Birth of Emerson McCoy
I’ve been meaning to write the story of Emerson’s birth for some time now. It was such a whirl wind experience that I was not expecting that it’s taken me a few years (yes years) to process it. I’m so thankful for my second birth experience to help me understand some of what this birth could have been and to redeem it and re-empower me as a warrior mom.With Emerson, he was measuring ahead the whole way through the pregnancy. Every birth professional who measured him or heard his heart beat exclaimed, “Wow, he is strong. You should be able to hear/see/feel this yet. He’s brave!” That actually became the source of the meaning of his name. Emerson means brave, and strong. And he certainly is just that.He is also stubborn! He hung around until 42 weeks and 2 days! I had tried everything to naturally induce him, waking, pineapple, cinnamon, acupuncture, acupressure, squats, bouncing on my ball, etc, etc. I had timetable contractions for weeks. They would get down to 5 mins apart and then completely disappear. The midwives group I was receiving care through decided we needed to do another ultrasound to see how the placenta was doing once we reached 41 weeks and 4 days. At that appointment, the tech said everything was looking great but was hesitant to tell me how big he was measuring to weigh… I eventually got it out of her and she said according to her measurements he was at 10 pounds and 15 ounces!!! And she said she’s never been more than 8 ounces off. I was suddenly stricken with fear. Could I do this? Would I end with a c-section? Was birthing an 11 pound baby even possible?? Would he get hurt if I tried to risk it and birth him vaginally? Would I get hurt? I was overwhelmed by so many questions and fears. I talked to my midwife and she wrote me in the schedule for an induction for 2 days from then. She also said she was required to offer me an elective c-section since he was over a certain gram weight wise. She talked me through the risks of birthing a large baby and assured me that people birth big babies all the time. I began to feel re-empowered and believe that I could indeed do this. I didn’t want to be induced, but I didn’t know then that I could have declined an induction. I was new to the birthing world and didn’t know all my rights.We checked into the hospital for the induction at 8pm Friday evening. They checked me out and told me- good news! You’re contracting!! Unfortunately, I had been contracting for weeks on end at this point (5 to be exact). So that wasn’t very encouraging to me. So the midwives began inducing me with 1/4 tad of cytotec. I knew nothing about that drug, and just knew I didn’t want to be induced with pitocin. I thought anything but pitocin would be better. Little did I know!!!They began the induction at 9pm, and said it would be 6-8 hours until things really kicked in and they’d check on me in a few hours and insert another 1/4 a tab. Well, 2 hours later I was in full blown labor without any additional drugs. Once the contractions started, they went full force! I began getting uncomfortable and moving around in my bed while trying to sleep, and moments later I could hardly breathe through a contraction. Then after that one was over, another one began 2 minutes later. Labor was coming on fast and intense! I thought, it can’t be long now if they’re this close!! Once again, little did I know.
My husband was so tired, and began putting his head on a pillow on the bed to rest. I, in my hormonal state must have given him a huge evil glare, because the very kind and supportive nurse offered to bring Andrew some coffee to help him wake up. If I couldn’t sleep, he wasn’t going to either.
Well, I kept breathing and bouncing my way through each contraction, slowly losing my ability to breathe and rest enough for the next one. It was 4 am, and my contractions were 90 seconds apart. I was only a 5. I refused additional checks as much as I could. Meanwhile, resident after resident, student after student came in asking if they could “observe the birth of a very large baby.” By 5 am I had had no less than 10 medical staff asking if they could observe the birth of my very large baby. Why did they have to keep wording it this way? I was scared enough as is! I finally called the charge nurse in and told her, I love teaching. I love learning. I am a teacher, I’ve done my own internships, but I am not a freak show and I don’t want one more unnecessary medical person to enter the room. This is too much. This is MY birth, and my first birth at that. She understood, and was supportive of my boundary. Maybe it was that pound cake one of my besties brought to win over the nursing staff with.
At this point it was now 7am and I was exhausted. The contractions hadn’t let up, and we weren’t making a ton of progress. I tried the gas (which I forget the name of) but it didn’t help at all. I realized that if I continued at this rate, I would be too tired to make it to the end and would likely end up with a c-section hair because I didn’t have any strength left. Even though I desperately wanted a pain medication free labor, I realized that my hopes and my reality were shifting a bit. My goal was to have a healthy baby and a healthy me. So I decided to go ahead and get an epidural.
My sister and other best friend, Sara, came to support me through the labor and give Andrew a chance to rest. They brought me some coconut water to help re-hydrate me. Once the anesthesiologist came, he tried to give me the epidural. Meanwhile my contractions are still coming every 90 seconds. I sat on the edge of the bed, with Andrew holding my hands and supporting me. According to him, I was completely calm during the whole process. However, I remember it entirely differently. In my mind I was very frustrated with the man, and was not being kind as I was in pain and told to hold still during a contraction while a giant needle was being inserted into my back! Then once we finally made it through, the epidural was done incorrectly, and he had to call in his supervisor to instruct him how to correctly do it. Yet again, contractions every 90 seconds don’t mix well with being told to sit still with a giant needle in your back. The head anesthesiologist was using this as a teaching moment, and took her time explaining every step of the process. Not exactly what I wanted, or had the patience for at the moment. But they finally finished several minutes (and contractions) later! Wishing 10 minutes I could breathe deeply again. I was so thankful. I could finally get some rest and gain some energy.
The day continued, soon it was noon when I woke up from a few hours of sleep. My sister, Rachel, had to leave by 6pm for a flight out of town. We were so hoping and praying she could be there for the birth. She was my stand in doula, had read my birth plan, knew what I wanted and didn’t want. She was prepped and ready and so helpful. My friend Sara was in town from Philly. When she first booked her flights to come visit 2 weeks after his due date, we thought for sure he’d be born by then. Wrong. So she became my other birthing support.
We went through 3 shift changes (which means three different midwives and nurses) over the course of time. The second midwife we had reassured me that I could do this! Women have big babies all the time, and if things got too risky that we would make some decisions fast to make sure we were safe. But she didn’t think it would come to that.
6pm came and went, and my sister had to leave. We were almost ready to push! But she couldn’t wait any longer. Finally 8pm came and it was time to push! It had been 24 hours of active labor. 24 hours of contractions 90 seconds apart. We were so ready to have this baby! Because I had an epidural I couldn’t feel anything but pressure. I didn’t know when I was having contractions. So my midwife coached me through when to start and stop pushing. 1 hour of pushing every few minutes…. 2 hours of pushing every few minutes… 3 hours of pushing… I began falling asleep between contractions and pushing. The staff would wake me up to push a minute after I had dozed off. I was beyond exhausted! I’ve never been so tired in my life. I would wake up and have to reorient each time remembering this was not a dream!
I began asking how much longer, I thought it had been 1 hour and they told me it had been 3. Then it was just around midnight, and he finally began to crown. And my midwife told me to wait. Yes, he was finally crowning and it had been 4 hours of pushing and she told me to wait and not to push because she had to quickly go catch another baby. I was so frustrated. The nurse quickly got a midwife from a different practice to come in quick because he wasn’t going to wait! She sat down and said “Hi, my name is —-” and I told her, “hi, you have nice hair” and then she told the staff ok- I say right, you all twist right, I say left, twist left. I had no idea what they were talking about- I just wanted him out!! And a matter of minutes later he was born!! 12:08am on Sunday morning. He was 10 pounds and 8 ounces. He looked like a three month old, and had a head full of dark hair. He was perfect.
My, now 4th midwife, had to stitch me up, but told me how impressed she was. Emerson, Andrew and I had the first 45 minutes by ourselves to bond and process. We eventually got some sleep, but we had our little prince and we were all safe and healthy! Staff began pouring in saying “we were following your birth outside. Congratulations on a very large baby!” Or when they brought him back from his hearing test the woman said, “Here’s your toddler back!”
This experience of feeling like a freak show, having too many requests for people to watch my very personal birth, and feeling like an experiment made me really take the time to learn my rights as a birthing mother. While I was supported to have my baby vaginally, I realized that this was not the birth I wanted. Yes we were healthy, but it wasn’t a good experience. Particularly after I found out it was written in my charts that he was posterior the entire time and the staff never had me try anything to turn him. Which is why I pushed for four hours. Now, I am very thankful they let me push that long. But ultimately it is my body. It is my birth. It isn’t up to them and what they will let me do, but what I choose for my body. He was never under any stress at any point of the labor. And for that, I am entirely thankful. We both were champions through the birth. But I learned a lot. We eventually had another baby 18 months later, and that birth was a completely different experience and story because I knew my rights and knew it wasn’t just about a healthy baby and a healthy mommy, but it was also about a healthy emotional experience as well.
Stay tuned for that home birth story! (below)
Birth of Tennyson Rhys
Tennyson Rhys is our second little boy, and his birth could not have been more different than his big brother’s. Although everyone keeps telling me there’s no way we would have two very active, daring, fearless boys, and that every child is different- they sure are identical when it comes to their personalities and fearlessness.
I had a hospital induction with midwives with my first who went to 42 weeks and 2 days. After a somewhat traumatic experience with our first (yet uncomplicated), we decided that a home birth was the route we wanted to go with our second child.
First off, being a mom of a toddler and pregnant at the same time is hard. But having my midwife come to me for appointments made life so much easier! I don’t know how I would have done it otherwise.
Well, as I said above, Emerson went to 42 weeks and 2 days. I expected to go over with Tennyson, but had no idea how far over we would go. I learned the first time around that natural induction techniques (walking, cinnamon, stripping membranes, etc.) do nothing for me. So I just decided to make peace with the reality that I would go past my due date and that that would be ok. I made peace with the reality I would have another large baby, and that too would be ok. Instead of trying to rush my baby out, I decided to relax and find as much peace as I could through it all.
Well, I may have also decided to down an entire pineapple. Because if we did go over 42 weeks, legally, I’d have to go have a hospital birth- and I was not going to go through that again if I didn’t have to. So Monday afternoon (at 40 weeks and 4 days) I downed a whole pineapple and then my husband, Andrew, and I took Emerson on a walk. We knew lots of people in our neighborhood. So we stopped and talked to people periodically. It was such a pleasant evening. We went to bed at a decent time knowing that Andrew had to be at work at 4am.
Andrew woke to his alarm at 3am and I did too. I began feeling restless, and uncomfortable. I didn’t think much of it. Tried to go back to sleep… But that wasn’t working. So I figured, ehhh… I’ll just go bounce on my birthing ball and drink some water, and watch the latest episode of New Girl. Who doesn’t do that at 3:20 in the morning? Well I started feeling some general tightness, but still was convinced it was all false labor and that it would end shortly and I’d just go back to sleep. I went through so much false labor with my first that it was just what I was used to. Plus since I was induced the first time around, I had an underlying fear that my body didn’t know how to go into labor by itself. I was afraid that I would go over 42 weeks. I also didn’t know what natural labor felt like when it began. Even though I had had a baby before, I hadn’t experienced natural labor without medications to induce and kick things into gear really fast.
Well, 4am rolls around and Andrew was at work and kept his phone close incase it was real labor. I’m at home, bouncing and feeling contractions about 10 minutes apart. By 4:30 they were 9 minutes apart… I decided that by 6 I’d call my midwife to check in. Well 5:30 rolls around and I told Andrew they were 8 minutes apart and one of his coworkers (who had had a home birth previously with his wife) began to tell Andrew to go home. I told him to wait, but all the other staff were now chiming in and telling him to go home. I still wasn’t convinced it was real! I was doubting my body.
6am, Andrew was home and I called Susie, my midwife, and she said “Ok, let me know when they are 5 minutes apart. I’ll start drinking my coffee and getting ready to head over. Sounds like this is it gal!” Well they went from 8 minutes apart to 5 minutes apart within about 30-40 minutes. Andrew was busy setting everything up. I called my sister and best friend, Tiffany, to let them know since they were my child care for Emerson. Tiffany, of course, had an essential oils class that morning at 10am. It was the only thing she had scheduled for a month, and of course Tennyson would decide to arrive that day. You have to love babies disregard for everything else. But I had my sister, which was a huge help!
9am rolls around and Susie and her assistant, Mary, arrived as well as my sister. We had been renting out our basement to a dear friend who was upstairs playing with Emerson while I was just bouncing away on my birthing ball watching TV, breathing through contractions which were now every 4 minutes. I was at so much peace. I wasn’t worried about anything. We were just talking, hanging out, and having a baby. It was a completely different story than the birth of my first child.
Around 9:30 Susie suggested that my sister take Emerson somewhere else to play. Our friend, Maria, had to go to work. So it was just me, Andrew, Susie, and Mary. I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, so Susie suggested Andrew make me some eggs and toast while she made me some tea. I just kept walking around, staying active and mobile, mean while my waters were bulging and we were just waiting for them to break.
10:30, Susie checked and Tennyson was posterior. She had me lay in a pretzel like position and the three of them went into another room and gave me time to just lay and rest and wait for Tennyson to turn. Sure enough he did! After about 45 minutes my contractions started getting just a few minutes apart and very hard to breathe through. Specially while lying down in a pretzel position. At 11:45 I called them back in and said I couldn’t lay there anymore and was in pain. Susie checked, and Tennyson had turned, and I have gone from a 6 to a 9!
My water still hadn’t broken, and Susie went ahead and broke my water. Everything was looking good. We had lavender and bergamot essential oils diffusing in our room, we had a crock pot of hot water ready for hot compresses with helichrysum and frankincense essential oils in the water to aid in the stretching and healing. We were as ready as ready could be.
12:15 and Susie checked again and I was a 10 and ready to push! Previously I had pushed for four hours. I was prepared to do the same, but like I said my boys births were night and day different. Susie, Andrew, and Mary supported me each step of the way and encouraged me. They reminded me of my strength. After about 30 minutes of pushing we realized I had a swollen lip that he was caught on. I took some arnica and the the swelling went right down and he began making his way down. All the sudden, I remembered the phrase “ring of fire”. Yes, it does feel like a ring of fire when they are crowning! Such an accurate description. I suddenly got caught in a place of fear and cried out, “Jesus!!!” I was scared. I’m pretty sure if you offered me the option of staying pregnant with him forever that I would have chosen that in that moment. The idea of pushing more was overwhelming g but I knew it was too late to change my mind and I knew I could do it! Andrew held my hand and encouraged me to keep pushing and shortly later he was born at 1:37pm and weighed 9 pounds and 9 ounces, and was 22 inches long. Sweet precious baby boy! My first instinct was the praise the Lord that he was out, and I couldn’t hold back my tears when I laid my eyes upon this sweet baby. I was overwhelmed with the miracle of birth.
We took our time getting cleaned up, there was no one present but us, Susie, and Mary. We didn’t have to deal with vitals being checked every hour, new people coming in and out, or people remarking how large our baby was. All we felt was peace. So much peace.
Susie and Mary stayed until around 5pm to make sure everything was good. Susie remarked at how considerate Tennyson was in giving her a very unusual 9-5 work day. My labor and birth with our first was 30 hours long with active labor. So to have a ice labor of 4-8 hours depending on what you count as active labor, I was amazed! Once they left, we had plenty of time with just the three of us to relax and rest. We slept through the night, no vital checks every 2 hours, no beeping monitors or cords, no florescent lighting. Just us. Just our home. Our bed. Our new baby.
The next morning our friend Tiffany brought Emerson over and we had a dear friend, Joanna Morris, photograph the boys getting to meet for the first time. It was my most favorite memory of my life. My two boys and my husband. We now had a precious family.
We could not be more thankful for the care we received from our birthing team and the support they provided. The home birth experience was a healing one for me after our traumatic experience with Emerson. I felt empowered. It wasn’t about going through natural labor and being medication free. It was about knowing what I wanted, fighting for it, and seeing that I could do it. I was amazed being able to experience my body doing exactly what it was made to do- even when I doubted that it could. In my weakest and most vulnerable moments, my body was powerful, protective, magical, and capable.