Dana Saccomano did not expect her second birth to be what’s medically called “precipitous.” Even though it was so fast, she later realized how much all her practice and preparation paid off.
Was your labor how you expected it would be? Tell us about what surprised you @birthfulpodcast!
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Related Birthful episodes:
- What’s HypnoBirthing, Anyway?
- Straight Talk about the Effects of Electronic Fetal Monitoring on You and Your Baby
One thing you can do for you is put together a precipitous birth kit. This could include a few large Chux under pads, a few pair of sterile gloves, several towels to dry off baby, two or three newborn receiving blankets and a newborn hat, a gallon freezer bag where you can put the placenta, which will still be attached to the baby, and maybe something to clamp the cord, although that’s not completely necessary as the umbilical cord is self-clamping. You could also add a couple of washcloths, a trash bag for all those under pads and towels after you’re done, and maybe a baby bulb syringe. Those are just some ideas!
One thing you can do for the rest of us is amplify and support the Commonsense Childbirth School of Midwifery, the very first and only nationally-accredited Black-led midwifery training school in the U.S., founded by midwife Jennie Joseph. The bottom line is that we need more midwives, and specially more Black midwives. Having a provider who looks like you and who shares your values, your language or your culture makes a huge difference during pregnancy and childbirth, and more Black midwives are a critical part of the solution to the current maternal mortality crisis in the U.S.
[Birth Stories] Her Rapid Birth Was Unpredictable, so She Went Along for the Ride
This time I didn’t want to scream. Nope, I screamed a whole bunch. And the nurses were saying, “All right, you can push. You can push.” And I really in my heart didn’t want people to tell me to push, but at that moment, what was I gonna tell them to be quiet? I didn’t care what they were saying at that moment. So, I started pushing, and I don’t know how many times I pushed. It wasn’t more than a handful and at 5:32 Jude was out.
That’s Dana Saccomano, a musician and mother of two, talking about her labor with her second child. A precipitous labor or rapid labor is defined as less than three hours from the start of regular contractions or a total labor experience that lasts under five hours. Dana gave birth to Jude in an hour and a half. From the very start, her experience was speedy. Let’s let Dana take us back to the beginning when she was planning on getting pregnant.
You’re listening to Birthful, here to inform your intuition.
Welcome, Dana, to the show. It is lovely to have you here. And why don’t you tell the listeners a little bit about yourself and how you identify?
Saccomano: Great to be here. I’m Dana Saccomano and I identify as she/her. I’m also a mother, and a wife, and a daughter, and a sister, and I’m a musician. I play the violin. And I’m a music teacher.
Lozada: You have two kids and the last one was a really fast birth, which you weren’t expecting, so let’s take you back to before your baby was born. How old is he now?
Saccomano: He is five-and-a-half months.
Lozada: Five-and-a-half months. Oh, so many transitions. So, let’s take you back a year and a half back. What were you thinking once you got pregnant and how did you start to prepare for this new birth?
Saccomano: Well, I got pregnant when Harry, my oldest, was about 14 months. We were still breastfeeding, so we weren’t sure if I would be able to get pregnant yet, but it worked the first month we tried. So, that was quick, and I had already a couple of months prior started listening to podcasts and all that kind of stuff. I didn’t really do that when I was pregnant with Harry, with my first, so I kind of had an idea that I wanted to switch from my OB to some midwives and I wanted to have a doula. Quarantine was just starting. There was nothing I could go to outside of the house and I didn’t have to physically go in to work, so I had some time to do my prenatal yoga on the living room floor.
I didn’t do any of that when I was pregnant the first time, so that was enlightening.
Lozada: Yeah. And so, you were gathering up all this information, and moving your body, and putting different birth team things in place. Did your birth wishes switch at all in terms of what experience you wanted to have?
Saccomano: Yes. The first time, with Harry, my birth wishes were epidural. And I did get an epidural when I gave birth to Harry, but I got it way too late, and it didn’t do anything. Didn’t work. Felt all the things. Which was crazy and mind blowing at the time. Turns out I was pretty grateful that I got to feel all the things because I decided that I wanted to do it sans epidural, unmedicated, as natural as I possibly could the second time around. I did have Pitocin with Harry, my first son. It was an elective induction, which I definitely did not want to choose the second time around, so I just wanted to go into labor naturally and feel all the things the way they’re supposed to happen.
Lozada: So, then this time you did get to go into labor naturally, and what happened? Tell us about it all.
Saccomano: Well, so let’s see. I went into labor. I was 40 weeks, 5 days, and my family’s rather impatient, so I went, and I did some acupuncture a couple of times, which I think helped get things going. I did have two membrane sweeps and after the first one, I really thought things were happening. I woke up in the middle of the night and I was shivery, and having a little bit of mucus, like bloody mucus, that kind of stuff, but no. It didn’t happen. That was around… That was like 39 and a half weeks and didn’t happen. So, 40 plus 5, finally at 4:00 AM I woke up, and I said, “Oh, that doesn’t feel like a Braxton Hicks. That’s a little different.” Just a little different.
So, I think I got up to pee or something, and I had been having a little bit of bloody mucusy show, not really like a lot, from the night before. So, I had a kind of a thought, “Maybe tonight’s gonna be the night.” I had a contraction or so and then I nudged my husband. I said, “Todd, download a contraction timer.” So, he downloaded it. I said, “Okay, let’s lie here for a little bit and time them.” So, we timed maybe three or four and they came every five minutes or so, and lasted about a minute, or minute-10, and they were totally, totally manageable. I did a little breathing. I had been using the GentleBirth app and practicing my meditation, and my deep breathing, so I thought, “Okay, here’s the time I get to use that.”
And I did, and 20 minutes went by, I said, “Okay. I’m gonna get up. I have to pee again.” Todd, my husband, said, “Why don’t you text Jen,” our doula, “and let her know?” I said, “Okay.” So, I did. We went back and forth a little bit and she said, “Why don’t you call me?” Because I asked her, I said, “Do they count if they’re only little ones? Because I’ve been having a couple of little, small ones that aren’t a minute in between.” And she was like, “Just call me.”
So, I called her, and we talked for a little bit, and she said, “Okay, you can talk.” I had a couple of contractions on the phone with her and as we were talking, they were getting a little more intense, so this all started at 4:00 AM. It was probably 4:30, 4:35 by now. I was in the bathroom, trying to brush my teeth, trying to talk to Jen on the phone, and by the time we got off the phone, which was probably 4:45, I was like leaning over, and all the while my husband is trying to get the bags ready, because Jen, our doula, had suggested, “Oh, why doesn’t Todd start to get things ready?” My mother, like I mentioned before, was up visiting, and once Todd came back upstairs from telling my mom what was going on, I just like threw him my phone and I said, “You need to call my midwives.”
I said, “I cannot. I can’t talk on the phone anymore.” And I think that was the last coherent thing I said for a while, so it was maybe 4:50 by now. I got downstairs; I’m trying to put my shoes on. My mother comes over and says, “Are you sure you don’t want any drugs?” Which is so funny because that is not what I was thinking at all. I was thinking, “Oh my goodness. This went from zero to 100 so quickly, let’s just get there. I just want to get there.” I wasn’t thinking about anything other than, “I don’t want to have a baby in the house or in the car.”
We got outside. Todd had to pull the jeep out and I was leaning on the side of the garage, like crouching down to try to, I don’t know what I was trying to do. Just crouched down at who knows. He was like, okay, get up, get in the car. So he put some towels down. Cause right before I started pushing with Harry, my water broke. So he thought, okay, let’s just put some towels down just in case. So, I’m watching the GPS in the car, and as I have contractions, I remember I’m like leaning my head back, and holding onto stuff, and sure enough, there are probably five minutes left in the ride and my water breaks in the car, and I said, “My water broke!” And I know people say, “Oh, it’s not like a big gush like in the movies,” but it was. It was both times. I felt it. You heard it pop. It was a lot of water.
We pulled into the hospital area and we had taken a dry run with the car one time before just to make sure we knew where to go in, because we could not have a hospital tour during COVID. It was a virtual tour and they actually walked you from the sidewalk into the entrance to show you what it looked like outside. But it was dark. It was now 5:10, 5:15 in the morning, whatever time it was, so we couldn’t see, so I told him to go the wrong way, so he looped through the parking lot. So, we pull up, they knew we were coming, a nurse comes out with the wheelchair. She opens the door, and she says, “Are we having a baby in the parking lot?” I said, “I hope not.”
So, she puts me in the wheelchair, we get all the way up there. I don’t remember getting from the car to the room. When we walked out after the baby was born, when we were being discharged, I said, “I don’t recognize any of this.” I have no memory of the elevator, the walls, the decorations, nothing.
So, we get upstairs, I stand up, they help me peel my pants and my shoes off because they’re soaking wet and all gross. I climb onto the bed on my hands and knees and that’s how I stayed, because there was no way I was moving. No one was moving me. No one even tried. No one suggested I get into any other position and that’s a good thing because I was not going to. My midwife and my doula did not make it, so the on-call midwife checked me, and she goes, “Yep, you’re 10 centimeters plus one.” And she kept her fingers in there for a second and I got a little snippy. I was like, “Can you take your fingers out of me, please?”
I was holding onto the… The bed was like inclined a little bit. I was holding onto the rails. Maybe it wasn’t inclined, but I was holding on, yelling. The whole time in my mind, with my GentleBirth app, I really wanted to be calm and in control. That’s what I remember telling Jen, my doula, during one of our prenatal visits. I said, “Oh, I want to feel in control.” Because with Harry, the first time I was not prepared, and I was not in control. I was just screaming a lot. This time I didn’t want to scream.
Nope, I screamed a whole bunch. And the nurses were saying, “All right, you can push. You can push.” And I really in my heart didn’t want people to tell me to push, but at that moment, what was I gonna tell them to be quiet? I didn’t care what they were saying at that moment. So, I started pushing, and I don’t know how many times I pushed. It wasn’t more than a handful. And at 5:32 Jude was out.
Lozada: Let’s all catch our breath from that, right? So, it started at 4:00 AM and at 5:32, he was born. And that is definitely something that can be classified as precipitous birth, which… I knew I was gonna be talking to you about this, so I looked up the definition of precipitous labor, and it’s labor that is less than three hours of regular contractions or a total where it lasts under five hours. I mean, you beat that by a lot, so it was a fast precipitous birth, what you had.
Saccomano: I wonder if the acupuncture did it.
Lozada: Or the sweeping, or all your preparation, right? Like you had done so many things and we also know that second babies tend to make quicker entrances. What amazes me, though, I’m like in awe of so many things, because you are amazing, but-
Lozada: I mean, you are, but what amazes me is how even though it was so condensed, so short, there was so much forethought that made all things easier and be able to get to the hospital in time. For example, when you spoke to your doula, she said, “Oh, have your husband start putting the bags in the car.” And then when you got in the car, even though you were in the throes of it and you said that you were crouching, you don’t know why. It’s super common instinctively, primitively, people in labor about to give birth ground down. You look for floor, for something grounding, so I’m not surprised you were doing that, because-
Lozada: Yeah. Sort of like, “Baby’s coming, I don’t want to drop. Be close to the ground.” But then you guys put a towel down because of the water breaking, right? And all the forethought, even though this was definitely so intense… Tell me, what did it feel like in your body?
Saccomano: Well, the first 45 minutes were fine. Every couple of minutes my stomach got tight and crampy, and I just had to breathe through it. And then the second 45 minutes was like, “Something has taken over my body and I’m along for the ride. I have no control over what my body’s doing right now. I just have to embrace it.”
I only screamed when we… maybe in the car. I don’t think I screamed in the car, but I definitely, when we got to the hospital and they said push, I was… I needed to roar the baby out. Let’s say it that way. Because I didn’t have… Oh, if I’m gonna make sounds, I should make low, guttural sounds. I don’t think I did that. I just yelled. I just… I don’t know what sounds I was making.
Lozada: Well, and I think that expectation that birth needs to be calm and gentle, there’s so much fierceness in it. And I feel sometimes having people who do hypnobirthing or things that are more like, “I’m just gonna be really calm and breathe deep,” there might be a time like your experiences because of all these very specific circumstances of it moving really quick, where that is not a tool that is available anymore. That’s not the right tool anymore. And the right tool is like vocalizing really loudly, which is actually helpful, because opening your mouth, your mouth and your perineum, the tension in one tenses the other, so opening wide, it does create expansion and takes that force and puts it somewhere.
You were insanely fierce during that moment.
Saccomano: I like that. I like that rendition. Explanation.
Lozada: How were you feeling in your mind? What other things were you thinking about? If thinking is not the right word, what other things were going through your mind?
Saccomano: At the moment, I wasn’t thinking, “Oh, my doula’s not here. My midwife’s not here.” I was just grateful that we got to the hospital and there were trained medical people who knew what to do there at the time when I needed them. Thinking back, I wished I had written down my birth plan, because the whole time I thought, “Oh, I’m so prepared. I’ve done so many things.” I had colored some pictures, some little mantras we’re gonna tape on the wall. I had all these things. And I didn’t write it down because I just figured I have it all, like I know, Todd knows, Jen knows, everybody knows what we want to do. The midwives know. But there was no time to even tell anyone if it had been written down, so it just… I don’t know. There’s no way I could have made it last longer. I mean, who wants it to last longer? That’s kind of a silly thing to say.
Lozada: And precipitous labors, because they happen so fast, you don’t quite get a chance, like you’re saying, to find your bearings. It just takes you away and it’s like… and then now we’re done and what just happened kind of thing. And sometimes that can feel even a little traumatic because it was just too much, too quick, too soon, and usually we don’t let people express those situations, like you’re doing sort of a little bit of mourning of what you wish it could have been. It’s not like you’re unhappy that it happened like it was, but you would have liked something a little different. Do you feel like… Was that something you had to process of how short it was?
Saccomano: Definitely. Definitely. And on the one hand, I am very grateful that everything was smooth sailing, and everyone was healthy, and we got there in time. But on the other hand, you know, I do, I would say, a little bit of mourning. It wasn’t traumatic for me personally. I wouldn’t use that word. But yeah, a little bit of mourning, because how many times do you give birth in your life? That was probably it.
Lozada: How big was your baby?
Saccomano: Jude was 9 pounds, 14 ounces. A lot bigger. Two-and-a-half pounds bigger than Harry, my first. He was 7 pounds, 7 ounces.
Saccomano: I don’t know how that happened.
Lozada: And so, did you tear?
Saccomano: Oh, yeah. I had a second-degree tear.
Saccomano: But I had a second-degree tear with Harry, also. And honestly, for me, that was not a big deal. Like yeah, they had to give me some lidocaine to do the stitches, so that was uncomfortable, but after the fact, you know, I just did the usual postpartum… You know, witch hazel and that kind of stuff, and it was fine. The fact that I pushed for probably five minutes, such a short time, I felt fine after. I could stand up and walk around. When I got home… We got home the next day. They let us go 28 hours or something later. We wanted to get home to be with Harry and have the boys meet. I remember my mom said, “Wow. You’re just like running around the house.” Because she was also there after I had Harry and I pushed for an hour and 40 minutes with Harry, and in different positions and everything, and my whole back and thighs were sore, and it was just hard to get up and sit down. It was definitely better the second time around.
Lozada: And I think that’s important that we underline that, that it’s not the size of the baby that’s gonna create more tearing or a more difficult birth, necessarily.
Saccomano: It made no difference I feel like how much he weighed. His head came out and then another push later his body came out. I couldn’t feel how big he was. I couldn’t guess by that.
Lozada: He was just coming.
Saccomano: He was ready.
Lozada: And I know that’s not… We can’t generalize that that’s the experience for everybody, but yeah, second babies tend to… You know, the path has already been walked.
Saccomano: The path has been paved.
Lozada: Yes. You were telling us a little bit about the comparison between the two. How else was this birth different from Harry’s?
Saccomano: I just had no idea what to expect with Harry and we decided it was Christmas time, and we had an elective induction. It was January 3rd. Because my whole family was up here and they live down south, so they were… There was a little bit of pressure. “Have the baby while we’re here! See if they’ll induce you.” And what did I know back then? I didn’t know better, to just wait and let my body do it. So, we had an elective induction, had the Pitocin, so it was just such a different experience. You know, they had the electronic fetal monitor on my belly, and with Jude, I had nothing. I didn’t even have an IV. I had nothing because I was there for such a small amount of time, so you know, I didn’t want an IV, and I didn’t want the continuous monitoring and all of that, so I guess I did get some of the things I wanted.
But with Harry, we had all the things. The monitor around my belly. And I had back labor. And I remember, the monitor was moving. It was like shifting around, so I almost feel like the nurses didn’t believe me that the contractions were getting more intense. They just said, “Oh, the contractions aren’t consistent or rising high enough,” or whatever they need to do in the nurses’ eyes. Because I kept moving the monitor.
Lozada: Why were you moving the monitor?
Saccomano: Well, I was leaning over the bed and it was on my belly, and it just kept shifting, and they kept coming in and fixing it. That labor was less than eight hours too, even with the Pitocin and the balloons and all that, so that was not a long labor either. Maybe I should have taken some notice.
Lozada: You birth quickly once you get going.
Lozada: Yeah. How was the immediate postpartum with Jude and how did that differ from the experience with Harry?
Saccomano: I breastfed Harry for 17 months, so had some experience. I felt like I knew what to do, so it was great. I just kept putting him on a boob. That’s like the go-to. Oh, is there a problem? Boob. Did you make a sound? Okay, boob. So, very, very different. A lot easier the second time around. Even having two kids, it was easier because I felt like we knew. We had some tricks in our bag. We knew what to do. I had been asking anybody I could. If I had a dentist appointment or whatever, anything during pregnancy with Jude. Is it harder zero to one or one to two? And most people said zero to one. It’s true.
Lozada: Absolutely. Dana, thank you so very much for being on the show and sharing your stories. It was tons of fun talking to you.
Saccomano: Oh, I agree. My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Lozada: That was Dana Saccomano, a breastfeeding and chest feeding advocate and a mother of two. You can find Dana on Instagram @Dana_Breastfeedingcounselor. I hope your main takeaway from our conversation is that your body and your intuition will guide you through your labor experience even if that experience is nothing like you were expecting and you end up embracing things you didn’t expect to, like scream loudly and roar your baby, because that’s what you needed to do. Oh, and also that it is completely okay to mourn the experience you wanted to have while at the same time you process and even cherish what actually ends up happening.
One thing you can do for you is put together a precipitous birth kit. This could include a few large Chux under pads, a few pair of sterile gloves, several towels to dry off baby, two or three newborn receiving blankets and a newborn hat, a gallon freezer bag where you can put the placenta, which will still be attached to the baby, and maybe something to clamp the cord, although that’s not completely necessary as the umbilical cord is self-clamping. You could also add a couple of washcloths, a trash bag for all those under pads and towels after you’re done, and maybe a baby bulb syringe. Those are just some ideas.
Now, May 5th was the International Day of the Midwife and we want to continue to honor and celebrate that day frankly all year long. So the one thing you can do for the rest of us is amplify and support the recently opened Commonsense Childbirth School of Midwifery, the very first and only nationally accredited Black-led midwifery training school in the U.S., and founded by midwife Jennie Joseph. The bottom line is that we need more midwives, and specially more Black midwives. Having a provider who looks like you and who shares your values, your language or your culture makes a huge difference during pregnancy and childbirth, and more Black midwives are a critical part of the solution to the current maternal mortality crisis in the U.S. Please find out more at commonsensechildbirth.org
Birthful was created by me, Adriana Lozada, and is a production of Lantigua Williams & Co. The show’s senior producer is Paulina Velasco. Jen Chien is our executive editor. Cedric Wilson is our lead producer and Kojin Tashiro mixed this episode. Thank you for listening to and sharing Birthful. Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, and everywhere you listen, and come back next week for more ways to inform your intuition.
Lozada, Adriana, host. “[Birth Stories] Her Rapid Birth Was Unpredictable, so She Went Along for the Ride.” Birthful, Lantigua Williams & Co., May 12, 2021. Birthful.com.
About Dana Saccomano
Dana Saccomano (she/her) is a mother of two boys, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a musician, a breastfeeding advocate and a birth nerd! She lives in Vernon, CT with her husband Todd, her two boys and two cats. She is a violinist and a public school strings teacher in East Hartford, CT by profession. She is also a peer counselor for Breastfeeding USA and currently studying to become a CLC, Certified Lactation Counselor, through the Healthy Children Project program.
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