When I met Jessica she told me about her prior labor. She described it as traumatic, but made me aware that she had done a lot of work mentally and physically to prep her for this pregnancy.
Jessica was very set in her desires for this birth and one of her biggest ones was to have an unmedicated labor. In her last birth she felt pressured into an epidural early on by her providers. She hopped on the intervention highway from that point, which included water breaking, pitocin, and a vacuum assisted birth. Jessica had a very heavy epidural. She was unable to move herself in bed, she wasn’t able to feel contractions when it was time to push, and had some pretty significant tearing. While sometimes interventions are necessary, a lot of Jessica’s trauma came from provider coercion, verbiage used by her providers and nurses, and her feelings of a loss of control.
Jessica did all of the things that any doula would hope their clients would do. She took all my childbirth ed classes, (even as a second time vaginal birthing parent), she did tons of breath work, saw a pelvic floor therapist, worked on her mental mindset and reached out to me any time her negative thoughts would creep in.
Her and her husband Roger, were always attentive and all in during prenatals. I could tell Roger wanted this for Jessica as much as she wanted it for herself and a supportive partner is always the dream. Birth plan creation was a big part of our chats. I wanted to not only understand what was important to them, but I wanted to have a plan of protection to not repeat any of the harm that was done in their first birthing experience.
I kept reminding them often though that this birth could go faster than their previous 32 hour labor, but like most folks who had a long path before, that cautionary language is often hard to trust or believe.
Jessica on a Sunday afternoon let me know that she was feeling differently. It wasn’t labor yet, but she let me know there was a shift in her body. We chatted here and there, but the plan was to hydrate and rest, for when labor did begin.
Jessica and I touched based a few times throughout the evening and eventually she sent me a text around 1am on Monday, letting me know that she couldn’t sleep anymore because she was having almost constant mini contractions. They were very short, but also very close together. I picked up the phone and gave her call. Hearing someone’s voice during labor can give you a lot of insight on where they’re at. It sounded like she was in early labor with maybe a bit of uterine/cervical irritation. I suggested she get in the bath, which she wasn’t very thrilled about, but I explained that I thought the muscle needed to relax a bit. She eventually agreed and later mentioned that it was the best and right solution. The pain decreased, her uterus let go, things spaced out and she was able to rest, even though she “isn’t a bath person”.
At 5am she sent another text that she was now in a contraction pattern and things had gained intensity. I asked if she wanted me to head her way and I got prepped and headed out of the door.
I arrived around 6am and found her and Roger managing the contractions beautifully together. I reminded her about her breath, Roger helped to support her body and Jessica instinctively changed her position all through out the next few hours at home. She labored standing, sitting, swaying, leaning into Roger, while making sure to hydrate and snack.
I felt as though things were in a good pattern, but maybe needed a little push. Jessica’s contractions had been about 5 minutes apart for 4hours or so. I suggested sitting on the toilet to labor. Laboring on the toilet allows for you to be in a supported squat, it gives some extra space and direct path for baby to engage in the pelvis and apply their head to the cervix. Most people naturally relax their pelvic floor on the toilet because that’s what we usually do when seated here. Jessica and Roger headed down to their bathroom.
It again would be the right call, but this doula was certainly the only one in the house who was aware just how right it was and how quickly less than 15 minutes of toilet sitting would drastically change things
As Jessica was laboring on the toilet, her vocals shifted, her contractions quickly went from 5 minutes apart to 2 minutes apart and I heard a light grunt at the top of the next contraction.
I said, “Ok everyone! I think it’s time we get ourselves together and head out.”
Jessica: “Ok. Let’s fill my water bottle and I would like to change my pants before we leave.”
Jessica had expressed having a baby in the car would feel like a nightmare to her and as changing the pants was taking longer and longer, my own concern for a trauma inducing car ride grew.
When I told Jessica and Roger that I would be riding with them in their backseat, they both turned and looked at me almost in slow motion with their eyes wide. 😳 I didn’t want to create any panic and I remained calm, while assuring them it was just a precaution. They understood and both started moving a bit more swiftly.
As we walked through their garage, Jessica said, “I think something is coming out of me. I might be pooping.”
I replied, “That’s ok. Let’s just get in the car.” (Essentially, I told her sitting in poop was a great plan 🤣)
She just nodded and got in.
At 9:06am I entered the address for the ride to the hospital into my phone’s GPS so that I could create a countdown for her if she needed it. 16 minutes it read.
Jessica sat in the front passenger seat and reached both her hands up over the head rest toward me. One of her hands holding my hand and the other one pulling my head forward next to hers. She had me in what I like to call the “your my safe place contraction headlock”.
As we turned the corner, there was construction traffic. It was the first time in my knowing them that Roger seemed stressed. He has a pretty easy going, peaceful vibe, but I could feel his energy shift. “Should we talk to a police officer about getting special permission to go around?” he questioned. I told him I thought we could just keep moving forward. I had to make a decision that an officer calling an ambulance would create more chaos and would potentially be more traumatic than a car birth, if that’s where we ended up.
I kept watching the GPS arrival time creep up...
Jessica cracked the car window and something so simple would become the focal point.
When the next contraction came I whispered to Jessica to stop sending her energy downward and to pull her energy upward through her body, into her chest and to blow it out of the window. As each contraction built, Jessica would call out my name and I would talk her through this imagery each time.
Jessica mentioned that she could feel something coming out of her vagina and I asked her if she wanted to reach inside of her pants and feel if it was a head. She said no and so we went back to focusing our energy upward and out of the window.
While there was a bit of stress that comes with every birth, there was a calming energy exchange between Jessica and I; there was a trust that’s hard to explain, but I trusted her, she trusted me and we both trusted her body and baby.
We were getting closer to the hospital and Jessica was in excellent control. I said, “I think we are going to make it.” And Roger said “Me too!”
We pulled into the lot at 9:31am. I hoped out of the car and ran inside. The hospital Jessica was birthing at has a separate entrance that leads right into labor and delivery triage. I was stopped at the guard station: “Hi there. I am a doula and I am with a laboring person pushing in the car. Could I have a wheel chair and a nurse or two?”
He asked me for my drivers license. So I repeated myself. The guard said, “You’re so calm that I was confused. Go right in to the front desk.” A wheel chair and two nurses followed. Jessica stood up and sat herself in the wheelchair. One of the nurses rolled her eyes and said, “She’s not even close.” and walked back inside.
As Jessica was wheeled down the hallway, she had another contraction and she roared.
A nurse sent Roger to move the car.
Jessica and I walked into the bathroom. She shut the door. A nurse knocked and she leaned onto the door. I was behind Jessica and I helped remove her underwear and there it was., what Jessica had been feeling coming out of her. A big bulging amniotic sac dangling between her legs. It was 9:33am.
Then the hospital staff chaos began…
We walked out of the bathroom and a resident walked in said, “Let me check you before you start pushing.”
Roger walks in and a nurse asks him to step outside and get towels from the hallway.
Jessica looked at me over the bed with the most hilarious look of annoyance. “Does she have to actually check? There’s a bag of water coming out of my body.” I shook my head and Jessica declined the check.
The resident removed her gloves, threw them onto the counter and walked out of the triage room.
My next job was to convince Jessica to climb into the bed. The triage space was extremely small and this would be the safest way to facilitate another birth wish that they had; Roger assisting in the birth of their baby.
Roger comes back into the space.
Jessica made her way around the bed and climbed in on her hands and knees. The nurse gets a phone call and says, “Oh great! We can move you up the ABC.” (A labor and delivery room about 8min away)
Jessica and I are basically face to face, ignoring everyone else. There’s alarms ringing, phone calls being made to midwives upstairs, a nurse trying to get a baby on a monitor still and we are in our own little bubble.
The nurse says again, “We can head upstairs now.”
I peak in between Jessica’s legs, then walk around to the back of the bed and snap a picture to later fill Jessica in on the absurdity of this suggestion.
Me: She’s crowning.
Me: I see eyebrows
Nurse: *pulls Jessica’s hips towards her and looks* Oh my god!
The nurse then asks Roger to get a doctor. I say “No., thank you. Please call out.” The nurse calls out of the room “I need a midwife, the resident, a birth table thing, I need people!”
The picture with this post, is a screen shot of my iPhone notes. Due to the of pace things there isn’t much in there for this labor, but I often write down things people say that I want to remember.
This simple phrase was the most impactful thing that happened during this labor and birth. It shows just how much work Jessica did to get here and how powerful she became not only throughout pregnancy, but as the minutes ticked by on this day.
All of our lives we hear bad birth stories. Sometimes our mothers use our own births against us. Sometimes we are sitting in circles as adolescents hearing tales of long and torturous labors. BUT ALMOST ALWAYS, when we are the most vulnerable, and pregnant ourselves, people will tell us the most horrific tales of trauma.
Jessica with her first birth did lots of research, lined up better care, was well educated, but provider coercion and fear, that deep rooted fear that lies in our subconscious from all of those stories we have heard, crept in.
Jessica this time listened to her body, listened to her intuition, trusted herself more than providers, more than her previous birth story, more than any chaotic energy that was in her birth space and during what most people who want to scare you, will tell you is the most horrific part of labor, THE RING OF FIRE, calmly and peacefully, advocated for herself.
At 9:39am when asked to stop pushing, Jessica responded, “No. I’m going to do what I need to do and listen to my body.”
With Jessica’s next contraction, more people entered the room.
Jessica’s water was still intact and as she began to push for the last time, a little arm and hand came with the head, the resident broke the amniotic sac while helping baby navigate their arm, Roger took their baby into his hands, the midwife walked in and Jessica informed her that they just had a baby.
It was 9:40am. 9 minutes after we arrived to the hospital.
The baby began to cry and Jessica rotated her body up and over, to place their baby on her chest.
The midwife then said, “Well when they told me she was laboring at home with her doula, I knew that was a bad idea.”
I know that I’ve shared all about the chaos of this birth, but the two things that Roger pointed out next in that space, has a lot to do with why Jessica holds such positive and empowered feelings about this birth.
“You got the exact birth you wanted!”…with tears in his eyes…“On your hands and knees, no checks, no interventions, no epidural! It’s everything you wanted!”
And then he said, with a questioning look on his face, as his eyes slowly took in the scene around the triage space, “How were Jessica and Melissa the only calm people in the room?” (This makes me giggle every time I think about it. I wish I could have captured his face)
At our postpartum visit, as I filled in the timeline and the missing gaps of the story, I asked Jessica how she felt about her birth. She turned her head and smiled at Roger and said “Yeah. It was perfect. I’m so happy with how it all turned out.”