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In the blink of an eye: The birth of Penelope Jane Unmedicated

In the blink of an eye: The birth of Penelope Jane

"As we drove over, my contractions got closer together, and it felt as though the labor was moving right along."

Penelope is my third child, and this pregnancy was my first time going past my due date. Those last days of pregnancy are a mental chess game, and I now understand just how much harder it is each day you go beyond your due date. Knowing it is simply a guess doesn’t make it any less painful or uncomfortable and sleep is ever more elusive. 

Four days past due, I headed to my weekly appointment where we discussed the next steps should I reach 41 weeks. An ultrasound and non-stress test were scheduled, and we headed out hoping that I wouldn’t need either. 

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My husband, Tim, and I took advantage of the time we had to catch a movie and then have dinner together to celebrate our anniversary that was in two days. The whole week prior, I had experienced mild contractions that would start around dinnertime and then drop off in the middle of the night. That night was the same, though the contractions seemed to be more intense than before. We paid our bill and headed home to tuck our older daughter into bed. 

At home we said goodnight to Eleanor, and I got into the bath. Contractions weren’t consistent, but they were getting stronger—so we packed up our bags and headed out to the birth center, which was an hour away in Chapel Hill.

As we drove over, my contractions got closer together, and it felt as though the labor was moving right along. The contractions were consuming me so much that I peed on a towel right in the car, twice! I just couldn’t help it, and I didn’t think we had time to pull over anyway. 

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When we arrived, I was checked, and I was only dilated 2 centimeters! When I heard this, I felt completely deflated because the pain I was feeling made me think I was much further along. Tim told my mother that I was 2 centimeters, and so she thought she might make it to the birth center in time. She is a midwife and has been present for the birth of all her grandchildren. She was driving from D.C. with my father, and they left about the same time we did. Hearing that she thought she would make it disheartened me even more. There was no way I could keep laboring like this for that long. 

From there I labored on the toilet, on a ball and in the tub. With each contraction I told my husband, the midwife (Sarah) and the nurse (Emily) that I couldn’t do it. The pain was so intense, and I just could not fathom much more of it.

Another check while I was in the tub showed I was at 4 to 5 centimeters. I knew for sure I couldn’t keep up this pace of contractions because I was only half way there, so I begged everyone to get me out of there. I wanted to transfer to the hospital and get an epidural that minute. I wanted someone to rescue me from the pain. In hindsight this was all “transition trash talk” as my mother calls it. 

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Seeing my desperation, Sarah offered me nitrous which I accepted and prepared to get out of the tub to use it. As I stepped out, I had what felt like many more intense contractions in the five steps from the tub to the bed. I hung onto Tim’s neck, and Sarah pressed on my back, which really helped with the pain.

Once I reached the bed, I tried to start the nitrous, but I couldn’t keep the mask on. Emily and Sarah helped me hold the mask on, and I finally breathed enough nitrous that I relaxed. At that moment I felt my body start to push involuntarily. Sarah asked if I needed to push. I started to cry because I thought she would tell me to stop since I was just 5 centimeters a few moments ago. To my surprise, she told me I was about to meet my baby. With just two more pushes Penelope Jane was here and in my arms. 

In the end it was just two hours from when I arrived to the delivery of our little girl. Once she decided it was time to join our family, Penny came soaring out into the world and filled up our hearts once again.

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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!