Birth Stories

Birth Story of Isla Eve: From Dad’s Perspective

The birth of my daughter almost seems abstract after three years has passed. She has grown up to become an intelligent, strong willed (aka stubborn) and confident little girl. Raising small children is the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life, and it has challenged me to become a better person through all of the difficulties.

Chad and Isla

Prior to Isla’s birth, it was hard to comprehend the reality of becoming a father. I felt a much deeper connection with my wife and fell madly in love with her beautiful pregnant body. It sounds a bit odd, but we often joke that I had developed a bit of a fetish. As her due date approached, we began to get everything organized for her arrival, but it still somehow didn’t feel real. I had not yet developed the connection that Nicole had already begun to experience through carrying her for 9 months.

We were a couple of days past the due date and were taking everyone’s advice and enjoying our time alone before Isla’s arrival. We had stayed up a bit late and I had probably had a little too much wine, I was drinking for two after all. Nicole woke me up around 2 a.m. and told me that she thought her water broke. I asked her if she was sure that she hadn’t just accidentally peed the bed. Being the good husband, I took a peek under the hood and confirmed that it was in fact probably not just urine. She tried to go back to sleep and I began to time the contractions to see where we were at. We quickly realized that we were too excited to sleep and that the contractions were getting closer together. We called the hospital and they wanted us to come in because her water had broken. They assured us that we would be able to come back home for early labor, so I didn’t even grab the hospital bag. Everything that we had learned about the first birth was that it would be a long experience.

Chad and Isla

On the short drive to the hospital I passed the entrance and had to execute a U-turn. I was clearly a little nervous at this point. We got checked into the triage room and apparently Nicole had progressed enough to need a doctor’s opinion on whether or not we would be able to go home. In the short amount of time the nurse was consulting with the OB everything began to change. The nurse came back in and looked at the strip and told us we were staying. Now I felt like a complete idiot for not grabbing the bag. No worries, I would speed home while they got her settled in. Twenty minutes and no missed turns later I was back at the hospital and Nicole was in serious pain. When I walked in she asked me for some pain medication. I waited until her contraction was over and let her know that she could do it without the meds. I’m not sure if she just needed that quick reminder or just needed to know that I truly believed in her, but that was the last time that topic came up.

As the labor progressed I had no idea what to do. The first few breaks between contractions I was offering her water or wiping her brow and asking her what she needed. I quickly realized that I was interfering with her and that I needed to get out of her way. At this point, she turned inward and I was awe struck by her amazing focus and strength. She was in serious pain and from the outside, it seemed as if she was in a trance. We were fortunate enough to have extremely knowledgeable nurses who were very supportive of an unmedicated birth. We had a shift change around 7 a.m. and Valli would be our primary nurse for the day. She showed me different ways to press on Nicole’s hips and back to help relieve the pain and it made a massive difference.

The rest of the morning is a bit of a blur as we moved back and forth between the tub and the bed. She tried several positions, but lying on her side seem to work the best while I pressed hard on the top of her hip. I was literally standing on the seat of a chair for leverage as I pushed with as much strength as I could muster. Both of our mothers were in the room for support, and at some point someone asked if I wanted breakfast. I realized that I was hungry and Nicole’s mom offered to take over while I had a quick bite. After one bite and the first contraction, it was clear that Leslie wasn’t able to apply enough pressure, so I was back in the game. Food would have to wait. Nicole’s original plan was to have as few people in the room as possible, but once she began laboring she was happy to have the support that we did. My mom has been a labor and delivery nurse for over 30 years and it was amazing to have her in the room. She had a very calm demeanor that radiated to the rest of us in the room.  Nicole’s mother was in the room as well and was extremely supportive and did everything she could do to help. It’s interesting how the plans changed in the moment and how well Nicole did with little subtle twists.

Chad and Isla

Around 10 a.m., Nicole was fully dilated and it was time to push. For some reason, I thought this would be quick. Once again, I was reminded of how little I knew about childbirth. I watched as Nicole gathered everything she had to push Isla into this world and felt completely helpless as she neared exhaustion. I was overwhelmed with emotion because I could do nothing but stand by her side and encourage her. She was in the middle of the hardest fight of her life and I had to let her handle it. We tried several different positions for her to push from and ended up with her feet up on bars on the end of the bed. She was given a towel to pull on that was connected to that same bar. Her strength during the pushing was amazing.

The doctor was called in and I could tell that she was becoming impatient with the progress. She told one of the nurses to draw up a local and I guessed that she was about to conduct an episiotomy if things didn’t progress. I leaned down and told Nicole that she was almost there and that she had to push as hard as possible. She knew what was going on despite her exhaustion and that was all that she needed. A couple more big pushes and we got to meet our daughter for the first time.

It was amazing to watch her come into this world. Saying it was surreal would be an understatement. She didn’t make a peep when she came out. They immediately placed her on Nicole’s chest and there was a massive wave of relief that washed over the room. Nicole was now the mother to my daughter and I have never been more proud of her than I was in that moment.

Chad, Nicole, and Isla

The staff became a little worried with Isla’s color and the fact that she hadn’t let out a good scream. They checked her O2 saturation levels and became a little concerned that they were a bit low. My mom was an amazing resource during this time because she assured us that everything was going to be fine. I fully trusted her experience and knowledge and the conviction she had. Over the course of the next few hours, her oxygen levels drifted slowly higher to an acceptable range and everything looked good. We were in the clear and had a perfectly healthy baby girl.

The experience of Isla’s birth was profound on many different levels. I was witness to the miracle of childbirth and the amazing strength of my beautiful wife. It’s still hard to comprehend and process everything that happened that day, but becoming a father has changed a lot of things in my life. My intent is to provide the anchor that they need as they grow and explore and figure out what they want to pursue in this world. The responsibility has awoken in me the desire to accomplish more and live life intentionally. I don’t think that I have fully comprehended how much my life has and will change. It’s exciting to think about the journey ahead with this little addition to our family.    

Written by Chad Peyton

Birth Stories

Birth Story of Ace: From Dad’s Perspective

Danny Lesslie of Dadswagger wrote this story about his second-born daughter, Ace. Dadswagger empowers fathers to be present with their families. His Instagram account features images of dads being dads in their everyday lives, and illustrates the power of a present father. Hear more on Danny’s birth and fatherhood perspective here.

Birth Story of Ace

Birth—what a crazy experience! It really is hard to put into words and feel like I have even scratched the surface or the emotion/experience of it all. The first birth was a true rite of passage for us. I have never been a part of something so visceral, and wildly joyful at the same time. There were moments of sheer terror, and moments of unequaled gratitude. My wife, a warrior and a champion of humanity, took no drugs, and fought tooth and nail for hours for us to meet our first daughter. I watched and was by her side as it all went down, with the few bouts of nausea, and 2-3 near blackouts. Not to downplay the pregnancy, because that was no easy task. I just got to go along for the ride and see what strength really is.

After all was said and done with our first, it turned out that we were still discussing the birth all the time. My wife was, and still is dealing with the psychological and physical implications of creating, and birthing a human. This is quite a journey and everyone has some serious adjusting and healing to do. If I had it all to do again, I would do exactly what I did. I believe my wife would say the same. We would change nothing. Our daughters are beautiful and bring us more joy than I can explain. But birth is traumatic, it is not a pleasant experience. Each birth is in the wild success column, and each birth was completely different, and equally as traumatic.

For the birth of our second daughter, my wife was 7 cm dilated when we got to the birth center. If you don’t know this is well on your way, 10 cm is the number to start pushing and baby is coming soon. We got to the birth center about 6 a.m., and she had our daughter by 8:45 a.m. This birth was way faster than our first. My wife was also present the entire time. In the first birth, it was almost like she left her body, and her body did the work. I distinctly remember the moment she left, and the exact moment she returned. This is part of the mysteriousness of the whole experience. In the second birth, she was lucid and battling demons and pain the entire time. It was truly an amazing thing to be a part of. Let no one ever tell you birth is easy, or downplay the strength of a mother. I am about to reinforce this with our birth story. The pushing, the screaming, the vicious reality, the hope and excitement when you see your child’s head. I can’t help but get teary eyed talking about it.

Then came the moment, my wife pushed one final time and our baby’s head came out, then quickly came the rest of her beautiful little body. The first time you lay your eyes on someone you created is a moment I wish for all of you. You can’t help but lose your breath and just feel humility for the blessing. The sense of warmth in my heart and soul radiated through my whole body. We still didn’t know what we had. Boy or girl. Our trusted midwife Robyn immediately laid the baby on mama. So then we looked, we had a girl. YES! We couldn’t be more proud, and grateful. I cannot explain to you the sense of relief when your child is out safely on mama’s belly. Everyone was finally calm. The crazy confusing hurricane of birth was past us. While you are anxiously awaiting the birth, contraction to contraction is like a roller coaster if you were blindfolded, you are on the verge of sick the entire time, sweating, and your heartbeat is through the roof. This can go on for hours, with no end in sight. And finally it comes to an end, and all your anxiety melts into pure joy, relief.

Our midwife then began to do the post-birth activities, one of which is clamping the umbilical cord. She grabbed onto it, as mama and I were fawning and feasting our eyes on or new baby girl. When suddenly we realized something was awry. The umbilical cord just pulled right out. It was attached to nothing. This is a big “no bueno.” If you have never been a part of a birth, the baby is the first thing to come out of mama. Then must come the placenta. This is attached to the umbilical cord. Typically, you grab ahold of the cord and apply traction. While doing this mama, has a few more contractions that help push her placenta out. This is not a pleasant or comfortable thing for mama, either. The placenta is not meant to stay inside the mama. When it does, it is called a retained placenta. Although somewhat rare, this definitely does happen. Our well-earned relief quickly took a very sharp and treacherous turn. As if birth was not enough of a traumatic experience, we then learned that our midwife was going to have to go on a recon mission for the placenta.

You can use your imagination as to what has to go on here, but this bad boy has to come out. Our midwife calmly went through the options with us about how to frame this and move forward. After a painful and exhausting 30 min. or so of failed attempts at getting the placenta to come out, we as a team—midwife, mama, and papa—decided it was time to go in. By going in, I mean going in to the hospital, which means drugs, and a whole host of things we specifically chose to avoid. Herein lies a risk in out-of-hospital births. There are some things that are just not possible. We were willing to accept these risks. We were all heartbroken. Such a moment of joy, and still mama was not in the clear. She was far from it. In these moments where she should be basking in the warmth of her new baby on her chest, she was quivering with exhaustion, and facing the reality that she still had work to do.

We made the choice to send our older daughter home with grandma, I would stay at the birth center with the new baby, and our midwife and my wife would go to the hospital. I almost threw up even playing this out in my head. Fuck no! I won’t let my wife go alone, without me. But we were not taking our just-born daughter into a hospital waiting room. Not a chance. So I was stuck. Then my mind began to race. In this moment that is supposed to be so perfect, I am horrified as I hold my brand new daughter. What a weird moment in time. My heart didn’t know whether to be completely broken, or to be exploding with joy. I now have two baby girls, and I am shuttering at the thought of my wife not being OK. What if by some crazy circumstance my wife doesn’t come back? What if something goes wrong and I am not there? How is this now a life and death thing? Is this a possibility? My heart was hurting, I wanted to burst into tears as I watched my wife endure this. But we were going forward. It was the only way.

My wife stood up off the bed, quivering. We all felt so defeated. We began to wipe her off, and wrap a towel around her to get ready for the trip to the hospital. I had a thought, and asked her to squat down and see if that might help the placenta move along. As she squatted down, all that once was hope, like a small candle in the distance began to grow. She peered down between her legs, and there it was. She said she could see the placenta. So Robyn encouraged her to try to grab it. I was fully goose-bumped and almost shivering as this went down. It was like God put a handle on that weird looking squishy thing. My wife grabbed onto her placenta and pulled it out. WHAT?! Let me say that again: MY WIFE GRABBED ONTO HER PLACENTA AND PULLED IT OUT! Now THAT is some POWER OF A WOMAN WARRIOR SHIT! What was a terribly dismal and heartbroken scene, exploded into pure awestruck jubilation. I swear my heart skipped 20 beats. We were all in tears, we were all just giddy. My wife was OK. I cannot relay the sense of calm in my heart at this moment. It almost seemed like we just played out some sort of unrealistic fantasy together. Reality was bent. I still have to pinch myself to know it’s really true. No matter what happens, you better read the last page of that book. Holy moly, is there some serious truth to that statement?!

Then our midwife helped my wife to the shower where she helped her to shower off, and we were good to go. With a little bit of relaxing we were in the car headed home. We joked about going to get waffles for lunch. This was crazy, this whole thing still has me speechless. It still seems fake.

I was seriously taken aback at the thought of possibly losing my wife while sitting there holding our daughter. For some reason, when you think of having a baby, you don’t think about loss, or problems, or that everything and everyone might not be OK. These moments are burned into our story, and they are forever etched into the story of my wife’s strength as a human and as a mother. I am in awe! I am so blessed to have such a wife, and two powerful and beautiful baby girls.

My wife and I always spoke about having many kids. I was the one who wanted to push four to the craziness of six. After this birth, my wife said that might be the last baby she has. I couldn’t be more in agreement. I harbor no ill will to this perspective after watching her give birth to our two daughters, and watching the recoveries from both. Each birth had its own drama, and its own trauma. Don’t let anyone tell you birth is not beautiful, but there is also a dark side. It forever leaves scars, it forever leaves emotional and psychological hurdles to be dealt with.

Danny and family

I can tell you this: I don’t want to be back in the shoes of being in a life and death situation again. Making those choices haunts a person. We were crazy fortunate to have made out like birth bandits on this day. We have two beautiful girls, I have my warrior of a wife, and I have to tell you there is nothing more I/we need.

Each day, I see my three beautiful girls, and they all remind me of the strength of the others. I will never forget the experiences of seeing them both come into this world. I look at them and I see the strength of my wife, I look at my wife and am eternally thankful for the two amazing gifts she has given me. This is all positive. Granted, birth is like going through the ringer and then being run over by a truck, and I am the dad. I don’t know how my wife does it. Let me tell you, watching someone go through and experience what I have described is an amazing thing. Talk about falling hopelessly in love. This is my life.

Written by Danny Lesslie

Birth Stories

Birth Story of Rue

I have been thinking about featuring birth stories written by dads for a while now. My goal with The BIRTH Project is to empower women but I don’t think that should exclude dads. One of the most empowering things during my birth experiences was hearing afterward how my husband viewed me during labor. It was incredible to hear that he was in awe of my strength while enduring contractions and delivery.

Below is the first birth story I have published written by a dad. Danny Lesslie of Dadswagger wrote this story about his first-born daughter, Rue. Dadswagger empowers fathers to be present with their families. His Instagram account features images of dads being dads in their everyday lives, and illustrates the power of a present father.  

Birth Story of Rue

As I lay here with my 5-day-old daughter on my chest sound asleep, and her beautiful mother by my side, which by the way is the definition of magical, I am thinking back to the moment she came into this world.

I have been thinking about a way to describe what went on Saturday night for days now. I had no idea what we were in for on the way in on Saturday. We took birthing classes and talked to people and thought we were super informed, but there is definitely a reason that people talk about a “Rite of Passage.” You just don’t know until you experience it.

I want to make an attempt at describing to you the power and the beauty of this night. I have always respected women since I was young (kudos to my mother and father on this one). I have a whole new respect and wonder for women after this past weekend, however.

The contractions just kept getting stronger and stronger as the day went on. I have never seen such effort, such struggle, such calm, and such chaos all in the same moment. Each contraction was like a whole roller coaster, and there were a lot of them. The intensity and anticipation in the room built for hours. I was getting tired. I can not even believe what my wife was enduring. Then came the point of doubt, when she was beginning to falter in her struggle. You could see the battle in her eyes, and the exhaustion in her body. She pushed through.

Then, things got real. It was “go time.” All of what had been endured was just getting her and us ready for what was to come. With every push I think all of our hearts stopped. The intensity in these moments towered over all that we had seen. Then, the baby’s head started to show! If you can imagine all of the instruments in an orchestra playing as loudly as possible with all the stage lights flashing, followed immediately by cold silence. This was each moment.

I am not sure how many contractions there were, but it had to be more than 20. With each one, the excitement would build and build, and then drop. It was like a drumroll getting faster and faster each time, and then just going away. Then with exhaustion thick as a deep fog, I want you to close your eyes and imagine sitting in a dark cold cave with no light, cold enough to see your breath. When you realize you’re really alone and you shiver and begin to doubt your safety. Then, I want you to imagine a lion roaring right behind you, the depth of that sound, the primal rawness to that sound, the majesty in that sound. It is unmistakeable. It engulfs you. It can only be seen and experienced in the wild. All of the hairs stand up on your body, you can’t move, you are in it, and your heart is beating out of your chest.

This is the moment.

When my wife screamed on the last contraction, this was the sound, this is what I felt. This was the surge of warmth, and vibrance. This was the most powerful, beautiful, raw, and joyful moment of my life. This is when we met our baby girl. I am forever indebted to my wife for this moment and this gift. All changed on this day!

To all those moms out there. This one goes out to you. What you do … well, there are no words that can do it justice!

Written by Danny Lesslie