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  • Danielle Benner (A Doula Client)

{Birth Story} A Long Labor

This birth story is a flashback to 2016. This birth is especially memorable to Jessica because it was her first birth as a doula. Now on to Danielle's story...

I’ve never written all of this out, so bear with me.

I knew from the beginning of my pregnancy that I wanted a natural birth and I wanted to try for a water birth for many reasons. I’m sort of a control freak (any other women out there feel that way?) and I also just love the empowerment of knowing what a woman’s body is capable of doing and I wanted to be a part of that beautiful narrative. My husband wasn’t so convinced. He was scared. Scared of all of the unknowns of childbirth – How much pain would I experience? Would complications arise? So, we compromised – We decided to go to Women’s Hospital in Greensboro with plenty of staff ready to handle any situation that may arise and I got my chance at a natural water birth with a doula.

On Sunday, August 14, 2016 around 1:00am, (6 days after my due date) I got up to get my middle of the night snack, like I had been doing for months and felt a gush. Eyes wide and in a little bit of disbelief, I hurried to check and had some more gushing. I was 100% sure my water had broken. So calmly, I went back upstairs to wake my husband and call our doula. Sarah was on call. My husband, Richard, was of course freaking out a little knowing it was time which made me giggle a lot. Sarah assured me we were fine and told me to just rest and time contractions. At this point, I wasn’t having any strong contractions but there was no way I could sleep now. I was so excited something was happening finally. Richard and I hung out at the house until around 10:00am and he decided he wanted to go ahead and head to the hospital since it was a 45 minute drive and I was having some contractions a little closer together (but still not very strong). This decision would come to be one of my biggest regrets. I would have liked to rest and labor at home for as long as possible, and I was told to do that, but I wanted to make sure we made it to the hospital in time and my husband was also comfortable. We got to the hospital and luckily, they were not busy. I got checked in and they confirmed that my water did break. I got into a room, passed out all of my super extra birth plans to the nurses and posted my cord blood donation signs up. I let the doulas know my status and we settled in. I was only 1cm at this point so I we realized we had a way to go.

When I made my birth plan, it included who I wanted to be present for the birth. Of course this was my husband and our doula(s) but I also wanted family support, and to me that’s my two best friends. So my “birth squad” rallied and joined me from out of town. Walking the halls was next and other various positions to try and get the contractions ramped up. My in-laws were in the waiting room and came back to visit for a bit, my father in law walked the halls with me for a while too. I finally called the doulas to join me. Christina was on call and Jessica also joined her because Jessica was a new doula in 2016 and wanted to shadow Christina. They joined me that afternoon and got the room ready with essential oils, the birth tub, and some calming lights. We continued to work on different techniques to progress labor. Some activities and positions would really get things going, but then they would taper off again. I had been in and out of the birthing tub at this point to relax my body and help ease the contractions that were coming steadily at this point. My best technique through each contraction was to visualize climbing a mountain - up, up, up, to the peak and then back down again, all while just breathing through them calmly, taking one at a time. I knew from the books I had read that the more relaxed I could keep my body, the more work it could do. There was no sleep that night. I think I eventually made it to 3cm by the next morning, after all of that work and I was over 24 hours in. The contractions were getting stronger and stronger and I was getting tired. We started to talk about options and I just cried and cried out of exhaustion and the thought of failure. When my only options were more than I was willing to do, I pushed through and said we will just keep going….my body knows what it’s doing…but in my head I wasn’t always sure and I was a little scared. As the sun came up that morning, Christina and Jessica went home and Sarah came in their place. My two best friends had to go back home to their families (this was heartbreaking for them).

Danielle and Christina
Danielle in the Birth Tub

As the day went on, we just continued to work on trying to rest a little and anything to help my body progress in labor, including bringing in a breast pump to try to get my oxytocin going and increase contraction intensity and frequency while sitting on a birthing ball to keep my hips open. This started to really help intensify the contractions for a while, but they were never really consistent like most labors become.

Later that afternoon Christina returned and Sarah left. I was so exhausted. Everyone was. I got checked again somewhere in the middle of the day and was finally around 6cm. Christina and I told my husband to go ahead and leave to get something to eat with his family and get some fresh air. We would call him if anything ramped up. Christina continued working with me using counter pressure on my back and about an hour or so later I decided to go into the shower and sit on a bench while Christina sprayed warm water over my back. The contractions were getting much more intense, but still not consistent. They would be 8 minutes apart and then 2 or 3 minutes apart. Christina would later tell me she knew I was in transition from all of my other signs though and she hoped Richard was finishing up his meal!

A few minutes later Richard did walk in and I guess Christina let him know things were progressing rapidly. The new midwife, Venus, had also just come on shift (by this point I had seen every midwife in the practice). I made my way back to the bed so they could come monitor my contractions and my baby for a bit and Venus came in to chat. She asked if she could check, and I was hesitant to say the least. My birth plan called for minimal checks and up to this point they had been very discouraging. Someone in the room convinced me we should take another look and I’m glad they did. I was 9cm!! In about an hour and a half I went from 6cm to 9cm. I was filled with tears of joy. It was almost time to push. We got the tub ready and I looked at the clock- it was 9:00pm on August 15.

I got into the tub and got into a comfy position with my husband on the outside holding my hands. I remember the nurse telling me to wait on the midwife to return before I start pushing-HA! Your body takes over and you can’t really stop that. On my next contraction, I was pushing. It’s such a difficult sensation to describe, but your whole body really is working and doing it. The nurse and the midwife and my doulas (Jessica came back for the birth, so I had 2 doulas there) and husband were all there encouraging me and coaching me along. I could feel my baby’s head and I just knew it wouldn’t be long before I met my new love. (Man was I wrong). At some point I looked at the clock again and it was midnight. I had been in the tub pushing for 3 hours. Venus was trying her hardest to maneuver my little one, but my baby’s hand was up by his face and he refused to move it. In fact he grabbed her finger at one point! Due to this and the temperature of the water getting cold, they decided to take me out of the tub.

Getting out of the tub was a let-down for sure and still is, but it was for the best at the time. They asked me if I wanted to stay on my hands and knees on the bed and try to deliver that way, but out of the tub I couldn’t handle the contractions in that position because I was too tired to hold myself up. So I laid down on the bed. My husband was a saint at this time with a holding a mini-fan in my face and giving me ice chips. Those were lifesavers. With every push, baby would come out, get stuck with his hand, and go right back to where he was. Over and Over. Venus continued to try and maneuver him and I pushed with all my might. I remember them trying to encourage me and asking if I wanted to touch my baby’s head again and I just yelled “NO JUST GET HIM OUT OF ME!” (not my best moment).

Around 1:00am the nurse couldn’t find his heartbeat clearly and Venus was getting ready to do an episiotomy to just get him out, but I pushed with all I had left, and out he came at 1:03am. 8lbs, 4oz, 21.75in long and his hand still by his head. 48 hours after my water broke, those big brown eyes were looking up at me and I would never be the same. New doula, Jessica, was crying. New Daddy, Richard, was crying because I survived it all, and I was just in shock. Ace Benner made a grand entrance into our lives and continues to rock our world every day. I could not have made it through those long hours without the love of my husband and my doulas. Jessica even donated breastmilk to us when we were struggling to produce enough. Sarah provided placenta encapsulation services and belly binding. Christina helped me with postpartum visits and lactation support. What the doulas do is amazing. The support and empowerment they provide is so priceless. I’m thankful they were there to support my plan and help me even afterwards.

Danielle Birth

Ace Newborn

Ace Now

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