“Never were we scared, never was it too much. Yes it was hard work, but the best kind of hard work.”
To preface our story, I had no idea what to expect from labor. Our midwives said, “Ask your mother, your labor will probably be like hers” but my mother had c-sections so it was hard to tell. Friends had shared stories of their labors, which lasted for days and fit all the criteria we learned about in class. What would ours be like?
The night before, July 9th (3 days before our due date), we ventured to Minnehaha Park to get a good walk in and some fish tacos. The line was a 2-hour wait, however, so we drove to a sit-down Mexican restaurant near home.
The next morning I woke up around 3:30 am feeling that “same-old-super-pregnant-uncomfortable-in-bed” feeling, but also what I thought was gas at the time. 4:30 am I took a shower, hoping that would help. But soon I was back in bed, this time vomiting. By 5:30 am, Elliott insisted we call the midwives and our doula. I was trying to convince him that no, this was not labor (it felt nothing like what I imagined contractions would feel like), my pains were far too close together, and it was still probably just gas from the Mexican food. At 6 am, he was on the phone, trying to get me to talk to the midwife, and I couldn’t – a good clue that we were really in labor – but I still didn’t want to go! I had imagined laboring for hours at home with the help of our doula, but that plan didn’t seem to fit anymore.
By about 6:40 we had arrived at the hospital. During the 10-minute drive I had experienced what I now believed were several very strong contractions. Up to labor and delivery we went, to spend the next few hours in a triage room. Contractions stayed very intense and close together, with more vomiting. When our phenomenal midwife, Bridget, first checked me, I was only 2-3 cm. “Oh no” I thought to myself, “We really did jump the gun. We came to the hospital wayyy too soon.” But both Bridget and our fantastic nurse Dana saw how strong and close contractions were, and after an IV to keep me hydrated, and a few hours, I was at about 4-5 cm and we were headed to our own room!
The next few hours are much more hazy in my mind – I felt very “in the zone” and handled each contraction one at a time, as it came. We spent most of this time laboring in the tub, Elliott, our doula Cristal, and either Bridget or the student midwife, Dana (two Danas were a part of our daughter’s birth!) all sitting closeby. During contractions Elliott and Cristal would get very close to me, sometimes pressing on my forehead and neck, sometimes holding my shoulders, talking in my ear, and helping me breathe. This was incredibly encouraging and kept me focused. In between contractions, we all stayed very quiet.
My sister-in-law, recounting her labor experiences, told me that she often felt it was too much work to talk. “How silly,” I remember thinking. “I’ll totally be able to tell my team what I need.” Boy, was I wrong! Most of the time, even just one word required immense effort.
At 10:30 am, the midwife checked again and we were at 7 cm. We were thrilled! The smile on Elliott’s face was huge. I couldn’t believe things were progressing at a pace that, in my mind, was so quick! We felt so thankful. Off we went to the waterbirth room, where the tub was filled and waiting for us.
Contractions intensified in the water birth tub. I began to experience, probably with every other contraction, an incredibly intense, uncontrollable urge to bear down. I couldn’t do anything about it – it was absolutely involuntary – my whole body felt like it was vomiting, backwards, and I know I made the most ungodly noises during those contractions. Elliott was so strong, putting his face right next to mine, and saying, “Yes! Good! Keep going! That’s it!” letting me know it was ok to make those noises and do whatever I needed to do. Cristal kept chanting, “Kayla, you are so strong. You are doing it!” and the student midwife Dana sat closeby and after every contraction, said quietly and strongly, “Yes, you’re doing great, trust your body, it knows what to do.” Somewhere during this time, my water broke – hard to tell because we were in the birth tub, but it felt like I was passing enormous amounts of urine with each contraction.
After what felt like a long time, but not scary or intimidating in any way, the midwives encouraged me to get on all fours and try pushing a little bit – I had just a little lip of cervix in the way. We did this for a while, experimenting and finding what fit. Along with the insane “bear down” contractions, I began to have an increasingly overwhelming urge to have a bowel movement – I kept telling the midwives, “It feels like I have to have a gigantic poop!” and they said good! That’s what’s supposed to happen – baby’s head is moving.
After a while (it’s so hard to maintain a sense of time when I felt so much “in the zone” and everything was “one at a time”) the midwife explained that she could manually move the lip of cervix that was left. “Yes, please!” and it didn’t hurt a bit. After this, the REAL pushing began. After a few pushes with contractions, I could FEEL progress being made and baby moving, and the midwives began cheering, “Yes, that’s it, good job! Great push!” With each contraction and push, I tried to make sure I could feel that same feeling of movement and opening.
Suddenly, I felt like myself again. Eyes opening, talking with the people around me (who were all smiling and cheering, which felt great!) laughing and smiling, talking about how my baby felt, looking at my husband – with each contraction, I’d look at Cristal and Elliott and say, “Let’s go!” and we’d work together as a team. The midwives gestured to show how much of baby’s head they could see. It was all happening so fast now! I couldn’t believe it and felt over the moon. We were almost at the end of this journey, and not once had there been a point that felt overwhelming. Never were we scared, never was it too much. Yes it was hard work, but the best kind of hard work.
I reached down to feel baby’s head. Crazy! As baby’s head began to crown, contractions became farther and farther apart. At first this worried me, but in retrospect my body was again doing what it was supposed to – giving me time to stretch out and accommodate baby’s head.
A few more strong pushes (yes, there was a ring of fire, but it was totally bearable and CRAZY to think she was almost here!!!) and her head was out! We were all smiling, laughing, and cheering! I looked at the midwives – “Can I keep pushing? Can I push the rest of her out?” “Well, sure, if you want, it’s totally up to you!” so push I did and out she came – it was surreal, feeling those arms and legs wiggling out of me. My eyes must have been closed, because when I opened them, she was being laid on my chest, my husband had the biggest smile on his face, and I couldn’t stop crying. Everyone else was cheering (and maybe crying a little, too!) It was about 2:15 pm and our little girl, Cordelia Grace (Cora for short) was here!
We could not have imagined a better experience. I have never felt so loved and encouraged before – and I think that would have been true whether our labor lasted 8 hours or 28 hours. The people around us were affirming, sensitive, and so caring – it truly was one of the best days of my life!
Thanks to Kayla and Elliott for sharing their birth story!