21 Hours

So it turns out that the contractions I was having Saturday evening were the real deal. We’re home now, life is still crazy and out-of-sync, and we’re all trying to adjust to the changes.

The (written with little sleep) story:

After two hours of fairly regular contractions 4-6 minutes apart Saturday evening, I called my doula. She agreed that it might be labor, but they also might go away, so I continued to wait them out. Slowly they were getting more uncomfortable (and at this point, I mean “uncomfortable” – the true “painful” comes later), and I called my doula back at 11pm for an update. I didn’t feel like she needed to be here yet, so she advised me to try to get an hour or two of sleep, and call when I needed her.

I think I slept for maybe an hour or so, although I could feel the contractions while I slept – sort of like in a dream. When I woke up, I took a shower to help with the pain, and Aaron called my doula to ask her to come over. She arrived around 2am and went right to work helping me cope with each contraction. At this point, each contraction was around 45-60 seconds and coming roughly every 3-4 minutes. This was so unfair – most women get to build up to contractions coming quickly, but mine started out close and got intense fast.

By 4am, it was taking serious effort to get through each contraction, so we left for the hospital. Valet parking is only available during the day – a serious problem, in my opinion – so we had to park in one of the parking garages. It took about 15 minutes to even get to the labor and delivery floor because we had to stop every three minutes or so for a contraction. Once we got through registration, I was taken into triage to be assessed.

At this point, I was still feeling positive, thinking that my body was probably doing some awesome work in there. And then the nurse checked me, and declared I was only two and a half centimeters dilated. That’s nine hours and a lot of contractions to get one centimeter further than I already was before labor. Disappointed isn’t a strong enough word to describe how I felt.

Gotta love the stylish hospital gown – ugh

I was kept in triage for another two hours, waiting to dilate to three centimeters so I could be admitted to the unit. Finally I was moved into my own labor and delivery room around 7am. By this point, contractions were now well over a minute long, still three minutes apart, and I surprised myself with the moans coming out of me.

I brought a birth plan with me, and the hospital was very good at honoring it as best they could. Because I was a VBAC, I had to be monitored continuously, but they had a telemetry unit so I could still move around at will. However, the fates conspired against me, and after about an hour the thing stopped working and no one could fix it.

Aaron and my doula were amazing. As each contraction came on, they were there holding my hands, forcing me to focus on breathing exercises, rubbing my back, and doing anything they could to make me more comfortable. I can’t imagine the sorry state I would have been in without them.

Around 9am, 14 hours into labor, I hit a breaking point. The pain was hitting a new high, one where I couldn’t stay in control and ride it out. The word “epidural” was beginning to escape my lips. Everyone else convinced me to be checked first, since there was a good chance I could have made a lot of progress and be near the end of it all. The nurse checked me, and when she said only four centimeters, I immediately demanded the epidural. Fourteen hours of intense labor overnight to be at only four centimeters was too much to bear.

Thankfully, the anesthesiologist was quick, and within the hour I had my epidural. With that in place, I was able to finally relax and let my body do what it needed to do. I know that epidurals can slow labor and bring on more interventions, but at that point I was too exhausted to continue. I needed to rest.

The next several hours passed with less excitement. My cervix started to dilate at a decent pace, while I closed my eyes and rested. I never slept, though, because I was constantly being turned by the nurse due to the baby’s heartbeat disappearing off the monitor. It wasn’t a cause for concern, because they always found it again quickly, but they didn’t like to see it drop off the monitor.

The epidural also wore off three times. Yes, three times. Sucks, eh? I was able to get it topped off again quickly, though, so I wasn’t in pain for too long each time.

I reached 10 centimeters around 3pm, and started feeling the pushing contractions right away. It’s true what everyone say – pushing contractions feel very different, and don’t feel as painful. In fact, when you reach that point, pushing feels pretty good.

The only problem was the doctor wasn’t there yet. She was called, but said she was still 15-20 minutes away. The resident doctor asked me to try a practice push, just to see how long he thought pushing would take. After my test push, he turned to the nurse and said, “This baby is coming soon. I’m going to call the doctor and tell her to hurry. Don’t let her push until she’s here.”

Don’t let her push? Was this guy trying to be funny? Because with each contraction, my body took over and pushed without any intention from me. There was no way a few “hee hee hee” breathing exercises were going to stop it. I remember at some point saying, “Are you serious? Babies don’t wait on doctor schedules!” Still, I tried to hold off, and about half an hour later, the doctor arrived, and I was allowed to begin pushing.

Active pushing took all of about 20 minutes and only a handful of contractions. The doctor complimented me on my pushing ability, which at the time seemed like the weirdest compliment I’d ever received. “Uh, I guess I can thank the kegels,” I said between contractions.

But a far more weird compliment came after that. The head came into view during the third or fourth active pushing contraction (I can’t exactly remember – it all happened so fast), the doctor reached in to feel around the head and remarked, “Wow, there’s no molding of the head at all! That’s amazing!” Later, after she was born and they again remarked on how her head was still perfectly round, I asked, “Are you saying I have a big vagina?” The doctor laughed and said, “No, just that you have a good wide pelvis for giving birth!”

So back to pushing: I now understand that whole “ring of fire” experience so many talk about. Her head crowned right at the end of a contraction, requiring me to wait for the next contraction to push again. Ouch. The time before that next contraction felt like an eternity, but soon I was pushing again, and she came flying out and was placed right onto my stomach at 4:00pm sharp, 21 hours after it all started. She cried right away and was beautifully pink all over.

I’m glad I got the chance to have a VBAC. While neither method of birth is easy, and I couldn’t even make it through the pain of labor, the VBAC was a better experience. I felt more connected with what was going on, and I was able to hold my baby right away.

Miranda (we call her Mira) is doing well. Unlike Cordy, she’s taken to breastfeeding like a pro, although she does suffer from the newborn problem of falling asleep 5 seconds after latching on. More to come on what happened after the birth later. As it is, it’s taken me all day to write this post.

Thank you all for the well-wishes! It was wonderful to come back here and see so many visitors!

Surrounded by support: my nurse, my doula, Aaron and I, and Mira
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  1. My epiduril stopped working twice right near the end for me too…and my heart rate was affected by it. A little scarry, and painful. I know what you felt. I am happy for you though. Labor is never easy, but the results are so worth it…

  2. Oh MAN does this ever sound familiar. Congratulations on your VBAC… that’s quite a feat in and of itself and don’t feel bad about asking for an epidural after 14 hours – if you hadn’t, you would have been too tired to push. You did the right thing.
    Welcome to the world Mira! Congrat’s to you, Aaron and Cordy on becoming a family of four!

  3. Congratulations! I love that last picture. You look SO HAPPY. Enjoy and I’m crossing my fingers for lots of sleep!

  4. daundelyon says:


  5. Congratulations! I’m so happy for you and Aaron and big sis Cordy. What a beautiful family. I’m crying a little myself.

    How sweet and wonderful.

  6. Congrats on a successful VBAC. My VBAC also lasted 21 hours – such fun. I had to do the death march around the hospital for 2 hours to get me to dilate enough so they could admit me. You look fantastic in the photos!

  7. Motherhood Uncensored says:

    Yay you! You rock.

    Can’t wait to meet Mira.

  8. She’s precious! You are glowing in that last picture….and wow, I am impressed you wrote a blog post already.

  9. Karianna says:

    Hooray! Welcome Mira!

  10. Major Bedhead says:

    Yaaaaay! She’s beautiful!

    Fourteen hours before an epidural is amazing. I was ready for one about two hours in.

  11. Yay for babies!! Congrats! She’s gorgeous!

  12. Mommy off the Record says:

    Congratulations and thanks for sharing your beautiful birth story!

  13. Jennifer says:

    What a beautiful name for a beautiful girl! Congrats!

    Also congrats on your vbac, so glad you had a good experience!!!

  14. 3carnations says:

    Congratulations! I’m glad your labor went relatively smoothly.

    At our hospital, the ob/gyn on call stays there while he/she is on call. The only thing you have to wait for is him to finish with another patient. Over a half hour travel for the doctor to arrive? Crazy.

  15. Yay, yay, yay! I’m so happy for you all and so proud of you for having a VBAC. And don’t feel like you failed in any way for having an epidural. Modern medicine evolved for a reason! The best part is that you are all healthy, so rest up and take care of your girls!

  16. smashedpea says:

    Wheeeee! Congratulations – on the cute little baby girl, of course, but also on having a VBAC!

    Glad it all worked out so well, and hey, it gives me hope, too :)

    And it’s weird, I had the endless labour without progressing with my first pregnancy, too. And reading about how it went for you, brought back so many memories… especially the one where you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck when they tell you that nothing much happened….

    Congrats again and welcome to the world little Mira!

  17. MamaMichelsBabies says:

    I can honestly say that if I ever had to do a marathon labor like 21 hours each and every one of mine would have been so medicated it wouldn’t be funny. Hell the fact that you hit the 14 hour mark is plenty enough. COngrats on the successful vbac, and the ring of fire is intense isn’t it?

    You two look great, congrats again!

  18. nomotherearth says:

    Congratulations! The fact that you had such a successful VBAC gives me much hope (including the improved breastfeeding..!). What an adorable baby girl.

  19. Wow, Congratulations – she is beautiful! Cordy must be so proud :)
    With Sarah I had my first easy contraction at 4:35am and at 5:15 am I felt the hard contraction. I pushed 4 times and she was out! Hurt like a SOB! Fast labors are not easier, in fact worse because you don’t have time to stretch…UGH!

  20. Thanks for the beautiful birth story and congratulations on your VBAC! Congratulations on your beautiful daughter too. I love the name.

  21. Isn’t it nice to know you have good birthing hips! hahahahaha. Wow, that doctor is just full of lovely compliments :)

    Congratulations! I couldn’t wait to hear your VBAC story

  22. OHHHH! She is beautiful and thanks for sharing the amazing story!
    And you look GREAT in all pictures!
    GREAT, I tell you. And I’m not one to lie, either.
    Congrats once again and I really hope all are healthy and happy!

  23. Oh that is amazing…thank you for sharing….

    Have fun with your new angel and enjoy your bigger family!!!

  24. Reluctant Housewife says:

    Congratulations! You all look so happy!

    I love the name Miranda and am TOTALLY taking credit for suggesting it. Great choice ;)

  25. mrsfortune says:

    What a great story! I’m so glad it went so well for you. I can’t wait to hear how everyone is adjusting. :) She (and you) are very beautiful.

  26. We finally got our cable/internet hooked up today after a week of being offline and I had to check out your site to see what was going on…. Well, looks like we have a baby! So excited for you! Great birth story – hang in there with the little one and Cordy – call me if you need me. I’m local! So happy for you guys.

  27. I know I said this already but you are totally my hero for having a VBAC! I’m so glad it worked out for you. Mira is beautiful and I can’t wait to see her at BlogHer.

  28. MBKimmy says:

    You look beautiful in the picture where she was placed on your chest … Congrats! I am very escited for you!

  29. The Flip Flop Mamma! says:

    The Epidural never even worked for me having SlowMo, so I didn’t even attempt one with the Beast. I’m so glad she’s nursing well! It gives me high hopes, that this next babe will do better than the Beast did.

  30. Wow I’m tired just reading this. But YOU, mama – you look just beautiful! Despite the hospital gown and everything.

    And “I couldn’t even make it through the pain of labor” – pshaw. Would you say “I couldn’t even make it through the pain of my wisdom tooth removal without novocaine?” Hell no. Your job is to deliver a healthy baby and that is all. Don’t give the means to the end another thought.

  31. Wonderful birth story. I’m glad you had your VBAC and that it was a beautiful experience.

  32. aimee / greeblemonkey says:

    Hooray hooray! VBAC and all! Many congrats and welcome Miranda!!!

  33. Impregnated says:

    It’s so great to hear such a positive VBAC birth story.

  34. I know a lot of time has passed since your birth, but as I read your pregnancy posts, I’m dying to know: Was she as big as they predicted?!

  35. Rachel – she was eight and a half pounds! A little bigger than her sister, but not by much.

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