Cullen’s Birth Story

October 26, 2014

They always said your labor and delivery will not be how you planned, and while I had an ideal picture in my mind, I knew that it would probably happen in a much different way. But let’s just say what actually happened was FAR from what I hoped and not even close to any other ways I even considered!


My ideal, original birth plan:

– Labor at home as long as possible

– Vaginal delivery

– Natural labor–no drugs to take away the pain and the least amount of other drug intervention at all possible.

– Of course I wanted a short labor. My mom’s was  6 hours, and they say that exercise during pregnancy really helps as well, so I was optimistic mine would follow the same path.

But here’s how it really went down. . . . . .

Wednesday, October 22

7:00 a.m.

I woke up with wet pajama shorts.

I had a pretty strong feeling my water had broken after soaking several pads that morning. Unfortunately my contractions did not start right away, which they should have. To help this process move along, I tried walking (I took Sadie for a 45 minute walk.) and did other last-minute things around the house. I was pretty sure we would be going to the hospital that day since we learned you had a 24 hour window to deliver once your water broke.

We didn’t go to the hospital right away because I had my 40 week appointment scheduled with the doctor for that afternoon, so I waited until then since I wasn’t having contractions anyhow.


I took this picture of me in Craig’s Lululemon jacket because it was what I had been living in the last few days of my pregnancy. It was the only thing that fit and felt comfortable because I got tired of tight tops on my belly.

3:30 p.m.

I went in for my appointment and the doctor confirmed I was leaking amniotic fluid. I called Craig and said, “It’s go time!” We met at home and got our things together for the hospital.


5:00 p.m.

We took Sadie to my in-laws and snapped one last picture of the two of us.


Driving to the hospital. We had NO idea what we were in for!


5:15 p.m.

We arrived at the hospital.

Thankfully, in the end we accomplished all three goals. (Well, smiling was a hit and miss depending upon what was going on.)



6:15 p.m.

Since I had had no contractions by this time, the doctor inserted Cervidil to ripen my cervix since I was only 40% effaced and barely 1 cm dilated. (For those of you who don’t know, you have to get to 100% effaced and 10 cm dilated.)

I started contracting within a half an hour, but it took about an hour for me to feel the cramp-like contractions.


(I promise this is the only picture I will share of my labor and delivery process. Craig snapped this picture right when I got there, and you can see I still had no idea what to expect!)

9:00 p.m.

I moved to the exercise ball to help take away the pain with each contractions as they were getting stronger.


The nurses also gave me antibiotics since my water had now been broken for over 12 hours.

I labored through the night with contractions coming in regular intervals due to the Cervidil. I let Craig sleep since the contractions weren’t that strong, and I knew I would need his help later on when things got worse.

Thursday, October 23

6:15 a.m.

They took the Cervidil out and checked to see how dilated I was: 3–maybe 4 cm. Really? That’s it! Bummer. The nurse reassured me that getting to 3/4 cm takes the longest, so I should dilate at a rate of about 1 cm per hour from here on. “Okay,” I thought, “I can do that.” I calculated that that would mean another 7 hours to get to 10 cm and then 1 –  2 hours of pushing. That didn’t seem so bad. (But remember, in reality, Cullen wasn’t born until October 24, 31 hours later.)

9:00 a.m.

I literally had had only had a handful of contractions during these three hours. Instead of my body naturally taking over, the contraction monitor displayed very few peaks (contractions), which I knew was not a good sign. The nurse came in and said the doctor recommended I get started on Pitocin since my body wasn’t naturally having contractions. I asked if there were alternative options and she said not really. I could try walking around but that probably wouldn’t make a difference. (I had been standing during this time anyway and pacing back and forth.) So we started the Pitocin to get my body contracting.

During these next several hours, the contractions started to pick up, and I used the breathing techniques we had learned in our birthing classes.

1:30 p.m.

The intensity of the contractions were definitely picking up. They were still not unbearable, but I really had to concentrate on my breathing and did a lot of sitting on the exercise ball since that was the most comfortable position for me. I had the nurse check to see how dilated I was–hoping for some motivation that I was at 6 cm and getting close to transition labor. When she checked, she said I was at 4 cm–maybe 5 cm. That meant it had taken over 4 hours to dilate 1 cm.

During these next 4 hours, I continued to labor on the exercise ball and recruited Craig for help because they were intense! The contractions were really close together with barely any break. (Usually you will have a 1 minute contraction followed by a 3 minute break. And like I’ve heard/heard before, the breaks are the only way to get through labor; they truly help you prepare for the next contraction.) I would have a 1+ minute contraction following by a short 30 – 1 minute rest period.

The nursed tried to up the Pitocin level because sometimes that will even everything out and space out the contractions more. Nope! Not for me. I spent the next 20 minutes in what felt like one big long contraction–no breaks!

At this point I was thinking, “How am I even going to get through transitional labor (which is by far worse)!” Each contraction hurt SO much! I told Craig I was thinking about throwing in the towel, but he reminded me of my original goal: natural birth. He even reminded me of what I had written on my birth plan: “You can do it.” He really encouraged me to keep going and not use any drugs since that’s how both of us had talked for so many weeks.

He was such an awesome labor partner, accommodating to the tricks we learned about in class and making sure I was following my breathing pattern. He did not give up hope and kept encouraging me along the way.

5:30 p.m.

After 4 hours of intense contractions, we decided to have the nurse check me to see how much progress had made. I knew it was a double-edged sword, but I had to know. When she checked, I now measured at 5 cm. What?! Four hours of intense labor (which honestly felt like transition labor to me) for one centimeter–if that! This was really tough!

I was starting to shake uncontrollably and the pain was absolutely awful–unbearable at times. Plus, during the rest periods between contractions, I would catch myself falling asleep–signifying I was incredibly tired. Rightly so, as I had been up for nearly 36 hours with no sleep.

I was slowly giving up hope, so I spoke to the nurse about pain med options. She said there was one that would take the edge off the pain and then the epidural which would take away all the pain. Craig still encouraged me to keep trying without drugs because he was worried I would have regrets in the future about not going natural. Yet at the same time, he also said he would support me in what I decided.

This was such a hard decision for me. I had just spent the last 24 hours working through contractions but only progressed 5 cm. (First time moms average 12 – 24 hours to get through their entire labor. I had just spent 24 hours laboring and only getting to 5 cm. (Remember 10 is my goal.) I knew I had fought hard and knew there was no way I could go another 5 cm at this rate. Plus there was transition labor (7 – 10 cm) to go through, which is harder than the first part, and then the active delivery part, which lasts 1 – 2 hours. Craig and I discussed it and decided the Epidural would be better since it wouldn’t affect the baby.

6:30 p.m.

The anesthesiologist inserted the Epidural. I felt the pain fade away and immediately started crying. (FYI: I am NOT a crier.) On one had I felt slightly defeated, but I mostly felt relieved because I had been in so much pain and for once I had relief. Plus, after being up for 36 hours, you are tired and more emotional.

10:30 p.m.

After having the Epidural for 4 hours, the nurse checked me again for progress and said I was at 5 cm but close to 6 cm. So even with help, I was still progressing very slowly!

Friday, October 24

2:30 a.m.

Four hours later, and I was at 6 cm. Still not the progress it should be. However, with the relief from the pain, i was able to cat nap here and there, which helped.

4:30 a.m.

7 cm — It was as if my body was doing everything in its power to keep the baby from being born. This slow progress definitely reassured me I had made the right decision to take the Epidural.

By this point in time, I had all sorts of tube and monitors hooked up to me. A total of 10 at one point in time: the Epidural, blood pressure cuff, oxygen, IV fluids, antibiotics, Pitocin, a contraction monitor on the outside of my stomach, a contraction monitor inside of me, the heart rate monitor for the baby, and a catheter.

I am just so glad the baby was doing okay through all of this. The only time there was a dip in his heart rate, they had me put the oxygen mask on and immediately his heart rate recovered.

9:00 a.m.

8 cm – Aiye, aiye, aiye! This is crazy! 15 hours on the Epidural (+ 24 hours of natural labor), and I was still only at 8 cm!

10:15 a.m.

Finally I got to 9 cm, and they told me I could start pushing. Yes! The doctor said there was a lip around the baby’s head, but she might be able to push it out of the way. I was finally going to meet my baby!!

For the next two hours I pushed with all of my might. I was told I was a really good pusher and focused all of my energy on the things the nurses told me: push down and out, my motivation to push was to find out if it was a boy or girl, and I stayed super focused on the end result.

12:00 p.m.

The doctor came in to see how the baby was progressing down the canal. She took a look, and while I had made progress, said that I hadn’t made as much progress as I should have. The baby’s head had come down more, but it was still too high. And now she could see that the head was stuck. She said there was no way this baby could make it out through my birth canal. as my pelvis was too narrow to allow his head trough.  . . . .we were going to have to do a C-section. I immediately started crying! I had not even considered this as an option because I had no reason to think my baby couldn’t come out vaginally. A C-section had always been my last resort, but I also knew I had exhausted all of my other options. I was so bummed. I sobbed and told Craig I was not expecting this.

12:30 p.m.

But I had no choice, so I was prepped for surgery and went into the operating room.

As they were prepping me for surgery, they disconnected me from the Pitocin, and I started having a super intense contraction. I was shaking violently for the next 5 – 7 minutes and was literally curled in a ball it was so bad. Once they got the pain numbing meds in my system for the C-section, I felt tons better.

During the C-section I could not believe how organized the process was for an unplanned C-section. All the medical staff knew their role and handled the situation in a very calm manner.

1:08 p.m.

Cullen was born.

Craig ended up watching them pull the baby out, and he said the baby’s body was so stuck in the uterus that one of the doctors had to do CPR chest compressions on my body in order to get the body out. Thankfully I felt nothing more than pressure.


Katie J, this means you are the winner. We filled this out at my Alaska baby shower.

So that’s my birth story–far from ideal, but the end result was still the same. I am just bummed that it will take me that much longer to get back to running, and I can’t say I had a natural birth. I did feel like I got to experience all sorts of different types of labor and deliveries: natural labor, the Pitocin, Epidural, and a C-section. The doctor said most likely any successive deliveries would have to be a C-section as well since Cullen’s head wasn’t larger than the average baby. Even more of a bummer.

Good thing he’s cute.


    1. Congrats!! What a gorgeous little guy! I had a similar experience- 24 hours of torturous natural labor only to get to 4-5cm, 5 hours of epidural and Pitocin later at 6cm, ultimately ending in a C-section. I was also told that because I exercised/ran through pregnancy I would have a short easy labor- NOPE. Its frustrating now to be a month out and still be unable to do as much as I could 9 months pregnant, but it is what it is and I’m holding my healthy baby so of course that’s what matters! Enjoy your time snuggling with Cullen!

    1. I had a C section with my child. I exercised all through my pregnancy – similar to you, actually. At four weeks out, I was running five miles a day. I don’t think that you have anything to worry about regarding recovery.

      1. I sure hope not. The doctor did advise me to wait 4 weeks, which is what I was expecting. Oh well; there’s nothing I could have (would have) done differently.

    1. Congratulations mama! Cullen is just adorable. I’m sorry it didn’t go as you’d have liked. My labor was super fast and natural, but I felt really out of control and scared because of how fast it was and I felt disappointed after that it was so frightening for me. So, even when things go “as planned,” there’s always something you can’t plan for. I’m glad he’s healthy and giving you enough time to blog. 😉

    1. All birth stories are beautiful, Michelle–thanks for sharing yours. And trust me, in a few month’s time, heck, in a few weeks, how Cullen came into the world won’t matter, only that he’s he with you and Craig and, like all babies, he’s a bit of a miracle. Best yet, you’ll be recovering during the yucky cold winter months, and by summer Cullen will be on a regular schedule and you’ll be running again. Even if you’re running more slowly than usual rest assured: You’ll still be faster than me, lol. Take care and enjoy this special time.

      1. Craig said that yesterday: as much as we wanted to go natural, in the end it didn’t matter anyhow.

    1. I am so proud of you! You went through so much pain for so long. It’s pretty amazing the hospital have you that long to keep laboring even with the window they have. I can’t wait to meet the little guy!

    1. I love reading your blogs! Congrats!! He is a absolutely perfect! Your birth story is identical to mine has well (besides the fact that I had a girl and you had boy)! You are one strong momma! Congrats again!!!

    1. He’s beautiful. You shouldn’t worry about not having a natural birth. Be proud. You didn’t choose a section through fear or (dare I say it) vanity. You fought on a lot longer than many would. Be very very proud. You cooked a baby! However he came out, it’s an amazing feat! X

    1. Congrats Michelle and Craig! Cullen is beautiful! You are a brave and strong woman. Thank you so much for sharing your story!

    1. Oh Michelle! I know how you feel! But you did the best you possibly could and you ended up with the best possible outcome… a healthy baby! Thank God! I remember feeling guilty after Henry was born because it was such a traumatic experience (far from what I had planned) and it’s just such an emotional time (hormones, best day of your life mixed with the scariest day of your life, etc). I hope you aren’t too hard on yourself and cherish this time as a new mommy with your little miracle, Cullen. I so happy for you and Craig! You are meant to be a mom! I could always tell that about you. 🙂 And I’m so very proud at the strength you showed! Love you! Now put that baby skin-to-skin and stay in bed! That’s an order!

    1. Oh what JOY, you got a BOY! Thanks for sharing your story, even though it sounded horrendous, you got a wonderful outcome…a beautiful little boy! So happy for you Michelle & Craig, your life will never be the same!

    1. I love the name you chose. 54hrs…my goodness. He’s adorable. Congratulations to both of you!

    1. congratulations! it’s so hard when things don’t go as planned, isn’t it? i can’t relate to this on the baby front but i can in other areas of life. i’m glad you’re both healthy!

    1. I am sorry to hear things went way off-plan, but I am super happy everything worked out so that you and Cullen are healthy and well!! He’s super adorable!

    1. Um, so you did go natural lol. Hours without pain meds (no matter how long/short) = Natural!

      I can’t handle pain. I will be getting the epidural ASAP. So props to you!

    1. Michelle,
      Steve & I just read your story about Cullen’s birth. Although you & Craig both told us the story at the hospital, we learned much more that went on from you birth story. We are so very proud of all three of you–Go Team!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Birth stories always make me cry. I still couldn’t imagine being in that intense of labor and progressing so little, the body baffles me at times. I know you don’t feel bad about the epidural, I really really wanted one with my last one but couldn’t due to time, but I am glad it is an option.

      1. I actually did not want the epidural but felt my options were dwindling and I didn’t think I could endure another 24 hours of intense contractions.

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