On Tuesday night, April 9th, Clark and I walked a half mile to dinner in Cleveland Park and then home again to Woodley Park. I knew something felt different, lower, heavier, in my belly. Clark and I talked about what our baby would be like, and did a mental run-through of labor, laughing about how we felt ready and just wanted her to come! When we got home, we watched an old episode of “Arrested Development”, and I went to bed around 10:30 pm. At 10:45 I woke up, and my water had just broken. At first it was just a little water – and I thought maybe it was pee – but then it gushed a bit more, and I knew it was not. The water was nice and clear.
Contractions began immediately. I had been feeling contractions over several hours on a couple of occasions over the previous 10 days or so. Those were the contractions that would make my belly hard, but nothing that really grabbed me forcefully. These new contractions were more intense, lower down, and more in my back/butt than before. From the get-go, they were coming 4 or so minutes apart (i.e. 4 minutes from the beginning of one to the beginning of the next). We let our birth team (doula + midwives) know my water had broken and that contractions had begun.
Our doula Nicole happened to have another birth in progress, so she connected us with her partner Alexa, who we spoke to on the phone. Not a problem…we flowed with it. Nicole, Alexa, and Laura (the mid-wife on duty, who we love) said the contractions may just be ramping up initially, but they would probably ease back, and then we would settle in to labor. All recommended trying to sleep through the night.
We were hanging out in bed. I was lying on my side and Clark was alternately lying next to me dozing off and then waking up and bashfully applying pressure on the muscles on either side of my spine. Mostly he was saying, “You’re doing great, babe,” and then dozing off. After an hour or so, the contractions were still coming 4 minutes apart.
Clark called Alexa and Laura back and said we’d kept up the 4-minute pace for an hour, that 5-1-1 had been the rule of thumb and we were safely inside of that, and shouldn’t (a) the doula come, or (b) we head to the hospital. Clark was very calm and to-the-point on the facts. Both Alexa and Laura spoke to me as well. I gave them the same update. They said I sounded pretty good, and that meant I probably had a long way still to go. It was now about midnight. Alexa told Clark that I sounded like I was in the 1 to 2 centimeters-dilated territory.
Clark and I tried some different positions to get comfortable. The contractions were increasing in frequency and intensity, and averaged about 3 minutes per contraction over the next hour. It became harder to speak during the contractions. I wasn’t losing modesty because I had none to begin with! I had been naked from the jump, so there was no stripping away of clothes.
At 1 o’clock, Clark called Alexa back and said that the intensity had increased and that he wanted her to come to our place (which would take an hour from Baltimore). She agreed, but cautioned him to caution me that we may still have a long way to go. At 1:30 or so, there was a good bit of blood and mucus that came out. Contractions were 2.5 minutes a part. I began to feel the baby trying to push her way out and/or to feel myself the urge to push. Clark recommended squatting and holding on to the bed during contractions, which did feel better. Clark called Laura back and said maybe we should come in before Alexa arrived. Laura recommended waiting till Alexa arrived so she could perform a vaginal exam.
Alexa arrived at 2:15 AM or so. Clark was just wearing his board shorts, and I was squatting naked by the bed. Nice to meet you, indeed! She did a vaginal exam, and said, “we should go the hospital now.” I was already 10 centimeters dilated, and our girl was +2 in station, or thereabouts. Alexa was very candid about how this surprised her, and this made Taylor and I feel like we weren’t crazy after all. Alexa texted Laura and told her the situation. Alexa told me to stop pushing and just breathe through the contractions. She sat in the back of the car with me in case the baby came on the car ride! Clark drove us carefully/cheerfully to the hospital. Clark and I felt vindicated that we had made more progress than Alexa and Laura thought. We knew it! I enjoyed the feeling of wind in my hair with the windows down, and just tried to breathe that in…it seemed fitting that we were rushing down Rock Creek Parkway, as I’d gone on a ton of walks with Pepper when she was in my belly down this very stretch of road. It brought me peace then, why not now?
We got to GW hospital at 2:45 or 3 o’clock. They wheeled me in a wheelchair up to my room. Laura arrived a few minutes after us. I got up on all fours on the bed, and then squatted back when contractions came. I beared down and pushed. I tried to use empowering words to motivate myself that I used when I was an athlete. I also talked to our baby, trying to connect with her and let her (and my body) know that I was ready. When Alexa or Laura would say, “blow the pain away,” I would! It took a little less than an hour of pushing (which went by fast). The babe came out at 3:46 AM. The midwife, doula and nurses were really helpful and wonderful. Clark got to catch our baby! He passed her to me. It was so surreal to have him hand me the baby. For a moment, I couldn’t believe it was our Pepper! She belted out a cry! Amazing. What an adventure. We let the cord pulse for 3-4 minutes, and Clark cut it. She was free in in our arms!
My advice to any woman is: You know more than you realize from all these weeks with your baby, and feeling out what it means to become a mom – inevitably, you will once you get started! So, just stay positive. Stay flexible. Trust your body. Trust the baby.
Taylor & Clark & Pepper
May 20, 2013 at 11:38 AM ET
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Expectant moms thankfully no longer have their mother’s delivery room experience, with Don Draper era dads sitting in waiting lounges until a doctor reports that baby has arrived. But the pendulum may have swung too far in the other direction.
These days, delivery rooms can be rife with drama as grandparents-to-be vie for the best camera angle, or a mother-in-law angles to be the one feeding ice chips between contractions.
As family members increasingly treat birth like a spectator sport, and expect to share in the challenging and intimate first moments when an infant is born, more new moms are left in the awkward position of figuring out how to limit who is in the delivery room.
Message boards on parenting sites like BabyCenter and DC Urban Moms and Dads are replete with expectant moms trading tips on how to tell their parents, in-laws and other family members that they don’t particularly want them front and center for the action.
One mom says she had to request hospital security to escort her in-laws off the premises, because they repeatedly tried to barge into the delivery room. Another woman recounts how her mother-in-law appeared, uninvited, during her C-Section prep— and somehow ended up holding the new baby before the mom could. And one pregnant mom, after two hours of pushing, asked her own mother to leave when the grandma-to-be elbowed their midwife out of the way to get the perfect shot with her camera.
Wendy Bradford, a director of social media for Mommybites and Manhattan mom of three, knows just how important it is to clarify your policy about family in the delivery room. While she asked her mother to stay in their one-bedroom apartment “with the sole purpose of being there” when her first grandchild, Bradford’s eldest daughter, Molly, was born, Bradford neglected to spell out what she meant by “there” exactly.
The evening of Molly’s birth, Bradford and her husband left for the hospital and instructed Bradford’s mom to wait for them at their home, until they called. At 6:00 am, Bradford was ready to start pushing, so they told her mother to come to the hospital.
“In the midst of this crazy birthing, I remember being shocked that my mother came right into the room,” says Bradford. “But there’s my mom, poking her head in the door to let me know that she’s here, and I shouted, ‘Oh my God, get out! GET OUT!'”
Andrea, of Toronto, Canada, (who asked that her last name not be used because she didn’t want to alienate family members) wishes she had told her in-laws to leave when they sauntered into the delivery room at 2 a.m., just as she was being stitched up from a second-degree tear. She’s grateful that her in-laws weren’t there for all the pushing, but she would have appreciated a little discretion while the nurses finished cleaning up the delivery room and putting her gown back in place.
As long as mother and baby are having a healthy labor, a woman should be in charge of her birthing environment, according to Dr. Rob Olson, a Bellingham, Wash., obstetrician and gynecologist, and founding president of the Society of OB/GYN Hospitalists, who’s been practicing for more than three decades. Sometimes, he says, helping a woman control her birth experience means limiting the number of people around her. And he reminds new moms they can always blame a hospital’s “restrictive” visitation policy, rather than telling an overly exuberant relative outright that she’s not welcome in the labor and delivery room.
In the 1990s, Olson explains, there could be between five and 10 people in a delivery room— which could be hard both on a doctor, who is trying to maneuver around a small crowd, and on the laboring mom who, not infrequently, felt like she had to entertain “guests” instead of focusing on herself.
Due to various concerns about hygiene, the influenza virus and yes, personal space, many hospitals, over the past five years, have started restricting access to the delivery room. At Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut, for example, a patient can name up to three friends or family members when she arrives at the labor and delivery unit, unless there are special circumstances and a patient has received permission beforehand. (Yale allows only one support person in the operating room during a C-section.) And Sibley Memorial Hospital, in Washington, DC, permits two additional support people (including a doula or midwife or a spouse) with a mother during labor and delivery.
“I’ve seen lots of situations where laboring moms change their minds about the team they’ve created and need to ask people to step out,” says Megan Davidson of Brooklyn, NY, a labor and postpartum doula who’s attended over 300 births. So Davidson always encourages her clients to speak openly with anybody they have invited to the birth about the possibility that they might be asked to leave if a mother finds she needs more privacy than she expected.
Davidson says a big part of her job as a doula is advocating for a mom in the delivery room— which can certainly mean telling a mother-in-law or a best friend to hang out in the cafeteria or go home, so a woman doesn’t have to worry about a potentially prickly dialogue with anybody mid-labor.
Ami Burnham, a licensed midwife and registered nurse in San Francisco recommends that anyone who does plan on being a support person for a delivery watch a few real birth videos before the big day. Otherwise, she explains, things don’t always go according to plan. Burnham describes a mom she helped a few years ago who wanted to have both of her sisters with her in the delivery room. But as things progressed at the hospital, the client’s younger sister “was in the corner of the room, really stressed about everything that was going on, crying and carrying on.” Understandably, the birthing mom asked her sibling to please wait outside until after the baby was born.