I love hearing other women’s birth stories. They are all unique and worth honoring. So today, in honor of Beau's first birthday, I'm sharing his birth story.
When I found out I was expecting again, I was overjoyed – but I had a lot of anxious energy around the birth. Dashiell’s 26-hour labor was exhausting and intense, but I was determined to get through it unmedicated. Ultimately, I achieved this goal, but it took every ounce of grit I had along with support from my husband and doula team. An hour and forty-five minutes of pushing ended in a brief but scary shoulder dystocia. Dash spent the first minute of his life blue and unresponsive. He perked up and was completely fine, but it was traumatic. By the time the doctor was able to hand him to me, I was too physically and emotionally exhausted to even hold him.
Memories of the relentless hours of contractions remained sharp in my mind, and I still got emotional whenever I recalled the sudden sobering drop of energy in the delivery room when Dash’s heartbeat vanished and the birth shifted into emergency mode. I was also concerned about having another shoulder dystocia since it’s something that often repeats itself.
Wanting to be better equipped to handle the intense sensations of birth and mitigate the risk of shoulder dystocia, I began preparing early. I started by contacting Britt Fohrman. She’s one of San Francisco's most experienced doulas, amongst other talents. Britt has assisted with the birth of hundreds and hundreds of babies, many of whom are teenagers now – and she’s also a prenatal yoga instructor whose classes I took religiously when pregnant with Dash. Britt introduced me to her equally experienced and wonderful partner Lauren Miller. I immediately knew I was in great hands.
Britt and Lauren specialize in supporting moms who want unmedicated labors. Because of this, they insist their moms prepare extensively for birth and provide them with numerous childbirth education opportunities. By the time labor started with Beau, I had attended Britt and Lauren’s monthly group gatherings, read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, taken Rachel Yellin’s hypno-birthing intensive, learned the childbirth meditations and affirmations on Rachel Yellin’s awesome audio program, and at their suggestion, even started maternity leave early so my body could relax as to facilitate an easier birth.
February 2018 rolled around. Family arrived to care for Dash, my due date hit, and I was ready to meet my baby; he, however, was not ready to be born. Four days past my due date, with our schedules cleared in anticipation of the baby who had yet to arrive and grandparents in town to babysit Dash, my husband and I decided to go buy that bigger family car we had been talking about for months (if you’ve ever tried to test drive cars with a two-year-old, you know why we hadn’t gotton around to actually purchasing it yet).
As we talked to the sales person and test drove cars, I was very uncomfortable and having lots of Braxton hicks, but that had been happening for days, so I didn’t read too much into it. We found a car and went back to the dealership’s office began the tedious process of actually buying it. Three hours into our visit, I was completely done. I had wanted a new car for a longtime and under any other circumstances would’ve been excited, but I was exhausted from sleepless late-pregnancy nights and so uncomfortable that I had to keep standing up and moving around. I called an uber and left my husband to finish what he could of the sales process without me.
Around dinner time that night, the salesman came to our house with all the paperwork that still needed my signatures and dropped off our new car. Before bed, I caught Chris printing out a copy of our auto insurance and sticking it in the car’s glovebox. “Just in case,” he said jokingly to me. That night, I slept poorly as usual and I had ongoing Braxton Hicks as usual, but by 1am I noticed that the Braxton Hicks were becoming more intense and happening regularly every 10 minutes. I was uncomfortable, but remembered how I had rushed out of bed at this point in Dashiell’s labor and wound up tiring myself out too early. I put on my Rachel Yellin audio tapes, relaxed into the contractions – saying “yes, baby!” with every one, and continued dozing in between.
At 4am, Dash woke up with a nose bleed. Chris and I cleaned him up and put him back to sleep. When we were back in bed, I noticed that my contractions hadn’t slowed down at all from the disruption. It was only then that I fully grasped I was really truly in labor. I was surprisingly calm when informed Chris of this, and I insisted we go back to bed.
At 7am Dash got up for the day. While Chris cared for Dash, I took a bath, talked to the baby – inviting him to be born – and jammed out to my labor playlist (a lot of camila cabello). Contractions were still only 7-10 minutes apart and I was dancing to Havana in between, but they were getting stronger, and it was time to call my parents to come get Dash. They picked him up around 8am.
After Dash left, we decided to call our doulas and let them know what was going on. We told Britt that I was in labor, contractions were steady but far apart, and I was feeling calm. Then we told her that my parents had just picked up Dash. We expected her to say “call me in a few hours,” but instead, in her comforting and knowing way, Britt said, “I just want to prepare you that once the older children are taken care of, labor often starts moving very quickly.” We largely brushed aside this comment, remembering the thirteen hours I labored at home and thirteen more I labored in the hospital with Dash. I got off the phone and decided to get back in bed, hoping I could manage to doze for a little longer. My contractions were subtly increasing in strength but were manageable. I knew this could be a long day and I was determined to pace myself.
I was in bed less than ten minutes when I heard an audible pop. The combination of the noise and sensation scared me and I screamed so loudly that Chris came charging into the bedroom. “Your water broke,” he said, reassuring me and helping me out of bed. It was at this point that my labor kicked into high gear. I stumbled out of bed and was standing only a few seconds before an intense contraction kicked in, then another and another. Just the force of gravity from standing was triggering them. We called Britt with an update. She asked us what we wanted to do. We said we would talk it over and call her back.
Almost immediately after we hung up, we realized that we needed to go to the hospital. And Fast. I couldn’t even stand without triggering a major contraction. We started frantically gathering our belongings. I was literally crawling trying to gather my stuff, because standing was so intense. Somewhere during the chaos, Chris called Britt back and told her to meet us at the hospital. We climbed into our new car for the very first time, Chris behind the wheel and me on the passenger seat lined in plastic garbage bags and towels (because I was adamant that amniotic fluid isn’t good for leather upholstery), and we sped off across town to UCSF.
Chris isn’t one for medical situations, but he admirably kept his cool as he navigated across the city in an unfamiliar car with a wife beside him panting and chanting, about to give birth. He even managed to sync my iPhone with the car's complicated media system so I was able to listen to Rachel Yellin’s audio program and focus my energy on the breathing exercises and affirmations as contractions hit.
We pulled up to the hospital at 9:30am, and Britt was standing on the curb ready and waiting. She and Chris helped me out of the car and up to labor & delivery. A combination of my body language and Britt’s advocacy made it clear that I was in advanced labor. In a flurry of excitement, we bypassed triage and were put into a delivery room. As with Dash’s birth, I didn’t want an IV or anything else attached to me so there wasn’t a big set up. The midwife on duty came into the room and I was happy that I was being attended to by someone who was supportive of natural birth and who Britt knew – in a very San Francisco twist, they had met at a Burning Man party.
My contractions were extremely intense now. I was chanting “I can do it. I can do it. I can do it,” to get through them. During a particularly trying contraction, Britt turned to me and said with a smile “You ARE doing it!” From then on out I chanted “I am doing it. I am doing it.” It truly helped.
I was so deep in the mental fog of labor that it took the midwife and nurses several minutes to explain to me that they needed me to scoot up six inches on the bed so they could examine me more easily. My mind couldn’t process. I never made it up those six inches. The midwife managed to examine me anyways. She said was seven centimeters and that she would come back in an hour to check me again – unless I felt the need to push. If that happened, I was to hit the red call button. With that, the midwife, nurses, and the flurry of excitement in the delivery room emptied out.
Britt left to grab her gear from the car and connect with the midwife. She filled her in on my history of dystocia and the positions and strategies we preferred for avoiding and dealing with it, if necessary. It was just fifteen minutes after the midwife had checked me when I started feeling the need to push. Then my body was baring down on its own. Chris jabbed at the red call button. The medical team flew back into the room, including Britt and the midwife who were still in the hall talking.
The midwife pushed back a small piece of cervix that had failed to dilate (it did the same thing in Dash’s birth), and I began to push in earnest. Pushing was intense but I found it more satisfying than regular contractions because it was productive; my energy was going into something tangible. I could feel and see my baby moving out of me. A few minutes later he was being born. There was a moment of fear as his head emerged, fear that he would have shoulder dystocia, but his body followed easily. He was out and immediately lifted up and placed on my chest.
Holding his plump, warm body was surreal. We were mentally prepared to have a full day of labor ahead of us, or at least half a day. Yet here I was holding my baby exactly an hour after I had pulled up to the hospital, and without a shoulder dystocia or any complications. These precious minutes – before anyone outside the delivery room knew he was born, before any family member checked in to see how labor was going – felt almost magical, like we had stumbled onto found time. Chris and I were both shocked and overjoyed. The build up and anxiety around the birth was over. We had our sweet little boy. We were all well.
We wanted delayed cord clamping, so he stayed slick and naked on my chest until the chord stopped pumping. He was the softest creature I had ever felt and I just stroked the velvety skin on his back and stared at him, examining the features of this human being who I knew but had never met; his chubby cheeks, blue eyes, full lips, and eyelashes so light they were translucent. The nurses finally had to remind me to cover him with the blanket so he wouldn't get cold.
Then we cut the chord and enjoyed a full 90 minutes of uninterrupted family bonding time with him before any of the standard tests and procedures were done. Because of this, he wasn’t weighed until nearly two hours after birth. The nurses and midwife had commented about what a big boy he was, but I didn’t think too much of it. I had a rough third trimester with lots of illness and was just hoping that he would be as big as Dash, who was 8lb 2oz. At my last prenatal appointment, my OB had palpated my belly and confidently estimated the baby to be around 7 or 7.5lbs. So when Beau was finally weighed and turned out to be a whopping 9lb 2oz, we were flabbergasted.
For days and weeks after Beau’s birth, I would just look at him spellbound, filled with awe. A year later, I’m still filled with wonder by this little man and how well he fits into our family. Like his birth, he’s mostly easygoing but for his swift and fleeting eruptions of rage. He’s alternately referred to as our “zen baby” and “tiny fury.” At my first meeting with Britt and Lauren, they told me that second births are frequently “healing births” and I feel so fortunate to have experienced that.
Birth Photos: Britt Fohrman Photography