Ben’s Birth Story
Benjamin Adams Williams arrived in the world at 2:10am on March 10 weighing 7lbs 6oz and measuring 20.25”.
Benjamin teased us for over a week (original due date on Feb 27), with contractions starting every evening that disappointingly went away while sleeping. Then on Friday night, a day of walking the lakefront path finally kick-started more substantial labor. After 25 hours of active labor at home, I declared it was time to head to the hospital. Upon arrival, we learned that even though I was 100% effaced, I had only 1 cm dilation. I was extremely discouraged at that point and ready to head back home, but David reminded me of what we learned in class about the importance of effacement (not just dilation) and, given that I was strep B positive and amniotic fluid levels were low, Gaye, the midwife on call that night, decided to keep us at the hospital. 30 more hours of active labor followed with lots of walking the hospital halls, leaning against the walls with David providing counter pressure on my hips as the contractions happened, as well as time in the tub where my labor progressed more than any other method. David remembers me being so exhausted at one point he just knew I needed to have some sort of calorie intake. He got me a popsicle which I ate in the tub and he said it was like life suddenly came back into me. 2.5 hours of pushing brought Benjamin into the world where David helped Gaye to catch him. I was able to do skin to skin contact with him right away and he latched on to nurse.
I am so grateful that given the length of this labor everyone respected our birth plan and I was never offered medications beyond the antibiotic treatment via heplock for strep B. David was an incredibly supportive birth partner and my mom (who read all the handouts and packet from our class on her own!) made sure that David was able to maintain his role and offered additional support for me. Even though it was a positive experience, I still learned more of what I would want and would not want in a labor experience and felt more empowered to articulate those needs with my second birth.
Alex’s Birth Story
Just like his brother, Alex was born 11 days after his due date of April 10. For his birth, we decided to have a doula as part of our birth team. I really wanted a doula this time around to provide additional support to David in case my labor was similar in length to my first birth.
At my April 20 prenatal appt after discussing the pros and cons with my doula and midwife, I opted to have my membranes stripped. Three hours later, I laid down for a nap but couldn’t sleep due to contractions. They were only about 10 min apart, but they were substantial and regular. At 3:30, David and Ben woke up from taking their nap and while I continued to have contractions, David got ready for work. At 4:30, I asked him not to go. I made dinner while David and Ben played and at 5:30, we asked my dad to drive down and get Ben for the night. He did so (in horrible Friday night rush hour traffic) while Celia, our doula, made her way to the north side to be closer to us. After calling the midwife on duty, I followed her recommendation to take a bath and try to sleep.
David and I did fall asleep around 10pm and, while I woke with needing to pee and occasional contractions, all the momentum faded.
At 4:30am, I woke with strong contractions, but they were all very irregular. 10 min, 5 min, 7 min, 9 min. I woke David at 5:30am unable to sleep anymore and wanting company. We watched HGTV and found ways to laugh together while I labored in various positions: the ball, squatting by bracing on his knees, standing bracing on the couch. I was so grateful that we had taken a refresher class and that we knew our doula was on call at any moment to be present with us. At 11:00, I realized we needed to pick up something from Ben’s preschool so David drove with me in the passenger seat. The contractions were NOT fun. When we got home at 11:30, David cleaned our place and the contractions, while still irregular, got MUCH stronger. I was crying with each one. At 12:30, we called Celia and the midwife on call, Debi, who heard one of the contractions on the phone and urged us to get to the hospital. We called family in the car on the way as I rode in the front seat, turning around to brace myself backwards over the seat with each painful contraction.
Celia was waiting for us at the hospital and got a wheelchair when she saw the intensity of my contractions. She took our car to park so David and I could get inside. We got checked into the room and Debi and Larisa (the nurse) helped me to get undressed. They checked me and I was 95% effaced but only 4cm dilated. My mom arrived right at that point. I continued to labor through painful contractions, kneeling and leaning against the back of the bed, on a birth ball, on the toilet, while David, Celia, and Marmie supported me and reminded me to relax my face and breathe slowly. Their constant words of encouragement are what sustained me. I threw up repeatedly unable to keep even water in my stomach. I distinctly remember thinking that I just could not go on. Each contraction felt like it was splitting me in two. With my first labor, the contractions felt productive. But this time, they just felt painful. I wanted to go home, I felt like a caged animal prowling to get out of my own body, I just wanted it all to stop, and I wondered why on earth people do this more than once!
At one point, Dana (the next nurse) was in the room when I was laboring on the toilet and for the first time, I felt the urge to push. I didn’t follow it, worried that I hadn’t progressed enough. Debi was with another patient who was literally delivering her baby at that moment so Dana went to fetch someone else to check me and see if I was ready to push. I wasn’t wearing my glasses so most of the people were just a blur. I was so grateful for Celia at this moment who was truly our advocate within the hospital anticipating who or what we may need for ask for and following up to make sure it happened.
Debi ended up getting into the room and checking me. I was still only 7cm, which felt like a disappointment, but everyone, I especially remember Dana’s voice told me that could change in an instant. I labored through a few more intense contractions with my legs getting more and more exhausted. I tried to be on my side, but when they put the peanut between my legs, my body revolted at the position. I went back onto the toilet leaning on David for support. The urge to push came again. Debi returned and said not to fight the urge, but to allow it to happen.
The pushing was awful. I was at an odd angle at the bed with Marmie helping to brace my upper leg, Celia bracing my lower leg, and David at my head. Debbie prompted me to lift my head (David helped with that and reminded me constantly to push the energy down) and pull my knees towards myself. They all reminded me to send the energy down. I felt like I had to release a massive poop with one push and I asked if I had. Turns out it was my water breaking with meconium in it so baby had pooped, not me.
One of the next pushes, I felt another release but it was just some additional fluid.
The baby felt like he was stuck and Debi worked to free the last tiny bit of cervix that was still holding out.
With the next pushes, it felt like such hard work to focus my energies and actually get him moving. At one point, he was close to coming out and I just yelled for him to “get out!” At another point, Debi told me to hold my leg up even closer to my side and when I said “that feels good” someone commented that no one ever says that at this point in labor!
Finally, I could tell with one push that he was almost there, but the contraction was fading and when it ended I screamed in pain feeling every bit of my body stretched thin around his head. I couldn’t hold back in that moment. The only way out was to get him out. Summoning energy and breath from I don’t know where, I pushed and heard all the words of encouragement as he came closer to entering the world. With another push, his head finally emerged. Two more and his body slipped out. Debi caught him and he was immediately placed on my chest while I felt the umbilical cord stretching up keeping him tethered. The combined joy of the end of the pain and seeing his face was euphoric. David cut the cord and we stared at this new life we created. He opened his eyes at the sound of David’s voice. After birthing the placenta, Debi put one stitch on a small vaginal bleed.
He ended up latching beautifully as my birth team was left in peace to live in the moment that had just happened. We decided to name him Alexander Driver Williams. Born at 4:58pm on 4/21/18. Weighing 7 lbs 12 oz. Measuring 20.5”.