The Story of Magnolia's Birth

When we got to the hospital, I looked at the clock in the car. It was approaching nine at night, my contractions were every two-four minutes, just like they usually were when I made the call to go to labor and delivery. I hesitated, wondered out loud if we should just wait and come back in the morning. I had one fine string of something holding my emotions together, and being sent home one more time without a baby would have severed it completely. So there I was...there we were, Jake, Tracey, Cora, in-utero Magnolia and I. Thirty-six weeks and six days pregnant, stripped membranes, contractions, and a promise my doctor made earlier that morning that she wouldn't send me home (she'd made the same promise a few days before, broke it, but I loved her anyway).

I made the trip up to Labor and Delivery, waited patiently to be hooked up to the monitors. When the nurse took me back, I asked if I could just go home. I did, really. She looked at me, puzzled, and said, "Well, you didn't have to come in." Right. Then she said, "Let's just see how everything is going." I think I cried a little.

I changed into a gown, left the standard sample, got hooked up to the machine. The best part was always getting to hear my baby's heartbeat. Soothing. The resident came in and after a bit of talk and a confirmation that I was in fact having regular contractions and was dilated to a five, she called my doctor. She came back in and asked if I wanted to walk a bit. Me? Walk a bit? I'd been averaging three miles a day trying to move things along. While Jake was coming up to walk around with me, my doctor, Dr. Hampton, called back and basically got the show on the road. I was moved to a delivery room.

They started a low dose of Pitocin to ramp up the contractions a bit. I believe the pitocin level goes up to around twenty-four. I was receiving a four. Why is this important? I was going for a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section). Pitocin increases the intensity of a contraction, and a greater intensity of contractions leads to a greater risk of uterine rupture after a c-section. The pitocin was in, my contractions were more frequent and more intense, but I was still totally fine without any pain medication.

About an hour after the introduction of pitocin, it was time to break my water. The weight of what was actually happening set in, and for the first time, I felt nervous. I knew that Magnolia was safe and warm, and that her environment was controlled in her unruptured home inside of me. When the doctor broke my water, and I felt all of that warmth and safety leave me, I cried. And even in reflecting on that moment now, I still find myself overcome with emotion. Something inside, even though I was getting to deliver, for the most part, the way I wanted to, said "this isn't the way it's supposed to be."

In addition to breaking my water, an internal monitor was placed inside to keep track of the intensity of the contractions. It's a standard thing when a woman is attempting a VBAC. But that's when the pain began. My body started treating it like an invader, and my uterus started cramping severely in an attempt to get rid of it. There was also no water left to soften the blow of each contraction. It wasn't long before I was requesting an epidural.

I had to take my mind somewhere else to stay still for the epidural while enduring the level of pain I was in. If I would have known the pain would intensify so quickly, I would have definitely gone for preemptive relief. The anesthesiologist ended up giving me four times the regular dose of medication before things started to calm down. It took the edge off for about thirty minutes, then wore off, and I was back to feeling everything.

The medication from the epidural had made my blood pressure really low. There was a lot of repositioning and moving monitors to bring my blood pressure up and to keep Magnolia's from dropping with each contraction.

All the while I'd been progressing. I was a seven, then I was a nine. My doctor was on her way somewhere, the contractions were so intense, and every little part of me was saying "Push! Push! You know how to do this. Push and meet your baby." But I "couldn't" push yet, not without my doctor. With every wave of pain and instinct to take control deliver, I could handle it until the very peak, and I couldn't do anything but scream to get some get some sort of relief. Over and over again until doctor arrived, and I was able to start helping my body do what it was trying to, what it knew how to do. They stopped the pitocin just as I started to push. I didn't know it was still going, or I would have asked that it be stopped. I'm sure it was responsible for the ongoing intensity of the pain.

Twenty minutes of pushing. Twenty minutes of give and take. Twenty minutes and it came down to two pushes. She was coming out slowly at first. It was fine. She was crowning. I reached down and felt the top of her head. I pushed once. The doctor and the nurse gasped. Her head came out. There was a raised portion of right in the middle of it. I don't know how to describe that moment. I thought the gasps were because of the raised spot on her head. My initial thought was that I'd broken her with that push. It was such an overwhelming sensation of love, not only in seeing her, but in an instant resolve that I would make sure this little body that I'd broken would be cared for and "fixed." I pushed again, they both gasped again, and before the gasp was over, Magnolia was in Doctor Hampton's arms. What I quickly found out was that the gasps weren't because my baby was broken, but I was breaking. Magnolia came out so quickly right at the end, that I started tearing. 4:08 in the morning on the very day Magnolia was full term, and I was the mother of two daughters.

In a matter of seconds, she was on my chest. No need to describe a mother's love here. But it is instant and overwhelming. I was caught up in her tiny hands, her little six pound one ounce body, her dark hair. I did it. I had accomplished the impossible. The terrifying, the desire of my heart for her delivery: I had actively birthed my baby. This act, I'm sure, allows most women to realize the amazing strength she has. I pushed that baby out, and that experience is something that no one can ever take away from me. It is an experience that I will feel blessed to have the opportunity to try again, if more children are meant for our family. It was an act of divinity, a tender mercy in my life. And it is all made sweeter for the beautiful girl I have as a result.


Afterthoughts: If I had it to do over again, I would definitely do a few things differently. First, I would do everything possible to avoid pitocin. It adds a very unnatural component to labor: namely, the intensity of contractions which leads to greater pain, messes with blood pressure and baby's heartbeat. I know it's a routine thing, but it compounded all of the hard parts of having a baby for me. Hopefully taking pitocin out of the equation would also take away the epidural, which is weird for me to say because while a needle was definitely poked into my back, it might as well not have been.

I don't want to labor lying down. I want to be up and around. It's hard because of the whole VBAC thing. I want to be as safe as possible, but I only want completely necessary interventions. With Magnolia, I was glad that I was being monitored the way I was, really, but it took away from what my body wanted to do instinctively, and I trust my body way more than anything else.

Lastly, I don't want to deliver lying down. Seriously. They had me down pretty flat for a while because of the whole blood pressure thing from the whole epidural thing. Then when it came time to push, I was still at pretty horizontal angle. Dr. Hampton told the nurses twice to raise me up, but then I think actually having a baby became more important than what position I was in to do so. I kept looking over at a birthing chair/stool, wondering if I could hit the pause button and move over there. I would rather deliver standing up than the angle I was at. That was in retrospect. All of this was. But in the end, it comes down to being an "active" active participant in delivering.


  1. what a beautiful thing to share. having a baby is a miracle . i'm so glad you were able to experience it.

    your story reminds me of this wonderful book, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. If you ever get a chance you should read it.

  2. Isn't it crazy and amazing how different every birth story is?!
    I have a love hate relationship with pitocin, it is a routine thing- but it HURTS!! I've never had them keep the pitocin going after my water is broke though, I can't imagine how much worse that was for you and sweet Maggie!
    What an amazing story- I'm so glad they are lifting these crazy bans on vbac's- sometimes a c-section is neccessary, but it doesn't mean the woman's body isn't able to try and labor again later...
    Thanks for sharing your story!!

  3. giving birth is definitely one defining point for a woman and how strong she truly is. i'm an active birth-er (is that a word?) as well. i walk and walk until that baby is right there. and so true about the water breaking. my worst labor was when they "helped" by breaking my water. it was 4 hours of misery for me! thanks for sharing this. it caused me to reflect on my own miracle births. it ALMOST makes me want to do it again! :) almost

  4. Happy Birthday, Magnolia. It was a lovely day indeed, receiving that beautiful gift in our lives.

    Love you,



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