It’s been almost four months since our little babe entered the world! I’m excited to be sharing his birth story today. To be honest it’s been more difficult to write than I thought it would be. I’ve had to come back to it a few times simply because mom life is busy. But here we are and I’m proud of myself for documenting the details.
Things definitely didn’t go as planned yet as I reflect I am so grateful that each part of my labor and delivery went exactly as it did. I can look back and see so many little moments that were God ordained along the way. Plus, in the end, we have a beautiful baby boy! That is the best gift we could ask for 🙂
Before we dive into the birth itself let’s backup and talk about my pregnancy for a moment. After announcing we were expecting, I shared a few pregnancy details over on Instagram, but I’ll catch you up quickly! My pregnancy was uneventful in the best of ways. I had the typical nausea, some throwing up and repeat acid reflux, but nothing serious. My birth team said the baby and I were healthy and nothing leading up to the birth disqualified me for the home birth I was planning.
I had made the decision to birth at home with a midwife for several reasons. The top was the desire to trust my body and not feel like I had to advocate for myself against a system that wasn’t aligned with my preferences. I had also read/watched some amazing resources along the way that helped me feel confident in my decision. A few of those were:
I educated myself on each of my birth options, but remained open minded in case plans changed and I’m glad I did.
The Beginning of Labor- Thursday Evening
Up until the day my labor started there really weren’t any early labor signs. No Braxton Hicks contractions or other hints of when the time might come. Since midwives takes a very patient approach to labor, I also didn’t have any cervical checks leading up to delivery. It truly was a waiting game!
On Thursday September 23rd at 39 weeks and 5 days, I woke up around 11:00pm to what felt like mild cramps. They were uncomfortable enough to wake me from sleeping and caught my attention immediately. I sat up in bed for about an hour to make sure it wasn’t false labor and then woke up Tim to let him know what was going on. By this point I knew what I was feeling was the start of contractions. They were 5-7 minutes apart and came like a wave just how they were described to me by my midwife and doula.
We were told during our birth classes to try to ignore early labor contractions. This part of labor, as we had learned, could take awhile and it was best not to use up our energy early on. I suggested Tim go back to sleep and worked through the contractions all night. By morning they had intensified but were becoming more irregular. Some spaced out to 12 minutes or so apart, but throughout the day on Friday they never stopped. Tim and I kept our birth team updated and by 7:30pm on Friday evening I decided to call my doula to come over for support.
When she arrived I was in the shower on a birth ball using the hot water as a distraction from the pain. She came in and checked on me and suggested we try some new positions to move things along. We moved to the bed and her and Tim provided counter pressure on my hips.
First Midwife Check- Early Saturday Morning
At 1:00am on Saturday morning we called my midwife and asked her to come check how far I had progressed. At this point, 26 hours into labor, we were hoping that I was dilated enough to inflate the birth pool and start setting things up for our home birth. For that to happen, I would have to be in active labor and at least 5-6cm dilated.
I was so deflated to hear that I was only 1.5cm dilated. I held back tears as they stopped setting up the birth pool and instead began making a game plan for me to labor through the night. At this point, I knew we had a long road ahead. I took the Benadryl suggested and tried my best to rest between the contractions and get some sleep. My midwife said she would come back later that morning to check on me again.
Tim and our doula went to sleep so they could support me better in the coming hours. Unfortunately for me, the contractions were too strong for me to sleep, despite the Benadryl I had taken. I found myself switching between the toilet and the bed while falling asleep briefly between each contraction. They stayed close to 5 minutes apart the entire night and by 7:00am when Tim and our doula woke up, I was exhausted.
36 Hours into Labor- Late Saturday Morning
We decided to switch things up and labor in the bathtub for awhile. I will admit by this point I was very emotional. I cried in the tub while listening to my birth playlist and prayed. It had been two nights since I had slept and the contractions had not been more than 15 minutes apart the entire time. I hadn’t gotten a break! On top of that, I couldn’t eat anything! I had thrown up and the only temporary relief was from iced towels on my forehead or neck. It wasn’t the pain that was wearing me down, though, it was the sheer exhaustion from lack of sleep.
Tim saw how discouraged I was and proposed we open our gender envelope for some extra motivation. At this point, it had been sealed and in the glove box of my car since our 20 week anatomy scan. It was a sweet thought, but I was not giving in and opening it now! We had waited the entire pregnancy to find out and were so close.
When my midwife arrived and checked my progress again around 10:00am I had only progressed half a centimeter. She shared with me that my pelvic floor was extremely tight and wasn’t allowing the baby to drop or dilation to progress. Her suggestion was that she stay at the house for the next two hours while we tried to get my body to kick into gear At that point if we still didn’t see progress, we would make a new plan.
Decision Time- Saturday Afternoon
We moved from the birth ball to the couch and tried every contorted position to get things to pick up. We took a walk through the neighborhood and also tried to see if I could eat something. Unfortunately I couldn’t even stomach bone broth because my I was so queasy.
After two hours, our midwife checked again and I had only progressed an additional half centimeter to 2.5cm. I was coming up on 40 hours of labor with no pain relief and no sleep. I was barely holding back tears again while our midwife went through the options with me.
Since my water was still in tact, there was no risk to the baby for me to continue laboring at home. My first option was to continue trying to relax and she would come back later to check me again. My second option was to proactively transfer to the hospital. They would fax over my records and call ahead while Tim and I packed hospital bags and drove to the hospital. This would allow me the option of an epidural as pain relief so I could get some needed sleep.
As much as I had wanted to birth at home, something in me knew it was the right decision to transfer. Our midwife left the room to let me, Tim, and our doula discuss the options and I immediately started crying. It wasn’t because I was upset that I would have to give up my home birth. I was just so tired. They both encouraged me to do whatever I felt I needed and I had peace with my decision. When we called my midwife back in to let her know, it was so reassuring to hear her say that she agreed with my decision. She didn’t want her opinion to sway my decision so she hadn’t said anything before, but transferring to the hospital would be wise at this point.
Going to the Hospital
The next couple hours went by quickly. Tim and I packed up our bags and tried to tidy up the house a bit before heading to the hospital. The contractions in the car were brutal but we decided to stop and grab a sandwich on the way because I still hadn’t eaten anything. I was also very familiar with hospital policy and knew I wouldn’t be allowed to eat if I got an epidural (though I broke that rule lol).
We checked into the hospital around 4:30pm on Saturday and waited in triage for a Covid test. To my surprise I had progressed to 4cm dilated and 50% effaced in the 2.5 hours it took us to pack our hospital bags and get to the hospital. This gave me a glimmer of hope and also sent me into a dilemma when it came to getting an epidural. Did I want to try to push through or go ahead and ask for the epidural? The baby’s head was still at a -3 station which was really high and the doctors told me they still thought it would be awhile.
After clearing my positive Covid test (that’s a story for another time) so my doula could come to the hospital, we got checked into our room. I asked the nurse to start without Pitocin or an epidural so I could see if my body would continue dilating like it had the last few hours. They agreed and came back to check me again around 9pm.
Getting an Epidural- Late Saturday Night
At this point I was 48 hours into labor and still only 4cm dilated. I could breathe through the contractions and manage the pain, but we decided it was time to give my body some rest.
The anesthesiologist came in to give me an epidural around 10:30-11:00pm. After that I was so thankful to sleep for the first time in two nights! My doula came to the hospital around 2:00am in the morning and we turned the lights off and just tried to all sleep. Sometime in the night the nurses asked to start Pitocin because my contractions still hadn’t picked up. After consulting my doula, we agreed to start slow and declined having my water broken so there was no urgency placed on my delivery.
The Waiting Game- Sunday Morning
At 5:15am on Sunday September 26th I had progressed to 5cm dilated but was still only 70% effaced and baby remained at-3 station. With the Pitocin, my contractions had picked up a bit to every 4-5 minutes and we continued to wait throughout the day for things to progress. I didn’t know it was possible to dilate so slowly!
At 3:00pm on Sunday I was 6cm dilated, 90% effaced, and -2 station with contractions every 2-3 minutes. I felt like I peed myself which I knew was a sign my water could have broken. The nurse checked me and said a small part of my water had broken, but not the entire thing. She asked to break the rest of my water and I agreed. I knew that I was finally in active labor and there was less risk at this point.
A Scary Moment- Sunday Night
This is when things got very scary. When the nurse broke my water the baby’s heart rate decelerated. Before I even knew what was happening, I had an oxygen mask on my face, was hearing monitors beeping, and could hear several more nurses entering the room. They asked to flip me on my hands and knees. Thankfully my epidural was low enough that I was able to flip myself.
All I could hear in the background was nurses and doctors talking. They called to have an OR on standby and were shutting off my epidural and Pitocin. I felt my doula’s hand on my back and heard her telling me to just breathe. If the baby’s heart rate didn’t come back up quickly, I was going to be sent in for an emergency c-section.
Thankfully, within a few minutes things were back to normal. We needed to monitor the baby’s heart rate for the next several hours though. My epidural and Pitocin would be started back up slowly to ensure it wasn’t affecting the baby, but it would take hours to get back to where we were.
By 8:00pm I was 7 centimeters dilated. By 10:15pm I was 8 centimeters dilated and -2 station.
The Home Stretch- Monday Morning
At 12:36am on Monday morning I was 9cm dilated and -1 station with contractions every 2 minutes. During this time we waited. We experienced a few quick moments of the baby’s heart rate dropping when I would flip to either side, so I stayed mostly on my back. I also had my epidural run out twice and I was stuck waiting on the anesthesiologist who was in a twin c-section delivery. It is not fun to go from comfortably not feeling your contractions, to fully feeling them every few minutes and much more intensely.
At 2:18am I was almost fully dilated and -1 station. By this point the OB and nurse teams were beginning to discuss the plan for delivery. Since I had been in active labor for so long and with the baby’s heart rate dropping, they feared a prolapsed umbilical chord. They didn’t think the baby’s heart rate would tolerate the stress of my pushing. They also said the baby was measuring large and they didn’t think I would have the energy.
The Doctor’s Ultimatum- 3:00AM Monday Morning
By 3:00am I was fully dilated and 0 station. For most people at fully dilated the baby would be at +1 or +2 station so they weren’t sure why the baby wasn’t dropping any lower into my pelvis. This meant pushing would be difficult and long, but I was determined. Going from a home birth to a hospital birth was already an adjustment and I at least wanted to try pushing. I didn’t want to agree to a c-section without knowing I had tried every other possible option first.
I don’t know how else to explain it other than it was a God ordained setup. My nurse for delivery was the midwife I had originally met with at my home birth co-op at the very beginning of my pregnancy. During those months she had left the co-op in favor of a more set schedule and was now a labor and delivery nurse at the hospital. I don’t think you could even make that up! To make it even better, her and my doula had attended many births together and were an amazing team. They calmed my fears and were the advocates for the birth I wanted.
I am so grateful for them and truly believe they redeemed the last wish of my birth plan. Though the OBGYN wanted to send me for a c-section, my nurse helped convince him and the other doctors to allow us to try pushing for an hour. If I had made enough progress, I would deliver vaginally and if not, I would have a c-section. Challenge accepted!
Meeting our Baby Boy- 6:00AM Monday Morning
For an hour it was just Tim, my doula, and our nurse in the room as we began pushing. She shifted my hips slightly with each push and had a theory that the baby’s head and neck were stuck sideways on my pubic bone. If she was right, this is what was keeping the baby from descending. With every push she carefully guided the head and tilted my hips to help move it past my pelvic bones. She also closely watched the heart rate monitor knowing that if the baby’s heart rate showed even a moment of distress from misalignment of the monitor, the OB’s would use it as an excuse to send me for a C-section.
By the one hour mark, a full head of hair was visible and the OB team was shocked at our progress. Since there were no signs of distress from the baby, they finally agreed to let me continue pushing.
Little did I know, I still had 2 more hours to go but I gave it everything I had with each push. I was so exhausted that I only opened my eyes a few times to look into the mirror setup across from me. I felt like I was outside of my body and at this point they had turned down the epidural so those contractions and the FER (fetal ejection reflex) were intense! Somewhere in these two hours I threw up and my doula was putting essential oils under my nose and cold towels my forehead. She even gave me chapstick and continually offered me water. She was amazing!
The very end was not anything like I expected. I had my doula and nurse telling me to listen to my body and follow the contractions. They were guiding me through birth using the midwifery model of care, while the OB team and resident who had been brought in last minute to catch the baby were the complete opposite. They counted me down from 10 and were not the calming presence I was hoping for. I ignored them for the most part because when your body is pushing there is literally nothing you can do to stop it! Plus in the end, I knew we were all working towards a common goal, even if we did have slightly different ideas of how to get there.
After 3 exhausting hours of pushing, I heard the OB say “one more push like that and we will have a baby!”. On the next contraction I pushed as hard as I possibly could. Our sweet baby was finally here and I heard Tim say, “It’s a boy!” Atlas Leo McHugh was born at 6:00am on Monday, September 27th after 79 long hours of labor. They placed him on my chest and he must have been tired too because he barely made a sound. The nurse ensured me he was fine and eventually we got a little cry from him.
He was 7lbs 4oz and 20 inches long with a full head of curly black hair. The sweet little boy we had waited 40 weeks and 2 days to meet was finally here!
In the end, I didn’t get the home water birth that I had hoped for and the road to recovery has been much tougher than I ever expected. In followup appointments with my midwife and nurses, I learned that what I experienced was an asynclitic presentation in which a baby’s head descends sideways and isn’t aligned with the birth canal. With every contraction his head was pressing into my pelvic bone instead of making its way through. This is also probably why his heart rate dropped so quickly when my water broke. Up until that point my waters had been a cushion for him against my hips, but after they broke he dropped suddenly and was pressing against them.
That continual pressing of his head with every contraction for days on end left me barely able to walk after giving birth. I felt shooting pains from my hips with every step and couldn’t lift my legs in and out of bed. On top of that, I was extremely swollen from the IV fluids. My knees were wider than my hands and let’s not even talk about my ankles.
I was able to deliver vaginally which was very important to me but because of the resident delivering, I did end up with a 2nd degree tear. This added another level of pain to my recovery as well.
All in all, now almost 4 months later, I am feeling like myself again. I am still easing into working out and listening to my body, but I am absolutely amazed at all that my body is capable of. Would I do it again? Absolutely! Even with the unexpected and the long recovery it was worth every minute. I’m sure any mom would say that, and now I finally understand!
If you’re curious why I chose a home birth or have any questions at all about pregnancy or labor and delivery, send me a message! I’d be happy to share more about my experience.
Thank you so much for reading my birth story <3