Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Labor story.

This is a VERY long post full of (some graphic) detail. Just a warning for those who care to read our story. This post was really just for me to relive the best day of my life.

After 10 months of the most amazing, beautiful, fun, and relaxing pregnancy ever, the day finally arrived. We didn’t know it was the day, of course, until things started moving along pretty quickly. On Sunday, September 26th I went to prenatal yoga class in the morning from 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. During yoga, I was feeling some contractions, but they had been similar to the ones I’d been feeling all week. My body was definitely preparing for the little guy’s entrance into the world. I didn’t feel contractions at all throughout my pregnancy, but once they started coming, it was clear that’s what they were. My whole stomach would tighten, and you could almost see where Calvin’s back and butt were. I had also been feeling him a lot. His position was head down, and I could feel his legs on my upper right and left sides interchangeably. He really felt like a big baby, and it was so much fun to bond with him (and poke him, too).
Around 2:00 p.m., Angus and I had lunch and then decided to take a walk – our usual 45 minute loop around the neighborhood. On our walk, my contractions became a bit more intense to the point where it felt most comfortable to stop until they passed. Angus was so patient, and at one point we looked at each other in question about whether this could be the day. When we got back to the house, I showered and we relaxed for a while. We called my parents and Katy and Mike on Skype around 4:00 p.m., and at that point Angus was timing my contractions and they were coming about 10 minutes apart. Again, we weren’t sure it they would slow down and stop or speed up and progress. It was still comfortable to breathe through them without making any sort of noise. After getting off Skype, we called our doula, Sutay, and let her know that I was having contractions about 9-10 minutes apart lasting around 30 seconds. We decided to go ahead with our normal nightly routine and make dinner. We made buffalo burgers and coleslaw, and took a photo of our (maybe) “last” supper as a family of two. It’s funny to look back at that picture now because I was all fresh looking, smiling, with my thumbs up. During dinner, we continued to time contractions, and they were around 7-8 minutes apart still lasting around 30 seconds. We called Sutay every hour with an update until around 9:00 p.m. when we decided to try to get some sleep.We got ready for bed, still not knowing if labor was happening or if it was going to be a false alarm. It’s interesting how until the very point we went to the hospital, we just weren’t sure. I think that’s actually what caused us to go into the hospital when we did. If we had known it was labor, we might have stayed home a bit longer. Once in bed, the contractions began to come on with more force. I had to make noise - a low tone, similar to an “om” - through each one while Angus timed them and supported me through them. At this point, they were coming about 5 minutes apart, but soon they got to be about 3 minutes apart. Around 2:00 a.m., we called our midwife, and she suggested that we come into the hospital. Angus packed the last of our belongings into the bag, and we headed out around 2:30 a.m. On the way to the hospital, I remember hitting bumps in the road during contractions and feeling pretty uncomfortable. We parked in the lot by the emergency entrance, and I waited to have one more contraction before we entered the hospital. Once inside, as we traveled to the labor and delivery floor, I had a few contractions. With each one, I’d have to stop, lean against a wall, and “om” through it.

Once we got to our room, our nurse, Danny, checked us in. He monitored Calvin’s vitals, and everything looked great. A funny little tidbit is that Danny really smelled like cigarettes – actually like mint and cigarettes as I’m sure he was trying to cover up the smell. It didn’t bother me too much, but I was pretty grateful that he left around 7:00 a.m. because as things became more intense, it definitely would have affected me. We kind of hung out and waited for our doula and midwife to arrive. Once Merrilynn (our midwife) arrived, contractions were coming steady at about 3 minutes apart and were fairly intense. Merrilynn asked if I wanted to be checked for dilation, effacement, and station, but Angus and I agreed that as long as they didn’t need to know at that moment, we’d rather wait. Since my goal was to have a natural childbirth, I was afraid I’d get checked and I’d be 1 or 2 centimeters and it would psych me out.Merrilynn didn’t have a problem with waiting.

Once Sutay arrived, we decided to walk the halls and do some stairs to try to progress the labor a bit. Angus and I walked together, hand in hand, and every time I had a contraction, I’d stop, lean against the wall, go inside myself, and make noise through it. Angus would stand behind me with his hands on my hips and sway with me or provide counter pressure to my hips both of which were amazing and so helpful. At one point we had a really emotional moment. I looked at him and just thanked him for going through this with me and said how grateful I was to have him. I started crying, and we really just shared in the togetherness.

Eventually, my low back began to ache pretty badly, and it only got more intense as labor progressed. This brings me to my labor buddy – the bathtub. When we got back to the room, I did some contractions on the exercise ball, but then Danny suggested that I either try to lay in bed or get in the tub to rest. He really wanted me to try to sleep during contractions to conserve energy. I knew that wouldn’t happen, but I did think I needed to relax. I ended up getting in the bathtub at about 5:00 a.m. Angus and Sutay were in the bathroom with me for a bit, and then Sutay left and it was just me and Angus. He sat behind me with his feet in the water, and I laid with my head in his lap. The contractions were much more manageable in the tub, and it felt good to relieve some pressure off my back and soak in warm water. The lavender oil in the tub, the candles lit, the lights out, soft music playing – all of these things added up to help to make the bathtub experiences both my and Angus’s favorite labor moments.

Around 7:00 a.m., a new midwife, Sarit, came on shift. She suggested that I get checked at that point for dilation, etc., and I was comfortable with this, so I agreed. I think I still expected to be 2 centimeters, so I mentally prepared for that. Low and behold, I was 4 centimeters dilated, 100% effaced, and the baby was at 0 station. Angus and I looked at each other in amazement. I think it was at this point that we realized this was actually happening.Up until that point, we really still thought that things might peter out and slow down or stop.

After I got checked, we decided to walk the halls and do some more stairs. The contractions became way more intense pretty much immediately after I got out of the bathtub which was probably good because it helped to progress my labor. Angus again was so awesome supporting me through each contraction in the hallway and on the stairs. My oms definitely became louder, but I knew it’s what I needed to do to get through the contractions successfully.I just kept imagining my body opening and said to myself “open, open, open” through each one.I also imagined my baby’s face at the end of it all. Mostly, I just went inside myself to a place that I’ve rarely been. It’s such an inward practice, but there’s so much going on outside of you too. I can see how people get frazzled, but I really just tried to stay calm and take each contraction one at a time. I also really capitalized on my rest time between contractions and didn’t focus on the one that had passed or the one to come (until the very end when things got extremely intense). The rest time was like gold. I couldn’t have done it without that time. It’s funny how nature just knows that women need recovery time during labor, and she gives it to us. Simply lovely.

After walking and doing some stairs, we went back to the room and got into a variety of positions including the exercise ball, all fours (which I hated), on the sofa, on a swivel chair, “slow dancing” with Angus, leaning against the wall, and sitting on the edge of the bed. During each contraction, Angus was there talking me through and telling me how proud of me he was.He also was physically so supportive. As each contraction came, I simply grasped onto his hand and squeezed until it was over. It actually helped to have him squeeze my hand too. He and Sutay continued provide counter pressure on my hips which took some pressure off my aching low back.

At that point, Sarit came into the room and asked if she could check me again. I said yes and of course worried about how far progressed I’d be. At that point, I was 7 centimeters, 100% effaced, and the baby was still at 0 station. Again, Angus and I were super excited. I was pretty exhausted at this point, and the contractions were getting stronger, so I decided rather than walking more, to get back into the bathtub. This was by far my favorite moment of the labor experience. Angus and I sat together in the bathroom with the lights turned off, the candles flickering, and some acoustic women’s worldly music playing softly. At each contraction, I would grasp Angus’s hand. The tub helped so much with relieving pressure off of my back. While in the tub, things definitely were getting more intense. My water broke, and soon I was feeling the urge to push.

I got out of the tub, and the nurse checked me. She said that I was 8 centimeters dilated. She told me that I shouldn’t push before 10 centimeters because it could bruise my cervix. It was definitely hard not to push, and I began to get nervous during each contraction because it felt so natural to want to push. The contractions were super strong at this point, so we stayed in the room, and I got on the exercise ball. With each contraction, my water would break more and pour out over the ball and onto the floor. Between contractions Sutay would mop up my water off the floor. It was amazing to me how much water there was. I can’t imagine having your water break at work or in a public place. It’s literally like a fountain. (Sorry if this is TMI…I warned you!)

While on the exercise ball, Angus sat in front of me and held my hand, and Sutay provided counter pressure to my back. At that point I didn’t think I could go on without some sort of pain medication, so I started asking Angus and Sutay for it. Between contractions I would ask for pain medication mainly by saying, “I don’t think I can do this anymore. I need something.” Angus and Sutay were great. They sort of just ignored my requests (which is what I told them to do when we had talked about labor during my pregnancy), and I thankfully didn’t have enough energy to insist and set up a plan of action. I would just endure the next contraction and ask for pain medications during the breaks and so on. A little while later Sarit came and checked me, and I was 8.5 centimeters dilated. I was worried about being able to go on to 10, but Sarit said that my cervix was thin enough that she could pull it over the baby’s head. I have no idea how she managed this, but it worked, and in no time, I was 10 centimeters and ready to push.

Pushing is a whole other labor story! It was by far the most intense experience of my life, and it lasted a total of about 2.5 hours which seemed like days. I thought that it would be helpful to make sounds while pushing, but low and behold, it’s actually more effective to take a deep breath, hold it, and bear down. With each contraction, I was able to push about four times. I tried to push between contractions several times because the urge was so strong, but Sarit encouraged me to save my energy and wait for a contraction since that’s when I’d be able to make more headway. After trying countless different positions for pushing, I ended up on the bed using the squat bar for support. This would be the position that finally helped to push our baby out. I pushed and pushed, and I just didn’t believe I was making any progress. I thought everyone was lying to me. I saw Angus’s face though and knew he could see our baby’s head. They let me feel his head at two different times so that I could realize I was making progress. Finally at 8:40 p.m on September 27th, Sarit said that I’d probably be pushing him out during the next contraction. She said that when I felt the head come out I should just continue to push through it. Sure enough, I pushed with all of my might and his head emerged and then the rest of his body just came flying out. It was the biggest feeling of relief I’ve ever experienced.

Immediately they put Calvin up on my chest, and he was crying and looked so amazing and healthy. It was a feeling I will never forget. I don’t even know how to describe it in words. As my grandfather said when he first saw Calvin: “I don’t know how anyone could not believe in God.” Pretty accurate. Angus was by my side, we were both crying, and I can’t even remember what I was saying. I think I was saying “my baby” and “oh my god” over and over again. They rubbed him with warm towels and took off my tank top so that we could get skin to skin and try nursing right away. The moments after Calvin’s birth were pretty awesome and surreal.Angus and I were both so, so exhausted after not sleeping for over 48 hours and then going through the most intense experience of our lives. We literally just stared at our baby in amazement and soaked every ounce of his sweetness in for three hours. The rest is a whirlwind of emotion, but ultimately we were both so proud to have gotten through at 24 hour childbirth experience without pain medication, with a new sense of togetherness, and with a beautiful baby boy.


  1. This is so beautiful, Ker. It made me all teary ;)

  2. Love it Ker. Great job. I love you all.

  3. That was really beautiful and quite inspirational.