kate, a good friend of mine from high school, recently had a perfect little baby boy. kate is a VERY strong,
courageous woman who shares the same passion for birth as kelly and i. our goal in sharing stories is to empower
women in their future journeys of labor and delivery. L&D is something that is very often looked at and
approached as something that’s supposed to be miserable and scary. while at some points, especially a natural
birth, it very much can feel that way, don’t get me wrong! whether you chose to go natural or to wear a sign on
your forehead that reads “give me drugs NOW!”, it’s your choice and no one around here is judging. any mom
knows the pain of a contraction, but also only a mom knows the wonderful, indescribable feeling of holding her
baby just out of her womb. i thank kate for her honest, raw, admirable words. here’s her beautiful story, shared
with us from hundreds of miles away from North Carolina. enjoy:)
There’s that saying about the best laid plans. I don’t remember how it goes. I know it basically means that you can make all the plans you want but don’t expect things to go as planned.
My husband, Dave, and I knew we would have to be very open during our birth experience. Our plan was to have a natural birth in water – no induction, no pain meds. We even opted to go to a birth center as opposed to the hospital. Hospitals in Charlotte have a higher epidural and C-section rate than in a lot of parts in the country. I switched from my OB/GYN to a midwife. I knew it would “seal the deal” for us to have a natural birth if I went somewhere (birth center) that didn’t even have the meds on hand.
Everyone kept telling us to keep in mind that there are “exceptions” in every case, so we prepared ourselves for the alternatives – maybe we’d have to transport to a hospital; maybe we’d end up needing a little “push” to start labor, maybe things just wouldn’t go the way we expected.
Even with all that preparation, all the reading, all the meditating – I don’t think we expected to experience what ended up being our birth story.
It was long. It was excruciating. It was frustrating. It was full of anxiety. It was a miracle. It was the most wonderful, exhausting thing I have ever experienced.
To put this whole story in context, you’d have to understand that the entire week before I went into labor, I had what’s called prodromal labor. Ever heard of it? Me either, until I experienced it. I woke up one Sunday morning with contractions that were about five to seven minutes apart and lasting about a minute long. Sometimes they would increase in intensity, sometimes they remained on a plateau. Either way, Dave and I both thought I was in early labor. My mom even flew in to Charlotte from Cincinnati.
Fast forward a week. Every day, every single day, all day, I had those contractions. Sometimes I would get a bit of a break – maybe a few hours or so without them. And I could sleep for a few hours at a time. But my entire body was tired from all the contracting. Combine that with the mental agony of wondering, “OK, is this it now? Will I finally go into labor today?”
And believe you me, we were pulling out all the tricks: walking, rubbing castor oil on my belly (NOT drinking it), taking baths, doing squats, sex, using a breast pump … and NADA was happening. I even told Dave to put himself in crazy situations – leave his car overnight at the car shop, turn off his phone for a few hours, etc. Because it was in those moments that surely I would go into labor, right? Nope.
So Saturday morning, I sent my mom to Kiawah, an island about four hours away from Charlotte. “Go, because if you stay, I’ll never go into labor,” I told her. So she went.
The following Monday was Baby’s due date. I woke up in the middle of the night and blogged that I was having contractions and that I knew I was in labor. The contractions just felt different. They started around 3:30 a.m., and right away, they were intense. They started about 7 minutes apart, which is about how far apart contractions were during prodromal labor. But there was something about these that told me that this was the start of active labor. Maybe it was instinct. Maybe the contractions just felt more intense. Either way, I woke up knowing that at the end of this bout of contractions, we would have a little one.
I called my mom around 5:30 a.m. to tell her that she better start heading back from Kiawah. Fortunately, she was already on her way (mommy instinct???). Dave asked me if he should even bother going to work. I told him to go. Even though I knew I was in labor, given our track record, I thought we might have some time until things got serious.
By 1 p.m., I was trying to get into the bath tub when a contraction hit that was so intense that I grabbed onto the towel rack and let out a cry. We called Dave to tell him to start heading home. Initially, I thought he could just meet me at the birth center and I could labor with Mom. But once the contractions got so strong that I had no choice but to emit low, long moans, I knew I needed my husband.
When Dave got home an hour later, he walked into our bedroom to find me lying on my side, burying my face in pillows, mumbling that contractions had moved to about 5 minutes apart. He and Mom made me a snack and made sure I kept drinking water.
The birth center is about 30 minutes from our house on a good day. As rush hour got closer and closer, Mom and Dave debated over leaving ahead of traffic. My contractions were getting stronger and closer together. In the end, we decided to labor at home a bit longer. I moved from the bathtub to the bed to the exercise ball. Dave held my hand during the tough contractions and told me he thinks I’m amazing.
As I’m writing this, I am tearing up remembering the strength I pulled from Dave and my Mom. If I don’t say it enough, I would have never made it through this experience the way I did without the two of them.
By 6 p.m., we decided we needed to get on the road. I was barely speaking anymore because the contractions were so intense. Our doula, Brooke, said she would meet us at the center. I knew we were getting close to meeting our little one, but I tried not to get excited. Hormones emitted when you get excited can stall or slow labor – and I had already had enough stalled, slow labor.
So Mom, Dave, me and Mona, our sweet dog, piled into Dave’s car. Our friends, Mike and Jackie, had agreed weeks ago that they would watch Mona during our labor and for a few days afterward while we got adjusted to life with Baby. I felt a sense of calm come over me when we were getting into the car. So far, everything I had pictured about this day was going according to plan: we spent hours laboring at home, I was eating and drinking enough to sustain my strength, and Mona would be cared for while we were gone.
That sense of calm didn’t last long. The road to the highway was literally paved with bumps. Each one left me yelling out in pain. Let it be said that the only time I cursed during our labor was during one contraction going over one bump.
By the time we were pulling off the exit, my contractions were nearing 4 minutes apart. I tried my best to relax and breathe through them, occasionally moaning during the peaks. Dave parked the car and looked at me. His eyes were so full of happiness and love – I knew then that I had made the best decision in the world when I said, “I do.”
Dave walked around the car to open my door and help me into the center.
(A note about the center: It’s only been open for a year, and it’s actually in South Carolina. Midwives aren’t licensed to practice in North Carolina yet (how crazy stupid is that?). So the birth center is small – just two birthing rooms, a lobby/classroom, and two small exam rooms for prenatal visits. They host a lot of prenatal classes there – breastfeeding, Bradley, etc. )
As soon as I stepped out of Dave’s car, a big contraction hit. I doubled over and Dave held me up as we waited the nearly two minutes for it to pass. As we were contracting near the birth center’s front door, months-from-due parents-to-be were filing into the birth center with big smiles in anticipation of the class they were about to take.
Then they walked by me. Moaning, super-prego, doubled-over-in-pain me.
I couldn’t laugh then, but I do now as Dave tells our friends and families that we must have scared all those folks. Not only did they witness the contraction outside, but the class was held in the lobby, right next to the room where I would give birth. Boy, did they get an earful of moans each time our room door opened.
Once we got inside, I peeled off my shirt and crawled onto the bed. The birthing rooms at the center are gorgeous – they look like a master bedroom suite, complete with a queen-sized bed and dresser. Oh, and what master bedroom would be complete without a birthing tub?
Dave brought in our bags as Mom walked Mona around the parking lot, waiting for Mike and Jackie to pick up the puppy. My midwife, Christine, came in the room, took one look at me and smiled – she could tell from the sight and sound that I was making rapid progress.
She immediately started filling up the birthing tub, which I was thankful for as the tub provides so much comfort during contractions. As our doula walked in, I was getting undressed and into the tub. I kneeled and hung my head and my arms over the side, slowly moaning through each contraction, which were now around 3 and a half minutes apart and lasting just as long.
I got in and out of the tub as needed to go to the bathroom (which I did a lot). Brooke fed me bits of the granola bars I brought; Mom kept the water bottle at my mouth.
Probably around 8 or 9 p.m. – 16 hours into labor – Christine suggested I might get checked so she could see how I was progressing. I agreed, but said I didn’t want to know. So she checked and said I was doing great – not quite time to push, but getting close. I quickly said, “Oh, just tell me where I am.” “You are seven centimeters,” she said.
What a great feeling. I was so glad she didn’t say I was only 3 or 4. I knew we still had some work left to do, but knowing I was getting close gave me some renewed energy.
We continued laboring in different positions – in the tub, over the toilet, on the bed. The contractions were so long and so close at this point – I was maybe getting about a minute break, and the contractions were lasting up to three minutes long. My low moans were growing into loud, guttural noises that painted fear on my mom’s face.
Around 1 a.m., I hit transition.
I had been feeling small bouts of anxiety since we had gotten to the center, and I kept reminding myself that those feelings meant we were getting close. Little did I know that those little feelings of anxiety could balloon out of control the way they did.
By this point, contractions were one on top of the other and extremely intense.
I had gotten out of the tub and was lying in bed. Each contraction was bringing tears to my eyes (and I’m tearing up again remembering the feeling). My mom had left the room – probably for a much-needed mental break. I remember saying over and over, “I can’t do this. I want to go to the hospital. I’m not strong enough to get through this.” Brooke and Christine, ever calm, tried telling me, “Kate, you CAN do this. You ARE doing this.” I kept yelling back that I couldn’t do it. I needed a break. A week of prodromal labor and now this?
Mom came rushing in near 2 a.m. saying, “Enough is enough. She is worn out. She needs to know she’s making progress and getting close.”
Mom laid on the bed and put her arms around me. I looked at her and cried loudly. “Mommy, I can’t do this anymore. I just can’t. Please don’t make me do this.”
Mom stroked my head and told me that she needed me to hang on for 20 more minutes. Why or how she came up with 20 minutes, I don’t know. She told me that I was getting lost in the moans (which I hadn’t realized were escalating during transition into nearly shouting). She told me to try to conserve my energy and just breathe. She told me to just try to breathe through the contractions.
So I got up and went into the bathroom. I sat backward on the toilet, putting a pillow on the back part of the toilet and my head and arms on the pillow. There I sat for a good 20 minutes to half and hour simply breathing. I didn’t even allow myself to think. Christine came in to check the baby’s heartbeat – I didn’t even acknowledge her being there.
When I emerged from the bathroom, I got into the tub. Instead of kneeling, I laid on my back and kept my hands on my belly. I continued to simply breathe. At one point, I opened my eyes and saw Mom sitting in a chair across the room watching me, her legs propped up on the bed. I remember thinking that she looked comfortable.
So I started repeating this mantra over and over in my head:
“I am sitting comfortably, just like it’s any other day.” Sounds silly now, sure, but at the time, it transported me to our house, on my couch, snuggled up comfortably watching a movie.
I kept telling myself that through each contraction, which were now lasting up to five minutes (or were simply coming one on top of the other, who really knows). I didn’t look at anyone – my eyes were either closed or focused on one of the recessed lights over the tub. When an extremely strong contraction hit, I stared at the light and told myself to take at least five deep breaths. If I needed to take more, I took more.
For an hour or so, I labored like that. Looking back, it was probably almost eerie. I had gone from nearly losing my damn mind to sitting silently in the tub.
In fact, I was so focused that I almost didn’t realize Dave had left the room and fallen asleep in the lobby. When I did realize it, I didn’t care. I would have done the same thing. We were approaching 24 hours of labor – sure I was clearly the most exhausted person in the room, but everyone else was showing their sleepiness:
-My midwife had to run between my room and the other one, as another of her clients had gone into labor that night.
-My doula also had a client go into labor – that woman didn’t even make it to the hospital. She had her baby on the side of the road.
-My mother had to watch her daughter go through excruciating pain, knowing she could do nothing to make it better.
So, we were all exhausted.
Around 3 a.m., maybe 3:30 – like I was even watching the clock at this point – the contractions were so strong that I began feeling the urge to push. Christine wanted to check me again, so I got out of the water and onto the bed. I was stuck at 8 centimeters. She said it was because my water – which had still not broken – was between Baby’s head and my cervix, which was keeping me from fully dialating. I couldn’t believe that I never realized that my water never broke, I never had my “show” and never saw a mucous plug.
I didn’t even hesitate when Christine suggested she break my water. “Yes, do it now.”
She did and I felt the warm gush. Not too much longer now, I thought.
Another 30 minutes and even harder contractions passed. Christine suggested we get into better positioning, as I began pushing almost right after my water broke. I told Christine I didn’t want to move. Each time I changed positions, a contraction would hit. I didn’t want anymore contractions, so my logic was that if I stayed still, they would stop, right? Laughable.
Christine reminded me that we were extremely close.
“Then why isn’t the little a-hole here yet???”
Yes, I called my unborn child a little a-hole.
Everyone in the room gave a little laugh. Except me – I didn’t have the energy. I knew what little strength and energy I had left needed to be conserved for what was just around the corner.
I crawled back into the tub.
By 4 a.m. or so (maybe it was earlier – like I said, clocks meant nothing to me at that point), I was pushing. I could see the amniotic fluid coming out of me into the tub. It wasn’t gross – just looked like murky water. I was becoming more and more frustrated – I don’t want fluid, I want a baby!
Christine insisted I get out of the tub and labor on my side on the bed. Fine. We pushed on my side. We got back in the tub and I pushed on my knees. Mom and Dave took turns holding onto me as I pushed. I pushed standing up while Dave held on to me. I pushed on the toilet.
They brought out a birthing stool. I squatted on that and pushed.
By this point, Christine had called in another midwife. I knew that meant we were getting close. But what did close mean? I had been “close” since I walked into the damn place. If I heard “you’re getting close” or “you’re almost there” one more stinking time, I was going to reach inside myself and rip the baby out bare-handed.
Fortunately, it didn’t come to that. Christine and Lisa, the other midwife, monitored the baby’s heartbeat, which had started to drop. After one measurement, I heard Lisa say, “We’re at 90.” Uh-oh. That’s pretty low. I snapped out of my focus and said, “I don’t like this.”
Calm as ever, the midwives placed an oxygen mask over my face and told me everything was fine. The baby’s head seemed to be stuck, which was creating some stress, which was making his heart rate slow. I would have to labor on the bed until he was born.
Just like that, our water birth went out the window. At the time, I couldn’t care less. Pushing felt “good.” I say “good” because it was better than not pushing. I felt I was working with my contractions as opposed to just tolerating them. Besides, I was looking for the shortest route to actual birth, and if laboring on the bed would get me there quickest, then that’s what I wanted.
We started pushing with me lying on my side. I pulled my knee toward my chest and pushed as hard as I could. Christine said that during each push, she would see the head. I didn’t want to “just see” the head. Out. I wanted the head OUT.
I moved onto my back. Dave lay next to me on the bed, holding my hands and whispering over and over that we were close, just hang on Kate, we’re so close. Mom kept dabbing my forehead with a cold washcloth. Brooke and Lisa held my feet as Christine kept her hands in place to help guide the baby out. I cried in between contractions. My muscles had been spasming from being weak since midnight – they were completely depleted of energy. I remember Dave whispering to my Mom at one point, “Look at her whole body shaking – her body is so tired it’s quivering.”
My mind was getting close to panic mode again.
I could feel the baby moving down during pushes and move back up inside of me as they ended. Christine told me to try to keep him from sliding back in between contractions, which meant that I really couldn’t rest at all. I would push and hold – hold – hold, then push again.
Finally, after hearing a million times, “Great push, Kate!” and “That’s it – that’s exactly what you need to do” and “You are doing it – you are making progress,” I heard the one thing I wanted to:
“Kate, a few more pushes and he’s out.”
That’s all I needed to hear.
“I am getting this kid out of me,” I said with the slightest hint of renewed energy. Again, everyone in the room let out a little laugh. Not me – I was dead serious.
On the next contraction, I held the pushes past what I would have thought was my breaking point. I opened my eyes and looked at Christine, who was looking right back at me saying, “OK, Kate, he’s coming out on this next contraction. Push out the head and then listen for my voice. I might need you to stop – listen for me.”
I nodded and closed my eyes – the next contraction was already starting.
I felt the baby’s head slide out. I waited for Christine, who quickly said, “Keep going, Kate, he’s coming, keep going.”
One more big push and I felt a warm, slimy little creature get placed on my chest. I wrapped my arms around him and looked at Dave, who couldn’t hold back his tears. I looked down at the top of the baby’s head. I was trying to get a good look at his face and the rest of his body, but I didn’t have the strength to keep my eyes open, much less lift up his head.
So I laid back and let my body relax. I placed my hand on Baby’s head and said, “Thank you for finally coming out of me.”
For the third time, everyone else in the room let out a laugh – but not me. I didn’t have the strength, nor did I find what I said to be funny. I genuinely meant what I said. It had been some 27 hours since those initial intense contractions. I felt I had been to hell and back more than once. I lost my mind, got it back and had felt myself losing it again.
I was so relieved he had finally made it. He was in my arms – breathing, blinking and letting out tiny, newborn baby cries. He was our miracle. And he was all ours.
He laid with me for about 20 minutes and nursed. After all the snuggling we wanted, Christine took him to get measured. He weight 8 pounds, 2 ounces and was about 21 inches long. We left with Vinny, our son, about three hours later to recover in our own home.
if you’d like to share your birth story, let us know! email firstname.lastname@example.org
every story is so different, beautiful and unique in their own way and we’d love to share it.
peace, melanie and kelly.