Finally, I’m so excited to share Eve’s birth story! It took me awhile to get it all put together, but I wanted to remember every detail (which explains why it’s definitely the longest post I’ve ever written).
After nearly two weeks of cramps and prodromal labor, I woke up early on July 6th, like I typically had for the past few weeks. I used the bathroom and started to get ready for my usual morning run, but I noticed that I just felt a little “different”. There was nothing obvious happening, but I relaxed in the armchair in our room for about twenty minutes, seeing if I could feel real contractions or anything out of the ordinary. I still just had that obscure “different” feeling, with no noticeable contractions, so I headed out for my run. I had had so many days where I thought labor might start, but it never did, so I wasn’t about to miss out on running if I wasn’t sure labor was actually happening.
The weather was perfect- not too humid, and the first sunlight was starting to peek through the trees. I surprised myself and had a really good run. I didn’t feel too tired, and my pace was actually decent (for the end of pregnancy, anyway). I cut it down to 2.5 miles though, my reasoning being “just in case I go into labor today and need extra energy”. I came home around 7:30 am, showered, and started getting ready for the day. We had plans to take the girls to the library, and I wanted to get there early, before the crowd arrived for their weekly storytime.
My Mom-in-law came into our room, and she asked the question she had each morning of her nearly two-week stay at our home: “So, how are you feeling today?” I was excited to tell her that I had had some cramps, but I was trying not to get my hopes up, since I’d been having cramps for weeks at that point without any real signs of labor. On this morning, at least, it felt like maybe we were getting close to having labor start.
Michael packed up his backpack to head off to work, gave me a hug, and jokingly, like I had said for several mornings previous, I quipped “Hey, maybe you’ll get to come home early today!” He left, and we got the girls their breakfast. Everyone finished eating, got their teeth and hair brushed, and we headed off to the library around 9:30 am.
We arrived before they even opened (who knew the library opens an hour later than usual on Fridays?) so Grandma Gina read Kaya and Kaelyn some books while I walked around with Nella to see the flowers just outside the building. I loved seeing all her wonder and amazement as she walked around the flowers and touched them. It was still feeling like a typical day.
After about 15 minutes of reading outside, the doors were finally unlocked. The girls were so excited to see that the “craft of the month” was a big blue whale, and they eagerly grabbed supplies and headed to a table to work on it. I sat down with them to watch them color and help them cut out their creations when they finished. Grandma took Nella over to the play area, and as I watched everyone around me, I noticed a contraction… a real one! It wasn’t anything intense; I didn’t even have to breathe through it, but it was definitely there. This started right around 10 am, and I just kept sitting there with my older girls, waiting to see if more would follow. By 10:20, I had had a couple more that felt consistent with the first, so I decided to text Michael just to let him know what was happening.
I helped Kaya and Kaelyn finish their projects, and when the librarian announced storytime at 10:30, Kaya excitedly asked to go in, so we did. We had never been to storytime before, and I wasn’t sure what age group we were even joining (Kaya turned out to be the oldest one in there), but I sat in the back and watched the girls have fun singing, listening to books, and catching bubbles.
All the while, I was still consistently having contractions, and these felt stronger than any I’d had on previous days, so I texted Michael again around 10:50 am. I thought this might be real labor, especially due to the frequency of the contractions and how uniform they felt, however, I was nervous that I was jumping to conclusions, and I didn’t want him to come home unnecessarily. He “takes off” work on Friday afternoons so he can work on his thesis, which he usually does somewhere on campus, but I asked him if he wanted us to pick him up, and then he could work on it from home that day. I told him that the contractions were frequent, but not lasting very long, so it definitely wasn’t an emergency. He was willing to come home after his meeting ended at noon, so we stopped at his work and picked him up on the way home from the library.
We got home, and I was still having contractions, but they were still feeling easy, and I was able to make lunch for Michael and the girls. I ate my usual salad, and the girls went off to nap. I was craving dessert that afternoon, and since I felt good and thought I might be in labor, I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to eat while I still could. Michael and I each had a homemade cookie with a scoop of ice cream, and the fact that I was just sitting on the floor eating sweets made me doubt if I was really in labor at all.
The contractions were still there, but I hadn’t officially timed any of them yet. I felt too excited to want to take a nap, so I got on my computer for a few minutes to be sure my camera’s memory card was backed up and formatted, in case we really did end up going to the hospital and having a baby to take pictures of! I finished up with that, and was definitely still feeling contractions, so around 2:30 pm, I decided to head upstairs and put a few last-minute items in our hospital bags. I finished putting everything together, zipped all our bags for the final time, and then decided that I should try to rest as much as possible, in case this really was early labor.
I lay down on the bed and tried to close my eyes for a bit, but after about 10 minutes or so, I realized I was having contractions about 3 minutes apart. It was hard to try to rest when I was debating how soon we should head to the hospital. My labors tend to be really long, and I figured that even if this was it, we still had quite a while before things got serious. Then again, I also kept reminding myself that this was our fourth baby, and really, things could potentially go a lot faster this time around.
I asked Michael to come up and cuddle for a few minutes, but it didn’t take long for us to decide that it wasn’t a bad idea to head in to the hospital and get checked out. He took our bags out to the car (we took his mom’s Hyundai Santa Fe instead of our van; that way, she’d have all the girls’ car seats accessible), and I double checked that we hadn’t forgotten anything. Just before we were about to leave, Kaya woke up early from her nap. Michael told her that we were going to the hospital to have the baby, and her smile was as big as it ever could be. In that moment, I was really glad she woke up before we left, because her grin and a kiss from her was extra sweet. Kaelyn was still asleep, and I peeked in on Nella for a few seconds, thinking about how it could be the last time I saw her as my “baby” before our lives would change with a new addition.
We left home at 3:30 pm, with Kaya waving and making our traditional “heart binoculars” with her hands at us through the window. The drive to the hospital is about 25 minutes long, so I just sat there in the quiet, seeing if I still felt contractions coming. Usually, things seem to slow down for me in the car, but this time, they stayed 3 minutes apart the entire time. We called the birth center on the way, and the nurses definitely agreed that since this was our fourth baby, with the contractions that close together, we should come in and get checked. I was still pretty comfortable and just practicing breathing through them at this point, talking to Michael in between, and wondering if we would walk into the hospital as just the two of us, but come out as three.
We arrived at 4 pm, and our first nurse, Wenona, took us back to triage. I changed into the gown, got into the bed, and was hooked up to the contraction and heart rate monitors. I liked Wenona from the beginning because she didn’t strap the monitors on very tightly (like I’ve had other nurses do in the past), so I was still comfortable. She was a little concerned that she found the baby’s heart tones physically high up on my belly, and wanted to check that the baby wasn’t breech. I was surprised to hear this, since we had had an ultrasound just a week prior, and knew for a fact that she was head down. I still waited with somewhat baited breath while they called the midwife to bring in the portable ultrasound machine. Sure enough, as soon as the picture showed up on the screen, her head was clearly down.
Our midwife that night was Holly, one of the few care providers at the practice that I hadn’t met yet. I felt at ease with her, and I was thankful we had a midwife that night instead of an OB, just because I generally tend to feel more relaxed around the midwives.
Wenona had checked my cervix, and the dilation was a little odd- apparently, after you’ve had a few babies, the inner and outer parts of your cervix can dilate at different rates. So, I was 4 cm on the outside, and 2 cm “in the os”. She said that as my cervix became more effaced, it would all even out and “catch up”. It was currently about 60% effaced and very soft. I definitely still had contractions while I was being monitored in the bed, but they seemed to slow down a bit. She told me to go ahead and walk around the birth center for an hour or two, and then we would check to see if I was progressing.
Michael and I started taking laps all through the halls, peering into the nursery window every time we passed by. There were three babies in there that afternoon, and I was hoping that my baby would have a birthday close to theirs! One of them had really dark hair, and I wondered if our baby girl would have dark hair, too. Seeing them made me even more excited to get labor going and get my baby here.
It started raining outside as we were walking, and I had a few really good contractions that actually made me stop and lean up against the wall. I was nervous that things already seemed to be getting more intense so early on, but for the most part, we were still having a good time. We were holding hands, making jokes, and even doing a few jumping jacks at the end of the hall. I was feeling pretty confident that there would be progress when I was checked again, but just in case there wasn’t, I told Michael that if we didn’t get admitted, we should have a date night out to dinner. That way, I’d have something to look forward to either way.
At 5:53 pm, we met back with Wenona in triage, and she said my cervix was now 3 internally and a 4 externally. She went to talk to the midwife to see if she wanted to admit me, and quickly returned to tell us that we were in! I was so excited that this was really happening. It was our turn to be there and have our sweet baby! She asked us the hospital registration questions and had us sign some paperwork while I continued to be monitored.
She asked me what my birth plan was, and if I’d be wanting any kind of pain medication. I told her that I was really hoping to go completely natural this time, and if I needed anything, I would ask for it. I was blessed with amazing nurses all night who never once asked me again or pressured me to have painkillers. It was such a relief to have them all supporting me in what I truly wanted. I didn’t feel like anyone ever doubted my ability to do this on my own.
I feel like a little backstory here might be useful. When Kaya was born, I had an extremely long labor and “failure to progress”, so ended up on pitocin and with an epidural. When Kaelyn came along, I wanted that redemptive natural birth that I didn’t get to have the first time. I had an amazing labor and got to the hospital just an hour before it was time to push. It was an empowering experience overall, although the midwife on call at the time was not the most cordial or patient, and when I ended up tearing pretty badly, she stitched me up while I was still able to feel it. By the time I was pregnant with Nella, I had some residual anxiety from the pushing stage and stitches during Kaelyn’s birth. I had opted for an epidural, which, in turn, dropped my blood pressure extremely low (which is a common side effect), and stalled my labor. I hated feeling like I had lost control over what was happening because I had chosen an essentially unnecessary procedure, so this time, I knew I wanted to keep this biologically natural process as unhindered as possible. I didn’t want interventions, and as I felt my body contracting and getting ready to bring this baby into the world, I trusted that it knew what to do without any medical interference.
Nurse Wenona lead us back to our room. We’ve had all of our babies there, so I was curious to see if we’d be in one of the same rooms where our other girls had been born. We ended up in a completely different room, right across from the nurses’ station. It was spacious and had a huge window that overlooked a small garden, so of course, the photographer in me was excited for when all the natural light would come in. I knew we’d get some great pictures.
I immediately asked Wenona if we could have a birthing ball, and she happily brought one in for me to use. She had me sit on the bed for a bit so I could receive a hep-lock in my arm (standard procedure), get my ID bracelets on, and be monitored a bit more. I was still doing just fine through the contractions, so sitting in the bed was okay for now. I tried to rest while I could. She also told me I could have any clear liquids, including the Gatorade I had brought.
Wenona left us, and Michael went out to the car to get our things. I had packed what felt like a ridiculous number of bags, but in hindsight, we actually used everything I brought for labor, so I’m glad I did. We had a “labor bag” with all sorts of things I wanted to use during labor, a small suitcase for after baby arrived, a toiletries bag, our own bedroom lamp, and the camera bag, of course.
As soon as he came back, I had him set up the diffuser with my favorite blend of essential oils- geranium and frankincense. He also took out our lamp and set it out on the counter across from my bed so we could keep the lighting low after sunset. I definitely wanted to make our room as “homey” and comfortable as possible, and Michael was on board with doing anything that would help me relax. We sent a few pictures and texts to Michael’s mom and Jeff and Lelia, who I had promised I’d tell when we got admitted. They were so excited!
At 7 pm, the nurses change shifts, so our new nurse, Julie, came in to introduce herself. For months before we had Eve, I prayed that the right people would be on staff the night we went into labor to help us have the best possible birth experience. Julie really felt like an answer to that prayer. She was so amazing and completely supportive throughout our entire labor, and she really respected my desire for a natural birth, even when it got really hard for me later on.
Julie often asked if there was anything she could do or get for us, and my first request was if she could look at the hep-lock in my arm- it was turning red and bothering me more than the contractions were at this point. She pulled it out as far as she could without completely removing it. It still felt uncomfortable, so she ended up putting a new one in my other arm, and it didn’t bother me at all from that point on.
Midwife Holly came in sometime when I was still being monitored just to check in with me and see how I was doing. She told me she’d check my cervix around midnight, and I remember thinking how very far away that seemed, but I was grateful for her hands-off approach.
We were actually able to video chat with our girls at home for a few minutes, and they were so incredibly excited. Seeing them (even on a screen) during labor felt like such a treat. Feeling their love for our family at that time was incredible.
Nurse Julie left me on the monitors until 7:30 pm, and then I was free for a bit! Michael and I decided to walk around the halls a bit more while we still had some energy. Each lap around the birthing center took us about 5 minutes, so we walked for about half an hour, and then headed back to our room. I felt a little guilty that we’d arrived at the hospital right around dinnertime, and Michael hadn’t had anything to eat. I had brought some pretzels for him, so he had a few of those. Despite my “clear liquids” instructions, I hadn’t had any dinner either, so I had about two handfuls of Cheez-it crackers to appease my stomach. That was the last food I had until Eve was born, so I’m glad I had a little something to ease the hunger pangs.
Julie was in and out of our room about once an hour to monitor the baby’s heart rate. She told us that just that very morning, the nurses had all had a meeting about the benefits of intermittent monitoring (versus being hooked up with the belt monitors for long periods of time), so she would use the doppler on my belly once an hour until I reached 5 centimeters, and then she’d come every half hour. I’d sit on the birth ball, and she’d monitor the baby through a couple of contractions, and then let us be on our own again. She asked if we needed anything, and when she offered Sprite, I immediately asked for it. I’m normally not a soda drinker, but knowing that Sprite has sugar in it, I was hopeful that it would give me energy to get through labor. She kept bringing me Sprite all throughout the night, which was so helpful. I think I had more soda during labor than I have in the past 10 years all combined!
That birthing ball became like a best friend to me during labor. I definitely spent most of my hours rocking on the ball, breathing through contractions. Michael kept my essential oils going for me, refilling the diffuser when it was empty or we couldn’t smell it anymore. I stayed on the ball, and for as long as we could, we tried to do anything to distract me from labor. It almost felt like a strange sort of date with Michael.
He had brought his laptop, and I had even packed up the Bose speakers so that we could play music. The only thing I wanted to listen to during labor was Ed Sheeran. His album just seemed like a good mix of upbeat, but not too crazy, songs, and sensitive, meaningful songs, too. We put our music on at 9:18 pm, and listened to it for about 30 minutes while I still continued to work through contractions on the ball. After a while, Michael played just one song of his own choosing: RaeLynn’s “God Made Girls”. Although I never really cared for it so much before, I cry when I hear it now because all I can think about was how we were about to meet our fourth beautiful, precious daughter the last time I heard it.
We were still trying to keep me as distracted as possible (and we wanted to make our time together during labor as fun as it could be), so around 9:45 pm, we switched from listening to music to watching Netflix on Michael’s laptop. This whole time, I still kept rocking on the birth ball and breathing through the contractions, and I was coping really well. We watched a crazy baking show called “Nailed It!” for about half an hour before the midwife came to check on me again at 10:15 pm. She had originally told me she wouldn’t check me until midnight, so I was surprised and excited to see her a little earlier than expected. At this point, I was 5 cm dilated, 80% effaced, and Eve was at a -2 station. Midwife Holly said she was going to go and try to nap for a few hours, and she’d check me again afterward.
Mentally, I was just trying to take the contractions one at a time, and only think about my progress one centimeter at a time. Knowing I was at a 5, I just kept telling myself that I only needed to make it to 6 cm, and then all that was left would be transition. With my previous two births, I’ve gone through transition very quickly (30 minutes to an hour), so I was just trying to get to that point, reasoning that it would all be fast after that. As it turns out, there’s no real logic when it comes to labor!
Nurse Julie was coming in to monitor my contractions and the baby’s heartbeat every 30 minutes now that I had reached 5 centimeters. She knew Michael hadn’t had any dinner, and since the hospital cafeteria was closed, she told him about these vending machines downstairs that had hot meals in them. I told him that he should definitely eat something (I hated to think he’d go hungry because of me when he didn’t need to), so he went to get some food around 10:45 pm. I was still doing really well, even on my own, and just tried to stay occupied for the 10 minutes or so that he was gone. I actually got on Facebook in between contractions and replied to a couple of comments on my most recent blog post just to distract myself. Before I knew it, he was back with a chicken sandwich. He said it was actually pretty good (especially considering it was out of a vending machine), but the aroma of it seemed really strong to me, and I tried my hardest not to smell it, partly because I just didn’t want to think about being hungry.
We went back to watching Netflix at 11 pm. This time we tried “The Princess Diaries”, although it only lasted about 15 minutes until I wanted to try something else. I wanted something funny, so when we saw a show with Kristen Bell in it (“The Good Place”), we chose that.
We were sitting at the side edge of the bed, Michael in a chair and me on the birth ball, watching our show, when suddenly, I felt the biggest gush! At 11:45 pm, there was no doubt that my water had broken! I was so excited because my water had only ever broken on its own during my labor with Kaelyn, and had been artificially ruptured by doctors with my other girls. It was a small sign to me that the contractions were working, and my body was doing what it was supposed to, all of its own accord. In that moment, I trusted my body and this entire process a little more. I honestly never felt any fear during this labor. I had faith in my body; I knew that it knew what needed to be done to deliver my baby, and mentally, I just had to keep trusting it.
Michael immediately paged the nurse and enthusiastically said, “Tara’s water just broke!” Julie came in right away and cleaned up the mess, put a giant waterproof pad on top of the birth ball, and got me a new hospital gown. Both the nurse and the midwife told me that the contractions were likely to get more intense now that my water had broken.
At the time, I didn’t feel like labor became any more difficult, but when we tried to continue watching our Netflix show, it all seemed too loud and too silly. I just couldn’t focus on anything but getting through the contractions. Water kept flooding out, and I was surprised by how much of it there was. Earlier in the week, we had looked up the average volume of amniotic fluid at 39 weeks, and learned it was “about 2.5 cups”. I continued to lose fluid in large quantities for the next several hours, so it definitely seemed like a whole lot more than just 2.5 cups. Thankfully, it was clear.
This is where things start to get a little convoluted in my memory, because I was so focused on the contractions, and I was also starting to feel incredibly tired. I told Michael I didn’t know how I was going to make it through the night because I was just so exhausted. He asked me if I wanted to try turning the lights up brighter to help me stay awake, but I really liked them dim because I felt more relaxed. He then suggested we try a different essential oil, and I requested Orange, since that’s supposed to make you feel awake and energetic. He filled up the diffuser (for the third time that night), and I just kept laboring on the ball. My contractions were feeling stronger, and I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to do this naturally. I took the lid to the vial of Orange essential oil and put just one drop in it so I could breathe it in directly during contractions.
Michael could see I was starting to struggle with exhaustion, so he took out the birth affirmation cards I had brought and started to read to me. He read one that said something about how my body was working with my baby to bring her into the world, and to trust both my body and my baby. In the midst of my fatigue, I started crying because I was so deeply rooted in this moment. It was our time to go through this incredibly sacred, yet difficult, process. During a contraction, I’d rock on the ball, breathe in my Orange oil, and visually, I’d focus on my oil case, which has drawings of elephants on it. Michael actually went to put it away, but I told him I liked it sitting on the bed so I could look at it.
We kept on laboring, and I wondered if I was making any progress. When Julie came in around 1:45 am, I hesitantly asked her to check my cervix. I really needed to see that all this work was making progress, but I was apprehensive, because if there hadn’t been much change, I felt like I couldn’t do it for a whole lot longer, just because of how tired I was. I was still handling the contractions really well; it was the mental fatigue I was fighting.
She checked me and said I was about 7 or 8 centimeters dilated, and the baby was at station 0. I felt very encouraged to know that I was already in transition, and this gave me a bit of renewed energy. We ended up moving the birth ball over to the opposite side of the bed so that I could still sit on it while having the contraction and heart rate monitors on for a bit. Labor continued, and I kept using the same coping techniques: rock, breathe, focus. I started shaking and couldn’t get it to stop. One minute I’d be shaking and freezing, so Michael and Julie would put an extra hospital gown or a heated blanket on me, and the next minute, I’d be so hot that I was ripping those things off. This cold-hot cycle kept repeating itself for awhile.
Julie also brought the baby warmer into the room around this time. I remember feeling like it was a little early to already have that in the room; nevertheless, I hoped it meant I’d have my baby here soon.
Around 3:15 am, we were both so exhausted from being awake all night long, and I knew Michael would appreciate some rest, so I climbed up into the hospital bed, with Michael sitting in the chair next to me. I had been having contractions about 3 minutes apart all night long, so I honestly did not think I’d be able to truly sleep, but I wanted to at least try. Oddly enough, the contractions slowed down drastically while I was lying down, so I actually did fall asleep, being only faintly aware of when my stomach would tighten up with another contraction. I’d glance at Michael every once in a while, who seemed to be in a very deep sleep.
We both woke up around 4:05 am, and Midwife Holly and Nurse Julie came back in to check on us. My contractions had slowed down a lot while we were resting, and Holly asked me if I wanted to get in the shower to see if the warm water would get things moving again. I asked her if it’d be okay for me to try the tub instead, and to my delight, she said yes (I wasn’t sure what the protocol was on me being in the water since my membranes had already ruptured. I thought I heard the nurse question her on this decision, but Holly said because I was low-risk, she was completely fine with it).
I texted Lelia to tell her how things were going, and I honestly didn’t expect to get a response at this hour, but she was already up early and getting ready to leave their beach vacation. Hearing her encouragement gave me a little more strength to keep going.
Michael filled the tub for me while I used the bathroom and brushed my teeth after realizing that it was, in fact, a new day by this point. He accidentally made the water incredibly hot, because the midwife had told us that it generally takes a long time for the tap to warm up. I ended up draining about half of it and refilling it, and then I found the most comfortable position I could, which ended up being sitting sideways (it was a small tub). The contractions picked up, and this is when I started “singing” through them. As the contraction would peak, I would sing “Hoo-ooo, hoo-ooo, hoo-ooo”, until it would taper off and I could just breathe. I had seen a Youtube video where the laboring mom was whistling through contractions, and at the time, I’d thought it was a bit silly, but here I was, singing, and it was helping me get through.
I only stayed in the tub for about a half hour. The water cooled off a lot faster than I thought it would, and I liked being able to move around. So, I climbed out of the tub at 4:40 am… and everything became INTENSE. Labor was suddenly so powerful, and the contractions were coming about every 2.5 minutes. I instantly remembered our neighbor, who recently had a home birth, who told me that she really loved laboring in the tub, until she got out, because that’s when it got really hard. I was having that exact same experience, and at the time, I almost felt like the Midwife had tricked me into getting into the tub just so this would happen.
I asked Julie to check me again at 5 am, hoping I was fully dilated… and I was there, except for a small cervical lip! Technically, that put me at 9.5 cm, or “10 with a lip”. I was walking around the room, leaning down on the counter next to the sink with every contraction, groaning and starting to feel like this was getting too intense to handle. I just kept walking, the contractions kept coming, and I kept singing, “hoo-ooo” through all of them, seemingly getting louder with each one. To help me relax, we also put on an ocean wave soundtrack. Julie asked which beach we were at, and of course, I said it had to be Myrtle Beach!
Holly came in at 5:45 am, and I was having such a hard time fighting through these contractions that I wanted to be checked again. Mentally, I wanted to push, but I wasn’t feeling that undeniable pressure to bear down like I had with my previous two births. I just kept telling everyone that I wanted to go to the bathroom, so I was hopeful that the cervical lip would be gone when Holly checked me. I was out of luck in that moment; the lip was still there. I asked her if I could try pushing anyway, hoping that maybe that would help eliminate the rest of the lip. The contractions were so strong that breathing through them didn’t feel like it was really working, and I wanted to actually do something.
She told me I could try pushing if it felt right, but not to force it, and she arranged her delivery table nearby while I went to the bathroom to pee again. Because I was back up on the bed, my contractions slowed, like they always seemed to when I was lying down. I pushed, but to my dismay, Eve wasn’t moving. I was so disappointed that it wasn’t delivery time yet. Holly mostly only saw me when I happened to be laboring on the bed, so she was seeing me have contractions about 5 to 7 minutes apart, instead of the 2.5-minute intervals I was experiencing when I was moving around. The midwife had joked that it was her presence that was making my labor slow down, but she then suggested giving me a little Pitocin to try and get the contractions closer together so that we could complete this process a little faster.
I absolutely did not want Pitocin. I was afraid of how much more intense everything would become, and knowing I would be able to feel all of those artificially-created pains was terrifying. Despite knowing all that, I somehow still agreed to it in that moment. It doesn’t seem to make any sense to me now, but when you’re in labor, time seems completely warped, and I really had no idea how long I’d been having these “spaced out” contractions. The midwife went to put in the order for the Pitocin, and while she was gone, I got up and tried to get the contractions to come closer together on their own. It was about 6:15 am, and I tried sitting on the birthing ball for a short while. Ultimately, I started pacing around the room (as much as I possibly could with the monitors still strapped to my belly).
I wanted the contractions to be strong and close together, and I got exactly what I wished for. These contractions were by far the most forceful, and this part of labor was feeling a lot like the very last part of Kaelyn’s birth. I was feeling such extreme tightness in the very lowest part of my abdomen, and once again, I was frustrated that all I could do was breathe through them because my body wasn’t ready for me to push.
I started to get so angry… which is really crazy, because in everyday life, anger is a rarely-felt emotion for me. I was furious at myself for deciding to have a natural birth. I was mad at Michael for making me go through with it, and I was even angry at our sweet nurse for seeming to ignore me when I was clearly struggling. Most of all, I was enraged at that stupid cervical lip.
I became really vocal, saying things like, “I can’t do this anymore!”, “I need medicine!”, and “I want her out!” Michael says I was actually yelling those things, although I didn’t even realize how loud I was being. He says I was also saying, “I want to go home!”, but I really don’t remember that. I also kept quietly talking to Eve, saying, “Come on, baby. We can do this.” I was bearing down a little during contractions to see if I could make anything happen because I wanted to push so very badly.
Holly came back in at some point and saw that my contractions were back to being close together, and she asked something to the effect of, “Did the threat of Pitocin get things working?” I really think it was just the fact that I was upright and moving that pushed labor along, though. They did eventually bring the bag of Pitocin in, but at that point, I yelled, “I don’t want it!”, and no one mentioned it again.
Just before 7 am, our new nurse, Natosha, came in, and got all the important details from Julie. I was so very sad to see Julie go, especially since I hoped we were so close to the end, and she was going to miss the birth. Natosha was a great nurse too, but I had done all this work with Julie there, and I’d felt so much support and compassion from her throughout the entire process.
It was either the new nurse or the midwife who said, “She’s sounding ‘pushy’” when they heard me go through a few contractions. Someone else (Julie?) chimed back, “She’s been that way…”
I was still having the most intense contractions, and I just kept walking, singing, and sniffing that Orange oil cap when the pain peaked. I was running out of coping techniques, but I remembered I had a warm compress (a rice sock) in my labor bag, so I gave it to Nurse Natosha, and she went to microwave it for me. She brought it back quickly, and I pressed it to the lowest part of my stomach during contractions as I paced around, which seemed to help at least a little.
I kept saying, “This feels like the end!”, referencing the end of my labor with Kaelyn. However, I still wasn’t feeling the pressure to push, just a lot of incredibly tense contractions in my lower abs. Because of how hard the contractions felt, I wanted to be checked again.
At 7:25 am, Holly checked me, and finally, the cervical lip was gone. I was officially dilated to 10 cm! I was more than ready to push through these tough contractions, because at this point, I felt like doing something was better than just pacing the room and trying to endure.
Midwife Holly said she’d stay to finish the delivery if I could push the baby out by 7:30 (she was originally supposed to leave at 7 am for shift change), but when I said, “Only 5 minutes?!”, she said she’d wait until 7:45. I honestly expected Eve to be born quickly- I had pushed for an hour with Kaya, 30 minutes with Kaelyn, and just 9 with Nella, so I had even said earlier in the night, “Pushing is hard, but I can do anything for 9 minutes!” Each baby had been born progressively faster, and I fully expected the same to happen this time.
I pushed and pushed and kept asking Michael and the midwife if they could see her head. For what seemed like the longest time, they said no, they couldn’t see her yet. I tried to push halfway reclined on my back for a little while, and Nurse Natosha even got a towel that I could use to pull up on, with her holding the other end, like an odd game of tug-of-war. We did that for a little while, and Natosha was counting slowly to 10 for me on each push.
They helped me get up and lean over the back of the bed to try pushing that way. I thought I would like pushing in an upright position, but it felt surprisingly foreign and more difficult to determine when to actually bear down. The contractions were still feeling unbearable, and in the midst of the pain, I growled, “I am NEVER doing this again!”, meaning that if we did have any more kids, I didn’t want to do it naturally again.
At this point, I noticed I was sweating, which seemed surprising to me at the time, although it definitely shouldn’t have been. I was getting a workout! I must have said something about being hot, because a nurse brought me a cold washcloth for my face, which I wiped across my brow and even the front part of my hair, which had me looking even wilder than before. Michael plugged in this miniature fan we had brought, and the cool air was so refreshing.
Pushing upright was not working for me, so I returned to my semi-reclined seated position. Because I was back on the bed, my contractions were slowing down again. I was so excited to meet my baby, and so ready for this labor to be over, that I was feeling very impatient while we waited for contractions so that I could push. Holly was sitting down at my feet.
I said something about how I couldn’t wait to see our baby’s hair, since our ultrasound technician had told us she could see a little bit of peach fuzz exactly a week prior. Right around 8 am, Holly said, “I think your baby is bald!” because she could see something, and it didn’t look like there was any hair. She then asked the nurse for an amniohook, which confused me, because my water had already broken hours ago.
Then she said, “You have a forebag!”, meaning that Eve was inside a second bag of water! The first sac had broken earlier, but this one was still intact. The fact that my waters were still there might explain why my labor slowed dramatically anytime I wasn’t upright and moving, as well as why I was in transition for so long, and why I felt I wasn’t getting anywhere with pushing. Holly broke the second bag of water, and that’s when it seemed like my pushes actually became effective.
I pushed and they could see her head, but Holly had to leave around 8:05 am, and felt confident leaving me in the care of the OB on call, Dr. H. He is actually from a neighboring hospital, so he and I had never met. He was jovial and much more well-rested than Michael or I, so it was refreshing to have him there. He was also really hands-off and just watched me push, which was what I wanted in that moment.
The pediatric nurses were all in the room at this point, just waiting to do their job with the baby. One of them had the last name of Irwin, too, and she was holding up my left leg, with Michael on my right. I was pushing 3 to 4 times during each contraction, holding my breath and listening to Natosha counting for me. I couldn’t seem to keep my legs still; they were involuntarily flailing straight out or pedaling like I was riding a bicycle every time I had a contraction. Michael was massaging my calf muscles to try to prevent me from getting a Charley horse, like I had during Kaya’s delivery.
I still kept asking Michael if he could see her head, and he reassured me he could. “She’s right there, good job buddy”, he said over and over. His voice and Nurse Natosha’s counting were the only ones I heard consistently at this point. I definitely let out one loud, high-pitched scream, but someone in the room quieted me, and from that point, I tried to just put my energy into pushing instead of vocalizing.
The head pediatric nurse came and put an oxygen mask on my face for a short time, because Eve’s heart rate had started dropping, but I wasn’t even aware of it. Apparently, it came right back up when I breathed through the mask, so she was absolutely fine.
I never really felt her moving down as I was pushing, so it was hard to know if I was making any progress, but suddenly, I felt what meant the end was near- the ring of fire. I just knew she was so close to being here with us, and although I hated the burning feeling, I was so grateful for it, because surely, I was almost done. My bottom half felt like it was on fire, and I couldn’t wait for another contraction; I had to push, right then. I pushed forcefully and thought that I was definitely going to have tearing and stitches after just going at it this way, but in that moment, I didn’t care. I had to end this right now.
I heard Dr. H say, “The head’s out!”, and I was so happy, because I knew her body would be easy. I didn’t even have to wait to hear her cry, because she was already screaming before she was even all the way out! I gave one final push to deliver the rest of her body, and someone exclaimed, “8:17 am!” Fifty-three minutes of pushing was more than I ever expected to have with my fourth baby!
The doctor grabbed her, unwrapped the umbilical cord from around her neck and arm, and placed her right on my stomach. She was blue, covered in vernix, and screaming her head off, but all I kept thinking was how relieved I was that it was over, and how glad I was to have her here.
The nurses were rubbing her all over to clean her up a bit while she was still on me, and as they were doing this, she was turned away from me, so I hadn’t even seen her face yet. At my request, they flipped her over, and I looked right into the little face I had seen in a dream so many months ago. I wasn’t at all surprised by how she looked, but she sure was beautiful. I will never cease to be amazed at these little miracles we are able to create right here on Earth. Feeling her real, strong, tiny body against mine was one of the most incredible moments of my life.
We waited for the cord to stop pulsing, and Michael got to cut it. I wanted to do skin-to-skin as soon as we could, but gave the pediatric team the okay to go ahead and weigh her first. She was 6 pounds even, right between Kaelyn’s and Nella’s birth weights.
They brought her back over to me and tucked her into the front of my hospital gown, and then the head pediatric nurse took Michael’s phone and snapped our first pictures all together. We look exhausted, and I look a little crazy, but those will always be some of my very favorite photos.
They started me on a Pitocin drip to help my uterus clamp down and minimize blood loss, which is standard protocol for mothers who have had a few babies. I was worried the Pitocin would make me have serious cramps afterward, but I felt completely fine.
Despite all my yelling about how I’d “never do this again”, going completely natural with this birth was so empowering and worth all the moments that I thought I couldn’t do it. If we did have any more babies, I’d definitely hope to do it again. I was also surprised to see how different this labor was from my other natural birth with Kaelyn. You really just can’t predict how it’s all going to happen, but that’s part of the beauty of birth.