Elanor's birth story - January 2005

The birth story of Elanor Mary
01/13/2005 (39w0d), 12:20pm CST
Weight: 7lbs 10.8oz, Length: 20 inches

Elanor, just a few minutes after her birth

In preparation for childbirth, Collin and I took a Lamaze class from our hospital and we also did a Bradley homestudy course since the Bradley course in our area wasn’t being offered until January. We were both determined to have a natural, drug-free childbirth with as little medical intervention as possible. As my due date approached, we practiced relaxation and massage techniques, and I began drinking red raspberry leaf tea.

At my 39w OB appointment on January 11, my OB told me I was dilated to a 2 and 50% effaced – she was actually surprised that I hadn’t yet gone into labor, given that I’d been steadily dilating for two weeks. I told her I was convinced I was going to go past my due date – little did I know!

Collin woke me up at 6am the next morning, January 12, wanting nookie. I obliged and jokingly told him that it might start labor, so he should be prepared just in case. Who knows, maybe it was the trigger!

I started having contractions at 9am – I first noticed them as I was driving to work. They felt like mild menstrual cramps so I didn’t think much of them, and then I thought they were Braxton-Hicks contractions since I hadn’t had any up to that point. I started timing them around noon. They were coming about 10 minutes apart. I made an effort to drink a lot of water – sixty ounces – but they kept coming. At one point during the day I sent Collin an instant message telling him that things might be happening, and I also called and e-mailed my mom to let her know. My mother was one of my labor coaches and she lived 20 miles away. There was a severe winter weather/blizzard warning in effect for our area, and I wanted to let her know that things might be happening in case the weather got bad.

The contractions became a bit more intense as I was driving home. I picked Collin up from work (we carpool) but let him drive home. Once we got home, I drank more water, moved around, and took a shower. The contractions kept coming, still about 7-10 minutes apart (Collin was timing them now). I called my mom to let her know she should probably come over since the contractions hadn’t gone away. We also called the hospital birth center, and they said this was “probably” early labor but they didn’t want to say for sure.

Collin went to the grocery store to get some last-minute supplies. While he was gone, my mom arrived. She did some housework for me while I packed our hospital bags. Collin got home and we continued timing contractions.

Sometime around 11pm the contractions started coming closer together. They only lasted about 30-40 seconds and weren’t very intense, but they were three minutes apart. We decided to go to the hospital birth center since they were so close together. In retrospect, this was a mistake – even though they were close together, they weren’t lasting very long so they weren’t doing much. Had I remembered this from our Bradley course, we would have stayed home, but my mother had told me that neither she nor her sisters had had labors that were longer than four hours, and I was concerned that I’d go fast too.

When we got to the birth center, I was put in the triage room. A nurse came in and hooked me up to an external fetal monitor, and she also did a pelvic exam. I was only dilated to a 3. My contractions were still three minutes apart but weren’t very intense. My mom went to the family lounge to take a nap; Collin and I stayed in the triage room until about 2:30am. The nurse checked me again and I was still only dilated to a 3.

By this time I was very irritated and unhappy – I’d been confined to a very uncomfortable bed and hooked up to monitors; how did she expect me to dilate??? Collin and I walked the halls for half and hour and I got another internal exam. I was still a 3, so they sent us home. I was NOT pleased. Luckily, we lived only four blocks from the hospital so it wasn’t like we had to make a long trip.

When we got home, about 3:30am, Collin and I went to bed (my mom sacked out on our couch). He slept and I tried to, but I mainly just dozed between contractions. About 6am I decided to try the bathtub. The water felt good, but our bathtub was so small that I was cramped and uncomfortable, so I got out about 45 minutes later. The contractions were starting to get more intense and it was hard to talk through them. I sat on our birth ball for about an hour – it felt wonderful and I didn’t want to get off of it. However, the contractions were really starting to hurt, so we knew it was time to go back to the hospital.

When we got there, at about 8:15am, we were sent to triage again. I got an internal exam and was dilated to a 6! This time they were going to let me stay. ;) We got into our LDR room and I got on the birth ball again.

The contractions were getting more intense. Collin coached me through them, reminding me to breathe deeply and normally. He and my mom constantly massaged my back, which was the only thing that helped me get through them. Any time either of them would pause for even a millisecond, I’d yell, “Don’t stop! Don’t stop!” I was also chewing lots of ice chips.

The nurse told me that my doctor wanted me to have a heparin/saline lock, but I refused. We were committed to having a natural childbirth and I didn’t want the temptation of easily accessible medication, nor did I want fluids that might stall labor as long as I wasn’t dehydrated. Also, the last time I’d gotten an IV, it had HURT – and the prospect of more pain was just unbearable! We told the nurse we didn’t want the IV and she didn’t push the issue.

Arin (our nurse) wanted to do another internal exam, so I got into bed. I was almost dilated to a 7 and 100% effaced – my cervix was “very thin.” This was good news to everyone but me – I was so disappointed! I’d hoped to be further along.

Arin put fetal monitors on me again to make sure that the baby was tolerating contractions well. (She was.) I stayed in bed, laying on my left side with pillows between my legs, as Collin and my mom massaged my back and fed me ice chips. Collin suggested the tub but at the time I didn’t want to go through the ordeal of waiting for the tub to fill, getting out of bed, and getting in/out of the tub. In retrospect, I wish I had gone into the tub (they had a nice Jacuzzi tub in the bathroom attached to the LDR room). It might have helped me tolerate the contractions better, but at the time I just wanted to stay put. I told Collin, “I don’t want an epidural but I can certainly see the appeal of one!”

Suddenly I had an overwhelming feeling of pressure on my rectum and an urge to push. We called the nurse, who came in and did an internal exam. I was still only at 7 centimeters! The reason I was feeling so much pressure was because the baby’s head was “right there.” I wanted to push SO badly but I couldn’t, as it could cause the cervix to swell and stall labor

For the next two hours, I had to pant, blow, and huff during each contraction so I wouldn’t push. At this point the contractions were incredibly intense, lasting well over a minute, and coming 1-2 minutes apart. I was in agony – the urge to push was overwhelming and it was so difficult to have to suppress it! Plus, I was going through transition and had the shakes, so on top of the pain I was shaking so hard I could barely breathe. Collin and my mom were so wonderful – they kept encouraging me, telling me what a great job I was doing, and reassuring me when I told them I couldn’t stand it anymore (another sign of transition). Arin came in about 11am and did another internal exam. To my great relief, I was almost fully dilated, with just a small lip of cervix on the right side. I turned on my right side and huffed my way through a few more contractions. Finally, FINALLY, I was given the green light to push!

Arin reclined the bed to a 45 degree angle so I could be in a sitting squat position. By this time I was sweaty, exhausted, and in a lot of pain, so pushing was difficult. At one point I started hyperventilating – my head was spinning and I couldn’t catch my breath. Collin, my mom, and Arin helped me calm down and reminded me to breathe, because the baby needed oxygen too. This helped me focus and I was able to breathe better.

I pushed for over an hour. I found that what I’d read about pushing was true – it felt like I was having the biggest bowel movement of my life! At some point I pooped on the bed, which had been a concern of mine while pregnant – but when it happened I could not have cared less! All I cared about was getting this baby OUT so the pain would stop.

Sometime near noon, Arin said she could see the bag of waters bulging out of the birth canal. Collin and my mom saw it too. I pushed more and it still didn’t break, so Arin broke it (with my and Collin’s permission – I was hoping it would speed things up). Collin kept making comments like, “Oh, my God, this is so disgusting, but so amazing” and “I can’t believe the baby will fit through there!” At one point I think I told him to shut up.

Once the baby’s head crowned (“I can see hair!” Arin said), they called my doctor. She was across the hall delivering another baby, so it took her a few minutes to get there (it seemed like HOURS to me!). By this point I was sobbing and telling Collin that I didn’t think I could push anymore, I was just too tired. My OB put her face just inches from mine (she has VERY intense eyes), stared me straight in the face, and said, “JoAnna, just a few more pushes and the baby will be out. YOU CAN DO IT.”

Her words gave me a second wind and I pushed with all my might (making sounds that I didn’t think were capable for human beings to make!). I definitely felt the “ring of fire,” and it gave me the impetus to push even harder. The supreme thought in my mind was, “GET IT OUT GET IT OUT GET IT OUT!” I pushed so hard that the baby was born very quickly, and I got a second-degree tear in the process. (I was glad to tear naturally as opposed to an episiotomy.)

Collin said, “Oh my God, it’s a girl!” and started to cry. I said, “What? What? A girl?” and started to cry too. They put the baby on my chest and I sobbed to her, “Oh, honey, I’m so sorry I’ve been calling you a boy for the past nine months!” (We hadn’t found out the gender beforehand, and I’d been convinced it was a boy.) Collin cut the cord and we looked at our little girl. She was absolutely beautiful, with a full head of hair, and screaming to beat the band.

The nurses took her and dried her off while my doctor delivered the placenta. She was pulling on the umbilical cord to deliver it and I bled a lot when it came out. (I’m not at all pleased that she did this, as I thought that it was better to deliver the placenta naturally than to have it pulled out. It’s a moot issue now, but one that I plan to raise with my doctor during any subsequent pregnancies.)

My birth plan had specified that I did not want routine pitocin to deliver the placenta, but I ended up getting a shot anyway since I was bleeding so much. My doctor was not pleased that she had to give me the pitocin directly instead of through an IV, but I’m still glad I didn’t get one. I also got a shot of anesthetic into the perineum while she stitched up my tear.

So, it was a long exhausting process, but ultimately I’m so glad that I did it all naturally! Elanor was SO alert after birth – her eyes were wide open and she didn’t even nap until about four hours after she was born. I breastfed her about ten minutes after birth – it took her a while to figure out how to latch on, but once she did she breastfed like a champ. The nurses delayed the newborn procedures so we could have the chance to bond with our baby, and when it came time for the newborn procedures they did everything in our room – weighing, eye ointment, vitamin K, etc.

We had the baby room in with us the entire time we were in the hospital. I had no pain whatsoever from the tear, but it took me a while to go to the bathroom afterwards. The night nurse kept threatening to catheterize me (something I did NOT want) if I didn’t pee, so I drank five cups of water in the span of several hours and got into the Jacuzzi (that was SO nice). Finally, I was able to pee. And then I was up several times during the night going to the bathroom due to all the water I’d had!

The most unpleasant part of our stay was when they had to move us to a much smaller and not-as-nice postpartum room because the birth center was really full. (Eight babies were born the same day as Elanor, and five of them were born around the same time she was!) I was glad to get out of the hospital; I was so tired of having nurses come in constantly to poke and prod. We went home on January 16.

We almost didn’t get to take Elanor home with us because her bilirubin levels (jaundice) were so high. We took her in for daily blood tests and her level still hadn’t gone down, so the hospital sent a bili blanket to our home and we started 24/7 home phototherapy. After a few days her level went down and we were able to take off the bili blanket.

The story behind Elanor’s name:

It was important to us to choose a name that would fit our daughter as a child and as a woman. Also, we wanted something unique but not outlandish.

“Elanor” is a name from the Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien. (The books, not the movies!) The first reference is in The Fellowship of the Ring – an elanor is a golden, star-shaped flower that blooms in winter in the forest of Lothlorien. In Return of the King, Samwise Gamgee and Rosie Cotton name their firstborn daughter Elanor (the name is suggested to them by Frodo Baggins). Both Collin and I are huge Tolkien fans, and we both loved the name. Also, I liked the nickname “Elly” for a little girl and thought that “Elanor” was an elegant name for a woman.

“Mary” is a reflection of our Catholic faith – it’s in honor of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, and also after the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, MN, where Collin and I were both confirmed into Catholicism.

Elanor, about 3 days old


  1. I happened upon the picture of Elanor, and I just had to tell you that I have an Elanor born in January (2012) at 39w0d, with a head full of dark hair. We even have the same blue-sky pillow cover.

    1. What an amazing set of coincidences! Congratulations on the birth of your Elanor. :)

    2. I have an Elanor too! Born with a head full of dark hair!
      Born September 2009, though. And we don't have that pillow cover!


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