Porter Alan Burton: A (Very Long) Birth Story

Saturday, December 29, 2012

I'm sitting here on my couch, on December 27th.

Porter Alan is one week old, fighting sleep peacefully in his swing. He is staring in awe at the little fish, turtle and octopus floating above his head, dozing off every few minutes like a little old man. Paul is watching HGTV and just brought us down some Christmas leftovers, the heater is on, the house is clean... all is calm and very, very bright.

If I could have had a crystal ball and been able to see into this very moment one week ago on December 20th, when I was facing the biggest physical and emotional challenge of my entire life... well, I'm not sure that even a glimpse into this perfect moment would have helped me any. I just have to be honest.

Here's our story ;)

December 18th was our due date. We were headed to our appointment with our midwife, nerves high... because the last time I was in the office, I was sent to the hospital for observation for my high blood pressure. So, to say that nerves were at an all time high could be a bit of an understatement. This was a do-or-die appointment. Either I went home to wait our Baby's arrival, or I would be heading back to St Joe's for an induction.

Paul got home from work, and I was curling my hair. He jumped in the shower, came back in and said: "are you prepared for what could happen tonight? They could tell us that you need to be induced if your blood pressure is still up..."

I laughed. "Yep. That's why I'm curling my hair." Because, you know - looking good for labor was officially a part of my birth plan that I intended on sticking with, no matter what the outcome of my delivery.

We got to our midwives office right on time, they took me back... weighed me, and took my blood pressure. Still high. Awesome. Rhonda (our midwife) came in to talk over our options.

We could go over today, to be induced (panic! panic!). Or, we could wait until Friday, when Rhonda was next at the hospital, so she could have the chance to deliver our baby. Paul and I were dumbfounded and tongue-tied, so Rhonda instructed the nurse to test my urine for protein, and that would be the deciding factor. If I was spilling any protein, she was going to urge us to go in to begin the process tonight. Because, you know... "better safe than sorry."

Well, I was spilling more than just a trace of protein-- so, tonight it was. I held it together in the office, and I think I even held it together as we drove home to grab some last minute items. It was an out of body experience.

It was happening. Not by my plan, but that's ok. I had prepared for that.

We got to the hospital that night, they ushered me right up to L&D and began the process of induction with a drug called Cytotec. Everything I'd read online (I know, I know) talked about how awful Cytotec contractions were, so I was more than nervous... but, they started off pretty slow. Nothing to write home about.

They checked me, and I was barely a 1. I had prepared myself for that, so the disappointment was minimal. I hadn't had much happening in terms of "signs of labor", so the fact that nothing had changed there wasn't shocking. I was about 50% effaced, and baby was still pretty high. I had a long way to go, and a long night ahead of me. We kept the family on standby, and tried to get some sleep.

The nurses made me as comfortable as possible, but let's face it. 40 weeks pregnant in a hospital bed and hooked up awkwardly to monitors doesn't make for the easiest sleep. That, and the Cytotec was starting to do its job. The contractions were annoying to the point of making sleep not much of an option. The nurses came in every few hours to check my blood pressure (which was back down), and the dull ache in my abdomen was constant. It was a long but uneventful night.

Shift change happened, and my new nurse checked me for any progress. None. I was still a 1, still 50% effaced, baby hadn't dropped. This was normal, they told me. Around 7am, they switched me to Pitocin. I've heard about labor kicking into high gear once the Pitocin starts, so we put our family on alert, and let them know we would keep them posted for when progress really began. It was December 19th, my sister's birthday.

Nothing was happening. In fact, contractions on the monitor "lessened", and I didn't feel much besides the same annoying cramping. More and more blood pressure checks; all were higher than normal, but not in the danger zone.

I felt like time was standing still. A few hours passed. The nurses urged me to sleep, sleep, sleep... because it could be a long day. I laughed, and tried as hard as I could to rest my eyes. The Pitocin contractions were less intense, so I think I was able to doze off for a few.

I got checked again a few hours later. No progress; still dilated to a 1. I started to panic a little bit, especially when they started tossing around all these methods they could use to get me to dilate. I won't share the details on here, but one approach was guaranteed pain/discomfort, so I said no thank you and asked if I could PLEASE get out of bed to walk around/sit on a birthing ball (an exercise ball which lives on the 14th floor/Labor and Deliver = birthing ball). The midwife on call was very hesitant to allow me to get up, even after several BP checks that were normal/not a cause for panic.

They finally decided to switch me BACK to Cytotec, and allow me to get on the birthing ball at the side of my bed. I was so relieved. Anything was better than laying down, waiting for something to happen.

As soon as they switched my meds, the contractions kicked in to high gear. By this time, both my moms and all my sisters were here, helping me pass the time. When the contractions hit, I would stop talking, drop my head to the bed and just let it ride. Paul jumped in to help, applying counter-pressure to my tailbone like our Doula taught him, and I can't even begin to tell you the world of difference that it made. I would be able to breathe again immediately, and continue moving around on the birthing ball to relieve the contraction until it was over. At this point, they were about three to five minutes apart, maybe a minute long. I was excited... something was finally happening. I wanted to labor in the tub, but I was told that wouldn't be an option since I had to be continually monitored. It was frustrating, but it was what it was... I just had to focus on the task before me: surviving these painful contractions with grace and a sound mind.

After about an hour of this, the nurse came in to check my BP and to see if I was dilating. BP was normal... and I wasn't dilated or effaced any more than I was that morning. I was getting extremely frustrated, but since I was feeling my contraction way more with every single one, I grit my teeth to fight through. Something was bound to happen soon.

Contractions kept getting stronger... they got so strong and so frequent that Paul called Patti, our amazing Doula, to maybe head this way. He was having a hard time helping me remain comfortable, so we figured that her extra hands and suggestions would be helpful now. Every time I would feel a contraction begin, I would yell out for Paul... and he would drop what he was doing to be at my side, massaging my back/side/tailbone/hip/wherever I most intensely felt my pain... and he did it with every ounce of strength he had left. I found myself actually feeling sorry for him, in the process, but so grateful that he'd been given the tools by our Doula to help me however he could. He didn't feel useless, he didn't feel like he wasn't apart of the labor. He was an active part of this process, and I was grateful for that - at the very least.

Patti and Liz arrived shortly after, and I was finally in visible pain. Patti asked if I wanted to get into the tub to labor, and I told her how hesitant everyone was to even allow me onto the ball... and since I had to remain hooked up to the monitors, I doubted the tub was an option. Turns out, they have waterproof monitors. Weird. No one mentioned that before, when we asked. Reason #245 why having a Doula that stands up for you during the most vulnerable time in your life is CRUCIAL. I didn't know to press more, or to fight back when I was told no... Patti did :)

In a few short minutes, I was hooked up to the waterproof monitors and laboring in the tub. Those few minutes from the bed to the tub were the worst... the contractions brought tears to my eyes, and I finally understood what people were talking about when they said that the pain is just entirely indescribable. I couldn't put words to it if I tried. I remember breathing, and breathing LOUDLY. The only thing that helped sometimes was an audible moan, which was surprising... I never pictured myself vocally dealing with my pain.

I was finally able to get into the bath. It was the strangest thing... the contractions were getting closer and closer and stronger and stronger, but the hot water seemed to completely wash away the intensity of every single one. It was heavenly. I was able to deal with the contractions on my own, rather than having Paul or Patti laying/pressing on me to help me cope. If you have the option to labor in the tub, please... try it. I know it doesn't work for some people, but it absolutely helped me.

I stayed in the tub for three hours. The lights in the room were off, my playlist was playing on my laptop, Paul was resting in the bed, and my family was spread out around the room, encouraging me and probably trying to ignore my moaning/breathing. What I remember most about this time was everyone asking me if I wanted water, a cold washcloth, more water, a snack... and all I could think was: "I don't know. I don't know what I want." I couldn't even decide if I wanted water, so Patti and Paul made me take a sip between every contraction anyway.

After three hours, the water was helping less and less. Patti said the nurse wanted to check me again, and that we would reassess my situation after that. My situation being = I had wanted to go all natural, from start to finish. But, I was closing in on 24+ hours of labor and no sleep and I hadn't made any progress thus far. In private, I'd already broken down to Paul and told him that I couldn't do it... I couldn't give birth. I was too tired, too weak, I couldn't focus. I can't imagine, for a husband, how hard that is to hear... but Paul was so great. He comforted me, told me we had options, but that he knew I could do it. That I was doing so well, I was the strongest woman he knows, etc, etc. I rolled my eyes, because really - if I was doing so well, wouldn't Baby Burton be out by now? - but I appreciated the encouragement deep down.

I stumbled out of the bath, shaking (my body was just JELLO) and was hit with another contraction. If it weren't for the two people supporting me on either side, I would have been on the floor. It was AGONIZING. Patti stayed by my head and encouraged me to stay focused, think of the contraction as a wave, it was almost done... her coaching was like a bright light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

I managed to get back into the bed to be checked. I began to pray... God, please. PLEASE just let me be progressing. Let all of this pain be worth it. Please let the nurse tell me I was a four or a five, and that all the agony I was going through was because my body was finally preparing to bring our baby into the world.

The look on the nurse's face said it all. "Well... I would say you're probably at a 1, maybe a 1 1/2."

Are you kidding me. I burst into tears, ignoring all the encouragement around me... "it's ok Corianne, we have options..."

I just couldn't do it anymore. I need relief, I needed rest. Even just thinking back to that moment right now brings tears to my eyes. I hated that I felt so defeated, like I couldn't do this on my own. I hated that I knew it was "mind over matter" but I couldn't bring myself to just power through. I had literally used every ounce of energy and focus that I had in me, and my body wasn't cooperating.

That's when I felt it... the incredible wave of nausea. I managed to croak out that I was going to be sick, and Patti got me a bag just in time. I think I threw up for fifteen minutes. It probably was nowhere close to that, but it was violent. So violent, in fact, that my water broke right there on the spot. I was so confused and just felt like I was falling apart, but I remember feeling relieved that my water had broken. FINALLY... something happening without assistance or medical provoking.

At this point, I'd already told the nurses I was going to take the epidural. I know a lot of times it takes forever to get the anesthesiologist to your room, but I firmly believe that having Patti there sped everything up. People listen to her, people respect her. It was amazing to see. Before I knew it, I was being transferred to a birthing room, the anesthesiologist was there and I was being prepped for my epidural. They finished pumping me full of fluids in record time.

I remember someone asking Patti and my nurse: "Is she ready for the epidural now?" and I screamed "YES" before anyone else could respond. That brought laughs all around the room, and I remember being really proud that I was able to make people laugh during one of the most painful and intense times of my life. Tyson Ramsdell, watch out.

I held on through a few more mind-numbing contractions, and then the epidural was in. I was terrified for it, and it wasn't bad at all. The numbing hurt worse than the epidural itself. And, I didn't look at the needle - and I didn't make Paul look at it, either. I told him to leave the room, actually... my mom and Patti stayed with me.

Minutes later, the edge of the contractions were gone. I could still feel everything - I could still move my legs, I could still feel touch/pressure, but my "sensory nerves" were dead. Meaning - they could take a cold washcloth and run it down my back... I could feel "cold, cold, cold, cold... nothing." I felt the washcloth, but I couldn't tell if it was hot or cold. Pretty amazing.

It was about 1am at this point. Paul was crawling in to his cot to sleep, and I was finally able to close my eyes and rest. I had to wake up every hour to turn over, and at 5am, I was unable to fall back asleep. The pressure was SO intense. Not pain... but the discomfort was just as bad... I quietly asked the nurse if I should be able to feel the pressure so CLEARLY. She told me the epidural was probably wearing off, and I could press my button for more if I needed. So, I pressed. Nothing happened.

The anesthesiologist came back in and gave me something to take the edge off again... it helped briefly, but at this point, we'd called Patti and Liz back to the hospital because I was feeling a pressure so intense that my body was beginning to push on its own. I couldn't hold back.

The nurse checked me, and thought I was dilated to a 6. But, she wanted a second opinion for some reason (probably because I was "the girl that doesn't dilate"), so she brought the midwife in. She checked me, and determined that I was actually dilated to a 7 or an 8. So, whether it happened in those few short minutes, or whether the initial check was wrong, I don't know. But I do know that I was FLOODED with relief. FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY. I was making progress.

Our family got back to the hospital around 7am, I think... and they checked me one more time. Dilated to 9.5. I would have been excited, but I was feeling too much pressure to think about anything except for pushing. The told me that I was going to have to "labor down" and get to a 10 before I could start pushing, because there was one part of my cervix that wasn't dilating.

Patti stepped in at that point, and asked them if they could help to "hold back" the part that wasn't dilated, so I could start pushing. The nurses said: "Oh... sure!" and I was again over-the-top grateful for a Doula that knew I had options even when I didn't. I was prepared to deal with this insane pressure for a few hours before I could officially push this baby out, but Patti knew there were other things we could do.

So, around 8am, I began to push. I pushed for an hour and a half. I wish I could describe how this hour and a half felt... but the only word I can think of is "desperate". I was desperate to get him OUT. I watched the clock and made mini-goals.

"Ok, by 8:15am, he will be OUT..."

"Ok, ok... by 8:34, he will be OUT..."

It was the most exhausting time for sure. My epidural had worn off, and I could feel EVERYTHING. The pushing felt good, just like everyone said it would, besides being physically overwhelming. I had people telling me how to push, reminding me not to hold my breath, to focus all my attention on the push rather than the outlet of crying out, etc.

I remember seeing the nurses hurrying to get things ready... prepping blankets, turning on the warmer, getting out the scale... I knew I was getting close. Close, but yet so far away. Even one more push seemed impossible. But, every time, I did just one more. And another. And another. God provided me strength that I didn't even know I had... and in the moment of actually gritting your teeth and putting 110% of yourself into that push, it's amazing how much you realize you are capable of.

With every push came cheers of encouragement from my family and the nurses... but no baby. I was getting frustrated again. "If I'm doing so good, why isn't he out yet!?" They reminded me that every push was like three steps forward, and two steps back. With every push, he gets closer... but it takes some time and repetition. I wanted to ask "how many more times do I have to push!?" but held back. They won't give you a number, just FYI. I learned that from watching Amelia come into this world! ;) During one push, one of the nurses told me: "he has some hair!" and that gave me just a little bit more energy. They can see his head. They can see his head.

Finally, during one last set of pushes, the nurse screamed: "ONE MORE. You have to give us ONE MORE." I remember feeling annoyed, because I'd just done three in a row, but apparently the urgency in her voice summoned up a last burst of strength within me (FYI, I don't remember the nurse yelling this at me, Paul told me later).

So I pushed one more time. Somehow. And I held on just a few seconds longer than I thought humanly possible.

I felt him leave my body and come into the world at 9:30am on December 20th, 2012. I felt everything.

The feeling of relief is like nothing else... instantly (and I mean instantly) the pain and pressure is gone and your body is at rest. They placed this little human on my chest and all I could hear was the crying and relief from around the room.

He was purple and covered in white (I was always afraid I would be scared to touch... that... but I wasn't at all, ha! It's so funny, the things you think will gross you out about childbirth that end up not even phasing you). He didn't cry right away. His eyes were open and he was blinking up at me, probably registering Paul and I for the first time. It was an out of body experience... I just couldn't stop staring.

Paul was crying. I was in too much shock to cry at this moment, but I knew it was coming. Patti reminded me quietly in my right ear to talk to him, and so I finally managed to choke out a few words: "Hi, baby... hi. Hi." And then I lost it.

The midwife showed us the knot in his chord - a true knot, they called it. It was huge. Paul went white, but someone reminded him that baby was breathing and all was well, and then he visibly relaxed as Porter started to cry.

It was a boy. Porter Alan Burton, ten fingers, ten toes, two eyes (for a minute, he only opened his left eye and I was a little worried that he may only have one eyeball), and a light layer of hair.

The midwife started pressing on my stomach (THE most annoying thing ever after you've just delivered a baby). A few moments later, a nurse cheerfully announced to the room that my placenta was beautiful (WHAT? Eww! But thanks?) and then some other things happened that I don't need to blog about. :) I was too infatuated with my husband crying and our little baby calmly staring at the both of us that I don't remember much else... just a lot of commotion.

Paul took him over to be weighed - 8lbs, .8 oz (rounded up to 8lbs, 1oz), and 20.5 inches long. He was long and lean like daddy, and absolutely perfect.

Labor didn't go how I planned... in fact, it went pretty much exactly how I had hoped it wouldn't. But... Paul and I took a few minutes the other day to talk about all the things that did go our way:
  • I got to feel my water break (I was alway hoping that is how I would go into labor... by my water breaking at home, or something)

  • I got to labor in the tub. Ideally, I wanted to deliver in the tub, but I'll take what I can get

  • I got to feel the pain and intensity of contractions with no drugs

  • Thankfully, I didn't have to have a C-Section... I got to do it the old-fashioned way, which I was terrified of! But, I did it. Check that off my bucket list.

  • I got to use my playlist that I created for labor

  • I grew even closer and more in love with Paul in the process, which was an unexpected bonus. He was MY ROCK.

  • We have a healthy, happy baby boy

  • He was, in fact, a boy!! (One of my late-blooming fears was that the ultrasound was wrong)

  • I loved ALL my nurses. 36+ hours of labor ensures that I had several different ones, and ALL of them were amazing and kind. Marcy and Monica will forever stick out in my mind, though - they were there during the long nights and uneventful/painful days. Then, the nurses who actually were there for the delivery, Sarah and Jada were amazing. Donna, the midwife that delivered Porter was wonderful. I was blessed with an amazing team of people. Patti made things happen, but that didn't mean that the nurses weren't incredibly kind and helpful. I'm so thankful for them.

  • Paul cried :)
It's been a little over a week, and I am counting my blessings that not only did I survive labor - but I'm getting to the point now where I can laugh and talk about it. They say you forget about it all, the minute the baby arrives - but I'm here to tell you that is not the case. Haha. Sorry to all my pregnant friends; you DON'T forget immediately, at least not in my scenario. But, it does get better and better every single day.

And my story is my own... I know SO many people with three-hour deliveries that thought it was the best time of their life! And had I went into labor on my own, even a week late, my experience could have been entirely different. I could have been one of those fast labors, too. Every experience is just so different, and I'm so grateful for Porter's birth story. I'm so grateful that it's over, I'm so grateful for the support I had, and I'm so grateful for my beautiful, healthy son.

He amazes me every single day. I could stare at him for hours and hours. In fact, I probably have. We can't decide who he looks like. Sometimes, he looks like Paul, and other times, the expressions he makes are ALL Cohee. Right now, we've decided that he is a perfect blend of us both, and it will be fun to watch him grow into his own little person.

Thank you, God, for a beautiful birth story. Thank you for proving some of my fears wrong, and for showing me that you had a perfect plan all along. Thank you for reminding me that my fears are trivial, and this was something so much more than I was capable of comprehending. Thank you for health, protection, and your unwavering love and strength in even the darkest and latest hour. Thank you for our son, and for our marriage. Life is pretty perfect.

And some more pictures from our own camera, including a few after I was able to shower (and thus, looking and feeling human again!)


  1. aaah! seriously the most beautifully written thing ever!
    i can relate so much to things that you experienced, birth is a crazy amazing thing with so much ugly stuff that happens in between, haha. thanks for sharing!!

    ps, i held it together the whole story till that last photo, then lost it. so beautiful!

  2. You did it! Congrats! Welcome, Porter! If you can get through the first two weeks, you're set. It's such an emotional time. Welcome to the Mama club! (And doulas are totally awesome. Everyone should have one).

  3. It might be because I just gave birth a month ago so the memories are still fresh, but youre story totally made me cry a little. Its such an amazing experience. Congratulations on youre little guy!

  4. Thanks so much! It truly was an amazing experience, I still think back and wonder how in the world I did it! Haha. It was surreal! Congrats to you, as well!! Aren't you just loving being a MOMMY?

  5. I definitely agree, first two weeks are TRYING... but so blessed! It's been exhausting and emotional... but I feel better and more comfortable every single day!

  6. Since he is almost a year old, I went back and read through this.... so sweet. I teared up may times. My favorite picture is the one of ALL the girls watching you and just in tears and you see joy and excitement all over - it is such an emotional and wonderful picture! Cant believe Porter is almost One!