Lashley Rhodes

Errol James // Birth Story

Lashley Rhodes
Errol James // Birth Story

Errol’s Birth Story: 

(tl;dr skip to the bottom to watch the video)

Photo: Art by Jessica

Photo: Art by Jessica

One year later, here it is.

After a bit of back and forth in early pregnancy, we decided with our care providers that baby’s due date was September 27. You may or may not know that a "due date" is a slippery thing to get a handle on, though, and I had always been on Team Early October. Thus, when baby’s 41 week appointment arrived, I was frustrated that I was now officially one week away from being “overdue” to the point of not being able to deliver at the birth center; I thought this should have been our 40 week appointment. It felt like the clock was ticking when it didn’t need to be. My mom had also flown in to hang out with Cyrus and meet the baby and we were now approaching her departure date. I was having a lot of feelings, but I was also 40-41 weeks pregnant, so that was not too surprising.  

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On October 4, I dropped my mom and Cyrus off at the museum to hang out during my appointment and drove myself to the midwives’ office. Koan met me there for this 41 week appointment, which would involve a fetal non-stress test (NST) and ultrasound to make sure baby had enough fluid. I sat for the NST for a while, which initially felt like a relief from entertaining a two year old while very pregnant, but baby was reactive in an irregular, overactive way, so the nurses and midwives had me stay longer to wait for the “correct" pattern. While nothing was worrisome necessarily about how baby was acting, it didn’t fall into the pattern it needed to in order for me to be clear to stay pregnant up to another week. The test did show that I was having mild contractions, though I wasn’t really feeling them. I was sent out for lunch and Koan went to pick up my mom and Cyrus and fill them in on why things were taking longer than expected. After lunch and more NST time (this time baby was too sleepy), we decided to take a break and move on to the ultrasound. The fluid check was a-ok - we even all got to let out some nervous laughter as one midwife poked her head in to look at the in-progress ultrasound and cooed, "Look at that ear!" It was a testicle. We decided I would come back the next day for another NST if I wasn’t in labor yet. I also elected to have my membranes swept, during which the midwife noted that I was 3 centimeters dilated before the sweep, 4 centimeters after. This was good news, as it likely meant that baby would be on his way soon, without much need to worry any more about timing.

We made it back home that afternoon and hung out at home. I don’t think there was much that was remarkable about that evening, but I know I was pretty certain baby was coming soon. I felt some mild, occasional contractions in the evening and went to bed early, assuming labor would kick in soon. 

I did get some sleep off and on and eventually got up around 2AM. At that point, I wasn’t able to sleep through the contractions anymore, but it still definitely felt like early labor. I lit the candle from my mother blessing, which had good juju threads tied around it from each guest, as well as some some palo santo and tried to read, but I wasn’t able to concentrate very well. Per my phone history, I was also looking up nail polish colors. 

Around 4AM, I woke Koan and gave him an update on contractions, which were starting to feel more intense and were about 5 to 6 minutes apart. We texted Jessica, our birth photographer and called the midwives, who told us to come in. We woke up my mom and headed to birth center around 5am. 

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We arrived at Mountain Midwifery just before shift change, so we were greeted by a nurse and midwife who were about to leave. They had started to fill the tub, which was encouraging to me, though I didn’t think I was ready for it yet. Aubre checked my cervix and I was 7 centimeters dilated. Photographer Jessica arrived a bit later. 

We continued swaying, laboring, and walking for a couple of hours. Koan rubbed my back and fed me snacks throughout the morning. The sun came up though and things seemed to stall. By 11AM, I was no more dilated than when I’d arrived and my contractions were erratic and not very intense. We decided to walk outside and do some stairs. I was bound and determined to get this baby out by sheer grit, if necessary. 

We came back and checked in with nurse Natalie at the time we’d arranged while photographer Jessica ducked out to get some lunch for us all. Nurse Natalie noted that I seemed discouraged and coached me/us on some visualization techniques as well encouraging us to take some privacy and get oxytocin flowing. I believe she mentioned nipple stimulation, but “not titty twisters, we’re talking foreplay.” She was pretty certain baby would be born by dinnertime and she was rather convincing. This seemed to be a turning point in my birthing time; If you told me there was really no nurse Natalie and this was all a Touched By an Angel encounter, I might believe you.

During and after chatting with her, I got pretty tearful and let go a bit of my determination. It felt like I was getting to a better place mentally and emotionally, pushing past a block, getting to less of a “exercise this baby out” place to more of a place of surrender.

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Jessica came back to us while we were in a rebozo, cuddle, crying cycle and brought food. I also focused a lot on my “touchstones,” which included a recent family portrait and ultrasound photos of the babe. We ate a timely lunch, refueling just before labor kicked into gear again.

Contractions intensified and got closer together. I did a lot of leaning over the bed and Koan provided counter pressure on my hips. He calmly coached me to breathe bigger than each contraction and was, unsurprisingly, a great companion and coach.

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I felt like I needed to go to the bathroom (but like actually go, not the kind where the baby comes on the toilet). While not a physical “block,” I was pretty sure I was holding back a bit, not fully letting go, since I didn’t want to wait until time to push and then also have a bowel movement. Midwife Janis seemed to think getting that out of the way was a good thing. 

I got into the tub shortly thereafter (around 3PM) and, within a few minutes, felt “pushy.” I was determined not to push until body was ready as I pushed for over 2 hours with Cyrus. I had Koan change into shorts in case I wanted him to get in the tub with me. We called nurse Karen and midwife Janis back into the room; they were pleasantly surprised that I felt like pushing already. Janis asked if my water had broken yet and I realized it hadn’t. As I began pushing, the bag of waters bulged out first. Janis encouraged me to reach down and feel it and we all got a tiny thrill that we might have an en caul baby with a birth photographer on-hand! I pushed in the tub, Koan joined, and we all got ready for a water delivery, but baby’s heart rate was dropping and it was time for a new position. 

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I was led to bed to push on my hands and knees. The bag of waters tore at some point during the move, so we wouldn’t be having an en caul baby, but there is an awesome photo (not included here, sorry) Jessica took of the amniotic sac with a hole in the side and fluid at the bottom. 

The urgency of the moment is such a tricky thing. I would get a little panicky when Janis would say, “This baby is ready to be born!” then try to push when there was no contraction, then say, “I can’t do it!” then hear “You ARE doing it!” I remember Karen saying, “He’s ok, Lashley. He’s ok,” which was reassuring, then I remember taking a second to connect and talk to baby. I think I said aloud, “Ok baby, we’re going to do this. We have to do this now.” There was a part of me that thought there was no way this baby was going to come out and another part that knew we would do it. Koan says at some point I “went primal” and he insists this is a good thing. Janis encouraged me to push without making any noise to get all of the energy pushing down. Then, ta-da, Janis said, upon catching, “You gave birth to a 3 month old!” 

Everyone helped me flip around and grab our 8 pound 12 ounce baby boy! Our “little” Errol was born at 4:28PM.

Often, the birth stories “end” here, but of course, I had to deliver the placenta. This is relatively painless but has required pitocin for me for both babies. There’s also the “uterine massage,” or “nasty rub,” as Karen called it. That part is not painless. 

About one hour after delivery, Koan and I were in bed with baby when I felt faint and had some lower back pain. We called Karen in and she took my blood pressure, which had dropped significantly. My uterus was not fully contracting down and needed to be massaged again and Janis had to remove some clots that had built up at my cervix. A couple more meds were given and Koan and Errol moved from the bed to a chair, so the nurses (they brought Natalie back before she could head home for the day!) could get me an IV. I lost a lot of blood, but with the IV fluids and lots of blankets (I was very cold, due to the circumstances), things began to stabilize. Koan was holding Errol and Jessica had switched into doula mode, feeding me snacks and holding my hand. Eventually I warmed up and was stable enough to get up and go to the restroom a couple of times (lots of IV fluids and drinking all the water will do that!). I know from Koan’s perspective, things were a pretty intense, but I did not feel panicked or even very woozy, though I suspected transferring to the hospital was probably narrowly avoided.

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Normally after delivery at the birth center, mama gets to take an herbal bath, but with all the commotion and complications, I wasn’t able to. I did eventually get to sit under the hand shower (I was an actual bloody mess) and recap with Karen some of what happened. I sat with the hand shower for a long, long time, before getting dressed. Since we were all stable by 6 hours postpartum, we were able to go home instead of being transferred to the hospital for more observation. Janis sent us off with an iron supplement and I was instructed to only get out of bed to use the restroom! I was pretty anemic for a while (a month? ha.), but was well taken care of at home and at our postpartum appointments - a 24 hour postpartum phone call with the midwife, then office visits 2 days, 1 week, and 6 weeks after delivery.

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After another successful labor and delivery at Mountain Midwifery Center, we took Errol James Rhodes Goedman home to meet the rest of his family.

As with Cyrus, we loved working with Mountain Midwifery and their caring, competent staff. I know the conversation about pain medication during labor and delivery changes a lot depending on who you talk to. We decided, for both babies, that our preference was to labor and deliver without hospital-level induction techniques or pain medication. That was our preference, but there was always the possibility that that would not play out as we imagined, which we were also prepared for. We were and are grateful that we could be educated and empowered to make choices in our care! For those who have similar preferences, I highly recommend thorough prenatal education and finding providers who are familiar with a variety of types of interventions and comfort measures to help you move through your birthing time; that is, choose a provider who is accustomed to coaching women and families through labor that fits with your vision.

all photos and video by Photo: Art by Jessica