The Birth Story of Eleanor*
Names changed for client privacy
I started working with the Smiths when Dani was just beginning her third trimester of pregnancy. I met with her and Aaron three times in their home, to cover the necessary material, and to get to know them a little bit. I found Dani intelligent and inquisitive, often asking about birthing options even I was not aware of. Aaron was very supportive of Dani’s desire to be prepared for the event of childbirth.
Dani was interested in making sure she advocated well for baby “Peanut.” Several weeks before she was due, she had convinced Dr. Adele not to follow general protocol for Peanut, which would have been to induce her once she made it to her gestational due date. I found it interesting that this was even a concern to Dani, because most mothers can’t even imagine going past due. Yet, Dani almost seemed to be planning on it. I was curious to see whether she would be right. As it turned out, she most certainly was.
Dr. Adele monitored Dani and Peanut closely during the days following the due date. From carefully observing the amniotic fluid levels, Dr. Adele was able to determine that Dani would need to be induced, and set the date. Dani had advocated well for Peanut; the induction was not just being scheduled because of protocol; it was being scheduled for good medical reason, and well past Dani’s due date. Dani had already been experiencing mild, irregular contractions in the days prior, which is symptomatic of “Early Labor.” For Dani, these contractions had resulted in a 2 cm cervical dilation, which gave her a good head start for being induced.
Just before 11p.m. on a Wednesday night, the first dose of Cytotec was administered. Dani continued to experience irregular contractions throughout the night. She and Aaron tried to rest as they waited for labor to begin, but found it difficult. Nurses coming in and out, the sound of Peanut’s heart rate on the monitor, and general nervousness all probably contributed to the issue. Still, they were glad to know they were safe and in good hands.
Around 3:30 the following morning, I got a call from Aaron asking me to come into the hospital. Dani’s water had broken after the second dose of Cytotec and the contractions were getting stronger. The agreement had been for them to call me whenever they felt ready for me to join them, in hopes that we would all get some rest. I have to admit I was glad to get the call; I was awake most of the night out of excitement for them anyway.
When I arrived at 4:30, I found them sitting quietly in the hospital room, Dani on the birth ball and Aaron on the doctor’s stool, both watching the monitor that showed Dani’s contractions. I observed Dani for a few contractions, turned the down the volume on the monitor, and offered a few tips (one of which was to stop watching the contractions, which were “coupling”—a dysfunctional labor pattern that can also be a symptom of early labor.) We walked a lap around the halls of the Birthing Center, pausing so that Dani could lean on the hand rails during her growing contractions.
Dani’s nurse, Michelle, met us in the hall because the wireless monitors weren’t picking up Peanut’s heart patterns. By around 5:30, the four of us made our way back to the room so that Michelle could reset the monitors. Upon our return, Dani started feeling nauseous. This indicated that there were hormonal changes occurring, and I felt encouraged (although I don’t think Dani enjoyed it very much.) Michelle explained that she would be back in about an hour to decide about whether to start Pitocin.
Because they had been up all night, and the day shift nurses were about to come on and would possibly start Pitocin, I suggested that Dani and Aaron take a hot shower to relax and stimulate the release of Oxytocin. I figured it would also refresh their mindset and help them to welcome the new day. I stepped out into the waiting room and spent my time in prayer, giving thanks that Dani was being given the opportunity to experience labor as she had wished. In response I felt led to write the following instructions to myself in my notes: “Support. Kindness. Be Faithful.” These words cued me in to how God needed me to care for Dani. I was appreciative of the reminder that nobody’s labor experience is ever exactly like anyone else’s, and that I would need to remain in tune with her and Aaron in order to help them the way God wanted me to.
At 6:30, Michelle came in to start the Pitocin. A cervical check showed that Dani had dilated to 4 ½ cm, which, according to Dr. Grantly Dicks-Reed’s “Pillars of Parturition,” explained why Dani didn’t particularly want to be in labor anymore. She had approached the first “Pillar.” I reminded her that a new rush of endorphins would be coming, applied aromatherapy to her feet, massaged her back, and offered ideas for new positions to try. Aaron was always present, encouraging Dani, praying over her, and providing scripture for her to read. He seemed very in tune with, and respectful of, Dani’s need to quietly withdraw within herself as her contractions grew in intensity and frequency.
The nurses changed shifts and at 7:30 a.m., nurse Juli came in to meet Dani and assess her progress. As soon as I saw her, I knew we were in good hands. While Michelle had been an excellent nurse, I have worked with Juli before—in fact, I had even joked with Dani and Aaron that if they could try to go into labor on a Thursday during the daytime, they would probably end up with the best nurse ever. As it worked out, it was Thursday, it was daytime, and that nurse was Juli. I was tickled to see her and felt so grateful for this little ‘nod from God’.
The Pitocin had been turned up from 2 mU/min to 4 mU/min. Dani had dilated to 6 cm and was in a good labor pattern at this point, so Juli decided to keep the Pitocin level there. Dani did a great job of remaining passive during her contractions, welcoming each one and sometimes even verbalizing the word “down,” in an effort to coach her body through the hard work it was doing. Dani’s mom, Charlene, arrived around 8:40 to find her daughter in full-blown labor, working hard through every contraction to keep from fighting her body’s efforts. I explained to her the same thing Aaron had explained to me upon my own arrival, which was that Dani needed quiet and plenty of space. He had proven exactly right about that.
Not once did Dani lose her composure. As labor progressed I tried to encourage her to keep her eyes open so as not to feel isolated in the pain. For many women, shutting the eyes leads to a fearful state that can make it difficult for them to deal with labor the way they ultimately hope to. But Dani was not afraid. Aaron stayed with her, offering his quiet support, just as she needed. Sometimes she would pray, and other times she would express the intensity of her contractions, yet she was always totally calm. Her eyes were closed, but she was never alone. She had a good support system and had called on the presence of the Holy Spirit. I believe she was kept in perfect peace for this reason. (Isaiah 26:3)
At one point Dani briefly considered asking for an IV pain medication. But almost as quickly as she thought of it, she changed her mind again. We stuck with scripture, aromatherapy, massage, back pressure, and position changes. By around 9:15 a.m., Dani was so tired that she was falling asleep between contractions. Juli instructed her to lie on her side with a peanut-shaped ball between her knees. At 9:40, Dani informed us of a strong need to push.
Juli called Dr. Adele in. As we awaited her arrival, Dani mentioned wanting to push in a squatting position. Juli told her the baby was “right there” and that pushing in a squatting position would cause the baby to be born too quickly and would likely cause injury to Dani. (It is times like these that I so value the experience and insight of good medical professionals.) At 10:10, Dr. Adele arrived and told Dani to go ahead and push. I watched in amazement as Dani remained passive, even at the brink of delivery. She wanted to be sure to take her time, working with her body so as not to cause injury to herself. I have never seen anyone so calm at this point in labor. After several more minutes of waiting, Dani went ahead and started pushing. It didn’t take her long. Baby Eleanor was born at 10:30 a.m. (She remained “Peanut,” however, until she was named later that morning.)
Aaron was much braver than he thought he would be. Of all the horror stories he had heard before, none of them were true for him. It wasn’t gory. He didn’t pass out. Watching the birth of his daughter seemed to bring him to life. His quiet support turned to proud excitement as he and Dani introduced themselves to their beautiful 7 ½-pound daughter. A whole new energy seemed to beam out of him as he cut the cord and informed the nurses of their wishes for various newborn procedures. He even took a picture of the placenta.
Dani changed in the moments after Eleanor’s birth, too. While just minutes before she had been so incredibly tired and withdrawn, she was suddenly energized and interactive. She spoke to Eleanor as if she had known her all her life. She beamed right alongside Aaron. Together, the three of them made a picture-perfect family.
Before I left, Juli pointed out that Dani had only been in active labor for about 3 hours. As I think about the incredible progression and the way Dani sailed through it with such steadfastness, I know that it was God’s power that got her through. And really, it was God’s kindness that made it quick. By seeking God’s presence, she and Aaron had all of His goodness in the room that day as their precious daughter was born. It was beautiful and amazing to witness.
“With the help of the Lord, I have brought forth a child.” Genesis 4:1
Dani and Aaron, congratulations on the birth of your beautiful baby girl. You two are a great team. Thank you for welcoming my presence; it was an honor to be there with you. And baby Eleanor, may you always know that God was there the day you were born. May He be with you ever more. Happy Birth Day.
Jennifer is a Holistic Christian Doula in Colorado Springs. In addition to coaching couples through a Christ-centered childbirth experience, she also specializes in wellness coaching for pregnant and postpartum women and their babies. She is the author of Expectant Parents Workshop and the proud owner of Eden’s Promise, LLC.
To learn more about Jennifer, please go to EdensPromiseLLC.com