Birth Story

I’m finally ready to write about how Ellen entered the world! I’d like to preface the story by saying that there are parts of how it went that made me really, really angry, and some of those feelings haven’t faded yet (will they ever?). Also, this is going to be loooooooong.

Anyway, let’s rewind to the 22nd of August, around breakfast time. I texted my mom and Kyle and told them that I didn’t want to read into it too much since I’d been crying wolf over contractions a bunch, but that my contractions felt “pesky” that day.

Fast forward to about noon the same day. I had just eaten lunch and noticed that the baby wasn’t moving like she normally does after I eat. That got me thinking about when the last time I had felt her was, and I couldn’t remember! I ate a lollipop to try to coax some movement out using sugar, and waited a few minutes.


Obviously, that got me freaked out. I knew I had felt her the previous night before bed, but I didn’t think I’d felt her once since then. So I called my mom around 12:30. That was a short phone call, resulting in me calling my doctor two minutes later. I spoke with a nurse who said she’d consult with the doctor about whether they wanted me at the hospital or the clinic and get back to me within the hour.

At this point, I began to cry. I called Kyle and summoned him home from work. While I waited, I drank a sprite and laid down to try to find some baby movements. After a few minutes, I did end up feeling a tiny poke, which was reassuring. But it still wasn’t as wild as she normally would have been after such a sugary treat.

The nurse from my doctor’s office called back at about 1:10 PM. I told her about the tiny poke, which led them to choose to bring me into the clinic instead of the hospital for a non-stress test to monitor the baby and my contractions. Kyle arrived home and we packed the hospital bags into the car and headed to the clinic for an appointment at 1:45.

They strapped me up to the monitor and left us for about 20 minutes. I watched my contractions and the baby’s heart rate, and I thought, “oh good! a heartbeat that remains steady through my contractions. They’ll be happy and they’ll send us home.”

Well, there’s a reason they don’t let the pregnant ladies read their own results, because I was wrong. Apparently, baby’s heart rate is supposed to accelerate during contractions, and a really happy baby would have spikes and dips in their heart rate. Ellen’s heart just kept beating at exactly the same pace.

The doctor (one I’d seen before, but not my own doctor) said that he could send me home because the baby was technically fine. BUT – and it was a big but – if tragedy struck at any point after that, we would all look back on that moment and wonder why we hadn’t just gotten the baby out when everything was ok. She was already 1 day past due, so it wasn’t like we were pulling out a preemie. He said he recommended sending me to the hospital for induction just to be safe so that no one would have any regrets.

Kyle and I appreciated the reasoning and were totally on board. We left the doctor’s office around 2:15 to go straight to the hospital. On the way, we called and texted everyone who needed to know. The first calls were our mothers – Kyle’s so she would know to get Lewis from school, and mine so she would know to meet us at the hospital when she was done with work.

We arrived at the hospital around 3pm. The day prior, at my 40 week appointment, I had been just shy of 2cm dilated. The first thing they did when I got to the hospital was to check my cervix, and it was still up behind Baby’s head, but I was 4cm! I was surprised, but then my “pesky” contractions started to make sense. They had most likely been the start of real labor anyway, so the induction sounded less scary. My mom and the advice nurse had also both mentioned that babies often slow their movements just prior to the onset of labor, so everything was starting to make sense.

During my cervical check, the midwife swept my membranes and stretched my cervix. She didn’t warn me that she was going to do that, so it was kind of a painful shock, but I got through it.

The staff then asked me if I had eaten any lunch. I told them I hadn’t eaten since about 11:15 and I was ravenous. I couldn’t believe it, but they actually let me have food! I had a yogurt parfait and a bowl of vegetable soup just before they started my Pitocin at 3:30. 

It took three nurses and three total attempts to get my IV in. I still have bruises today!
Mom arrived at some point, and we all just played the waiting game. I was up and down to pee, hung out in the rocking chair, laid in the bed, chatted with the nurses and my mom, and let Kyle relax.

Mom and Kyle got food around 5:45, and they brought me back some ravioli, since – miraculously – the nurses were still letting me eat!

Kyle jetted off home to grab some things we had forgotten around 6:15, and mom and I hung out, still just waiting around and weathering contractions.

At my next cervical check, I was 5.5cm. We instructed Kyle to try to sleep, and began the discussion about our next move. There was talk of breaking my water, timing of getting an epidural, upping pitocin, etc. Ultimately, we decided to send me around for a walk, then do the epidural and break my water after that.

I remembered the pain of contractions with broken water from labor with Lewis, and I wasn’t interested in feeling that without the assistance of an epidural. So I laid on my side while the portable monitor charged, and by 10pm I was up for a walk with my mom. We did laps for about 30 minutes until I just couldn’t take it anymore.

The pain was starting to get awful, so I think even without our pre-existing plan to get the epidural before breaking my water, I would have probably asked for the epidural at that point anyway. They gave me some crackers and apple juice, and then the anesthesiologist got started on the epidural around 11:20. It was fully in place by 11:40. The pain was gone.

Unlike last time with Lewis, the epidural worked in my whole belly, instead of just on one side. I was so relieved to have a better epidural this time around, and settled in for a nice peaceful waiting game. Kyle slept all the while.

Around 12:20 they put in my catheter and broke my water. At this point, I started to lose track of time. I remember that there was a blood pressure drop and I felt really awful. They gave me more fluids, changed my position, and gave me oxygen. That all helped, and I hung out on my left side from 1am to 2am.

At some point, the nurse came in and said Baby’s heart rate wasn’t satisfactory, so despite my comfort, they made me flip and then try hands and knees. This was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever endured. Because of the epidural, I had very little control of my legs, so I felt unstable and like I was going to fall flat on my belly and smoosh the baby. I sobbed and cried uncontrollably, screaming at everyone that I didn’t feel safe. They put me on my right side, and both Baby and I started to do better.

Somewhere in the middle of all of that action, I began to shake/shiver uncontrollably. I had read about that happening, so I knew that it was normal. The nurses all assured me it was normal too, but it was quite uncomfortable and continued the whole night.

Even more uncomfortable was the fact that I began to feel my catheter every time I contracted. My epidural didn’t seem to be working in the far southern nether regions. I was pretty concerned about this, and pushed the button for more epidural several times, with no relief.

At some unknown time, they checked me again and I was at 7cm. Progressing nicely. Everyone was pleased. They kept flipping me around to keep Baby happy, and I started gushing yucky stuff. Everyone cheered at the presence of my “bloody show”, and I managed to laugh at the type of things labor and delivery staff get excited about.

I kept harping about my catheter to the point that the nurse and midwife decided to reposition it. That didn’t help at all, so we decided to remove it temporarily. This revealed some very upsetting information – I was still in pain down there! It wasn’t the catheter, it was just that my epidural didn’t work in my vagina. In retrospect, I think what I was actually feeling was my cervix dilating with each contraction. This was not something I ever intended to feel.

We watched things for a while, and called the anesthesiologist back around 3:30. While we waited for him to come back, we decided we’d put the catheter back in after he helped me. Meanwhile, I was farting a ton, which everyone celebrated (weirdos). The anesthesiologist did eventually come back, I got a bolus to try to help with the pain, but didn’t get much relief even from that.

There was talk that perhaps I was “complete”. I completely lost all sense of time at this point because the pain became so all-consuming. I remember getting my cervix checked again and hearing that I wasn’t, in fact, “complete” (AKA 10cm), but that I was at 8cm. It must have been about 4:30am when this check happened, looking back on it.

I also remember them turning off the pitocin to give Baby a break. I don’t think they ever turned it back on, because shit got crazy really, really quickly. In the next half hour, I began to vomit and cry. I was in so much pain. My belly still felt nothing, but every contraction was agony in my vagina and my butt.

I was starting to get really angry, because all the groundwork to avoid this pain had been laid, yet I was still experiencing it. Because I was induced, everything was very controlled. There was plenty of time to manage the pain and get the epidural. We got to clearly define the steps. It wasn’t a whirlwind labor where I showed up ready to push with no time to get an epidural… so why was this happening to me?

They decided to call the anesthesiologist back again. But earlier in the night, they had also told me to let them know when I was feeling constant pressure in my bottom. Well, that happened, so I told them (yelled at them). Oh I was in so much pain – I can almost feel it still just thinking back on it. My mom suggested that they check my cervix again because I might be “complete”, but the nurse and midwife didn’t think that was possible because I had been only 8cm a half hour ago.

I kept yelling at them that I felt pressure. My mom asked me if I thought I needed to push and I think my answer was, “WAAAAAAAAAAAH MAYBE!”

So somehow someone was convinced to check me. I can’t even remember who it was because all I really remember is pain. I do remember them announcing that I was, in fact, complete. They had turned off the pitocin, and my stupid body said, “cool, we don’t need medicine, we’ll go ahead and take it from here” and I proceeded to dilate the final 2cm in record time.

The anesthesiologist walked in during my first push. He turned around and left.

The next two hours were the worst hours of my life. Because of all the crying I’d done during the “2cm dilation of death” experience, I had a ton of snot in my throat. So I gagged and choked on that, vomiting frequently. I tried to blow my nose between every contraction to get it out. It was so distracting from the actual task at hand.

The midwife was stretching my vagina with her fingers to help me identify where to push and also to help widen the opening for what we all could now tell was a very large baby. Everyone kept telling me I was doing a great job and that they could see the head. But it kept going back in. I remembered that from my labor with Lewis, and that labor ended with me not being able to get him out on my own. So when I heard all the staff + my mom telling me I was doing a good job, I didn’t believe them. I thought they were bullshitting me just to keep my spirits up. I’d been there before, pushing the head out and sucking it back in, and I knew how that ended.

So I got mad at them. I was so angry that they would all lie to me about me doing a good job. If I was doing so great, why wasn’t the baby out yet? Why was it taking so long?

Somewhere along the road, it had become apparent that I had another sunnyside-up baby, in addition to her being gigantic. I’m not sure when I became aware of this, but at some point I did know it. And that just made me angrier. My baby was huge, she was face up again, everyone was lying to me, and I was in so much pain. Pain which I hadn’t signed up for.

Sometime after 6am, the nurse and midwife said to me that they were sure I’d have the baby out by shift change at 7am because I was making so much progress. I was sure they were lying to me still.

I believe this was the point where I began screaming at everyone. It’s all very foggy, but I know I screamed that I needed help and everyone just kept telling me that I was doing a good job and I didn’t need help. This was extremely upsetting, because when I had said that with Lewis, they helped me. Not this time, folks.

So then I started screaming and bawling at my mom, telling her that no one was listening to me. She assured me that they were helping me, and that I was so close. I couldn’t believe my ears. My own mother was lying to me too.

I’m weeping just writing this, because it was so upsetting. I felt so abandoned. All I wanted was for someone to take the pain away. For someone to help me. And I was all alone.

I have flashes of memories of Kyle looking extremely concerned and walking away to lay down. I honestly felt relieved that he was stepping away to take care of himself. Then I didn’t have to worry about whether it was too much for him or not. Worrying about his well-being was a distraction.

All of a sudden the midwife was gone. Her fingers pulling and stretching my vagina – the only assistance I was getting – was taken away from me. Oh! I was outraged. HOW DARE SHE?!

Then the room started to fill up with people. It was shift change. I was “meeting” new nurses and midwives. There was a doctor. My mom was talking to the midwife. The fingers were back.

I kept asking for more help, and still no one gave it to me. I don’t remember what I said, but none of it was nice, and all of it was loud. I wanted to kill these people for forcing me to endure the pain and pressure and agony all on my own, all the while telling me that I was awesome and making progress. If I was making progress, why did it all still feel the same? They told me to use my anger, which only made me angrier.

Eventually, I had a vague thought that maybe I should just try and shit all over the damn midwife. I guess that’s when the baby’s head came out. The rest of her came out as if on its own after that. 7:14 AM on August 23rd.

Everyone cheered, I realized that they had not been lying to me about making progress. And there was my baby! On my chest! Crying! Breathing!

Kyle showed up next to me, the relief clear on his face, tears in his eyes. I wish I remember what he said, but I think it was something along the lines of, “you did it. oh my god you did it”.

I later found out that the midwife’s disappearance just prior to birth was to call in for physician backup because they were worried that Ellen’s shoulders would get stuck. This is what my mother had been whispering to the midwife about, and that was part of the reason for the room filling up with people – it wasn’t just shift change, it was reinforcements. Because the consequences of a baby’s head being born with the body stuck inside are pretty scary, apparently, and they needed all hands on deck. Luckily, when Ellen’s head came out looking straight towards the sky, she turned so her body could pass through. Thank goodness.

Ellen’s head was so misshapen. She looked like a rhinoceros, with this huge lump in the middle of her forehead. But my god! She was out! And she was mine! And I fucking did it. Without any help from any-fucking-body.

I did end up with a 2nd degree tear and some stitches, which is less severe than I experienced with Lewis, surprisingly. I also had about 24 hours of difficulty urinating on my own due to swelling. But other than that, immediate post-trauma care was pretty limited. Just ibuprofen to manage the swelling and pain, a catheter, an ice pack or two, and that was that.

We spent the next day and a half in the hospital until I could pee on my own and Ellen had passed all her tests. We spent a significant amount of time awake because Ellen kept puking up a bunch of amniotic fluid – once even turning blue because she was choking on it and couldn’t breathe. The night nurse, Erin, was a goddess helping us through that. She even took Ellen for about 1.5 hrs so I could get some sleep.

We also debated back and forth about what to name her – would she be Ellen or Mabel? Obviously, we settled on Ellen. But even as we did so, I wasn’t confident in our decision. However, as the hours and days have passed, I feel really happy with our choice. Looking at her now, I can’t imagine calling her Mabel. It just doesn’t suit her!

Big brother Lewis came to visit us in the hospital with Grammy. That was a special moment I’ll never, ever forget. He brought the presents he had gotten for “Baby Sister” (he still calls her that now, 10 days later), and even brushed her hair with the Minnie Mouse brush he got for her. He also opened his gifts from Baby Sister with great enthusiasm. Kyle took him for a walk to get snacks, and I’m pretty sure Lewis was the happiest big brother that ever lived.

We arrived at home around 5:30 or 6 pm on Thursday evening. Lewis was with Kyle’s dad at our house, and the two of them were thrilled to snuggle Baby Sister. Lewis held her for the first time right away, and my mama heart melted.

I’ve already written about most of what has happened since our arrival home. So I’ll leave this “birth story” at this. I hope someday the trauma and anger and upset will leave me when I think back on Ellen’s birth. I wish it had been different. But I got a perfect, sweet baby out of all of this, and that’s the most important thing.

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