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Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals.
I co-host the Your Home Story podcast and believe you can love your home just the way it is, AND have the power to design and make big changes to make it better.
I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!
Mom to Otto born April 2018 and Lucy born August 2020!

Lucy's birth story

After Otto was born I knew it would take me a while until I felt ready to write down his birth story. My labor with him was intense, long, challenging, and stressful/scary for me and Jason. But thankfully, my labor with Lucy was a totally different experience and I felt so positive about it I was ready to write it down before we even left the hospital!

Preparing for Labor


Because of my experience the first time, while I know second labors tend to be easier in the first, I definitely was still apprehensive and had some anxiety not knowing what this birth would be like. Part of the reason for the difficult labor with Otto was his head is massive (runs in our family on both sides), although also he was in a posterior position so just wasn’t descending right. But, I did some research and learned that inducing at 39 weeks has had some favorable outcomes, and might help with a large baby or head. So during my third trimester appointments, I talked with each of the midwives about what they thought about inducing me at 39 weeks. They pretty much all said, if my body looks ready (favorable Bishop score—things like cervix dilating, effacing, and moving down) they would support it.

I really didn’t want to have to induce, as it can stretch labor out and I figured I’d love to let my body go into labor naturally (just not when baby is tooo big), but it’s stressful not knowing when that will be. Some of my fears about going into labor naturally were around managing childcare for Otto while we were at the hospital last-minute, and being totally exhausted if my labor began at 10 pm or something and we missed a whole night’s sleep. And, I was afraid of scaring Otto if I was having intense contractions around him, and afraid of stalling labor or having a really hard time on the car ride from home to the hospital. Of course, if we induced I was afraid of not progressing (if my body just wasn’t ready), and of extra painful contractions due to Pitocin (I was hoping to avoid an epidural this time). 

At my 38 week appointment I was I think 1.5 cm dilated, and shortly after that I started feeling mild contractions. I also started losing my mucous plug. None of these things happened at the end of my pregnancy with Otto so I was optimistic that my body was already getting ready and knowing what it was supposed to do this time. At my 39 week appointment, I was 3 cm dilated already and 90% effaced! I had a Bishop score of 8, and apparently 7 is their minimum for scheduling an elective induction. They did a membrane sweep to see if that would help get labor started.

However for some reason this particular midwife said she was happy to schedule me for an induction at 40 weeks, not 39. I still don’t understand why because I had been talking to them about inducing at 39 this whole time. In the moment I didn't have the voice to speak up and ask. She said had to check with the hospital and call me back about an induction time (then left me a voicemail with the 40-week date). But then I saw another midwife for another membrane sweep that Thursday (39.5 weeks) and she said she could induce me the next day. Jason and I had to think about it, but anyway, this all began a series of complicated and frustrating misunderstandings and scheduling/rescheduling of my induction. We also got bumped for the first induction we kept scheduled (elective inductions are, understandably, lowest priority for delivery rooms if the hospital is close to full, and evidently August is a busy time). 

My due date was Wednesday, August 12, though I had in my head 39 weeks (August 5) for a while instead. I’d planned to work until Friday, August 7 but at the beginning of that week I just felt so maxed out. Irregular but still-occurring mild contractions, mucous still coming out sometimes, general discomfort at the end of pregnancy, anxiety about labor (the experience itself and not knowing when it would start)... I had to cut it short and start my leave early. Thankfully my work is awesome and they were very understanding. My last day was Wednesday, August 5.

It ended up being really great to have a whole week off work before Lucy came, just hanging around with Jason and Otto and enjoying our summer backyard. Unfortunately it was tinged with stress of calls to the hospital and midwives about a million scheduling issues for the induction. At one point we were scheduled to induce Friday, then Saturday morning (bumped), Saturday afternoon (still full), Monday mid-day, then Wednesday morning. Somehow in all of this I pissed off the hospital or midwives by calling too much and having already rescheduled from the Tuesday (40 week) option they told me by voicemail. Also I had to drive in and get my nose swabbed for COVID tests twice because they had to be done 48-72 hours exactly from the induction date which kept moving. But really, none of this is that important. Let’s get to when stuff started happening.

First part of Active Labor


Wednesday the 12th (my due date) we were scheduled to induce at 7:30 am, but they said call an hour early to confirm. I got up at 6:20 and called—we were bumped AGAIN. I went back to bed.

Around 7:15 or 7:30 I woke up and started feeling the mild contractions again. I’d been doing a lot of third trimester and labor preparation yoga and meditation YouTube videos and trying to use positive affirmations to help with my anxiety and encourage labor to start... hadn’t worked yet but as I laid there I told myself, “My body is ready to birth my baby” and other mantras. Unlike all the other times the past week and a half, the contractions didn’t stop. I started timing them... 7-8 minutes apart at first and less than a minute long. Mild pain, really manageable. I asked Jason to let me stay in bed and get Otto up. They took a walk and played in the backyard while I laid in bed thinking positive labor thoughts, timing the contractions, and trying to relax.

Eventually I got up, made myself some eggs, and scrubbed the kitchen sink (it seemed important to do and I had the time!). All the while I was timing contractions and texting updates to Jason and my sister-in-law, a midwife who had just had her first baby 4 days before! At 9:30 I called my midwifes’ office and described the contractions and timing to the on-call nurse. She said to call back in an hour; she wanted them closer together and more intense before telling me to come in. At this point I was able to talk through them (pain level 2 out of 10, maybe) and they were 1.5-5 minutes apart and usually less than a minute long.

Jason and Otto came back and Otto sat on my lap and wanted bites of my eggs and to show me his Duplo guys—a little difficult while contracting regularly but I’d been feeling really sad about leaving him and having less time with him when baby was here, so I actually enjoyed it, though it did make things a little harder.

At one point we all ended up sitting on the kitchen floor and had some more, special Otto time. He played a game where he would gleefully run back and forth between us, and gave me the sweetest hugs. I'm so glad I passed Jason my phone and we captured these photos--nothing fancy and a little grainy but I treasure them, remembering these last moments with Otto as an only child (I'm tearing up writing this, actually). 

Then around 10:45 I called the midwife/nurse again, and my contractions at this point were consistently about 3 minutes apart, at least a minute long, and intense enough I had to stop talking to her and focus on my breath during the couple I had on the phone. The nurse gave the on-call midwife a call at the hospital; she said yes, sounds like real labor, time to come in! (I also said, please tell the hospital scheduling nurse she does not need to give me a call back about if there will be room for us to come in and induce today!)

We got to the hospital at about 12:15 pm. I had quite a few contractions on the drive in and they were getting stronger; I really hated when we were driving on bumpy road during one! We got checked in and our nurse took us back to our room. I was so excited to finally be in the place where I’d be laboring and having our baby!

I had made a birth preferences list this time around. For my labor with Otto my “birth plan” was going along with my home birth midwife whose values I agreed with and experience I trusted. Then, when we transferred to the hospital I was able to state some preferences but we also had to completely change our expectations due to how that labor ended up going. This time I made a short list of preferences for during labor (things like “avoid epidural if possible” and “try laboring in lots of positions”) and after baby came (like, “don’t wash baby for at least 24 hours,” “don’t clamp cord until it stops pulsating.”).

Around 12:45 they checked me; 4.5-5 cm. Not bad progress, but contractions were getting stronger and I was nervous for them to get even more painful before I got to 10 cm. Since I didn’t want an epidural, they only needed to do intermittent monitoring of the baby’s heart rate so I got hooked up to the monitors but then could take them off. The also put in an IV with a hep-lock in case they needed it to administer any medication or fluids later on.

Most of this time I was walking around and trying different positions (very important to me to do this more this time around), but Jason got these pics while I was sitting waiting for the IV.

During the painful peaks of each contraction, I told myself things like, “This is normal. It’s all going the way it’s supposed to. Nothing is wrong. My body can do this. My body is getting ready to deliver my baby. It’s supposed to feel like this.” and so on. It helped (at first).

My main labor coping strategy (last time and this time) has been my breath. I breathed in for 4 counts, then out for 6, and told myself meditation mantras like “Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile.” “I breathe in calm, I breathe out fear.” etc. In stressful situations I almost always find these things really helpful to help me calm down, but taking deep breaths (or any at all) became a problem as my contractions got stronger—every deep breath into my belly made each contraction hurt more. Then even shallow breaths hurt, but holding my breath didn’t seem like a good idea. Also, I knew I needed to relax my body, but during contractions when I relaxed my butt and stomach the pain got worse. I was also afraid of sitting on the toilet (good place to relax during labor) since when I’d done that early on it caused more, stronger contractions.

Later Active Labor and Transition


In addition to the birthing ball, bar that attaches to the bed, and other positions, I knew I wanted to try the tub to hopefully help with the pain. The hospital has two deep bathtub rooms; if one’s available, you can walk down the hall and labor there, but have to go back to the hospital room to deliver. I could tell the contractions weren’t going to be getting any easier so I asked the nurse to get the bath ready ASAP. Around 1:15 or 1:30 I got into the tub. It felt really good, but contractions were really getting more painful. The warm water helped maybe 5%. I was feeling level 6-8 pain.

At that point, I wasn’t as successful calming myself down with my reassuring messages about how labor is supposed to feel like this—instead, now all I could think was things like “This is awful. It’s going to get worse. Nothing I do helps. I could just get an epidural and I wouldn’t feel any of this. Lots of people do that and it’s fine. Don’t be a hero. It’s stupid to keep going with this pain when I have options.” I really hit a turning point laboring in that tub. 

Jason had been worried about watching me be in pain and being helpless, and he knew I wanted to avoid an epidural but after the intense, challenging labor we had last time he was afraid I’d be in that much pain again and might stubbornly avoid pain relief. I had reassured him: I probably won’t have back labor this time and the baby is probably in the right position, and it probably won’t take 15 hours to get to 3 cm like last time and then 30 more hours, so I’m sure it’ll be better. But I also told him I was open to getting an epidural if I thought I needed it. 

After probably only 10-20 minutes in the tub, each contraction so painful and nothing helping much, I decided. I looked at Jason and said, and I quote: “I want an epidural and I don’t feel guilty about it.” (I didn't want him to worry that I'd feel bad if I got one. I wanted to give him permission to support my choice without worrying about my long-term satisfaction.)

While waiting for the anesthesiologist they gave me fentanyl through the IV to help with the pain the meantime. It also helped maybe 5%. At 2:30 I got the epidural (also a better experience than doing this my first time. Never fun but I was much calmer and none of the process really hurt). After it was in I immediately started to feel calm and happy (not guilty!). My legs felt warm and slightly tingly but I could still move them around. They checked me right after doing the epidural, since there hadn’t been time before and I was sure I wanted it regardless of how dilated I was: I had made it to 8 cm!!

They start the epidural with a strong dose to give you a boost and then administer it continually but lower strength. It made me numb and helped with the pain even at the base dose for a while. I could still tell when contractions were happening (they were back down to a 1-2 on the pain scale) and I could still move my legs. I played around with different positions, though all in the hospital bed and now hooked up to several more tubes and monitors. 

Hands and knees (sort of, but leaning against the very propped-up head of the bed) felt good to me and I was happy to not be stuck on my side or back, and thought gravity should be helping baby move down. I was feeling maybe 2-3 level pain during contractions again, concentrating on breathing through them, and the nurse encouraged me to push the button to increase the dose of drugs through the epidural. I did this a couple times but thankfully never got to such a high dose I couldn’t move my legs. This was all around 3:30; the midwife said she’d come back and check on me in about an hour.

The midwife and nurse were both awesome and positive and were both confident I was going to have this baby soon. I wasn’t so sure, given my last long experience.
Resting while laying with the peanut ball.
(How about that lamp in the corner?? Hospital decor... haha!)


At 4:30 I was dilated to 9-9.5 cm and they were carefully watching baby’s heart rate, which had slowed a couple times depending on my position. The midwife suggested breaking my water to put some more pressure on my cervix and help me dilate more. She did, and said she’d come back in another half hour or so, or if I ever got the urge to push.

But then, only 20 mins later, baby’s heart rate was still low and the midwife and others (a doctor, a NICU nurse, other nurses, I don’t know who all) started coming in a little concerned. A couple times after water breaking I’d felt the mild feeling of having to poop; they said that was probably the urge to push the baby out! (Not knowing what’s this feeling was really like due to the epidural was another fear/concern of mine this time and last time. I do want to understand that feeling but what I experienced was so mild.) This was at about 5:30.

Stage 2 of Labor


Pushing slowly was on my birth preferences list and I’d done some research on how to lessen tearing. Pushing slowly (rather than directed pushing or pushing at every contraction after 10 cm regardless of the urge, while holding your breath for 10 counts) and certain positions were recommended. I really didn’t want to be on my back with my legs up again. I wanted to try hands and knees or side-lying, but with my knees closer together but heels apart (Spinning Babies recommendation I'd read). I ended up lying on my right side, knees bent, holding my left leg up.

However, when it came time to push the midwife was concerned about Lucy’s slowed heart rate and told me “this baby doesn’t want slow pushing” and we needed to get her out. She said, with the next contraction, try pushing and we’ll see if she moves. I did, and with the first push her head moved down a lot! (So they told me.) I tried a few more times and sometimes she moved a lot, others not so much. One of the nurses told me to spread my knees wider... I did a little but nowhere near as wide as I know I can spread them. Pushing was working and I knew the baby would come out regardless—hopefully with less tearing. 

One of my desires was for skin-to-skin with the baby right after she came out, so I remembered to ask for help and take off my shirt and bra at this point (lots of cords to work around).

I was shocked at how quickly the pushing went. I pushed with each contraction for several of them, not knowing exactly how far along I was, with everyone cheering me on. Then they told me her head was almost out and with a few final pushes, I had that wonderful feeling I remember from last time: pushing and literally feeling with my hand(s?) on my belly as baby moved down and then suddenly, all the way out. Feeling myself become no longer pregnant. At 5:50, about 10 minutes after I started pushing and a little over 10 hours after those first real contractions that morning in bed, they laid baby Lucy on my chest.

Stage 3 of Labor


She began crying almost instantly and I got the magical minutes I didn’t get with Otto: I talked to her and snuggled her as the nurses did I don't know what to her in the background. She cried for what felt like a long time. It took a few minutes or contractions but before anyone got too too concerned, I delivered the placenta.

Then the midwife said the cord had pretty much stopped pulsating, and while I held Lucy the nurse clamped the cord and gave Jason the special scissors to cut it. He did, and the midwife stitched me up (a “small” second degree tear).

Nothing too exciting happened after that. Most of the other crew who had come into the room left when they saw everything was okay. Lucy’s APGAR scores were 8 (1 minute) and 9 (5 minutes), about as good as you can get (just a little purple at 1 minute). The anesthesiologist came in to check on me and the nurse told her happily, we’re good; baby’s here already! I just got to hold Lucy while people buzzed around us. Around 6:20 they took Lucy to the machines opposite the bed and weighed her: we knew she was big but we were all shocked to see 9 lbs, 12 oz on the screen!! She was 21” long, just like Otto, head 14”.

Around 8 they helped me into the wheelchair (my legs were still numb enough I couldn’t walk even across the room to the bathroom) and through the halls to the elevator and then our postpartum room.

We stayed two nights, with Jason going home to see Otto for dinner the second night. There are a bunch of tests they have to do to the baby at 24 hours old, so we stayed two nights even though they were fine discharging us if we wanted much earlier. I missed Otto but it was also nice to have some extra quiet time in our room (though man, they interrupt you a lot at the hospital!). 

Overall


We both felt so surprised and relieved at how quickly and smoothly labor had gone. Our fears and anxieties after the last time were not at all realized. Instead we were in great spirits about the whole thing, feeling so happy and positive and proud of our little family. 

I felt in pretty rough shape physically the first week or so after, but really turned a corner after then and have been doing great since. Plus, Jason’s here still helping with Otto mostly, so we’ve been having some very relaxing family days at home.

Now, looking back, I do feel a little sense of loss of an unmedicated birth where I get to feel and experience everything fully, like millions of women have done before me. That was one big reason I wanted to avoid the epidural: I have this empathetic view that I should experience or at least understand everything within the human experience... it makes it hard to watch violent movies and think about what might have happened to me if I’d had that same first labor 100 or 500 years ago. I still might want to have an unmedicated birth someday... but I also now have a fresher memory of the intense pain and think I would need to develop several more coping strategies first.

However, this birth was still therapeutic. I have so much more faith in my body now that it can work the way it’s supposed to and I can deliver a baby without tons and hours of medical assistance. This smoother labor started us all off in good moods and we’ve been doing so much better emotionally this time around. I am so grateful for my two healthy babies and healthy body. Ready to start this next unknown, challenging phase: caring for our newborn!

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