Having a baby at a birth center and working with midwives, may give you different options in your labor and birth that are just not offered in a typical hospital setting. Be also forewarned, that working late into the end of pregnancy that you may not get that 2 or 3 week rest break before baby arrives! This mom took labor moment by moment and experienced her baby’s birth story as an experience rather than an expectation of what she wanted. It made all the difference in the outcome. Ellory had the labor tools to keep her comfortable but had to dig deep for the mental coping skills that her baby’s birth required. With education, spouse & doula support, she understood what options were available was able to clearly make decisions when things didn’t go as planned – and then they did! Ellory’s advice at the end is PRICELESS…
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– So I went into labor at two in the morning on July 4th and she was born at 7:50 p.m on July 6th. So it ended up being 66 hours of labor with a posterior baby and I did it. And I’m very, very confident that if I had been in the hospital setting I would’ve had a C-section. Like I am 100% confident of that. So without the preparation that we had done, with the Hypnobirthing classes without having our doula Christal there, without having the full support of my husband and probably most importantly without having been at Best Start Birth Center with midwives who were very, very supportive and don’t consider birth like a medical event. I think without any of those elements I would have had to have a C-section. So we prepared many months ahead of time before the baby came. I read a lot of natural labor and natural birth books, like everything I could get my hands on basically. And from those books realized that I wanted to take Hypnobirthing classes and did a bunch of research in the San Diego area to figure out where the best place was to do that and found care in the Birth Education Center.
We took those classes and once we took the classes, our preparation really turned into connecting with each other, connecting with baby, working on breathing, really trying to be still and be present and that was really towards the later stage of pregnancy in those final months. So I had no early warning signs of labor. On July 3rd I finished up work, I wrapped up a big long meeting getting ready for maternity leave on July 3rd and then I went to bed thinking, okay, the baby can come anytime now I’m ready. Hopefully she won’t come for another week but we’re ready now. Work is in a good spot. We’re ready. I went into labor at 2:00 a.m. that morning, like literally six hours after I thought that to myself, I went into labor, two in the morning of July 4th we went back to bed, tried to go back to sleep. I slept probably for another couple hours and then at about 5:30 in the morning I couldn’t sleep anymore, so we packed up Gidget our dog and took her to the beach.
We went for a long slow walk on the beach. The surges were probably, they were there were still fairly irregular, like maybe seven, eight minutes apart and pretty irregular. We came back to the house, we baked our birthday cake, a big massive chocolate chocolate birthday cake and then we laid on the couch together and we tried to watch an episode of The Office and that was way too in your face, so we watched an episode of Big Dreams, Small Spaces which is like the TV equivalent of meditation. It was great. By the afternoon, labor was starting to pick up like I was starting to go into more active labor. The surges were probably five minutes apart and much more consistent. We were communicating with our doula Christal and kind of at that point when they were like four and a half, five minutes apart she said, “yeah you’re sounding like things are getting a little more serious I’m gonna come over in a couple of hours”. She came over probably early afternoon and things were really picking up like surges where every three and a half, four minutes there were much more intense. I was swaying, all that kind of stuff. I labored outside on our porch for most of the afternoon and early evening. Felt like we were making a ton of progress. We thought we were gonna have a July 4th baby. Our doula even was like, I think we’re gonna end up going tonight. We talked to the midwives and gave them a heads up that we were going to probably come in the night and then at around nine o’clock at night that night I had a surge leaned over this couch right here and I stood up and felt the baby move and we thought that she was moving down. Turns out she was not moving down, she was flipping which explains what happened subsequently that I’m about to explain, but after I felt that big movement things really slowed down again. They got really irregular again, so I went from every three and a half minutes very consistently they spaced way back out to six minutes. That night was pretty rough. It was pretty rough. It was hard mentally for labor to have gotten so serious and intense and then for it to space back out like that all of a sudden was tough.
Thank God we had our doula there but she was cool as a cucumber and really encouraged us to drink. She encouraged me to try to eat a little bit, rest as much as possible, she was really good in that sense. Unfortunately I threw up a lot in the middle of the night and that was pretty miserable. So by the time we woke up, well we really didn’t sleep, but by the time the sun rose that next morning, the second day I was feeling pretty rough around the edges. So we went into Best Start Birth Center where I planning on delivering, got checked out. I was not dilated at all, which was crushing in terms of spirit. They swept my membranes. And even just by like manually dilating, I immediately dilated to four and a half. So the midwife said, ” well that means that you actually made a lot of progress yesterday”. So it wasn’t all in vain, but she said, “you know unfortunately you’re actually very dehydrated so we need to put you on an IV. So I stayed at the birth center for that morning, went on an IV, got some fluids. They sent us home that afternoon and said, “I want you to go home, try to relax, labor at home, you’ll be more comfortable there”. And we started doing all of the natural induction stuff. So we did herbal tinctures, we did nipple simulation, we did like all the things, through that evening and again through that whole night. Through that whole night surges were probably same thing like four minutes apart, very consistent I was sleeping in between surges, Thank God for my husband and our doula they were taking shifts, three hour shifts just laying with me. It was hard, the night times were hard. Daytime was fine, nighttime was tough. That next morning when the sun rose, we got up and I pretty much said, “I have to have the baby today”. I can’t do another night, I need to have the baby today”. So we called the midwives. they said, “come on in, let’s check you out, see how you’re doing. It’s, you know, it’s been two days, come on in”.
We showed up like at seven in the morning and the head midwife Sherry checked me out. I was at I think four and a half, maybe five. I was told I think by five centimeters. She said, “well, we can break your waters, but once we do that, you’re on a clock”. And I said, “well the clock is fine because I have to have to have the baby today, so go ahead and break my waters”. She broke my waters, not much started happening. It didn’t kick start things right away. We got settled into one of the rooms. I took a shower which in my mind was like 30 minutes. Apparently I stayed in the shower for almost three hours. I have no recall of that. Got out of the shower, got checked out. I was still only at I think five and a half, five, like still barely dilated. That was the point at which I was really struggling, just in terms of morale. I was at this point it had been almost two and a half days since I had gone into labor. I had been drinking lots of water but I hadn’t had a real meal. So I was just tired, I was just exhausted. The pain was very manageable because of the breathing techniques that we were using. But I was just exhausted.
So at about 2:00 p.m. I said, I think I need to transfer to the hospital, I didn’t feel like I needed pain relief, I felt like I needed to sleep and eat. So I said “I think I need to go to the hospital and get whatever they need to do in order for me to rest. That’s how the baby is going to be born vaginally, otherwise this isn’t gonna go well”. So they called our OB who headed to the hospital, they called the hospital, gave them a heads up that we were coming, they transferred our medical records. The whole thing, they were packing up our car, the doula headed to the hospital and our midwife Joanna said, “okay, I’m gonna do a last physical track before you go to the hospital because I need to make sure you’re not gonna give birth in the car”. Checks me out. She’s like, “well you’re actually over seven now, so that means things are about to get really real. You can either get in the car, go to the hospital and get an epidural probably by the time you’re checked in, it’ll be probably three hours or you can get in the bathtub right now”. How does that sound? And I thought about it and I chose the bathtub and once I got in the bathtub, things got really real.
I had actually and I forgot to mention, I had actually taken castor oil like maybe two hours before and I think the castor oil is really what kicked things into the next gear. Because once I took the castor oil and got in the bath, it was game on. Basically I went into like a weird trance. I don’t even know what really happened honestly and my body took over and the baby was born two hours later. When it was time to push or when I was fully dilated, I actually didn’t push, my body just took over, I never actively pushed. It was not what I was expecting really, I thought I was gonna have to like think about doing more, I didn’t, my body just did it. The place where I preferred to really actively labor like when she was really truly coming out was actually in the bathroom holding onto the handicapped railing on one side and holding onto my husband Sean on the other side, with the midwife in front of me, that was where I made by far the most progress. That’s actually where baby Rhiannon was born. It was in the bathroom. Sean caught her which was really exciting and my two most overwhelming memories of that whole period was our midwife Joanna saying, “Oh my gosh look at that hair!” And then like 10 seconds later, “Oh my gosh she’s posterior!. That makes sense.
So for those of you who don’t know, a posterior baby is when it come out sunny side up. So they’re facing you, so when they’re born you’re looking at their face rather than the back of their head. And that explains why my labor progressed the way that it did and why it was so irregular and started and stopped and all that kind of weird stuff. It explains everything. But it was weird because she was in the perfect position through that whole first day of labor and she decided to switch because that’s how she wanted to be born. So that’s what we did. The baby was born totally healthy you know, screaming pink shoes totally healthy. I unfortunately hemorrhaged really badly, like I lost a ton, a ton of blood. Because I hemorrhaged that first hour postpartum was I think probably different from what a lot of women experience at the birth center. My husband, Sean basically took the baby and sat in the corner of the room while the midwives attended to me because the baby was perfectly healthy, but I had to have a shot of Pitocin in the leg and you know, there’s like a million things that they did to stop the bleeding.
To the midwives credit, I didn’t even know that what was happening was a medical emergency. They were was so fully in control of the situation I didn’t realize how much blood I had lost until the next day when they were like, ” Oh, you need to probably go on some supplements and here’s some other things that you should consider doing”. So yeah, but after the bleeding had stopped, it took probably an hour or two longer for me to stabilize, I actually fainted trying to get to the bathroom, so we stayed a little bit longer at the birth center that I think is typical. We ended up staying closer to like seven hours, maybe even eight hours, because we stayed until I was stable and then breastfeeding was established basically. And then they sent us home basically as soon as I was stable and they knew baby was healthy and happy, we came home in the middle of the night, we got home. The baby was born like at 8 p.m. and I think we walked in the door here at 3:30 in the morning, got right into bed and slept until the next day.
And I forgot, I actually ended up having two doulas so that third day, it was so bad at that point, we had been up for two full nights. Everybody was really flagging in terms of energy, not just me but my husband and our doula Christal. So to her credit Christal said, “I need to step back for a couple of hours, I need to go sleep for three or four hours, I’m not doing anybody favors right now. I’ve been up for two days”. So crystal left for a few hours and brought in a backup doula named Heather who was a breath of fresh air. She was much, much, much needed at that time because she came in with great, calm, positive energy and she was really well rested which none of the rest of us were. So she showed up right as the whole transferring saga was happening and Heather was the one who really put it to me in very clear terms like you can get in the bath tub or you can get in the car. What sounds better? And I chose the bathtub, but when I got in the bathtub, Heather was taking pitchers of water and running them slowly over me. And I think that’s what put me in the trance.
That’s what I think really kicked labor in was she was running water all up and down my body and it was the most incredible sensation. It was so relaxing. It was wonderful and I think it was the only thing that was getting me through it because when Crystal came back and Heather was leaving, I was like hysterical about Heather making sure that Christal knew how to pour the water because my husband had tried to pour the water and he did not pour the water right. Only Heather poured the water right. So I was very adamant that Heather take Christal aside and teach her how to pour the water. Christal did perfectly fine, apparently But yeah, it was, you know, swimming through strange things when you are in labor. Apparently mine was about pouring water. I don’t know.
I think that for me the most important thing to have gotten through such a long and challenging labor and to actually be on the other side of it and feel really positively about our birth story and about my birth experience is that I was really able to lean into it to like embrace it and not fight it. Like even while it was happening and I think a lot of this was due to the Hypnobirthing classes even while it was happening, I was like, this is our journey, this is how Rhiannon wants to be born, this is gonna be our story, this is the beginning of our journey together. It’s gonna happen however it’s meant to happen. and I’m along for the ride. I’m like a passenger on this, this is up to my body and the baby and what will happen will happen. And I think because I was able to relax and lean into it, it really, really, really helped a lot, just mentally and I think it was important that my husband and our doula had the exact same mentality. It was special, even though it was long and challenging, it was really, really, really special. @radiantheartdoula @doulaheathertaylor