Somewhere in my mind I have been wanting to put pen to paper and document my birth story. However the prospect of doing so was intimidating, overwhelming and maybe even more then a little scary. I knew that I couldn't find the words to describe what I went through and I wasn't so sure I wanted to spend the time going back to that place to try and find them. It felt like a dark place I had escaped from bruised and battered and I wasn't sure what it would be like to travel there again and revisit it.
As the weeks have gone by I have become more and more comfortable with what occurred on that night no matter how many lifetimes seemingly stand between me and those moments. I have also become curious enough about the events that transpired to begin asking questions, understanding, and allowing the memories to empower me.
The time that stands between now and the birth of my son has given me perspective as I'm sure it does for all mothers. Looking at that night through my rear view mirror allows me to describe it you.
On the morning of January 10th 2016, Dash and I had a brief chat and we decided that it was time, so I began to call him into the world. I calmly went about my day, half expecting to never meet my son and still with every breath I drew I let him know it was time to begin his journey into this world.
Together we danced through breakfast, we hula hooped through brunch and by lunch time we were crawling around on our hands and knees laughing at the absurdity of it all. By 1:00 I decided to go over my lists, take a hot shower and relax. My husband returned from an afternoon at the library around 2:00 and I mentioned in passing that we should make sure our bags are packed so that we would be prepared just incase we were to go into labor in the next day or so. Keep in mind that I had spent my entire pregnancy envisioning a long slow labor. Most first time moms average an 18-24 hour delivery... So I mentally prepared myself for a long pre labor at home where I would nap and piddle about the house maybe watch my favorite movie on loop. This is not the situation that unfolded.
At some point around 1 or 2 pm I started experiencing very mild discomfort akin to menstrual cramps so I texted my doula and told her I didn't really think I was I labor but wanted to give her the heads up that changes were occurring in my body and to stand by, naturally she was excited and told me to just keep her posted. Time is a very relative thing and labor seems to suck you into a timeless black hole, where minutes sometimes drag on for hours but those hours vanish in the blink of an eye.
As the afternoon wore on, I may have taken another shower and my husband decided to walk the dogs. While he was on what is routinely a 20 minute walk, I experienced what could only be described as electricity in my uterus that caused me to leap out of bed. This was a contraction and there was no mistaking it. So I called my midwife, she offered some supportive words but mostly told me to just go rest and try to ignore it.
By the time my husband returned from the dog walk I was in labor and my contractions were requiring my full attention. Some time went by, it felt like minutes but may have been a couple hours. My midwife called to check on me and I was unable able to talk so I handed the phone over to my husband and he gave her an update. He had been timing my contractions and they had become consistently 3 minutes apart and I could no longer talk through them, she instructed him to collect me and our belongings and meet her at the Birth center. I still didn't believe I was in labor, I was expecting to get there and have my labor stall and that we were looking at hours and hours of slow but steady labor ahead of us so I told my husband to inform my doula of our plans but tell her not to meet us there yet because I wanted to get checked first as to not waste her valuable time. He didn't listen to me and our wonderful doula was quickly in route to us.
The team configured at the Birth Center at maybe 8 or 9:00, like I said time is a very confusing part to all of this. Upon arrival we learned that I was 100% effaced and 3 centimeters dilated and things were moving very fast.
At the time I found the discomfort overwhelming, but after living through it my brain tells me it was very manageable. Labor progressed quickly and I was dilating a little over a centimeter per hour. I give credit to all the raspberry leaf tea I drank during my 3rd trimester that my uterus knew exactly what to do. Every contraction was moving my baby and I could feel him rotating inside me. When my midwife needed to check his heart rate I could put my finger on his pulse and tell her exactly where to put the doppler . Dash and I were working together to bring him into this world. My birth team was so excited and the room was filled with joy and anticipation because we were going to have a baby by midnight they repeated. Between contractions I laughed and called them assholes and warned them not to jinx us. Transition came and brought a whole knew challenge; I was nauseous and vomiting and more uncomfortable then I thought ever possible. I think this was when I started to crack jokes about a morphine pump... They didn't have one. They say it's a good sign when you start to vomit, it means a baby will be earth side very soon.
Shortly after transition my contractions continued but they were no longer moving the baby. I hardly felt the urge to bare down. Things seemed to stop progressing although my contractions were still coming very close together and very strong. They just weren't getting stronger. I was wishing and hoping for the ring of fire I was looking for the urge to push. It just wasn't there.
As if time wasn't already blurry, things really start to run together at this point.
I started to let fear creep in, I felt like my body was failing me, like I didn't know how to push or that I was doing something wrong. My birth team was making me move; I was in and out of the tub, on the toilet in the bed back in the tub. With every move the fear grew more intense and hung in the room like a dark cloud. The air was much more still. I felt the undying optimism of my team begin to waver. At one point I was instructed to feel my baby's head... There he was at the very tip of my fingers, mere centimeters from the world and I couldn't bring him earth side. There he stayed for what in hindsight we believe to have been about 5 hours.
6 am rolled around and it was deemed that a change of the guards would be in order. There was a shift change.
I was brought out of my hazy exhaustion by a new voice and a new energy. Dana waltzed into the room turned on the lights and said "Kirstin, it's 6 am, the sun is rising, it's a beautiful cold sunny morning and it's a perfect day to have a baby. You are going to have your baby today." She also made the matter of fact statement that if we didn't get this baby here in the next hour we were going to transfer to the hospital. She explained to me that he had come down the birth canal a little crooked. Something we realized later was likely related to a broken tail bone as a child. The angle his head was tilted was causing him to stop short of the world and in order to get him here she was going to have to "push on my bones"... I wasn't sure what that meant but I soon found out.
The Birth Center is a quiet, still, peaceful facility. Not for my birth it wasn't, the entire room was filled with my growls and the cheers of people shouting my name while we pushed and pulled in this great tug of war against the gods. My midwife was perched above me in the bed pushing against my bones and with my knees above my ears my birth team cradled my body and cheered as I roared across the finish line. Dash arrived shortly before 8:00 am on January 11th exactly when he was due. He was placed directly on my chest and we all sighed with relief.
We brought this baby to us and in all the chaos and the hours of waiting and fear he never showed a single sign of stress, somehow he must of known we could do it.
I had prepared for months to calmly breathe my baby into the world kneeling in a tub with my birth team quietly surrounding me in the quiet darkness of a low lit room. That is not how things turned out. However I know a few things to be true:
- now after 7 weeks of healing, and coping, and finding my way out of the darkness, I love my son.
- The English language is far too limiting to be able to adequately describe the physical, emotional, and psychological undertaking that is birth.
- If given the opportunity to do it differently, I wouldn't change a thing.
Special thanks to my husband Clay, my Doula Katy, my midwives Sherri and Dana who knew exactly how to good cop bad cop me... And lastly thanks to my son Dash for hanging in there and trusting my body even when I didn't.
I now know what the earth feels like when she creates a mountain.