Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Coco's Birth Story

(Note: I haven't proofread this and I wrote it in bits and pieces so I hope it's somewhat coherent.)

I was scheduled to be induced Wednesday night (August 6th) at 9pm. I kept thinking that I'd go into labor before that, but... it didn't happen.

Once Rerun had flipped around so she was head-down, I was ready to go. I thought I was doing pretty well in terms of anxiety, but a high fluid measurement at one of my NST/BPP monitoring sessions (30cm!) had me pretty freaked out. While too much fluid is generally better than too little, I know that there are also risks associated with high fluid levels. I was told that the normal range is 10-25cm, and when I was re-measured before leaving my appointment that day (they do that when you start crying), another nurse got 26cm. Obviously it's not an exact science (in fact, so little about pregnancy IS an exact science that it is kind of frightening). Measurements can vary considerably depending on the position of the baby and whether the baby moves during the process. But none of this felt reassuring.

Still, I trusted my doctor. I kept reminding myself that I am not that kind of doctor (haha) and, as one of my friends helpfully reminded me, Dr. W__ knows my whole story. He was not going to mess around with the health of my baby or my mental health. If he felt the risks outweighed the benefits, we'd induce. If he felt the benefits of me staying pregnant outweighed the risks, I'd stay pregnant.

I continued being monitored twice a week and everything looked fine, although my fluid remained between 23 and 25cm until my final appointment, the week of my due date, when it was 20cm.

My official due date was Thursday, August 7th. My doctor was going out of town early Friday morning, so that's how we determined my induction date/time. David and I both really wanted my regular OB to be the one who delivered Rerun, since he was there for Eliza and Zuzu and really did everything he could to reassurance during both of my pregnancies after loss.

Anyway, of course when Wednesday evening rolls around, the hospital was full and they delayed our arrival time. They ended up calling us with a room free around 11pm and by the time we arrived and got checked in, it was midnight.

I went in with a very loose birth plan:

(1) Healthy baby
(2) As few needles as possible

I ended up working with a doula, which was the best decision we possibly could have made. (More on that later). Still, while I was trying to set up a scenario that would allow me to have another intervention-free birth (NO NEEDLES), I was not dead-set on avoiding an epidural. In fact, my doula and I talked about how an epidural can be a gift you give yourself, and I was open to that idea. 

I certainly was not considering a c-section to be a "worse-case scenario." The idea was that we CAN'T plan labor, we can't predict what will happen, and all I wanted was to leave the hospital with a healthy baby in my arms. If I could do that without having to deal with needles, then I would be very happy.

Anyway, the plan was to start with Cervidil around 1am. Cervidil is an insert that releases hormones that encourage the cervix to efface and dilate. When we did this with Zuzu, my body responded really well. In fact, it jump-started my body into labor so I did not require Pitocin. We were hoping for a repeat performance, because that meant that I could avoid an IV. 

We were ready to go, but at 1am the nurse came in to explain that they were going to have to delay starting my Cervidil because they had too many moms in active labor. She said the new plan was to start it at 3am.

So we tried to sleep for a couple of hours. My Cervidil finally got started, and then we went back to sleep for a few more hours. In fact, I ended up dozing off and on until about 8:30am, when contractions got a little more serious. 

Throughout the morning, David and I talked about when we should call the doula. My contractions started to become pretty regular, but not super intense. Then they were intense enough that I wanted pressure and a heating pad on my low back. About that time, it was close to noon and our doula arrived.

At this point, I was sitting on the ball in the room, leaning on the bed. I was able to talk normally between contractions, and I could feel each one starting, at which point I would say something to David like "Pressure," or (later, and very dramatically) "Help me" and then he (and later, our amazing doula) would push the heating pad against my low back while I took deep breaths.

I did not think about Bradley classes or hynobirth CDs during contractions. I thought about yoga breathing--how you breath into a stretch--and that helped me enormously. I also tried to keep my voice low (as in deep).

When I think back on my birth experience with Zuzu, I was so incredibly tense. It turns out, you can have a baby through gritted teeth and tense muscles, but I don't recommend it. You end up with a zillion stitches in your hoo-ha.

My doula was great because she didn't talk much and she found the right places to put pressure on my back, but she was also great because the things she said resonated with me. The most important one was "Use your breath."

So lots of childbirth classes talk about breath and breathing and blah blah blah. Not to mention it's like the stereotype of birthing moms doing those stupid breathing exercises in the movies. The idea of breathing to make the pain more manageable, or breathing to "relax" seems laughable to me. But the idea of using your breath to control or release muscles made sense to me.

At some point after I felt like I'd been laboring a long time, the nurse checked my cervix and I was dilated to a 4. One whopping centimeter after all that time and effort! It was really discouraging.

Anyway, as my contractions got more intense, I moved to the shower so I could get warm water along with pressure on my low back and they also filled up the water tub in the room. The shower was okay, but I spent most of my labor with Zuzu in the shower and it actually did not bring back good memories--I got pretty panicky when I was in the shower with her. Mostly I remember thinking that the baby was broken into pieces. 

I had mentioned this irrational fear in a conversation with my doula and she asked me if I'd said that out loud. I said no, that I knew it was crazy, but that I also believed it at the same time. She mentioned that it was a good idea to speak fears and acknowledge them so that we can move past them. 

This time around, I moved to the tub, which of course felt amazing. By the time I got in the tub, I was dilated to an 8, which had really happened pretty fast. Once I was in the tub, I relaxed a little bit and was able to rest between contractions but DAMN they still hurt, even in the water.

I asked my doula what time it was and she told me it was about 2:30pm. (Sidenote: I know sometimes people think it's better not to know what time it is or how long things have been going or whatever, but for me personally, I wanted to see my contractions and the baby's heart rate going on the monitor, I wanted to know how dilated I was (even when it wasn't as much as I'd hoped), and I wanted to know what time it was.) 

She asked me why I wanted to know and I told her that I could keep going until 6:00pm, but then they were going to have to KNOCK ME OUT.

She agreed to that plan.

I just needed to have clear parameters in place, I guess.

Anyway, I was doing pretty good drinking my water and I even ate part of an orange popsicle in between contractions. I had a cute little mantra, "Come on, baby. Come on, baby." My doula kept reminding me, "Your baby knows the way! This baby knows the way!" (She also referred to the baby as a "she" the whole time, which I just thought was like a pro-feminist choice of pronouns, but it turns out that she thought I had told her the baby was a girl!) 

Once I was in the tub, things started moving fast. I had a couple monster contractions and I kept asking if the baby's heartrate was okay (it was fine). Then my water broke in the tub. At first that felt like a big relief and then the contractions got even MORE BRUTAL as I basically dilated from 8cm to 10cm in about thirty seconds. (At least that's how I remember it.)

After my water broke, the contractions were so intense that I dry heaved a couple of times, but I did not barf!!! The orange popsicle stayed down! It was awesome.

And then I was ready to push. I believe I announced this, and I also said that I was scared to push because I didn't want to tear. (I tore so much with Zuzu that I was painfully sore for weeks after.) So we talked about taking it slow and allowing my body to stretch, which yeah, sounds good in theory, but is so counter-intuitive because as much as I didn't want to tear, I also wanted it to all be OVER.

Of course everyone wanted me to move to the bed to push and of course I did not want to get out of the tub because OMG contractions.

So I said, "Nope. I can't go to the bed."

My doula said, "Oh, I bet you can. Let's go now while you're on a break." (Hilarious that she referred to being between contractions as being "on a break" but I totally bought into that jargon.)

So I moved to the bed and ended up on my hands and knees. I had intended to lie down, but another contraction hit and it's not like you can voluntarily reposition yourself during a contraction. You just do whatever you can to get through it.

(Interestingly, I never once thought about getting an epidural. By the time I thought I needed one, I was literally pushing the baby out.)

So that contraction on the bed was the WORST. I was also experiencing what is fondly called the "ring of fire" where you are SO READY to push even though you know pushing will be HORRIBLE.

At this point, everyone is realizing that the baby is coming like RIGHT NOW and my doctor is still not there.

So I'm feeling the terrible burning sensation in my hoo-ha, at the same time it basically feels like a foreign creature is stabbing me on the inside of my abdomen with fistfulls of dull knives, and all I can think is that it's almost over, when people start telling me NOT TO PUSH.

Again, it's not like this pushing thing is a voluntary decision. It's more like a choice between dying of sheer physical agony or pushing out a baby. Your body makes the choice for you.

But David was all, "Don't you want to wait for Dr. W__ to get here?" and I was thinking, No, where Dr. W__ is basically the LAST THING I care about right now. Somebody back there just catch this baby!

They (two nurses, David, and the doula) kept mentioning that I should wait for the doctor and not push. This was infuriating, given that it felt like my options were (1) push or (2) die in agony.

So I kind of lost my shit. And I yelled, "NO! This is a horror movie! GET IT OUT OF ME!"

Not to mention the fact that my body was not listening to them. One of the nurses said, "She's pushing," and I snapped, "I am not!" because it was truly a physical reaction and nothing I was doing on purpose.

My doula dropped the talk about waiting for the doctor and just kept assuring me that if I could breathe through a couple of contractions without pushing that I wouldn't tear. Accommodating my doctor's schedule was not on my agenda, but this was an incentive I could get behind.

So I panted through another contraction and then there was no holding back. I was quite confident that my nurse could catch the baby by herself.

It was literally right at this moment that my doctor arrived. He'd parked illegally in front of the hospital and rushed up to labor and delivery. He walked into the room and said, "I'm here" (although I didn't hear him say this--David told me later). And then he caught the baby--he didn't even have time to wash it hands or put on gloves.

He told me to take the baby, so I picked her up and I moved the cord to see that it was ANOTHER GIRL. 

When I first got pregnant, I was sure it was another girl because I could only imagine having girls--it's all I knew! But over the course of my pregnancy, I think I was influenced by everyone (okay, almost everyone) saying that it was a boy. Strangers at the park would look at my stomach and tell me it was a boy. Three friends of mine were pregnant when I got pregnant, and all three of them had girls, so it just seemed like the odds were that I would have the boy. I was trying to get excited about miniature golfer hats and seersucker pants and jon-jons, but the truth is that I was thrilled to have another girl, thrilled to re-use some of Zuzu and Eliza's clothes, and thrilled to have the experience of raising sisters. So it was an awesome and emotional moment.

Colette was crying and David was crying and I was laughing with relief because OMG the agony was over!

It was 2:57pm. So in less than half an hour, I'd gone from 8cm dilated to pushing out the baby. In retrospect, I can see why my doctor almost didn't make it there!

I handed the baby to David to get myself turned around and situated on the bed--everything had happened so fast. Coco chose that moment to shat meconium all over David. Like down his arms and dripping off his clothes. It was hilarious. David just stood there grinning, holding the naked baby, both of them covered in meconium.

And then it was all the business end of the deal--delivering the placenta, cleaning me up a little and wiping off the baby, and the amazing announcement that I had NO tearing and required NO stitches.

(After "healthy baby," this was the best news I'd heard all day.)

It was awesomely unbelievable, and even more so after they weighed the baby and announced she weighed 8 pounds 7 ounces. 20 1/4 inches long. Easy to remember for a baby born on 8.7.2014!

We named her Colette Taylor Duckworth and we marveled over her head full of dark hair. She looks a lot like her sisters did as newborns, but she's also very much her own person.

I have lots more to say about my postpartum recovery, and the story behind Colette's name, and how we ended up with a doula (and why it was the best decision ever), and Zuzu's reaction to her meeting her little sister, and why the hell breastfeeding has to be so f*cking uncomfortable before it gets easy, and the amazing nurse who worked with us at the hospital, and how relieved I am to have all my pregnancies behind me. So, more posts to come! 

In the meantime, a few more photos:

Bop and Grammy with the girls. Zuzu insists on holding the baby by herself: "No, Grammy! MY hold Coco!"
Zuzu's enthusiastic loving: "I kiss Coco!"
And I want to say thanks again for all the good thoughts and well wishes that have come our way. 

Snuggling with Daddy
The outcome of a healthy baby might be the most common outcome for pregnancy, but the miracle of it is never lost on me. We are so happy to have Colette here with us.

I recommend ordering babies with extra-large cheeks for smooching.


  1. Wow, that was an intense thirty minutes!! And this is from someone who went through transition IN THE CAR.

    She is just darling! I am so happy for you all!!

  2. Conveniently timed for a lunchtime read! Even so, despite the gunk and gore and grossness of so many aspects of the birthing process, it is still such a beautiful, powerful thing.

    And you are quite correct - pushing is a physical act, not an optional, scheduled event.

  3. Also, reading Becca's comment at the same time - I think "Transition" is the most ridiculous name for that phase of labor. I've have some alternative terms, but I'll refrain from posting them here.

  4. OH she's so smootchable! Congrats again, I'm so happy for you!

  5. You are such a great storyteller!

    Congratulations on the birth of your 3rd daughter. I love her name and all that hair! My husband and I drank a Colette beer the other night -- did you know that existed? Great Divide Brewing Co.

  6. I love the thought of David covered in poop but as happy as possible! For the record, I was like you in that when you first told us you were pregnant, I thought girl. I remember you saying the Chinese gender calendar said girl and it was right with all my babies. Then for a bit I thought may be boy, but was back to girl for the last part of your pregnancy. Yet it still blows my mind YOUVE HAD THREE GIRLS! It's so wonderful. She's so wonderful.

    Hope the nips are doing ok. Faahhhk, that hurt.

  7. Collette is just beautiful! Congratulations!! Sisters: wonderful. Love to you and all your girls - I remember that feeling so well after M was born of the absolute miracle of a healthy, living baby. I'm so happy for all of you.

  8. Best post ever. I laughed out loud several times. I really need to write Asher's story...over a year late. :| I had to look up jon-jons. So cute! I'm interested to read about your doula experience. We sort of regret ours.

  9. Wheee!
    I'm sure it hurt like hell on wheels and was intense and all the rest, but I gotta say…sounds like perfection to me!!! To get to have a natural labor with no emergencies (and no TEARING) and of course more than absolutely anything else to have your beautiful healthy girl to show for it.
    I could feel how much having the sister experience meant to you as I read that - I hear you. To get to have that even in part is huge.
    Congrats again Brooke.
    And congrats for getting back to the blog! Been checking for the story regularly! Look forward to hearing more more and more. :)

  10. This is amazing. Awesome birth, awesome baby, awesome mom. If things go anything like this for me, I will be thrilled. Congrats again!!

  11. She has the most beautiful cheeks ever.

  12. I'm so happy for you all! She is beautiful :)

  13. I have been following your blog for quite awhile, just never posted. I just want to say how overjoyed I am for you and your family. She is just beautiful in every possible way. Zuzu is so sweet with her adorable sister CoCo. I also have to say that XL cheeks are a must have and that I 100% agree with breastfeeding.... just not the painful reminder that the beginning of breastfeeding can really suck a** . As I'm sure you know it is totally worth it in the end for those sweet little babes of yours!

  14. This all sounds AMAZING. Not that anyone wants to be in excruciating pain and faced with the two options of have your vagina break open, or die of pain. But you know what I mean.

    I had a really high AFI with Theo for pretty much the entirety of my third trimester... and I FREAKED when I got a reading above 30Cm, and my doctor was on vacation, and I felt like I was brewing up a cocktail for another dead baby... but when my doc got back, she set me up with a detailed BPP in which she would preform. And she gave me 4 different readings of my AFI during the 30 minute scan. She showed me EXACTLY how they get the readings, and yes oh my god, they are subjective indeed. Theo was very active during any wand time on my belly, so the afi changed from 17... to 23... to 25 ... and back to 20 by the time the scan was over.

    I'm so happy you got to make it to the end without an induction (needles) per say. If I ever have another baby, I would love to go a bit further (38 or 39 weeks), and do the cervidil. I got an epidural with Theo, and I regret it. I was in so much pain, and I wanted relief, and my doctor didn't want to do any unnecessary checking and risking infections and GBS transfer... (and she told me that due to the fact that I could still talk, I wasn't "close" yet), so I just surrendered. And wouldn't you know I moved and it hurt like fucking hell (it didn't hurt with Alexander), and before the crap kicked in, I was pushing Theo out. I still have days where my spine feels all wonky and goes numb in the location of the epi. fuck. uuugh, I hate needles too!!

    Coco is a miracle. It still escapes me that babies are born every day without a second thought. I'm so happy she's here. And I'm so happy you are such an avid blogger and you shared her story!!

    I thought girl at the beginning, and then switched to team boy and convinced myself not to go back. Three girls. I'm overjoyed for you. And of course, my heart swells with missing and "should have been" along side the happiness.

    Oh, good going Brooke!!


  15. I've been silently stalking your blog waiting for this happy moment!! Congratulations, Brooke!! Welcome Coco! :-)

    That birth story was incredible and the date/height/weight amazingness is just icing on the cake! Please post more about breastfeeding...I'm in breastfeeding hell right now...6 week growth spurt :-(.

    Squeeeeeeee!!! So happy for you!

  16. Awwww, so cute!! So happy for you! :) & so glad that things went well! Congratulations again!