I frequently talk about the likelihood that I will come to love my clients in our very first meeting together. We discuss how I am a guardian of their space; an educational and emotional outlet throughout their pregnancy and with them and during one of the most intimate moments of their lives as they birth their child. We grow together, learn together, and I urge them to lean on me when they need me. Some need me less. Some need me more. And then there are some that are special snowflakes. Ones who need me multiple times..in real snow storms! These wonderful people, Tierney and Ian - proud parents of our star today, Charley - and I spent a few days together (not consecutive hours!) to try and navigate her labor as it unfolded. Let me say off the bat that I am so grateful and happy for our time together and I truly don’t think that Charley would have it any other way. Now, Tierney will tell her birth story through her eyes.**
My labor story is not quite what I expected - as is with approximately 99.87% of births out there. When Ian and I spoke of birth, I had prepped myself for hours of contractions; having a slow build-up to the birth of my first child. I was told to expect labor to last for about 24 hours for first time mothers… Cat was the only person who mentioned prodromal labor in our visits. That being said, I would like to start my birth and labor story to five days before my daughter made her debut to the world.
I woke up Saturday, Feb. 21 at around 4am with contractions and a forecast for a snow storm. Prior to this, I had been getting contractions on and off for a few days prior but I could talk through them and assumed they were Braxton Hicks. This morning, however, they felt different. The discomfort started in my back and radiated forward. Not trying to rush out of bed, I laid there and had my husband hold a heat back to my lower back to make it through the first few contractions. After that, we moved to the birth ball and the intensity and frequency started to pick up. I believe around 6am we had texted my mom and Cat letting them know I had been consistently contracting for about 2 hours and asked them to come over. After they arrived we all worked well as a team and everyone helped me work through my contractions.
**Doula Interjection** OH WOW - did the team work well! It is something truly beautiful and amazing when a Mom is supported the way Tierney was being supported. Even though she talks about laughing and discussing TV shows, when her contractions started to build, she was focused and so was her team. No one spoke. The power belonged to Tierney and she worked it. Magical. **
At this point, we were all still able to joke around and make references to TV shows we all thought were funny. Hours had gone by and the snow continued to pile up. My contractions were no longer intensifying and the frequency was slowing down. By that evening, labor had completely halted. Feeling defeated, Cat reassured me that I needed to focus on resting and letting my body do its thing.
A few days went by and there was still no sign of labor. I went to my scheduled doctor’s appointment on Monday and at that point was about 4cm dilated. Early on Tuesday morning (about 2:30am) contractions had started back up. Cat and my mom came over bright and early (again) and I continued to labor. Contractions were definitely more intense from that Saturday and I was convinced that today was the day we would meet our daughter. I started to focus more inward and we decided to go to the hospital.
**If I may - Tierney was showing signs of active labor for hours before they made the call. She mentions focusing inward. Again, her humble manner of writing gives her little credit for how “inward” she was focused. She breathed in rhythm, worked in rhythm, and was supported in rhythm. Back to T - **
After I got to their triage, I was checked and placed on the monitor. I had let them know that I wanted a natural labor and they were concerned that I did not seem to be progressing. They hospital gave me the option of getting admitted or going home. I was emotionally stuck at this point because this was the second time I had geared myself up for going into labor and meeting my daughter but it seemed like my body was getting in the way (at least that was how I viewed it at the time). I was torn between wanting to stay at the hospital out of my stubbornness, thinking, “I can will this child out of me,” and wanting to go home. I kept thinking that the longer I was at the hospital, I more worried that there would be a higher likelihood that my providers would push for a medical intervention.
After discussing it with Ian and Cat, I felt that the best decision for my labor would be to go home where I was comfortable and could rest. By 4pm that day, my contractions had died out despite us trying every natural way to help labor progress (I’m talking everything from essential oils suggested by my mom, acupressure, walking, nipple stimulation, bouncing on the labor ball, laying in odd and uncomfortable positions to try to help my daughter get better aligned for birth) to help prevent this start-stop-start cycle we seemed stuck in.
At this point I was feeling defeated and feeling like there was something wrong with me or my body. I was trying to hold it all in though since people were around me and I’m not a fan of showing my more vulnerable emotions to many. Cat zeroed in on this ***I’m a sly birth lady vixon*** and helped me talk about it. I worked on letting go of my expectations and allowed myself to be upset without blaming my body or me. That evening we focused on getting me more relaxed and in a better place emotionally (Pitch Perfect was a great way to accomplish that at the time). I am one of those people who is always in her head and I easily psych myself out so it took a lot of work to get out of that headspace. At around 8pm that night, Cat and my mom went home while my husband and I continued to rest in anticipation of the day that we would finally meet our daughter who has been teasing us for the past four days.
On Thursday, February 26, I woke up around 7:30am with contractions again. I was resting on the labor ball and my husband was brewing a pot of coffee to start the day. I distinctly said to my husband “If I’m still contracting at 4pm this evening then we’re telling my mom and Cat” since I was expecting another 10 hours of contractions before they died out. Well, I did not have to worry about waiting until 4pm because not even 15 minutes later my water broke naturally, during a contraction. My poor husband seemed a little confused about this (he asked a few more times what had happened and asked about my waters despite me telling him I needed a towel). We called Cat and my mom to let them know about this progress and we had agreed to meet at my house. The contractions here on out were so intense I had my husband call them back ***5 minutes later :) *** and tell them to just meet us at the hospital.
We made our way and after an expletive-filled car ride thanks to back labor and with no help from NJ pot holes, we finally arrived at the hospital (again). My husband asked the valet to get a wheelchair for me since it took me about 15-20 minutes just to make it from my house to the car in the first place. I remember the contractions were so intense and were about 30-60 seconds apart so it felt like as soon as one contraction was finished, the next one was gearing up. I was honestly scared to move and I remember asking my husband to literally rip me out of the car in between contractions. I still don’t recall how I got out of the car…
***I have a great photo of Ian helping Tierney out of the car...but that’s saved for Tierney and Ian :) ***
We got to the hospital a little before 9am and they moved me from triage to L&D relatively quickly (at least it felt quick to me… there is no real was to reference time too much while in the midst of labor ;) I just remember the back pain was pretty intense and it was so painful to sit back. I also remember a nurse behind me saying something about me going naturally at which I promptly felt this moment of sheer panic and wondering how much longer I could stand this intense pain. Cat was able to pick up on this panic and re-center me. (That’s the nice way of putting it- I panicked and started to ask for an epidural and Cat just looked at me and said “You’re doing this. You don’t need an epidural” to which I’m pretty sure I cried “Okay”).
***The nurse was in front of her and she glared at her as she sat up and said “I can’t do this naturally!” I have to tell you all reading that that moment of “sheer panic” as Tierney describes was only witnessed by me because no one else would have even known! She was at much more peaceful than her perception of herself allows you to see. A birth goddess, through my eyes.***
I really needed to hear that in the moment. Having someone so confident in me and my body’s ability to have her helped to situate me.
Fortunately the hospital had these nifty beds that they could manipulate so I was able to labor on my knees facing the bed while resting my head on the top of the mattress; my body at a 90 degree angle. At around 10am, ***READ - an hour after arriving!*** I felt a lot of pressure and could tell the baby was moving down and I started pushing.
At 10:19 that morning, I first held my daughter in my arms. In that moment, all I felt was relief and gratitude that I had such a supportive birth team to help keep me focused and confident in myself.
***And her doula said - AMEN!! Really though, I must say that Tierney and Ian (and Mimi, Tierney's mom) were such a remarkable team to work with. Another birth team I am honored to have worked with and so very excited to work with again for the birth of Charley’s sister later this yea!. For my special snowflake couple - I am so lucky to have been chosen to be your doula and friend. For Charley, you are an amazing young lady baby and more than lucky to call Tierney and Ian your parents. This is only the beginning! ***
Cat is the founder of Birth Freely Birth Services. Her passion is empowering women through education and providing them with continuous labor support so they can have the birth they desire!