Some births are short and calm; other births are long and intense; all births can be powerful and sweet! Not all births go according to plan but WBWC midwives are there for every step of the way when mothers need to be transferred to UNC Hospital. This is the story of a long and intense birth:

By Hillary Prazak

I wanted to be done with my pregnancy around week 37, so January 4th. By week 39, I was miserable. My stomach was still growing, 2-5 pounds a week, sleeping was near impossible, and walking was out of the question. My life revolved around sitting at the dog park until I had to pee and reading books on the couch. Then my due date, January 25th, came and went and I wanted to cry. Each passing day I knew I was one day closer to meeting Cooper, but I also had a fear I would never naturally go into labor. Once a woman reaches week 40 each day counts as a week – or it should. Based on these conditions I got to 49 weeks pregnant ;). Let me reiterate I was miserable and pregnant. Labor. Could. Not. Come. Quick. Enough. Then week 41 came around – February 1st. Brent and I went to UNC Hospital for an ultrasound to make sure baby Coop was still doing well in utero; he was, yay!! The midwives would let him bake for one more week, and if he didn’t come out by February 8th I would be induced. By this point, I thought about pulling the trigger and being induced even if Cooper was safe. I’m glad I decided against that.

On Thursday February 2nd, I was 41 weeks +1 day pregnant. This is the average date when first-time moms go into labor. I woke up around 3 a.m. having period-like cramps. I crossed my fingers they would get progressively worse and turn into labor pains. But a couple hours later I was back to feeling my new ‘norm’, which was a big fat freaking whale. And then I had a HUGE burst of energy. Fellow mom friends have told me this is a sign labor is right around the corner. I hoped. I was in the shower and started panicking about the house being dirty. It definitely wasn’t. But when I got out, I deep cleaned everything for about the millionth time this pregnancy. This is part of the nesting pregnant women go through; it’s totally a real thing!!

With my new burst of energy I wanted to move! I had an urge to dance and walk and run and swim or do SOMETHING physical. Some women have tried dancing to break their water and start contractions. I wanted to give this a try so I pulled up some favorite Zumba dances on YouTube and got to dancing for 45 minutes. After I danced, I took Louie on a big walk. The activities for the day got the best of me, and I took a little nap on the couch until Brent got home.  Then we went to dinner.

There is a Mediterranean restaurant in Chapel Hill that is Brent’s and my favorite! We decided to go to dinner there. Out of nowhere, I was feeling exhausted and really sick. I didn’t think much of it, though, because I often felt exhausted and nauseous. The car ride home from Med Deli to our house is about a five minute drive. 30 seconds into the drive, at 7:46 p.m., I felt a gush of wetness. I thought it was the usual pregnancy wetness until it kept flowing… ‘MY WATER JUST BROKE!!!!’ I started excitedly yelling and immediately called my doula, Kacy, to let her know the exciting news!!! I know that when waters break contractions don’t always start, and labor can be a long ways off. The plan was to take Louie to his dog sitters (thank you Penelope) and then go home and get as much rest as possible. The hour it took to take Louie to the sitters and get back home, I was having contractions every 2.5 minutes apart lasting 30 seconds. They were very mild, but it was definitely at the start of labor. I didn’t want Kacy to come over prematurely, so we held off having her come over. At about 10:30 p.m. when my contractions started to gain intensity, we called her; she arrived by 11:00 pm. My contractions went from mild to strong quickly. Nothing felt good but standing and swaying. You’re supposed to lay down and rest between contractions especially at the earlier stages. I tried to get on all fours, sit on an exercise ball, and lay in bed, it all sucked unless I was standing up. So, Brent, Kacy, and I stood in the kitchen area for a couple hours talking and laughing between my contractions.

Around 1:00 a.m., I wasn’t able to talk during contractions but they were still 2.5 minutes apart lasting 30 seconds. The rule of thumb is you don’t go to the Birth Center until contractions are 3 minutes apart lasting a minute long for an hour. However, I was unable to talk through contractions at this point because of the discomfort. My body wasn’t on the 3-1-1 schedule, but I felt the need to go in to the BC so we called the midwife on call, Allison, and headed in. We arrived around 2 a.m. It was lightly raining outside; the cold air felt good. We waited outside in the rain for Allison and the nurse to show up. I was bending over and breathing deep when contractions came. They were still regular 2.5-3 minutes apart and 30-45ish seconds. At this rate we stopped counting them. I’m not sure how far apart or how long they lasted towards my transition phase – I wish I did know!

There are three different rooms to choose from at the BC – a green, peach, and blue room. When Brent and I took the tour, the blue room stood out to me so this is the one I chose to labor in. Shortly after we arrived, Stephanie, my photographer who is also a doula, showed up. At this point I remember thinking about how time was flying by. I got checked at 2:20 a.m. and I was 5 cm. YAY!! I kept thinking how devastated I would feel if I was less than 5cm. I was glad to be at the halfway dilated mark. Around 2:45 a.m., I wanted to bathe, so I got in the bath for a bit. After the bath I tried to lay in bed to get some rest. At this point my back pain (back labor) started to really hurt. They offered me a TENS machine around 4:00 a.m. It basically stimulates your nerves …”is the use of electric current produced by a device to stimulate the nerves for therapeutic purposes..”. At first it just annoyed me, and I didn’t want it on. Later on in labor it resided on my back.

At some point things become very blurry. The pain was increasing with each contraction, and my tolerance was decreasing. I was exhausted. A couple hours after my first bath, I took another one, 5:35 a.m. This bath was a huge relief. I got into a Zen-like mode and kicked ass for about an hour. Kacy was massaging my feet; it was literally the best massage of my life. I was breathing and swaying through my awful contractions. Brent was by my side pouring cold water on me. Women go through a transition phase in labor right before pushing, and I figured this was it. I got into what is referred to as ‘labor land’. I was completely primal and felt out of body. My only thought and goal was to get Cooper out of me. After this bath, I got out and saw a huge bloody show. I thought it would mean I was almost out of transition and ready to push. I got checked again after this, at 7:35 a.m., and I was 9 cm dilated!!!! HECK YES!!! Everyone thought it wouldn’t be much longer; I was making great progress. It’s typical for women to get to 7 cm and then labor goes very quickly from there.

My story did not take this route…There was a shift change at 8:00 a.m., so I had a new midwife, Carey, and new nurses. I don’t remember their names, and I wish I did. They were so kind and helpful, especially in the next excruciatingly painful hours.

When I got checked again around 10:00 a.m., they realized there was still a bit of the water sac between Coopers head and my cervix. I’m not sure how or why this wasn’t noticed before. This is also when the city of Chapel Hill had a water shortage. That meant no more baths and no more drinking water.  During labor – I ran out of water. Talk about shitty. For some reason, I was really scared to have that little bit of forebag popped. Brent and I talked about it and he convinced me to just get it over with. I went ahead and had it popped. It was painless. I felt a HUGE gush of warm water come out. That wasn’t all that came out. Shortly after I smelt baby poop… Little Cooper took his first poop in utero known as meconium. This can be problematic for babies when they are born if they ingest any of the poop. I started to get very nervous and asked if we needed to transfer to the hospital and if Coop was going to be okay. Everyone reassured me that all would be okay.

One hour later, 11:00 a.m., I was in so much pain that I requested to go to the hospital. I was also stuck at 9cm dilated. This was 15 hours into my labor and I was DONE. I didn’t want to go through one more painful contractions. Carey suggested I try other pain coping mechanisms before transferring to the hospital. At the Birth Center they have nitrous oxide you can breathe in to help ease the pain. This was given to me, and all it did was make me feel high. Again, these next couple hours are super blurry and I’m not for sure what happened when. I remember hysterically crying, being massaged all over my body, and telling Brent I would rather die than go through one more contraction. I wasn’t messing around. I. Wanted. An. Epidural.

Carey convinced me to try one more thing, and if it didn’t work we would transfer. I was stuck at 9 cm because a little piece of my cervical lip, on the left, wouldn’t get the heck out of the way. Carey suggested that I start pushing while she tried to manually move it over. I agreed to try. This actually gave me some relief. The pushing through contractions felt so much better than whatever sort of pain I was in before. I gave it an honest effort and pushed with all my heart for 3ish contractions. Carey looked at me and said, “This is going to be hard work. You tried, and I told you we could transfer if it wasn’t progressing. You can keep trying, but it’s going to be hard work.” or something along those lines. NOPE. NOPE. NOPE. Get me the hell out of this birth center and stick a needle in my back. SO. DONE. I immediately said no way pack my bags, let’s get out of here. This was around 12:45 p.m., so almost two hours after I initially wanted to transfer. I gave it my all. My plan from day one of knowing I was pregnant was to have a natural, unmedicated, vaginal birth. But after 17 hours of labor, that was no longer the plan, and I was more than okay with that.

The car ride was literally the worst part. It’s 2.4 miles from WBWC to UNC Hospital. When we transferred, it was right as class let out, and there were students all over the place. It took 15ish minutes to go those 2 miles, and that was the worst 15 minutes of my life. I had one contraction walking to the car, I think three in the car, one right as we entered the hospital (as we entered someone greeted us and asked if I was in labor as I was screaming through a contraction. Yeah, buddy, I’m in labor), and two before my IV and epidural were in. The anesthesiologist was listing all the risks and warnings with an epidural, and I’m pretty sure I said “I don’t care if I die, just put the needle in my back NOW.” The epi gave immediate relief. They stuck that bad boy in my back, my leg twitched and I almost kicked Brent, and then relief.

The plan was I would rest for two hours, Brent could sleep and eat, and everyone else would go grab some lunch and take a break. It was a nice theory. As I was in the bed with only a sleeping husband in the room my mind was racing. What the hell just happened? I felt traumatized. 18 hours later, and I was lying in a hospital bed feeling delusional, numb, and still pregnant. Not my plan. Not what I thought would happen. Carey came back two hours later, and my contractions had stalled. They were 10-12 minutes apart. She started me on Pitocin to speed things back up. If there was one thing I absolutely wanted to avoid during labor, it was Pitocin, and here I was needing it. It was pretty heartbreaking for me.

Stephanie and Kacy came back around 4:00 p.m., and we started talking about what had happened. It felt nice to have these ladies, who have been through two labors themselves, to talk to. At 16:40 I had an urge to push!! Yay! Baby Cooper would be here so soon. I could see the finish line. Carey came back to check, I was finally 10 cm and ready to push. Oh, and there was still no water so I was drinking fruit juices that were giving me the worst heartburn.

I pushed for 20 minutes, and then I was asked to stop… HAHAHA. There were so many women pushing at the same time, there was a shortage of nurses. So 22 hours into my labor I was asked to wait a little longer. SERIOUSLY? Due to sleep deprivation I happily agreed.

Finally, at 6:35 p.m. I was given the okay to push. I had Brittany the nurse, Carey, Brent, Kacy, and Stephanie all in the room with me. Surprisingly, pushing was the most relaxing of all of it. We put on my 2016 most played songs on Spotify and got to pushing. Occasionally they would put the mirror in front of me so I could see the progress I was making. It was fascinating to see his big head emerging. Then around 9:20 p.m., his head was really making its way out. It only took a couple contractions, and I could feel myself crowning. I was still numb so it didn’t hurt, but there was a lot of pressure. And then his head and his shoulders were out with the next big push. At 9:31 p.m. Cooper Lamar-Jax Prazak was born!!! He was on my chest immediately after coming out. Brent got to cut the umbilical cord!! It was pretty gross, but the gross factor doesn’t seem relevant when you have a newborn in your arms.
There were nurses and doctors in the room from NICU because the meconium. If Cooper wasn’t responsive, they would need to take him to the warmer and make sure his lungs were okay. A couple minutes after he was on my chest, they decided to take him because he was making some odd noises. This was heartbreaking. I held Kacy’s hand and bawled my eyes out. Brent went over, with tears in his eyes, and stood next to Cooper as he was examined. He was okay!! They gave him back and Brent and I kissed him. We instantly fell in love. Labor was long and hard for everyone. Thank you to Kacy my doula for being there from start to finish literally holding me up through most of it; Stephanie for taking the amazing photos and subbing in for Kacy when she needed a break; the whole Birth Center and UNC staff that took care of us, everyone was so kind and helpful; and Brent my partner in babymaking: I love you dearly and I love our beautiful son <3.

For anyone interested in a doula or birth photography here are the websites for the ladies I used!!

Kacy Harker:

Stephanie Capps: