Sienna's Birth Story

I knew she was coming.  The whole week before her birth was like a giant crescendo.  It was different than the weeks before.  The inward focus that I had been feeling became so strong that I shut everything (and everyone) out.  Friends wanted to get together like normal and I just couldn't.  I could no longer make small talk or any talk for that matter.  All my senses knew that something serious was coming; something sacred was about to take place.  I was preparing for a race (or more appropriately a battle) and I had to be prepared in every way.  All my energy those last few days went in to preparing physically, mentally and spiritually for what was going to be one of the most memorable days of my life.

I had been feeling "things" for weeks.  Her head had been low for several weeks.  At 38 weeks pregnant I was 80% effaced and a fingertip dilated.  I actually changed doctors between 38 to 39 weeks.  Crazy, I know.  My original doctor had lost my trust and thankfully I had great recommendations for another doctor who was in my same group.  He actually worked with the midwives at The Farm for a couple of years and was the doctor on call for the women who had to have interventions during labor.   He shares the same beliefs we do that labor should run its course with as few interventions as possible.  So I went to the new doctor at 39 weeks and he felt my belly and said she was REALLY low and had already made some of the last moves to get into the birthing position.  This was good news!  I wanted to minimize exams before and during labor so he didn't check me at my 39 week appointment.  I planned to be checked at my 40 week appointment if I made it that long.

On Friday, August 9th, which was 39 weeks and 4 days, I woke up with faint stomach cramps.  I had heard this could be a symptom of labor so I knew I was getting closer.  For months I had wondered if I would have my baby girl on August 9th, 10th, 11th or 12th.  The 9th is my sister's birthday, the 10th was our 11 year anniversary, the 11th is a special date for our family (parents' anniversary and lots of birthdays), and the 12th was her due date.  So here we were the morning of the 9th on this much anticipated weekend and the festivities had begun.  Not much had changed all day - the cramping was barely there but never went away.  At 3:00 p.m. I lost a small amount of my mucus plug - another imminent sign.  Nothing changed that evening.  I went to bed Friday night and woke up at midnight with contractions.  This time I knew it was the mucus plug.  I thought "we are going to have an anniversary baby."  I tried to lay down on our bed in the side-lying position as I had done a couple weeks earlier (37 weeks and 5 days) when I had some pre labor.  This time it hurt too bad to lay down.  The bed felt terrible.  It felt like I was sinking into the mattress and I couldn't brace myself for the contractions.  So I got up and tried a hot bath.  That felt wonderful!  It truly is "the midwife's epidural." After the bath, I tried out a couple of positions on the birthing ball...  Nope, that wasn't working either.  I quickly realized the only position that was tolerable was to sit straight up.  So I sat on our love seat - the love seat I had before we were married and the one I laid on and held Miles in my arms the night we brought him home- the love seat that was now my comfort during labor!  (I can never get rid of it!)

Bryant helped me get comfortable with pillows on my right side so I could lean over if needed and a pillow behind my head so I could relax my head in between contractions.  It was really hard for a few hours mainly because I was so tired.  The only thing worse than labor is laboring at night!  Bryant encouraged me and said to hold off for another hour and then the sun would be up and everything would be better.  He was right!  As soon as he opened the blinds, everything seemed more manageable.  I finally was "getting the hang of it" and the contractions weren't so shocking.  I could actually relax a bit and even dozed off a little in between contractions.  They were pretty much five and a half minutes apart all morning.  Around 7 a.m. I started to think, "I'm getting good at this."  Yea, that was the problem.  They weren't intensifying.  At 9 a.m. I heard our garage door open and it took me by surprise.  Then I realized it was my brother-in-law who was coming to cut our grass.  Saturday morning at 9 a.m. like he always does.  Five minutes later there was no contraction.  My contractions completely stopped!  I was like, "Oh No!"  I thought I had completely relaxed my contractions away.  I started walking around my house and felt a faint contraction or two over the next hour.  But that was it.  So nine hours of contractions and nothing to show for it.  "You've got to be kidding me," I complained to Bryant.  Called my mom and voiced my disappointment to her.  She told me she did the same thing when she was pregnant with me and the next day she had me.  Honestly, at that point I didn't want to have my baby the next day because I was so tired.  I thought I need a week to recover from this day.

I took a little nap that afternoon and just laid on the couch the rest of Saturday.  Around late afternoon 4:30 p.m. I thought I felt a contraction.  By 6:00 p.m. I could feel faint contractions about 18 minutes apart.  I didn't pay much attention to them.  We decided to go to bed early that night in case history repeated itself.  We went to bed around 9:00 p.m. and sure enough at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday morning I woke up with contractions.  My first reaction was I can't do another night with no progress.  After I took a shower my contractions were two and a half minutes apart for 30 minutes and I thought they were "fake contractions" again.  I complained to Bryant, "I can't keep doing this.  These aren't even real."  At 37 weeks, I had 5 hours of contractions one night that were also two and a half minutes apart.  So the similarity made me think these are too close together to be "real."  Thankfully, after I went and sat down on the love seat again they resumed around five minutes apart.  I wasn't on that love seat too long Sunday morning before the contractions spiked in intensity.  I could no longer sit.  There was so much pressure I ended up in a z-sit position on the floor leaning on the love seat.  That was the only way I could handle the contractions.

By 4 a.m. I knew today was the day.  I am going to have my baby on the 11th.  I told Bryant to wait to call the doula until 5 a.m. to give her an extra hour of sleep.  At this point, I was thinking I would have her in the afternoon.   By 5 a.m. we both could tell it was time to call the doula.  She arrived at 6 a.m. and by that time I was in the throws of labor.  My contractions were around four and a half minutes apart.  I was still managing okay but starting to really feel it.  The doula came at the perfect time.  She was so incredibly helpful.  Her calming presence helped me to take my mind off of the pain.  We would chat in between contractions and then I would be quiet and breathe through the minute long contractions.  By 7 a.m. things had picked up.  I started being more vocal during my contractions and they had dropped down to three minutes and 50 seconds apart.  My Bradley instructor said if you can hold off going to the hospital until you've had "3-2-1 contractions" you would minimize the amount of time you were in labor at the hospital.  Contractions that are 3 minutes apart for 2 hours and 1 minute in length.  My goal was to shoot for 3 minutes apart for 1 hour before heading to the hospital.  I figured that would give me just a couple hours to labor at the hospital before she came.

From 7 to 8 a.m. I did a lot of laboring.  I had to go the bathroom in between every contraction due to the pressure I was feeling.  Around 8 a.m. the word "epidural" crossed my mind.  Thankfully I was still at home.  I told Bryant, "I'm not sure how much longer I can do this."  My goal was to arrive at the hospital after 6 cm dilated.  Based on my conversations with friends, everyone opts for the epidural around 6 cm.  I thought if I can hold off and get to the hospital at 7 cm dilated  I'm passed that vulnerable stage and can go natural.  I asked Bryant, "do you think I'm getting close to 6 cm?"  He said, "I think you've passed the point where most people give up."  I thought he was being too kind.  Surely I'm not a 6 or 7 already?

From 8 to 9 a.m. things progressed crazy fast.  I went from "oohs" and "ohs" to straight up moaning during contractions.  My doula, Emily, had told me that when a woman in natural labor gets to the end she sounds a certain way.  I knew what she meant.  I had reached another level in my labor.  I was quite certain I was deep into active labor.  My contractions jumped from three minutes and 50 seconds to two and a half minutes apart!  It totally threw me off.  What happened to the 3 minutes for 2 hours rule?  After 15 minutes of 2:30 apart, I started to realize things were moving along.  Bryant was quite a few steps ahead of me.   I heard him ask Emily if we should start heading to the hospital.  I thought it was too early.  I heard her say we could labor another hour at home.  I agreed.  Well, my cool as a cucumber husband said, "I'm gonna go ahead and put the bags in the car."  The next contraction I look down the hallway and he has all three bags in his arms walking down the stairs.  I really didn't want to go to the hospital too early.  I prayed.  The next two contractions came.  "Okay, Lord, that was very clear.  It's time to go."  Bryant came back upstairs and I said, "I want to go to the hospital."  Of course, he already knew it was time.  He just didn't want to alarm me how fast I was progressing.  From the time we both said, "Let's go" at 9:00 a.m. it took 32 minutes to pull out of the driveway.

I didn't realize how slow I would be moving at this stage.  I had to go the bathroom after EVERY contraction.  A contraction came at the top of the stairs, at the bottom of the stairs, on the way out the door,  and before getting in the car.  I really didn't know how I was going to make it to the hospital with the 15 minute drive.  I had been going the bathroom every 2 minutes for the last 2 hours.   And sitting in the seat... forget it.  Bryant made an area in the back of his Tahoe that was similar to my setup in the house.  I sat in a z-sit in the back leaning on our overnight bags.  Bryant pulled out of the driveway at 9:32 a.m. and halfway down the road I made him stop the car.  The moving of the car was horribly uncomfortable.  "Baby we HAVE to get to the hospital."  Off we went.  Those four contractions on the way to the hospital were challenging.  There was so much pressure I thought I was going to go the bathroom in the back of the truck.  Thankfully, my one and a half minute rest period in between each one was amazing.  I felt so calm and peaceful that I knew the Lord was giving me extra comfort.  We pulled up in front of Baptist Women's Hospital and Bryant opened the back door and what a sight that was.  I come crawling out in a baggy shirt, short shorts, Ugg house shoes and SmartWool pink crew socks.  I saw a guy carrying in some flowers right before me that I assumed were for his wife.  He saw me get out of the back of the Tahoe- he probably thought I was from the country.

I walked through the lobby and had a contraction- the kind where I had to lean on Bryant to brace myself.  Finally  made it to the lobby bathroom.  As soon as I sat down, pressure... lots of pressure.  Had another contraction before I got on the elevator.  Had one at the triage window on the Labor and Delivery floor.  Heard the ladies haggling with Bryant about the sign in sheet.  It was 9:53 a.m.  In a calm but urgent voice I said, "I think I'm pretty far along!"  Seconds later the door opened and a nurse said, "I'll go ahead and take her back."  We walked just a few steps to the room and I had another contraction.  I leaned on the nurse and she was a little taken back.  She started coaching me, "Breathe.  Breathe!"  I put the hospital gown on and a second nurse came in.  I asked her if they could go ahead and check how dilated I was.  She insisted we check the baby first.  Baby's heart rate was great.  Then I saw her face change.  I forgot they monitor your contractions as well. Then I noticed the printer below the computer with huge lines going up and down.  Her attitude changed immediately.  She started moving fast, real fast. She asked, "Are you getting an epidural or going natural."  I knew why she was asking.  There was no time for an epidural.  Good thing I answered, "natural."

The next minutes were a blur.  Questions... lots of questions.  She was shouting info at me and I was scribbling my initials on what seemed like a mountain of paperwork.  At this point I was laying on my side on the hospital bed and I couldn't stand to be touched. I was super sensitive.  The pain was intense.  "I'm going to throw up."  They shoved the trash can in front of me and I barely spit up but it made me feel better.  I was relieved to be laying down.  In between contractions a third nurse came in and checked me.  I heard them talking about the doctor on call.  "Call the doctor," shouted the second nurse.  The nurse that checked me made a beeline for the door.  I asked her how far along I was.  She said real calmly, "Um, your pretty far along."  Great, that means like 4 cm.  I asked her a second time.  "About 8" she said as she ran out the door.  Bryant looked at me with big eyes, "we did it!"  I couldn't believe it.  It was almost over.  The nurse that had been by my side almost the entire time said she was going to go ahead and take me to my room herself.  She wheeled me down the hall as I was still contracting.  And guess who I saw on the way there.  The same guy with the flowers in his hand.  I could read his mind.  Yes, I was that girl.  The one who barely makes it to the hospital in time.

At 10:15 a.m. they wheel me in to the delivery room.   The hospital bed rails lowered and I just rolled from one bed to the other.  I remember thinking, "that's convenient."  A few seconds later the doctor on call walks up and introduces himself.  He said he was going to check me.  I said the nurse just did and he said he was going to check me again.  "You're complete."  What?!  The dreaded transition was over.  I didn't realize at the time that I had gone through transition in triage.  The intense pain, the fuzzy details, the throwing up.  Looking back it makes sense.  I am so glad I was distracted the whole time without anyone informing me, "you are now in transition."  The doctor asked if I wanted to start pushing.  "Yes!"  He walked away to fill out some paperwork.  My water broke.

The first 30 minutes of pushing I didn't know what I was doing.  I was in the sitting-squat position and Bryant and Emily were holding my feet while I pushed.  I wasn't expecting how hard the pushing would be.  I was exhausted.  My legs were so tired.  I was hot.  After every contraction I grabbed wash cloths and wiped my face.  The nurse told me to go easy on the ice chips.  Really?!  I'm trying to push this baby out completely natural and they are worried about a few ice chips.  And questions... they were still asking me lots of questions.  Like, "how do you like to learn?"  What?!  "I don't understand the question!"  I was pushing a baby out.  No time for learning.  The doctor walked away and I was confused.  Where was he going?  My sweet doula said, "Honey, it can take awhile."  I knew what that meant.  I was not progressing.  Oh no, I'm not a good pusher!  What was I doing wrong?  I thought about my childbirth classes and two things came to mind.  Lower your chin while pushing and relax your jaw.  The next push felt completely different.  It was 11:00 a.m.  I thought I'm going to have this baby within the hour.  The doctor walked back in and I told him I thought I had figured it out.  After the next push, he agreed.   I was progressing.  My contractions were around four and a half minutes apart - a pretty long rest period.  I could feel her moving down with every set of pushes.  They told me they could see her head.  The doctor said to prepare for delivery.  I couldn't believe it.  It didn't feel like she was about to come out.  Nevertheless the team of nurses moved faster than lightening throwing blankets on my chest and breaking down the bed.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the doctor put his gown on.

We went with the doctor's recommendation for a small episiotomy.  And after the next set of pushes, my baby girl made her entrance at 11:31 a.m. and immediately I held her on my chest.  I had pushed for exactly one hour.  My placenta came out pretty quick - about ten minutes after Sienna was born.  We opted out of the eye ointment and vitamin K shot.  Her eyes were bright and beautiful and I'm so glad the first person she saw was her mama.  We had skin-to-skin contact for two hours before going to the next room.  All of our pictures from the delivery room were with the iPhone.  Our nice camera and bags were still in the car and the car was still parked in front of the hospital!  I did get up and go to the bathroom before leaving my L&D room.  I was completely exhausted afterward but had no pain.  That part was over.  My beautiful baby girl was here.  We stayed in the hospital two nights and barely slept a wink.  I was on a high for about three days after giving birth.

I love that I gave birth on a Sunday.  Bryant had texted family on our way to the hospital and news traveled fast at church.  Many people told me they were praying that morning.  Our life group actually prayed for us at 11:30 a.m.  One minute before she was born.  How appropriate that the same way she was conceived and carried for nine months was the same way she entered this world... birthed in prayer.


  1. I'm so glad you posted this! I'm going to read it again later just to make sure I caught everything. Major kudos on denying yourself an epidural. My spirit is so willing, but my fleshing sooooo weak! =)

  2. oops I mean my flesh is, not my fleshing.


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