Pure Happiness: Reuniting with My Beloved Child After Enduring Six Days of Labor Pains.n

Irma was a joy in my life from our first phone call. She was planning a home birth for their first baby, a little boy named Xavier, and she was excited to have me there as her birth photographer and videographer. I came over to meet her around 37 weeks, and they fed me dinner while we got to know each other. She had asked dozens of dozens of people about their labor experiences, hoping to gather a variety of stories to prepare for what could come. She asked about my birth stories, and I shared about the births of my daughter and son.

But nowhere in those stories was the tale of a 6 day birth. And yet, that was the birth story that was about to unfold. I knew that Irma was strong: her decade in the Navy and bold, confident personality made it clear that she could accomplish anything she set her mind to. But over the 6 days of her son’s birth, we would all see just how powerful she was, but also how beautifully she surrendered to the process. Her faith guided her every decision, and she and La Drake spent time in scripture and prayer through each day, asking for guidance on what was the next right step.Irma, I’m endlessly proud of you. Thank you for sharing your story!

Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday passed. Irma kept in close contact with me, and her surges continued to come, stronger and stronger. Her midwives came to check her on Tuesday; she was 1cm dilated and baby was slowly trying to turn into a more optimal position. They gave her some exercises to help baby engage and to try to get labor to progress.

Her contractions continued at least every 15-30 minutes from Sunday to Monday. By Tuesday they were 5-7 minutes, with some periods of time where they were 2-4 minutes. On Wednesday, her midwives came around noon, and she had progressed to 4cm, with strong contractions every 10 minutes. As a birth photographer, I knew it was still too early for me to be there. But my relationship with my clients comes before any timeline, and I just wanted to see her! I also knew that even if it wasn’t baby time yet, I needed to go document this part of her story. So I headed over around 7pm on Wednesday.

I walked in the door to a cheerful house, buzzing with energy. Irma’s surges were coming close, consistent, and powerful. She was so focused, using the stairs to brace herself and open her pelvis.

She was upbeat and laughing between waves, but vocalizing loudly and focusing deeply during each one.

Irma: I called a midwife and had her come check me. I intended on doing a home birth with the Jacksonville Community Midwives. They were rocking with me every step of the way.

Irma: They showed up and I was at 2-3cm with a baby who enjoyed being OP, stuck in my pelvis.

OP means occiput posterior, and is sometimes called “sunny side up” or “stargazer.” This means that baby is head down in the pelvis, but instead of facing Irma’s spine, Xavier was facing her belly. This can lead to long labors, back labor and pain, and in Irma’s case, a snuggly little baby who just didn’t want to descend!

One of the keys to working with a malpositioned baby is movement. Changing positions, using cloth and hands to sift the belly and shake the hips, and using a peanut ball for rest all helps make room to encourage baby to turn.

The midwives gave Irma suggestions to help things progress, and then they recommended everyone head home to give them some time to rest.

When I checked in with Irma the next day (Thursday), she said her waves continued every ten minutes through the night. She went to the chiropractor to see if an adjustment would help baby to spin into a better position.

Things were still about the same, but I wanted to come by and see her again. I knew that having a labor this long was draining, and she could use all the encouragement she could get. I also wanted photos and videos to help her remember a little bit of every stage of her labor, even during these long, slow days.

Irma snuggled her friend Reyna’s baby, laughing and saying, “She’s gotta take pictures of you and me because my baby’s taking his time!”

At the chiropractor’s suggestion, Irma decided to hop in the pool. Swimming, flipping, and handstands can relieve pressure and help make room for baby to move.

Irma and La Drake played basketball in the pool, laughing and joking, but then pausing for powerful contractions.

I hopped in the pool with her (in my clothes, that was a first!), taking some underwater footage with my phone for her birth film. Irma and her mom and I swam and talked about life, birth, and faith. Just being with a woman in labor, meeting her where she’s at, with no expectations, just friendship and encouragement…it feels like this is how it’s supposed to be.

Irma: The contractions continued on for two more days and on Thursday they intensified so much, we thought I was going to have my baby. Yet they slowed down again from 3-4 minutes to 5-10 minutes. On Thursday I was thinking about transferring care to a hospital but we got a word from the Lord to stay home and continue labor there.

By Friday morning I was exhausted from lack of sleep and the ability to carry on wasn’t there. I looked at my husband and mother and they look drained and devastated, by the time my friend Reyna got to the house, I knew in my heart what needed to be done.

I asked midwife Jacinda what she would do if she was in my position and she said “Girl I would have transferred care days ago, I know you’re head strong and you want this, but maternal exhaustion is real and your uterus hasn’t stopped for several days.”

Everyone expected this “false labor” to chill out, but it never did. So with contractions every 5-10 minutes and the awesome recommendation of Jacinda, we went to St. Vincent’s Clay.

Irma: The L&D team here welcomed me with open arms and immediately we were all in agreement about this being the right decision. I couldn’t have labored another day at home, this was the right thing to do.

Irma’s surges were powerful and just kept coming. She was ready for an epidural to give her a break and rest.

Irma: I never thought I’d want an epidural so bad…never in my life did I think I’d be begging for one, I was like ‘’That sounds crazy!” But the Lord humbled me, with contractions every day, for five days!

Irma: The funniest thing was probably Reyna making funny jokes once I got the epidural. “Lt Dan, I can’t feel my legs!” reference from Forest Gump!

Irma: The team there hooked me up with an epidural (thanks Danica), I had my water broken by Midwife Whitney, and then a Pitocin drip was administered.

Whitney encouraged Irma to continue incorporating movement and position changes into her labor, even with the epidural. She and the nurses helped her into a side-lying release position, to help open the brim of the pelvis.

Irma: I was weary about hospitals and all the interventions, but the team here had me right at home and did everything they could to deliver this baby how I wanted.

After some positioning work, Irma snuggled in bed for a much-needed sleep. She was still 4cm dilated, so I left to grab dinner and sleep at a friend’s house nearby the hospital. A few hours later she was at 6cm and 100% effaced. And around 2am, I got a call from her mom that she was 9cm! I was so happy for her and headed right back to the hospital.

It was a quiet, peaceful night. The only sounds were the steady beep of Xavier’s little heartbeat on the monitor and the TV quietly playing in the background. Irma’s husband, friend, and mom rotated shifts, catching some sleep on the floor or on the sofa when they could. They had all been at this together, a beautiful, exhausted team, for over 5 days now.

The nursing staff at St. Vincent’s had recently taken Spinning Babies training, and they were eager to try some more complex positions. I was happy to guide them on which positions to use and how to help safely maneuver Irma into those positions, even with an epidural.

Irma sat in “throne position” for a while, using a cloth to “lift and tuck” her belly during each surge.

We helped her into an inversion, using gravity to help float Xavier out of the pelvis, in an effort to give him room to adjust his head and find a more favorable presentation. Her friend Reyna jiggled her hips to help release tension in the pelvic floor and fascia.

La Drake: She was a champ, I’ve never seen someone remain so strong.

As the sun rose, Irma was at 9.5 centimeters with a cervical lip. She pushed for a little while, as midwife Whitney tried to reduce the cervix. After a little while of pushing, Irma went back into a sitting position, so that some rest and gravity would help continue to bring her baby down.

La Drake read scripture and prayed over Irma. We all caught a little rest, snacked, and had coffee.

Irma: I had an awesome team who kept pushing me not to quit.

A few hours later, the staff came in to have a heart-t0-heart with Irma. They let her know that if for whatever reason Xavier would need to be born via Cesarean, that it was not from lack of effort on Irma’s part. His “sunny side up” presentation was such a challenge and she had worked so incredibly hard for so many days! I could tell this wonderful team was rooting for her to have a vaginal birth and doing everything they could to make that happen, but after so many days of labor and approaching 24 hours of ruptured waters, the very real possibility of a Cesarean birth was there.

But soon after, she got checked and she was at 10cm. It was time to start trying to push!

Irma: Everyone was in so much anticipation, after 6 days of labor, we were all ready!

Irma’s pushes were powerful and effective. With an OP baby, I had forewarned her that she very well might push for a long time, possibly several hours, but within minutes, her sweet baby’s head could be seen!

La Drake: I prayed over her, that the Lord would continue to give her strength. I also held her hand so she could squeeze.

Irma: All I could think, was come baby, come. I wanted to meet him so bad!

It felt like Xavier was crowning forever! The room was filled with nurses, ready for his arrival. Irma used all her strength, never wavering as she pushed over and over again. Reyna and La Drake were by her side, holding her hand and speaking words of encouragement over her.

Irma: After 55 minutes of pushing…my beautiful boy was born into the world.

The room erupted in cheers as Irma bravely made her final powerful pushes. Xavier was placed right onto Irma’s chest as she held him tight and burst into tears.

He was born covered in meconium, which was a total surprise because there had been no evidence of it at all through her labor, even though her water had been broken the day before. But he was crying and active, and Irma could her him from across the room.

They soon returned him to Irma and he snuggled right under her chin. He was exactly where he wanted to be and he instantly relaxed.

Irma: I still get goose bumps when I think about the moment he was born. He looked like exactly what I pictured. There’s a verse in the Bible that says “Before I formed you, I knew you.” I felt like I’ve known him my whole life and how he acted in the womb is how he acts outside of it. Pretty amazing.

La Drake: As the Dad, I could only experience the baby when he would move or kick in the womb. So when he was born, hearing him cry and seeing his face was so unreal, I can’t explain it. All I know is that I had so much love in my heart for him, and I wanted to give him the world.

I had been texting Jacinda of Jacksonville Community Midwives throughout the day with updates, and I was so excited to share that he was finally here! They were just as excited, too! Once everything settled down, Irma and Xavier tried breastfeeding for the first time with the help of their nurse.

Irma: I’ve never had babies before, but Xavier knew what he was doing from the get go. He taught me and that was pretty cool.

La Drake: She’s an amazing woman, the amount of pressure, pain, and stress she went through to have our baby was such a sight to see. I’m so thankful to have her as my wife, and mother of our son.

Irma: Women don’t get enough recognition for the work we do. I’ve been in the Navy ten years, but nothing compares to having a baby. This was the hardest, most honored achievement in my book.

We endured 6 days of labor and on the 7th day, we rested. God’s plan was right from the start. Now that’s a memorial weekend to remember!

Dallas is, was, and will forever be the person I want in my corner during all my births. Her presence is warm and inviting, her words are soft as honey, and her attitude is one of a kind. She doesn’t enough recognition for the work she does. The support she gave me is unparalleled. (I’ll keep that in mind next time around and hire you for everything!) Once we transitioned to the hospital, she continued to advocate for me and played a huge part in my delivery! It would NOT have happened without her. Thank you so much Dallas! You don’t get paid enough for the work you do, money well spent and time well spent in your presence. I love you and you have family in us!

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