Theo’s Birth Story {Part 2}

So, I realize that, on Tuesday, I did a pretty spectacular job of leaving y’all hanging by a very thin thread (although, as one reader pointed out: “Even with a cliffhanger, we all know the baby did come out!”). But it wasn’t all in the name of cheap theatrics.

Because, as much as I would have loved to have been very close to the end at 7 AM when I was dilated to almost a 10 and had been laboring for weeks over 12 hours already…the finish line was still miles away. And that post was already getting loooooong.

ANYhoo, once I found out how far along I was, I was more determined than ever to do whatever it took to get my contractions to do their job. To that end, I stomped down the stairs and started doing laps around the circle that makes up our living room, kitchen, dining room, and entryway. More than with any other labor, my contractions had seemed to be strangely regulated by a change in activity/condition (case in point: before I got in the tub, I stuck my toe in the water, which was way too hot, and immediately experienced a contraction so painful and intense that I could barely pull my foot back).

If I stood up, I had a contraction. If I sat down, same thing. If I went to the bathroom, contraction. Coughed, contraction. Thought about contractions, contraction. They never completely stopped, but if I did any one thing for too long, they invariably slowed down, so I was constantly changing my activities–babying them along, if you’ll pardon the bad pun–to make sure they progressed.

With each lap I made around the downstairs, I prayed for the Lord to bring this baby in His time and His way and thanked Him for getting me this far. I had been in awe of just how manageable (if ridiculously slow) the process had been so far and had been breathing prayers of praise for His grace and provision for such an easy labor. But now, it was time for pain. As I marched and prayed, I immediately felt my contractions strengthen. I would feel one coming and speed up to make it to the stair newel so I could hang on for dear life and squat deep into the contraction in hopes of forcing his head low enough to trigger the urge to push.

Pretty soon, I was having contractions every 3 minutes or so (the closest they had come for the entirety of the labor), and they were the kind that make your eyes cross and your lower back want to secede from the Union. The don’t-talk-to-me-or-once-I-regain-the-use-of-my-limbs-I-will-deck-you kind.

I still didn’t quite feel like I was about to die, but I wasn’t exactly loving life either. When my midwife okayed trying the water again, I hobbled gratefully upstairs, hoping the water would once again work its magic. I never really got the chance to find out, though, because, the minute I got back in the tub, the contractions just…stopped.

I felt physically better and was able to carry on a conversation again, but I was pretty fed up with the my weird, sputtery labor. No matter how nonsensical the sentiment, there is a point during long labors in which you become convinced that your baby’s never ever coming out.  (My first-contraction-to-last-push labor times include: 44 hours, 28 hours, 32 hours, 4 days of stop/start labor + 8 hours of the real stuff, and then this one…so I know whereof I speak).

After about 8 minutes of sitting in the tub, chatting with my midwife, birth assistant, and husband as if hanging out in the bathroom in a ridiculous state of undress with other (clothed) adults is a totes normal thing for me, I felt the hint of a contraction approaching and started to change position so I wouldn’t have to endure it flat on my tailbone. The best I can tell, my sudden movement triggered a major contraction and, with it, the undeniable urge to push. This was at 8:30 AM.

Yeeeeeehaw! The finish line was in sight! My pushing periods are traditionally quite short, with 47 minutes having been my longest (and that was my Simon, my 9 lb. 2 oz. 23 1/2″ man-child).

But after my first initial pushing contraction…nothing happened. (Sensing a theme?)

I didn’t have another contraction for a good (bad, awful) 7 minutes. And then another, maybe 8 minutes after that. After 3-4 bizarre rounds of pushing followed by casual conversation, my midwife said she’d feel more comfortable if I could get out of the water and try to get the contractions down to–oh, you know–a reasonably normal amount of time apart for labor.

Theo’s heart rate was steady and strong, so fetal distress wasn’t a concern, but I think we were all pretty ready to get this show on the road.

I moved to the bed and pushed through several more rounds of contractions, starting to feel a little bewildered about this kid’s refusal to budge. My girls, especially, had pretty much come out on their own, so the burning sensation of crowning and then receding was pretty foreign to me.

After a particularly intense session that still produced no baby, my midwife checked my dilation one more time and discovered a tiny lip of cervix hanging around to complicate things. She looked at me seriously and said the words no laboring woman wants to hear: “I want you to stop pushing.”

I don’t think I gave her the nicest look ever.

“In fact, I want you to try to rest through the next several contractions, eat something, drink some water, let that lip of cervix go away completely so it doesn’t swell and block the baby’s head, and build up your strength for the end.”

The end??! 

You mean, this wasn’t it? Everything in me was rebelling against the concept of “taking a break” when we were this close, but I totally trust Melena, and I could already tell the pushing wasn’t terribly effective.

So, I took a “break,” muscles quivering and back spasming as I–well, there’s really no other word for it–survived multiple pushing contractions without actually pushing. My saving grace was that the contractions were still 5 minutes apart, which gave me time to gather a little bit of nerve and resolve for the next one (by this point, though, the contractions were 90 seconds long).

I’m not going to lie: that half hour was one of my least favorite labor memories to date. I could feel my body doing its job, though, working his head lower (who knew it were possible without his falling out??!)

When I finally said, “Melena, I don’t think I can fight this off any longer,” she said, “If you have the urge to push so strongly that your body’s doing it on its own, I’m fine with that.”

So, push I did. Melena assured me I was making progress, but it sure didn’t feel that way.

I know that lots of women deliver babies in all kinds of crazy positions, but I have always balked at the idea of pushing while on my feet. Fear of the unknown, I suppose. So, I was accepting but none-too-excited when Melena had me stand up so that we could elevate Theo’s (still strong but slightly lowered) heartbeat.

Which is how we arrive at, quite possibly, my least favorite labor memory to date. I don’t know if I was just doing it all wrong or subconsciously fighting the process or…what. But pushing while standing/squatting was miserable. At one point, everything felt stuck in a sadistic merry-go-round of pain. If I stood, it was excruciating. If I squatted, it was agony. Everything was shaking and the room was swimming. I could hear myself gasping (I’m not a screamer, and my breathing is usually pretty controlled, so hearing myself dragging in wheezing puffs of air was a bit disconcerting). All I remember is fire and pressure and Melena and Kathryn chanting, “Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.” I had finally reached my, “I’m going to die,” moment, but it was quite different than I was used to.

Thankfully, I was able to get back on the bed quickly, and everything immediately felt better. Not great, mind you. But less like a panic attack on a constant loop. Which is kind of funny since she asked me what I was feeling (the word PAIN came to mind), and I said, “What do you mean?” And she said, “Well, you seemed like maybe you were having an anxiety attack.” Out loud, I said, “Maybe…I’ve never had one before,” but I think my brain was going, “Uh uh. That sounds right.”

The next half hour or so is a blur of pushing that felt like it might-actually-but-not-quite be working until the moment when, in the middle of what I was sure was going to be yet another fruitless contraction, I felt a sharp, searing shift in pressure.

I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say that this kid did not slide out as his siblings had. He made me work for every bit of his 21″ body.

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{Theo, only moments after they handed him to me; he had a few battle scars from his reluctant entrance into the world}

(After it was all done, we discovered the reasons for his reluctance to come out: 1) the chord was woven all around his body and kept pulling him back up like a bungee rope each time a pushing contraction ended and 2) his head was off-center, which meant a wider section of skull for me to get out).

I remember being so in itthat I couldn’t think about anything else while at the same time having a strangely out-of-body experience of marveling at the sounds I was capable of producing and the fact that my body could actually survive this much stretching without shattering into a million little shards of pain.

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{This is Melena, my awesome midwife! She was a birth assistant at the twins’ birth, and she has such a chill, gentle way about her that is really reassuring and relaxing and the same time. She and Kathryn both were so amazing as they patiently worked with me to get my obstinate body to give us a baby!}

The moment he was out, the relief came flooding in. They placed him on my chest, and I just kept staring at him and saying, “I can’t believe he’s actually here. It’s over. He’s actuallyhere.”

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{Theo’s feet and hands are HUGE! His feet especially are, hilariously, too long for any of his newborn footie pajamas}

It never ceases to amaze me how it can go from being so, so bad to so, so good in the space of a mere second or two.

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{This man…goodness, I am blessed to have him. He stays by my side through every long hour of every one of my labors, never wavering or complaining, always helpful without hovering. Gee, I sure do love him}

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{Tired, but oh-so-happy!}

Praise God for his goodness and mercy in allowing me to have another healthy, precious baby.

I remember when a friend of mine had her sixth baby, and I wondered whether the process ever got ho-hum.

It doesn’t. At least not for me. I’m still just as awestruck at childbirth and just as smitten with each new baby. It’s just all too miraculous not to be.

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26 thoughts on “Theo’s Birth Story {Part 2}

  1. I know a little of how you feel. I had my third baby and experienced the same thing – pushing to no avail. Found out after -like you- that the cord was wrapped around baby and my pushing was going against my best efforts. Cocngratulations! :)

  2. Oh my Abbie!! My uterus is quivering just reading this!! I CANNOT imagine! I’ve had 4 med-free births but they are all relatively short….6 hrs being the most. So you deserve a GOLD medal for sure!! I’m amazed at your stamina! I was on pins & needles reading both parts. And thanks for not waiting too long for part 2…..I hate the suspense! :) I’m thankful that you were are home because I bet ya’ money you would have had an unnecessary c-section in the hospital. And then after that grueling labor you were rewarded with a sweet blessing from heaven, Theo! Loved the pics and that precious newborn face. Melts my heart :) Many blessings to you & your sweet family!!

  3. Thanks for sharing! I love, love, love reading birth stories for some really odd reason :) I had a very similar experience with my 3rd… An intense need to push but couldn’t because of that darn lip of cervix being in the way. I was the crazy screaming-at-the-top-of-your-lungs-like-in-the-movies lady in labor! I had to scream to get through the contractions without pushing. It was horrendous and terrifying. I had that moment where the anxiety crept up and I thought “I’m going to die…” I knew I wasn’t really, but you think it anyway! So I feel your pain and know the fear you spoke of! So glad you got through it and that Theo is healthy and safe! Congrats – you’re a warrior!

  4. Yikes. I probably should have waited to read this until after I have my baby (any day now)…but…then again I’m a doula so I’ve seen a lot! :) But wow…you’re Super Woman! Thanks for sharing your birth story…it’s so awesome that you were supported by amazing care providers that worked with you and let you listen to what your body needed!

  5. Thank you! Thank you, Abbie for sharing so much of your life with us! Thank you for being God-fearing, honest, real, and vulnerable!
    You’re an inspiration!

  6. Ahhh, praise God for getting you guys through!! I remember after my third baby was born I just kept repeating the same thing – “I can’t believe he’s here! He’s finally out!!” Lol! It had been a long pregnancy journey especially with him and I didn’t think he would ever come out!! Thanks for sharing your story! God is amazing!!

  7. Oh gracious. What a tale! Ouch, ouch ouch… but so worth it. You bring me back to my 5th, wherein the contractions never came closer than 5 minutes apart. I had no idea; time had ceased to exist, but my husband (it was just him and I) told me afterwards that it was tough to watch. Especially that end with, yep, the full 5 minute wait between head and body. I hurt too bad to want to push without an urge, and had no idea it would have been better to just get it over with… until too late. : ) I’ll have to remember that I (apparently!) had it eaaaaaasy. Ha!

    1. Oh goodness, Becky! I can’t imagine the five minute wait between head and body. I think that’s where my midwife was my saving grace because she was coaching me to just keep pushing. That was seriously the moment when I was absolutely amazed at what my body was capable of doing. It didn’t feel possible, but then…there he was! Glad you made it out on the other side! :)

  8. I had 27 hours of pitocin induced, pain med free labor without ever dilating past 8. :-) (ended with a c section finally due to 24 hours of water broken and a good 6 hours on oxygen bc his heart rate was in the 30s! So scary!)

    I’m always in awe of birth stories where the baby comes out in the end without help! I love reading about babies coming into the world! It’s like my favorite guilty pleasure!

    Welcome to the world, Theo! And congrats, Mama! You did good! He’s beautiful! But then all your babies are beautiful!.

  9. What a story!! My VBAC baby gave me a long labor, but thankfully it wasn’t hard until the last three-four hours. We were at the hospital for 15 hours before he was born with 5-6 hours of labor at home before we left.
    Congratulations! I’m glad everyone is healthy and doing well.

  10. Ok, I delivered both of my girls on my knees and without pain meds… i honestly never even knew that was an option (on your knees backwards in a hospital bed) before my first but it’s a benefit of a midwife and no tubes and needles. And seriously, I can’t wrap my head around what part of laboring/delivering on your back makes any sense when you could have gravity on your side! I guess i just dont like to take it lying down. Haha

    1. Well, I don’t know that I would necessary characterize it in terms of anyone’s wanting to “take it lying down” or being able to “wrap your head” around a particular delivery experience. I think it pretty much boils down to everybody’s experience being different. I’ve had 5 unmedicated labors/deliveries, 4 of them home-births (including the twins), and pushing on the bed always worked better than any other position for me (and, except for this time because of the reasons I mentioned, they were really fast, relatively easy pushing periods), but I have friends who want to be anywhere but the bed to deliver (which is how I feel until I actually am ready to push; up til then, I only want to be on my feet).

      Glad you’ve found a way that works for you!

  11. Thanks for the birth story! Love em! I’ve had one hospital cesarian birth followed by two water home births. It feels just like yesterday I was pushing out my Charlie. He’s 18 months old now! Ah! So fast! Love your name for your son.

  12. Thank you for this post! You reminded me that my baby will come in God’s perfect time, not mine! Even though I am ready and feel my body is also, I must be patient until his day. I’ve never made it 39 weeks with my other 4, so, I definitely feel I’m ready at almost 38 weeks! This little one just might defy those odds and come at 40 weeks! Thank you for your encouraging post!

  13. Oh Abbie! thank you for sharing your story with us!!! I never had a home birth as I didn’t really know anyone who had and had no information/insight into the beauty of it; When I was pregnant with my 4th (7 years ago…WAH!!!!!) I was just meeting women who were taking the natural route… and I wish I had given it a go since God was so good to me in all my labors… He has designed our bodies to do AMAZING things!!! (I always tell my girls how blessed we women are to be the ones to carry and deliver babies… it’s miraculous!!!)

    Anyhoo, my point is, I now encourage any one I can, with the information I have from you and other friends who go natural or have home births, that it CAN BE DONE and it will surely grow a beautiful layer of faith when you do!!

    Theo is beautiful, your strength is amazing and I am SO happy for your family!!! Lots of love and blessings to you!

  14. I love reading your birth stories. I am expecting #4 in August and hoping to go med free first time. We were hoping to do home birth but just can’t afford it (with our insurance it’s cheaper to do hospital) unless hubby gets a pastoral position between now and then! For a fellow long laborer you encourage me that it is possible! You are encouraging with your stories and a strong woman! Praise the Lord for His work in and through you! Congrats on your handsome little man!

  15. I am not going to lie…. reading Theo’s birth story freaked me out a little but. We are atempting our first med free, home birth with baby #4 in a few months. The part about the tub not working scare me a little, I really want a water birth. But you are an amazing woman and I don’t know if I could have made it as long as you did. Congratulations on your new biddle of joy he is absolutely handsome.

    1. Oh, you can definitely make it, Savanna! Pinky promise! :)

      Just take it one contraction at a time and keep asking God for his strength. He’ll give it to you every time. Honestly, for most people, the water birth works great, and even though I couldn’t deliver in there, I was happy to have been able to labor for a while because it cut the pain down so, so much!

  16. I was on pins and needles until I finished reading and tearing up at the same time, God is good , welcome to the world Theo :)

  17. Oh. my. goodness. You ladies with these epic-length, epidural-free labors are my heroines! (and that sounds super weird…shouldn’t it be heros? drat gender agreement.) I have begged my husband to remind me why we don’t do epidurals each time, and I have short labors. For our second baby, it was just about 10 minutes before the birth (and maybe 5 minutes after entering the hospital?) that I told him, sobbing in pain, ‘I don’t think I can do this without an epidural!’ Obviously, there was no time for one. :) And she arrived just fine 10 minutes later…sweet relief.

    Congratulations on your bundle of sweetness!

  18. On my seventh (and last), the contractions were 15 minutes apart until the last 20 minutes. The doctor couldn’t believe that contractions that far apart could get you dilated to a 10. Me either. I still don’t know if that was incredible efficiency or too worn out to do it right anymore. But she is here, healthy, and now 8!

  19. Thanks for following up – you had my in suspense overnight for sure! As someone who is pregnant with her first baby the whole process is still very mystifying for me and reading your recaps, filled with faith and reality are super helpful. Thanks Abby!

I love hearing from you guys!