Jemma’s Birth Story

My birth story took me the last 5 weeks to write. “Why?” you ask. Well, for one, Jemma’s birth was 40 hours long. 40 hours is not easily summarized in a few paragraphs. Two, I have a beautiful, bouncing baby in my arms most of the day. Three, said baby makes it difficult to type in a normal way. That’s right, I typed  this whole thing with one hand.
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Before you begin … This is a birth story. If you aren’t interested in the nitty gritty details of how babies are born I suggest not reading. You can always come back tomorrow for a fun giveaway post or a sweet picture of my girl :)


I had resigned myself to the fact that my first child would be born late. I was a week late which offered me some historical proof and statistically firstborn babies are born at 41 weeks and 1 day. When Dominic and I first discovered we were expecting we calculated our due date as September 30th, but after meeting with our midwife it was moved to October 9th. Using the 41 week and 1 day rule, October 17th became my new expectation.

When I woke up for work on Thursday, September 30th I was ready for a hum-drum normal day. We had had a midwife appointment on Tuesday and she didn’t think anything was amiss. She had even ok’d a trip to Olympia that weekend for a dear friend’s memorial service.

I usually work until 7 pm, but after my last meeting of the day I decided to go home early. I arrived home around 5:30 pm and Dominic and I decided to go to Red Robin for dinner. I had my birthday coupon for a free entree and opted to get the Prime Rib Dip topped with Swiss cheese and sauteed onions … and of course, a side of fries with ranch. This mama was hungry! After getting home I changed into comfy clothes and we settled into the living room to watch a Tivo’ed episode of Survivor.

I was feeling a bit uncomfortable and rolled from the couch to the floor to do some pelvic rocks – my favorite exercise for any pregnancy discomfort. After stretching out I got back on the couch and laid down. The lights were off and I started to drift off to sleep. Survivor hadn’t caught my attention, I guess. About halfway through the episode I felt a small trickle, “Snap!” I thought, “Another pregnancy woe … peeing my pants.” I popped up from the couch to head to the bathroom and whoosh, my pants were drenched.

At this point my mind started spinning. It was only September 30th. I was planning to go to work next week. Even more, I was planning to be pregnant for a few more weeks.
I’m not ready to be a mama.
I’m not ready for labor.
And the spinning continued while I yelled for Dominic. “I think my water broke!” He responded with a drowsy, “What did you say?” So I yelled louder, “I THINK MY WATER BROKE, JUST COME AND SEE!” So there we were … Dominic standing and I sitting on the toilet in the tiny hall bathroom looking at my drenched grey leggings and listening to more fluid drip into the toilet. Moments like these seem very surreal. It’s like the top of a roller coaster, before you drop. Except this roller coaster doesn’t tell you how many drops or spins there will be. Worse, you don’t know how long this ride will last. Is this a short roller coaster or one that goes on for days?

Dominic called our midwife, Lucina, to update her on our exciting news. We planned to labor at home for as long as possible. Lucina ok’d a warm bath to help me relax so I made my way to the bath tub. As the bath filled, I called my mom. Just like when I told her I was pregnant, she thought I was joking! I must be a pretty funny girl, because she always thinks I’m pulling her leg when I announce big news. I told her to pack her bags (my family lives 2 hours away) and be ready for a call in the next day or so. Long before labor, Dominic and I had decided we wanted our baby’s birth to be an intimate moment so we planned for family to join us after our little one’s arrival rather than being in the room during delivery. 

I settled into the bath tub while Dominic called his mom and brother. I could hardly believe this was the beginning and our little baby would be joining us soon. Around 9 pm I moved into bed since Grey’s Anatomy was about to start. Nothing like a good TV show to help pass the time! Contractions were pretty frequent, every 5-7 minutes, so it was hard to concentrate. I laid down and tried my best to relax during contractions and moved onto the birthing ball when laying down became uncomfortable. I definitely hadn’t expected contractions to come on this quickly. With the intensity of my contractions I was feeling a bit nervous about our 40 minute drive to the birth center. Dominic called Lucina again to get her opinion on when we should make the drive. Since I was anticipating the drive I wasn’t truly relaxing; Dominic and Lucina decided it would be best to pack up and move to the birth center so I could feel more settled.

Luckily we had our bags packed so within a few minutes we were on our way. During our labor preparation we had chosen to birth at the Tualatin center. Come to find out Lucina was at the Portland center with another mama so we changed plans and drove downtown. I had always worried about hitting traffic while in labor, but at 10:30 pm it was smooth sailing. We arrived in record time and I only had 4 contractions while in the car.

Lucina and Lindsey, our midwife’s apprentice, greeted us and led us to our birthing suite, The Tierra Room. The lights were low and the HUGE tub was filling with water. I wanted lots of pictures of my labor so Dominic started clicking away … good thing too, because as my labor progressed we have fewer and fewer pictures. Lindsey made me a delicious berry smoothie to boost my energy since we all knew I had a long night ahead of me.   

38 weeks and 5 days pregnant … excited to find out if we’re having a little boy or girl
There wasn’t a clock in our room so my labor was not dictated by time. The only “time” I knew was the rising and setting sun. Yep, I saw both … twice. Throughout the night I spent time in the bath, swaying from side to side as contractions came and went. I also found that perching on the edge of the bed through contractions was a comfortable position. If you can call any position “comfortable”. As the hours passed I felt strong, then I’d feel discouraged. I’d get a dose of encouragement and I would be back on Cloud 9 – all of this hard work was one more step towards meeting my baby. At one point I begged to go to the hospital for some type of pain relief. I had been up since 6 am on Thursday and was feeling exhausted. I also told Dominic we would be adopting the rest of our children :)
My perched-on-the-edge-of-the-bed contraction pose
In the early hours of Friday morning our back-up midwife, Adele, joined us. Lucina had a third mama go into labor so Adele and another midwife had been called in so each of the three laboring mamas had a midwife with them. I had my first cervical check and Adele determined I was complete, all except for a tiny lip of cervix. I squatted on the toilet and Adele attempted to move it. Contractions were coming on strong and I was feeling the need to push all while Adele was trying to morph my insides. Talk about discomfort. I pushed, she pushed. I groaned and she encouraged me to keep it up. Apparently I was doing great … even though I felt miserable and out of energy. At this point, I knew it was Friday and I remember telling Adele, “October 1, 2010, that’s a good day to have a baby … 10-1-10. Not quite the 10-10-10 we had hoped for, but it still has a ring to it!” In my mind, pushing meant within hours I would have a sweet little baby in my arms. I could hardly wait! This gave me a rush of energy to push through the wall of pain. After a few hours, we determined I was getting swollen from pushing against the cervix lip and needed to spend some time just breathing through contractions so my lady parts could unswell. Lovely.

Breathing through contractions while feeling the urge to push was one of my least favorite things. It takes so much control to hold back what your body is trying to do. At 11 am on Friday I had moved back into the tub. I was complete, but our little one was a bit high and the head was tipped sideways – asynclitic. I started pushing again in hopes of making some progress since labor progression is the only way to solve an asynclitic position. 

Lucina checking baby’s heart tones
Adele’s apprentice, Serena, joined my team of amazing birth support midday on Saturday. Serena is a certified doula and had just started at Andaluz as an apprentice so we hadn’t met during any of my prenatal appointments; I was going to be her first birth. She was by my side during some of the toughest moments of labor applying counter pressure to my back during some hellish contractions and speaking strength into my soul. Gee, that sounds so corny, but really, when you’ve hit rock bottom and you are the only one who can help yourself climb out, someone’s words of encouragement can mean everything.

As the day dragged on I became quite discouraged. Two rounds of pushing and no baby yet. I was thoroughly exhausted and felt somewhat delusional between contractions. Part of me thought my midwives would say I needed to go home and come back later. They would never say that which proves how crazy I was feeling. Part of me thought labor would stop and I would just stay pregnant. During this time my contractions took on a life of their own. At times they felt very masculine and feminine, sounds crazy, no? I associated the contractions that were more of a deep pressure pain, causing me to moan, as “he” and the shorter, sharp contractions as “she”. Delusional described me well by Friday afternoon.

Although I was fading, In order to avoid a transfer to the hospital I was ready and willing to do whatever was necessary to shift baby’s head. I did a healthy amount of squats between contractions and climbed the stairs. I walked the halls in a blue bathrobe feeling more mondo than ever. Waddle was an understatement at this point. I asked much too often, “How much longer?” hoping someone knew the answer. Adele contacted an acupuncturist and chiropractor who specialized in helping laboring women progress.

I worked with Ruthie, the acupuncturist, first. She was amazing; a very calm spirit who played a huge role in helping me to relax and realign my thoughts. This was my first experience with acupuncture and although a bit hazy, I recall it being an odd, but soothing feeling. A little pinch and I felt a wave of sensation that made each contraction a bit more manageable. I had the needle stickers on my legs, feet, hands and ears – she even connected them for a little electro-acupuncture. Kind of weird in a Frankenstein kind of way, but it did the trick. I was moving away from my lack of sleep delusion and back into reality. The reality that labor would not be forever (even though it had been 24 hours) and at some point I would be a mama with a baby in my arms instead of a mama with a baby lodged inside me.

After my acupuncture session ended I moved into the shower and bounced on the birthing ball. Serena and I visited about her plans to become a midwife between my contractions. By late Friday night the chiropractor had arrived. We worked together for about an hour and I launched into my third pushing phase. This time I was on the birthing stool and after pushing with all my might, feeling a bit of my baby’s hair and getting a rush of “This could be it!” I collapsed onto the bed in an effort to sleep between my slowing contractions.

Unbeknownst to me, Adele had called the hospital to prepare for a non-emergency transfer. She felt I was too tired to carry on and needed to get an epideral so I could rest and regain my energy in hopes of avoiding a cesarean. When she told me the plan I was disappointed. I was relieved. Scared. Hopeful. Complacent. We packed our things and I said goodbye to the sweet, calm place where I thought my baby would be born.

I rode with Adele and Dominic and Serena followed in our car. We left Andaluz in the wee hours of Saturday, October 2nd. That’s right … no 10/1/10 baby for me. The freeway on ramp was closed due to a late night accident so we took a round about way to the hospital. I had 5 contractions in the car, uncomfortable, but I obviously survived. 

We pulled up to Emergency, Adele grabbed a wheelchair and checked me into my first hospital experience ever. Nurses immediately attached me to the bed – blood pressure, fetal monitor and catheter. Dominic welcomed my mom into the room who we had asked to meet us at the hospital. She and my Dad, two sisters and in-laws had been on pins and needles since my water broke 30 hours before. Everything was fine with me and baby, no one was distressed, just tired.The anesthesiologist popped in around 2:30 am and within minutes my dangling legs were purple from the epideral. It didn’t hurt like I thought … then again, after 30 hours of non-medicated labor I was realizing I might have a higher pain tolerance than I originally believed. I was situated in bed and Dominic laid down on the window sill cushions to sleep. Adele and Serena went home for a few hours and our families set up in the waiting room. We planned to congregate in the morning, meet my OB and make a game plan.    

After hourly interruptions to check my blood pressure and baby’s heart rate, dawn arrived on the second day of my baby’s impending birth. We met our new doctor and his resident around 8 am and they put me on a pretty strict schedule. Follow their schedule or succumb to the knife. Ok, they didn’t quite say it like that, but they were emphatic that my water had been broken far too long and I needed to push my baby out or agree to a c-section. With a few hours of sleep in me, I was a renewed spirit and I was absolutely sure that I had not come this far to not push my baby out. So, the race began …

Epideral off. Contractions speeding up. Support team gathering. I was ready for a battle which would most definitely end in victory – also known as a sweet bundle in my arms. At 10 am I started pushing. The doctor gave me 1 hour. One hour to push like hell and either have my baby or hit some unknown mark where he would stop pressing the c-section idea. I started pushing with a mirror, you know, to check out what was happening down there. It wasn’t my cup of tea, so away it went. According to the resident, I made good progress and by 11 am no one was discussing a c-section. YEAH!

I pushed, I groaned and I begged to get out of bed. Being reclined was the most uncomfortable position. The idea of leaving bed was squashed, so I pressed on. The nurse and Dominic held me feet when I pushed. Serena kept my forehead cool with a wash cloth and Adele and the doctor offered words of encouragement and progress. At one point, instead of grabbing my legs when I pushed I pulled a sheet wrapped around the birthing bar. Dominic said my arms were as hard as rocks when I was bearing down. It’s a wonder I had anything left in me! Who would have guessed 4 hours of sleep could give a girl so much energy? I pushed through the ring of fire (which to my amazement actually exists), crowning, a mystery gender head, shoulders and then, Dominic’s announcement, “It’s a girl!”

I leaned back in bed, reached for my little girl and snuggled her close. Dominic cut her cord while I memorized her sweet face. Dominic whispered, “She looks like a Jemma,” and I heartily agreed. We hadn’t agreed on any boy names, so our little baby was lucky to be a girl. She could have been named Elsa or Tallulah, our other top picks, but there was no doubt in our minds that the little bundled we adored was definitely Jemma – our Jemma.

After 40 hours of labor I had accomplished what, at times, I thought was impossible. Our baby, a girl named Jemma Janell had arrived safely into our arms and hearts on Saturday, October 2nd, 2010 at 11:36 am. She weighed 8 pounds 10 ounces and was 21 1/4 inches long. My birth experience wasn’t exactly what I had planned or hoped for, but Jemma is everything I dreamed of and more. I am truly blessed to be her mama! 

Miss Jemma – about 1 hour old
Skin to skin with her Daddy
Snuggled up with Mama after her first nursing session
This quote from Helen Keller was in our room. The perfect description of motherhood.
Immediate family joining us after Jemma’s birth, they still didn’t know if we had a boy or girl at this point. Boy guesses wore blue and girl guesses wore pink.
Mimi and Aunt Katie’s excited faces … they guessed right … IT’S A GIRL!
Grandparents and aunties meeting the newest family member
We are finally a family of 3!
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Comments

  1. says

    Wow. What a beautifully written birth story. Makes me want to either have another baby or become a doula… or just keep reading well written birth stories. :)

  2. says

    I loved reading your birth story. It brought me back to my own labor of 41 hours (my epidural and a short power nap also came in the final 4 hours!)- and like you, I wouldn't change a thing! Birth is a beautiful thing, however it is experienced :)

  3. says

    What a beautiful story… I have been waiting patiently to hear this :) I am so glad that your move to the hospital was a non-emergency situation. You were able to follow your birth plan in the best way you could. So proud of your Gretchen!!!

  4. says

    Wow what an experience!!! Isn't it amazing what a woman's body can do?? Don't you feel like you can do anything now?? Amazing. I'm so happy that you have a healthy baby girl & that you didn't have to have a c-section! But in the end, we just do what we need to in order to get the baby out! You did WONDERFUL!! Seriously, you're hardcore.

  5. Georgia says

    Loved reading your story! Mine was VERY similar… over 30 hours of labor and 3 hours of pushing. But we also managed with no pain meds! I realized how incredibly stubborn I am. I felt a lot of the same things you did and we're thrilled now to have a precious baby! :)

  6. says

    Just stumbled upon your blog and really enjoyed your birth story. Hit home a little when you spoke of the long lengthy labor and the ring around the cervix (sounds like the song!). I was in labor for 30 hours and at times felt exactly like you described – nothing short of delusional! Amazing the strength us ladies get when it comes time to push our little ones out! Jemma is adorable!

  7. says

    Mmmmm…. I have needed a good, happy cry all day and birth stories always do that for me. :) When I was in labor with Liam, I announced quite angrily that the "ring of fire" was NOT a myth and I didn't like it only to have my husband break into song. Every time I hear that song now my lady bits hurt. Powerful experience childbirth!

    Anyway, love this story. And love that Dominic *knew* Jemma was right as soon as he saw her.

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