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A Happy and Natural Birth Story of Sophie Elowyn born 4/18/22

Authored by Sophie's mom, Brooke Hayhoe

"It was Saturday, one week after my due date, and I was 41 weeks. I kept telling

myself there was no rush and my little one would announce her arrival when she was good and ready. I knew she was healthy and there was no need to rush things along because I had just had an ultrasound the week prior and everything looked great. There was a lot of fuss made about her weight during my third trimester because my fundal height was measuring small and, as a result, I was referred to Maternal Fetal Medicine for ultrasounds to track her growth. That fuss was finally laid to rest at the 39 week ultrasound which estimated her weight to be seven pounds, a perfectly healthy weight!

Physically, I was doing fine as well and I really didn’t feel 41 weeks pregnant. I

told everyone she was taking it easy on me and she really was! Other than some low back and psoas muscle pain I didn’t feel extremely uncomfortable and could get along with my day just like normal. I was grateful that, physically, I could handle my pregnancy going on a little longer... but mentally and emotionally I was just so ready to meet her! Each day revolved around when she would get here and it felt like I was in some sort of twilight zone where everything was put on hold and I was just waiting for her. All my thoughts revolved around her, my conversations with my family were about when she

would get here, and I spent my free time reading books and watching YouTube videos about anything and everything babies. I would walk downstairs in the morning to my husband and in-laws and say “nothing yet!” both optimistic and disappointed at the

same time. That finally changed on Easter Sunday!

Saturday April 16th I got the first sign that I would start labor soon- the bloody

show! I figured since I was so far along in my pregnancy that this had to mean that labor

would start soon. Since this was my first pregnancy I had no idea what to expect, but

everyone said it’s obvious when labor begins so I went about my day waiting for an

unknown obvious sensation. I had a few more instances of bloody show and in the

evening I began to feel some period-like low back and stomach cramps. They weren’t

obvious labor pains and if I wasn’t pregnant I would have expected to start my period

soon. I thought they might have been positional, but then they started to come more

frequently and last for a few seconds each. That wasn’t like period cramps or positional

pain! At about midnight, I messaged the amazing and wonderful Tara, my doula, to

update her that I thought I had started labor, but it was very manageable at this point.

We both needed sleep and that’s what we planned to do! She had just gotten home

from another birth and I wanted to try to sleep through the mild contractions before

things got real.

That’s now laughable! I think I got about an hour of sleep before I was woken up

by a cramp that I felt very comfortable (or uncomfortable) calling a contraction. For the

rest of the night I had contractions about every 10 minutes that lasted for about a

minute, although some came sooner and some came later. I stayed in bed focusing on

relaxing and breathing through each contraction. I listened to hypnobirthing meditations

on Expectful which I had started doing a few days prior. I was feeling a healthy mix of

excited and scared and I really wanted to tell my husband, Alex, but I decided to let him

sleep! I’m so glad that I did because we were in for a very long ride!

After what seemed like forever the sun finally came up! Tara messaged me

shortly after and gave me some advice which included doing lift n tucks. I did a few of those and found them surprisingly painful! After that mini endurance workout, I took a break and jumped in the shower which felt amazing during my contractions. Then, I woke up Alex and said, “I started having contractions last night. I think it’s happening!” He replied in the heart melting way that I knew he would, “We’re going to meet our daughter soon!” That made it feel so real! I went downstairs to meet my in-laws and was so happy to be able to say “I started having contractions!” rather than “nothing yet!”. I immediately went to my birth ball and bounced around on that for a while, breathing through contractions, doing lift n tucks, and leaning on Alex during the rougher ones. I was still having contractions between 8-10 minutes apart by the time noon

rolled around and I was getting impatient. When would they get closer together so I could go to the hospital and get this show on the road? I messaged Tara slightly desperate for a time frame that I knew she couldn’t give me, and although she couldn’t say when contractions would become more frequent, she advised to try pumping which could make contractions more consistent. I was open to it, but I really didn’t know how to use my breast pump yet and even though I wanted my labor to progress, I was also reluctant to be responsible for making my contractions closer together! They were becoming increasingly more painful to the point where I could no longer talk through all

of them... if it happened naturally and I couldn’t help it then that just seemed easier to cope with! However, four hours more of contractions spaced 8-10 minutes apart and I was finally desperate enough to give it a go!

To my surprise, it worked pretty quickly and my contractions began to space about 4-5 minutes apart. Not only that, but pumping somehow made them more tolerable as well! With Tara’s advice, I stopped pumping to see if the contractions would stay 4-5 minutes apart, and to my disappointment they slowed back down again. I tried the pump again and my contractions stayed 4-5 minutes apart this time. I stopped tracking the contractions at this point because they were becoming more painful and I was feeling drained.

My original plan was to labor at home as long as possible, but I didn’t want to make the 30 minute drive to the hospital with contractions any worse than what I was dealing with now and my mother-in-law

was also freaking me out a bit by constantly telling me that I should go to the hospital. I told Tara I thought I was ready for the hospital and we agreed to meet there.

One thing that’s great about going into labor on Easter Sunday is that there’s hardly any traffic on the road or anyone at the labor and delivery unit! It was very quiet and peaceful on the unit when my husband and I arrived and we were the only couple at triage during my exam. Because of this, it felt much more personal and comfortable than I thought it would be, almost like checking into a birth center. I had no idea how dilated or effaced I would be since I had declined the cervical exams during my prenatal appointments. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was 4 cm dilated, 80% effaced, and she was at 0 station. I knew 4 cm wasn’t super great, but the fact that I was 80% effaced and she was at 0 station were promising that I was progressing. I was reassured that coming to the hospital was the right call.

I was admitted and met Tara in my birth suite. I was so happy and relieved to see her! Here was a labor and birth expert who had so much wisdom and intuition for laboring moms at the ready! She had already helped me tremendously over the phone so having her in person to help felt like such a blessing. We met our nurse and CNM who were both great. Between contractions and a fit of vomiting, we had a nice conversation where I found out that my CNM was also in the Navy, also met her husband while she was in, also had a non-healthcare related job, and then also left the Navy to pursue nursing! We really connected and that put me at ease. That was another worry about the hospital tossed aside! I had heard so many horror stories of nurses and providers not respecting mothers’ wishes, but with my nurse and nurse-midwife I knew they would not only follow my wishes for a natural birth, but they also truly respected me for it!

We set up the room to be a peaceful sanctuary. Tara placed battery operated tea lights all around the room, Alex set up the essential oil diffuser, we turned off the lights, and left the spa music channel playing on the TV which had greeted us when we walked in. It was easy to forget that we were in the hospital! Or at least it was until the nurse came in to do the intermittent fetal monitoring every hour. But I actually didn’t mind that. The nurses were so great about working around whatever position I was in and it helped break up the monotony of the endless contractions.

The contractions really did feel never ending. They seemed to randomly switch between my low belly and low back which I think helped me manage the pain, but did make it hard to find a position to get somewhat comfortable in. Everyone said it would

feel like a really bad period cramp and that really was what it felt like. There’s just no other way to describe it! I was still able to breathe through them, but I was going on 24 hours of no sleep and wave after wave of pain. It really did feel like a wave, too. It would start out like a little bump on the surface of the water so I knew when one was coming and to brace myself. I would close my eyes, lean into whatever position I was in, and take a deep inhale through my nose and exhale out through my mouth. That little bump on the water would grow stronger and stronger and my breathing would get deeper with it. Occasionally I vocalized some “oooo’s” if it was really bad. The wave of pain would hit its peak, then it would slowly start to fall in on itself and I would finish my breathing out of relief and recovery, and finally, hiccup. After every contraction, for whatever reason, we could always count on that one hiccup to signal the end of it!

I had mentioned to Tara how I couldn’t imagine anymore of “this” and she told me something that made all of it bearable- to just take it one contraction at a time. Every time I would catch myself thinking about how much longer I might have, or how I didn’t

think I could keep going through these waves of pain, I would re-center myself and only think about the contraction I was having or to enjoy the peace that I was having between contractions. One thing that I was pleasantly surprised to find out was there

wasn’t any pain between contractions. I could be having a totally normal conversation with Tara, Alex, or my nurse until I would feel that little bump on the water start to surface. I would pause the conversation so that I could have my contraction and then carry on with it once it had passed. I think it was the fact that I had these periods of respite between contractions that I was able to keep a positive attitude because I was constantly reminded that it will eventually end. Another huge reason I was able to keep a positive attitude was because of the support that I received from everyone. Alex and Tara were such an amazing support

team and I knew they were exhausting themselves to take care of me. I felt so loved and supported and that in itself kept me floating above any negativity. They tried so hard to make me as comfortable as possible and were putting themselves past exhaustion to do it, so I never wanted to complain about how much pain I was in or dwell on how long my labor was taking because they definitely already knew!

We continued to labor throughout the night trying every position imaginable to progress things along. My contractions were still somewhat irregular and they weren’t staying under 2-3 minutes apart. The good thing was that I still had a fair amount of

bloody show, so we knew that my cervix was dilating at the very least! I didn’t want any cervical exams yet because I didn’t want to get caught up on a number. It wouldn’t have any consequence with whatever number I was at, so I just wanted to continue laboring

knowing I was doing everything I could to progress it and that it would progress at its own pace. I took a bath which I was originally excited about and thought I would love, but I ended up kind of hating it. It wasn’t very relaxing because I would still get contractions, but I wasn’t able to move freely and into a position that provided relief. I tried a shower a few hours later and that was much better, but I still felt like it was too much work for the small amount of relief it provided. So it was back to positioning. I tried to take a few naps, but it was impossible because as soon as I would get slightly comfortable a contraction would hit and I would want to move out of that position. It was a long night to say the least! In the morning I said goodbye to my night shift nurse. We had really connected so I was sad to see her go! She was on the next night, but she was certain she would be my postpartum nurse instead of my labor and delivery nurse and I hoped that she was right! She assured me that my day shift nurse was an amazing seasoned nurse who loved to take on the natural birth patients. I was happy to find out that she was right and felt so lucky to have another nurse who respected my wishes! I was also very happy to find out that my CNM, Sandy, who I saw throughout my pregnancy also came on shift!

That happiness soon turned to worry though. After we updated Sandy with my labor progress so far, she informed us that in her 20 years of experience, I most likely wasn’t in active labor due to my irregular contractions and calm demeanor even through

contractions. She actually asked me if I wanted to leave and go home to labor instead! I couldn’t believe it and didn’t want to believe it. How was that even possible after laboring for 29 hours? She asked me if I wanted her to check my cervix to see how far I

was dilated, but after hearing that I might not be progressing like I thought, I declined. If I really had only dilated a centimeter or two since my admission, I didn’t want to become discouraged and lose the mental fortitude I had built up to maintain calm and centered...Which was apparently a bad thing since it was the reason Sandy thought that I wasn’t progressing! She seemed to disapprove of my refusal, but offered to come back at noon to check my cervix and I agreed. I just needed more time to wrap my head around the fact that I might not be in active labor and I might have to labor for another 24 hours...With that hanging in the air, things seemed to become more tense in the room as we realized that either some kind of intervention would have to be made or else we still had a long way to go. Tara suggested we do more of the side lying release position to encourage baby to engage. We had done this position before and I absolutely hated it! The contractions while in this position were SO painful! But we were on a time crunch now and I needed to make sure that by the time Sandy checked my cervix at noon, it was at whatever magic number signaled that I was in active labor.

It felt like I was in this position forever, but somehow I fell asleep between contractions which was a testament to how exhausted I was because those contractions were terrible! I did gain some energy from these little cat naps, though, and after we were done with a full cycle on both the left and right side, we tried a few other positions including squats and hip openers. I thought a lot about what I would do if I wasn’t dilated enough by the time Sandy did the cervical exam and decided that I would ask her to

break my water to hopefully progress things along. I just really wanted things to happen organically without any outside interference in the process. My mentality before even going into labor was that my body knew what to do and when it was ready and I needed to trust in that process. But at this point I was exhausted and didn’t know how I could do another 24 hours of this. I also didn’t want to go home just to come back to the hospital again!

Finally, Sandy and my nurse came back around noon ready to do the cervical exam and I was ready, too! I felt like I had done everything I could to progress my labor and if it wasn’t progressing then I was ready have my water broken. She got to it, and

after undergoing some uncomfortable sensations on my part, she popped up and said, “Girl, you’re at 8 cm!” I was so relieved that I hugged Tara and cried! She remarked that she hadn’t thought I would be this dilated because most women wouldn’t be as calm as

I was at this point. Since this was my first labor I had no idea and just knew that I had been laboring for a long time and I had better be at 8 cm! She asked if I had taken hypnobirthing classes since she had attended another mom’s birth a few weeks ago

who had done hypnobirthing and was also able to labor calmly all the way up to the birth of her baby. I told her I took a crash course on it with a free trial on Expectful a few days before I went into labor, and it made me think how maybe if I practiced it throughout my entire pregnancy like you’re supposed to then maybe I wouldn’t even be able to feel my contractions at all... Definitely bookmarking that thought for my next pregnancy!

The dreary tense mood immediately lifted and I had renewed energy once again! My baby girl had to be coming soon if I was at 8 cm! Alex went out and got some lunch for Tara and I, and when he got back we set up the laptop to watch Homeward Bound. I

was so happy and grateful to be doing something as normal as watching a movie, sipping on an enormous smoothie, and cuddling next to my husband... or as normal as it could feel during the middle of labor because my body definitely didn’t care that I was

trying to relax and enjoy a movie! It was certainly a nice break, though, and I was even able to doze off here and there.

After the movie, we did more positions and Tara and Alex gave me more and more counterpressure. The contractions were starting to favor my lower back and the hands and knees position that I hated in the beginning of my labor was now becoming

my favorite. I began to miss having contractions in my low belly! Around 7:30 pm we

positioned the head of the bed at a 90 degree angle and I leaned over it in a kind of upright hands and knees position to provide some relief to my low back. The night shift

nurse came in to say hello and take my vitals and I was happy to see it was the same nurse as the night before! Sandy also came in to check up on me and was happy to

hear that my contractions were getting stronger and closer together. While we were talking, I got extremely uncomfortable and started to walk my knees over to the foot of the bed when suddenly I felt a huge release and gush of water between my legs and all over the bed... my water had broken!!

I was so excited until I had my next contraction. It was REALLY bad, like the worst one yet. Then I threw up. Things were just coming out of everywhere! My CNM said these were all good signs and it won’t be long now! I had a feeling she was right based on the pain of that last contraction... and the next, and the next one after that. Breathing alone wasn’t good enough to manage the pain of the contractions and I started to vocalize “ooohs” and other low toned vowel sounds at the recommendation of Tara. It didn’t really take away the pain, but it felt good just to release that innate urge to vocalize my pain. I also felt like it gave me more control over it, kind of like I was steering a car over a really bumpy road to keep it in the lane. It felt good, but it sounded awful even to me! My husband said later it sounded like I had a demon! I would get annoyed of hearing myself say “oooooh” so I would change it up and say “eeeee” or “aaaaahhh” instead but those sounded even worse so I would go back to the “oooooh’s” again.

After about an hour of this, Alex asked me if it would be ok if he left to grab some energy drinks thinking that it would be another very late night. I looked at Tara to see what she thought and whether he would have time based on my progress, and I could see “probably not a good idea” written on her face, so I told him the same thing. I thought he looked a little disappointed, but figured it was for the best so he’d be fine. Then I had my next contraction and heard myself again. I sounded so awful! I felt bad

that he had to hear that sound over and over again, so I began to think that maybe he did need an energy drink just to endure that! I told him he should go and that I’d be fine here. He was a little uncertain and hesitated for just the right amount of time because all of a sudden I felt the urgent need to push!

I had been waiting so long for this urge, but also had no idea what it was supposed to feel like. It felt like a bowling ball pressing down on my cervix... or a baby’s head! Things definitely got real. Those low toned vowel sounds were coming out a lot less controlled now! The nurse was fortunately in the room at the time and she called in Sandy and the baby nurse. I got into a hands and knees position on the bed and pushed with everything I had during each contraction. I really didn’t want to tear and I was also painfully aware that my hemorrhoids probably didn’t look too hot either, so I only pushed during contractions and tried to rest completely between them. It was hard not to keep pushing after the contractions ended though because I felt like she was so

close, especially after one particular contraction. I heard Sandy say “Oooh her head was so close!” and I knew on the next contraction I had to give it everything!

The contraction hit and I started my “ooooh” which quickly turned into a “HAAAAAAAH” that ended with Sophie entering the world! The 41 hour journey had finally come to an end and what a wonderful reward! I turned my head around to see Sandy holding my baby girl and I was overcome with joy and relief! I repositioned onto my back and Sandy quickly placed Sophie onto my chest less than one minute later.

Alex was right there, too, and together we met our daughter. The overwhelming feeling was wonder mixed with relief. Alex and I gushed over how perfect, healthy, and beautiful she looked despite her hair and body being covered in blood and other

miscellaneous! Sandy asked if Alex would like to cut the cord now that it had turned white and stopped pulsing, and he gladly did so. I thought that was so special! Now we both had a part in welcoming her into the world!

Meanwhile, Sophie was looking for some milk and I was struck with how amazing that instinct was! She was barely two minutes old and hardly able to open her eyes, but her little head was moving from side to side and her mouth was searching. Here was the next test and something that I had been worried about! Would she latch? I had originally planned on letting her latch on her own based on some books I read, but once I saw her searching for milk, I couldn’t lay there and not help her! I moved her to my nipple and she latched right away! I was so grateful! It was very awkward positioning both for her and myself and I constantly had to keep repositioning her, but she was drinking my milk! Sandy asked if I would like pitocin to help deliver the placenta, but I

declined thinking that since I delivered naturally and I was breastfeeding I wouldn’t need it and sure enough delivering the placenta was super easy!

Then for the not so easy part... repairing the damage. Sandy informed me that I had a second degree tear and a first degree tear, which didn’t surprise me but still didn’t make me any happier about it! While Alex and I were bonding with baby, Sandy gave

me two lidocaine shots which felt like a bee sting down in a place where bee stings should definitely not happen and set to work stitching the tears. It wasn’t exactly the peaceful golden hour that I had imagined! It was awkward and not pain free so it

distracted me a little from breastfeeding and bonding with Sophie. But, at the same time, Sophie distracted me more from the uncomfortable sensations happening down there so I figured now was still the best time to do it.

Once we were finally done with that unpleasant part, Sandy showed us the placenta and we marveled at that for a bit. It’s amazing how intricate it is! We said our goodbyes and things became quiet once again as Alex and I continued to gush over our baby girl. We just couldn’t believe she was here and how perfect she was! Almost an hour had passed since her birth and even though we were enjoying every minute of it, at that point Sophie had peed on me twice, I was covered in afterbirth, and I desperately wanted a shower! Sophie herself also needed a bit of a wipe down for the same reasons!

We called the nurse in to tell her we were ready to get up and she assisted me to the shower as Alex went with Sophie over to the infant warmer to get her vitamin K shot, weight, and length. My hospital gown was basically hazardous waste at this point and

my decency was also out the window since everyone in the room had seen more of me than I would ever see or want to see, so naked and unafraid, I gingerly walked hand and hand with my nurse to the shower. I was pretty sore down under and it felt very fragile. But, the pain was more like a pressure and nowhere near as bad as a contraction. I got out of the shower (which felt so amazing without contractions!) and saw that the room had been cleaned up, the bed was made, and the baby nurse had left. Things looked so normal... all except for the new tiny human being my husband was holding who was our daughter! I was in a state of excited peaceful bliss mixed with a healthy dose of relief and disbelief. So this was the NEW normal!

I met Alexander and Sophie and he told me what I had missed with the baby nurse while I was in the shower. He said it was heartbreaking to watch Sophie cry after getting the vitamin K injection and I was glad that I didn’t have to see it! On a more

pleasant note, her height was 19 3⁄4 inches and her weight was 7 pounds 1 ounce... a totally normal weight! All that worrying over her weight throughout my third trimester was pointless! Well, maybe at some point she was small for age, but she definitely

wasn’t anymore!

Then we reminisced with Tara on everything that had happened. Tara told me that I pushed for 11 minutes which was an incredibly fast pushing stage especially for a first time mom. I was grateful for that, but I couldn’t wrap my head around how anyone could push for MORE than 11 minutes! We joked that my long labor was payment for that short pushing stage and I said I would make that payment again because that pushing stage was by far and away the worst part! Well... maybe... That’s a really tough decision because they both kind of suck!

It was close to midnight and since we were settled in and had exhausted all of our scared new parent questions to Tara, she handed the reigns of parenthood over to us and said her goodbyes. I felt like I couldn’t justly convey how important she was to me. I literally could not have had the minimally stressful pregnancy, calm and dare I say peaceful labor, and completely natural birth without her! She was my rock, mentally, emotionally, and even physically as the countless hours of bracing me and doing

counter pressure during contractions proved! She will always be special to our family!

Once Tara left, it seemed like the atmosphere changed again. Up until that point I felt like I was in a transition period between pregnancy and parenthood, but without Tara in the room, some kind of internal alarm sounded off and signaled to me that I was now a mother and Alex and I were solely responsible for the health and wellbeing of our precious little girl. We had just entered a brave new world. And I thought labor was hard!"

Welcome to the world baby Sophie! Thank you to Brooke for sharing her heartfelt and inspirational birth story!

Our doula best,

Tara + the Mindful Birth Doulas


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