Backtracking, late Saturday night, January 7th I had what felt like real labor (it was but then it stopped).  The contractions were harder than Braxton Hicks and regular for about five hours!  I called my sister up from Eugene and notified the Intended Parents, Marce and Chris, who live a little over three hours from me.  They didn’t have their babysitters yet (grandparent from Israel!) and were going to have to bring Baby Girl E, their daughter who I gave birth to via Cesarean a little over a year and a half ago.  She had been sick and they decided to let her sleep.  We just planned on checking in if things picked up or at 8 a.m. when she usually wakes up.  Instead, things stopped completely once I finally fell asleep early in the morning and luckily they had not headed down yet.

38 weeks edit

Fast forward about a week later.  I had an appointment on Monday the 12th with one of my midwifes, at 39 weeks and 4 days.  They don’t routinely do cervix checks because it can be rather useless info as you can go around dilated for weeks.  Historically I do not show any progress as far as effacement or dilation until it is go time.  I asked to be checked anyway and I was about a centimeter and a half effaced and about the same dilated.  She offered and I gladly had her sweep my membranes.  At the previous appointment, which I also had asked to be checked at, even after that little bout of labor, I wasn’t even effaced enough for her to sweep my membranes.

39 weeks edit

Later that day I had acupuncture which I had done the previous two days as well.  I have a really great acupuncturists, Sarah Baden at Acupuncture for Wellness who I received treatment from at the beginning of this journey in preparation for the embryo transfer.  We were coming full circle!  She gave me the special treatment, using an electric stimulation machine to try and help induce.  I had been taking evening primrose for several months and I started taking black cohosh via capsule two days prior.  Since my two kids both came right around 42 weeks I do my best to help soften my cervix as much as possible in advance.  At the very least, my antics work to keep my head in the game.

I hadn’t gotten very much sleep the night before.  I volunteer for a local foster care review board which meets the second Tuesday of each month.  It dawned on me on Sunday that I might not be having the baby in the next few days so I should probably prepare for the cases that were scheduled for upcoming review.  As it turned out, Monday evening I emailed the board and told them I wasn’t going to be up for it this month anyway but not of course until I had done much of the preparatory work.

Monday night about 11 p.m. I had a nice strong contraction and then more that proceeded something like this:  20 minutes later then 19, 18, 16, then every 11 minutes for three contractions then 6 and 5 minutes for the next thirty or so minutes.  I breathed through them just like I was taught in my HypnoBirthing class.  HypnoBirthing, for those who don’t know, aims to release the fear so many women have of birthing and focuses on using breath and relaxation techniques to work with labor for a peaceful and calm birth carried out in a complete state of relaxation.  I used my breath to blow up an imaginary balloon in my womb, working to bring oxygen exactly where my body most needed it and keeping me connected to the baby and the birth.  I listened to music I had put together for the birth.  Around 1 a.m. I called the boys (that’s what I call Marce and Chris) and Jason who had agreed to be with me for the birth, and my sister who was going to attend but was not able to get off work.  She is a night shift nurse at a hospital and they were short staffed.

I got up to take a shower around that time and had some blood from the mucus plug which was super encouraging.  In my previous three births I don’t ever remember having seen that. I took a warm shower and contractions slowed to ten minutes.  I was so bummed thinking perhaps this was another false alarm.  Marce and Chris had stared heading down but then I told them they weren’t as close together anymore and they went back home with plans to check in later.  We were all gun shy because of the last time when labor stopped.

I laid in bed and breathed and meditated, mostly listening to some guided relaxations and music for a couple more hours, timing each contraction.  Eventually I got annoyed at the timing and a little frustrated with the fact that the contractions weren’t evenly spaced but really trying to just relax and let whatever was happening happen.  Had I not needed to notify anyone, it wouldn’t have mattered to me quite as much what the timing of the surges were.  They were anywhere from 4 to 8 minutes apart but they were intense enough I just wanted to get in the zone without timing anything.

I had called the on-call midwife earlier after my shower and then again about 4 a.m. I was looking for validation that it was the real deal.   The contractions were very much tolerable, I assumed because of the HypnoBirthing techniques I was using but then I also questioned if it was the real deal.  At the 4 a.m. call the midwife recommended that with 5-7 minute apart contractions I consider heading in.  I expressed concern about being there too soon and stated that I did not want an epidural.  I confirmed they would send me home if I shouldn’t be there.  It felt a little too soon yet every time a contraction came, I changed my mind and thought, I should head in.

I’m glad I started working my way to the hospital then because it took a while to get there.  I called Jason to come get me shortly after 4 a.m.  I got my kids situated, grabbed my stuff and about 5:15 a.m. we headed in.  The drive was not nearly as miserable as my previous drives while in labor.  I just zoned out with the music on my headphones.  I held a bottle of lavender and smelled it periodically and kept the window cracked, breathing in the fresh crisp night air.  At one point I told Jason there was no big hurry as he was going a bit fast.  I think he was in crisis mode like OMG the baby is coming and I was in, take our time and labor on the way mode.  This was definitely another difference from previous labors where I just wanted to die during the car ride and for him to go faster.  I was feeling real peaceful.  The hospital was about thirty minutes away in the night traffic.

We parked in a parking garage and I even walked through a contraction on the way in.  I felt pretty bad ass and nice and relaxed.  At the beginning of most surges I would initially start to tighten up but then quickly remind myself to get my breath where it needed to be – to my uterus!  Breathing into the contraction worked every single time.  In times past, I tried my best to detach from the contraction to escape the pain (as if) but breathing into and tapping into the calm from the meditative state I was actively in, was like magic.

I had called the hospital on the way in to ask them to start filling the tub with water.  When I got there, I was much more pleasant than with previous births.  I checked in without resenting that they were having me sign paperwork while in labor and they showed me to my room.  The same midwife who I had talked with on the phone was there.  She and my nurse were so good about stopping talking and doing stuff when I was having a contraction.  I kept my headphones on and that seemed to offer me an extra level of inward focus.  I asked for a yoga ball to sit on, something I had been using at home while I was making phone calls and then waiting for Jason to come.

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I let them know I did not wish to see the anesthesiologist (who likes to routinely look down laboring women’s throats, just in case) and I also declined to see the OB who likes to see VBAC patients to confirm it would be okay if a Cesarean becomes necessary.  (I knew this was coming and after discussing it with my midwives in earlier appointments, I decided to decline.)  I had already signed a “trial of labor” agreement of some sort which basically said I agree to get a C-section if it doesn’t work, hospital policy.

To be a good sport and choose my battles, after several previous conversations with my midwives who always took me seriously, I decided to allow a heplock to be put in place.  I was able to sit upright on the bed while a nurse took some time, using quite a few antics like a blood pressure cuff and warm towel, to get it into place.  Surprisingly, this did not take me out of the zone.  I think my good attitude about it all was very helpful.  I did not mind having the heplock in place.  Of course it was not attached to anything.  I did have to ask for them to turn the lights back down after they had turned them way up for the heplock.

The nurse got me all set up with the wireless fetal monitoring system.  The round monitoring devices were held in place with a wide, tight belly wrap.  After some research and much discussion with my midwives who, again, always discussed things respectfully and honestly distinguishing between what was hospital politics and what was done for medical reasons, I decided that I would allow continuous monitoring due to the fact that I was a VBAC.  One sign of a ruptured uterus is a slow decline in the heart rate and the strength of contractions over a period of time.  While very few VBAC attempts end in a rupture, I was comfortable with the monitoring since my body had been compromised having been cut and stitched up for the previous C-section.

I did specify that if the device itself was causing alarm that was not rooted in the actually heart rate, I would ask to be monitored every 5-7 minutes with a Doppler before, during and after a contraction.  A midwife helped me come up with this alternative just in case the monitoring itself began to interfere with the birth.  When they first got me hooked up, the room filled with the sound of the thud of the heart beat and I asked if they could turn it down and turn the screens away as well.  I did not want to have the focus on the machines and the heart rate the whole time.  I asked if they could make sure to not make a commotion if a heart rate or two was lost or variable unless there was a founded issue or concern.  I made the same request an hour later when the next midwife and nurse came on.  During the labor, they did have to move the monitor a few times as the baby continued to drop further into my pelvis and they would turn up the device then to help them adjust it but then always turn it back down.  The wireless monitor was not an issue at all and still allowed me to be in the water and move around all that I wanted to.

At some point early on at the hospital, the midwife checked me and I asked her to tell me how far dilated I was.  She asked if I was sure since I had written on my birth plan not to discuss with me or my attendants how far along I was unless there was a concern.  I recall with the birth of Baby E how defeated I felt when I was checked and only at 4 centimeters after I had been swearing that she was going to be born at any minute.  I was so glad she had read my birth plan and was paying attention to it!  I said, thank you for checking and asked if she could tell me only if I was at 4 or greater but otherwise I would just know I had some work to do.  While she was checking she said I was a little over 4 and asked if she could stretch my cervix a little to see how far it could stretch.  I was so happy that she asked.  This is the sort of stuff that some birth attendants do not ask about which often leave women feeling violated.  I said, yes please, and she said she could move my cervix to a five and a half.  I was happy with this.  It meant we were well on our way.  I was having a very comfortable labor and was feeling confident.  I knew they would not need to check me for another four hours unless something came up.

Once I was all checked in, I labored on my side, so I could rest.  I got up shortly after and went to the restroom.  Then I labored sitting on the yoga ball with my head on pillows on the bed.  Jason got my Bluetooth speaker set up for me to connect my music to but I preferred the headphones.

The midwife had spoken with the OBGYN and let them know I did not wish to see them and the OB wanted her to just touch base with me to see that I would be okay with a C-section if it became necessary, so she checked in with me about that.  She always talked quietly to me and I kept my eyes closed and told her absolutely and thanks for checking.

At one point the anesthesiologist came bursting in the room announcing with her loud German accent, “I’m here for the epidural!”  I opened my eyes, confused, thinking she wanted to do her general patient check.  I told her I did not wish to see her and she asked loudly and cheerfully if this was room 8.  I said yes but I do not want to see her.  She said there must have been a mistake but if I change my mind and want an epidural to just let her know!  I told her I just want her to leave and then once she was gone I appreciated the calm environment that my room was SO MUCH MORE.  It was just me and Jason, who came and went, having been in search of coffee at one point, and the nurse and midwife quietly coming and going but leaving me alone.  I’m happy it was just us during this time.  About an hour and a half after we arrived, the midwife and nurse shift ended, as I knew it would and the nurse was sweet to ask me if I’d rather her give report in the hallway instead of at my bedside which is standard.  I said the hall would be great.

The boys were on their way and I really didn’t think much about them.  Last time, with Baby Girl E, I had been so worried they would miss the birth and this time I just focused on breathing without another care in the world.

After a while I asked Jason if the tub was ready, the midwife had told him how far up the water would be when it was full and he said it was.  I got my swimsuit top on and climbed in.   I made an impulse purchase in buying a maternity swimsuit late in my pregnancy and using it at the birth sort of eased my conscious about the frivolous purchase – bonus.

The tub felt like heaven on earth, the warmth further relaxing my body and buoyancy working to hold me up.  I really like to be upright in labor but holding all 200 plus pounds of myself and baby up on hands and knees can get real wearisome especially going on zero sleep.  I was able to rest my head and arms over the side of the tub and let my body float.  Then as I felt the urge, I would rest on my knees or on my feet in a squatting position.  None of these positions wore on me in the tub as they would have outside of it.  I had to ditch the headphones but Jason put my speaker right next to the tub and I zoned right out.

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I’d like to take a moment to talk about perhaps the biggest crisis in this birth.  Of all the belongings I packed for the hospital, extra shirts, underwear, pants, comfortable night gowns a swim suit, toiletries, chargers, food, even fresh pressed vegetable juice, I did not bring with me in my bag, on my person or in my purse, the most basic essential item to have at any birth, a hair tie.  For a while it was okay.  I asked the staff if they could locate one but nothing came of it.

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Can I get some sympathy for the lack of a hair tie?

I labored in the tub and my contractions slowly became stronger.  I was no longer content to listen to the music I had put together for the birth and found myself gravitating toward some guided HypnoBirthing meditations.  There was one by Kathryn Clark and HypnoBirthing Hub, “Relaxation Triggers and Special Place” that involved the imagery of ocean waves and something about just letting the waves wash in and out, that I really liked.

There were a few times that as I was exhaling, my body bore down and I told Jason I was pushing if he wanted to get the midwife.  I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted anyone to come.  I imagined just giving birth on my own without being bothered by the medical staff.  The midwife came and wanted to check me to see if I was fully dilated.  I obliged, even turned over onto my back in the water so she could do so more conveniently.  She told me I was dilated to seven so not to push yet.  It didn’t entirely bother me that she told me how far I was dilated even though I had asked not to hear the number.  I think a simple, you are close but not fully dilated yet would have sufficed but seven was good enough news.  It would have really bothered me had I been something like five which is why I had asked not to be informed.  I didn’t want to be bothered by my “progress” or lack thereof since that is something that can change so quickly.  I think her intention was to spare me some sort of damage that I might do pushing but the truth is I wasn’t doing anything, my body saw fit have a little expulsion reflex and that was neither here nor there.

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The nurse in training, adjusting the wireless monitor.

My hair was really bothering me and an angel of a nurse located a hair tie for me as I was starting to get pretty annoyed with my hair in my face and trying to keep it dry.  I labored in the sitting position in the water for a while and then turned back over so I could rest my head on the tub.  Labor was intense but I felt good and in control.

I asked Jason if he had an ETA on the boys.  I mostly wanted to make sure they were not out in the lobby being refused admittance or something.  The nurse assured me that everyone was expecting them.  I believe it was shortly after I had been checked for the second time that they arrived, around 8:30 am.  I recall them entering and saying hi though I’m not entirely sure I responded.  I recall shushing everyone as I heard Jason sort of recapping how far I was last dilated and where I was when I arrived.  I wanted to hear nothing of dilation and progress and the normal dialog that often accompanies birth.  I just wanted to get through the next contraction with the calmness I was thus far able to maintain.

At that point I was very intent on listening to guided HypnoBirthing meditations.  I listed to four of them specifically as one played after the next and the one or two times they ended in just the background music, I started them over.   In the weeks preceding labor, I hadn’t particularly enjoyed the meditations and preferred meditating or relaxing to my music and the “healing chants” soundtrack that my acupuncturist had given me but at this point, I was clinging probably not so much to the words as the sound of the guide’s voice.  Around 9 a.m. I had another spontaneous push which I’m quite certain cleared my bowls of the last of their contents.  I was grateful that early in labor I had a couple epic bowel movements so there wasn’t much there.  (Sorry, did I forget to warn you that I only do tell all version of birth stories.  I’ll get to the hemorrhoids in a bit so don’t change the channel…)

The sun had risen and my room was no longer dark.  As beautiful as the view on this crisp clear day was, the hospital stationed with a spectacular view of Portland, the Willamette River and even Mount Hood in the distance, I missed the cozy dark.  I kept my eyes closed anyway but I should have asked for the blinds to be closed for the privacy the darkness offered me.  I was really feeling like it was go time as I began exhaling my breath focusing it in the direction of my vagina to aid my body’s natural ability to nudge the baby out sans violent pushing efforts.  Shortly after that I organically pushed again and I totally birthed the water sack.  It was the strangest feeling.  I felt like I had given birth, completely felt it come out but I knew it was too small to be the baby’s head and I was a little confused.  I had only ever previously felt my waters break from the trickle or gush it left.  But so late in labor, when it happened, I pushed the actual sack out and also felt the rush of fluid flowing out.  Later, after birth, the midwife held up the beautiful sack that the baby and amniotic fluid had been in – it was so big and seemed sacred, having kept the baby safe for so long.

I knew it would just be minutes before the baby was born as I kept breathing down every time a rush would come.  The contractions were intense but I continued to be immersed in the meditations and relaxation.  I reminded myself often not to tense up and to embrace the surges and breathe in to them and this helped a lot even though it was getting harder.  I had begun to vocalize, deeply moaning and grunting at times.  The midwife and a couple other people had come in.  My eyes were still closed and I was pretty oblivious to who was there. At some point the midwife quietly let me know with some proper words I cannot quite remember that I had passed some stool.  It was a courtesy to tell me as some women “get a little sensitive” about that.  I told her something to the effect of that I couldn’t care less and if they could scoop out what they could I would be happy.  Hello, we are giving birth, poop happens!  There were also bits of blood tainting the water.

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I kept my legs wide open to aid the baby in his descent.  Periodically I got up on my feet in a full on squat.  With my newfound urges to bear down the midwife wanted to check me again.  After my refusal to turn around, she checked me from behind and confirmed I was fully dilated.  I’m not entirely sure how long I stayed in the water, pushing with contractions.  At one point the midwife was coaching me in pushing, probably saying something like to give a good big push or something like that and someone (I thought it was Jason but he said it wasn’t, so I’m assuming it was Marce or Chris as no other men were present and it was a dude) said something to the midwife about me not wanting to be guided in pushing, as per the birth plan.   I thought that was pretty awesome.  I also was pretty sure I was ready for the baby to be born a couple contractions ago and reasoned that maybe the midwife could make this happen a little sooner since it wasn’t happening as I had expected.  I thought maybe she knew something I didn’t so I said it was okay, I don’t mind being coached – for better or worse.

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After a while the midwife mentioned that I might have better luck out of the water to better work with gravity.  I asked how I could be any better gravitated as I was already upright and she mentioned the buoyancy.  I think she was sort of thinking whatever is happening now is not exactly working either.  I was super eager to do anything possible that I thought could help as I was finding myself losing my focus a more with each contraction.  No amount of breathing into my womb or “birth breathing” seemed to be sufficient to keep me fully grounded.  I was able to climb right onto the bed that they wheeled to the tub and stay upright for a few surges which by this point were coming one right after another.

Upright in bed

This upright position did not last very long at all because it was too much work for me to hold myself up.  By this point I had been awake for over 24 hours having only gotten five hours of sleep that night prior.  I had been in peaceful labor for ten hours.  I had a really good foundation of relaxation and endorphins built up but had been slipping out of the zone for probably the previous 20 minutes.  Jason tried gentle touch massage, another HypnoBirthing technique that works to increase endorphins but I didn’t care to be touched at all.

I thought about the births I had seen with a women laying on their sides so I laid down imaging I could give birth that way.  That lasted one very difficult contraction and then I laid on my back, somewhat upright in a sitting back position.  For the next thirty minutes or so, I pushed and pushed and pushed, being guided by the birth team trying various positions.  This was the point I began to get mouthy.  Basically, every time I was asked or it was suggested to do something I said, “No” or “Why.”

Birthing on back

In case you are wondering who all these people are, I don’t really know. OHSU is where I gave birth and they are a teaching hospital (or whatever that is called). I know one of the nurses, (on the right) was in training. I assume the woman next to my midwife was a midwife in training. I had given permission for students to be present, just not to do pelvic exams. I think the woman in green was there for the baby but I’m not sure. Maybe she was a CNA? There was another attendant not pictured here who was there for the baby. It is a heck of a lot of people in attendance but it didn’t bother me and they were only there for the pushing phase.

At times with some coaching to do so, I was holding my legs up but I really hated that because I was too tired and it just didn’t feel comfortable or productive, even if it was productive.  For a while the nurses were holding my legs up and back.  At one point we used stirrups.  My favorite position was when I was resting my feet on the brace they attached at the end of the bed that reached from one side of the bed over the top and to the other side.  I was able to hold onto and pull on a knotted sheet that was tied from the center of the pole above the foot of the bed.

Let me back up a bit, to about two weeks before all this.  I told you to stay tuned.  While I though at times before in my life that I have had hemorrhoids, I realized when a big fat one popped out late in pregnancy, that I never really had had a genuine one before.  I hadn’t in pregnancy been constipated, I was quite regular but none the less, I got a big fat hemorrhoid.  It was painful in an eerie, pressure sort of way.  I talked to my midwife about it and especially what it would mean during labor and delivery.  She said not to worry, nothing negative from a medical point of view was likely to happen during birth and if it became an issue of pain they could press on it for counter pressure.  I treated it with an over the counter cream which was mostly good for a protective layer as it hurt to wipe without the cream.  During birth, I was hardly aware of it.  My conscious knew that the pushing must be wreaking havoc on the hemorrhoid which did turn into a big fat ring of hemorrhoids.  My bum was more of an issue post-postpartum than my vagina but it was all completely manageable and not the end of the world.  It was a non-issue during the birth.

I do not think giving birth is an innately painful thing and I learned in my HypnoBirthing class and HypnoBirthing literature that it is often these stories of pain and fear that contribute to perpetuated pain and fear in fellow woman’s births.  But, I am telling my story how it was and it did include some pain.  I had the most peaceful labor, up to the pushing part, of any labor I had previously had.  I didn’t feel like crying or losing it ever.  I was pleasant, calm and grounded, not afraid.  The midwives and nurses were excellent, respect me and let me determine the tone of the labor.  They mostly just left me alone as was my wish.  It was hard work but it was wonderful and peaceful and I’m so glad Marce and Chris got to see that birth doesn’t have to be crazy and excruciating.  However, in all honestly, I merely survived the last 40 minutes or so of the birth.  When looking back on the videos, while you can tell I was so ready for Baby Boy E to come out, and you could see I was impatient with the staff, nothing captured the severity of the pain I was in.  It literally felt like I was tied to a torture chamber being relentlessly hurt, pain radiating through my hips and uterus.  What got me through were the attempts to ground myself with breath, reassurance by my midwife that everything was okay and the plain and simple fact that I had no option but to endure, as millions of women have done before me!  My music has stopped at some point and my nurse noticed and Jason was able to start it again but I was too far gone to hone back into it.  Maybe I should have tired headphones but I’m not that would have helped much.

Whenever they suggested a move, for the sake of delivery or anything else like to put a mat under me, I said “No” or “Why” or simply refused, though I always complied shortly after the suggestion.  At one point, and it makes more sense now that I’ve seen the videos of the labor and birth, after I had been pulling on that sheet with my feet on the poles, and babies head was beginning to be visible, they broke down the pole and had me basically lower my hips and legs more.  I was furious.  Not really furious, I didn’t have it in me to actually be angry but I was just bewildered because every time I would move it would send another crushing wave that hurt so badly.  I was mouthy with the midwife.  Boy was I mouthy!  I asked why they were moving me and she said to keep my perineum intact and had I had the capacity to form the words I would have told her fuck my perineum, stop moving me!  At all!  Ever!  I didn’t realize how close I was at that point.  By my calculations, Baby Boy E should have already been born and while I was not at all feeling like there was a crisis, I was simply overwhelmed by the pain I was in.  I was also exhausted and a bit confused as to why it was taking so long.

By then, since around the time I first starting pushing in the water, the nurse had been monitoring the baby’s heart rate with a Doppler.  Thankfully, everything was beautiful!  His heart rate was never, ever an issue.  If ever there had been anything suspicious, there was never anything founded and no one ever said a word.  They had turned up the sound on the Doppler machine by then since the nurse didn’t have the luxury of watching it and needed to hear it, which didn’t bother me at all.

I was coached though every contraction, to tuck my chin and push and push and push and push harder and longer.  Later that evening I wondered at my puffy red face and when I looked closer in the mirror I saw it was all the tiny little blood vessels that had burst.  At one point the midwife said something to the effect of just needing me to commit to pushing long and hard.  I was having a little battle in my mind because I kept thinking, no!  I thought my body would expel the baby instinctively as it was meant to do.   And also, I couldn’t imagine how I could give any more anything to any of the pushes.  I thought, if I could push longer and harder, don’t you think I would have already had the baby born!  I wanted nothing more than to push him out.

On more than one occasion, I demanded that the midwife just use forceps to get the baby out.  There’s one for the baby book, “Surrogate kept demanding adamantly that the midwife remove you with forceps.”  At one point, when they were saying I was getting close, I said in complete earnest, TAKE HIM.  I truly thought, if they could see him or access him in any way, they needed to just get him out of me.  And then I wondered, have I given up?  I was ready for them to remove the baby with forceps.  Can you image that I’m saying this?!  I thought maybe I had given up, but then I swear I’d push with everything I had the next contraction.  Jason was up by my head telling me I could do this and to wait for the next surge.  The nurse reassured me that my wanting them to “take him” was a sign that the end was near.

At one point, just after I asked if there was still water in the tub, thinking something’s got to change, I sort of accidentally let a contraction build and, fueled by an organic push, did push with all my might and could feel the baby was indeed crowning.  She urged me to hold the baby there with pressure so I didn’t lose ground and I was able to do that between surges.  The midwife also, at this point or just before, had told me that they might need me, upon their word, to quickly roll over onto my hands and knees after the head was born.  Again, my mind was fucking blown.  I just couldn’t image why in the hell they would want to cause me such pain.  But I did trust her.  Despite my doubts about all this pushing, I knew I was in good hands, the nurses and midwife were constantly reassuring and telling me I was making progress and everything was going well.  I believed them even though I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that this kept going on.  After saying “why” or some other “oh my god do you hate me?” remark I said I could roll over if told to do so.

With the next contraction, I pushed and pushed and pushed and imagined that if I kept pushing I just might be done with this pain (not the first time I had this dialog in my head) and so I took a quick breath and pushed with all my might some more and more and more and then his head began to be born and I could feel it and didn’t want to lose it so I pushed some more and I pushed his head out!  The midwife asked me to hold on a second, I talked back about not understanding why I couldn’t just… and then before I finished, twenty seconds after his head emerged I pushed his body out.

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It took me a few seconds to comprehend it was done and I asked if he was out and then opened my eyes and looked at the most amazing little purplish/pink body, his squished up perfect face, head covered in dark short hair, arms and legs flailing, embraced in Marce’s outstretched arms.  Relieved, traumatized and in disbelief that it actually finally happened, he had been born, I just whispered, “Oh my God, he’s so precious, he’s so precious, oh my God, he’s so precious.”  Chris cut the umbilical cord as Marce held Baby Boy E and they were so happy at this little miracle before us all and I just fell in love with them all, with little Baby Boy E who was finally born and his dads who were there with him and I rested my head back and tears were rolling down my face, in honestly, not from the elation though I was beyond thrilled, but from the sheer gravity of what I had just been through, knowing it was over and I was okay and Baby Boy E was okay and everything was wonderful and perfect.

Tommer holding baby

The drunken professions of love toward my IPs and their boy and family and my honor at getting to be a part and constant chanting of “Oh my God, that was so hard,” lasted about an hour.  Before they went to their own room Chris brought Baby Boy E to me and I got to hold him and I cried and fell even more in love with this little guy who had done the work with me, and with Chris and Marce and even Baby Girl E who now had a little brother she would get to meet soon.

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I’m not sure when the midwife realized this, I’m guessing sometime around the time she said she may have me move to all fours, or maybe she suspected much sooner or maybe not until his head was born, but the reason Baby Boy E had not been born with those early pushes and breaths and the reason the pushing phase lasted so very long (Please note, I’m well aware that the term “so very long” is relative in birthing.  I’m not comparing with other women, only speaking for my own birth experience.) was because he was transverse, with his nose to my right hip instead of toward my spine.


Check out that little dent in his head! Baby worked hard at this too!

This leads me to take a moment to declare that I am releasing any sort of guilt or responsibility or even inquisition I have had over the two of three previous births I have had, before Baby Boy E, where interventions were implemented.  My first birthing experience was with my son who is now twelve.  He was born vaginally after a post 41 week induction, my water being broke by the OB and an ensuing epidural.  I was twenty years old and fully uneducated and unprepared enough about such matters to have done things any differently.  His head was transverse, nose to hip, and he was assisted out of the womb with forceps and still bears the scars on his face where the forceps cut him.  It was a scary birth for me and his dad, Jason and it was painful for my son.  He was bruised and cut and only Jason could calm him for the first couple of days after he was born.  We had to handle him so gently.  My son was nine and a half pounds.  There was no tearing.

My second birth was the birth of my daughter who is now nine.  She was born, close to 42 weeks, naturally in the water at a free standing birth center with no assistance at all.  Her head was nice and tucked, nose to my spine, as it should be.  While the labor and delivery were certainly intense, once I was fully dilated, she came out without prolonged pushing.   My daughter was nine pounds.  There was no tearing.

My third birth was with Baby Girl E, Baby Boy E’s sister.  Labor came fast and hard with her, my water broke on the second contraction.  There was no pre-labor or warm up labor and very little time between contractions from the beginning.  I received an epidural with her and I think unless my new-found HypnoBirthing skills could have helped me cope better or lessened the severity or intensity of the pain, I would do the same again if I had a labor like that again. (HypnoBirthing likely would have been helpful but I didn’t have those skills then which is neither here nor there.)  Eventually her heart rate kept declining to dangerous levels.  Weather that had anything to do with the epidural and/or Pitocin that followed, I am completely finished guessing about.  She never dropped very far, despite my guided pushing efforts, and could not be assisted out with forceps.  She was born via cesarean where it was seen that she was also transverse, head to my side and chin tilted up.  Baby Girl E was eight pounds and four ounces.

Naturally, I concluded that the epidurals and Pitocin, which I had received with both of the transverse babies, my son and Baby Girl E, was to blame for the ill positioning and eventual interventions, as so much of birth is a delicate hormone process.  Maybe the epidurals and/or Pitocin were to blame, at least in part.  However, I did not have an epidural with baby Boy E.  I was not induced and there was no Pitocin.  I had a slow and peaceful labor with him and HE WAS STILL TRANSVERSE!  I’m sure I could blame myself for not sitting upright or squatting enough during my pregnancy, to help with positioning, though I don’t think I will.  I am quite finished trying to determine what me or the system or anything or anyone else did wrong!  Simply, Baby Boy E was transverse but thankfully his labor was such that I was able to tolerate it without the use of drugs and his heart rate, for whatever reason, maybe because of the lack of interventions though we’ll never know, was solid and he was able to endure the lengthy, tough delivery.  End of story.

I am filled with gratitude that he was born naturally and free from interventions!  Very shortly after the birth I thanked the midwife for not using forceps.  She smiled and said, “I don’t know why I would have, everything was progressing great and it was ONLY an hour of pushing” and she reassured me that I did a great job.  Baby Boy E was eight pounds and one ounce and there was no tearing.


I told you, HE’S SO PRECIOUS!

I’m so happy to have had all these birthing experiences and what a wonderful and epic finality it was that Baby Boy E and I, with the amazing support of those in attendance, were able to pull off this phenomenal, at times grueling and amazing natural vaginal birth post cesarean!  I’m so glad his parents got to witness it though I would have preferred if they got to witness the kind free from lengthy painful pushing but oh well!  I’m really pleased with OHSU and the nurses and midwives there who allowed me the safe environment to be able to tap into the deep relaxation necessary to have pulled off this birth.

I am forever grateful and honored more than words can describe, to have gotten to be the one to carry and birth this precious little boy to his parents!  I’m glad Jason was willing to take me to the hospital and be there with me even though our relationship has shifted.  He even left me with his coffee after the birth as he left to go get our kids.  I’m so thankful for my sister who was able to meet me at the hospital later that afternoon and take me home that evening after I was discharged.  She stayed with me through the next day, taking care of the kids and filling my fridge with food.  I’m happy to be surrounded by so many friends, three doulas included: Kristina my doula who was there with me for the birth of my daughter and Baby Girl E, my friend and doula Lisa Marie, who was available had I needed her and my friend and doula, former midwife, Tiff who was also available for me had I needed her for this birth.  I have so many friends and family who have been so supportive throughout this surrogacy as well as the life changes I’m going through.  I’m at quite a transition and feel very satisfied and empowered by all that I’ve accomplished, first and foremost, bringing Baby Boy E into the world to join his loving family.  I couldn’t have done it without my people who I get so much strength and encouragement from.


I had to share this picture again. It’s my favorite. Baby Girl E meeting her baby brother.

Baby Boy 1 wk

Marce and Chris are awesome and always welcoming to me. They let me come visit a week after the birth and I got to feed Baby Boy E some of my breast milk from a bottle and hold this precious little guy!


Ellie 20 months

Big sister!!! I also got to see Baby Girl E when I visited a week after birth! My heart is full!


baby boy 2wk


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  • Tiff

    That was a beautiful story. I am endlessly amazed at the strength of women and particularly of your strength Dana. You incorporated so much love and acceptance into your birth philosophy. You have such a generous spirit. Thank you for sharing this experience.

  • Julie

    What a great story. It really does show how every baby and every labor is different. My second was also my best and I am hoping to have another labor and delivery like that with this little one.

  • Brittany

    Such a beautiful story! May I ask, what surrogacy agency did you use? I have applied with New Beginnings. Have you heard any good/bad about them? Please share!

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