Birth Story: Beatrice

Beatrice Starling Schneider was born on Tuesday, March 8th 2011 at 1:08 PM. 
This is the story of her entrance into the world.  
The story of her birth begins on Monday, March 7th

In fact, the story of her birth dates back much longer than that.  Since big sister Josephine was born in August of 2007, we hoped to eventually grow from “Three Schneiders” to “Four Schneiders.” What we didn’t know is how much of a challenge doing so would be.  We battled infertility and then a second and third miscarriage – including the loss of baby Camille late in the first trimester, exactly one year to the day our Bea was born. 

Surprisingly and miraculously, we found out we were pregnant in the summer of 2010 just after moving into our new house.  The pregnancy was not without its challenges – including threatened miscarriages, a placental bloodclot , incompetent cervix and preterm labor. I was put on modified bedrest from Halloween until Christmas and then full bedrest from Christmas until I was full term in mid-February.   Through it all we never gave up hope and, with the support of lots of people near and far, we kept our hearts set on a happy ending.  January and February were the most difficult, as we slowly ticked away each night as one more without a premature delivery and one day closer to a healthy baby.  Ironically, we had no way of predicting that I would actually go well beyond my due date and require a medical induction to bring little Beatrice into the world.

At 38 weeks pregnant, I was given a 20% chance of making it through the weekend without going into labor (low baby, 2cm dilated, 70% effaced).  The doctor asked if I’d like to be induced. I turned up my nose at the idea and figured she’d be here on her own soon. The week came and went. Then I was 39 weeks pregnant. Even though I promised myself not to let it bother me, I had a complete meltdown when I hadn’t made any further progress at my 39 week appointment.  We kept our fingers crossed for a non-induced labor but started having conversations about what the plan would be if it became medically necessary. And then I hit the 40 week mark. We decided to wait until the 41.5 week point to induce. Simply put, that’s when it starts to get “risky” to keep the bun in the oven. Given everything that we had already gone through to get to this point, taking any further risks just didn’t seem to make any sense. Plus, inducing at 41.5 weeks had a HUGE added bonus – if we timed it just right, we could get all the family here so they could be there for Josephine in our absence and with us for the delivery.  It also meant we could ensure that our regular OBGYN - Dr. Firestein who had been with us through this entire journey dating back to a cervical cancer scare in 2005 - would be there to catch baby Bea. As crazy as it was, we started to get used to the idea of having a baby in the spring instead of January or February. It was a complete re-programming of what we had expected.  We spent so much time trying to keep the baby “in” that it was mind-boggling that we were now trying to will her “out.” We tried every natural induction method in the book.

Tia, Tio, Lyla, Jack, Grandma & DD arrived from Chicago and Xenia and we spent the weekend together. I was secretly trying to convince myself into labor and we were all busy trying to distract ourselves so there wasn’t too much stress. It was an enormous help to have everyone here to keep Josie occupied and to know that she would be in good hands now regardless.  All of the worries I had about labor without my family there melted away.

After the weekend with sporadic contractions but no signs of active labor, the induction went like this:

On Monday, March 7th at 1pm, Lou and I headed to the doctor’s office to have my membranes stripped.  I had dilated and effaced a little bit more, but I still wasn’t in active labor.  We all hoped this procedure would get things moving. (With Josephine, I was stripped on my due date and went into labor that evening.)  We knew that if it didn’t, we would check into Good Samaritan Hospital twelve hours later at 1am to have a medical-induction using pitocin. And this was exactly what we were hoping to avoid.  (I should say at this point that we had a long conversation with our doctor who knew how committed we were to natural, unmedicated childbirth and reassured us that we could be induced in such a way to preserve our chances of reaching this goal.)

By bedtime, I was still having sporadic contractions but nothing regular. I was nervous, and I knew the hospital induction was going to happen. By about 11pm, my contractions started to get more consistent and stronger and it was obvious things were slowly picking up. By midnight, I was in very early active labor with regular contractions four-five minutes apart. 

About 12:30am in the first hours of Tuesday, March 8th Lou and I snuck into Josie’s room where she was sleeping with Tia and kissed her goodnight. That was a really emotional moment – knowing that everything was going to be completely different the next time we saw her.  (In fact, I wish I would’ve stood there just a little bit longer. I wish I would’ve hugged her a little bit tighter that night before bed. Because that next day, when I did see her and hug her again, it was as if she was a new person. And my heart still breaks when I think back to that moment.)

We checked into Good Samaritan about 12:45am and sat in the waiting room, waiting for our doula Shakira and waiting for our room to be ready.  About 1:30am we got ushered back to a brand-new gorgeous birthing room and we were all in pretty good spirits. We reviewed the doctor’s orders to the nurses and knew that he had been specific about low-dose pitocin only to be turned up as needed. The more typical procedure with pitocin is to start it up then crank it up another notch every 30 minutes. But, pitocin is called “the chemical crowbar” for good reason. It produces really intense contractions sort of against your body’s will. Most women plan on an epidural and get it once the pitocin is flowing so the rate at which it is turned up is no big deal.  However, since we wanted a natural birth, it made sense to use the pitocin to get things going but then back off of it once my body took over.  So, that was the plan.  Start the pitocin. Wait and see what happens. Go slowly and according to what my body needed. No schedule.

By 3-4am I was all hooked up to the monitors, IVs, etc and the pitocin was flowing. Lou got a good nap in, but I was way too anxious to sleep.  It was early in the process, and I was still smiling.


 The first couple of nurses were fantastic in the sense that they followed the orders pretty closely. But then, we got a new nurse who kept cranking up the pitocin on the regular schedule and things got pretty out-of-control pretty quickly. We had to really push for her to stop.  The three of us had to put our collective foot down and tell her to back off the button. By this point, I was definitely in labor – having regular strong contractions every three minutes or so and there was no reason to keep increasing it. It was about 6am from what I can recall. I knew Josie had made it through the night okay without us and a layer of worry disappeared. Labor intensified.  I called my sister and she arrived with my dad.  Things continued to pick up. Grandma got Josie off to school and made it to the hospital. By the time everyone was there, labor started to get real. Really real. And that damn pitocin had me reeling!  I used my hypnobirthing techniques to breathe through each surge. Unfortunately I couldn’t move much because I was tethered to a ton of equipment.

Since our birth, I’ve had some pretty big revelations about what happened during the labor. Giving birth unmedicated is a very intense and emotional experience and I went through some big emotions for sure. At one point, I remember getting really overwhelmed by the emotions of the past two years. It was the anniversary of the day that we lost baby Camille and as I remember feeling at that moment, it was all simply too much for me to emotionally handle.  Finally, I consciously allowed myself to face and move through all that pain on the edge of the hospital bed. I wept and howled. It was intense. And cathartic. And then I moved forward. 

And this is where having a “labor team” really takes on meaning. Some women prefer to birth alone or just with their partner.  I’m just the opposite. It meant a lot to have everyone there. And everyone took an active role in supporting me in one way or another.  There are certain moments with my family that I will never forget – my sister playing the video clip of Josie singing “Three Little Birds” and reading me texts and messages of encouragement from my friends, my dad’s feet on the floor in front of me as a constant reminder of his support, and wet washcloths from my mom.  And our doula Shakira knew what I needed exactly when I needed it – massages, drinks, position changes, essential oils, etc.  

And there was Lou – sweet sweet Lou – who never left my side and kept reminding me both verbally and silently that everything was going to be alright.

And all the while, Josie’s smiling face from a photo beside my bed reminded me of everything I was there to do. And I wanted to be strong for her and for her new sister. And I knew that if I stayed focused I would have a story of this strength – the strength of nature and the strength of a woman’s body – to one day share with both of them.

The hynobirthing techniques worked and with the exception of a few really rough patches that my birth team helped me through, I was able to stay really relaxed and surrender to the process.

When our doctor arrived Tuesday morning, he decided that I was deep enough in labor to take me off the pitocin altogether.  And since I was off of the pitocin, I also got to be off of the IV fluids and off of the constant monitoring. I was free!!!   I was about 6 cm dilated.

I hit the shower!  Since I didn’t have a birthing tub, the shower was the next best thing. Shakira wrapped the birthing ball in a sheet and off we went.  Everything changed in the shower. The contractions got so much more manageable. In fact, there were times when I thought labor had stopped altogether.  Things get a little hazy at this point. Using hypno-birthing techniques allow the mother to go into very deep relaxation – “laborland” as some people call it.  It’s a very intoxicating, out-of-body kind of place.  Images and memories are still coming back to me weeks later. For example, I remember sort of chanting this long drawn out “Ooooo-pen” through each contraction.  Shakira and Lou kept the water flowing over me and I rocked back and forth on the ball in that shower for hours. Every once in awhile, I would sort of “snap out” of the deep place I was in to check in with them to make sure everything was still alright. 

Things really changed in the shower. For whatever reason, in that moment I did not make the connection that things had lessened in intensity because I was off of the pitocin. The water was also immensely helpful in deepening my relaxation.  And I think being out of that hospital room and in my little “cave” helped as well. I was 100% completely in a zone. A very primal zone. The surges kept coming and I welcomed them as necessary work to get me one step closer to holding my baby.

At some point, I remember hearing more conversation among Lou, Shakira and the nurses. They wanted me out of the shower but I really, really didn’t want to move.  I was comfortable and happy and really afraid that things would get as hard as they were before the shower if I were to get out again. Plus, I figured I still had several hours of labor ahead of me and wanted to spend as much time in the shower as possible.   As I remember it, they sort of slowly shut things down in there, lifted me out and ushered me back into the hospital room wrapped only in a towel.

I remember seeing our doctor Scott and wondering why on earth he was there! My first thought was that something was wrong and that they were going to make me go back on the pitocin again.  I had absolutely no idea that I had moved through transition in the shower and that I was very close to almost fully complete.  As Scott jokingly said, I was 9.9675 cm dilated and almost to the pushing stage.

I put on my ipod to listen to the Hypnobirthing tracks, but they just distracted me so I jerked out the headphones (and cursed like a sailor).   I had a couple of really strong and beyond-my-control contractions that scared the heck out of me. By then, the towel was long gone and I was just there laboring au natural.  I started yelling that something was wrong and that I needed help!   Everyone was standing there around me and I was really mad that no one was doing anything when something was so obviously wrong. I just kept saying “Oh no, something is different! Something is wrong!”  As it turns out, what I was feeling was the baby on her way out – already! I didn’t recognize this “there she is” feeling because I figured it would still be a couple more hours of pushing until the delivery like it was with my first birth. 

Since I had gone from completely dilated to “here she comes” in less than a minute, I had no idea what was going on.  At that point, I was exhausted and I remember looking at Scott in desperation and asking how much longer this was going to be. I didn’t have much energy left.  He looked at me and said something along the lines of “Well, you can have her right now if you’ll push. We’re waiting on you. She’s here. Let’s go Mama!”  But I still didn’t get it!  “Now? You mean now? Like right now?” 

Then there were all of these “Ooohs” & “Ahhhhs” & “Wows” and everyone crowded around.  I must say that was a little disconcerting to see our veteran OBGYN surprised by something happening to me.  They quickly explained all the excitement.  She was coming out still inside the amniotic sac. That's right folks, Beatrice was "born in the caul" so we saw the bag of water, like a big balloon with her head still inside, first. It was insanely incredible. My water never broke (and she came so quickly that they never broke it for me, not that there was a need to).  

They set up the mirror so I could see everything. I reached down to touch her. There she was. And in just three pushes inside of one contraction, Baby Beatrice was born! 

I pulled her to my chest. We all cuddled her. And cried great big tears of joy. And tears of relief. After everything we had been through – all the fear and doubt and worry, the hopelessness and desperation, the tests  and weekly ultrasounds and medication and bedrest. After all of that, she was here. 9 pounds, 5 ounces of absolute, blissful pure perfection.

Within moments, she was nursing and we all had a moment to reflect on her miraculous presence.  A few hours later, Josephine came to the hospital to meet her little sister. It was love at first sight.

We were finally a family of four. Through it all, Beatrice was here. And she was definitely worth the wait.

Want to see more images from our newborn photo session set to our favorite sweet little song? Click here.