Penelope’s Birth Story – part 1

Alternate titles:

“Dates did me wrong.” So very wrong. And

“I cook big babies.”

When I’m asked about Penelope’s birth story, everyone seems to be curious if it went “how I wanted it to go.” I know what they mean. I was definitely hoping for an unmedicated birth, since I’d already done it with Liv and was hoping the second time would be easier, and possibly faster.

This isn’t what happened, at all. 

Did we get the result we wanted?

Absolutely. Our girl arrived here safely. 

Was the path to her arrival how I’d imagined it? Definitely not.

The gentle induction:

As you guys know, I was starting to get a little anxious to meet P since I’d passed our due date (which I calculated was an additional week late from charting my cycle for so long). I was hoping to avoid medical induction. if possible. I’d read that Pitocin can make the contractions unnaturally painful, so you’d most likely need an epidural to cope with them. Many of you kindly let me know that it isn’t always the case. Even so, there was a little bit of fear instilled in my heart from the doctor who told me we’d be birthing a 10-pounder. I totally poo-pooed everything he said, which is hilarious now that we know Miss P was a dainty 10 lb 13 oz. (just shy of 11 lbs!).

To get the ball rolling, I did a lot of the old wives’ tales, and also had my membranes stripped. Twice. It was’t very fun, as I spent both of those nights in pain and pretty crampy, and less fun because they didn’t seem to do the trick. As a last resort, I called an acupuncturist who specializes in labor induction. She did the same points that my acupuncturist had used to get the ball rolling, and also included heat through moxibustion, and electricity. At the end, she massaged my neck and traps (a labor induction pressure point), which felt amazing.

The next day was Tom’s birthday. We joked that he could have a birthday twin, and we had a small celebration with dinner at Stone Brewing and dump cake at home.

Livi and tom

Oh, and a piñata that has yet to be smashed. We’ll probably take it to Tucson with us.

Burger pinata

We went to bed early, as I was feeling a little off and crampy, and Tom said, “Tomorrow is the day. I can just feel it.” I told him I seriously thought I’d never go into labor, especially after everything I’d tried. I pictured myself heading to the midwives again that Tuesday, and learning of my induction fate. It just seemed like it was never going to happen. 

At 2am, I woke up slammed with a contraction. I was convinced it was just another Braxton-Hicks, so I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. About 10 minutes later, it hit again. This one felt more intense than the last, so I glanced at the clock and figured I should start timing them, but I couldn’t go back to sleep.

All of a sudden, I was feeling pretty frantic, like there was so much I needed to do if it was the real deal.  “Should I call Livi’s person and give them the heads up? I need to pack dog food and leave the key out. My hospital bag is in the other car. I need to take a shower.” Luckily, we created a pretty thorough checklist that covered everything. The Pilot woke up while I was blitzing around the house, and I had to drop onto all fours to moan through the pain. For the first hour, the contractions were 10 minutes apart. Within the next hour, they went down to 7. An hour later, I asked the Pilot to call the midwife. At this point, they were 5 minutes apart, and they told me to call when the contractions were that close as second babies tend to arrive quickly. He called the midwife, and she could hear me moaning in the background.

“I think you need to come in right now.”

Candles for nurses

(vegan chocolate macaroons and a bag of BBW candles for the L&D nurses)

Tom packed up Livi’s stuff, and Liv was wide awake, since she usually comes into our room at some point during the night. She was being so sweet, and was so excited for her first slumber party. While he loaded the car, I was on the floor moaning through the pain. Livi rubbed my back, and it was a memory from the night/morning that is etched in my heart. When we left for the hospital at 4am, contractions were 3 minutes apart, and I felt like P would be here SOON.

Wishful thinking.

In labor

When we arrived at the hospital, we were greeted by our awesome doula, who accompanied us upstairs to Labor and Delivery. We met with our first nurse (the L&D nurses were above and beyond incredible), and went into our first room. The midwife insisted on checking me because the contractions were so close together, and were starting to become unbearably painful.


(Probably the last smile I flashed for a while.)

Labor with Liv was the worst pain of my life, until I went through my second labor. Somewhere between Thursday afternoon and Sunday morning when active labor began, P had turned sunny-side up- not good. Each contraction was like a lightning bolt into my back, which wrapped around to my torso, which felt like it was trying to split in half from the inside out. 

She checked me, and I was 5cm. She said that “the baby was still high, and that I had a very firm and full bag of waters.”


I couldn’t help but feel a little discouraged, but knew things could progress quickly from there. We were checked in, and headed to our delivery room.

Tom snapped this picture of the sunrise, which was absolutely breathtaking. We would ended up seeing the sun rise, and set, in the same room before no real progress was made. 


Laboring 2 

Just like last time, the Pilot coached me through each contraction, while our doula held a hot pack to my back. Unlike last time, I couldn’t keep it together. I would start to breathe deeply and moan through the contraction, but by the time it was over, I couldn’t help the fact that the pitch in my voice became hysterical, just trying to get through the pain. I tried visualization techniques, breathing strategies, trying to imagine that each contraction was a wave, hitting me as I rose above it, and I felt like each one was a fight to live through the torture.

This continued, 3 minutes apart, for another 4 hours, until the midwife came in to check me again.

6cm, and the baby was still high. My bag of waters was very full, and very in the way, preventing the baby from dropping down onto the cervix to dilate it. During pregnancy, I ate dates like crazy because I’d read that they can help labor occur without induction, and also that they give you a “strong bag of waters.” Apparently I overdid it, because mine refused to break and were preventing P from descending.

At this point, I started sobbing, and begged her to break my water. This is what helped kickstart the next stage of labor with Liv. She told me that they’d have to wait to do that, because the baby was so high. If you break the water and the baby hasn’t descended enough, the head can drop onto the cord and cause cord prolapse, which would be an emergency C-section. When I heard that, I decided to fight it out, even though I had reached a point where I wasn’t sure how much longer I could tolerate it.

I tried every possible position: squatting (which made it so much worse), draped over the bed, on all fours, and the only thing that seemed to work was on the birth ball, hugging Tom and breathing, until my voice was shrill and quivering.

The only good part about this stage of labor: I got a lot of hugs.

Hugs 4

Despite the fact the contractions were consistent and intense, P’s heart rate remained strong. I’d started to worry that she’d eventually tire from doing such hard work for such a long time, and without fail, her strong little heart kept accelerating with each contraction. 

The midwife left us to do our own thing, occasionally dropping by to see how things were going. I was convinced that I was dying, which is usually the sign that you’re in transition and about to reach the pushing stage. I hit my “I’m really dying” phase and was only 7cm, 13 hours after we’d checked in. Everyone in the room could see me crumbling, and I asked the midwife if there was anything we could do to get things moving because I was in so much pain. 

Hot pack

(the much-needed hot pack on the back.)

She told me that the doctor could break my water using an ultrasound, so he could see if the cord was in the way of the baby’s head. He was “pretty good” at moving the cord out of the way, but she said there was still a risk of cord prolapse. I asked her what would happen in the case that I would need an emergency C-section, and she said that in my current state (without any pain medication) I would receive general anesthesia (aka be knocked out) for the surgery. If I had an epidural, they could perform the surgery with the epidural and I’d be awake to see our baby be born. At this point, I already found myself venturing into emergency C-section land, and I was determined to be awake if that were to occur.

I made my decision right then.

“Give me the epidural.”

Our doula and Tom both knew that this was one of the last things I wanted, as the needle scares me to death. They knew to remind me and suggest options that would help us stay on our birth plan to have an unmedicated birth. At this point, they both knew that I needed the epidural. Not only in case of an emergency, but something to relieve me of the consistent and torturous pain from a sunny-side up baby in a full bag of waters. They called the anesthesiologist, and about an hour later, he arrived to bring me sweet relief.

Sitting still for the epidural insertion was nearly impossible with the contractions, but I was so afraid of something going awry, I forced myself to sit still as I was groaning, tears streaming down my face. Surprisingly, the epidural didn’t hurt -it just stung where I received the shot to numb the location- but it took him two tries to get it in my back! He was like, “Your ligaments are really tight” and Tom said he retrieved a BENT needle from my back. After a second try, I was numbed up and finally feeling like I could tackle the rest of our birth experience.  

Sweet relief

(I don’t remember the hairnet, but I do remember the gown that looks like a Lacroix can.)

Since I had the epidural in place, I asked the midwife if the doctor would be able to break my water. There was a C-section occurring in the OR, and she said that they’d need the room to be free just in case of emergency. 4 hours later, I was still waiting for my water to be ruptured (or break on its own), and started to worry that the entire process was taking too long. The midwife said my cervix was getting inflamed and swollen, and then she checked out for her shift when our new midwife and nurse checked in.

By this time, it was 7pm, and although I didn’t know it, I still had 7 long hours ahead of me. The good news is that I was feeling GREAT from the epidural, and said, “Let’s watch Sex and the City!” before taking a catnap. Not too long after, P’s heart rate began to slightly dip, and they brought me an oxygen mask.

I’ll have part 2 up later this week <3

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  1. Julie on November 5, 2015 at 8:46 am

    This was my labor, but I caved & got the epidural after only 3 hrs. I can’t even… back labor is a B*TCH!!!

  2. Sarah O'Connell on November 5, 2015 at 9:40 am

    My son was “sunny-side up” too, and my OB kept trying to turn him but he wouldn’t budge, haha. He’s my only one, so I had nothing to compare it to, but the pain ramped up very quickly once labor started and one contraction just rolled into another with no breaks at all….by the time I got into L&D about 3.5 hours after it had started I was begging for the epidural. I’m a physician, and was a little weary of the idea of an anesthesia resident placing my epidural, but let me tell you, by the time I got to the hospital I would have let the janitor put that thing in. I’m amazed you made it as long as you did without one!

  3. Kelly on November 5, 2015 at 11:23 am


  4. Lauren @ Oh Hey! I Like That! on November 5, 2015 at 11:52 am

    Ahhhh! I’m so hooked on this story now! I can’t wait for Part II!

  5. Heather on November 5, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I gave birth to my baby bean 6 weeks ago, and it sounds like we had a similar bill situation. Glad everyone is ok are you guys are doing well. Big hugs.

  6. Alaina on November 5, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    You are seriously a gifted writer. You have definitely gotten across how painful this experience was. I’m so happy she arrived so hearty and healthy.

  7. Melissa on November 5, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    I had a malpositioned baby too (though my water had broken) and after 24 hours of drug free labor my cervix started to swell at 8 CM from his head being crooked and jamming into it wrongly with each contraction and that was it for me…….epidural and off to the ER for a non emergent CS. I will say you are lucky that your waters were intact, less chance of infection and they provide a nice cushion for the baby making the contractions less intense for both her and you. So interested to hear part two! Long labors are a beast. She is a beautiful baby! Mazel Tov!

  8. Michelle on November 5, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    What a birth story! (Part 1). I can’t wait to read the rest of it. I’m glad we already know the ending is fantastic. :). So happy for you and your cute family.

  9. Catherine on November 6, 2015 at 3:15 am

    Wow-this is riveting. And, I must admit as someone is trying to get pregnant, slightly (?) terrifying! I am so happy that everything turned out well and that you are both safe and healthy. Can’t wait to read part 2!
    And how sweet is your little Livi? Precious 🙂

  10. Randi on November 6, 2015 at 6:20 am

    Ha! Your labor sounds just like my 2nd baby! I had a sunny side up baby with an iron clad bag of waters that didn’t break til 9cm -18 hours of active labor. I also got the epi at 7cm. Back labor is NO joke. Can’t wait to hear part 2!

  11. Kate on November 6, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    I’m glad to hear a story about someone getting an epidural. I feel like it is something that women are sometimes shamed for getting, when really it can help a LOT. I had to be induced with both of my daughters thanks to cholestasis of pregnancy, and let’s just say that Pitocin is NOT my friend! I stalled at 5 cm both times from clenching so much from the pain, then got the epidural and, bam–10 cm within a half hour!

  12. Shaina Anderson on November 12, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    I have tears streaming down my face already…okay part 2!

  13. Liz on October 26, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    Gina, that’s my favorite photo of Liv!!!! she’s looking at the cake and looks so sweet. 🙂

    • Fitnessista on October 28, 2016 at 4:27 pm

      thank you! i love that one, too <3

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