laboring in water

Gabriel's Birth Story

Gabriel Featured Image

July is birth story month at the Motherhood Collective. Reading the good, the bad, the ugly and the BEAUTIFUL experiences of other mothers gives us a real appreciation for the strength we have in childbirth. Hopefully these stories will inspire you. Here is Melissa's story:

Of course, Gabriel’s story begins back in November, 2010, when we found out that we were pregnant with him! Our prayers were heard and we were blessed us with a wonderful, healthy pregnancy for both Melissa and the baby. During this time, we also began our journey in childbirth education. And oh, what a journey! Through the Anticipation and Beyond Café (resource for all things pregnancy, birth, and parenting), additional books, friendships, and much prayer, we decided to opt for a hospital birth with the desire to keep it as natural and intervention-free as possible. Melissa continued to surround herself with only positive stories on a natural birth, preparing herself for Gabriel’s birth to come. It only took our first private childbirth education class with Laurie Flower to decide we didn’t want to face this alone. We hired her to be our doula. Doula is Greek for servant-woman and English for childbirth-coach-who-has-seen-all-and-done-all-and-will-bend-over-backwards-to-keep-you-going-strong-woman. She was worth her weight in gold! We thoroughly enjoyed our 1-on-1 classes with her – they gave us new found knowledge and encouragement for a natural delivery that we hadn’t found anywhere else.

Fast forward to Saturday, August 13th (nine days prior to Gabriel’s due date). This day began like any other in the ninth month of pregnancy – dancing in our heads were visions of sweatpants, sleeping in, and enjoying the weekends together before the baby came. Instead, we began the day with major sewer problems, multiple moppings of the bathroom floor, and heading to the in-laws’ for showers. Not the end of the world, but Melissa was exhausted and still experiencing the off-and-on lower back pain she had been having the past week. Her wonderful husband stood in the water and did all of the “dirty” work, while they nervously joked – what if it was today?

Sewer mended, they prepared for an afternoon nap. Futile, because Melissa just wasn’t comfortable no matter what we tried.

And then the phone rang – our beloved doula! We had been in prayer for weeks because Laurie had come down with a terrible virus, one that had her making this phone call from the hospital. She told us that as long as Gabriel held off until Monday, she would be out of the hospital and at our birth. We smiled – we were sure he wouldn’t come tonight or tomorrow. We listened half-heartedly to her describe Barbie, a mother of eight and previous midwife assistant for years, whom Laurie said we could call if we went into labor before Monday. We shrugged. There was no way we were doing this thing without Laurie.

We were reminded to get plenty of rest, but Melissa was still feeling antsy, so we went to Kroger and bought our last (little did we know) pre-natal late-night snack and rented a movie. We met our neighbors, Nick and Molly, at the Redbox station. We laughed with them about how exhausted we were, and said, “Wouldn’t it be crazy if he came tonight?” and, “Hopefully not!”

We tried settling down to sleep again at 12:30am. Melissa crawled out of bed at 1:00am with more consistent and intense back pains. Could it be that these were contractions? She grabbed her exercise ball and bounced around the bedroom, trying not to wake her dear husband. The whole time, she denied she was in labor. The irony of it would just be too much to bear—the one day in weeks that she hadn’t taken a long afternoon nap and the two days in Laurie’s life (it seemed) that she would not be able to attend a birth.

Regardless, Melissa finally woke Andy at 2:00am, more for the distraction than anything else. They put something on to watch, and Andy made his first (of many!) runs to the microwave with the heated “rice socks.” Melissa continued to bounce around on the ball while Andy applied hot pressure to her lower back. Of course, we were still sure that Melissa wasn’t in labor (ha!), but pulled out the stop watch to time the duration of the “contractions” for practice – just like Laurie had taught us. It was strange. We began to notice that they were consistently a minute long, and they weren’t getting any easier.

We finally decided that we needed to talk about a substitute Doula. Melissa had known Barbie from the Anticipation and Beyond Café, but still…perhaps we shouldn’t call her yet since this still could be a fluke. People get false labor all the time…

Eventually, we decided that this was the real thing. Melissa did what she had prayed she could do before going to the hospital—took a shower. She didn’t want to feel all dirty and gross before all the mess of labor and delivery. The shower felt so good that she stood in there for an hour. But nausea drove her out. Right as Andy was calling Barbie at 6:00 am, Melissa had her first of many bouts of throwing up.

This wasn’t good. One of the things Andy and Melissa had been passionate about was keeping food in Melissa to give her energy throughout labor (FYI, women in labor burn 1400 calories an hour!). In fact, the previous weekend they had spent an hour perusing the grocery aisles, collecting every kind of snack that Melissa thought would be desirable during her many hours of contractions. Alas, due to the nausea and throwing up, the food was completely forgotten.

Barbie arrived at 6:30 am, was introduced to Andy, and the new birth team settled down to develop a game plan. Barbie assessed where Melissa was, talked about ways she hoped to help and began joining Andy in the runs to the microwave with rice socks. All of this was reassuring. She was going to be the perfect substitute for Laurie!

After a while, Barbie suggested a walk. Melissa had heard this really helped, so she agreed. The walk was pleasant and refreshing in the early morning. The three of them made a strange caravan to outsiders, stopping every couple minutes to perform the same ritual: Melissa would lean against Andy’s back, while Barbie pressed her hands into the small of Melissa’s back. Melissa would sway and moan, and then take a breath to cleanse herself of the contraction. Then they would continue.

Eventually, we remembered that there were other people who should know we were in labor, so we called family around 8:30 am, telling them this was the day! Barbie then suggested that we start packing for the hospital. Andy frantically began grabbing all of our plastic bags (somewhere between 8 and 12 in all) and stuffing them with labor paraphernalia. Since we kept denying this was the real deal, we hadn’t quite finished packing the bag. We filled up the trunk, got Melissa situated between contractions, and headed for the hospital. At this point, the contractions had been 1 minute long for about 4 or 5 hours.

The arrival at the hospital at 10:30 was exciting to say the least. We had forgotten to call ahead or even talk with the midwife during all this, so they didn’t know to expect us. Andy handled the registration and made a quick run to the bathroom (poor guy had been waiting a while for the chance), while Melissa leaned against the counter, doing her thing.

They were taken to their room and met their nurse, Ashley. Ashley apologized, but could Melissa lay on the bed for half an hour to get monitored? Yuck. Contractions were not meant for horizontal positions. Melissa apologized, but asked if Ashley would set up the Aquadoula (a giant inflatable tub) in the room. This was not the nurses’ favorite task, and Melissa knew it. But she also knew it was one of the major pluses to laboring in the hospital. She also knew it took a good hour to set up. Ashley reminded her of this, but Melissa and Andy insisted anyway.

Thankfully, Ashley ended up being very lenient with our hospital privileges. She measured Melissa at 6 cm then took orders from Barbie. She ran down the halls grabbing every unused washcloth, buckets of ice, an inflatable labor ball, and extra nurses to set up the giant tub. Meanwhile, Andy called family to let them know we were at the hospital.Laboring

Finally, the tub was ready! It was like a dream come true gliding into the warm water up to her neck. Melissa had heard about how amazing water births were, and how they had even begun adopting the practice in some hospitals. But water births weren’t allowed at this hospital, so while she was in the water, Melissa began to plot a way in which she could keep the nurse and midwife from knowing when she was ready to push the baby out. Maybe she could have him in the water, and pretend it had been an accident. To put it bluntly, she didn’t ever want to come out of that tub.

Barbie gets props for the best comfort measure (second only to the Aquadoula). She brought our crock pot along, filled it was water and washcloths, and turned it on high. These warm washcloths replaced the rice socks (which lost heat quickly and took some time to reheat) on Melissa’s abdomen and back. She also suggested an ice cold washcloth on Melissa’s face and neck. The two extremes of hot and cold pressure, while alternating positions in the tub, kept Melissa sane, and she even felt she was enjoying herself a bit. Everything was so new, and her senses were so alive and focused on what was happening. Sometimes she liked rocking on all fours, other times she threw herself over a pillow on the edge of the tub (come to find out, the pillows weren’t really supposed to get wet). The sun was streaming in through the window, and Melissa, Andy and Barbie alternated between praying during the contractions, reading Scripture, and best of all, singing. Melissa found that deep, soulful hymns helped her sway and connect with the inner primitive self—something she had been told was essential to handling the pains. She alternated between “Amazing Grace”, “Down to the River to Pray,” and “I Love You Lord.” In an odd way, the combination of these things made everything peaceful for her. When one contraction was harder than another, her groans would get deeper and louder. Andy would notice and look into her eyes, and tell her that Gabriel said “thank you.” It felt good to be reminded she was getting a baby at the end of all this!

The midwife on duty that day was Christina. Melissa’s last prenatal appointment just three days earlier had been with her, and she had very bluntly said: “Most first time Moms go late, so don’t expect him any time soon.” Melissa secretly laughed when she saw her walk in to the hospital room—eight days before the due date. Each time Christina walked into the room, she merely seated herself in the chair and watched the three of them do their thing. She didn’t ask questions or bother us with how things were going. And when the nurse, Ashley, had to go get something approved, she came with the news that Christina wasn’t worried about their progress. She even allowed Melissa to stay in the pool for five hours, when they usually only allowed one.

So things continued on their merry way until about 2:30 pm. Then, Melissa reached transition. She was told she couldn’t be in the pool anymore, and Barbie agreed that she needed to keep moving around. Melissa “groaned” around the room—first walking, then bouncing on the ball, then leaning against Andy, then sitting on the toilet (this had previously felt great). Still, nothing felt good. It was at this point that Melissa said something Andy will never forget: “This isn’t fun anymore.” (As if the rest of labor had just been a pool party!)

After a while, Melissa was starting to feel “pushy,” so Christina wanted to check her one more time. Melissa was a nine! That was encouraging. Melissa was glad it was almost over, but terrified that she was so close to the dreaded part. Melissa had no idea what it would be like to push out a baby. Christina and Barbie both recommended that they break her water, since it was still holding on for dear life, and the pressure of her water kept building. They told her the pressure would be lessened, and so Melissa consented.

It was around 4:30 pm that Melissa climbed onto the bed. The head of the bed was elevated, and Melissa got down on her hands and knees, and rested her head at the top of the bed. She slowly began pushing during the peak of her contractions, whenever she felt the onset of the urge to push. The strangest part about this time was that her contractions were still just as long and strong, but had extended to six minutes apart! Her body must have known she needed the rest after no sleep in the last 34 hours, and no food in the last 18 hours. So she slept between contractions. It felt surreal that her body could do this, but she was literally woken each time with the urge to push, and would fade back out at the end of it.

Extra nurses arrived to begin setting up tables of equipment, and Christina stood at the foot of the bed watching Melissa’s progress. At one point, Barbie asked Melissa if she wanted to feel Gabriel’s head near the opening. Melissa was surprised to know that he was that close! She reached down and received all the encouragement she needed. She could do this, and she wanted to do this! She wanted to hold her baby! He was almost here!

Right at the end, Christina told Melissa to lay on her side to prevent further tearing. Melissa slid down, and a few pushes later, he was out! Melissa couldn’t believe it. On the last “push,” they’d even told her to just breathe through it, and out he came. It was such a beautiful sensation—not painful or something that made her want to scream out. And before she could process anything, he was there, in her arms, eyes roving about. As soon as Melissa started speaking, his eyes locked with hers. The bond that Melissa felt, the surge of love that expanded her heart to make room for another person, was overwhelming—something she will never forget. According to Barbie, Melissa kept saying, “My baby…this is my baby. My baby! My baby…my baby.” Not exactly waxing eloquent, but full of wonder. Then Andy was there, speaking to Gabriel. And he turned and looked his father in the eyes, knowing Andy’s voice as well as his mother’s.

The next hour was a blur. Nurses were suctioning Gabriel, giving him oxygen, and doing his APGAR scores. As desired, he was able to stay on Mommy almost the whole time! During this hour, Barbie also helped Gabriel nurse for the first time. This was such a sweet moment of intimacy to see the comfort he received from his mother and the tenderness she was able to express so naturally.On the scale

As far as Melissa’s postpartum goes…she experienced the worst part of labor and delivery—the midwife putting all her strength into compressing Melissa’s uterus. This was the part in the whole process that she wanted to scream, curse, and chop off someone’s head with an axe. No one had told her they would do this to her. She received the wonderful news that a nurse would be stopping by every 15 minutes to perform the same action. The midwife also began stitching Melissa (who had unfortunately suffered two second-degree tears). Come to find out, the bright overhead lights that are used for this were out…so the midwife had to take her time, and kept calling out for the nurses to go fetch other lights, finally settling with a flashlight that she kept in her glove box. This was, needless to say, a very apprehensive time for Melissa. You don’t usually want to hear your medical professional complaining of vision problems while performing such a delicate task on a very sensitive area.

One of the highlights of this time for Melissa was the food that Andy fed her while all this was going on. The Little Debbie’s Banana Nut muffin that she ate was, by far, the best tasting and most rewarding thing she had ever eaten in her life. Gabriel was happily enjoying his mother’s milk for the first time, and Melissa felt like she was tasting food for the first time, too!

Eventually, Melissa was able to get out of bed and use the restroom. Thankfully, she had kept enough fluids in her to be able to go to the bathroom. She put on a robe and got situated in the wheelchair. Gabriel was placed in the cart, and they were wheeled to the postpartum room!

Reflecting on the 16 ½ hours of labor, Melissa would have to say that everything she experienced was fully worth those moments of looking into her son’s eyes, knowing that she had done everything in her power to give him a beautiful and safe entry into this world. Perhaps she was lucky—she did not consider her labor to be “painful” or something that threatened to send her into screaming hysterics, as some describe their labors. Unpleasant? Yes. Throbbing, uncomfortable pressure that she couldn’t talk through? Most definitely. But in the grander scheme of things, a lovely, pure process created for women entering motherhood. In talking with Melissa about the birth, Laurie Flowers made the comment that she’s always interested in what keeps women going through with a natural delivery. There’s quite a bit of conviction that must occur to keep refusing an epidural that’s so easily within arm’s reach! On the practical side of things, Melissa would most definitely agree that she wanted to keep the delivery natural for optimal health of the baby. Emotionally and spiritually, Melissa wanted to experience this rite Mama and Babyof passage, to know at the purest level what it means to bring a child into this world, to make this first motherly sacrifice of love.

In summary, we are so thankful what we desired most of all: a natural, safe delivery of a healthy baby weighing in at 6 lbs., 11 oz., and 21 inches long! Although a few things that we had taken for granted didn’t go “according to plan,” we were blessed to see the Lord’s grace in every way.

From the moment Gabriel Joshua Kan was placed in our arms, we have been so full of gratitude to have this boy. We truly behold His glory in the son that we behold on a daily basis.


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Olivia's Birth Story


July is birth story month at the Motherhood Collective. Reading the good, the bad, the ugly and the BEAUTIFUL experiences of other mothers gives us a real appreciation for the strength we have in childbirth. Hopefully these stories will inspire you.

It was a typical Monday morning. I’d woken up, gone to the barn to take care of the animals, showered, dressed, and had breakfast. The house was in semi-order, thanks to my mother’s helpfulness over the previous weeks after moving into the new house. Whose idea was it to move at 38 weeks pregnant? At least it was just across the road. As I finished my morning routine and was about to leave the house, I looked in front of the television where our hospital bag lay. Aside from some discomfort on Saturday at the Farmer’s Market, I felt fine. Everyone had guessed Sunday would be the big day. Sunday had come and gone without a hint of excitement. I left the bag on the floor, telling myself that if I took them, I surely wouldn’t need them; if I left them there was a chance that I might.

Unlike a lot of women, I wasn’t at that extreme discomfort stage where most women are ready to relieve their bodies of the extra weight. I was curious about the life inside my abdomen and ready to meet that little person and begin a new, intimate relationship. Only in that manner was I ready for my body to undergo some drastic changes. I smiled and left for work, hospital bag still on the floor. Besides, I had the really important bag (with the items I wanted with me during labor) in my car. The rest could come later if needed.

Work started without excitement. At my midwife appointment the week before (at 39 weeks) I was found to be 4cm dilated and 80% effaced, at which time my co-workers were incredulous that I was up and moving. One of the veterinarians I worked with suggested I walk around with a net between my legs, just in case. Another vet asked that I not go into labor during surgery. Active labor is generally considered to begin at 4cm, but I felt nothing unusual, just the occasional tightness that had become customary though the pregnancy. I had noticed a little extra “wetness” and vaginal discharge over the past few days. By 10am Monday morning I had soaked through multiple pantliners when I decided to ask a co-worker what she knew about membrane rupture. In our childbirth class we had learned that the bag of waters doesn’t always gush when it breaks, and that it could trickle out slowly. One of my co-workers had that experience and said it felt as if she had peed in her pants. After talking with another technician, I decided to call the midwife’s office and speak with a nurse. Could it just be urine? The nurse told me to head to labor and delivery where Erin, the midwife on duty, would check me over.

I began to get a little excited and a little nervous as I called my husband, HB, to give him an update. It was 11am. I agreed to meet HB at the hospital and went to let my co-workers know what was going on. It was a surreal moment, full of well wishes and hugs from co-workers. I laughingly said there was a chance this was nothing and I’d be back in an hour or so.

I got in the car and made my way across Link Road, HB called along the way asking where I was. While I lingered at the veterinary hospital, informing coworkers about various cases, and telling the office manager what was going on, he had jumped in the car and rushed to the hospital. I told him not to worry, I was almost there. Checking in at the hospital was uneventful. We made our way up to labor & delivery, where we were shown into a triage room.

A nurse came in and I settled on the bed to review the scenario. Eventually I was given a gown and asked to change so that Erin, the midwife, could come in to check me. I changed and settled in to wait. The nurse put monitors on me to follow the baby’s heart rate and to monitor for contractions. HB watched the screens, trying to figure out what the numbers and waves meant. This is the same man, who, at our first ultrasound asked the ultrasound tech if she could view the CL. Oh yes, he is well-versed in the physiology of gestation, parturition, and lactation thanks to his background in dairy science.

Erin arrived in the room and after some small talk, she knelt down for an exam. We all had a laugh after she inserted the speculum and took a look, and then announced that the bag of waters was intact and in fact, she could see the baby’s hair floating in it! At that point she declared me to be around 5cm dilated. The lithmus paper test was negative for amniotic fluid, but Erin also took a sample on a microscope slide. Apparently, amniotic fluid has a “fern-like” appearance when it dries on the slide and is a better indicator. Erin left the room to check the slide under a microscope. Soon she returned; and as she approached the cracked door I could hear her and the nurse reviewing my allergies and GBS+ status – I knew at that point, we were staying.

Sure enough, as Erin entered the room she declared that we were staying. Normally she might have let a mother go at that point, but since I was GBS+, I needed antibiotics prior to delivery. Blood work was drawn, and I was moved across the hall to a real labor and delivery room. About that time Carolyn, our doula, arrived and we settled into the room. A nurse came in to place a catheter and start the antibiotics. HB went down to the cafeteria to get some lunch, and I had him sneak a sandwich back for me. Erin had told us in triage that I could eat; the nurse had said I couldn’t. I refused to go without eating! It was lunch time after all, and I wasn’t experiencing any sort of contractions!

After eating a sandwich and finishing the first dose of antibiotics, Carolyn and I began to walk while HB ran to the store to purchase a few necessities. Every so often I had to return to our room to be monitored. Everything was going smoothly, but I wasn’t having consistent contractions; Erin called it “uterine irritability.” I was told to keep moving.

Carolyn and I walked and walked. I began to feel silly, being at the hospital, without actually being in labor. This wasn’t my plan. I was supposed to labor at home for as long as I could and then come to the hospital. This little amniotic leak and GBS+ status was starting to derail my idea of MY delivery process. As we walked, Carolyn and I talked about my feelings, and I was trying to remain calm and go with the flow, hoping my body would do the right thing.

As we walked, we listened to other rooms as we passed. In one room, we heard intense moaning as we walked by. A few laps later we heard newborn baby wails coming from the same room. HB returned and walked with us. Erin checked in with us to check my progress, which was minimal. Because of my GBS+ status, vaginal checks were not performed, but we discussed how I was feeling and what I felt like was happening. We discussed rupturing the membranes after the second dose of antibiotics if there was no progression of labor. Part of that decision, Erin informed us, depending on the other labor she was attending in the next room – if that mother wasn’t complete at that time, she would rupture my membranes. If that mother was complete and ready to push, she would wait to rupture the membranes. We continued walking.

Near 5 pm, I returned to the room for my next monitoring session with the nurse. At that point they started the second round of antibiotics. Not knowing how long labor would take or how quickly it might progress, I opted to stay in the room and try to rest while the antibiotics dripped through the IV line. About that time, my father arrived and I was grateful to see him. My mother was on her way from Chapel Hill, having waited for her doctor’s appointment to finish before heading our way.

Just before 5:30, Erin entered the room and we decided to proceed with rupturing the membranes. I was nervous, fearing it wouldn’t cause labor to progress, necessitating more medical interventions down the line. Erin was confident that it would allow more pressure to be applied to my cervix, helping speed the dilation process. After a few awkward moments, my father left the room, and Erin proceeded with rupturing the membranes.

The breaking of the bag of waters is an unusual sensation. It is such a rush of warm fluid, it’s almost as if you’re urinating Niagra Falls, as silly as that sounds. Erin told a joke as she ruptured the membranes, and in response to my laughing, the fluid gushed and squirted, soaking Erin in the process. As she stuffed more towels to absorb the fluid, I couldn’t stop giggling which made the fluid continue to squirt. Everyone in the room was laughing. We asked for the birthing pool to be set up in the room for use later on.

The antibiotics were still dripping, so I stayed in the bed to await their finish. Within 10 minutes I started to get uncomfortable as contractions started. I was ready to begin walking, and the nurse sped up the final few milliliters of antibiotics so that we could start. With my trio of support (my father, HB, and Carolyn) we hit the floor walking, walking, walking. HB started timing contractions; I paid no attention to their spacing. I focused on getting through them. Initially, they weren’t bad and I could continue to talk and walk through them. I noticed them, but wasn’t bothered by them.

As time progressed, the contractions became more noticeable. They never stopped me in my tracks, but I definitely slowed my walking. I started dissociating from the support trio, focusing more inward as labor progressed. I credit this ability to years of riding sensitive horses, where I had to focus so much on myself and my balance as I did my horse and the surroundings. Over the years, I’ve gotten really good at zoning things out and focusing on certain things.

Just before 7pm I returned to my room for the next monitoring session. I was starting to get uncomfortable, and asked to use a birthing ball. After bouncing for a few minutes, I asked if we could have the birthing pool filled. I progressed deeper into my own world as the contractions became more intense. At the same time so many things were happening. My mother arrived, as did HB’s parents (with the rest of my hospital bags!). The hospital maintenance man came in to begin filling the birthing pool. I’m sure he wasn’t actually making a lot of noise, but in my mind it was tremendous. He was clanking around with hoses and attachments, chatting with the nurse about his family. Meanwhile HB’s mother was catching up with my mother. It was TOO MUCH NOISE! I moaned for the talking to cease (probably not that politely!).

The men left, leaving both mothers (both nurses), Carolyn, HB, and myself in the room. As the contractions continued I found myself unable to get comfortable. My mother-in-law applied counter pressure to my lower back as I bounced on the ball. My mother kept me supplied in cool wash clothes for my face.

The birthing pool was filling, far too slowly for my liking. When I got to the point where I just couldn’t relax on the birthing ball, I asked if the tub was full enough. By that point, I was bouncing, hard, on the ball, unable to stop and relax. The tub was just over half full – full enough, we decided without referring the question to a nurse. HB changed into his swim trunks and I changed into a t-shirt and we entered the pool. The pool was one thing: marvelous. It allowed me some comfort and I was actually able to relax between the contractions, which were growing stronger. As a contraction ended, I would lean back against HB and close my eyes and get a little bit of marvelous rest. The nurse entered, surprised to see me already in the pool. She had wanted one more monitoring session before I got in. Oh well, I was comfortable, I didn’t care! She tried to do some monitoring in the pool. Repeatedly, she asked me to turn on my side for a better reading. I would get so nauseous on my side that I would turn back to being belly-up or belly-down. Eventually she brought me some anti-nausea medication. There were a few times I regretted having that sandwich earlier in the afternoon; and I kept wondering if the sandwich would reappear in the pool water! And then, what the nurse would say when she knew I had eaten!

The contractions became more intense, and I got more uncomfortable. I remember thinking, “I can see why some women want drugs!”, but I knew I was too far along in labor to consider using medication, and felt like the end was near and it would all be over soon. And I knew I didn’t want to use them anyway. Carolyn was there to help me refocus when I would start to slip and lose concentration. She redirected my efforts and was so helpful as I labored in the water. A few contractions had me nearly in tears and I remember moaning about the pain, and then apologizing for whining! Quiet, calming, reassuring words from Carolyn helped me so much, as did the physical support from HB.

Then, I let loose a deep, guttural moan.

I was told that at that moment the nurse snapped to attention. She asked me if I felt like I needed to push. I replied that I wasn’t sure, but felt as if I needed to use the bathroom. I was helped out of the pool and into dry robes and ushered to the toilet. I sat there and then noted, almost in tears, that I didn’t need to pee. At that moment I was struck with such a strong contraction and urge to push it was unbelievable. The nurse told me not to push, but it was such a strong urge that I couldn’t resist! I tried to obey, but it was impossible! The nurse said “You’re not having this baby on the toilet” and I clearly remember thinking “Why not? Plenty of women have!” followed by “If Erin was in here, she would let me!” Either way, the nurse had me move to the bed.

She checked me and found me nearly fully dilated and effaced. The contractions and urge to push were incredibly strong, and it was the hardest thing I’ve done – trying to breathe through those urges while we waited for Erin to come in. At that moment, the woman next door was pushing, Erin was tied up. The nurses tried to get the OB on call to come, but he was busy too. With no one around, I was forced to lay in the bed and breathe through contractions. Everyone was coaching me along, the nurses rushing around to set up for the delivery. My nurse called in an assistant and I vaguely remember them rushing around.

After what seemed like forever, the nurse checked me again and let me begin pushing. The nurses still weren’t sure if Erin or the OB would deliver me. I remember thinking, amidst all the blur in my head that I better not have to pay for an OB to deliver me! Pushing was hard work! Soon, Erin entered – fresh from delivering the baby next door. I think she was shocked how far along I was! Her first comment was “Wow, I think we’re going to have a baby now!” Erin gowned up and started coaching me to push.

I don’t remember much from pushing. Everyone was supporting me – my mother would hold my hand and replenish the cool washcloth on my forehead, my mother-in-law (yes, she stayed too) would help support me, as did HB and Carolyn. My mother-in-law was next to my head and would whisper encouraging words into my ear as I pushed. I kept my eyes shut nearly the entire time. I would open them occasionally, but there were too many people and too much going on. I had taken off my glasses and the world was blurry. I would shut them again. The nurse and midwife asked if I wanted a mirror and I shook my head; I just wanted to keep my eyes shut and focus on the job at hand.

I would push, and the baby would progress. Then I would relax and the baby would retreat. This went on for a while. Eventually Erin didn’t let me rest and had me keep pushing. It was hard!! As your head appeared I reached down and touched the crown of your head. There was so much hair! The pushing continued, Erin had the nurse rub another contraction, forcing me to keep pushing. It was so intense, even a year later I can’t find the words to properly express the feeling. Finally the head was out and after a few more pushes, out came the body! As her little body presented to the world, my little baby immediately started doing her own thing. After her head emerged, her entire body did a full rotation before the rest of the body emerged. Even now, 14 months later, I can still hear Erin and the nurses exclaim over that maneuver. The feeling of her entire body exiting was such an unreal sensation. Indescribable, but suddenly, there she was. It was 9:35pm and Olivia Grace had arrived!

Immediately, the baby was placed on my abdomen. The umbilical cord was shorter than average, so she lay on my belly while I curled up to meet this little person I knew so intimately, so instinctively. I distinctly remember my first words, said just after she excited my body: “Hi Baby! Hi Olivia!” Erin asked if I still wanted to wait for the umbilical cord to stop pulsating, with the cord so short I couldn’t hold Olivia to my chest until the last remnant of our physical connection was severed. I said no, and continued to curl up so I could hold this marvelous being. Once the cord was cut, Erin set about suturing up my second-degree tear, but I was pretty much oblivious. I was enchanted. In my childbirth class we had watched videos of the “breast crawl” and the scientist in me wanted to see my baby perform it. The nurses, the grandmothers, and the midwife wanted Olivia on my chest pronto. Olivia was moved up to my chest, covered in a blanket and snuggled. The nurse helped with our first breastfeeding session, and she took to my breast like a champ (and hasn’t looked back!).


I first wrote the majority of this birth story in the first few months following the experience of a lifetime. I then lost my birth story (and almost cried over that fact), and rejoiced when it was discovered. Without having a chance to read it in the past 12 months, I loved “rediscovering” my birth story and those little forgotten details. Ultimately, I had the birth experience I craved, and I am so grateful for that blessing. In the months following Olivia’s birth, I learned who the woman in the in delivery room beside me was, and we’ve kept in touch. Our daughters, both with the middle name “Grace” amongst other similarities, were born 15 minutes apart by the same midwife – we kept her hopping that night! Over the past 14 months I’ve had time to reflect on bits and pieces of my birth. Certainly, there are things I would change or do differently -- but that’s what baby number 2 is for, right?

  -- If you have a birth story you'd like to share with our readers, please submit it here.


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