layla's birth: my version

layla's been on this side of my cervix for 51.5 weeks now. i figure i should probably give my own account of how she crossed over. i was planning to go after jesse, but he is really busy with work right now. so i am cutting in line.

we had two previous versions of layla's birth here on the blog. one by my L&D nurse and friend, adrienne, who has given birth to her 3 kids all naturally, and who i met during judah's labor. she actually delivered judah when my OB wasn't there in time. read her version here

and then the other version was given to us by the intrepid lena, one of my best friends, one of my kids' godmothers, and a lady who doesn't want kids for a long time and who wants an epidural the moment her egg is fertilized (NO shame in that game). she was taking pictures of the birth for us and trying not to get murdered by me for popping her gum during contractions. her version is here.

ok let's do this thing. (warning: this is MY point of view from inside MY head and MY body. my language is salty and descriptions may be too graphic for some. i want to remember and record my labor as authentically as possible for me and my family, so if you are easily offended, stop here. but if you want even MORE of this stuff...here is my account of judah's birth.)

when last you heard from my cervix, it was friday, november 12th, the day before my due date, i was more pregnant than i had ever been before (judah was a week early), and i found out i was 4cm dilated. seriously?! pregnancy is the only condition in which walking around with an organ gaping open 2 inches in considered just fine! rub some dirt on it and walk it off. (ed: do not rub dirt on your cervix).

that night, after judah went to bed, i fully embraced the old wives' tale and made us some eggplant parmesan from scratch. it was really yummy, but did not immediately work.

golden hotness. which, incidentally, is what i call brad pitt.

gooey yum-yums. which, incidentally, is what i call my placenta!

on saturday, my due date, we were meeting my parents in atlanta to have lunch and give them judah. he was spending the night with them. i have no idea what we did the rest of that day. i do remember at this point just giving in to the possibility that layla could be 2 weeks late.

surrendered to this notion.

the last picture of judah as an only child.

on sunday morning, jesse left around 7:30 to head to church for band practice. at 8:30 i was awakened by a pinchy feeling in my repro's. it wasn't braxton hicks, and it wasn't how i remembered working contractions to feel either. it went away after a little while. i got up and peed for the 11th time that morning and got back in bed.

but despite being mega-pregga tired, i couldnt fall back asleep. the pinches kept starting up and were uncomfortable enough to keep me awake. i felt my pulse quicken and it sunk in that it might actually be happening. today might be layla's birthday.

nothing can really prepare you for this moment. you dream about it, picture it, long for it. if you've had kids before, you probably expect it to happen similarly to the previous one(s). but despite 9 months of achy, bloated, emotional, miserable, nonstop impatient expectation and looking-forward, you are still utterly surprised and caught off guard upon finding yourself IN the moment.

first emotion: excitement--holy cow! i am going to meet this baby! second emotion: fear--holy shit! i have to push a human out of me today, and i am trying to do it with no drugs.

my first impulse is to rally the troops (remember, i am all alone at home and jesse is at work worship leading until noon); to call jesse and adrienne and lena and the grandparents and get everyone in place. but then i balk. CRAP! what if it's a false alarm?!?! and i get everyone excited and change their plans for nothing?!? i really dont want that.

so i keep it to myself. i get out of bed and walk around, scared as hell of the pinches turning into my painful old friends, contractions, but moreso just wanting to meet my baby and not be pregnant anymore.

the pinches begin to resolve themselves into grabbing, deep pains. i am willing them to really take my breath away, which i tell myself will mean they are working harder and accomplishing more, and that this is real, but they just dont hurt that bad. but, oh hey, they are coming every 4 or 5 minutes.

i go from being terrified of a false alarm, to insanely envisioning my future article in parents magazine where i tell the world how i was so scared of crying wolf that i waited too and long ended up giving birth by myself in the dogs' kennel in the garage (why did i crawl in there?!?! i dont even know!!!). there would be a photo spread of me and layla lounging on the cedar bedding with a pink sign on the cage door that says, "it's a girl!" on news stands today only in my crazy head.

rationality had packed it's bags and flown south for the winter at this point. it would not be back soon.

ok, so enough solo act. i called jesse and was really calm and just said, tell the rest of the band that the backup plan may need to go into action today. but stay there and keep practicing, just keep your phone on.

i call adrienne. she and her husband are on their way to something in atlanta. now i am really scared of ruining her day and trip for nothing, but i SO need her there if it is real. i tell her what is happening and she keeps me talking. i know she is testing me to see if i can talk through the contractions because, if you can, they arent serious enough to definitely be real yet.

i am going to be honest here, they didnt hurt that bad at this point, but i still stopped talking during them so that she would come anyway. she says she is turning around and calling the hospital to swap shifts with someone (um, do people like her really exist? how amazing is she and how blessed are we to get her in our lives?!?!). thank goodness it wasn't saturday, because adrienne is jewish and cannot work on the sabbath. she told me which of my 5 doctors was on call, and it was the least favorable to natural birth one. bummer.

i called jesse at about 9:30 and said i think this is the real thing. but i didnt want to ruin the music, so i said, just come home and get me and then we'll head to the hospital at 10:45. the church is on the way, you can just leave me in the parking lot, run in and do your set while i labor for 20 minutes outside and then we'll head on. ("hi, you've reached rational thinking, we are on vacation and unreachable indefinitely. please leave a message and we'll get back to you after this baby comes out.")

i start packing our bags. this was good because we had NOTHING packed and were total slackers, so this distracted me, kept me moving, and killed a lot of time.

jesse got home, informed me that the rest of the band said we were crackheads and sent him home for good, threatening him with bodily harm if he dared to come back and sing while his laboring wife waited in the car. looking back, i am glad this happened because explaining to my church friends what was going on as they headed indoors and saw me in the parking lot would have been annoying. "oh, hi, fellow churchgoers! what, me? i'm fine! think i just got some bad communion and need to walk it off! oh that? why, that's just a baby arm hanging out of me. enjoy the service!"

with everything packed, i laid back down to work through some more contractions with jesse. they were starting to get pretty uncomfortable so we practiced some of the stuff that had worked well with judah's labor: hand or foot massage. jesse kept timing each one. they were lasting longer but also slowing down and coming farther apart.

at 11, we decided to just head out. we called lena and told her to meet us at the hospital. we took the final weekly belly picture for 40 weeks using our rotting jack-o-lantern. we even set up the camera on a stool with a timer to take a family picture.

in LABOR! that's layla in there, in her birthday suit getting ready for her party.

sick nasty face is a great sign that its a woman's time to give birth. this is real.

i forgot how god awful contractions while seated and seat-belted are. i remembered on the way that i hadnt eaten since dinner the night before, and didnt want to enter this athletic endeavor with no fuel. however, i didnt want anything in my stomach to potentially poop out while pushing or to throw up and make a big mess of when the pain got real bad. i sagely settled on mcdonalds. i got a wildberry smoothie and stole and snarfed a couple of jesse's fries.

we pulled into the hospital at 11:30. it was a stunningly gorgeous day and i wanted to spend as much of my labor as i could out in this instead of in the scary, sterile hospital room.

this was the sky overhead on the day layla was born!

adrienne called to say she was already inside and getting ready for us. i paced the parking lot, leaned on our car during contractions and forced down smoothie during the breaks.

walking it out.

wildberry loading

contracting on our car

we headed inside at noon.

jesse with all the bags. i was busy carrying other things.

aside: you wont hear me talking much about jesse and what all he did and was for me during this process. i assure you that it isnt because he wasnt a perfect coach, supporter, doula (doulo?), encourager and partner. it is simply because i was so internally tuned that i couldnt really give conscious thought to anything but my body. but he was everything for me. you can see from the pictures just how active an engaged he was every step of the way. this man has never come up short for me, and this was no different. he's my lobster.

we got checked in. i bid a sad farewell to my clothes and put on the horrendous hospital gown and mesh panties. we were in the exact same room that i had delivered judah in. i stared hatefully at the wall where i had thrown up and passed out after starting pitocin with him, praying this time would be different.

looking hot and skeptical(?) in my haute coture for gravids.

working through a medium-intensity contraction on the detested wall. i hate that damn smiley pain chart. my pain level during labor = skull and crossbones smiley! this time i just asked adrienne if i could rip the signs down rather than squeezing between them. i'm a seasoned veteran.

i answered a million questions, got my first in-labor pelvic check by adrienne (i forgot how awful those are. ice pick to to the gonads, anyone?) and she told me that actually the MOST favorable towards natural birth doctor was on call after all. it was a doctor i had only seen once, but i had liked her and her tiny hands.

it was almost 1 pm when dr. C showed up. with judah, my water was broken when i got to the hospital so i knew there was no turning me loose: i was there until i produced a baby. adrienne told her about my contractions, that my water was intact and said i was dilated to a 5 (i think she kind of fudged this and i was actually still a 4).

i told her that my birth plan was essentially to, "give birth as if it was 1000 years ago, except for in a hospital, just in case." so my jaw hit the ground when the doctor responded, "well if you wont let us intervene or do pitocin, and you dont show progression, i am going to have to send you home. i cant just let you stay here and do nothing. this isnt a hotel."

hahahahaha. i wanted to say to this adorable, brilliant, sharply dressed little doctor, "BITCH, PLEASE! did you just give a laboring mary the 'no room in the inn' line?" the thought of being sent home at this point, with painful regular contractions coming and at 5 cm dilated rocked my world.

they wouldnt LET me leave when i had judah, and now they were going to kick me out. i understand this logic and the insurance and hospital policies, but i hate how the prevalent birthing system today puts pressure on women and their bodies to work on a timeframe. and if you arent "fast enough," you have to allow synthetic chemicals to do the progressing for you (pitocin is the man-made form of the contraction hormone) or leave. at this point, i was thinking i would rather be in a hotel. or even a bethlehem stable. at least the cattle would be too busy lowing to shove chemicals in my veins. and THIS was the doctor most down with natural birth!

we asked for an hour. if i hadnt progressed on my own at that point, we would take it from there. i didnt even consider that reality. i had been taking evening primrose faithfully and believed adrienne's assurances that it makes your cervix mush so that when the contractions start, they work efficiently and fast and with little resistance.

side-laying. trying to relax and melt into the bed. not easy when your uterus is juicing itself.

things began to get rough. walking around was over with, i was in bed, on my side and totally still, trying to relax through each contraction. it was so quiet in our room. staying still while adrienne placed my IV port was torture. i could hear the click of our camera in lena's hands, smelled my favorite scent of eucalyptus lotion as jesse rubbed my hands and feet during the worst ones.

time reduced itself to little 4 minute intervals. 3 minutes of freedom, one endless minute of pressure and pain so intense that it became hard to think.

adding some needle-y fun to the mix!

jesse being awesome. fleece socks because i was freezing and then burning up in turns.

just after 2pm adrienne came to check me. this was it. if i (somehow, despite dozens of contractions and so much work) hadn't progressed, i would have to consider pitocin, which i had vowed after judah to never take again, or be sent home, which would literally have been impossible at this point.

modesty is a funny thing. despite getting to the point where i really didnt care if half the world saw my junk during judah's delivery and the aftermath, slowly that goes away and my stuff becomes my own once more, with only jesse to see it, and then only on fridays, under cover of darkness and after 2 glasses of pink wine. (jokes...have you seen that guy? waffle house hours of operation apply).

so when adrienne checked me the first time, i made sure that lena got out of the line of fire and that a sheet covered me up. the last thing i wanted was to sear off her corneas and make her institute abstinence in her marriage. i mean, she is a BFF, but its one thing to share makeup tips and have brunch, and it is QUITE another to expose your entire laboring vag in the stark, sober, light of day.

well it was a grand indicator of how deep into labor i had ventured that when adrienne came to check me this time, i didnt give a rip. i was sweating and hot at this point and wouldnt tolerate a sheet over me. i may have spared a fleeting thought for, "sorry, lena! i havent been able to see or even reach down there in weeks...the hedges may need pruning!...also, there may be a family of chipmunks in residence for all i know."

as SOON as adrienne bumped up against my cervix, she started laughing, "7 centimeters. i told you evening primrose works." YES! almost 3 cm in an hour. there was no turning back. nobody puts babymama in a corner! or on the street! or on pitocin again!

since i was at 7, adrienne went to call dr. C so she could head back to the hospital (why are these doctors leaving!?!?). i secretly hoped that this one would be late like dr. B was with judah, and adrienne would get to deliver again, since i wasnt too fond of this new OB who tried to evict me on to the mean streets with my gooey yum-yums about to slide right out.

around this time is when things got CUH-RAY-ZAY up in this biz-nitch.

and it is at this point that i owe pitocin an apology. dont get me wrong, i still hate that vile juice and think it is often used unnecessarily these days. but with judah, i blamed all of the horrendous pain from 7cm to birth on the pitocin. as soon as that junk hit my system, all hell broke loose in the pain department. i went from what i thought was an 8 on the pain scale (based on all previous pain in my life) straight to a recalibration that involved me straddling the number 10 like it was violent bucking bull. i assumed it was the chemical that did this. but, as i would find out at this point in layla's birth, it wasn't the pitocin that caused the pain...this was simply transition. pitocin just got me to transition faster.

transition is the part of labor between the first stage (contractions, dilation) and the second stage (pushing and birth). contractions become longer, harder and closer together. it is the part of labor that you see and hear about most often because it is by far the most dramatic. any screaming, sweating, shrieking, husband-cursing woman you have ever seen depicted on TV or in a movie is trying to portray transition. she is doing a shitty job. halle berry herself climbing up my vaginal canal and delivering an oscar-caliber performance would probably tickle compared to actual transition.

my transition started at about 2:30 pm. i know exactly the contraction it was on. up until that one, they had been awful, but i was still sort of in my right mind (rational thought was on vacation still, but was checking its email every once in a while). i had been trying different positions in bed, but by focusing, i was able to stay still and quiet and breathe deeply through them.

trying to be up on all fours. this was the last position i would try before i could not longer move. i did put the sheet up again because that view would have been too much for anyone.

when transition began, i celebrated by barfing. as that contraction fired up, i remember thinking that i was losing all control. i had been boogie boarding along on the waves of pain up until then, exercising lots of effort and balance to stay atop each one, but all of a sudden i had been rolled by a tsunami and was just getting pummeled and drowning under the pain. i couldnt form coherent thoughts. i could no longer stay still and was writhing around in bed, eyes rolling crazily and moaning. i started heaving. adrienne, being THE most amazing nurse, somehow knew what was coming and at the exact moment, reached from behind me and held a barfy cup to my mouth, catching my little french fry kayaks as they plummeted over their wildberry smoothie waterfall. (vomiting and engaging your ab muscles during a full blown transitional contraction might be the worst sensation i have ever encountered...and there would be lots to choose from this day).

 jesse's clothes, my bed, my gown, and layla all silently thanked her for saving them from a future of having that stuff all over them. i simply gurgled, "mmmh hmm, splurm gork," and went back to my slow death.

adrienne was watching me from behind. still not sure where she produced that barf cup from. holy thigh meat.

the next few contractions i thought would kill me. since i never got my cattle in a stable like the real mary, i took over the lowing duties, moaning, "NOOOOOOO," in some pathetic inhuman voice with every one.

during the breaks, i tried to prepare myself by thinking up things to get me through the next one, things to focus on during the contraction. i would tell myself to hold on to jesus' love for me, or to picture layla in the little onesie i had made her, finally in my arms. but then the contraction would hit and holding on to those--or any-- coherent thoughts was like trying to keep a candle lit in a tornado.

i was not even on the same planet as him.

during this, someone came in and started making an ungodly racket. it sounded like they were erecting an aluminum shed in my room. i could just barely gasp, "chuddafuhkup" (translation: "quiet, please") and then jesse/adrienne/lena finally got the construction crew's attention and asked them to shut off their jackhammer.

to be fair, i think it was just one nice lady, changing the trash out or setting up something for delivery, but in my mind it was a buzzsaw on my cerebellum wielded by the harpy of hades herself.

the chick on the left was the noise maker. glad lena caught the culprit in action!

at 3 pm i said, screw natural birth, screw being tough, screw it all! give me an epidural. if it was as easy as pushing a button on the wall, i would have had 182 epidurals at this point. i told adrienne that i couldnt do this any more and i wanted drugs, in my spine, NOW!

adrienne: "that's great, that means you're close. when a woman starts doubting herself, she is almost through the worst of it."

me: "i dont think you understand, i said, [unintelligible orc-speak]"

she said she could and would do it, but it would take about 30 minutes to get me ready for it with fluids, and to get the anesthesiologist in, and that layla would probably be here before then. but there is no reasoning with a woman in transition (rational thought was on a sunset booze cruise). as far as i knew or saw, this was an everlasting hell with no end. in 30 minutes i would surely be dead; eaten by my evil uterus. i think i just moaned in response. adrienne, knowing that i really did want a natural birth, just took my moan as a go-ahead to keep helping me and jesse through each contraction.

she checked me again and i was at a full 8 approaching 9. after a few more contractions, i said again, "i really want an epidural. i cant do this." adrienne humored me and started running the fluids into my port to prepare for an epidural and said she would call for it.

then she warned me i would have to stay perfectly still while he placed the epidural, and at that news, i wanted to die. i knew i couldnt do it and would end up paralyzing myself by thrashing around with a needle in my spinal column. i weighed the pros and cons of being paralyzed for life versus one more of these contractions. somewhere during that process (paralyzation was winning), she called dr C. and told her to come to the room for delivery.

the birthing team and equipment starting filing in. i remembered this moment from judah's birth and knew that those people come in at the very end of the action. but i was so confused. i pitied these poor people who thought a baby was coming soon. didnt they know that i was a condemned woman and would be doing this for eternity? there was no baby coming, just more and more pain.

at 3:20 all of a sudden i said, "i need to poop!" somewhere in a forgotten recess, my rational mind--which had been hijacked on its booze cruise by somali pirates, tied up, gagged and stuffed into a bilge closet to be replaced by insane laboring rabid wookie brain--knew that the feeling of pooping actually meant that it was time to push. but crazyhead was adamant, NO I JUST NEED TO HAVE A BOWEL MOVEMENT, YALL! excuse me real quick while i just tiptoeto the ladies'. BRB!

feeling like you have to go #2 while you are in the worst pain of your life is horrendous. you're working on getting this human out of you and then some egomaniacal meal you ate 24 hours ago just thinks it can cut in line?!?! step off, turd!

luckily i was in too much pain to do more than squeak, "eeee, poop!" and ask where the hell my epidural was, and adrienne knew i was really just sooooper close. she told me i was feeling the urge to push, but i needed to wait to dilate a little bit more and to wait for the doctor. i think my exact mental response was, "mmmkay, fuck that. no pushing OR waiting. where is my epidural, woman? once i have that, yall can shimmy up there yourselves and carry layla out."

she also said that since my water still hadnt broken, i might want to consider letting dr. C do it, despite the fact that is was an intervention. sometimes that can bump you from a 9 to a 10 in a snap. sweet moses, layla was still in her water balloon?!?! i had a vision of birthing her still in her amniotic sac and could only conjure up images of the humans in their little orbs in the matrix. i had not wanted any interventions, but since water breaking was done long ago and fit into my stupid "1000 years ago" birth plan, i said, "ok, maybe. but where IS she?!?"

i think the jig was finally up when i asked again at 9 cm for my epidural. where IS that anesthesiologist? and why are we keeping these doctors so far away? i saw jesse and adrienne sort of smile indulgently at me and laugh to each other over my bed. my thoughts, "oh look at the non-laboring people. so rational. so happy! laughing at me like a child! how DARE they!?! he's probably making out with her between contractions because she's all cute in her scrubs and hasn't vomited on herself or or spoken orc today." the truth of the matter was that doctors don't really administer epidurals when you have a baby hanging out of you, and the people with remaining braincells all knew this even if i refused to see truth.

pushing contractions are the WORST. all the pain of transition contractions is still there, but now you have the added bonus of what feels like a steel-encased scud missile trying to launch itself out of your butt. my body started pushing for me involuntarily. adrienne told me to try to hold up and wait for the doctor, that she was on the floor, but was changing clothes. holy shit, how hard it is to put on scrubs?!?!

a little after 3:30 dr. C finally came in. she was so cute and tiny and calm. it was hard to stay mad at her for making me wait (or for that little scene where she threatened to kick me out of the hospital? oh, that? i'd almost forgotten all about that....water under the bridge, i say.). she sat down at the foot of my bed like a college gal pal.

she checked me (it felt like adding her stirring my insides with chopsticks to the fun mix of sensations i already had going on), smiled and said i was completely dilated with just the hint of a lip.

now, i know what youre thinking, "just a hint of a lip?" no, no, there was plenty of lip all up over that room, i assure you (just ask lena's repressed memories!), but this was a cervical lip. i was like 9.5 cm and just the tiniest bit of a rim of cervix remained. sometimes if you push with this, you can irritate the cervix and cause it to swell, which makes things harder. she said that breaking my water would probably help.

at this point, i was so far gone with pain and pooping urges and a bowling ball gamboling merrily in my colon that bursting a 9 month old water balloon inside me was all like, "yawn...whatever", and i said what the hell, go for it.

dr. C brandishing the AMNIHOOK!

she stuck a little plastic crochet hook looking thing up there. i felt a little tug/pop like she had snagged it on a balloon (she had), and...nothing happened. no expected gush. dr. C said, "your baby's head is so far down that all the fluid is behind her. when you push her out, it will all follow. i am going to get wet."

i had enough sense about me to at least enjoy the thought of that. "ha HA! try to put me out on the streets? i'll show you. take that!" *super soaker montage rolls*

you best lay down your little blue slip n slide! things about to get straight liquefied up in your zone, doc!

so at this point i was still thinking i was waiting for the go-ahead to push because of the cervical lip remaining, but it was oh-so-unbearable to resist. so i was trying to kind of sneakily push (even though i clearly wasnt sneaking anything by anyone since jesse and adrienne were holding my legs in pushing position). since i got judah out in like 3 or 4 total pushes, i was thinking i would just end this thing before anyone could tell me not to. but it was so lame. nothing was happening. i just felt like i was pooping. (side note, i would find out from jesse approximately 2 months later that i HAD actually pooped at this point. good to know. i am retroactively mortified. i doubt any embarrassment would have even been felt at that point, but if anything could do it, it would be having about 7 people, including 2 friends and your husband, watch poop come out of you in full light).

probably pooping. (this is the last picture where my stomach actually looks totally pregnant...crazy!)

after each of these half-hearted sneaky pushes i kept looking down at dr C. sort of wishfully expecting her to just be holding a baby. she was just patiently sitting down there on the foot of my bed.

with no baby.

i assumed i had lost my pushing mojo. everyone had been so impressed by my getting judah out in 3 pushes that i had held onto that as a given for this birth. like some people are tall or can flip their eyelids, but i am just a gifted pusher, right? but maybe it was the pitocin that had made me a pushing all-star with judah and i was really going to be stuck doing this for 2 hours! sweet death.

sneaky pushing. you can clearly see that my heart is not in it.

things were getting so painful and stretchy down there that i thought dr. C was reaching into me at one point, and i asked her or yelled at her about it. she lifted her hands and showed me that she wasn't touching me.

ah yes, ye old ring of fire.

it's like the entire mechanism of your vagina gets so pushed down upon and stretched out that it is all one millimeter thin and about to assplode into shreds. layla was ready to straight blow this pop stand.
the next thing i remember i was like, "ok, yall, this sucks! when can i really push?" and jesse, adrienne and dr. C all said, "NOW!" in a way that told me that maybe i had missed them saying to go ahead and really push the first 1 or 2 times. holy cow, i was out of it. i think jesse got down by my face and told me, "she's right there!" i couldnt believe it. i was like, "you can see her?" and he said, "YES! she's so close."

oh. okay then. well, in that case, game on.
the pain of these contractions and her emergence was so brutally intense on so many levels that i really felt like i was pushing myself to my own destruction. it was almost like it would be too much to get this far into the pain and have to come back down and face it again, so the easier thing would be to plunge headfirst into deeper, deepest pain until i just burst through onto the other side...possibly dead (seriously this is how bad it felt).

one way or another, this was my last gasp.

i grabbed onto jesse as my other half and faithful birth partner, and waited for the next contraction.
you can take away my rational mind, but nothing will make me forget what this man means to me. here we go...

at 3:42 pm with one epic mega-push--the first one that i gave all my effort to--which i felt every micrometer of and threatened to explode me from pubic bone to whaletail, i pushed layla out into the world.


adrienne rushes to the computer to note the time of birth, dr. C catches layla, jesse's sees his daughter's birth, and i am suddenly in no pain. i am so relieved, so exhausted, so spent. i am utterly out of it. i can only think, "it's over."

then they hand me my daughter.

as you can see, i am a mess. that thing that i wail/cry is, "it's over." this was our baby, but my body was reeling and going into shock, my mind was trying to grasp the fact that i was holding my daughter while still recovering from the barrage of pain signals it had been drowning in, and i was freaking out because she was silent and so purple. on top of this, my heart was storming in with a crazy amount of love for our daughter and trying to be fully present and unfurled in this moment. it was too much.

it took layla awhile to cry and adrienne preferred to take her over to the neonatal nurse on the other side of the room. this rattled me too, since i had planned to keep the cord attached and hold her for a long time after birth.

in the remainder of that video (which i clipped out), you hear me say, "this is a dream. is this not happening, really?" because i seriously cant believe that my seemingly endless labor is over (in reality, the truly hard part was less than 4 hours). and then when they take layla to the nurse and they tell me she is fine, while layla wails and shows off her lungs, you can hear me whine, "it's over. i dont have to do that anymore!" i distinctly remember the happiness of that thought overshadowing everything. that no more pain was coming. the boogey man was really gone for good.

dr. C delivered the placenta and showed it to me (so weird! so cool! an indispensable organ created just for layla and disposable as soon as she doesnt need it any more. farewell gooey yum-yums!). i also learned that i had almost no tear to speak of. she started mashing aggressively on my abdomen to get my uterus to contract and begin shrinking back to normal size which would also stop the bleeding from the placental detachment. (those contractions are nothing compared to labor, but are painful for a few days after birth. every time i would breastfeed they'd fire up because nursing releases the same hormone that tells the uterus to contract and get small now that the baby is out and its work is done. but just like i had heard, they were way more painful than the after-pains felt with the first baby.)

strangely, despite my brain taking forever to really absorb reality and catch up, my body was ready to go very soon after birth. and after a few minutes, the navy came and rescued rational thought from its captivity.

it was over, i had done it in the exact 1000-years-ago style that i had intended to, and my baby was here! well, not here, over there, being given oxygen and chatting with daddy. i didnt need to be afraid of someone coming in, calling for a do-over and making me go through labor again. i could just focus on this awesome perfect new life! give me that baby!!!

he's done for.

10 minutes after i had handed her over, they brought her back to me. i had torn off my crusty, wet, bloody hospital gown and re-bunched my hair (rationality is gooood). my brain was fully engaged and in love. she was neon red, the way fresh newborns are, fuzzy and crinkle-faced. she looked nothing like judah had. she was not pampers-model cute, but she was utterly perfect. and i knew the cuteness would come (she has NOT disappointed in that area).

she breastfed like a champ from the get go and got a little irate when i pulled her off to readjust:

freaking indignant! i LOVE this. it is so her. she knows what she wants.

an hour after birth, while she was getting washed and tagged and footprinted, i got out of bed and walked to the bathroom to put on some makeup. i had hated how i looked in all of judah's birth pictures. i had come out of anesthesia from having my 4th degree tear repaired in an O.R. straight to meet him and have all the family pictures taken without ever seeing the wreck i was. so i vowed to look somewhat presentable this time.

and with judah, i didnt attempt to walk for over 24 hours because of the tear and repair, and even then it was painful and scary. but this time was like nothing. it was so easy.

i had just pushed a human out of my body through crippling pain which prevented me from even thinking, and yet i was able to walk around on my own an hour later (i guess i could have done it sooner too). the human body is amazing.

like nothing had happened and the stork had just dropped this happy bundle into our life. pain? what pain?

i have thought of a dozen different ways to end this story: talking about natural birth in general, why we chose it, why it worked well for us, what layla meant to our family, how much we love her, how we would do future births if there are any. but those arent really what this story was about. it was my version of the story of how layla embry went from the baby i was pregnant with to the daughter in my arms. the first of her many stories.

so i will just end it here:

the beginning.

judah's birth story here


  1. you know the midwife in me loves reading this ... down with pitocin whenever possible!

    Of my four births - one natural - two induced with pitocin - one of two ending in emergency c-section and an almost dead baby and momma -- one scheduled no drama c-section.

    the pitocin vag birth of Paige was by far the most painful

  2. That is a wonderful story! You rocked that birth! :)

  3. Love your story and video... I went from laughing to crying in .0002 seconds. I'm hoping I can have a natural delivery with our next.

    Thanks for your totally transparent and real account. Scared the crap out of me (not literally), but I think I'm still up to the challenge :).

  4. What a great story. I was laughing out loud...particularly at the poop part (apparently I'm 5)!

  5. Please, please, have at least 10 more kids, because I don't want the birth stories to end. I laughed, I cried, then I snorted because I laughed, and then I cried some more because my own pitocin-induction-at-35-weeker will be 2 soon, and my natural-baby-born-in-a-bathtub will be 1 right after that, and I just relived both their births in a blubbering state. Hooray for you being super strong, and hooray for Layla for gettin' born :D

  6. Thank you for pouring out yourself in every sentence you wrote in this post. It took me back to bits and pieces of each of my girls' births and made me both laugh out loud and cry hot tears. What a beautiful story, one that Layla will truly appreciate one day, especially as she becomes a mother herself and can understand the experience and emotions you describe!

  7. ohmygosh just read the whole thing. I was laughing...then horrified by my terrible pictures, then i got that nervous feeling all over again when i was in the room, and then i finished it up with a good cry. Happy early bday layla!

  8. Best birth story I have ever read...So inspirational and the pictures were great. Thanks for sharing with us!

  9. loved reading this...just perfection. what an amazing birth - so glad it was the way you wanted it to be. you are one tough lady. made me mourn mine falling apart - 19 hours and progress just stopped completely...so sad. and you are right..pitocin is horrible! i love that you recorded this in such detail.

  10. This is the best birth story I have read. Ever. I love that you were totally honest, I hate it when people act like it was all rainbows and fluffy bunnies. But your story is beautiful because it is real. The video just about did me in. So beautiful. Thank you SO much for sharing Layla's story. And seriously, the best I've ever read.

  11. Keight, I've been lurking for a good long while now. Maybe even before Layla was born. Anyway, this seemed like a perfect time for me to come out of hiding. That was great. I was laughing (like I always do when I read your posts) and then crying hysterically at the video. Wow. You're awesome. (I always knew that at Tech but now even more.) Happy Birthday, little Layla!

  12. Amazing, amazing. You are amazing mama.

    That video... blubbering. I love how Jesse looks at you and assures you that everything is ok. Also, it brings me back to that moment (just a year ago :) ) when Mac was born. I don't really remember Brynlee's birth (the moment she was out) but Mac's is as clear as day. Chills.

    Please write a book. I don't care what it's about, but I will read it. Over and over. You are AMAZING! Watch out on December 1st (2nd)? You will probably be freaked by the huge hug I will inflict upon you.

  13. I just stumbled upon your blog via the braided scarf tutorial on pinterest and decided to look around a bit. I just have to say that this is THE BEST birth story I've ever read. It was so good, like I almost want to read it again, and I just finished it. I found myself simultaneously laughing and crying a few times (signed, sealed, delivered!) Just WOW. I'll definitely hang around and check out more of this great blog :)

  14. I think you just made me dilate a little bit more with this story. ha! I totally remember the super human hearing with Eli's birth. And I snapped at our MW when I thought she was pulling on the umbilical cord after Eli was born. Who does that?! She made the same hand gesture and said it was the placenta detaching - not her pulling.

  15. I have never given birth, and don't particularly enjoy birth stories...but Layla's is definitely the exception. I laughed till I CRIED - because I love your blatant honesty. Although, I have to be honest when I say that you've also made it abundantly clear to me that I'm okay with it if I end up adopting ALL my kids. :)

  16. I just found your blog and loved your birth story! It reminded me of mine and I was laughing so hard I couldn't tell my husband what I was reading at some parts. Happy 1st birthday to your baby girl!

  17. you know that "baby story" show on TLC?! yeah, this is wayyy better than that. love it!
    also, you've kinda sorta scared me when it comes to having kids/possibly becoming a L&D nurse. thanksss ;)

  18. sent this to my sister ... I know it will make her day brighter -- you're too funny.

  19. That last photo is stunning! Talk about being worth a thousand words!

    Cheers & happy new year to you & your brood!
    Heather @ Find That Warm Fuzzy Feeling

  20. I just found your blog tonight and saw this on the sidelines so I clicked and read it. You made me laugh so hard at certain points! I can sympathize too. I basically had a natural child birth with my first son, they gave me Pitocin and Demerol (did not ask for Demerol but they gave it to me anyways). I totally agree that transition = hell. I was in so much agony that my husband had marks on his hands weeks later from where I dug my nails in to him and I am embarrassed to say that I swore very loudly and frequently (and I don't swear). I demanded an epi too but it was too late. I'm pretty sure I thought I was going to die. Oh and I had to endure that pain for TWO HOURS because my son's head was stuck!! They wanted to let me push as long as possible before intervening. Finally they said they would use suction to get him out, and if that didn't work (thankfully it did) they'd have to C-section. Whew! I tore really bad too, but not enough to have to have surgery (they stitched me up instead lol). Ah, good times. Yet, despite all the agony, we willingly subject ourselves to it again! lol

  21. Thanks for sharing your birthing story in all its honesty! I remain quietly mortified 26 years later about that whole "pooping" thing. I didn't want to push because it felt like pooping and they told me that's where it's supposed to feel like pushing, which I wasn't at all expecting despite being a voracious reader and there were those prenatal classes. When I learned that I truly did poop myself because they kept making me push from that general direction ... well, like I say ... MORTIFIED! Interestingly enough, just last night on Grey's Anatomy, they talked about how common the "pooping" thing is during childbirth. Most women do ... apparently. It's been so good for me to hear you talk about it and to have just heard that on national television because all this time I've mostly felt like the exception to the rule. The idea of that kind of ... but not quite ... ruins my "birth story" for me. So ... really .. THANKS for sharing.

    And BIG congratulations on your beautiful new Layla ... to you and your family. You are most certainly a warrior woman! And beautiful, too.

  22. Loved your birth story. Thank you for sharing.