As cliche' as it sounds, the greatest day of my entire life so far has been the day my son was born - January 27th, 2011. It wasn't the greatest day just because of the end result of having my child in my arms, but it was also hugely based on the journey we took to get there (both on Jan 26th and 27th).
For the week or two weeks before my due date (Jan 22nd), people were constantly asking me if I'd been having any contractions yet. Being a first time mom, I had no idea what they were supposed to feel like so I wasn't sure if I'd had any yet or not. I'd been having some twangs "down there" for a week or more, but I wasn't sure if those were contractions or not. When people asked if I was having any, I'd say, "I don't know, what do they feel like?" And the only answer I seemed to get was "you're probably not then. You'll know when you're having them." .... And so I patiently sat and waiting to "know" when I was having any contractions.
On Wednesday January 26th, I woke up at about 4 am feeling some mild cramping, just like I was about to start menstruating. I noticed it came and went every 20 to 30 minutes. I knew this cramping feeling was a good sign that labor wasn't far off. I had read about it somewhere and was expecting this feeling. All morning I felt the crampings come and go.
I had an appointment with my lovely midwife Patricia at Bella Vie Gentle Birth Center at 2 pm that afternoon. I arrived, greeted the always smiling and cheerful midwife/receptionist Pamela and my apprentice Carmen and told them that I was feeling cramping all morning. "Good!" was their response. I started my appointment with Carmen and Patricia and told Patricia that I was crampy also. We agreed that labor would probably begin in the next couple of days. They checked my stomach size (37 and a 1/2... I think), felt for baby (which had dropped and was much lower in my pelvis. Baby was always sucking fingers whenever Patricia felt for the head. :)), checked baby's heart-rate (132 I think?) and weighed me - 157. I had gained 25 lbs. We all sat on the bed for a while and Patricia asked if I had any questions or concerns. I told her that I couldn't think of any - I really felt at peace about everything and was just excited to meet my baby! She shared some funny birth stories like she always does and we closed up our appointment. At one point while we were talking, I felt a cramp that made me suck in my breath a little, sit still and pause a moment longer than usual before answering a question that was asked of me. I didn't think much of it because it was still just crampy feelings. Patricia told me that most often you'll feel the cramping feeling and a feeling like a belt or rubber band tightening around your stomach. I hadn't felt any tightening sensations at all yet - just the crampings - so I didn't even mention to Patricia that I had a strong cramp right then. I headed back out to Pamela to make another appointment for next week (ugh. 40 and 1/2 weeks and still had to schedule a check up for the following week!). Pamela noted that my eyes were glassy looking and I was flushed. She said "I think this baby's coming soon! Let's go ahead and make an appointment for next Friday, February 4th for your 1 week check up appointment!" I grinned, took the appointment time and told the ladies, "bye! I'll be seeing you all soon!"
By the time I got home from the appointment, it was 3:30. I was feeling more and more crampy - about every 10 minutes or so now and by 4 o'clock decided I should lay down and try to rest, just in case tonight was the night. The crampings were coming a little stronger and a little more frequently now, and by the time Skyler got home at 5:30, I was fairly sure that baby would be coming in the next couple days. I told him that I'd been feeling really crampy all day but didn't have any tightening yet, so I didn't think I was having any contractions yet. I called my mom around 6 pm to tell her that I thought it'd be coming soon and while talking I had to tell her "just a minute" and sit quietly on the phone until the cramp passed. She asked what I was doing and I told her I just had a cramp and I needed to be quiet for a minute. She asked how frequently I was feeling them and I told her that they were probably about every 6 to 8 minutes. She told me, "Kayla, I think you're having contractions! You should start timing them and recording them!" I agreed and got off of the phone with her. I texted Patricia to let her know that I thought maybe I was having contractions and that I'd time them and let her know by 7 pm how things were going. So by 6:30 I started timing and recording the contractions (which I still wasn't entirely convinced were contractions.). They started out every 5 to 6 minutes and lasted about 55 seconds long. Some were stronger feeling than others. Each one I would start the timer, close my eyes and lay my head back against the couch until it let up. By the end of the hour, at 7:30, they were 3 to 4 minutes apart and still about 55 seconds. Up until that point, since I wasn't convinced they were contractions, neither was Skyler. He was just on the computer doing his own thing and I was sitting and recording contractions, doing my own thing. At the end of the hour, I showed my records to Skyler and when he saw the consistency and timing of them all, he snapped into action, knowing that yes - I had begun labor. I had texted Patricia around 7 and let her know that they were consistent contractions. She called me and said to check in around 8 unless I felt like I needed to go to the center sooner than that. At 7:45, Skyler thought that we had better call Patricia and let her know we were going to head to the center. I jumped in the shower for a bit while Skyler packed up the car. It was such a fun "switch" to watch as Skyler had been just sitting on the couch doing his thing, thinking labor was far off, to then realizing "oh man! This is it!" and watching him rush around the house putting the bags in the car and grabbing everything off of the "last minute to grab list" that I had left for him. We headed to the center at about 8 pm. It was a 20 minute drive from our house and by the time we got there, my contractions were about every 2 to 3 minutes and still lasting about 55 seconds.
We got settled in my favorite room at the center - Sweet Pea. Patricia attempted to check me, but (hating check ups) I squirmed from discomfort and she couldn't tell quite how far dilated I was. She told me that she thought I was really dilated already though and that the baby's head was only about a finger tip length inside of me. She thought the baby would be here before too long!
Along with Patricia, my birth team consisted of an apprentice Hannah (my apprentice Carmen that I'd had at all my appointments for my whole pregnancy was assisting another birth that night), and the midwife/receptionist Pamela. She is retired from midwifery but I just love her and had told her previously that if by chance she wasn't doing anything on the day of my birth and she wanted to, I would love her to be there too. She has such an awesome calming presence about her and she is funny to boot. I knew I'd love having her join my already incredible birth team. My cousin Andrea was also there for the birth to take some pictures for us.
(I think) Pamela started filling up the whirlpool tub for me after I said I wanted to get in. I got in the tub and sat back to relax a bit. Contractions slowed down to about 3 to 4 minutes again (getting in the water usually does that in early labor), but at that point I didn't care. It just felt so good to be in the water! Patricia, Pamela and Hannah all went out to the lobby to relax and let me just labor. After a couple of hours in the tub, they suggested I get out and walk around so that contractions would start up more frequently and stronger again. Despite how much I really wanted to just continue to sit in the warm water, I got up and out because I did want my labor to progress quicker. Skyler and I walked back and forth through the center, stopping at each contraction. During each contraction, he would hold me up so I could just lean on him. Contractions definitely did pick up stronger again by doing the walking. After a bit, I decided I wanted to lay down on the bed just for a little bit because I was so tired. I just wanted to lay my head down for a while. I climbed on the queen sized bed and lay down, had two contractions and thought, "oh my gosh! Laying down is absolutely awful feeling!! Why does anyone labor in bed!? How horrible!" and promptly got back up from the bed. I went to sit on the toilet to labor there for a while; I had heard it was a great position to labor in and I knew that the gravity would help bring baby down. Skyler pulled up a chair and sat knee to knee, facing me on the toilet. At this point, I remember thinking about my gall stones. A few years ago, after my first gall stone attacks, I remembered reading somewhere that a lady compared gall stones to labor and she thought gall stone attacks were far worse than laboring. I always was curious if this was true. I agreed with the lady that my gall stone attacks were much more painful. I still wasn't feeling the band around my stomach - except for during maybe a few contractions. I felt the pain was totally manageable and I was having no problems with relaxing. Yes, they hurt, but it was more like a nuisance of a pain - just like how menstrual cramps are. Really annoying pain and uncomfortable, but hardly unbearable.
After being on the toilet for a while, I felt really nauseous suddenly and I was quickly given a big bowl to throw up in. I heaved about 5 times. I remember thinking how much better that made me feel. Pamela had come in the check on me and I told her I had thrown up. She said, "good! Throwing up makes you dilate more!" (I had learned by this point that whatever symptoms I said I was having - pain, nausea, pressure...it was all "good!". The pain and discomfort was progress. :))
About midnight, I decided I was ready to get back into the tub. I sat on my knees inside the tub and flopped my arms over the side of the tub and rested my head on a towel on the edge. Skyler pulled his chair right up to me. My contractions were about every 3 minutes or so, pretty consistently and the discomfort level remained about the same. Skyler and Andrea stayed with me in the room the entire time, while Pamela, Patricia and Hannah mostly stayed in the lobby. They took turns to come and check on me about every half hour to hour and use the hand-held doppler to check baby's heart-rate. I just labored in the flopped over position. Andrea and Skyler every so often would ask the other what time it was. It was 1 am. Then 2 am. Then 4 am. Each hour to two that passed seemed like only about 10 minutes to me. I never said anything when they said the time, but I remember thinking each time "wow, already?!" Time flew by. I wasn't in too much pain, but I know that after each contraction I felt like the 3 minute break was Heaven. I kept my eyes closed and stayed relaxed just about the whole time in the tub from midnight until about 5 am. Staying relaxed was very easy for me and I know it helped my labor progress and helped keep the pain at bay. I wasn't worried. I didn't have fears. I knew my body knew what it was doing and that it was doing it well. I knew that God designed me for this and that I'd make it through to the other side soon enough.
I threw up one more time (3 throw ups and 2 dry heaves that time) while in the tub, but again - it felt great. My stomach felt emptier and more relaxed after throwing up.
At about 5 am, Patricia came in to check me and I had just felt a couple of small hints of needing to push. I told Patricia that I thought I was getting ready to push. She and Hannah came in and sat on either side of the tub and quietly waited. Pamela sat on the bed through the open double doors from the bathroom and knitted. The small chitter chatter stopped among the others and they all were quiet and just watched and waited. I remember hearing Pamela knitting - the click click click of the metal needles, and I remember thinking "It's like Grommit's (from Wallace and Grommit) hanging out in my room!" It didn't bother me whatsoever and the thought made me chuckle to myself....even while in the last stages of labor. :)
The pushing stage had definitely started. My stomach would cinch up each time and I had the undeniable urge to push along with it. I remembered the analogy that I had heard that pushing is much like throwing up - only backwards. The stomach feeling was exactly the same. As each pushing contraction started, I'd let out a low moan, pull myself up slightly from my slumped over the tub (still on my knees) position, to a slight more upright position and would grab Skyler's hands to hold onto and squeeze. I remembered some birth videos where women used pull up bars during pushing and I understood why that seemed to help them. I did the same thing, only with Skyler's hands. I would use them to pull myself up and pull my knees up off of the tub with each push. I didn't say a word to Skyler, but he seemed to know that he needed to hold his hands and arms firmly so that I could use my strength to pull myself up with each push. After each contraction, Skyler would let go of my hands and put a cold washcloth on my forehead. I would slump back down and lay my head down in between each pushing contraction, which remained about 2 minutes apart. I kept my eyes closed the entire pushing stage. With each push, I would let out low moans. I was feeling a lot of pressure and kept telling Patricia that I thought I needed to poop. She just kept saying that it was okay and if I needed to, then go ahead! And I did. I think with just about every push, I'd also let out a little poop. I often said, "I think I just pooped" after each push, but Patricia already had the strainer ready and was scooping it out of the water as I would say it. :)
The entire pregnancy, I kept thinking that I would be so horrible rude and awful to people, especially Skyler, during my labor. I could picture myself getting really snappy and demanding and blunt. Usually when I am physically irritated or in pain, I just want to be left alone, untouched and get so aggravated when Skyler touches me - puts his hand on me or whatever. However, I was entirely the opposite during my labor. I was so polite and apologetic. Far more so than I normally am in life. I apologized for every single thing. I didn't want to bother anyone else and I felt bad for them that they had to take care of me during my labor. I kept apologizing to Patricia for pooping, and to Skyler for squeezing his hands.
Skyler leaned in and whispered in my ear, "do you want me to get in the tub?" This was the original plan. He was going to be in there with me and was going to catch the baby. I shook my head "no" and knew I needed him right where he was, supporting me exactly how he was doing. I think he was partly relieved, since I kept pooping. :) But I knew he'd get in if I really wanted him to.
I finally got to the part of pushing where baby's head was crowning. Though the rest of the labor seemed not near as bad as I anticipated and wasn't as painful as gall stones, pushing was the exception and was very painful. They call it a "ring of fire" for a reason. I could feel myself getting stretched out and I kept saying, "I think I'm ripping" after the big hard pushes. I remembered a story I had heard (not sure whether it was one of the midwives that told me or if I'd read it somewhere), that a lady was laboring in the tub and during one of her pushes she just stood up and the baby's head had come out and taken it's first breaths, so she wasn't able to get back in the water to push the rest of the baby out. She had to do it standing up out of the water. I could feel the water low on my back as I would push my butt out a bit with each push and I knew I didn't want that to happen to me! In between a pushing contraction I said, "more water!" Patricia told Hannah to fill the tub higher with more hot water. I said, "no. Not hot, just more." I never felt "out of it" or that I had gone to some special place during my labor. I was completely mentally aware of everything and was fully there in the moment.
The tub was filled higher and I continued pushing. When baby's head started crowning and coming out, I felt the "fire". The burning sensation. A few times I had to very consciously not push - I would say, "I'm going to stop pushing and let it stretch right now." Going slowly helped I think. It felt better to just let it stretch a little more. I remember during the pushing contractions that I had a few regular contractions too - ones without any urge or sensation to push. Even though those were painful, those felt like an awesome break and rest from the pushing, and I greatly welcomed them. I never got to the point where I said, "I can't do this anymore!" I never got mad at Skyler for "doing this to me". I knew the pain was good and had an awesome purpose.
I did say, "it hurts so bad!" at one point and Patricia said, "reach down and feel - I bet you'll be pleasantly surprised!" I didn't speak - I just shook my head no. I thought, "uh huh. Kind of got some other things going on right now..." (Crazy lady...) Skyler got up to walk to the other side of the tub to see what Patricia was talking about. The baby's head was partly out and his long hair was floating in the water. I remember praying several times during this part. "God, give me your strength. I need your strength to finish this." I prayed that several times. Also, I prayed, "Ok God, let's stop the contractions for just a minute. Just give me a few more minutes of rest so I can stretch."
I did get some nice Heavenly few minute breaks and then I had a pushing contraction with about 4 hard pushes in it. (At this exact moment, I remember hearing a phone vibrating in the bedroom.). After the 4th push, I felt a *pop* and I knew that the baby's head was out. I felt such relief when it was just his little neck that I had to be around. After just a very brief moment at his neck, I had one more push and the little guy literally just slid right out. I was SO relieved! I had thought it would be like "okay here's one shoulder...ok now the next!" But after the head, it was cake and he just about flew out of my body. It was 6:27 am. I was still in the squatting on my knees position and he had come out behind me so Patricia just reached in the water and gently pushed him back through my knees and said "ok, pick up your baby!". I sat back a little bit and looked in the water. It was like a blood bath and I couldn't see anything. I said, "I can't see it!" but reached down and scooped him right up. I didn't see him looking purple at all - he instantly "pinked" up and started crying. I sat back in the tub and held my baby. I greeted him and then remembered we still didn't know Ellery or Ezekiel! I stole a quick glance and told Skyler "it's Ezekiel!!!" I thought of how I had just been praying that I needed God's strength to get through the pushing - and then it was Ezekiel, which means "strengthened by God".
I sat back in the tub and just held and marveled over my son for about 10 minutes. Patricia asked me to push when I felt like I could, so that I could deliver the placenta. After a few tries (not hard at all), it just popped right out. She scooped it up in a bowl and just let the bowl float in the water as I continued to hold onto Ezekiel for another 10 minutes or so. We all shared smiles and enjoyed the precious new life that had joined us in the room.
I was ready to get out of the blood bath (Skyler's exact words were, "it looks like Jaws in there!") so I handed Ezekiel over to Skyler with the umbilical cord still attached and one of the midwives put the placenta in a large ziploc bag and followed Skyler over to the bed so he could snuggle with our new son.
The ladies rinsed me off and I dropped some more blood clots....There was definitely far more blood than I thought there would be! I remember standing up in the tub as they were about to rinse me off and just looking down and seeing a huge blood clot (like the size of a lemon) just hanging from me. In my non-sleep brain, I couldn't think of what to do about it...so I just stood there and stared at it until Patricia reached over and gently tugged on it. :) I got all rinsed off and climbed in bed with my little and amazing family. They checked my vitals and Ezekiel's vitals and left us to be alone with our precious son for a couple of hours. At 8:30 am, they came back in to cut the umbilical cord. Patricia clamped it in two places and gave Skyler the scissors to cut it. He said it was a lot more spongey and tougher to cut than he thought. (The purpose of leaving the cord attached longer was so that the blood would drain and the umbilical cord would fall off faster (it fell off on the third day), and so that he would absorb the rest of the nutrients in the cord for longer. This is Bella Vie's normal practice and we had read statistics somewhere that babies that have their cord left attached for at least an hour, fair better than those with it cut immediately.)
They weighed him and measured him. 7 lb. 8 oz. and 19 and 5/8 inches long.
When my family came to visit later that afternoon, dad said that he had called that morning to see how we were doing. He said he just felt that he needed to pray for us right then and then called Skyler to see if there was any updates. He called at 6:26 am, one minute before Ezekiel came into the world. :)
Beautiful. Healthy. Perfect little angel. We are so so thankful for him and are absolutely in awe at how cute and amazing he is. My friend Amanda wrote a quote in her baby blog which said something along the lines of "motherhood is letting your heart walk around outside of your body." I read that and knew that this was completely true. *sigh* Precious, sweet angel baby. You hold on to my hand and my heart. I love you.
Dad's story coming soon... :)