Penelope’s Birth Story
Penelope’s Birth Story
Mama: Stephanie C.
Type of Birth: Vaginal, Unmedicated
Birth Location: Home
Primary Care: Midwife
On Monday, my due date, a hurricane was coming through. I thought, great! A low, pressure system will get me going!! What did my husband, Peter, want to do? He wanted to go surfing in Panama City Beach. So I thought, shit, well I haven’t got anything else to do, might as well go and take my mind off impending labor.
The car ride there, I had painful contractions the whole time. It must have been the way I was sitting in the car that made Penelope’s head press against my cervix and sacrum. Once at the beach, I stood and watched Peter surf and the contractions went away. All the surfers coming and going stared at my ginormous belly and asked when my due date was. When I replied, today, they laughed and asked if my husband was in the water surfing. Yup, he was. If you are a surfer in North Florida, you know you gotta get the waves when the gettin’s good, because who knows when the next swell will come through.
On the way home, I thought my water broke, but looking back, I am pretty sure I just peed my pants a little. But it was exciting! Things were moving along in the right direction! The contractions got even more painful. I kept thinking, “if I have to give birth in the car in between Panama City and Tallahassee, I am going to freaking kill Peter.” I needed something to cope with the pain, and listening to Outkast was what I wanted. Their ATLiens album, the song Millennium to be exact. I wanted to listen to it over and over and over again. I think it’s pretty funny that this specific song is what I wanted to listen to, because that song used to be one of my favorites in 10th grade, when I got stoned with my high school sweetheart. Whatever. It worked.
When we got home, I took a bath and then…NOTHING.
By Tuesday, I was O.V. E. R. it. I had given up. I had surrendered control. And sure enough, that is all it took. Penelope arrived on Wednesday, 11/11/09 at 2:46 AM. I started labor at 7:30 p.m. on November 10th, so a seven hour labor total. Not bad right? Well, if you count the three previous stints of labor that lasted about six hours each, its was a grand total of 25 hours.
When it finally started on the 10th, it STARTED.
There was no early labor for me, no walking around the house and baking cookies. The first contraction came right after I had settled into the couch with dinner on my lap (or rather my huge belly) to watch a movie with Peter. After a couple of them, I started to have a conversation with my body. It went like this: “okay body, no more messing around. If you are gonna give me painful contractions again, you better mean business. I am not doing another six hours of contractions only to have them go away again. I am sick of this shit.”
Another 20 minutes went by and I decided to go take a bath. Previously, when I had contractions, as soon as I would lay down to go to sleep or take a bath they would go away. So I thought I might as well get them to go away now, so I can finish my movie. I got into the bath and got nice and relaxed, but they were not going away. They were in fact getting stronger. I stayed in the bath about 45 minutes and then I needed to get out, I needed to move, I needed to change positions because they really hurt. So I got on the toilet and sat there for awhile.
Then it got nuts.
I felt like I was having an out of body experience. It was kinda scary. So I yelled to Peter and said “I think its time to call the midwife!!!” He came running in and gave her a page. 20 minutes went by and she still hadn’t called. Then I told Peter that I felt like I was dying. Obviously, I wasn’t dying but everything was so intense and overwhelming it was the only word I could think of to accurately describe how I felt. He called again and finally got a hold of her. She said she would be over soon. Then I felt the urge to move again. I stood and started walking, but oh man, it hurt SO bad. I made it to the end of the bed and held on tight.
That contraction rocked my world.
I managed to yell to Peter, who was off filling up the birth tub, that I was going to puke before the next one hit. He was able to get the trashcan in place just as I exploded. At the exact same moment that I was puking up my dinner, my water broke. Inside, I was so excited! There was no going back now. I was so happy it broke on its own. Somehow I was able to calmly say, “oh, look there’s my water” and asked Peter to get a towel. What did he bring back? Several clean sweaters that were on our dresser that I hadn’t gotten to putting away yet.
So now I was screaming, “NO!!! I! Said! A! TOWEL!!” So now what did he bring back? My FAVORITE towel, the one that was my grandmother’s, of course. Now I was really screaming, “NOT THAT TOWEL!!” He finally brought back an appropriate towel to have my water leak onto.
The towel was kinda white, so I was able to see very clearly that my water was kinda green.
I though, “Shit, shit, shit. I hope everything’s okay.”
The,n I needed to go back to the toilet. Sitting on the toilet, I looked at my sorta green amniotic fluid and I though of all the births I had seen where the water was a bit green but everything was just fine and I calmed myself down. Peter finally noticed it too and asked if it was normal. I was able to respond that it was fine. Even in that fearful moment, I always had an overwhelming feeling that everything was going to be just fine. Even so, in the next moment when Missy, the midwife’s assistant arrives, the first thing I asked her was if the color was alright.
Layla, our midwife, finally arrived and I asked to be checked. I was thinking I must be eight centimeters. Layla checked me and I was five and a half, then six by the time the exam was over. I hollered, “6!?! I am only 6?!? Uuugggghhhh!!!” Missy calmed me a bit saying “um, we JUST got here!”
By this time the birth tub was ready and I needed to get in a.s.a.p. I didn’t want anyone touching me or talking to me. I just wanted to get in the water. I don’t know how long I was in the water, but it really got me relaxed and I was able to rest in between the contractions. It got to a point where I felt like I was too relaxed, coping too well, and things were slowing down, so I thought to myself, “I can stay in here where I am coping just fine and be here for several more hours or I can get out, get up, and make the contractions more painful and get this show on the road.”
So I hurled myself out the of tub and got to the bathroom. Just from walking from the tub to the toilet and sitting down made me feel like pushing. It was a sensation I couldn’t ignore.
I wasn’t actively pushing, it was like my body had completely taken over and had a mind of its own. I was pushing whether I wanted to or not.
Missy hollered from the couch at that point and said, “that sounds like a push, are you pushing?” So I ask to be checked again. After Layla checked me, she announced that I was eight centimeters. I replied the same, “8!?!…I am only 8!?! Aahhhhhhh.” I walked around for a bit. I wanted this baby out of me!
I got back in the tub at some point and it was getting close. I could feel Penelope moving down my pelvis, and I kept telling Missy that I had to poo. I was still liking being in the warm water, but I felt like I couldn’t get grounded enough to really bear down so I stood up during several contractions and got into a deep squat then submerged back into the warm water after the contraction. I finally got into a hands and knees sort of position that worked.
At this point, Penelope’s heart rate had dropped a bit, nothing to be alarmed about, but combined with the slightly green amniotic fluid, Layla thought it was best to put the oxygen mask on. It was super annoying and I wanted to rip it off my face, but I focused on breathing for Penelope. Her heart rate stayed good for awhile and I was able to take it off.
At this point, Missy told me to see if I could feel my baby. I put my hand down and my fingers inside a bit and there she was! I thought to myself, “holy crap! Pushing is working! She is coming out”
She is going to be here soon!
I looked Peter in the eye and smiled for the first time. I asked him if he wanted to get in and catch her like we talked about. He shook his head and smiled. I was actually relieved because I really wanted to catch her myself. Later he told me it was because he didn’t want to get in the water. The water was bloody and poopy and he was not about to get in it!!
Now I was really pushing. I told Layla, “I feel like I am tearing!!” She said “GOOD! Go with it!” I was like, “no really, I think I am tearing!!” She said, “that’s what you want!” I didn’t really believe her, but in my head I felt like she was dismissing me, but I was like, “okay, here we go, even if I tear, here we go.” It burned SO bad. Ring of fire was no joke. But then her sweet head was out. I kept feeling her head and feeling her squishy skin and wet hair. I could not wait to hold her.
Not sure how many more pushes it took, but out came the rest of her. I caught her with my own two hands and pulled her out! At the same time I sat back on bottom and leaned against the side of the birth tub. From there on out it was like I was in a dream.
At first it was hard to get her in a good position to hold her on my chest because her cord was wrapped around her neck once. Layla helped me unwrap it.
Then I held her close and looked her straight in her eyes. I could not believe she was here and that I managed to push her out. She was so perfectly alert and peaceful and, oh so beautiful. I kept looking up at Peter to look at him and make eye contact but he was focused on her. She fussed for a moment and I sang the song that I sang to her every day while taking my nightly bath when I was pregnant.
Then the contractions start coming again and I wanted the placenta OUT!! It wasn’t very long but I wanted to be done and get out of the water. I pushed for a little bit and then decided to stand up and out it came with a PLOP! At this point Peter had Penelope and we walked to the bedroom so I could lay down and nurse her or as it turned out, attempt to nurse her.
From the very first moment, breastfeeding, or lack there of, was difficult. She sort-of latched on, but not really since my nipples are flat and she was having a hard time. She passed out a few moments later anyway. At that time I didn’t think anything of it, I thought “I am not going to stress about it, I will just let her lay here skin to skin and let her smell me for now”.
I thought flat nipples were our only problem and I knew that was easily overcome with enough support and guidance from an IBCLC. She ended up pretty much sleeping for the next 12 hours. And I just stared at her in absolute amazement. I couldn’t believe that I MADE her and that I PUSHED her out myself.
Finally the lactation consultant came over and helped us get her latched on. It was quite a production. Peter had to actually squeeze my nipple and then between the both of us, with all four hands, we could get her on. Little did we know then that even though she was on, she wasn’t transferring anything. Only when she stopped pooping and we went to see the LC again later that week did we realize she wasn’t transferring any milk and had to start pumping and finger feeding, but that leads us to a whole other story, one that is not yet complete and ready to be told.
In the end it was a perfect and beautiful birth, just like I always hoped and dreamed. However, I would give it all up to be able to breastfeed. I would have rather have had a cesarean and been completely under than to have breastfeeding taken from us. But Penelope is healthy and beautiful and I love her more than anything else in this world.
Guest Mama Stephanie is passionate about photography, all things handmade, storytelling, community building, eating organic, real foods, living a mindful, peaceful, healthy life, and always trying to be a better person.
She’s a Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Yoga Instructor, Certified Itsy Bitsy Yoga Facilitator, Certified Infant Massage Instructor, and Certified Doula. She was a Birthing From Within Mentor from 2005 to 2010. All these trainings and certifications have greatly influenced her life and her parenting style.
She’s serious about living as healthy as possible, and admits, she’s not perfect. She gave up trying to be the perfect eco-friendly, yoga goddess, healthy version of Martha Stewart a long time ago. Now she tries not to give herself a hard time if she decides to use some spray paint in a DIY instead of No-VCO paint or head to Chick-fil-A on a particularly hairy day to make life easier. She does the best she can and has high expectations for herself, but when she falls short she brushes it off and keeps on trying.