Fair warning: Long post ahead! I wanted to make this an all-encompassing place to document our daughter’s arrival into the world.
I’m so excited to be able to share Maggie’s birth story here! Throughout my pregnancy, I found myself actively seeking out birth stories from other moms. Among my rotation of pregnancy- and parenting-related podcasts, The Birth Hour — which is nothing but women telling their birth stories — was far and away my favorite. We had two couples visit our birth class and share their experiences. I loved hearing friends talk about their own babies’ births.
My key takeaway from all these curated accounts? Everyone’s birth story is different, and very few are predictable.
I became so curious as to how our birth story, then, would play out. Thankfully, that main emotion of curiosity — rather than fear or dread — drove my feelings leading up to Maggie’s birth. I was too busy being interested in how exactly things would take place to be scared.
In addition to the birth story collection I was busy building, the fact that Kevin and I took a 12-week Bradley Method class was hugely influential in preparing for our baby’s birth. We left that course feeling armed with such good information about what potentially to expect, how to respond to situations that might be very outside of our birth goals, and what we might want our birth experience to look like. (I appreciated that our instructor emphasized the importance of “birth goals” rather than a “birth plan,” acknowledging that births almost always include unexpected elements, so it’s good to go in with a certain amount of flexibility.) The woman who taught our class is also part of a three-person doula group based in Greensboro, and we hired them to be present at our baby’s birth.
Another huge thing fueling our birth prep was the choice we’d made in care providers. A little over midway through my pregnancy, we switched over from a standard OB/gyn office (which had been giving us great care) to a midwife-only practice affiliated with our hospital. We were elated with the level of engagement we received from everyone at the practice — from the receptionist to the nurses to the midwives themselves — and felt confident they’d be in strong support of the type of birth we were going for. (And — bonus! — this practice is the first in Winston-Salem to be cleared to use birth tubs at the hospital. Women aren’t yet allowed to give birth in the tub, but they can labor in them as of early March of this year, and I was thrilled to JUST make the cut timing-wise to get to take advantage of that element.)
With this great team securely in our corner (plus lots of good information under our belts), Kevin and I developed our birth goals, which included things like aiming for an intervention-free experience if possible and incorporating water labor as a pain management tool. (Here’s our full list of Birth Goals that we brought with us to the hospital, for anyone who’s interested!) Another quick side note: Kevin and I were impressed to learn during our hospital tour that many of the things we thought we’d have to specifically request — delayed bathing, delayed cord clamping, etc. — are now things our hospital does across the board for healthy babies. Way to go, Forsyth Medical Center!
So we had our goals. We had our support team. Now we just needed our baby.
We waited. And waited. And waited.
My March 17 due date passed, and was soon far in the rearview mirror. Meanwhile, I was showing few signs of having a baby anytime soon.
We did three non-stress tests at our provider’s office, checking in to be sure the baby was doing well. (She was!) I had two induction acupuncture appointments and two induction massages. I was walking often and eating spicy foods and taking evening primrose oil and drinking red raspberry leaf tea and trying just about all the go-to “let’s get labor going” tips and tricks. Nothing. It looked like this baby wasn’t going to get going on her own, so we eventually scheduled an induction for the afternoon of Friday, March 31.
I was BUMMED. Since my body wasn’t showing too many signs of progression (I wasn’t dilated at all and was 50% effaced, and hadn’t had a single contraction, Braxton Hicks or otherwise), I was so concerned that an induction would mean my hopes of a non-medicated birth would fly out the window. I started worrying if a c-section would be in the cards. After all our planning and resource gathering, it was feeling like things weren’t going to go our way one bit. I kept trying to stay optimistic rather than go down a rabbit hole about it all. I reminded myself that our baby’s birth hadn’t yet taken place — everything up until this point was speculative — and that I just needed to roll with it. By the time March 30 rolled around — the day before the scheduled induction — I was at peace with things. I was just ready to meet this baby girl! Plus, there were still so many strong factors working in our favor (I was feeling great physically, the baby was looking strong and healthy, and we had amazing support through our doulas and midwives).
On the 30th, we went in for one final non-stress test and talked about what to expect at the following day’s induction. Our midwife recommended I squeeze in one final induction massage that Thursday to potentially set the stage for a smoother induction the following day, and I was luckily able to snag a last-minute opening that same day (Thursday the 30th) with Ruth at Touch of Serenity Massage in Greensboro (a therapist who came highly recommended by our doula group). She gave me a wonderful massage that left me feeling suddenly nauseated — something Ruth assured me was a positive sign.
Later that evening, at around 9:30 p.m., I started feeling kind of crampy. Before realizing I was having mild contractions, I assumed I’d eaten something weird. After all, I hadn’t had a single contraction up until that point, so I still wasn’t quite sure what to expect. These cramps began coming every 15-25ish minutes, though, so I soon realized they were more than a stomachache. I spent the night getting up every so often, but the pains were very manageable.
The next morning, Kevin and I called our midwives’ office and they got us in for a morning appointment to check in on things. I was thrilled to learn I was FINALLY dilated — one whole centimeter! Ha. Small progress, but our midwife was really encouraged that something seemed to be happening on its own, and said she was feeling much more optimistic about the induction in general, which was great to hear. She was able to sweep my membranes and we were sent back home to prep for our 3 p.m. induction check-in at the hospital. While at home, I tried to rest and eat (Kevin snagged me my favorite Village Juice smoothie — Mint Chip — which I was able to drink, but nothing else sounded too good).
Later that afternoon (after dropping Big Brother Fulton safely off at Ruff Housing), we showed up at Forsyth Medical Center and got all checked in. Our doula, Jessica, met us there. The plan was for Jessica to help us get settled into our room, then meet us back on Saturday when everyone assumed my labor would actually be getting going. I was still having mild contractions, but they were spread apart and not at all intense (easy to talk through, etc.).
At about 6 p.m. or so, Nona, the midwife on call from our practice on Friday, came to finalize our plans, and we decided to go with the gentlest and slowest option: she inserted Cervadil to start to soften my cervix. I liked this option because it seemed to be the least invasive and didn’t require I get hooked up to an IV or anything. Nona recommended I take a sleeping pill to get a good night’s sleep, as the Cervadil would be in for 12 hours and she didn’t expect much to start going before then. She reminded us that sometimes Cervadil can get things going, but often women needed other forms of intervention to start full-blown labor. Jessica and Nona then left us with the instructions to get rest, eat something, and keep her posted.
While waiting on my sleeping pill to arrive to our room, I tried to eat the salad we’d brought with us, but was NOT feeling it. I was only able to choke down a couple of bites before calling it quits.
Not long after the Cervadil went in (Kevin says it was around 7 p.m.), I started getting MUCH stronger contractions. They lasted about a minute and were immediately about 3.5 minutes apart. I was caught off guard, having expected a pretty uneventful evening. I know Kevin felt that way, too! After seven or eight contractions at that pace, things sped up in a big way and the contractions started getting stronger, longer, and closer together, lasting anywhere from one to two minutes with 30 to 45 seconds in between, on average. The nurse began coming in and out, checking on us and intermittently checking Maggie’s heart rate as well. At some point early on, I threw up the little bit of dinner I’d been able to choke down.
I was glad things were moving, but the lack of rest between each contraction was a lot to manage. Kevin was incredible, talking me through each one. (I wondered what I’d want from him during labor, and it turned out I wanted him to talk to me incessantly. For about three-quarters of my labor I was wearing the sensor that tracks the intensity of contractions, and so he was able to follow along as they rose and fell. I wanted him to keep a commentary going through each one — “Okay, it’s getting stronger, this one’s past 200, hang on, now it’s coming down, coming down…” It made me feel like someone was in it with me through each contraction.)
Position-wise, I wanted to be on hands and knees the majority of the time. I knew from our Bradley class that it was a great idea to change positions, but few things felt “right.” I was thankful I didn’t have any back labor, which is something I’d worried about since Maggie was posterior (sunny side up) leading up to labor. I think she must have flipped as things were getting started, because she was born in an anterior position. Good girl!
Kevin and I both started getting a little worried with how quickly things were going, so he asked the nurse to see if Nona could join us in the room. She came fast and checked me — I was three centimeters dilated and completely effaced.
I was encouraged that I’d made progress, but man — seven more centimeters seemed like a long way to go. I worried that unless I started getting longer breaks between contractions I might not be able to make it. I tried to really get in the zone mentally, telling myself that, for now, this was my reality, and I could live in this reality as long as I needed to. Meanwhile, Nona began setting up the birth tub (a process that takes quite a while) for me to labor in. She said they wanted women to be at least four centimeters before using the tub to avoid getting in too early and having the relief wear off at some point. Watching the tub getting set up was a game changer for me. I kept telling myself that soon I’d be able to get in the water, and that would make things so much more manageable.
Nona and Kevin both tried to get me to try a few other positions, but hands and knees still felt best. I tried some variations of those — incorporating the birth ball and eventually standing by the bed (which had been elevated) and resting my torso on the mattress. The contractions kept coming, fast and fierce, and I started feeling increasingly stronger pressure as Maggie moved farther down.
Finally, the tub was set up, so Nona checked me to see if I’d progressed enough to get in. To my complete surprise (and total relief), she exclaimed, “There’s no time for you to get in the tub. You’re complete — time to push!” Seemingly immediately, the contractions began to slow and I felt like I was very in control of timing and pacing when it came to pushing. The head of the bed was very elevated, and I was turned around leaning on that part of the bed with my knees on the non-elevated part of the bed, so my back was to Nona and Kevin. There was a clock on the wall behind Nona, and I kept glancing back at it. I started pushing at around 11:20 p.m. and, after just a few pushes, Maggie was born at 11:42 p.m. — BARELY making it here in the month of March.
Kevin helped Nona pull her out (she was screaming before her whole body was even out!), and then Nona told me to reach down and grab her. What an incredible feeling, reaching for my daughter and looking at her for the first time. It’s such an amazing thing, meeting someone you already feel like you know so well.
The time immediately after Maggie’s birth flew by as the placenta was delivered, Nona gave me some stitches (I’d had a second-degree tear), Maggie got her Vitamin K shot, we had initial skin to skin, etc. I honestly didn’t physically feel much of anything after she arrived. I was just on such a high from her actually being in my arms. Our doula arrived about five minutes after Maggie was born (things had progressed so quickly that she wasn’t able to make it back before then) and was great to have around. She snapped a few priceless photos for us of the moments right after Maggie’s birth and was helpful getting us started with breastfeeding as well.
As a first-time mom, I never guessed my labor and delivery story would be as quick as it was. (Of course, I’d heard birth stories about super fast first labors, but almost wouldn’t let myself consider that being an option for me.) Especially once we had to schedule an induction I tried to mentally prepare for a long, drawn-out endeavor.
I’m so glad Maggie had other plans for her entry into the world! The experience certainly wasn’t what I’d envisioned. It was better — so very special, unexpected, and memorable.
And now? Now Kevin and I get to be parents to the most amazing little human, Margaret (“Maggie”) Elizabeth Keller. She was named after her paternal great-great-grandmother (Margaret) and maternal great-grandmother (Elizabeth), and my middle name is Elizabeth as well. We also loved the name Maggie, because all the Maggies we know are good people. They’re kind and fun and down to earth and smart — all qualities we hope our Maggie possesses.
For now, we’re trying to soak in every second with our brand new girl. She’s incredible, and we can’t believe she’s ours.