75 hours - our birth story

this is a long post... i salute you in advance for making it through! all hospital photos courtesy of kelly sunshine (doula).

Going into this birth, I purposefully allowed my mind to remain open. We wanted a natural, non-medicated birth but when asked what I “saw” in regards to the birth (visualization of the space, atmosphere, etc.) I didn’t see anything clearly. I knew I wanted to be close to Alan, and I wanted to be involved in the process but beyond that didn’t have a clear picture of the birth in my mind.

Maybe that was for a reason.

Baby boy was due Saturday, March 30 but didn’t show up. He definitely felt very solid inside… no twinges of downward movement or contractions. He wasn’t ready yet. On Monday, April 1, I made an appointment with an acupuncturist who works with many Babymoon Inn clients. I knew that if the baby still wasn’t ready, this wouldn’t do much but I figured we could try it to see if those acupuncture points would give my body and baby the nudge they needed. Let me tell you – acupuncture is WEIRD. I’d never had it done before, and when he said “You shouldn’t feel pain – but you should feel a sensation” I thought to myself – What the heck does that mean? Well… I felt a sensation, that’s for sure. 

I began having pretty real contractions on Wednesday morning at 2 AM. At this point, little one was still posterior (meaning his head was down, but his back was lying against my back). We were hoping to turn him anterior, which is the best/proper position for birth. No such luck – we tried all sorts of positions to encourage this child to turn, but he wouldn’t budge. Which meant that all of this mama’s labor was back labor.

Ah, back labor. One of those terms you hear about, whispered and hushed – it’s the worst thing. But what is it really? I certainly had no idea. For all you ladies out there, think of your normal cramps. It hurts up front, tightens up, and then stops. Back labor is completely the opposite. Never once in my labor did I feel a “cramp” as I was familiar with. Back labor was low, unrelenting pain that never truly went away – simply became more intense with each contraction, then retreated slightly. It was almost an intense burning sort of pain – think of the fact that every time I contracted, spine was against spine. There’s not much forgiveness there.

So it began. Alan went to work on Wednesday, because these contractions were still irregular – twenty-ish minutes apart. My mom came to spend the day with me, and we slowly went around getting a breakfast and doing some light window shopping to keep me up and moving. When we came back mid-day, we decided to take a nap. Mom fell asleep, but I started to read and seemed to notice the contractions a little more frequently – enough that I couldn’t get myself to sleep. Sure enough, they had spaced down to 11 minutes apart. Holy cow! That’s some progress.

The contractions bounced around between 9 minutes apart all the way back up to 15 minutes apart. Phase 1 (Early Labor) can last anywhere from 12+ hours, so I knew to be patient.

I asked Alan to stay home on Thursday, because I knew I would need his support, especially if things started to progress quickly. I stayed at home – I was too uncomfortable to be walking about. Throughout Thursday, the contractions grew stronger and did get closer together: all the way down to 5 minutes apart. This is typically the golden moment – the point you move to the hospital, or in our case to the birth center. The problem? These contractions were 5 minutes apart, but only 30 seconds long. These weren’t strong enough to push me into Phase 2 (Active Labor) or progress change with the cervix. Imagine my disappointment at finding this “milestone” just a mirage, especially after approximately 44 hours of labor.

My midwife called me into the birth center for a cervical check: maybe there had been some progress after all.

No such luck.

I was 1 cm dilated. (This is out of 10 cm.)

And I was exhausted. Dehydrated. Hungry. My mom had made us spaghetti Thursday evening, but I couldn’t get a good portion down due to discomfort from the contractions. Same with water, I tried to keep up with drinking fluids, but simply couldn’t focus on anything but the painful contractions.

Here’s where the plans changed. Since I wasn’t in Active Labor, I couldn’t be admitted to the birth center to receive IV fluids. Things were getting desperate. Babymoon works closely with St. Joseph’s Hospital here in Phoenix, and we had to make the painful decision to abandon our birth plans at Babymoon in favor of getting the care I needed.

Off we went: myself, Alan, my mother and my doula Dianne. We arrived at the hospital at 2 AM Friday, April 5. After getting checked out in OB triage, I had a couple of instances of higher blood pressure, as well as some protein in my urine – that clinched it and pushed me into a higher risk category. I wouldn’t be able to go back to Babymoon for this birth. (We held onto the hope that maybe after getting hydrated, we could go back.)

Thank goodness for the support of Dianne – her prior experience with births gave us a guide through this truly scary process. Alan and I were right where we didn’t want to be, and didn’t know anything about what to expect. Same with my mom, she wanted to support as much as she could, but we were all just at the mercy of the hospital.

We had a scary moment where one of the hospital midwives wanted to diagnose me with preeclampsia based on the one high blood pressure reading down in triage. Alan and I didn’t feel that was correct – my blood pressure is excellent in normal times, and had been excellent throughout the pregnancy. No spikes, no concerns, no nothing. We pushed back when she suggested starting a magnesium sulfate IV, and decided to labor as naturally as we could. After a quick cervical check (3 cm!), we made it through the morning fighting the contractions as best I could. I spent a good deal of time in the shower (there’s definitely more nudity in my relationship with my mother now… ha!) – and there’s truth to hot water helping. As long as I had that hot water on my back, the contractions/back labor was much more bearable. Around 9 AM, the midwife came in to do another check – after several hours, what progress had I made?

I was still at 3 cm.

Again, crushing disappointment. These contractions (while sucking the life out of me) weren’t strong enough to show change. So here was our next hard decision: adding Pitocin – something we did NOT want to do – would strengthen the contractions to induce change and dilate the cervix. The only problem? I was barely handling the back labor as is – knowing the contractions would come harder was unfathomable. Which meant getting an epidural. Another thing we truly didn’t want. And by the way – I’ve been pretty terrified of epidurals ever since I learned what they were. Alan was so amazing, talking me through the process – acknowledging my fear but not letting me give into it.

So. Once the epidural was in, I was allowed some rest from my body for the first time in 56 hours. We hoped this would allow my body to do what it needed to do. Around 3 PM, another check: I was at 8 cm! Holy cow! This was super encouraging. After another couple of hours: 9.5 cm. Brilliant, we were well on our way, and even the nurses seemed hopeful we could start pushing soon to have the baby!

But… (are you sensing the theme here?)

There was a “lip” of cervix that wouldn’t go away. Even after feeling it up, the doctors didn’t feel confident that I could just push past it – it wasn’t soft enough to allow that. Ugh. So, more time. I was just hanging out, waiting for this cervix to figure itself out. After a few more hours, we were given the go ahead to start pushing. (Maybe around 10 PM?) And wow… that was definitely tougher than I expected. In hindsight, I have a good idea why it was so tough, but at the time I was expecting/hoping that maybe an hour or two of pushing would get us there.

No luck on that front, either.

By this time, my epidural had worn off, and those back labor contractions (now fueled by Pitocin) were back with a vengeance. I got a “top up” of the epidural, which was definitely appreciated, and then we pushed… and watched the clock crawl past midnight. This child would not be born on April 5th after all.

Around 2 AM, my epidural wore off again. I was positively soaked with sweat. My champion doula Dianne had to leave (seriously tragic, she had spent the past 24 hours with us), but coordinated with our other doula Kelly to switch off so we wouldn’t be left alone. Luckily, I was able to receive another top up of the epidural. At first they weren’t sure if that would be possible, or if they would have to redo the entire epidural. To be honest – at this point, I was so exhausted and in so much pain both physically and mentally – I didn’t care one way or another. The epidural no longer held the same fear it once did. All I knew was that I couldn’t continue without help. The doctors and nurses decided that after the epidural, I would rest for a little while to build up strength for more pushing.  They were able to do another top up instead of re-doing the entire epidural, and everyone promptly dropped into the nearest chair or patch of floor.

I was able to rest for a few minutes, then all I remember was uncontrollable urges to push… it wasn’t going to be an easy or long rest. I also remember thinking it was definitely going to get harder before it got easier. (Not the most uplifting thought, I tell you…)

The nurse (Ellie) came in and woke me up, saying that no matter what, we had to get the baby out… I had spent so many hours with my cervix so wide open that there was some concern about infection. Jeez. So we pushed some more. And again, I didn’t have the power needed to get the baby under my pubic bone. This part of labor is always a “two steps forward, one step back” situation, until the baby’s head pops out from under that bone… but I was simply too spent to get that to happen on my own.

I was reduced to a helpless, begging mess. When the doctors came back in, all I remember doing was crying, asking them to help me. I couldn’t do anything more. Here we were, now discussing alternatives we never expected to need in the first place: vacuum-assisted delivery, followed by the very real possibility of a C-section if that wasn’t successful. While the doctor explained the benefits/risks to both procedures, I continued to be rocked by contractions. I managed to sign my consent papers and Ellie drew blood in case I needed to be matched for a blood transfusion in the event of surgery. And the doctors were very clear: a vacuum-assisted delivery was very much a two-way street. I couldn’t just kick back and let him be pulled out of me, I needed to push harder than I ever had, during a contraction to leverage all my body’s strength. At the same time, the doctor would apply the vacuum to the baby’s head to pull while I pushed. If unsuccessful, we would go immediately to the OR for the section.

No pressure.

I was pretty terrified that I wouldn’t be strong enough to help with this process. I didn’t let that overtake me, I instead focused on the fact that I was getting the help I so desperately needed.

Within 4 minutes (my doula Kelly filled me in on the timeframe later, I had no idea) and 2 contractions, it was done. Even through the epidural, I felt him (my son!) come out of me… the single most surreal, mind blowing, epic feeling I’ve ever felt. Sadly, due to the emergent circumstances of delivery, we were unable to do delayed cord clamping or immediate skin to skin contact. Kelly again filled me in after the fact – during that last part of delivery, baby aspirated meconium. The doctors had already called and had people from NICU standing by, so as soon as I cut the cord he was whisked away, suctioned and immediately healthy.

You might be wondering what amazing words of wisdom I had upon meeting my son. There weren’t any. I’m pretty sure I shrieked once I realized he was delivered, and from there progressed to a soggy, soppy mess with a very shaky voice. He was here, born at 5:18 AM on April 6, 2013. Our boy, James Alan.

His story was just beginning, but mine hadn’t ended yet either. It took the doctors about an hour to sew me up. Due to the very fast delivery, I ended up with some substantial tears (yikes). We were staring at amazement at our boy, so I think that was a very fast hour for me. Finally, the pace slowed. The doctors cleared out. Kelly left. My mom left to get some rest. And then Alan decided to go home to shower and rescue the Z-pup. Whew, finally a chance to start our lives as a new family!

But wait! There’s more! ;) I have to wink, because – seriously?!

While Alan was gone, I started the process of recovering with James. I was instructed by the nurses to call for help if I wanted to get up to use the restroom or anything else since I was still working the epidural out of my system. No problemo. One thing to note: being incapacitated in the hospital is a truly humbling experience. Anyhow. Since I had to use a bedpan (gross) for the first time, a nurse assisted and thank goodness since I passed a large clot (grosser). She called a doctor in to make sure that everything was okay – and since there’s a certain amount of “debris” (ha) left over after birth, she wasn’t too concerned.

I was feeling a little uncomfortable being there alone, and called Alan to ask him to come back to the hospital – right then, don’t worry about Zoey. (I ended up calling my Dad and he picked her up to bring her to his place.)

When Alan came back to the hospital, it was about time to try using the bathroom for real – no more bedpan. I called the nurse, and we started prep for getting me out of bed for the first time in over 24 hours. As I sat up, the nurse asked how I was feeling – was I dizzy? I took a couple of deep breaths, and didn’t feel too bad.

I promptly passed out.

Full on, completely gonzo, eyes-open-but-I-wasn’t-there passed out. It’s a good thing I was still sitting on the bed, because I just fell backwards instead of falling to the floor. Alan said it was pretty trippy, me just being gone. I woke up a minute or so later to both the nurse and Alan hovering anxiously over me.

Needless to say, the nurse called the doctor back in. Clearly there was something wrong.

It turns out that there was a large piece of my placenta left inside the uterus, which had caused me to hemorrhage over the past few hours – leading to the clot, the passing out, and the general feeling of weakness I was experiencing. Good news: problem was discovered. Bad news: how it was going to be resolved. Essentially, the doctor had to manually remove the debris and piece of placenta. So mere hours after giving birth, and after I’ve been sewn up, the doctor had to put her hand inside me to scoop/scrape out the pieces.

Crazy, awful, horrible pain. They were able to give me a little morphine, but not enough to make a difference (in my humble opinion). So there we were in the same positions as labor: me gripping Alan’s hand, trying to ride out the most awful pain while he coached me through it. In the middle of all this, our son was in the little cubicle in the corner of the room and spit up all over himself (so of course, I freaked out since I couldn’t help him).

Finally, the placenta came out and it was a big piece – about a third of the whole. This isn’t supposed to happen – the whole thing is supposed to come out in one piece and be examined at the time of delivery. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, but it’s a good thing we found it when we did. I lost a lot of blood, but it could have been worse. I had more blood drawn to check on my levels of various blood-parts and since the levels were too low, I ended up getting a blood transfusion that evening (2 bags!). Thank goodness for modern medicine – the whole process was crazy and ultimately made me feel a thousand percent better.

After all of that, we remained in the hospital another day for observation. I continued to improve, and while James had some jaundice his levels weren’t enough for concern or additional treatment. We had arrived at the hospital on Friday at 2 AM, and finally left on Monday morning. Whew. After a labor of 75 hours, we were blessed with our son and I’m so grateful that we both ended up healthy and whole.


  1. Powerful story! Isn't it amazing to think that even after going through a difficult birthing process, that the instant you meet that little person you love them soooo much, that you know you'd repeat it all over (and then some) for them?

    Congrats again mama! He's beautiful, and I am honored to be his "aunt"....and so excited my little man finally has a cousin!!!

  2. Oh wow. I had no idea. You are amazing. Big hugs and lots of love to all of you.

    Happy first Mother's Day!


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