In order to fully understand the birth story of my little Sebastian, I would like to share the heartbreak and hope that led us to him. In May and September 2022, my husband and I had two
early pregnancy losses. We were devastated both times. I was starting to feel pessimistic and even angry with God. We were shocked when I got a positive pregnancy test a couple days before
Halloween in October 2022, just one month after my previous loss. I immediately called the doctor and they had me come in to check my hCG and progesterone. I felt so hopeful and like something was different this time.
The next morning when I was driving to work, I answered the call from the doctor’s office and they told me that both my hCG and progesterone was so low that it was not a viable pregnancy and I should expect to miscarry again soon. I remember arguing with the nurse on the phone (while sobbing) that she was wrong and I just need to be prescribed progesterone. The doctor agreed to continue checking hCG and progesterone every few days to see what would happen. I spent the weekend anxiously waiting to see what would happen with my baby, but I remember I had a strange sense of peace that could only have come from God.
That Monday, when they rechecked my labs, both of the numbers had increased drastically. I pleaded with them that I needed progesterone, but they would not prescribe it to me unless my hCG continued to rise. After each lab I continued advocating for myself that I needed progesterone and one doctor (who actually ended up being the one on call during my birth) finally prescribed it for me. I wholeheartedly believe that is why Sebi is here today. I still can’t fathom how and why they told me he wasn’t viable after one test, so I want to encourage all
moms to trust your gut, advocate for yourself, and fight for your babies. Doctors can absolutely be wrong.
Fast forward to the last week of June 2023, I had prodromal labor on and off for a week with
contractions coming as often as every 3-4 minutes and then stopping suddenly. Then on Saturday, July 1, I woke up early that morning around 7:30 a.m. to a small trickle when I sat up. I texted my husband, who was already at work, that I either peed my pants or my water was
starting to leak. I determined that I was probably overthinking it and had just peed a little, so I continued my day as normal. My estimated due date wasn’t until July 4th and I had convinced myself that I would give birth after that.
The next morning on Sunday, July 2, I woke up to go to the bathroom at 4:30 am and I felt some cramping and back ache. Again, I told myself it was more prodromal labor since I had been having back pain and cramping on and off, so I went back to sleep. At 8:30 a.m., I got up to go to the bathroom and start getting ready for Mass, but I noticed that I had bloody show and I was still cramping with back pain. My husband and I ate breakfast, and then I got in the shower to see if that would stop the contractions or ease the back pain. After the shower, it felt even more intense, so we decided it best to stay home and watch Mass on EWTN.
Around 10 a.m., I called the hospital to ask about the bleeding and the nurse advised me it was all normal and encouraged me to labor at home as long as possible since I wanted an unmedicated birth. While watching Mass, I bounced on an exercise ball and timed contractions on my phone. My contractions were already 2-4 minutes apart and on average one minute or longer. I didn’t expect my contractions to start off so long and close together, so I kept questioning when we should go to the hospital. I called my mom and asked her to come braid my hair. While waiting for her to get there, I tried eating some soup, but I didn’t have much of an appetite and I was forcing myself to eat it to try to keep my strength up. I ended up throwing up the soup during a contraction soon after. I also kept getting down on the floor on my hands and knees because my back and butt were hurting during each contraction. My mom snapped a picture of my dog comforting me and my husband rubbing my back while I was on my hands and knees during a contraction, and it is one of my favorite pictures to look back on.
I called the hospital again at 1 p.m. to let them know that my contractions were close together and we were going to head that way soon. However, my husband and I both tried to stall as long as possible. He took his time packing things and I took my time getting dressed and ready. We
didn’t end up leaving our apartment until around 2:40 p.m. and we got to the hospital at 3 p.m. I
could feel my contractions spacing out on the car ride there and I started to question our decision to go in, but we stuck with it.
When we got checked in, the nurse checked my cervix and said I was 3-4 cm and 80% effaced and that she would check with the midwife about admitting me or not. I felt SO discouraged in that moment. My husband could read it on my face, and he kept telling me that it was progress and not to be discouraged. The midwife came and checked me shortly after and she said I was actually 4-5 cm dilated and that my water was already broken so they admitted me. In hindsight, my water had probably been leaking since Saturday morning, but I’m so glad I didn’t go into the hospital then because they probably would have tried to induce me.
I immediately got into the bath tub and put on my headphones listening to the Made for This
Birth app soundtracks. I’m so glad I did because that is where they drew blood, put an IV port in (although I never actually got an IV, they put the port in just in case), and had me sign SO many papers. It helped me relax to be in the tub with my headphones on while all of these overstimulating things were going on. Around 5 p.m. or so I got out of the tub and the nurse asked to check me again and put me back on the monitors for 15 minutes. I was at 6 cm at this point. I played a Gregorian chant playlist while laboring around the room and that helped me feel at ease.
My husband was also amazing as he kept encouraging me to change positions (even though I
didn’t want to), rubbing my back during contractions, and covering me/uncovering me with a
blanket before and during contractions since I would go from uncontrollable shaking cold to
feeling extremely hot in the matter of seconds.
Around 6 p.m., there was a shift change and I am so grateful as my new nurse was AMAZING. She brought me combs to try holding in my hand for pain management and told us some different positions we could try to get baby in a better position because I was having horrible back pain and rectal pressure during each contraction. She had me do three contractions on my left side with a peanut ball in between my legs, three contractions on my right side with the peanut ball, and three contractions on hands and knees. I was in a lot of pain during this circuit,
so my husband leaned over me and prayed Hail Marys during each contraction. When I focused
on the words of the prayer, I was able to get through each one. I also kept telling myself, “I can
do anything for a minute” and “I can do one more.” These were affirmations I had practiced for
months during my pregnancy to prepare for birth.
Around 7:30 p.m. the doctor on call came to check me and said I was 7.5 cm dilated and that there was a forebag of water bulging, but that it should break on its own as things progressed. I felt discouraged at that point again because the contractions and rectal pressure were SO intense. The nurse disagreed with the doctor, though, and she told me not to lose hope because she thought I was farther along than that and this particular doctor always underestimated things.
Around 8:30, I kept feeling the urge to push, but I was afraid to so I kept fighting it. The nurse actually encouraged me to push a little each time if I felt like it which surprised me since I had heard horror stories of women not being “allowed” to push in hospitals until they were 10 cm. The nurse called the doctor to check me again and I was only at 8, so the doctor went ahead and
broke the forebag of water and said she’d be back when it was time to push. We decided to try
something different so we headed to the bathroom to get back into the bath and for me to use the restroom.
I had one contraction on the toilet, felt a surge of pain and an uncontrollable urge to push, and the nurse said “Nope, turn off the bath, it’s time.” It took me a while to figure out how to push and I did use coached pushing from my doctor. The doctor kept telling me to hold my breath while pushing and count to 10. For future births I will definitely do more research on pushing rather than accepting coached pushing. I had wanted to try many different positions for pushing to minimize tearing, but the most comfortable and bearable position for me was side lying while holding my leg up and pressed to my side. I tried hands and knees, but the rectal pressure was so strong I just wanted to lie on my side again. They asked me if I wanted to try squatting, but I said no because I didn’t want to try to move, and it was nice to rest on my side between pushes.
At one point the nurse said she could see the baby’s hair and I remember getting so emotional and feeling like I could really finish strong. I also got to feel the baby’s head as I was pushing and was shocked how squishy it felt. I don’t ever remember feeling the ring of fire that others describe, and I had read about prior to giving birth. Surprisingly, pushing was probably my favorite part of labor because I felt like I was almost at the finish line and the anticipation of meeting my baby took over. After about an hour of pushing, I remember looking up and seeing my husband’s face absolutely beaming. He was encouraging me so much and practically jumping up and down with excitement. It gave me the strength to push as hard as I could and Sebastian “Sebi” Joseph was born at 9:50 p.m. on July 2 weighing 7 lbs. 4oz.
I did have a second-degree tear, but I don’t remember feeling the tear happen. Getting stitches wasn’t bad at all either since I was focused on the joy of holding my son for the first time and
hearing his strong lungs cry for the first time! For my next birth, God willing, I definitely want to
try pushing on my hands and knees to prevent tearing, but I am at peace with this birth knowing
that I pushed in the position that worked for me at the time. I got immediate skin to skin with my
precious baby and delayed cord clamping. However, after the cord was cut the doctor pulled on
the placenta to get it out of me. I had explicitly asked for time for the placenta to come out on its
own in my birth plan, but I was so excited holding my baby I didn’t try to fight the doctor or
even realize what she was doing.
My nurse examined the placenta and let us see it as well. She told us that I actually had a marginal cord insertion, meaning that the umbilical cord was not in the center of the placenta but off to the side. We had never heard of this before, so it was so cool to see! I got my golden hour with my baby trying to get him to breastfeed and uninterrupted skin to skin - I can’t describe how energetic and on top of the world I felt after birth, and I think this was largely due to the fact it was an unmedicated birth.
After that golden hour when I got up to use the restroom and get changed, I was unable to empty
my bladder and I started gushing blood when I got back into the bed. They took my baby away from me and shortly after the first few gushes the nurse was on the phone with someone and many people started rushing into the room with all sorts of equipment. I will always be triggered by blood loss due to my previous pregnancy losses so this was very difficult and scary. They gave me IV Pitocin, a shot in the leg, put a catheter in, and started continuous fundal massage to control the bleeding. They kept changing out pads and weighing them. The continuous fundal massage was the most painful thing I have ever experienced, more than labor itself, and I was extremely afraid since no one told us what was happening and why all of these interventions were happening. The doctor, who was driving home when she got the call to come back to the hospital, finally came in the room and pulled a blood clot out in her hand. I think this experience was so negative for me because no one explained to me why so many people rushed in the room, no one explained what they were doing to treat the bleeding, and the continuous fundal massage was so painful. I kept feeling gushes of blood each time they pressed down on my stomach. I kept saying to my husband that I was afraid, and I looked up at him one time and he was crying and looked just as afraid as me. I can’t imagine the fear he felt having to witness this.
My husband and I discussed the experience afterwards and we both thought I was going to die. Everything turned out okay and, in the end, I am grateful to God that He protected me. All of this led me to make the decision that in the future I want to insist that the placenta is given ample time to come out on its own in a reasonable amount of time, as opposed to just pulling it out right away before it was ready. Also, after emailing with Mary I learned that some midwives actually teach patients how to do their own fundal massage (if it is even necessary) so it can be less invasive and painful.
I am so passionate about unmedicated birth, breastfeeding, and informed consent and I’m grateful I got to experience the birth of my dreams with a few hiccups. I would encourage other
women to do as much preparation for birth as possible. Strengthen the pelvic floor, practice
birth affirmations, eat dates, drink red raspberry leaf tea, walk as much as possible, and create a birth plan. Don't be afraid to advocate for yourself, ask the tough questions at prenatal visits, and find a new provider if you’re not pleased with the one you have.
Claire lives in North Carolina with her husband AJ, their 3 month old son Sebi, and their dog
Princess Buttercup. She is a CPA and enjoys working on governmental audits at a local CPA firm.
In her free time she likes to play tennis and disc golf, read, and go on family walks.