Cullen’s Natural Hospital Birth

This post is the fifth in a series of positive natural birth stories that I will be publishing in the hope that more women will feel empowered to give birth just as nature intended, without intervention or medication.

My first birth, in 1999, was a doozy…at 9 days “past due” (though I was unsure of my dates) I was facing a scheduled induction, so I took a cohosh tincture. I went into labor the next day. After 6 hours of laboring at home, we went to the hospital. On the contraction monitor, the nurses told me I was having “transition contractions,” which I thought explained the intensity of what I was feeling. When the OB checked me, I was at 3cm. I had “transition-like” contractions for another day, and progressed to 4cm. At this point, they broke my water, gave me a shot of Nubain (at my request) and when that wore off , I was at 6cm. I got an epidural, and 12 hours later, after 3 and a half hours of pushing, my 10 lb 4 oz, 23” long, gorgeous daughter Samantha was born, with meconium in her water, and a minor episiotomy. She was fine though she was taken from me immediately so they could suction her before she inhaled meconium. The recovery was terrible, the stitches felt “too tight” and it was months before I didn’t hurt. I had a numb spot from the epidural in my leg for days. In hindsight, I believe she was posterior (as my two subsequent babies have been).

With my second child, in 2005, I wanted to do things differently. I could not make the jump to a homebirth, but I did go with a midwife. I was afraid of being induced, and I was afraid of another huge baby, though I was determined to get through this one with NO drugs or interventions. Again, I was 40 weeks, though I told my midwife I expected this, since my first was so “late.” Nevertheless, they pressured me into scheduling an induction the day I hit 40 weeks. I was also GBS+ so I decided to forgo my waterbirth plans (at the hospital) in favor of getting there too late for the hospital to fight me about refusing the antibiotics (and also too late for them to fill the tub), which I had researched and decided not to accept. The stress of being past 40 weeks was intense, again, and I had massages, acupressure, and spent every waking moment squatting and/or on my birth ball.

Finally, all day June 10 (41 weeks) I had contractions, sporadic and uncomfortable but not painful or regular. This continued through the day, and during the evening – never settling into a pattern. We went to bed around 11, but after I lay down, they started becoming pretty strong–I had to breathe through them in bed, and moved my birthing ball into the bedroom. They were still really far apart. The birthing ball wasn’t really doing it for me, and I kept feeling like I had to pee, so I was in the bathroom half the night. The longer I sat on the toilet, the more mucus plug I lost, AND it actually felt good to be there–I was leaning back on this rack I have over the toilet, and I finally just shut the light off and sat there for a while trying to relax and releasing into the sensations, and thinking “we might have a baby tomorrow!”

Around 2:30am, the contractions picked up to being between 3 & 4 minutes apart, and still being 10 minutes apart. So, I decided to check myself–at first, I couldn’t tell—everything was mush. THEN, it occurred to me that part of the “mush” was a bulging bag of water, and I found my cervix, and guessed around 4/5 cm. I didn’t want to go to the hospital any earlier than necessary, so this was my motivation to check my own cervix.
I woke up Alex (who I left sleeping all this time, because I really wasn’t in incredible pain & didn’t need “help” yet) and told him what I thought, and told him I thought we should go to the hospital just in case. I was pretty sure I would end up going home, but we went anyway.

Alex called the midwife, I got in the shower, where I did the Hibiclens wash for the GBS. We left at 3:10, got there at 3:19. We parked in the hospital garage, and then couldn’t get in–the two main entrances were locked. I was standing outside the hospital leaning against the door having contractions, while Alex buzzed, got no one, then called the hospital. We ended up walking around the hospital to go in the emergency room entrance. I was laughing at the ridiculousness of it between intense contractions.

Got up to L&D, my midwife couldn’t find my chart. She said she would go look, but after watching me through a few closely spaced contractions, she asked if she could check me before she went anywhere & I said yes. I was *8* cm (!!!!!!!), 100% effaced and he was at +1. I asked if I was right about the bulging bag, she said yes.
I had to get monitored for 20 minutes, but I was able to move around, hands & knees, etc. Then, I got in the jacuzzi and MAN was that awesome. My midwife & the L&D nurse just hung out and let us do our thing. She turned down the lights, told us “if you need anything, I’ll be right outside” and closed the door and left us alone.

I was on the toilet again for a bit, and thought my water broke–so the nurse was monitoring his heart-rate every 15 minutes, but I didn’t have to get out of the tub for it. Alex was AWESOME. We were giddy that we were so, so close, and we were LAUGHING and cracking jokes between contractions. TRANSITION contractions!! He held me up in the pool, knew exactly how to rub my back, and even held up my head for me when I was hanging over the edge of the tub. He was absolutely amazing, and I couldn’t have done it without him. He kept telling me how great I was doing, and how close we were. Some of the contractions were “breathable”, and some of them had me kind of yelling and getting a little freaked out. I told them I needed to push, so got out and started pushing on the toilet. I went back & forth between the toilet, squatting using the bathroom sink, and asked for the squat bar to be set up. I pushed for about 40 minutes, but nothing seemed to work. It didn’t feel “right” in any of the spots I tried, so I asked the midwife to check me, and there was a “lip” that was starting to swell. He was also posterior, as he had been for days, AND, the bag of water was still intact–it hadn’t broken when I thought it had. I was happy about this due to the GBS.

I kept yelling that I had to push, so she asked if she could “push back the lip” while I pushed, and I said yes. After about another 20 minutes or so of that, it still wasn’t really working, so she had me lay on my left side and breathe through the contractions instead of pushing. Honestly, I didn’t want to push at that point, but I did need to breathe really hard to get through them. After about three of those, she did a quick check and told me the lip was gone. So, I pushed with each contraction as I felt like it – no coached pushing, no yelling, no one directing me. I never got “coordinated” with the pushing, and was a little out of sorts with it, but I stayed on my left side (she thought he would spin better–my hands & knees weren’t doing it for me). I held my leg up, and made NOISE.  I really wanted him out–I remember pushing with Samantha, but I had no idea how little sensation I had with pushing her out. I had the epidural turned off with her, but I only remember a little pressure, NOTHING like this. I was grunting like crazy, and hurt my throat. My high point was yelling “I NEED TO GET HIM OUT OF ME NOW”. Have to laugh now, but the feeling of his head in the birth canal made me feel panicky. I felt like my hips were going to burst, and every instinct told me to get him OUT.

So, as he came down and crowned, my midwife broke the still intact amniotic sac and removed it from his face, I felt his whole body spin as his shoulders exited (he was still posterior) and it was about 10 minutes before he was out completely. HELLO ring of fire! This is something I never experienced with Samantha. He was born at 6:12 am on June 11, 2005, with Dropkick Murphy’s version of “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock & Roll)” playing on the stereo.

He was put on my belly right away (I mentioned how slippery he was) and he was so little compared to what I thought he was–7 lbs 7 oz (we found out later). After about 20/30 minutes of skin-to-skin snuggling, we cut the cord, and the rest is baby bliss. He didn’t cry very much at all – he made little “meep” sounds and looked around and pouted, and eventually nuzzled and began to nurse. I had two small skid marks that my midwife stitched only because of the location they were in, just two small stitches.

Due to me refusing antibiotics for my GBS positivity, I was told I would have to be at the hospital for a full 48 hours, no exceptions, when I asked about leaving early. The hospital was knee deep in babies that day. They had NO postpartum rooms. We were in the L&D room until noon, and then they moved us to a freaking antepartum testing room (where I had the non-stress on Thursday!) It was terrible–no bathroom, tv/radio, small, stuff…just awful. I had to walk down the hall through the waiting room to use the bathroom. My daughter’s dad brought her into visit (she has a different father than my other two kids) and they sat with us and marveled over her beautiful baby brother, Cullen.

A nurse was keeping us updated about the room situation, and said something about going home—even with the GBS issue –and we jumped at it. We got his hearing test done, and were out of there at 4:30pm! I felt GREAT. Honestly, it was so easy (except for pushing), I kept saying I felt like I had “cheated”.

We were home after 14 hours, I walked into my house where my sister and her husband and a good friend were basking in our air conditioning (heat wave!) and not expecting me home for two more days. I felt so good and happy, being surrounded by people I loved, who brought me food and drinks and celebrated our new baby with us. It was this moment that I realized next time, whenever that may be, I would have our baby at home.

Emma is a 33 year old mom of Samantha, 11 years old, Cullen, 5 years old, and Maybe, 7 months old. She lives outside Boston, MA with her husband Alex, her three kids, two bunnies, a cat, and a ferret. They enjoy “food of known origin” and making beer, wine, cheese, vinegar, soap, yogurt, and she knits like a madwoman. You can find her blog here, at

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