George’s Birth 6/2/2016 6:20AM


It’s going to take me longer to write this post than it took for George to be born. With all of my labors, I’ve experienced prelabor–mild to moderate contractions days and weeks before the baby was born.

With Joe 2, every little twinge was momentous. About 4 days before he was born, I had a few contractions. At 40 weeks + 4 days, Joe was born.

With Benjamin, I actually called out the cavalry–my mom and sister, who lived hours away–for some of this prelabor. By the time they arrived, all contractions had stopped. False alarm. Ben was born 5 days after that episode, at 39 weeks + 5 days.

I did the same thing with Captain, even convincing Joseph we needed to go to the hospital 2 weeks before Captain was actually born. We walked the halls and were eventually sent home. 40 weeks + 1 day he was actually born, after only 3 hours in the hospital.

Do you see the trend? My babies were all born within a couple days of their due date after lots of prelabor. This baby, I was convinced, was no different.

I’d already had a few rounds of prelabor with George. At my last appointment, the doc estimated I was 1 centimeter dilated. Big whoop. I was 3 centimeters dilated with Captain and he hung out in the womb for another week. So on June 1st, 14 days before George’s due date, I had more contractions. They weren’t regular or painful squeezes. They were just there. I texted my Mom jokingly that we might have a baby tonight and I should go to bed. But I didn’t really think it would happen. I still had 14 days to go.

I woke up at 1:30 AM. Contractions.

I woke up again at 3:30. More contractions. These hurt. But I still didn’t think this was labor. 13 days before the due date? I don’t have early babies–right? I tried to go back to sleep but every time I got comfortable, another painful contraction would come on.

Fine, I thought, I’ll do my labor dance. That’s where I stand up and wiggle and high step and rotate my hips and say “Open. Down. Open. Down.” I figure that if I’m going to have painful contractions, they should count for something. So I repeated the mantra, tried to relax my muscles and just let my body get ready to have a baby.

Now here is where a SMART person–an experience birther–would have called her people. It was 4:30 in the morning. I was going to the bathroom A LOT (sorry, TMI. But this IS a birth story). I was doing the birthing dance. Why didn’t I call Penny, who was going to come keep the kids? Why didn’t I tell Joseph to take me to the hospital? Well, because the contractions were irregular. Because it was 13 days before the due date. Because of the Benjamin and Captain false alarms. And because my water hadn’t broke and I didn’t have a bloody show. Joseph–in the most logical manner possible–reminded me of all these things as I had contraction after contraction. I think he even said, “You’re fine, go back to sleep.” So I tried to sleep through the next contraction again. By now, it was after 5 AM.

This time when I woke up, it was with a bang. This wasn’t just a contraction, this was IT. It was the urge to push.  


I wish I could convey the feeling of panic that accompanies my urge to push. I got it with Benjamin too (you might remember he was a planned home birth that ended up being an unplanned, UNASSISTED home birth). Labor does not turn me into an emotional wreck. But getting the urge to push before I’d even called the babysitter sure did.

Having a home birth is not the scary part. We’ve done that. Actually, the part that I was yelling about was the thought of having the baby, making a huge mess in the house, tearing, bleeding, and then having to haul my self, my older kids, and a newborn to the hospital so I could get patched up. Nope nope nope. Not what I wanted to do.

So Joseph comes rushing in, I’m crying, and he says “Who do you need to call?”I call Penny and I call my neighbor. I tell Penny to meet us at the hospital after the neighbor doesn’t pick up.

Joseph, in the meantime, chucks the 3 older boys, who are still half asleep, in the car. No shoes. In their pajamas. Captain (2.5 years old) crawls in, nodding sagely, and says “Time to go, Mommy. Time. To. Go.” Benjamin, 4 years old, wide eyed and concerned says, “Mommy what is wrong?” and I say “George is trying to come out, we need to get to the hospital.” Joe 2, always pragmatic, tells me to take a deep breath. He said I was breathing really fast, like this “HahahahHAHAHA” and he showed me later what that looked like. Then they asked if they could watch a DVD. Priorities, people.

I fought the urge to push the whole way there, all 5 minutes of the drive. I never understood what women meant when they said they held back the urge to push. It’s hard to do. It’s unnatural. It’s unnerving. But now I know–you can hold back that urge. It just takes everything you’ve got.

Joseph pulled into the emergency entrance, because we didn’t know if the main entrance was open at 5:55 AM, and I practically ran past the receptionist person. Bless her heart, she tried to get me a wheelchair.

“No, can’t sit down.” I said.

“Let’s take the elevator” says my husband.

“Not having the baby in the elevator” I said, and walked up the flight of steps to the maternity ward.

At the maternity ward, they tried to ask questions like “What’s your name?” and “How far along as you?” I didn’t bother to answer those silly questions.

“This is my fourth baby and I have the urge to push. I need a room now.”

The maternity ward receptionist picked up her phone and I heard her say, “Send me a nurse. Anybody! Anybody you have!”

2 or 3 nurses surround me, and I hear ludicrous remarks like “I don’t have a room ready.” “The room doesn’t have a monitor”. Bahaha. As if there were time for that.

“I just need a room. I have going to have this baby.”

“You can’t have it yet, the doctor’s in another birth.” She showed me into a room.

“Looks like it’s just you and me then.”

“Get me *some name I don’t remember*. She’s a midwife from Guyana.” Panic expressions on everybody’s face, except Joseph, who has done this before. Apparently the other folks were noobies.

Meanwhile, I was kneeling on the floor.

“Sweetie, please get on the bed. That floor looks really hard. You should lay down so we can check you.”

“I don’t do birth laying down. I get on my knees or I lean on something.” And then I remembered my sister Joanna, kneeing on the hospital bed, holding onto the railings. “If you’ll pull these railings up all the way then I can knee on the bed.”

“But they don’t go up any further.”

Geez. These nurses had plenty of excuses and not a whole lot of answers.

I climbed up on the bed. The nurse checked me. “Go take care of the boys.” I told Joseph. “See if Penny’s here. I’m fine.”

“She’s fully dilated. She’s ready to go.”

And as Joseph walked out the door I said, “SEE! I TOLD YOU SO!” Yes, I am an immature brat during transition, I’ll admit it.

And out he went. Because what choice did he have, our children were in the emergency lane, watching a DVD in the van, unsupervised.

He said that when he got down there, there was half a dozen hospital staff looking worriedly through the windows at our van, whispering. He loudly thanked them for watching the children, got our kids out of the car, and took them up to the waiting area just as Penny walked in.

I remember nurses saying “Is it head down? I hope its head down. Was it head down at your last appointment?” And the doctor came in and assured everyone that it was head down and we were fine and it was ok to push.

But at this point I really thought it would be better if Joseph could be here for his son’s birth. It’d be a shame to miss it at the last moment. Luckily, my body was taking a little pause. It’s not uncommon if a woman is having an unmedicated childbirth and is listening to her body. A rest before the big moment. I didn’t get the urge to push again until I saw Joseph’s feet. Then it was a gentle pressure, and just for a few seconds.

And again.


“You can push harder.”

“I’ll wait. I want to have time to stretch.”

The next push wasn’t going to wait for me, though. 2 more times and George came out. It was 6:20 AM. I know it was 6:20 because the staff kept saying it over and over.

“Ok, take your baby. Hold him.” But I couldn’t because I was shaking. It took me a few minutes to calm down, sit down, and hold him. But this was my face at that point:

I couldn’t stop smiling. I still couldn’t believe he was here, after a couple hours of contractions and one crazy ride to the hospital. REALLY. I don’t have babies early and I DIDN’T EVEN HAVE REGULAR CONTRACTIONS. So even holding my baby, my brain kept listing the reasons that I couldn’t possibly have Geroge yet.

By 7 AM I was stitched up, cleaned up, George wrapped up, and surrounded by the rest of our children. We looked like this:


love that all my children were together within an hour of their brother’s birth. I love that we all went to hospital together (it was crazy but still, we’re supposed to be together). They adore George. Everybody wanted to hold him, Captain kept saying “Baby GEOrge GEOrge” like he does and Benjamin kept patting him and Joe 2 said how cute he was.

They say babies know their mom’s voice, and to an extent, their dad’s even before they are born. I expect George knew Joe 2’s, Ben’s and Captains as well. I think he was ready to join in this rowdy and unpredictable crowd and that might be part of why he came early. He was tired of missing all the fun.




Captain’s Birth: Hospital Birth After Home Birth


When I was 3 months pregnant, I asked my 3 year old what we should name the new baby:


“Captain? What if it’s a girl?”

“Still should name the baby Captain. Captain Sullivan.”

And since then, we’ve called our third child Captain.

At six months pregnant, Captain had a major growth spurt.  I went from looking “oh, you’re pregnant?” to “are you having twins?”  This made me think that Captain might be farther along than we originally thought—maybe we miscalculated the due date somehow. And when I felt contractions and labor pains early in December, I figured I was right—this baby was coming early.

Well, I had labor pains for days. And days.  And weeks.  Joseph and I even made the trek to the hospital in mid-December, thinking that surely these contractions were the beginning of labor.  They were over a minute in length and  3-5 minutes apart which is supposedly an indication of active labor.  My dear friend Ashlie took our two older boys home with her and Joseph and I hung out at the hospital, waiting for Captain.

After five hours of no progress, we went back home.

Any mom who has experienced pre-labor—also called “prodromal” or “false labor”—can tell you there’s nothing quite as frustrating as being teased with the impending birth only to have a nurse or midwife say, “Looks like a false alarm. Go on home.”

The last month of pregnancy is pretty miserable with back aches, heart burn and general pain and discomfort.  Coupled with two active little boys and the stress of Christmas right around the corner and maybe you can imagine how discouraged I felt as we headed home from the hospital, with Captain still stubbornly in utero.

At some point that week, Joe II and Benjamin were sitting at the table, waiting for lunch. They whined and complained when I didn’t get it to them soon enough, and then whined and complained about what was on the menu.  At one point, I looked at Joe II and said, “Have I ever not fed you? Do you think I’m just going to let you starve? Just be patient!”  And I suddenly felt God ask me the same question—“Do you really think I’ll let you stay pregnant forever? You’re complaining and whining to me just like these children are whining to you.” Sufficiently chastised by the Spirit, I dropped my whiny attitude and rejoiced in the last few days I had to devote to my two older children and my husband.

Christmas Day, we welcomed my family to our home to celebrate, opened presents, and ate a lot. Early the next morning, I woke up with contractions and noticed I lost my mucus plug when I went to the bathroom.  I went back to bed anyhow, but woke up again an hour and a half later to find my water had broken.  It was about 4:30am and I woke Joseph and called the doctor to see if I should go to the hospital or wait a while. At the recommendation of the doctor, we were at the hospital within an hour.

When we arrived, the nurse set up the fetal monitor and checked my cervix to estimate the progress.  At this time, the contractions were regular—3-5 minutes apart—but not very painful, and I could talk and walk through them.  Even so, the nurse estimated I was 7 centimeters dilated.  I was really pleased to hear this, because it meant Captain was only a few hours away from being born.

We moved into our delivery room, and the nurse hooked up an IV with antibiotics, but I was only attached to the bag for about 30 minutes for the first round of Penicillin. This was a precaution because I had tested positive for a common bacteria found in about 40% of pregnant women which, in rare cases, can lead to a dangerous infection in the newborn.

My contractions maintained their intensity and spacing, and I wondered if I was still progressing.  Every 30 minutes or so, the nurse would use the fetal monitor to check the baby’s heart rate, and check my cervix for progression. Captain’s heartbeat remained strong, and I continued to widen with each contraction.

At 9 centimeters, the contractions became very uncomfortable and I began to feel tired. It was about 8:00am. Joseph supported me as I stood, leaned on him, leaned on a chair, squatted, or knelt as I felt my body lead me to do.  Even though the contractions were painful, a soon as one stopped, I was still in high spirits and happy knowing that Captain was quickly coming.

At 8:45, I reached 10 centimeters. I started to feel fed up with this whole labor thing and wished Captain would just get a move on. With Benjamin’s birth, contractions stopped and I had a little rest until the urge to push came.  I pushed just four or five times with Benjamin and out he came.  I was scared for a couple minutes, but with a final push, Benjamin’s head and shoulders came out and relief washed over me. It hardly took 10 minutes.

Captain took his time. I was kneeling in front of a chair, a towel spread over the chair seat cushion, and my body flopped down against it. When the urge to push came, I grabbed the back of the chair and strained until I heard Joseph say “Relax, drop your jaw” and I’d remember that tension would only cause me to tear more during crowning. So I released and relaxed my face and my body and tried to let the pushes come naturally. As I pushed, I felt Captain’s body move down, and then the pushing urge would release and I’d feel him slide back up a little. Push, slide down, slide up. Push, slide down, slide up.

The nurse asked “Where do you want to deliver?”

“Right here.” I was too annoyed and tired at this point to move or care whether it was a convenient spot, leaned against a chair, kneeling on the floor. The doctor came in.

“Where does she want to deliver?”


“Right there? Ok.” He sounded a little perplexed, but to his credit, he did not ask a woman in the throes of pushing to move.

When I got a strong urge to push, I gave a “rebel yell” (Joseph’s words) and I heard the doctor and the nurse hustle to get their gear to the floor near me. After the pain subsided from that push, I chuckled a little knowing that my primal grunts apparently sounded serious enough for them to drop whatever else they were doing and get over here.

With each push, it was very painful to feel Captain crown, and each push exhausted me a bit more.  I was tempted to “purple push” him on several occasions—which means to bare down beyond the urge to push and shove the baby out through brute force.  But I also didn’t want to tear, so even though it was hard, I was patient and allowed my body to work instinctually.

Captain’s head finally crowned, but in front of his head was a bubble of amniotic sack and fluid.

“There’s a sack of fluid in front of his head, do you want me to break it?”

Again, remember I was really tired at this point and frustrated that the baby was still not out, even though I felt like I was splitting wide open.

“What the hell is that? Yes, yes, get it out of the way.” I said to the doctor.

He broke the sack and I got another urge to push and another.

I thought I had reached the worse point, that I was stretched as far as I was going to have to stretch and then all the sudden it got twice as bad.  Lord, I didn’t know how I could possibly push any harder or open any further.

I screamed and pushed and FINALLY I felt Captain’s head birth.  For an agonizing 3 minutes, the rest of his body stayed in the birth canal.

“I can’t do it. I can’t do it. It’s too big. I can’t, I can’t.” I screamed and cried at this point and the nurse and Joseph kept saying, “Yes you can, he’s almost out. You’re doing great. You’re stretching just fine. One more push.”

And sure enough, I pushed again and Captain’s body slid out, a sensation both bizarre and welcome as it brings instant relief to the burning pain of a baby crowning through the perineum. He was born at 9:13 AM, not even 5 hours after my water broke.

I collapsed against the chair again, and for a moment, didn’t have the energy to turn and look at him. But I heard him cry, big grown up sounding wails,  and looked at him behind me, laying on the floor in a puddle of birth goo. I reached down to hold his leg and feel his hands. After a few minutes, I had the strength to pick up my child and stand up. I hobbled a few feet over to the bed, and laid down to the deliver the placenta and hold Captain against my body for a few minutes.

It looked like a murder scene. Since Captain had laid in the birth goo, he was covered in blood. When I stood up to walk to the bed, the gush of blood from the placenta detaching came out on the floor, so my legs and feet were also covered. It was gross, and we were a mess until the placenta was born.

“So how bad did I tear?” I asked the doc. I was sure that I was split from top to bottom, never to be the same.

“Actually, you didn’t tear very much. But after the placenta is born, I can tell you exactly how much.” Said the doctor. I couldn’t believe it, but maybe, after all that waiting, and the frustratingly slow pushes, maybe I hadn’t torn too big.

They took Captain over to the baby station to check his vitals and wrap him up.  Soon, they placed him back on my chest so that I could get him to latch on to the breast, which speeds up the delivery of the placenta.

I kept asking “How much does he weigh? How long is he?” Because he felt like a daggum watermelon coming out, so I was really curious to know how big he was.

“9 pounds, 1.76 ounces. 19.5 inches. 14” chest and….” Well, I don’t remember how big around she said his head was. But that explained why it was so much harder to push him out than Benjamin! Ben weighed 7 pounds, 4 ounces, so Captain was considerably bigger than him.

After the placenta came out, the doctor had a better look at my perineum (ouch. It was sore.)

“You might need one stitch, but actually you could do without it if you wanted to. A stitch will help it heal up a little better. Would you like me to stitch it or just leave it?”

Props to this doctor for treating me with such respect and patience. I was really impressed with his bedside manner!

“Go ahead and stitch it up but PLEASE use lots of lidocaine.” He was super fast and done with the stitching in about 30 seconds. Thank goodness.

I started shaking and shaking. Afterpains.

“God, really, why was this necessary in childbirth? Oh, I hate this part. Can I get some Motrin? Lots and lots Motrin, please?”

That nurse got me the pills and after a while I wasn’t shaking so bad or in nearly so much pain from my uterus contracting. The doctor massaged my belly a couple times to encourage the blood vessels to close up so the bleeding would slow down. Finally, I was able to get out of the bed and have a shower.

I was really happy with this birth. The nurses and doctor were so supportive and so respectful.  I was uneasy about birthing in a hospital after having a home birth, but this experience turned out to be just what we wanted for the birth. It was low key, low stress, and the doctor was there to reassure me during the difficult crowning stage and to stitch me up afterwards. Captain was marvelous and so healthy. Althought the biggest baby, and not quite as quite and easy as Benjamin, his birth went smoothly with only a few minutes of genuine pain and fear.  He’s snoozing in my lap right now, making snuffly newborn noises and being warm and cuddly.  We even picked out a real name: Captain McGuire Smith Sullivan, or Big Mack.


Several people have asked why we chose to have a hospital birth after having a homebirth. These are the reasons we went to a hospital:

  1. Our current insurance doesn’t cover a homebirth midwife, in part or in whole.
  2. Midwives aren’t as practiced in suturing as doctors or nurse-midwives. They also don’t legally have access to lidocaine in Virginia, so they either don’t have it in their kits or have a very limited supply. Since I tore with both of my first two births, I suspected I would need a stitch or two with this birth as well.
  3. Midwives offer a limited level of care. If you have a normal birth, they can offer reassurance and help with certain minor complications. If there are serious complications, you transfer to the hospital and a doctor. Benjamin was born very quickly, and arrived about 10 minutes before the midwife came.  After that experience, Joseph and I started to rethink our position on midwives, since we knew first hand that we could handle a normal birth alone. When we realized that it would cost to $3000-$5000  hire a midwife, we decided that we did not think that the level of care that a midwife could provide was worth the out-of-pocket cost.
  4. I wanted my husband to be able to leave me in the care of the nurses during postpartum if necessary. With a toddler and a preschooler at home—and no way of knowing if Captain would arrive before, during, or after the Christmas holidays when our family was available to help–I thought it would be helpful for Joseph to be able to take care of our boys during the 2 days of post partum recovery and the hospital nurses to take care of me.
  5. I didn’t really care. Some women have very strong feelings concerning the bond they form with their birth care provider, but honestly, the only strong bond I was concerned about was with Joseph and my other 2 children.  With my previous 2 births, my relationship was unstable and downright hostile with the birth care providers. (Don’t get me started on the nurse-midwife that delivered Joe II in the hospital. She was a nightmare.) The home midwife was nice, but she was going through a lot of troubles at home and also in her first year of business. She had the potential to be a good midwife, but wasn’t as professional as I had hoped she would be. After those 2 experiences, I just didn’t care what doctor showed up at the birth.