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Answered prayers: The birth of Francis Unmedicated

Answered prayers: The birth of Francis

"That's when I had a contraction that made me want to move—the sign I had been looking for."

I prayed every night of this pregnancy while putting my sweet son, Buddy, to bed. After voicing lots of hopeful feelings—for comfort and rest for him, for protection and a bright future—we would pray for the baby in my belly. 

“Please. Deliver him in the month of April, whole and healthy, into our arms. Without trauma. Walk us through that fire, without even letting us smell like smoke. Be gentle as you grow and stretch us.”

When I passed 39 weeks and two days (Buddy’s time in the belly) on April 24, I started to feel pins of anxiety for this birth to just happen. It took about two more days of self-talk, prayer and talking to my husband every evening for the restlessness to subside. 

On repeat: I know my body can grow a baby, labor and birth that baby all on its own. I won’t be pregnant forever.

On the morning of April 28 my phenomenal midwife Denise checked my cervix and found me to be 3 centimeters, 60 percent effaced, and baby’s head was in a great spot. She also stripped my membranes and gave my kid a granola bar because, again, she’s the best. She said, “Let’s just have this baby tomorrow!” I laughed.

That afternoon, as I put Buddy to bed, I was noticing really infrequent, mild cramps. I ordered pizza and salad for dinner, knowing that with such a minimal appetite I needed some extra convincing to want to eat. I tried to wrap up the laundry I had started but felt tired. Adam and I ate, watched some TV and talked. We realized that this might be the night.

I went to bed a bit early, sort of hoping to just sleep through the night and labor the next day. I fell asleep around 10:45 p.m., after having timed a few contractions and talking to Adam about a game plan for calling our team. I woke up around midnight with a solid squeeze, radiating an ache through my lower back and hips. These continued to come about every 15 to 20 minutes until about 2:45 a.m. That’s when I had a contraction that made me want to move—the sign I had been looking for. I stayed in bed through it, and I knew it was time to do something. I woke Adam. 

“These contractions are real now. I am going to get up and into the shower, and as soon as I do it’s going to change pretty fast. I’m calling my mom and Denise. I’ll let you know when to get up. I love you.”

I called my parents, who had about a 40-minute drive. And I called Denise, who needed about at hour. She said that she would shower, too, and head to the hospital. Both reacted with more urgency than I anticipated, but I would soon be grateful for that. Those calls were made at 2:55 a.m. 

I got in the shower and sat down. I wiggled and breathed and kept my jaw loose. I kept getting out to go to the toilet, then back in. I realized I needed to throw the last minute things in the bag and tell Adam to get ready. That was at 3:30 a.m. I told him we weren’t even going to have my parents come up, but rather we would meet them in the parking lot once they were here. My dad was going to sleep here, with our toddler, while my mom came with us. I was starting to moan and definitely had to bend over through each contraction. Adam sent some work emails. I laid on the bed for a minute. The rest felt great for my legs, but it was so hard to get back up as the contractions started that I decided it was better to just stay up right. 

I called my mom at 4 a.m. and just said, “Close?”

“We’re here.”

“Coming down.”

I handed Adam the duffel bag, grabbed the cookies for the nurses out of the freezer, and dumped out our bathroom trash can—so I could take it with me. I thought I would for sure throw up in the car. 

I had a contraction in the hall, briefly thinking that I hated to walk away from my sleeping son. Another contraction hit just outside the lobby door while I was asking my dad to make sure he could hear Buddy when he wakes up. I grabbed a pole by the parking lot and was moo-ing, as a neighbor brought his dog out to pee. As we were walking to the car, I called Denise to tell her we were on our way over. Thank God, she was already there. It was 4:12 a.m.

We were able to fly through the empty streets of downtown L.A. I think I only had about two contractions in the car. The windows down for me, even though my mom and Adam were chilly. Adam dropped us at the front door, and I told him to hurry. 

I thought my mom was going to have to give the security guard some information, but he just pointed us toward the elevators. Eight south, so glad I could remember where we needed to go. Another contraction. Another. My strong mama loaded up with bags. We got buzzed through the L&D doors, and I spotted Denise right away. She smiled and said, “Does this look like a lady who needs triage? What room is she going to?”

I think it was room 51. I walked in, tried to pee, ditched my pants, put on the elastic band that holds the external monitor and leaned over the raised bed. It was exactly like Buddy’s labor. Maybe 10 minutes later, I got up on the bed while they tried to get IV access, but I was too far in labor land to hold still. Very sweet nurses, very unhelpful laboring mom. I rolled over to be checked and was at 8 centimeters, 90 percent effaced. Just like with my first labor, I already knew. Every moment felt exactly as I had expected. They monitored baby on and off, doing incredible feats of flexibility to reach my belly with the external monitor, while I swayed and stood. He was doing great.

My mom was squeezing my hips for a minute, but I asked her to switch with Adam, so I could have even more pressure. I eventually climbed onto the bed and leaned over the raised head on my knees. Cold washcloths on my neck; Adam was right behind me. With each contraction, he pushed so hard on my tail bone, and I swayed my hips and slapped my mama’s hand while she moaned with me. Denise said, “That’s right, keep it loose—don’t pinch those cheeks!”

I yelled for Jesus. I told my mom I wanted to die. I told Adam that the pressure on my back and hips felt so good. A joke was made about quaaludes and how nobody knows what they are, and I chimed in that all that Bill Cosby business was going to inform the next generation about them. Yikes.

At some point my sounds must have changed, and Denise reminded me that I could bear down with my contractions if I wanted to. That was all I needed to hear. I was so ready to push.

Adam moved away in anticipation of my water breaking. I think I pushed twice before the push that broke the bag. I had felt such relief with the rupture of my bag last time, but not this time. His head was already there. 

I spent a lot of time reading birth stories during this pregnancy, and I was really impressed by mamas who noticed the sensation of the baby filling up and moving down the birth canal. I really wanted to feel that, and not just blind pain. I definitely did. It was crazy. 

They could see hair. I knew I just wanted to get it over with, but also that I really wanted to avoid tearing if at all possible. So, I had to really zone in on Denise’s voice. As baby boy crowned, she would say, “Pant, pant, pant. OK, little push. OK, pant! Little push.”

My mama panted with me and grunted with me, and my husband had his forehead right next to mine. I knew he was weepy and so excited. I swear to you, I could not have been that controlled on my own. My eyes were closed, and I was seeing huge blooming flowers every time I pushed. I also definitely yelled that my butt was going to explode because I’m very eloquent and quiet.

Then his head was out. And then his shoulders, and all the rest of him. About 10 minutes after I pushed for the first time, at 6:07 a.m., Francis Augustine was birthed. I cried so hard, so fast, from such relief. I said, “Adam! It’s over! Oh my God, it’s over! Thank you Jesus, it’s over!! I want to see him so bad, but I can’t figure out how to turn around!” I had delivered while still on my knees. I thought his cry sounded so new to me. 

image4Denise had him and told me how to roll over. I asked Adam to grab the nice camera because those first seconds holding Buddy are my favorite pictures of myself ever, and I wanted the same with Frankie. He took some beautiful pictures. 

And then the boy was on my belly. And passed under the elastic band and squished up against me, and I got to see him up close. He was blond, half-covered in vernix and very noisy. I started to shake really intensely, instantly. I kept looking around in shock that it was over. I kissed my husband, and he kissed our baby. 

A few minutes later I delivered the placenta. My uterus firmed up, but I continued to lose more blood than they wanted to see. Here’s where IV access became important, and I felt so bad for having made it hard. I’m a nurse; I get it. I am pretty pale anyways, but apparently I looked even more ghostly than usual. 

My belly was kneaded, I screamed “OUCH!!” as they manually removed clots. Dr. Chang arrived with coffee for my mama and Adam and did an ultrasound to really confirm that there was no placenta left behind. There wasn’t. 

I was given IM Pitocin and IM Methergine. The anesthesiologist was called to try to get an IV started. They did eventually get a line, right through the scar from the only other IV line I’ve ever had, from my first birth. More Pitocin and fluids. Frankie nursed to help the cramping come. It was so painful, the contractions felt like a really mean trick after I had just pushed a baby out. 

I didn’t need blood, just extra iron for a few weeks. No tearing, thank heavens. 

And I had a new baby boy, another son for us. That first day in the hospital was so sweet. I was high on endorphins, my sons met for the first time, and we had a visit from Papa and Aunt Syd and Buster. We had wonderful talks with both Denise and our OB/GYN, Dr. Chang. He was sad to have missed the birth, but I think he made it up to us by hanging out and talking that evening! We laughed a lot. Adam was in the bed with me, and I turned to him and said, “I feel so good. I really hope I remember this part.” Things got so hard and emotionally wonky after Bud that I can barely remember if I ever felt that relaxed and blissful in the hospital. I was determined to be present this time. 

So, my prayers were answered. I had our baby in April (4/29), safe, whole, healthy and without trauma. I am so very blessed, drenched in mercy and grace. 

Send us your birth story! Whether you had a home birth, hospital birth, 37-hour labor or emergency C-section, we’d love to read the tale of your little one’s grand entrance. Write up your birth story (click here for tips on getting started) and email it, along with a few photos, to birthstory@pnmag.com. We’ll share it on our Birth Day blog and may even print it in an upcoming issue!