon, but my body isn’t on board. I tell Brittany I want to be checked. Marvin interrupts, “No! You said you didn’t want to be checked.” I tell him I feel alot of pressure and need to be checked. He argues with me. “No, you’re ok. You don’t want to be checked.” I lose my patience: “MARVIN! Don’t argue with me when I’m in labor! I didn’t want to be checked because I didn’t want to get disappointed by the number. If I feel like I need to push I need to be checked. I don’t care what the number is. I won’t get disappointed.” Brittany checks me while I’m in the water. (Pause and remind yourself how much I love this person.) “You’re a 9. You have a little lip left on the right side. Lean on that side. I’m going to call Dr. Brown. If you start having an uncontrollable need to push, come get me. I have no qualms with catching a baby if I need to. When you can, it’s time to get out of the tub.”
I lean on the side Brittany suggests and have one more contraction before hurrying along to the bed. It really doesn’t feel real. It’s time to push already? But, I didn’t go through transition yet! I don’t feel self doubt yet. The Bradley class said I would feel self doubt.
I get in the bed and get on all fours and stick my naked ass in the air for all to see. You’re welcome, guys. Brittany comes back and tells me Dr. Brown is on his way and I have an irrational conversation with her about “is it really time to push?”. I can’t get over it. This is really it? Are y’all sure?
Dr. Brown walks in. “That was fast,” I tell him. Brittany says, “You don’t want your water broken at all?”. “NO!,” Marvin answers. Brittany says that she’s just asking because pushing may be easier and faster if Dane doesn’t have the water cushioning his head. “NO!!!,” Marvin answers again. No one is talking to him, but he is on a mission. “Well, should we break it now or wait?,” I ask. “NO!,” Marvin says. I take a break from birthing our second child to explain to Marvin that the reason I didn’t want my bag of waters artificially broken is because laboring is easier with the water intact and I didn’t want to be put on a timeframe to produce the baby because of the fear of infection, but now we’re pushing and if it’ll speed things along, I’m all for it. He explains to me that I told him I didn’t want my water broken. He says I told him I wanted it to happen on it’s own. Note to self: next time you’re in labor teach Marvin the WHY behind saying no. A contraction comes and the water talk stops. I push with all of my might. It feels EXACTLY like your pooping. Like, the same way you would “push out a poop” is EXACTLY how you push out a baby. It literally feels like I’m going to poop on the table.
The contraction is over. “Ok, is this going to be like 2 hours of pushing? Because if so, I will die,” I ask Dr. Brown. “No, the baby is coming this contraction or the next.” A contraction comes and I close my eyes and push. They tell me they see the head and he has hair and it’s DARK. Oh my. I can’t wait to see!! I push and I feel a gush of fluid. My water broke! “What was that,” Marvin asks. “It was my water,” I answer. Marvin looks at Dr. Brown with a seriousness I rarely see. “Did you break it,” he asks Dr. Brown. Dr. Brown nods and Marvin gives him a “look” and then looks at me. Uh oh. Marvin is angry.
A contraction comes and so does a burning sensation known as “the ring of fire“. Brittany is a magical human being so she knows that I’m feeling the ring of fire without me saying anything and tells me to push through the burn and I’ll meet my baby. This woman is a goddess. I push through the burn and it feels like I ripped my urethra open. Dane’s head is out.
Soon after his body is born and I am in disbelief. “He’s here,” I say. I keep saying over and over how I can’t believe he’s really here. That’s it? That was so much easier than I thought. They tug him and move him in a weird way and I can feel them pulling the cord. Weird. They immediately put him on my chest and I am in awe. I can’t believe this is really happening. We stimulate him and suction him. Dr. Brown says it’s time to birth the placenta and to give a push. I push and the placenta comes out. I have never felt more relief in my life. “That felt so good. I can breathe,” I say. I put Dane on my chest to nurse him and he latches on right away and sucks like there’s no tomorrow.
“You’re bleeding more than we like to see. Is it ok if we give you some pitocin,” Brittany asks me. “NO!,” Marvin answers. “Yes, if I need it to stop from hemorrhaging.” I say. Marvin looks at me and reminds me that I don’t want pitocin. I kindly let him know if my choices are bleeding out and pitocin, I’ll take the pitocin. Dr. Brown suggests she massage my fundus more and wait and see. She does, and we end up not needing the pitocin. Marvin is no longer mad at Dr. Brown.
Dane lays on my chest and nurses and I just keep talking about how I can’t believe he’s here and it’s done. We lay there and he nurses and eventually I get up and shower and bathe Dane. Yep, that’s right, I bathed him myself. Brittany, my BFF for life, brings me Honey Nut Cheerios and they tell us what recovery room we are in. I put Dane in his isolette and start to push him to our room. Brittany finds me and starts busting out laughing and trying to hide me from the other nurses “you can’t go by yourself, crazy!”. Oops.
I still cannot believe it went down like this. Was it hard? yeah. Was it doable? totally. It was honestly easier than I thought it would be. My first labor was a million times harder than I expected and my second was significantly easier than I expected. It’s all because of Charisse Campbell, our Bradley method instructor. We were both SO prepared, and we knew relaxation was key. I owe it all to her, Brittany and Marvin. My husband was so sweet and supportive (even when I told him to shut the f up). And, thanks to Annie Robert Hammons I have these great pictures. Click below to see Annie’s work (and Dane’s birth story: the visual version).