Birth Story: My Parents!
My parents, Peg and George, live in Wayzata, MN, in the house where I grew up. My mama is a physical therapist and my papa works at Home Depot. I interviewed them about my birth and my little sister Ellen’s birth while I was home for Christmas in their living room. I’ve heard a lot about my birth, but it was so much fun to hear it again and learn new things. There was a lot of laughter…
Did you have experience with birth before you had us?
Peg: No, I didn’t have any experience. I wasn’t with anyone when they gave birth. I just had friends and my sister that had given birth, so we would talk about birth and the experiences. And we went to a Lamaze class and we learned some Lamaze breathing techniques, movement patterns. We saw a film. I read What to Expect When You’re Expecting, but I didn’t read about the actual birth process.
George: My sister had a baby in the mid-80’s, but it was like, “Oh! Anne had a baby!” I think we all drove down to Milwaukee, collectively the brothers came to see the baby, but no real connection to the birth itself.
What stories did you hear from your friends and family?
P: There wasn’t one story that was the same. That’s what stands out. I don’t remember any details. No one had a horrific experience that frightened me. I just saw it as being very natural. I knew there would be pain, and I knew that there would be the other side of pain and this beautiful baby that we would welcome into the world. So it was like the best end product.
G: Endless stories from my mother. About this labor and that labor and “You looked like a circus clown when you were born because you didn’t breathe! It was frightening! No one prepared me!” So, yes I heard untold stories about birth!
What were you most nervous about going into my birth?
P: I was most nervous about parenting a teenager when I was pregnant.
Were your fears unfounded?
P: No. It aaaaall came true!
(We had to pause here because we were laughing so hard)
So that was your biggest worry - becoming a parent?
P: Because the birth process is probably more than 24 to 48 hours. Raising a child is a lifetime! I knew that a billion and one women had given birth, so I always just saw it as something natural. I guess there’s a worry of if something went wrong in labor. I had a very normal pregnancy. There was no bed rest. There were never any problems during my pregnancy, so I didn’t focus on that. I knew I didn’t want a C-section. But I guess I didn’t have a lot of fears. I think I wanted it to be natural without any sort of induction or medications.
G: Oh really? What was the reality, O’Brien?
We’ll get to expectations later!
G: I don’t know, since Maggie’s labor was so long it was just like I was getting worried thinking “What if she doesn’t breathe? What if she doesn’t do this or that?” That was a bit of a concern. But I can’t remember any really scary parts. And with Ellen, you know, Ellen just popped out! While Maggie, now Maggie was a different story!
Didn’t they have you in a broom closet for a while at Fairview? It was all full?
G: So we were in this little exam room.
P: We were in the manger!
Did you have me in the mop bucket?
G: Nearly so! Peggy was most unsatisfied because she wanted a birth suite, dammit! But we finally got out of the broom closet.
Going into Ellen’s birth what were you most nervous about?
P: I remember Gamino (my dad’s mother) was with us the week or days before she was born. She was also late. I think you were 10 days late and Ellen was probably a week late. And she was very very quiet in the womb, so there were concerns towards the end of my pregnancy that she wasn’t moving. I had a biophysical profile ultrasound and everything was normal. And we were looking for houses, and I remember looking at a house the night before she was born. Gamino and Papa loved the house, and I did too, but I just said “I can’t do this right now. I cannot make a decision like this when I’m bringing a child into the world!” Can you imagine? Putting an offer in on a house and doing all that? Oh my gosh, that would have put me right over the edge. I’m sure it would have been a lovely house.
I just remember wanting so badly to meet this little person. And I don’t remember being nervous about it. I was antsy. I was impatient because you were both late, and it just seemed so long, the pregnancies seemed so long. So I was anxious to get into labor. I wasn’t fearful or nervous. I was ready to have a baby!
G: I mean, back to what Mama said about Ellie Bean being so quiet. That was probably the one thing. Everything else was fine. She was so quiet, and I remember how you would just thrash. You could see these little fist bumps and feet and knees and whatever banging against Mama’s stomach because somebody wanted to get of there! But Ellie, she was peaceful.
How did your labor start with me?
P: My labor was in my back, in my low back, which I didn’t expect. I had never heard that I could have labor in my low back. I didn’t know that it was labor. I woke up in the morning, 7am. I had some backache. I wasn’t in the same bed as Papa because I was snoring through my pregnancy! Towards the end of my pregnancy, to allow Papa to get more rest, to have him game ready, I slept downstairs. I woke up and thought “Hmmm, interesting.” So I just paid attention to it, and then it seemed to come and go, so then I thought “Maybe these are contractions.” They were just very gentle, and I just started keeping track of how far apart they were, how long they lasted. I think I phoned the hospital to ask if it was time. I think it was about 10am when we went to the hospital. Then we made our way down, and they got me all hooked up and monitored in the janitor’s closet! Eventually they moved us into the suite!
G: Peggy wanted her money’s worth, I’ll tell ya!
Describe your labor:
P: It was very long.
G: It was 13 hours, minimum.
P: My contractions became very very intense. And the nurses would come in frequently to see how far I had dilated. I just felt like for the amount of pain I was experiencing with the contractions it didn’t correlate with the dilation because nothing was changing. That’s when they decided that they would consider pitocin. And I said “I can’t tolerate contractions any stronger than this.” I think they had already given me Nubain. Something to kind of take the edge off. Loooove the Nubain! Granted, I wasn’t going to use any drugs. Very early in the process, bring them in! I had good intentions, Maggie! So I said “Can we coordinate the epidural with the pitocin because I do not want to feel a pitocin contraction.” The nurse said “Weeeell, the anesthesiologist is attending to the woman next door first.” I looked at her and I said “Ooooh please! I will not have pitocin until I have that epidural!” So the anesthesiologist conveniently came to my room first and got me all set up with an epidural. I was a happy camper. I could watch on the monitor the extent of the contractions, and I was thinking “I am so glad I don’t feel those!” And then I could rest! I was on my side resting. I might have even fallen asleep. I said “Papa, why don’t you go get some dinner?” Apparently when he went down to the cafeteria it was closed, so he got corn nuts from the news stand. He came back up with them and proceeded to crunch! That was the only time I was irritated.
G: She was cranky! I was sitting quiet in the dark just trying to mind my own business, and then I heard someone squawking about “Could you stop making all that noise?” Ok, I’ll just be hungry!
P: So at some point, obviously, I was dilated. And the pushing didn’t take long, and it was fairly quick. That was one part I expected to take longer. Your heart rate was really low when you were coming out.
G: Yeah, that was a scary part. I remember that.
P: I don’t remember it being scary. I remember them saying “You’re having a boy! You’re having a boy! You’re having a boy!” Because your heart rate’s usually lower with a boy. And then your head started coming out and “It’s a boy!” And then “It’s a girl! It’s Maggie.”
G: Your little orange hair!
P: And then, did you get to cut the umbilical cord? I think Papa cut the umbilical cord. And then they brought you to my chest. They didn’t let you crawl up because I didn’t know that was even possible.
G: How can a baby crawl up?
They have a stepping reflex!
P: They brought you to me. And we were both crying. Was Tracy (my dad’s brother) there?
G: No, he came with the ribs later!
P: Then they whisked you away to weigh you and do your APGAR score, which I don’t even remember what it was, but we weren’t concerned. Then you were all swaddled up, and they brought you back to me. I nursed you.
G: Very unsatisfactory, though, you had a blue bow! That stuck in Mama’s craw! And you were upset about it too when you grew up. You wanted to know why you had a blue bow!
P: They were expecting a boy! But you were the most beautiful 9 pound baby.
I was not 9 pounds! I was 8 and a half!
P: Nearly 9! And then I got to sleep! I was in no hurry to go home. I loved being taken care of. They’d bring you to me to feed you, and then they’d take you away and I would sleep! They would bring me food. It was nice. It was a nice experience. We had good care! My OB did not deliver you. It’s funny what things aren’t that important, like who’s down there working with you. But Papa was very supportive. Didn’t even want to leave me to get his corn nuts or dinner! And then we had ribs.
G: Tracy brought ribs!
How did Ellen’s birth start?
P: The same way! It was 7 in the morning. I woke up. I started having contractions in my low back, and then I knew what it was. And it was about the same time frame. We were at the hospital by 10. They broke your water, but I don’t remember if Ellen’s water broke. I don’t remember that part. I remember that Gamino was with us. She was like the life photographer. What I did differently, because I had the back labor before and I’m a physical therapist, I brought a TENS unit thinking it would change what I would experience for pain. What it did for me was it helped me stay in my breathing pattern because of the on and off contraction of the TENS unit. I also brought music. I brought a whole stack of CDs because we listened to CDs back then. I listened to George Winston Winter into Spring probably 12 times. Papa kept asking me if he could change the music and I said “No! Everything’s working!” I just played it over and over, and I don’t ever remember letting go of your hand, Papa. I was in this deep place, breathing, and I had everything under control. I think I had one shot of Nubain. And Mary Jo (my mom’s friend) was there, who was my second doula, and we had Gamino as the photographer. It was quite a full room!
G: Gamino was in her glory!
P: And you were at daycare.
G: I remember getting you after because we promised you, when the big day came, that you would get a doctor kit from the toy store. I picked you up, and then we went to Toy World and got the Little Tikes doctor kit. We stopped and got a hamburger at McDonald’s. We drove to the hospital. You were carrying your little kit down the hall ready to examine your sister. That was kind of cool!
Was the labor what you expected?
P: What was much different than expected was that I thought I would be walking and moving and taking a bath and doing yoga poses! And up on my hands and knees and rocking. And I was frozen to the bed. I was locked to the bed. Three nurses had to turn me over to my side. So that was totally unexpected because I thought of myself as a very physically fit person going into this labor. I was very surprised to say the least.
I knew it would be painful, but I knew it would end. I knew I could get through that. It was just what we were prepared for was different. What I had seen in the classes, movement, walking down the hall, soaking in the bath. Otherwise, I don’t know that I had a lot of expectations.
How did your support team help you during labor?
P: My husband, George, was very supportive throughout my pregnancy and my birth and delivery and, of course, the raising of the children. Until they were 16, and then he gave up!
G: I did not!
P: Papa held my hand the whole time I remember. I just remember when he would go to the other side of the bed I wouldn’t let him let go of my hand. I would just do this hand off. I remember Mary Jo being there. I think she was just very comforting when I was going through a contraction. She would coach me. It was just comforting. I was in very much of a deep place, so I really wasn’t aware of what else was going on in the room. I had a good thing going. I had it down. I was feeling good! I had another healthy baby!
How did Gamino help?
P: Knowing Gamino, she really stayed back. She kind of knew her place. Just that she was there was a really big deal. She did not intervene which isn’t like Gamino! But then she was also a big help after we got home because, you know, taking care of you while I was taking care of Ellen. Getting sleep was crucial! I just remember I needed a lot of sleep.
P: The other thing we haven’t brought up is the amount of family support we had. So we had Aunt Patty, Grandma, Grandpa. As soon as you were born, they were on the road to meet you. They came to the hospital. I just can’t even explain the emotions, Maggie. It was just such a happy time. And the same thing when Ellen was born. Granddaddy and Grammy Pat came up a few days later. You just realize how important extended family is, especially when you have children. I always wondered if we made a mistake by being so far away...We were close enough that we were very intentional about getting you home and spending time with your grandparents. It’s just not the same when they live 5 miles away and they can go to all your soccer games and whatnot. But I think it worked out.
What words of wisdom do you have for expectant parents?
G: Do what they say!
P: Don’t eat corn nuts!
G: Just try not to make waves, I guess. And stay calm because if you get worked up, it would be apparent to the patient! You don’t want the patient to be agitated!
P: Going into it with an open mind. Knowing that no two labors are the same. And make sure you’ve chosen a provider that you trust in. And getting as much support as you’re able, whether it’s a doula, especially if you don’t have a partner, definitely have a doula or a family member or both. Someone that is a calming influence in your life. I’d recommend music. I think breathing is huge. What relaxes you is different for everyone. I think you just have to figure out what that is. The most important thing is living a healthy lifestyle through your pregnancy. Getting sleep, getting exercise, eating right. I think that’s going to ultimately make the birth easier and it’s going to be a great foundation for the baby the rest of their life.
Thank you, Mama and Papa!