After a difficult first labor with interventions she was unsure about, Alyssa Jennings was determined that her next birth would be on her terms. Little did she know that she’d be having to contain the fetal ejection reflex until her doctor arrived! Alyssa shares with Adriana the magic words her husband used to help her wait (no, they didn’t have anything to do with the doctor), along with a great solution to when you don’t want to labor in the hospital but you want to be close by (even though you live half an hour away).
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- Breaking the Bag of Waters to Induce or Augment Labor: The Benefits and Risks of Amniotomy, VeryWell Family
- Amniotomy alone for induction of labor, Cochrane
- The Evidence on: Fetal Monitoring, Evidence Based Birth
- Debunking the Bump: A Mathematician Mom Explodes Myths About Pregnancy, by Daphne Adler
- Good Job, Brain! podcast
- Hypnobirthing Online course, taken by Alyssa
- OMamas at hOMe prenatal yoga course, taken by Alyssa
- Savasana by Wah! album
- Set the birth room ambiance with flameless candles
Related Birthful episodes:
- Informed Consent in Childbirth
- What’s HypnoBirthing Anyway?
- Connecting With Your Baby in Utero Through Song
- A Quick Guide to Triage
- Straight Talk About the Effects of Electronic Fetal Monitoring on You and Your Baby
- The Holistic Stages of Birth (Part 1)
- The Holistic Stages of Birth (Part 2)
- A Dad’s Perspective (Part 1)
- A Dad’s Perspective (Part 2)
- Why Optimal Baby Oral Function Matters
- What Are Tongue and Lip Ties?
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[Birth Stories] Can You Wait to Push Until the Doctor Arrives?
Adriana Lozada: Welcome to Birthful, Mighty Parent or Parent-To-Be! I’m Adriana Lozada and I hope you are ready for two wonderful birth stories today! For that, I will be talking with Alyssa Jennings, who did lots of prenatal yoga and hypnobirthing with her first, and then even more so for her second.
One of the things that I found really interesting about her second birth is that even though she was experiencing strong involuntary pushes just before her baby was born, you can see how remarkably powerful the mind-body connection can be because even as she was experiencing this fetal ejection reflex her brain was able to activate some sort control in order to wait a few minutes.
Now, this is a very unusual situation— because usually, you’re wanting to get baby out as quickly as possible, not waiting— so extra kudos to her husband for knowing exactly what to say to help her activate her thinking brain.
I also have to mention that during the episode I get on a very teeny tiny soapbox about electronic fetal monitoring, and I didn’t want to go too in-depth about that while talking with Alyssa, so if you want to know more about the evidence, I’ve added a couple of links on the show notes including one to the short episode I did specifically on the topic, called “Straight Talk About the Effects of Electronic Fetal Monitoring on You and Your Baby.”
You’re listening to Birthful. Here to inform your intuition.
Adriana: Welcome, Alyssa! It is great having you here on the show today.
Alyssa Jennings: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here!
Adriana: Yeah, and I am excited to hear your stories. And I know you have two, and they were kind of, like, “before” and “after” you found the podcast. So that’s always fun, to me, to know that people… like, anyway, have, like, that the podcast does something, in helping with confidence, and helping you with outcomes. So I’m excited to hear about that!
Adriana: Let’s take you back to when you were pregnant with your first: At that point, what did you know about birth? What were your expectations or wishes? How did you prepare, if anything?
Alyssa: Sure. I did not know much at all. I had had a couple of close friends who had babies, and the biggest thing that I took from both of them was to talk about breastfeeding before you have the baby, which was hugely helpful. I’m very grateful for them, for that support, because it was not easy for either of them. And that was very impactful in us having a good go of it.
My husband, at the time, traveled. He traveled two to three times a month. So doing a course together in a hospital for a whole day was not realistic for us. We did an online course and you could watch. It was through the hospital, but you could watch the videos as you go and at your own pace— he could take it on his laptop wherever he was.
I also purchased a HypnoBirthing program from a doula in Cornwall, in England, actually. She has a full program of things you can do on your own to get in that mindset and prepare for things that I found really helpful. And I read the book Debunking the Bump— I don’t know if you’ve heard of that one. I really liked the science behind “Here are some of the rules,” and “Here are the things you’re not supposed to do,” and “Here’s where it came from.” Maybe where there’s some flexibility or make your own choice on some of these different items that you don’t necessarily need to follow, strictly-reduced from your diet. And that’s about it, the first time around— a lot of reading.
Adriana: Cool! So then you did these things to prepare, and how did you know once… that labor was happening? If you knew, y’know, how did it all start?
Alyssa: Sure. So I actually had contractions pretty consistently for about three weeks and they weren’t painful, but it was just enough to be annoying and ongoing long enough. And you’re seeing your OB every three weeks at that point, so she was aware and it just was getting irritating. And especially the first time, you don’t know what… What is it supposed to feel like?
It would be so easy if I had done this before, but I hadn’t— so when, y’know, they’re consistent, but they’re not painful and they’re not getting closer together. And so I just kind of hung out with that for a long time. I had spent a lot of time before I got pregnant figuring out which OB I wanted, because I wanted somebody who would listen to my preferences and give me information and let me make decisions. And that was really important to me. So she was wonderful about that. And my main goal was no Pitocin. I didn’t have a preference really on epidural, but I wanted to delay it long enough that I would really be in labor enough to not need Pitocin, if that makes sense.
So that was my primary… I don’t know why in my head that was it, “I don’t want Pitocin. Whatever else happens is pretty okay.” I had an appointment with my OB at right before 40 weeks. I was over four centimeters dilated already. I’d been having contractions for three weeks. She mentioned that she was on-call that weekend— if I happened to go into labor in the following week and that knowing that she was going to be there and that having her there would reduce/would increase the odds of things going the way that I hoped they would, I asked if it would make any sense, or if there was a possibility that we could break my water at the end of the week, if I hadn’t gone into labor, since I was so far dilated already. And she said that that was a possibility. And we talked through the constraints of, “If we do that and you’re not in labor in four hours, here’s what would happen,” or, y’know, “Here’s what happens if we don’t do that.” “And next week it could be somebody else.” And I said, “Honestly, if you don’t think this is, like… If that wouldn’t do it, tell me.” And she said, “I would tell you ‘no,’ knowing what you want, if I didn’t think it would work.” So five days later, I was hoping really I would go into labor before that, but that did not happen.
Five days later, we’re at the… we go to the… it’s a freestanding birth center at a hospital, but it’s a separate building designed just for that. So we’re there, five in the morning, ready to go. And we’re getting checked in. We’re gonna break my water and see what happens, and super nervous and all the things that come with that. I was kind of questioning whether it was the right choice… but I’m glad we did because having her there made all the difference.
Apparently, I am incredibly difficult to put an IV in. So the HepLock— is that what it’s called? It took three attempts and I had a nursing student, and at first I thought maybe it was because she just hadn’t done as many, but no, it’s me. She did a fine job. But that took three attempts, and was really a pain and ended up being a pain the next time around too.
Adriana: And that’s something… I think it’s one of those things that we don’t ever talk about, but it’s actually not so uncommon, because when you’re pregnant, you’re… we know that, y’know, blood volume changes and blood pressure changes, not the, I mean, not your actual blood pressure number, but like how much blood you have circulating, which goes up 50% than your usual blood volume.
Adriana: It’s harder to get a needle in a pregnant person’s veins!
Alyssa: And it’s more… it’s going to… I mean, it obviously wasn’t the painful part of the birth, but it was the most irritating, easily, because they’re just poking and poking and poking, and you’ve got other things going on and, and you’re like, “Can we just get this part done please?” And I… It’s not her fault. I just really wanted it over with. So yeah, that… I did not anticipate that, you’re right. And I think… I don’t think it’s an uncommon problem at all.
Adriana: No, it’s not an uncommon problem, but having said that, if we do talk about choices, you don’t have to have one.
Adriana: It’s rare— usually people do want a HepLock in, but I have worked with several groups that they’re like, “You don’t want one? You’re good— don’t need one.”
Alyssa: Yeah. It might have been a possibility, part of that, at that point, the lead nurse assumed because I was there for having my water broken, that there would also be Pitocin. And I actually had to point out at one point, “No, there’s no Pitocin. Check that order.” And she did, and it wasn’t there, and that was alright… but I think she was kind of moving on with her status quo.
Adriana: More like “This is an intervention…”
Adriana: And we’re just gonna…
Alyssa: A normal induction, yeah. Yes. So I think that was probably part of it, but it might also be standard procedure at that hospital. I don’t know.
Adriana: And so somebody finally got the HepLock in, right?
Alyssa: Mhm, they did. They did eventually, yes. And OB comes in at 7:30 in the morning and broke my water, no problem. Not uncomfortable. I mean, a little weird, but not uncomfortable. And immediately I was over five centimeters and she said, “Don’t— if you’re in the hallway— don’t tell anyone out there your induction story, because they’ll cry. Don’t share that yet,” because it was working, she thought, the way she wanted it to… Things were gonna move the way she wanted. So that was encouraging. We went out in the hallway, walked around for a while, bounced on the yoga ball. Things got moving probably within the next 30 minutes, pretty dramatically.
I kept wanting to get in the tub. The nurse wanted the contractions to be a little stronger and more consistent. Baby needed to be monitored every 40 minutes, for 20 minutes, I think was what they were saying? And they kept saying that I, y’know, “You can do whatever you want. We work around you,” but also the baby’s moving and they were trying to hold it. And it just… I felt like I was trying to accommodate that, even though they kept saying I didn’t need to. It just felt… I don’t know. It felt weird— like I was causing problems. I wasn’t. They were being lovely, but it just is awkward.
Adriana: That’s also really annoying. We need a revolution in monitoring systems or—
Alyssa: It’s really annoying!
Adriana: —to get rid of it altogether and do something else, ’cause I’m not gonna soap box about the research (doesn’t really show any benefits from it, but we do it anyway, right).
Alyssa: And the system, the next time around at the same hospital, was dramatically improved. So whatever’s going on is, I think, getting better… but yeah, that was frustrating. I also… They have a lot of things at that hospital for if you want to go without interventions or without an epidural, there’s a lot of stuff there, but because I didn’t really know that doulas were an option at that time.
And the tools were there, but I wasn’t getting suggestions on how to use them. So there’s a yoga ball, but what do I… like, do I balance on it? What do I do with it? Y’know? At that point, I didn’t really understand, so that would’ve been helpful. But we finally got to the point where I could get in the tub, which is fabulous. The tubs they’re gorgeous and have beautiful, glowing lights and all that jazz. So we got in the tub— husband’s with me, obviously.
Adriana: Did he get in the tub with you?
Alyssa: He did not get in the tub, no, but he was with me in the room with the tub. They’re not that large! He turned… kind of turned the lights down. I had my affirmations going from the HypnoBirthing program I was talking about. There’s a couple of tracks that are intended to be used during labor, if you want them to, and they’re just soothing and have calm phrases and are lovely, wonderful. And so the nurses even were commenting on what a relaxing atmosphere it was in there.
And something else I didn’t think about is that nurses have to take a lunch break. Of course they have to take a lunch break! That makes perfect sense. But both of our nurses left the room and then somebody— an extended family member or something— called and the nurse at the front thought they were trying to come to the hospital and came in to get my husband to talk to them. And we didn’t want anybody to, like, come into the room. We didn’t know what was going on. I said, “Go. It’s fine. Talk to them. See what’s going on.” But that took me totally out of my zone and I just couldn’t get back out of my thinking brain after that. It completely threw me off.
So, I’m in the tub by myself. Now, nobody’s in the room. “What if I have to get out? What if something happens? What if I slip?” I just… All those crazy stupid things that go through your brain, that have no basis in reality, but when you’re in labor, y’know, things happen. But it was the suddenly being in there by myself— even though I knew he was coming right back or somebody was coming right back, and everything was fine— it just is that weird, I don’t know, weird mental thing. Yeah, it was interesting.
Adriana: Yeah. By this point, what was going on with contractions and the intensity? What were you feeling?
Alyssa: Yeah, they were… The tub felt great, but they were decently intense. I think, when I got out of the tub, they checked again, and I think I was like six and a half centimeters. And that was four hours later, so I felt like it was pretty decent progress for a fairly short amount of time.
Adriana: So then he finally came back?
Alyssa: Yeah, he came back. Nobody was coming to the hospital. It was a misunderstanding. I’m glad we cleared it up though. But then when he came back, I got out of the tub. I just wanted to— I don’t know, regroup, whatever— and I couldn’t get back out of my own head at that point. And I started… I asked him, I said, “I think I’m considering epidural at this point,” like, “I don’t know if I can handle this. I don’t know what to do differently.” And the nurse offered Stadol, which I knew nothing about, but I wish I had. That’s the one thing I did not research in advance that I wish I had. She… I think I didn’t clearly communicate that my goal was to avoid the Pitocin and not necessarily the epidural. And she thought she was doing me a favor in offering an alternative that was not an epidural, but in hindsight, I wish I’d gone straight for the epidural because the “being present” is so much easier on that. And Stadol is… was not great. So it’s… I don’t know how to describe it. What is it? A narcotic, or what? I mean, it’s a pain medication. It lasted for a couple of hours, but I was in and out on that and slept sort of off and on.
Adriana: So what we use it… In my neck of the words, it’s Nubain, but it’s a similar purpose of it being something that… it is narcotic, so it does go into your blood system and makes you sleepy.
Adriana: And it, like you said, it… you’re not as aware. The idea is it kind of takes the edge of the contraction, but doesn’t eliminate the contraction. And a lot of people are able to sleep, depending on how tired they are, but it can be even… Did you feel like you were able to get some decent rest with it? Or did you feel like every contraction, like it was a non-ending contraction because you just kept waking up only for the contraction and were out for the rest of it?
Alyssa: I felt very in and out. I don’t know that I got great sleep, but it didn’t feel like one never-ending contraction either. I remember thinking at one point “I can still feel them and they still hurt— I just don’t care as much,” which is a weird thing to—
Adriana: That sounds right!
Alyssa: —to be thinking about at that point! And when she was, after she… when she first started putting it in, she said, “You’ll feel a little bit drunk.” And I was like, “Oh wait, hold on. What?” and then that was absolutely accurate. So it wasn’t the greatest experience, but it was pretty short. And I did get a little bit of rest, which I’m glad I had for later. But when that started to wear off, as I said, “Let’s just do the epidural.” I don’t think coming off of it was the hardest thing because you’re coming right back into these contractions that now are further on than what they were when you started it and that was a hard transition, to jump into (no pun intended), because in hindsight, I probably was in transition, but it was a pretty severe jump back in. So I did do the epidural. That was about three o’clock. I asked for the epidural, I was about eight centimeters, actually, at that point, we found out later.
The anesthesiologist asked why we waited so long, but you know, I just… I wasn’t sure that’s what I wanted to do. So it’s alright. It worked out. I’m glad I had it, got some rest on the epidural. That was much more relaxing, actually. And then about an hour later— so this is only 4:00 p.m.— I was at 10 centimeters, baby hasn’t turned yet, right? They have to turn before or after that.
Adriana: Their head has to rotate.
Alyssa: Yes. So I’m really glad that the nurse knew that, because I didn’t know anything about that. And I know in some cases, ten centimeters, you start pushing, and I’m glad she said, “Nope, not yet.” We used a peanut ball thing for probably 45 minutes— a couple of different sides, did some different things. They helped me— now my not-so-useful legs— helped me flip around and do different things to get him in the right position, which was great. And then probably started pushing around 4:45. My OB came over around 5:00, so that’s only… it wasn’t that long after. I mean, it was… What is that? If we broke the water at 7:30/8:00, nine hours later?
Adriana: We’re not going to do math right now! We’re gonna say it’s less than twelve hours.
Alyssa: It was. It was. I felt… I was happy with it, we’ll put it that way. “Happy with it.”
So OB came and I said— all I remember saying is “I really don’t want an episiotomy.” She said, “Great! I hate doing them.” So, I pushed for almost three hours, not quite… almost three hours. The nursing student, at this point, didn’t have any formal responsibilities from a, y’know, maintaining anything standpoint, so she actually almost served as a doula. She was helping me relax between contractions. She was putting washcloths on my forehead. She was fabulous. She was amazing. And my husband said— he was running the epidural button. He said it made him feel really useful, when otherwise he just felt like he had to… y’know, can’t help much. He was just gonna watch. I mean, he was being supportive, but he felt like there’s not much he can do to really help, but he can push that button, whether it makes a difference or not. Baby was crowning for almost an hour, so I’m glad I had the epidural for that piece! But at 6:59 p.m., he popped right out.
It was shift change, and there were a million people in the room— which, I did not think about that either— but there were a lot of people in those rooms.
Adriana: Yeah, ’cause let’s see: you had your OB and their resident, was there a new resident also…?
Alyssa: Mhm! A set of… every second set of… so, there were two— not prenatal, the nurses for the baby— pediatric nurses, yep. So two of those, and then a second set for the shift change. My nurses, and then the second set of nurses— so four of those. My OB and a resident. And, I don’t know… probably, I don’t know…
Adriana: That’s, like, a dozen people with you and your husband. That’s, like, a dozen people, yeah.
Alyssa: A lot of people.
Adriana: But he came out, he was born. And did you, like… What did they do with him? Did you get him right away? What happened?
Alyssa: Yes. Yeah, I got him right away. He was starfished right over— y’know, arms and legs spread out, screaming purple— and right on my chest, which was wonderful. I don’t remember, I actually asked if I needed to deliver the placenta at some point. And she said, “You did! You already did that.” So I don’t remember any of that.
But he was on me pretty quick and I didn’t… I did ask for delayed cord clamping, and I don’t feel like it was immediate. So I think they did it, although I’m not… I wasn’t present enough in the moment to really remember, but it wasn’t like, “Oh, he’s here,” and “Now we’re cutting it.” So I think we probably got at least a minute or two.
My husband’s one condition for me doing this interview was that I would emphasize for birth partners: make sure you use the restroom before mom starts to push, because it could be a while. And he did not…
Adriana: Here’s when a doula comes in really handy!
Adriana: Among the million things a doula does is keeping an eye on the partner and saying, like, and herself, saying, “Yeah, I’m gonna bathroom right now,” or saying… I always tell partners, “This is a really good time to go to the bathroom.”
Alyssa: This isn’t gonna be like a 20 minute thing! You should maybe step away. Yes. So that was his pro tip for all of the birth partners. Take a break!
Adriana: Thank you to your husband, because I love that pro tip.
So, how was your recovery with this baby? Like, how did breastfeeding go? You had prepared? What was that, those first two weeks, like?
Alyssa: Recovery with him was actually pretty good. Breastfeeding went great from the beginning, big credit to all the people I talked to in advance who warned me that it, while it’s natural, is not easy. And he latched on within 20 minutes/25 minutes of being born, which kind of blew my mind. I didn’t— probably because he took so long coming out— I didn’t really care at all. And so that… I think that helped. It was smooth, yeah. Recovery with him was easy. Breastfeeding took a while to get used to, even when it goes smoothly, I don’t think it’s easy. But thankfully we didn’t have any issues with him as far as his latch or tongue tie or anything like that. So grateful for that.
Adriana: Yeah. And I always love the comparison of like— this makes so much sense to me— of when you’re learning to walk, like, learning to walk is super natural for babies. When they do it, you see them and they’re learning to walk, but how many times do they not fall down and make mistakes and, like… or take missteps before they actually get it? Like, similar to breastfeeding, similar to when you are learning to ride a bicycle, too.
Alyssa: Mhm. So good!
Adriana: Yeah, it’s natural, but not easy.
Alyssa: So true, yes.
Adriana: So I’m glad that everything worked out nicely for postpartum and that that went that way. So then you got pregnant again?
Alyssa: I did!
Adriana: You did!
Alyssa: Well, we always knew we didn’t want an only child. We wanted to have another, if we could. And within a month, I think, of Caden being born, I said something to my husband, like, “The next time I give birth, it’s gonna be so different,” like, “The things that I do are gonna be so different.” And he was like, “Why are you thinking about… Why are you thinking about that now?”
Like, I was so… almost excited to approach it differently. Not like it’s a thing to check off of a list, but I just… I felt like now that I had seen how the processes worked and what it really was like, I just felt so much more informed and comfortable or confident in what was going to happen, and what I wanted for myself and for my baby.
So, eventually, yeah, we did get pregnant with the second one, and I found your podcast. I think I got pregnant in September or October, and I found your podcast in November. So I listened all the way back from the beginning, through pretty much everything. And I asked a couple of friends for doula recommendations and we found a pair of doulas who own a yoga studio in Kansas City. And they’re amazing! And I had done prenatal yoga with the first pregnancy— I forgot to mention that, I did do a lot of prenatal yoga. I think it made… I think it makes a huge difference just in your flexibility and your ability to focus and get in, y’know, center yourself, and all of that. I just love it!
But, part of the doulas that I worked with the second time around was that they include some prenatal yoga with the package, because it’s so important to them that you do it. So, I was going two to three times a week, for six months. I think I did the HypnoBirthing again— kind of my favorite things over and over, since I had worked through it already, some of those things that are triggers just stick with you. Another benefit of that that I forgot to mention before: I downloaded the tracks, the music that she has behind the HypnoBirthing, and I would play it out loud instead of over headphones while I was practicing, because then baby could hear it. And after my first, after Caden was born, that song still to this day actually will soothe him, quiet him down and calm him down and put him to sleep— no matter what’s going on. It’s crazy to me, just the level of relaxation that that song, over and over and over, conditioned while he was in there growing, I guess! It works.
Adriana: Mhm! Did you get to hear the episode with Penny Simkin, on singing to your baby?
Adriana: I’ll link it on the show notes, ’cause it’s that same idea, of you can create a real sound association for relaxation and it’s great to have it. Like you— I’m sure you experience this— that you can play it or sing it or hum while you’re driving and your baby’s in the back, y’know, in the car, you can’t physically soothe, but the song will do the trick.
Alyssa: And it’s crazy! It works like magic. It’s insane. We still use that too, to this day. So that kind of blew my mind.
Adriana: Did you use the same for the second baby?
Alyssa: I did!
Adriana: Mhm, and so it works for the family, yeah.
Alyssa: It does now! If I play it, my three year old will say, “I don’t want bedtime yet!” Like, he knows that that is… but just “I don’t want bedtime yet!” It makes him quiet and calm, so we love it.
Adriana: Love it! So you mentioned that, y’know, a month after getting pregnant, after having your first, you said “The next time I give birth, that’s gonna be so different.” What were some of the differences you wanted?
Alyssa: I didn’t… I knew I wasn’t going to ever have something… agree to something that I didn’t understand again. It came from me feeling like I should’ve known what the Stadol was. Not that the impact that it had was that negative, but I felt like I shouldn’t have agreed to a medication that I didn’t understand what it was gonna do. And it took me a little bit to work through the guilt, almost, of not understanding what it was first. But really not… you can’t control anything, but that I wanted to be informed before anything else would happen. And that also is what helped encourage us to hire doulas the second time, now that we knew what they were, because they know a lot of those things!
And even though they don’t— y’know, you can’t make the decisions or, y’know, make a call one way or another— you’ve seen pretty much everything at some point. So knowing what’s possible and what’s not, and what different things are and explaining those things, I knew I wanted that backup.
Adriana: Mhm, yeah— just for your options.
Alyssa: Mhm, yeah, cool. Well, you’re… I mean, I love my OB is so… was so open and communicated so well, but they’re in there, what, 5% of the whole process? So, yeah.
Adriana: Mainly to catch the baby.
Alyssa: Yeah, they catch the baby on a good day.
Alyssa: So helpful.
Adriana: So, yeah. And you stuck with the same OB?
Alyssa: I did.
Adriana: Okay. And so then, was there anything else you did differently? Or wanted? Or prepared differently? Before we start with this story…
Alyssa: Now just more of the yoga the second time around.
Adriana: Right! Which, by the way, I love prenatal yoga. It feels so good!
Adriana: And it’s helping also relax you, it matched perfectly with your HypnoBirthing— great tools for labor. Like, I love it! So then, okay, you’re pregnant. You’ve prepared. How did this start?
Alyssa: Yeah. So again, contractions for a very long time, three weeks. Probably I saw my OB in the morning. I think I was just over 39 weeks, or right at 39 weeks. I saw her in the morning. She said I was four and a half centimeters, and that she wouldn’t be surprised if she saw me that weekend, but y’know, she doesn’t like to say that ’cause she doesn’t want to get people’s hopes up, but we both knew that I’d been having contractions for a long time.
And I went to yoga later that morning. Picked my son up from school around 2:45, and I was standing in the lobby with all, like, this field trip group of kids walking through. So, I’m stuck looking at a clock and then I felt a contraction that was just different— it wasn’t painful, but I thought I should look at the clock, just in case. And so I remember this group of children streaming in front of me, as I’m watching the clock, trying to remember what time it was.
I didn’t tell anybody for a little over an hour, that they were… contractions were continuing and they were stronger. I just was kind of enjoying that time of it being just me and him, knowing what was going on. And eventually, I guess, 4:30 probably, told my husband and texted the doulas, y’know, I think this might be different. I don’t know. What should I do? Is it real? Is it not? I’m still only 39 weeks. And they said, “Take a bath. Eat something. Let us know in half an hour.”
My husband made frozen pizza. It was the best pizza I’ve had in my life. and I ate it in the bathtub and it was fabulous. It was wonderful. So things kept going. They’re eight to ten minutes apart. They’re definitely, y’know, not anything that I can’t breathe through or even talk through if I needed to, but enough that I’m kind of closing my eyes through them and breathing.
So, I called my mom— she was three hours away— to come stay with our son, and had a babysitter come over in the meantime. Our house is about 30 minutes from the hospital-slash-birth center, but the yoga studio is five minutes from the hospital and you can use that to labor if you’re far away from the hospital. So we went there, even though we knew we were a long way off from going to the hospital. Something about having a two-year-old in the house is not all that relaxing for labor progress! Got the babysitter here and we went to the yoga studio and got there around 7:00 p.m. Still nothing I couldn’t, y’know, breathe through, meditate through, whatever, but it was nice to have that time, just us, and quiet. We turned on our favorite trivia podcast. When the doula walked in, she was cracking up, “What are you listening to?!” y’know? It was our relaxing… it was what we used to listen to to wind down before bed. And that’s what we wanted at the time. So I had…
Adriana: You have to share what it is, ’cause now I wanna hear it!
Alyssa: Yeah, it’s called “Good Job, Brain!” and we love it— random facts and we love them. We listen to it, and actually that will also soothe my second kid, ’cause we listen to it going to bed.
Adriana: And make him learn things!
Alyssa: Uh-huh! He knows all sorts of random factoids.
Adriana: That’s so interesting, going to this sort of, like, mid-way laboring place, this yoga place. Do they have it set up, a really calm and loving environment? What’s that look like?
Alyssa: Yeah! They have the big yoga room where they do most of their classes, and then they have a smaller room on the back, that they do some littler workshops in there, but also you can… It’s just lighting’s low. You can… They have all the, y’know, the props— the bolsters, blankets, yoga balls— in the basement, you can bring up whatever you want. There’s couches downstairs. It’s very warm and cozy and it was a perfect stopping point, yeah. And we had the… They were training a third doula to see how they— she was already a doula, but to see how they run things, so that she could be their backup. And so they asked if she could come along and shadow.
So I had two, which was fabulous! She came around 7:45. She made us some tea. She did some acupressure on my ankles and my feet. It was just soothing music. It was a lovely, really, really relaxing time and really helped, I think, keep things moving, to be not at home for… I know some people really want to be at home, and the homebirth thing sounds great for some people. And for me, I don’t want that at all. I don’t want that in my bathroom. I don’t want that in my house. It’s not soothing for me. So having that halfway point that wasn’t the hospital was awesome for us!
Adriana: Yeah, that sounds really great. And you were being totally, totally pampered and taken care of, like, with tea and the acupressure massage. That’s lovely!
Alyssa: It was beautiful. And then the “head” doula, I guess, who was helping me, came at 8:30 (8:30 at night). And we’re doing hip compressions at that point. And new things start to get a little more intense there, maybe six, five minutes apart. They have a counter in the front where you check in and she said, y’know, “Lean over this. I’ll hold your… pull your arms from one side, and your husband can do hip compressions.” And I’m kind of leaning over the counter. And she said, “Many mamas have labored in this room!” And I just felt one of your podcasts talks about it, too, this, like, the power of all the women who’ve gone before you. And it was like… I felt them all saying, “You’ve got this! You can totally do this.” It just… that room, you could feel it. It was really lovely. I so loved having that support and that place to move forward, without being quite so far away.
Adriana: I think it’s something… let me see if I can get the number right. I get a little dyslexic with it, but I think it’s 2… it’s either 225 or 250. It can’t be 250… 255? The amount of people that are giving birth every minute.
Alyssa: Oh my goodness!
Adriana: So at the very least there’s 255 people giving birth with you all in different ways at the same time.
Alyssa: That’s so cool. So cool.
Adriana: So you were there, leaning over the counter, with all the energy of all the ones that have been before and will come after…
Alyssa: I started to feel like I wanted to be at the hospital, not because I wanted to be there necessarily, but I had this memory of the HepLock and had a feeling they were gonna have me put it in and I did not want to be in transition trying to do that. So it was probably a little earlier than she wanted me to go, but around 10:15 at night, I said, “I want to go to the hospital. I just want to, like… Let’s get through triage and get that over with.” I almost… I feel like it was almost holding me back, knowing that that was coming and I was dreading that piece, but on the other side it would be fine. I just had to get through this little thing.
And so, we did, before we left, she said, “In your mind, how do you want the rest of this to go? How do you see this progressing?” And I said, “We’re gonna get to the hospital. I want to get in the tub as soon as I can. And I want to have this baby by midnight.” She’s like, “Great! My husband would love that. Let’s go!”
So we get in the car. I’m in the back seat. I was… when I hear stories and people say they’re in the car, driving to the hospital, I was always wondering like, “How are they doing it? Are they sitting? That doesn’t sound comfortable. What are they doing?” I was in the back seat, leaning over the convertible car seat sideways, because that’s what felt comfortable. So we were only going a couple of miles— “Do what you gotta do,” I guess!
Alyssa: Yeah, we get there and we walk in, to the birth center. And I will never understand that I have two doulas with me, I’m clearly having a contraction in the entryway, and the person at the front desk says to my husband, “How can I help you?” And he’s like, “We’re… having a baby? Can we go upstairs please?” I think it’s pretty clear how you can help us! Please check me in!
So we get upstairs eventually. There’s people in the waiting room. It’s weird. You’re, y’know, having contractions in front of them. That part’s awkward. But we finally get into triage, which is again, triage is what it is. It’s not fun. That should… That? There has to be a better way than that. So we’re waiting, waiting… Get on the monitor, have to lay on my back for a contraction, which was the worst contraction of the entire experience! Absolutely, worst contraction, flat on my back, six and a half centimeters.
It took, again, three attempts to get my HepLock in, and his heart rate dropped while I was having that contraction flat on my back. So when we get into the L&D room, the nurses say, “She needs to be monitored constantly.” And my OB said, “No, she doesn’t. She doesn’t need to be monitored constantly. It’s okay.” And they said, “Well, look at this heart rate drop!”
And I think there was maybe a difference between what her standard was and what the hospital standard was. And she said, “So, do the monitor for an hour and if he’s consistent, take her off.” So that felt okay— decent compromise. And I did not know, but they have different monitors now that are, at that hospital, that are completely waterproof— and they have some that are sort of/kind of waterproof, like, you can sit in the tub, but you can’t get the monitor underwater, and that doesn’t seem that helpful to me. But, thankfully my doula knew the difference. And so she said, “No, she wants the ones that she can submerge.” And they were pretty… They were really easy to work around, actually. They didn’t feel invasive. I didn’t notice them. Once we had them on, I didn’t notice them again. They were easy. Great.
Alyssa: I could completely submerge. Yeah, they were wonderful. I had actually brought… Because last time, the tape kept coming off when my arm got wet, for the HepLock, and it just was so irritating. So I had ordered a waterproof sticker cover thing, like for PICC lines, for people who have more permanent IV lines (for chemo and things like that). I ordered one and brought it with me, just in case the stuff kept coming off. And my doula thought that was hilarious!
Adriana: It’s a great idea! I’m gonna go and put one in my birth bag now.
Alyssa: But when it’s that irritating and when that’s the thing that’s driving you nuts… y’know, little things… I mean, at certain points in labor, little things drive you insane, and so I did not want that to be an issue again.
Alyssa: Yeah. It was great.
Adriana: So at this point, like, once they got you into a room, you were in the tub?
Alyssa: Pretty quickly, yeah, once they got the HepLock in, I kept saying, “Let me get in the tub. Let me get in the tub! I don’t care if you put it in while I’m in the tub; I’ll put my arm on the edge of the tub. I don’t care! Just get me in the tub.” And they did, and turned the lights down.
The doulas had LED candles. They turned on my affirmations again. It was just so… I don’t even think I saw my L&D nurses. They were kind of poking their heads around, checking in with the doulas, thumbs up. That working relationship was fabulous. They’d all been to that same hospital a million times. They have tons of babies there. So everybody kind of, I think, was familiar with everybody else, which was beautiful. Once we were in the tub, it was great. It was great. So relaxing. I was there for a little under an hour probably, and I hit a point where in my head I felt… I thought, “This is where last time I said I couldn’t do it. And I know I can do it this time. But I need somebody else to say it too.” And so I said out loud, “I don’t know if I can do it…” when in my head I’m thinking, “I know I can do it,” but tell me that, y’know, I can. It’s silly to need that from outside, but…
Adriana: No, that reassurance is huge!
Alyssa: It made a big difference. And we had talked about in advance: “What are the things that you want me to say when it gets really hard?” “What are the triggers for you that will make you,” y’know, “remind you that you can do this, and you’re strong, and all of those things? You can do hard things.” And so it was exactly what she needed to say that back to me.
And I was like, “Yes, that’s what I needed.” It’s so interesting to look back afterwards and be able to pinpoint where you were in different parts of labor and not be able to see it at the time because you’re in it.
Alyssa: But it’s so clear later! So I was in the tub for about an hour, probably. And then I was saying, “I think I’m ready to push. I need to push.” And they weren’t sure that… Yeah, I was six and a half centimeters, not that long before that. So I think they were afraid that if I got out of the tub, I wouldn’t be able to get back in, or that maybe something would throw me off. And wait until, “Are you really sure? Are you really sure?” And finally, I was like, “No, I’m getting… I need to get out of this tub, unless you want this baby in the water.” So not the ideal, I don’t think… that’s not the kind of water birth you want!
So they… I finally… I get out of the tub and she said, “Do you wanna try to use the restroom or do you want to sit on the toilet for a couple contractions?” Nope, straight to the bed. And the back of the bed was angled up a little bit, and I kind of just climbed on it, kind of on my arms and almost all fours, my forearms up on the angle and kind of leaning down on my knees. And the nurses came out and started to pull up the footrests or the stirrups. I guess. And I’m just shaking my head. I can’t talk at that point, but I’m shaking my head. And so my doula says, “No, she doesn’t want those. She wants to say— I think she wants to stay like this.” Nobody was really sure what I wanted. I was not speaking, but there’s no way I was moving at that point.
But my OB hadn’t gotten there yet— they called her when I got out of the tub, but she was in the hospital, but not in the room. So they told me, “Hold off! If you can hold off, if you can.” And man, when you are super ready to push, waiting is hard! I didn’t intentionally push, but there were pushes happening. So, that, I did my best, but…
Adriana: That fetal ejection reflex, right? You can’t but push!
Alyssa: There was no active anything happening, but he was moving. So finally, when she got in, thankfully I had my head down on the bed and I think my doula said, “She’s here. You can push!” And, oh, before, right when they were telling me to wait, it was five minutes ’til midnight.
And my husband said, “If you can make it five more minutes, you get to stay here a whole ‘nother day!” And he knew how much I would value a day in quiet with somebody else bringing me food and that did it. That got me that extra five minutes until the doctor could get there. So it pushed me off just long enough. And, y’know, he thanked… Bless him for knowing what was important to me, in that moment.
Adriana: Well, and that’s it’s that? I love that, because it shows how much he knows you! And how regardless of, like, everybody has their— not their job, but their “responsibilities” during labor— and his is just to be the loving person that knows you best of all and help? That is something nobody else could have told you, and made such only he knew that. And what that meant, that “I love you.” It’s so great.
Alyssa: Yeah. And I don’t know that I would’ve… I honestly don’t know that we would’ve made it that extra five minutes for her to get there, because he was born at 12:11 a.m., and so if he hadn’t had gotten me to wait that couple of minutes, it easily could have been before midnight,
Adriana: You got a baby and your extra day!
Alyssa: I did get my extra day, and it was maybe three pushes after she got there. I don’t know— it was quick. And I had put it off for probably… I was trying not to push well for probably 20 minutes, but yeah, 12:11 a.m. He was seven pounds, one ounce and it was great.
Adriana: And did he also go… Did you get to pick him up? Like, because you were sort of on your knees, so did they do… Did you end up getting your baby?
Alyssa: Good question! There’s… I actually heard in my head at the moment there’s I think it’s a Whapio episode where she says, “There’s a pause,” if the mom gives birth, there would be a pause before she picked her baby up. And they asked if I wanted to turn over and hold him, and I said, “I don’t think I can yet. Just give me a second!” My quads were so tired, flipping over was hard. But I did. I needed that. I took that breath and I flipped over and it was maybe 30 seconds. And they put him right on me. And delayed cord clamping again. And yeah, it was hard to flip over. Didn’t see that coming!
Adriana: Mhm, yeah.
Adriana: That makes sense. Kind of worn out. But then you did it!
Alyssa: And then I did it!
Adriana: How was that post-birth for this one, in terms of, like, the immediate post-birth? Were you aware of delivering the placenta this time? Did you have any tears?
Alyssa: Mhm, yeah. I was aware this time. It was… It went smooth, but I did know this time. And I had, I think, one stitch on each side is all— it wasn’t wasn’t bad at all. He did latch pretty quickly for as far as breastfeeding goes, but we found out later, he had a tongue tie, and it just felt like he was eating constantly, constantly, constantly.
And I was sore, and he was hungry all the time and he was upset, and I couldn’t figure it out. And so if there’s one thing I would say on that front, is if it doesn’t feel right, even if people tell you that “his latch looks great”— that’s the thing that we had the lactation consultant in the hospital come look, “His latch looks great!” Nobody’s hungry every 30 minutes/45 minutes… and he’s nursing for 45 minutes. That’s not right either. So we had to work through that and eventually got the tongue tie corrected, I think, five or six days in. And it was a whole different world. But if it doesn’t feel right, it’s not.
Adriana: With the revision for the tongue tie, did you do anything else before or after to help with that process, or just the clip?
Alyssa: Yeah, we did. We went to the chiropractor for him, pediatric chiropractor, and she gave me a few little therapy things to do. He had a really strong gag reflex. And so we did a little bit there, but mostly… it was mostly for the gag reflex, not for the clipping. And then we also did some craniosacral therapy for him.
He was curving into a C, sort of, and a few treatments with that and the chiropractor and he just was all much more relaxed. Poor little guy was all scrunched up! I don’t know what happened, probably coming out so fast, but he just needed to release a few things and then he was a much happier little peanut.
Adriana: Yay! So that was the first week or so, then things with breastfeeding, everything fell into place?
Alyssa: Yeah. He eats like a champ. It is… He has wrist rolls and ankle rolls, and you would never know that eating was a challenge for him. So that was… I was very grateful that we had had friends that had tongue tie or lip tie situations as well. And I was really grateful to have heard those stories, because I don’t think that I would’ve… I would not have known otherwise. And I don’t know that the pediatricians would’ve caught it, if I hadn’t brought it up. I don’t know that I would’ve been confident enough to bring up my concerns. And so they wouldn’t have looked, right?
Adriana: Right. Yeah, especially since the latch looked good, but you knew that the transfer wasn’t.
Adriana: All in all, though, how do you feel about your stories? Do you feel there was stuff to process? Do you feel happy about them? Do you feel it was what you wanted?
Alyssa: Now I feel happy about both of them. The second one, I could not have written more perfectly. The first one did take me a little bit to get over. And at first I thought it was the epidural, but it wasn’t— it was the Stadol and me not knowing what it was ahead of time. That it took me time to be okay with the fact that I didn’t know it all before it happened. I’d never done it before. And that’s… I’m an information freak and a control freak, and that was really hard for me to process. But that kind of forgiving myself for that? Everything else about it, I’m happy with the way everything went. It was perfect. I had no problems with having an epidural. So yes, now they’re both very happy stories.
Adriana: Good! Yay, I’m glad. I mean, they sound great— but it’s only the person who lives the story can qualify it in that way.
Adriana: So aside from the Stadol, though, is there anything you would do differently, either one? Or in terms of the pregnancy preparation, postpartum, at any point?
Alyssa: Yeah, I don’t think I would do anything differently from the second one. And I mean, even going in, I had told the doulas whichever way that whatever happens, if I decide I want an epidural, that’s fine. If we end up having a c-section, we have a c-section. As long as it’s my choice and I have information, and if they say “You need to do this,” or “Your baby’s in danger,” yes, I will choose to do that. But give me the opportunity to say a “yes” or “no.” And that’s really all that I wanted, no matter what happened. So I’m happy. I’m really happy that I was able to have the second one without any other interventions. But as long as I was given options, I would’ve been happy, whatever happened. That’s the biggest thing.
I did… I forgot to mention the birth preparation class that I did the second time. So the first time, we did the one online through the hospital, and it’s the little online courses, and “Here are the stages of labor” and “Here are the different…” y’know, kind of the technical version.
And then the one that the studio had is “Who cares what stage of labor you’re in? Here’s what to do when she’s, like, digging her nails into your arm and you don’t know how to help her feel better! Here’s how to do hip compressions. Here’s how to support if she feels good in a squat,” like all of that kind of stuff. That was so good. So helpful.
Adriana: Yeah,that sounds like my kind of childbirth education! Like, who cares?
Alyssa: Who cares?
Adriana: Who cares how far along you are?
Alyssa: Are you gonna tell her at the time? Is that gonna help? No, let’s talk about something different.
Adriana: “It seems like this is transition. Are you aware that this is transition?”
Alyssa: Yeah, that would not have gone well!
Adriana: Love it! I’m also… As you were talking, I’m thinking I’ll also link in the show notes, the episode with Cristen Pascucci on informed consent, because that idea of it “As long, y’know, having it be your choice— ’cause nobody loves your baby more than you, nobody wants the best outcomes for them than you— but it makes such a difference when you are the one saying, ‘Okay, let’s do this,’ rather than things happening to you.”
Adriana: So, yeah, that makes total sense to me that you’re like, “Whatever, whichever he is born, but as long as it’s my choice of ‘It’s my choice to agree to this.'”
Alyssa: Yeah. And I think having an OB who was flexible in even just the way I was on the bed— honestly, the second time, knowing in advance that she would be willing to go with the flow and how things were— was really helpful. And those people exist. But if you don’t ask those questions in advance, you don’t know until you’re in that situation. And they’re telling you to sit a different way or do something else. And so afterwards, she’d never met— my doula and my OB had never met, actually. There’s this funny picture of, I’m holding the baby on me, and they’re, like, shaking hands across me: “Hi! Nice to meet you, after we just helped deliver this human.” But my doula said ,”Thank you for, y’know, for letting her stay in the position that she was in.” And she said “It was working beautifully. Why would I do anything different?” And I thought, y’know, that’s a really… of course not, but thank you, anyway.
Adriana: Yeah. And I find if you’ve listened to the episode on “Rethinking the Pushing Stage,” I find that when you have a situation like what you described, where it’s like, “I need to get out of this tub unless you want the baby born here,” right, and then you instinctually walk and get into that bed however you feel. So it’s— if you get in the position that’s right for you— and at that point, when you’re being told, y’know, “Hold on as much as you can,” at that point you were probably crowning, I don’t know if there is any OB that at that point, trying to gown up and get everything ready to catch baby is gonna say, “Well, I need you on your back,” like, the head’s coming out! Just catch!
Alyssa: True. Yes. We were a little late in the game.
Adriana: No, but you, like… I think that’s the point I was trying to make is you weren’t late in the game. I wish everybody could have that sort of pushing stage where you’re not told and managed and it isn’t discouraged. It’s more, people, like “Baby is being born, so you guys come along… or not!”
Alyssa: Right. You’re either gonna catch him or you’re not… but he is coming out one way or another.
Adriana: Exactly. So, and then in and total, how long was your pushing stage? This time, like, when did you get out of it? And I guess it was longer, ’cause you were waiting for your OB to show up.
Alyssa: If you count the time I got out of the tub, it was maybe 35 minutes. If you count the actual pushing time, it was like seven!
Adriana: There you go. Compared to almost three hours.
Alyssa: Almost three hours, yeah.
Adriana: I love the affirmation of hearing that that does happen, ’cause I see it happening, but we need to, I don’t know, reclaim that more? Because it is possible. And when it… I find that whenever it gets managed, of “Let’s get you on your back. Let’s get you to hold your breath. Let’s do so…” telling you how, the position to get into, and how to push, and how to do it. And start it right when you’re ten— because the door’s open, not because, like, baby has descended and is ready. It just makes for such a harder experience!
Alyssa: Yeah. Yeah, for sure.
Adriana: Yeah. So a “Yay!” that that baby came like that!
Adriana: And that you got your extra day.
Alyssa: Yes, I got my extra day. They make great food. They really do.
Adriana: I don’t think I’ve ever heard anybody say that about a hospital!
Alyssa: I didn’t cook it, so, y’know, that gives it a bit of benefit. But yeah, they do a good job.
Adriana: Between the hospital food and the pizza and the tub…
Alyssa: Mhm, I was well-fed!
Adriana: Well-fed! What is something you would like to tell expecting parents about birth?
Alyssa: Even though you haven’t done it before, trust your instincts anyway. I think I was hesitant to do that because “I don’t know. I haven’t done this. How would I know?” You’ve seen it a million times, but it’s just a different ballgame. And if your brain or your heart is saying one thing, just follow it for a while.
Adriana: I love it! Yes, and the answers will come to you.
Alyssa, thank you so very much for being on the show today, it’s been so fun hearing your stories.
Alyssa: It’s been so fun sharing them, thank you. They— yours, everybody else’s— have really helped me. So it felt like the right thing to do, to give back.
That was mom of two, Alyssa Jennings. And remember how I couldn’t recall the exact number for the estimated number of worldwide births per minute? Well, it is 259. So about 259 people are giving birth right now in 259 different ways— in their own unique ways.
And if that’s blowing your mind, or if any other part of this episode really got you thinking, tell us about it! You can connect with us on Instagram @birthfulpodcast.
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You can find the in-depth show notes and transcript of this episode at birthful.com, where you can also learn more about my birth and postpartum preparation classes and download your free postpartum preparation plan.
And if you’re finding this podcast to be an invaluable resource for you, and you can’t get enough of it, then the best way to support us is by purchasing any one of the classes that I mentioned, taking one of my doula workshops, or trying out some of the wonderful products made by our sponsors. This is what really allows us to keep doing this work.
Birthful is created and produced by me, Adriana Lozada, with production assistance from Aysia Platte.
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Come back for more ways to inform your intuition.
Lozada, Adriana, host. “[Birth Stories] Can You Wait to Push Until the Doctor Arrives?” Birthful, Birthful. February 1, 2023. Birthful.com.
About Alyssa Jennings
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