My Long Latent Phase of Labor (Early Labor): Baby #5

My Long Latent Phase of Laobr (Early Labor) Baby #5

I’m so excited to share my experience with you of Baby #5’s birth!  This was my first completely spontaneous birth — one that started on its own without even having my membranes stripped.  While my contractions were manageable, it was a doozy because I had such a long early labor, a period also known as the latent phase of labor.  In my 4 previous births, I’d zoomed through the latent phase of labor in just a few hours.  I’m a living, breathing witness that no one birth is the same as the next!

As with my other birth stories, what you’re about to read is the raw, unedited version that I wrote for Baby #5’s scrapbook shortly after her birth.  I also had this birth professionally photographed filmed for use in the Kopa Birth online childbirth class series.  Are you ready to get waaaay too up close and personal with me?!  Let’s do it!!

Estimated reading time: 19 minutes

My Long Latent Phase of Labor: Before the Labor

latent phase of labor - pictures before i went into labor
Check out that big ole’ belly! This is a dress that my sister had given me 15, yes FIFTEEN, years earlier after she had her first baby. I think I should win some sort of prize for oldest maternity clothing still in use.

“Your due date was during a super busy time for Mom and Dad!  Dad was taking some continuing education courses and mom was hurrying to get in as much teaching footage as possible for the Kopa Birth online classes while she was still pregnant.  I anticipated that you would be born late, like all of your siblings.  So, I scheduled an appointment to have my membranes stripped on the 13th.  I had been to the OB about a week before your due date and was told that I was 3 cm dilated.  I happily assumed that your birth would move along quickly when the time came, and was glad to wait it out and give my cervix an extra week to continue ripening!

My Long Latent Phase of Labor: My Early Labor Experience

Mild Contractions

“I woke up on Wednesday to mild contractions that were strong enough to wake me up.  The contractions continued throughout the day.  They felt different than the Braxton Hicks contractions I had been experiencing for so long.  These had a more uncomfortable, stronger intensity about them.  This was the day of dad’s last final, so I had him keep his cell phone ON just in case!

“I had wrapped my mind so firmly around the idea of going into labor on the 13th that I only half believed what I knew my body was telling me – that I was in early labor (latent phase of labor)!  Despite this, I listened to my body enough, however, to wash and blow dry my hair, shave my legs, and paint my toe nails pink for the occasion!  I did my best to distract myself from the contractions, and headed out to the grocery story with the kids.

“As the day wore on, the contractions stayed about the same intensity, but my lower back began to get noticeably achy.  By about 4:00pm, I was convinced enough that I called Ms. Rhonda (our neighbor across the street) and gave her the heads up that tonight might be the night, since she had agreed to watch your brothers while we went to the hospital.  I also gave Sabrina a call – she’s the friend we had organized to film and photograph the birth.

Mucus Plug

“At around 5:00, the contractions were picking up in intensity and I had a small amount of spotting.  [Baby #2…no longer a baby :)] had a baseball game that night, so Dad took your sister and brothers to watch him play.

“Knowing that we were going to film the birth, I went upstairs at around 6pm to straighten my hair, put on makeup, and generally spiff myself up for the event 😉  When I was finished, I set up the white screen and attempted to get in a few more video clips while I was still pregnant.  It wasn’t easy to focus on filming while I was continuing to have contractions! I lost my mucus plug around 7pm — about the same time that Sabrina showed up at the house.

“I eventually gave up on the filming and came downstairs to feed everyone dinner — a good distraction activity.  Afterwards, I cleaned up the kitchen while Dad put your brothers and sister to bed.

latent phase of labor - squatting during a contraction and hanging out with the kids
It’s a super big treat for my kids to eat dinner while watching a movie. Since our projector set-up is in the living room, we sit them right on the edge of the kitchen floor 🙂 I’m really working that squat & lean move, aren’t I?!


“Already this was such a different labor than I’d ever experienced before.  With the exception of [Baby #2], who was an induction, labor had begun with every other baby after the provider had stripped my membranes in the office.  Within 6 hours of the procedure, I was in active labor.  This slow-to-pick-up-in-pace-and-intensity completely spontaneous labor was a whole new ball game to me.

“I was having a difficult time gauging my labor progress.  Since it was hard to tell how things were moving along, I determined to stick to my tried and true game plan of distracting myself until I couldn’t possibly distract myself anymore.

I’m trying to open my hips with some stretching in early labor.

“After cleaning the kitchen and generally putzing around the house — it was too late at that point to go anywhere — we sat down and watched a movie.  The long day of contractions was starting to catch up to me, and I was tired.  I went in and out of paying attention to the movie and sleeping a bit when I could.  I was half aware that my contractions were less intense and seemed to slow down when I was sitting, which I didn’t necessarily mind.  However, with time, they got strong enough that I couldn’t distract myself from them anymore.  So at around midnight, I went upstairs to the loft and turned on the relaxation scripts.

My Long Latent Phase of Labor: Finally in Active Labor

Listening to Relaxation Scripts

latent phase of labor - listening to relaxation scripts
Labor’s starting to get a bit more serious now. In this picture, I’m trying to relax while I listen to guided imagery scripts. I probably listened to scripts for about 3 hours.

“I’ve had varying experiences with relaxation scripts during labor.  During the labor with [Baby #3 and Baby #4], I found listening to scripts to be incredibly hypnotic.  I truly felt like I was IN the imagery, and at some points like I was actually hovering over myself during the contraction.  But this time around, I was having to work very consciously to stay engaged in the imagery and to keep my mind involved in the scripts.  I was very aware of every track change and very aware every time I funneled through the entire album.  In fact, as the contractions were continuing to pick up, I set a goal in my mind to finish the album one more time, which was a total of 3 hours of listening.  At around 3 am, I asked Seth to call Rhonda and get us ready to go to the hospital.

My Long Latent Phase of Labor: Arriving At the Hospital

“We left for the hospital around 3:30 am on Thursday, and I still was confused about how to gauge my labor progress.  I had been having regular, intense contractions; however they weren’t as close as I’d thought they should be for me to go to the hospital. I remembered a friend talking about how her contractions with her fifth birth were intense but not very close together.  Armed with that thought, we left for the hospital.


“When we got to the hospital, they checked us in to triage.  Dr. P. came and checked me and said that I was dilated to a 7 or 8, and they prepared to move us back to the labor room.  Once there, they brought in the delivery tools and baby warmer, and I assumed that they assumed baby would be born shortly.  Dr. P. came in the room and was almost immediately called back out to perform a c-section.  It turns out he didn’t come back in for the rest of his shift.

latent phase of labor - at hospital triage
Seth is slow-paced breathing along with me as we wait to be assessed in the hospital triage.

Getting Into Our Labor Groove

“After being assessed, Seth and I worked to get into a good labor groove.  Every time I stood up, the contractions were strong and intense.  When I sat down on the birth ball, they felt more manageable.  Throughout the next few hours, we talked about trying different positions to pick up the pace of labor.

latent phase of labor - slow dancing in active labor
Here we are, rockin’ the slow dance 🙂

“We had the nurse check my cervix twice—the first time I was 9 cm, the second time I was 9.5cm with a lip.  We figured that since my cervix was progressing, I would just stay in positions that were more comfortable and wait for the urge to push.

latent phase of labor - swaying on the birth ball
I did an awful lot of sitting and swaying on the birth ball during this labor. I held on to Seth’s arms to brace myself as I leaned back on my lower back. During contractions, I swayed and used breathing techniques. Poor Seth was pretty pooped at this point.

Still Not 10cm Dilated!

“By 9 am, I still wasn’t completely dilated and didn’t have an urge to push.  At this point, I was starting to feel the exhaustion of having labored throughout the night.  Your dad and I were practically falling asleep in between contractions.  We were beginning to be concerned that if the labor continued for too much longer, I would run out of steam.  Believe me, I was ready to be done!

latent phase of labor - falling asleep in between contractions
We had labored all through the night. Notice the sunlight taunting me as it streams into the room LOL! At this point, I was pretty much falling asleep in between contractions. I was just SO EXHAUSTED!

“Seth finally convinced me to get off the birth ball and try a hands and knees position on the bed.  As soon as I changed positions, OH MAN, the contractions picked up in intensity.  I quickly got back into a sitting position!

latent phase of labor - pressure techniques to ease back pain
Seth and my AWESOME nurse encouraged me to try a hands & knees position for a few contractions. The position change made the contractions feel SUPER intense. You can see Seth and the nurse doing the 2- Person Double-hip Squeeze to ease my back pain.

“I asked the nurse if I should just try to start pushing, and see what happened.  She thought it was best to wait until I had an urge to push.  I asked her what the pros and cons would be of breaking my water at this point, and she thought it would likely speed things up.  She also discussed the risks of cord prolapse and the potential that the cervix might swell a bit.  We told her we’d like to have the doctor come in an check my cervix, and possibly break my water.

Our Long Latent Phase of Labor: A New Doctor Finally Comes!

“Dr. R. came into the room around 9:07 am…judging by the clock on the wall in the birth videos.  After about 5 hours of laboring since Dr. P. checked my cervix, imagine my surprise when she told me that I was 8 cm dilated!  What?!  I explained that that’s the same dilation I was when I entered the hospital!  And that I’d been told I was at a 9!  She told me that Dr. P. tends to be “generous” with his cervical checks, and that my cervix is very elastic after having 5 children and it’s easy to push out of the way.  She suggested that maybe I was being checked during a contraction, or maybe the cervix got stretched a bit while I was being checked and they gave me an extra cm or 2.

Deciding to Break My Water

“Ok, Katie.  COMPOSURE.  I had arrived at a defining moment!  I couldn’t entirely forget the fact that I was being filmed.  Either I was going to show couples what it looked like to choose an epidural or I was going to keep it together and make some choices!

“So, I started asking questions:  ‘Is my cervix stretchy enough that you could possibly push it out of the way and allow the baby’s head to pass through if I push?  What if you break my water—will that help?’  Dr. R. answered that yes, she thought that she could push the cervix over the baby’s head, and she also thought that we’d have a baby born very soon if she broke my water.  Seth did a great job asking about all of the pros, cons, and risks of intervening.  I decided that I wanted her to try to move things along by breaking my water and letting me push, and Seth agreed.

My Long Latent Phase of Labor: A Quick Transition & Pushing

Doctor Breaks My Water

“She had me get into a sitting position for a “trial” push.  On the initial cervical check, she couldn’t feel my bag of waters and wondered if it had already ruptured.  I was almost positive that it was still intact.  When a contraction began, she reached up to the cervix and tried to stretch it over baby’s head while I pushed.  At this point she was able to feel the bag of water, which she then ruptured.  She said she was sure she could help me move the head past the cervix as I pushed.  She encouraged me to get on my knees and lean into the bed, because the sitting position wasn’t helping the baby descend.

latent phase of labor - trial push
I’m sitting upright as I attempt the “trial” push. Meanwhile, Dr. R is stretching my cervix. YOWZERS is all I need to say about that.

Pushing in a Kneeling Position

“From here on out is a bit of a blur.  I got on my knees and leaned into the bed liked I’d been instructed.  When the next contraction came, I pushed with all my strength!  I remember the doctor and nurse were counting in the background, and I did my best to follow their cues and push.  I did not have the overwhelming spontaneous urge to push that I had with other births, so their cues were helpful. It felt like the doctor was stretching and pulling my insides in every direction.  I felt such intense pressure and discomfort, and every bit of my attention and focus was directed on getting you OUT :0

latent phase of labor - pushing while kneeling over the back the bed
Kneeling, leaning over the back of the bed, and pushing. I knew I was almost done at this point! I was feeling tons of pressure as the baby’s head descended lower into the birth canal.

My Long Latent Phase of Labor: Birth

“And then the burning sensation grew as your head crowned, and with one more push you were born!  I felt so grateful that you had finally joined us, and at the same time, so grateful for the fact that I was done with labor and contractions!  It took me half a minute or so to compose myself enough to turn from the kneeling position I was in so that I could hold you.  And oh, Miss A., how gorgeous you were!  Your perfect little lips and eyes!  I brought you up to my chest, skin-to-skin, and you started nursing like a champ!”

latent phase of labor - baby 5 is born
And then finally, there she was!  I held her skin to skin and she started breastfeeding right away.
latent phase of labor - gorgeous baby girl
I don’t mean to brag, but I think I make some pretty darn cute babies.  Come one now!  Check out those eyes and sweet little rose-bud lips 🙂

My Long Latent Phase of Labor: Thoughts About Breastfeeding

If you’re still reading…

I want to add a quick note about my experiencing breastfeeding this little one.  At this point, I’d nursed 4 children for over one year each.  I had experienced basic challenges with soreness, taking a lot time for my milk to come in, etc…stuff like that worked itself out within a few days of giving birth.

When the nurse was assessing the baby in the hospital, I noticed that her tongue puckered in a bit when she cried.  I’d learned in nursing school that that was a symptom of tongue tie.  I mentioned it to the nurse, and we moved on.

Nipple Soreness & Tongue Tie

A few days postpartum, my nipples were over-the-top SORE.  (Sorry if this is a bit TMI for you :0).  There were deep cracks in them and they were bleeding every so often as she nursed.  But the baby was content and I knew she was getting enough milk.  Having experienced a few days of being sore with other children, I figured I’d just wait it out.  A few days turned into a week and a half, and I finally brought the baby to our Ear/Nose/Throat doctor to be assessed for tongue-tie.  Sure enough, she did have tongue-tie. And right then and there in the office, they cut the tight frenulum.  I was able to nurse her directly after the procedure.

Lactation Consultation

The discomfort of the sore nipples didn’t go away instantly because they were so raw and needed to heal.  I went to a lactation consultant and learned some new strategies to help my baby latch better.  In the end, I just persevered with breastfeeding because I knew from experience that it would improve with time and I knew it would be worth it.

In all, it took about 5 weeks for my nipples to completely heal and for baby to latch well.  I won’t lie.  It was painful.  But fortunately, we were able to figure it out!  I went on to nurse her happily and without discomfort for over a year.

Breastfeeding will be smooth sailing for many of you.  If it’s not for you, don’t give up!!  Reach out to your OB and get a reference for a qualified lactation consultant.  This is covered 100% under many insurance plans.  Breastfeeding is a part of my relationship with my babies that I cherish, and combined with it’s benefits for baby, I personally believe that it’s worth the effort.

My Long Latent Phase of Labor: Thoughts in Hindsight

1. Baby Not Engaged

Engagement is when the baby drops lower as the head enters into the pelvis.  Looking back, I had some pretty classic symptoms that baby was not engaged.  For example, I experienced a latent phase of labor that dragged on and on.  Also, I had contractions that weren’t very strong, yet persisted that way for hours.

In retrospect, I should have done some techniques to encourage the baby to engage.  These techniques include the abdominal lift & tuck and hip circles — positions that you’ll learn in your online class.  A few years later when I gave birth to Baby #6, I was sure to use these techniques during the latent phase of labor to help the baby to engage and labor to progress.

2. Short Transition & Pushing

You’ll notice that I lumped transition and pushing together in my paragraph heading.  That’s because my labor didn’t feel really intense and transition-like until the doctor broke my water.  My contractions were strong but far apart.  In transition, the contractions typically are long and close together.

And although I might have been dilated to 8 or 9 centimeters before then, emotionally I wasn’t in transition yet.  I was able to have a decent conversation with the doctor about the option of breaking my water, etc.  When you’re in “real” transition, it’s almost impossible to focus on asking questions.  Transition is much more intense and all-consuming.  Recall that after the doctor broke my water, I described labor as “a bit of a blur” from that point forward?  That’s transition!!

3. Filming the Birth

I didn’t think being filmed would effect my birth at all.  But in retrospect, I feel like the fact that I was so “observed” made it harder for me to completely let go and get into an instinctive labor groove.  I wonder if this may have also contributed to my long early labor.  Try your best to birth in an environment in which you feel safe, comfortable, and able to be uninhibited.

With the birth of Baby #6, which I also wanted to film, I decided not to start recording anything until I was in active labor.  Unfortunately, I waited too long to turn on the camera and we ended up not getting any video footage at all 🙁  Oh well!!

Kopa Birth’s online childbirth classes allow you to prepare for a natural childbirth from the comfort of your own home, 24/7. Enroll today in our free online childbirth class to learn more about preparing for a natural hospital birth.

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Meet Katie Griffin

I’m a registered nurse, Lamaze certified childbirth educator, and the mother of 7. I help women realize their dream of a natural, intimate, and empowering hospital birth.

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I’m so excited to share my experience with you of Baby #5’s birth!  This was my first completely spontaneous birth — one that started on its own without even having