Erin’s labor and birth is a long story intertwined with Lauralee’s labor and birth. Erin’s husband Dondi is Lauralee’s sister, so their sons are first cousins born 8 hours apart. Read about the birth of Caden’s cousin, Ethan, here.
Erin’s water broke around two in the morning on a Thursday in July. Dondi called to let me know, and we agreed to stay in touch over the course of the day in case contractions started and labor began. The rest of Thursday passed without any contractions. I visited their house that evening and the baby’s heartbeat was great and Erin’s vital signs were normal. Erin decided to start taking some black and blue cohosh tinctures to encourage labor to start. I felt like labor might start at any time, so I stayed overnight in case contractions began. I woke up early the next morning and realized that labor had not started. I checked the baby’s heartbeat and Erin’s vitals once more and everything was normal. We talked about other ways to encourage labor to start, including acupuncture, acupressure, homeopathic remedies, nipple stimulation, and lots and lots of walking! Erin agreed to continue taking herbs and try to arrange an acupuncture appointment for later in the day. I left to go home and Erin began the long day of working to stimulate labor.
That afternoon, after Erin’s acupuncture appointment, I met her at Lauralee’s house to discuss what we should do next. This is when we also realized that Lauralee was probably going into labor too! Erin and I discussed all the options and possibilities, and she decided to begin taking antibiotics to prevent an infection in the baby. I started her IV and administered the first dose of penicillin. We went over all the ways listed above that she could naturally stimulate labor, and after checking both babies’ heart rates and both mamas’ vital signs, I left to head back home.
As explained in Lauralee’s birth story, I went back to Lauralee’s house that evening at about 5 pm to check on her progressing labor. All was well, so I proceeded to Erin’s house to administer the next dose of antibiotic and assess the effectiveness of the labor induction techniques she’d been trying. When I arrived at Erin’s house, she was having contractions about 5 minutes apart that were regular and moderately strong. As wonderful as this news was, I now had two first-time moms in labor at the same time in different houses! Once again, I discussed with Erin what the options were if both labors progressed concurrently over the course of the night. Our options were: have me go back and forth with Megan (my assistant) at Erin’s house and Misty (Lauralee and Dondi’s sister) at Lauralee’s house providing labor support; call in another midwife to attend one birth while I focused on the other; have one couple come to the other couple’s house so that everyone could be in one house and Megan and I could attend everyone together! We decided that it made the most sense to have Megan come be with Erin and Dondi, while Misty stayed with Lauralee and John, and I would go wherever I was most needed.
Once Megan arrived, I performed my initial comprehensive labor assessment. As I was palpating Erin’s belly, my heart skipped a beat as I realized that the baby’s position felt different than it had all along. I was not positive, but it seemed as if the baby had flipped over and become breech (feet or butt first). I explained this to Erin, and we realized we might have to take a trip to the hospital for an ultrasound to confirm the baby’s position. Erin and Dondi were upset and surprised by this turn of events, but rallied and got ready to leave for the hospital. When we arrived, we had to wait a bit as the nice lady at the front desk tried to figure out if Erin could proceed right in to ultrasound with an order written by me, or if she would have to go down to the Obstetrics Unit and be seen by an OBGYN. As this was happening, I received a text from John saying that Lauralee’s labor was starting to get very intense. I wished I could split myself in two! Reluctantly, I left Erin, Dondi, and Megan sitting in the hospital lobby as I rushed down to Lauralee’s house. Once there, it was clear that she was pretty close to having her baby and that I wouldn’t be able to leave again until after the birth.
Erin called me a little while later to say that the ultrasound confirmed a head-down baby! This was great news, but Erin was now confronting the decision to either stay in the hospital and get pitocin to start labor or head back home to hopefully continue where she left off. She sounded uncertain and exhausted. I told Erin that the decision was hers, but that I had full confidence in her ability to have her baby at home without pitocin. I said, “I know how much you want to have this baby at home Erin and I know you can do this. I fully support whatever decision you make, but I know you can still have your baby at home.” With that in mind, she found the courage to decline admission to the hospital and head back home with Dondi and Megan.
For the next few hours I was fully absorbed in helping Lauralee have her baby. Megan occasionally texted me with updates as she continued to administer penicillin to Erin every four hours and reported that Erin was slowly but steadily progressing through early labor. Lauralee gave birth to Ethan shortly before midnight that Friday, and I stayed with them for the first couple of hours after the birth to make sure mom and baby were healthy and stable. By the time I was ready to leave, it was about 2 am. I drove the short distance to Erin’s house and found Erin in her living room in strong labor with contractions every 2-3 minutes apart. I hugged her and let her know emphatically that she could now let go and let her baby come. Labor had finally progressed to the active phase, baby was head down, and I was fully present and able to focus completely on her.
From that point on, labor got stronger and stronger over the next few hours. Erin held on to Dondi for support during contractions, and leaned over the birth ball or knelt on the floor to rest in between. The baby’s heart rate was strong and stable throughout. Shortly after 7 am, Erin pushed Caden out while squatting next to her bed with Dondi holding her from behind. Caden was pink and strong and breathing well right from the beginning.
It took over an hour for the placenta to come, but it finally did with a strong push from Erin. The saga wasn’t over at this point, though, because there was a tear that needed more extensive suturing than I could provide. So, back to the hospital Erin, Megan, and I went! We were able to slip in and out of the Obstetrics Unit pretty quickly and the doctor that helped suture the tear was incredibly helpful and professional. Dondi had stayed at home with Caden, and when Erin and I arrived back at the house we found them napping peacefully together. Finally, Erin was able to settle in with her new baby son and relax and nurse and be at home.
Throughout this long 50+ hour marathon of an experience, Erin was brave, fierce, and determined. My heart is full just trying to express how impressed and moved I was by her incredible strength and flexibility as she was faced with so many challenges, decisions, and twists of fate. A huge congratulations to Erin and Dondi – your experience was longer and more chaotic than most, but you handled this journey together with love and courage!
Welcome to the world Caden – you have one hell of a birth story! Congratulations Erin and Dondi!
Many thanks to Megan for being flexible and supportive and completely, exactly what Erin and I needed in the moment. Thanks so much to Caden’s aunt and uncle, Lauralee and John, for their patience and compassion as I spent most of Lauralee’s early labor attending to Erin’s needs.
For more photos of Erin and Lauralee’s families, check out the Photo Gallery of BirthRoot Families.