Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Unassisted Birth Story — from Erin Charpentier

I'm not quite sure how to begin Thomas's birth story. I'll begin by saying that in a million years, I never would have imagined his birth like this.
But also, in a million years, I would never change a thing.

I called my doula at about 5:30pm on a Friday to update her and let her know that I was contracting some, but they were very, very mild. I started timing contractions, just out of curiosity. They were ten minutes apart and less than a minute in duration. I ate dinner, gave my toddler Luke his bath and got him ready for bed. My contractions were still ten minutes apart and while they were definitely noticeable, they still felt like they could fizzle. At 9, I called my doula, and followed her instructions — 30 minutes of knee to chest on the floor, and a bath for 30 minutes. At this point, I knew I was in labor, but I didn't see myself having a baby until the next morning, like around 7 or 8

At 11, I got up and filled up the bathtub, thinking I'd get in there again and relax. I got a glass of water, checked my email, and did a few other things with contractions still ten minutes apart. At 11:40, I was hit with a hard contraction that felt like my pelvis was splitting. Four minutes later, I had another. I called my doula at 11:48, and she said she'd leave and meet me at the hospital. I woke up Shane and called my midwife's emergency number, then called my mom to tell her to come over to watch Luke. I sent an email to my girls at 11:55 saying I was in labor. I hit send, started to type up one more email, and was hit with such a hard, fierce contraction that I went right to my hands and knees.

In the midst of it, I started to bear down and felt something between my legs. I don't know what went through my head at this time, but I automatically reached down and felt.
This is the part where I wish I could say that I kept it together, but what I felt was not what I expected. I expected either nothing or a head. What I felt was like a water balloon, and I knew it was not a head, and my hand came up covered in blood. I started screaming for Shane, who was downstairs putting in his contacts. I asked him what he saw, and he said it was something, but it wasn't a head. I panicked. I yelled at him to call 911, then looked up as Luke appeared at the top of the stairs saying, MAMA!? I said, Mommy's okay!! Then jumped up and started to head downstairs, my goal to get to the bathroom. Shane was on the phone with 911.

I made it four steps down to the landing, when I was hit with another powerful contraction. I gripped the railing, looked down, and saw his head, at which point it hit me that my water hadn't broken, so what I felt first had to be the amniotic sac. I dropped into a squat, and his head came out the rest of the way. Luke was in the kitchen, peering down the stairs with tears in his eyes, so in the midst of this all, I was assuring him that everything was okay. I cupped my hands around the baby's head and his body corkscrewed out of me and into my hands without pushing any more.

The sac was still intact (yes, he was born in the caul, and I think that is the coolest thing EVER), so I used my thumbnail to slit the sac open, at which point the fluid broke all over my legs. I peeked between his legs and shouted up to Shane that it was a boy, then told Luke that he had a new baby brother. I brought him up to my chest, rubbed his back and said,
"C'mon baby, cry for mama," and he gave me a loud cry. He was the cleanest baby I have ever seen because he was inside the completely clear amniotic fluid the entire time.

At this point, we heard a knock on the door — it was a volunteer firefighter who lives around the corner and jumped in his truck when he heard the dispatch. I should mention that this poor guy had to be younger than me and looked like he was vaguely wondering what in the world he walked into... Next thing I knew, I looked up and there were five firefighters standing in my kitchen staring down at me. Did I mention that I was completely naked? Oh yeah.

Next, two female EMTs came in, and I swear, choirs of angels sang at this point. One immediately shouted for someone to get me a blanket, while the other asked for a clean dry towel for the baby. They talked to me and helped me rub him to get him to pink up. I held tight to Thomas this entire time. The EMTs asked if I could walk up to the kitchen to get on the stretcher, and I said, Uhh, I just gave birth to a baby on the stairs, I think I can handle this.

I carried Thomas up the stairs with me and climbed on the stretcher. They got me a gown and found a little hat for Thomas, but let me lay him skin to skin with me before covering us up with warm blankets. They wheeled us outside, at which point, I realized that there were more fire fighters in the front yard and that both the ambulance and the firetruck had the lights going. They put me in the ambulance, and shortly after, my parents pulled up, both freaked out at the scene.

When we all got to the hospital, my doula ran over and gave me a hug and a kiss and said she couldn't believe it and joked that she warned me how quickly second labors can turn. I delivered the placenta and started nursing Thomas while the midwife stitched me up. My wonderful, amazing doula fed me bites of a chicken sandwich and it all started to sink in. Shortly after, my friend Beth called, and I filled her in on the whole story so she could tell everyone that this email, sent at 1:41, was not a joke:

"Its a boy, you guys. He was born on the stairs before we could even leave. No I'm not kidding!! Someone call Beth in case she's still on standby. We are at the hospital now."

There's more, so much more, but this is already so long. I've told this story more times than I can even remember, but the truth is, I like telling it. It was wild and crazy and a little bit scary at times and our first birth photos were taken with my iPhone. Still, it's so special to me. This was how Thomas John came into the world, and I wouldn't have had him any other way.

July 18th, 12:02AM (the 911 dispatcher had this on the transcript as the time that Shane told her the baby was out) 7lbs, 110z 20 inches long

From Erin Charpentier of School Teacher By Day. Superhero by Night. Note — this was edited for length. You can find the complete version here. Images by Beth Fletcher Photography.


Note from Design Mom: for the duration of my pregnancy, I'll be posting advice, memories and stories about pregnancy, childbirth, adoption and growing a family on Wednesdays. You can find them all by clicking here. I'd love to hear your story or memory or advice, feel free to submit it to


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Blogger helenjane said...

As I could go into labor with my second any second, this had been my biggest fear.

How wonderful to read a story where a precipitous home labor was handled gracefully and with a big sense of humor.

(This is no longer my biggest fear, by the way -- thank you so much for sharing.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009 at 3:14:00 PM EST  
Blogger Tamsin said...

I was also born at 12:02 AM on July 18th - however, that was quite a few years ago now :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009 at 4:14:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Michelle said...

OK, I am a hormonal pregnant lady, but this made me cry like a baby! That is so crazy and so special all at the same time. I am glad that everyone is OK.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009 at 4:18:00 PM EST  
Blogger Emily Frame said...

most awesome story. ever. thanks for sharing!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009 at 4:35:00 PM EST  
Blogger Kim said...

I am not hormonal or pregnant. But this story made me cry also. What an amazing story!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009 at 4:42:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Denise Laborde said...

I love this birth story! Like you say "wild and crazy and a little bit scary." Thank you for sharing.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009 at 5:30:00 PM EST  
Blogger Adventures In Babywearing said...

Gab, I am one of Erin's "girls" and Tommy's arrival was hysterical and amazing. The way she tells her story here is beautiful. Thank you for sharing with everyone!


Wednesday, November 25, 2009 at 5:41:00 PM EST  
Blogger MamaChristy said...

Freakin' incredible! Thanks!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009 at 8:33:00 PM EST  
Blogger Zenkichi said...

wow...that's all i can say. such an amazing story - little Thomas is bound to become an extraordinary kid ;p
thanks for sharing!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009 at 9:08:00 PM EST  
Blogger Kim Moldofsky said...

O-M-G! What a story. I recently read about a woman's planned unassisted birth and when I saw your headline I thought, ugh, I hope this isn't a new trend (because it's seems quite risky to have a planned unassisted birth).

I'm glad everything worked out for both of you. Wow. Just wow. Congrats! And Beth did a great job on the photos.

Thursday, November 26, 2009 at 1:06:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ditto. Wow.

Thursday, November 26, 2009 at 1:16:00 AM EST  
Blogger jaminnua said...

What a lovely story, it made me cry. Thanks for sharing! Beautiful photos.

Thursday, November 26, 2009 at 10:53:00 AM EST  
Blogger Señora H-B said...

I'm not sure why this story touched me so much, but it did. Thanks for sharing!

Friday, November 27, 2009 at 1:02:00 PM EST  
Blogger AWShapiro said...

Beautiful story! I am holding back the tears so my in-laws don't wonder what I'm up to reading this blog while they're prepping for a party. This demonstrates how amazing women, babies and childbirth are. Thanks for sharing.

Friday, November 27, 2009 at 2:09:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Esther said...

What an amazing story, made me cry too (and pregnant)! How I admire you!

Friday, November 27, 2009 at 4:11:00 PM EST  
Blogger Shauna said...

This was a fantastic story, it got me all excited to have another baby! Seriously. Birth is so amazing!

Friday, November 27, 2009 at 5:20:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is the most amazing, beautiful birth story. Thank you for sharing it here -- I wish all women could experience such a powerful birth.

Friday, November 27, 2009 at 5:23:00 PM EST  
Blogger Kage said...

A friend forwarded a link to her story a few months ago, it's AWESOME!

Friday, November 27, 2009 at 7:25:00 PM EST  
Blogger mandi said...


Friday, November 27, 2009 at 9:25:00 PM EST  
Blogger e. rene said...

all i can say is WOW!!! you are one healthy mama for that babe to be born in the sac. what a totally cool story!

Sunday, November 29, 2009 at 10:43:00 AM EST  
Anonymous patty said...

I too had a very fast 2nd birth..45 minutes of hard labor very similar to yours. That pain of your pelvis opening is undeniable and i also felt the ballooning of the sac, it was the strangest feeling!!! Ours was to be a planned home water birth with a midwife present..we never had time to get the pool filled but our midwife was present. Leah Jean spiraled out faster than we could ever have was sooo very cool! Thank you for sharing your really hit home!

Sunday, November 29, 2009 at 9:30:00 PM EST  
Blogger aubrey said...

beautiful story.

Monday, November 30, 2009 at 7:48:00 PM EST  
Blogger Sarah @ Maison Boheme said...


Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 10:34:00 PM EST  
Blogger Anna said...


And I hope when our baby comes in June we make it to the hospital, I don't think I would have handled it this well.

Congrats on a health baby.

Thursday, December 3, 2009 at 7:33:00 PM EST  
Blogger kayce hughes said...

A beautiful story! You made me cry and laugh. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 3, 2009 at 10:21:00 PM EST  
Blogger Amber said...

My son, Axel, was born in the cull 9months ago. He was a planned home birth. We were so glad to have been at home, since we knew that the sack would have been broken if we were at the hospital. We gave him the middle name River in honor of his special arrival. Congratulations!

Saturday, December 5, 2009 at 8:04:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Thursday, December 31, 2009 at 3:04:00 AM EST  

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