Welcome to The BIRTH Project! This inaugural birth story is the reason The BIRTH Project exists. The best way for me to explain how I became passionate about birth stories is to tell mine. The experiencing of birthing my first born opened up a whole new part of my mind and my heart. It empowered me in ways I had never imagined.
Isla Eve Peyton was born on Jan. 23, 2016, at 12:27 p.m. She weighed 7 lb., 12 oz. and was 21 inches long. She had a full head of black hair and big blue eyes. She was—and continues to be—more than worth the work it took to get her earth side.
I had a grand plan to go into labor about midday, when I’d be nice and showered, dressed, and hopefully with a nourishing meal in my belly. But as birth goes, Isla had a different plan.
I woke up around 2 a.m. knowing either my water had broken, or I had peed the bed (which was entirely possible at three days post-date). I told my husband, Chad, I thought it was my water because it kept coming. I decided to lie back down and try to sleep. I knew I was about to embark on a very taxing journey, and the docs had recommended that I try to get some rest if this were to happen, as some women are able to sleep through early labor. Not me.
I tried to fall back asleep but the contractions started coming and quickly became far too uncomfortable for me to sleep through. We called Sutter Maternity Center, in Santa Cruz, California, grabbed my bag and off we went. As we drove down the empty roads somewhere around 2:30 in the morning, Chad passed the entrance to the hospital. He must’ve been as nervous as I was! A quick U-turn and we were checking in.
We thought they’d examine me and send us home to experience several hours of early labor in the comfort of our own surroundings like we had hoped for—another plan that didn’t pan out the way we thought it would. They admitted me right away as my contractions were only a few minutes apart and getting stronger.
I got settled into a comfortable room with a big tub that someone had filled with warm water. For the next couple hours, I still felt like me. I was present and communicative, aware and alert. But once I transitioned, I was in what can only be described as a trance. I needed to focus, moan through the contractions, and try to relax. The contractions were without a doubt the most excruciating pain I had ever felt and my plan to have a natural birth was starting to seem ridiculous and impossible. In birthing class I learned that “contractions will be about a minute apart” means the contraction will start at the top of the minute, last for 30 seconds or so and start again at the top of the next minute. So 1-2 minutes apart is deceptive. I’d get 20-30 seconds of “rest”—maybe. I asked for drugs once and Chad gently reminded me why I wanted to do this naturally. I remember thinking even an ibuprofen might help. Silly me.
It’s a bit of a blur for me after that. I recall moving back and forth from the bed to the tub, I remember switching positions from a squat to my side to my back. I remember the nurse, Valli, teaching Chad how to apply pressure to my low back to help ease the pain of the contractions—a true lifesaver. I remember my mom, Leslie, and my mother-in-law, Janet, around me, supporting me, patting my forehead with washcloths and giving me sips of water.
Amidst the blur, I vividly remember the nurse saying it was time to push. Hallelujah! I thought this would be the quick part. I was almost done! Pushing felt amazing. It relieved the pain of the contractions. But exhaustion soon set in. I had just endured 8 1/2 hours of labor and pushing with everything I had was easier said than done.
I never felt the “urge to push” that so many women say they experience, so in hindsight, I think my body might not have been 100 percent ready to start. Regardless, I listened to my care team and kept pushing.
After more than an hour, Dr.Moore—our awesome OBGYN who had been working with us since the start of the pregnancy—told me I needed to push harder. The truth is, I know I wasn’t pushing as hard as I could. Isla’s head was partway out and I was terrified to tear. I wanted someone to do it for me at that point. Just reach in and grab her!
I heard Dr. Moore ask the nurse to get a local. She was going to give me an episiotomy if I didn’t get Isla out in the next few pushes. I mustered up the strength—mentally and physically—to get her out of there. No tearing, no episiotomy, no drugs—just like I wanted. A few things went as planned! They put her on my chest and life was never the same.
The birth of our daughter was impactful in the most profound way, and while I was proud to have experienced the process mostly like I wanted to, I was disheartened at the thought of any woman coming out of childbirth feeling defeated. The idea that a woman would be ashamed that her experience didn’t go as planned made my heart literally ache. And so The BIRTH Project was born. It wasn’t until the birth of my second child (a birth story for another day) that I actually realized the aspirations I had to help women feel empowered through their childbirth experiences, but the seed was planted when Isla was born.
Written by Nicole Peyton