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My Weird, Natural, Prodromal, 'Induced,' Pitocin, Drug-Free, Long, Beautiful Birth Story | Part 2

THE BIRTH STORY | PART TWO

"i'm wonderstruck... all i know is i was enchanted to meet you."

The Pitocin Saga

The pitocin began dripping around 11:30/11:45 pm.  Slow and steady.  I felt like I was awaiting a jury verdict.  

"What will my punishment be? How bad is this going to get...?"  

An hour later, and not much to report - just sporadic and unevenly painful contractions - the dosage was upped ever so slightly.  Another hour and a half later, we were finally getting somewhere.  Very frequent, very regular, very painful.  The hormone seemed to be doing what it was supposed to be doing!  And I was hoping my body would just kick in and keep on strutting, and not fade out.  Around this time Becca and Janet arrived again, and Lydia (who had took all the pictures in the last post) had to leave.  

And I still mentally drop to my knees in thanksgiving when I think about these two showing up at this point.  I was clearly well on my way now.  This was for real for real.  Everything was intensifying, and it had been lasting for hours.  My form of labor, by the way, was back labor.  Back labor... feels like you have elephants on the inside of you, pushing your back and hip bones apart, while a Viking duo smashes your outside with a sledgehammer.  Caleb, who is basically concrete and hard as can be, would push

aaalllll

his weight onto me back and I'd still be clamoring

"Harder! Harder!"

 His poor arms and body were sore and exhausted after doing that for hours - it'd truly be like doing a bench press workout for over half a day.  Janet and Becca rescued him, told him to rest a bit more, and took over the counter-pressure-work.  (Jan was basically riding on me, piggy back style.  She pushed as hard as she possibly could!)

Though the pain was phenomenal, I was amazed every single contraction how bearable and manageable it was to relax, breathe and "work with" the contraction.  The instant reaction our body has to pain is to tense up (think burning your finger on the stove, or stubbing your toe... you don't go limp and loose!  You arch and grab and your arms and face become tense and you say

"ow ow ow ow ow ooooowwww!"

or something ;) and your body goes tight.)  But forcing yourself to breathe slowly, and almost "unroll" each body part - from face, to shoulders, to elbows, to hands, to waist, to butt/hips, to thighs, to legs, to toes was fascinatingly pain-reducing.  I'd never lie and say that it didn't hurt or that it was easy.  It was hard, painful work, but it

truly

was bearable.  I could picture the uterus muscle moving in and out, working BorisBoy down more and more.  I could refresh and enjoy (?) the breaks and drink and snack and be completely pain-free until the next contraction.  We tried an assortment of positions but the one that helped the most was for me to lean my arms and face onto the counter where the sink was, and to squat and sway while someone pushed my back.  The swaying.  Oh the swaying.  Praise Jesus for swaying. It helped

so

much.

At 4:00 pm I'm told I smiled for the last time until after I held my son ;) And 15 minutes later I got a great leg and arm massage - coconut oil for the win!  Anything to try to help me relax relax relax.  At 5:00 pm we decided to check my dilation and see how things were progressing.  It'd been seven or eight hours since I had been last checked, and I was pleading before the heavenly throne that I wouldn't get a report of

"You're about a 6!"

 Thankfully, I was at 8cm.  I think part of me was hoping the midwife would - in amazement! - tell me I was at 10cm and would be ready to push soon.  Silly mama. Tricks are for kids.  8cm was close - and so much further than I had been! - but I knew a lot still had to happen.  Like that dreaded T word: transition.  And the P word: pushing.  Other than the dilation update, my midwife announced that she didn't feel the bag of water anymore, and she thought it had broken.  Which was weird, because between the last cervical check and this one I had no gushing or leaking or water-breaking-signs-of-any-kind.  My water bag was a big punk prankster.

But hey!  That was more good news!  Another thing checked off the list (again?)!  At 5:15pm I had a special, um, meeting in the Oval Office.  Janet and Becca were very excited.  Bradley students seem to especially love that "clear out."  Bradley talks about it a lot ;)  And boy oh boy was I clear and empty - my body made some serious room for a baby.

After that classy affair, I started being

really

bothered by my IV.  It hurt so much.  Enough that I noticed the pain even during the peak of a contraction.  I then realized that my hand had swollen up BADLY.  It was about twice the size (maybe more) of my normal hand and it felt like it was ripping open.  (I HATE NEEDLES.)  The nurse and midwife realized that the needle had come out of my vein and yet remained under my skin, so all the pitocin and antibiotic was going into my skin tissue, not blood stream.  No one knows how long it had been like that, so no one knows how much pitocin I

actually

got.  Probably at least some?  It'd been in since 11:30 and it was now 5:30... but how much?  No clue. Soooo, that fateful accident meant that: I got to take the IV out!  No more needles in muah!  The sledge-hammer-elephant-awful-awful contractions were coming again and again and again.  They had been for hours.  No turning back now, folks.  And if I had been asked what my pain level was on a scale of 1-10, I would have said 10.  So quickly.  So honestly. Ten ten ten.  

Transition Begins 

But then.  About 20 minutes later, the uterus aggression upped the anti.  Oh goodness it was bad.  I was burping up a storm.  The swaying and relaxing and breathing really wasn't doing what it had done before.  I told Caleb it felt bowling bowls were being thrown down inside me.  No one could push my back hard enough.  The breaks in-between contractions were shorter and shorter.  A raging Spanish bull was fighting with a fierce Asian tiger, and they were clawing and pounding inside me.  I actually remember thinking that I would happily trade places with the Spartan boy who hid the fox under his shirt and didn't flinch while the fox ate his flesh.  It sounded much more appealing and much less painful than what I was feeling.  At 6:00pm I announced the big milestone announcement:

"I can't do it anymore."  

I had been taught that this nasty phase of labor called 'transition' usually lasts about 30-60 minutes.  Some lucky women experience it far quicker, or maybe even not at all.  And few women experience it for longer than an hour.  I knew the '

transition signs

' and one of those is feeling like you

really

can't do it anymore.  I wanted to just go ahead and start pushing.  Really, I wanted to go ahead and hold my baby and be done with this entire thing.  "

What an idiot I was to think this was a good idea.  This is TERRIBLE.  I just want my baby and I just want to take a nap and I want to go get in MY bed and I'm tired and I don't like this one little bit."  

I was more than teetering on edge of the Emotional Grand Canyon.  I was Nik-Wallenda-ing it over a tightrope.  Becca later told me

"At the 6:30-7:00pm mark you hit the wall: SO exhausted.  I think we all had tears for you.  We gave you and Caleb some time to console each other and process while Mom and Dad and I hid in the hallway.  The contractions were

very

intense."

At this point, the contractions were worse then ever, but they

were

beginning to space out a bit: another 'sign of transition.'  A handful of times I fell asleep during those couple minute breaks (and not because the breaks were so peaceful, more because I was entirely

exhausted

.)  When I woke up from one fire and brimstone contraction, I just started to cry and cry.  Caleb kept trying to reassure and affirm and support me.  I couldn't relax.  I couldn't try a new position.  I couldn't think straight.  I couldn't sleep.  I couldn't do anything but cry.  The midwife (another new one) came in at 7:30pm and checked my dilation.  I calmed down when she was checking, prayingandhopingandwishingandprayingandthinkingandhopingandwanting her to say I was at 10.  PA-LEEEZ.  FOR THE LOVE.  And it was 9.  Two and half hours since my last check, and about two hours into transition, and we were at 9cm.  I cried and cried some more.  I worried because I knew that it wasn't abnormal for women to 'stall out' at 9cm.  I worried because I truly didn't believe I could handle another two and a half hours to get to 10cm

and then push

.  I felt so stuck.

And then.  "Epidural" was spoken.  Out loud.  In the room.  For the first time in 30-something hours.  The nurse eagerly and obviously supported the idea.  She not-so-subtly wanted me to go ahead and get the epidural.  The spine-numbing and contraction-pain-canceling option was 'on the table.'  And this is the part of the story where I am

so

grateful for three things: education, my husband and my 'team.'

Education: The potential side effects of an epidural are intense (anywhere from a life-threatening infection, to a dural puncture [a leak in spine, that can drain the fluid around the brain], and nerve damage to fever, decreased blood pressure, etc) not to mention the promised side effects: namely numbness and inability to walk/move out of bed

at all

.  I also know that the epidural process isn't instant.  I sat there, in my teary, overcome, physically and mentally pained and DONE state, and was able to still remember that they need to call the anesthesiologist, he has to prep and do paperwork, perform the procedure, and then let the juice begin to work.  The whole process could easily take 30-60 minutes.  I also knew that

usually

epidurals slow down the intensity and the effectiveness of contractions, and can often slow down labor.  And then

usually

pitocin is up-ed to make the contractions stronger.  This cocktail

often

puts a baby in a precarious and crazy position, one that frequently causes their heart to have a bad rate.  A bad baby heart-rate can quickly turn into an emergency c-section situation.  I knew that.  I knew I didn't want that.  I knew I had worked too hard for too long to just abandon our goals now.  I knew I'd rather work hard for an hour and actual make something happen than 'wait around' to be numbed up.  And to be honest, I didn't want to have come so far... 32 hours of hospital stay!... to try an epidural

now.  "If I'm going to do this, I should have done it a long time ago.  What was the point of going through ALL that if I'm going to numb myself at the very bitter end?"

My husband: The moment the nurse gave us a second to talk about what we wanted to do, he took my face and looked right into my eyes and said

"Kristen.  You are

so

close.  This is almost done.  You are 9cm and could probably be pushing the baby out by the time the epidural started working.  You're so brave.  You're so strong.  And you don't need it.  I know you don't.  You can absolutely do this."

He was right.  And I needed him to tell me.

My 'team':  Janet and Becca quickly reenforced Caleb's words.  They promised me I was so near the end.  They promised I'd be holding Rowdy soon.  They promised me I could do it.  Then my mom suggested I go get in the shower and let the hot water fall onto my back.  And that was it.  That was exactly the option I needed.

The Shower

With a fresh wave of motivation, and a

complete

lack of all decency, I de-robed and bolted for the shower.  Caleb grabbed some swim trunks and jumped in with me.  Mom held the shower-head over my back while Caleb pushed.  We all prayed out loud over and over again.  I talked to my body.  I talked to my baby.  I talked to myself.  I grunted like a wild beast.  I pleaded with God.  I shook and moaned.  I heard the encouraging words of the people around me.  The contractions were still miserable, but I felt somewhat 'in control' again and like I could force this kid down by focusing

extra

hard.  I squatted like a gorilla and worked and worked and worked.  But ten short minutes later my epidural-fan-nurse came in the bathroom and told me I needed to get back in bed and be checked on the monitors (to hear the baby's heart beat.)

My HERO mother said

"Why does she have to get back in bed?  Can't you use a portable doppler?"

The nurse told my mom that the midwife said I had to get in bed.  My mom fired (and I do mean fired) back with

"Can you please go check with the midwife right now and get specific instruction from her that Kristen must get out of the shower and be strapped to the monitor?  And can you also ask if the portable device may be used?"  

The nurse semi-argued back but did leave and returned with a portable monitor.  And I got to stay in the shower ;)

So instead of 10 minutes, I was able to work in there for 45 minutes.  I was totally refocused, Caleb was 'rejuvenated' and I was finally as sure as everyone else that I

could

do this.  Around 8:30pm I was out of the shower, and at 8:45 I used the word "pressure" over and over.  I was a little annoyed because the nurse kept asking me if I had 'the urge to push' and I said I didn't particularly feel 'an urge' but I felt pressure and I was in excruciating pain and I was mentally VERY ready to push.  She would somewhat casually say

"Well, let us know what you have the urge."

 My mom had seven kids and did not always have the urge to push.  I knew from reading that not all women get 'that urge.'  I wanted to push.  I felt ready.  I felt pressure.  My mom grabbed the midwife and at 9:00 pm she checked me.

"9.5 cm."  

The midwife, who is a very monotone, collected, unemotional and un-animated lady, blankly said

"I'll be back in half an hour and we can re-check then."

 HALF AN HOUR?!?  I nearly lost it again.  Tears filled my eyes. I couldn't do another half an hour.  I just couldn't.  I wanted to push.  

And the following thirty minutes, ladies and gentlemen (okay, ladies) were... well, basically, I was screaming "THIS IS [NOT HEAVEN]!!!!! THIS IS [NOT HEAVEN]!!!!! I'M NEVER HAVING CHILDREN AGAIN!!!! I've tried to think of ways to describe this.  One odd analogy that came to mind was a soft corn tortilla (my body equals tortilla).  The early contractions felt like someone folding a tortilla in half and tearing it.  Then the later contractions felt like someone ripping a tortilla into tiny pieces to feed to ducks.  The transition contractions felt like tossing a tortilla into a blender and letting it be pureed into tortilla dust.  These post-shower contractions?  It was like taking a tortilla through a tree-trunk-chipper, setting the chips on fire in furnace, and then feeding the ashes to a flock of starving tortilla-ash-eating sharks, then blowing the shark den up with nuclear bombs.  It made the "heavy menstrual cramp contractions" sound like a free vacation to Fiji.  My grandma used to say that the final minutes of labor is like

"funneling all the power in the entire universe through your body."

 Yes.  All Jafar-like.  It's extraordinary, really, how much

power

a body had inside it.  

My mom says I was absolutely panicked.  I remember clawing at things and practically climbing up the counter/wall.  I bit hands and clothing.  It was absurd.  For a girl who had just relatively calmly and gracefully and relax-ed-ly endured a very long labor - even the most extreme moments where met with an effort to relax and breathe.  I never swore.  I hardly yelled.  

"

Another physical sign of transition is the inability to relax or be comfortable. A woman who was handling labor well may suddenly find that she has no idea what to do and nothing is comfortable any more."

I was not handling labor well anymore.  I was a complete disaster.   And I honestly thought I was going to pass out and die right then and there. Here's how much pain I was in: I swore... IN FRONT OF MY MOTHER.  One of these demon-contractions was a game-changer because the pain was no longer in my back, rather it was in my hips and pelvis.  I screamed for Caleb to push

"lower! Lower! LOWER!"

After a day and a half of pushing my back in the same place, he was confused.  The women eyed each other.

Janet went to get the midwife.  She calmly said she would be in soon.  Janet returned alone.  So my mama bear went to get her.  Something about a strict tone of voice, and fake wrist watch and

"I'm counting"

got the midwife into my room within 60 seconds ;)

Now.  Brief pause to this loooong story.  I feel a little bad for this midwife because I had only seen her once before this trip to the hospital.  We certainly did not know each other well.  

And

she had only been a part of my 35-hour labor for about two hours.  I really think she thought I was a dramatic, bad-at-dealing-with-pain, over-the-top laborer.  I don't think she realized

how

different I was from 5:00pm to 7:00 pm to 9:00pm.  And it was still wildly busy on the floor.  She was being pulled many directions.  I don't think she really believed I was ready to push.  I think she didn't fully 'get' how my labor had gone.  She was doing the best she could with the knowledge and time she had.  But it wasn't particularly available and understanding.  Okay.  Carry on.

Meeting Our Son

She checked me at 9:30 and said that magical word "

Ten!

" and at 9:35 I pushed for the first time.  

Everyone's eyes got big and the midwife seemed shocked.  Caleb nearly squealed and leaped with excitement:

"I can see his head!  BABY! He's SO close!  I can see his head! He has hair!"

The midwife paused and seemed confused.  She asked me if my water had broke a few days ago, or earlier today, or when, really?  My mom told her that we had been told it had broken, but we really didn't know when.  She shook her head and said

"No, it hadn't.  It just broke now."

I took that first push very seriously?  FINALLY, for real for real, broke my water and showed off my kid's head all at the same time.

Little Man's heart rate supposedly dropped during that first push (my mom thinks the monitor just picked up my heart rate) so they had me stop pushing while they put an IV in and put an oxygen mask on me.  After I was all geared up, they let me push for the second time.  I heard a chorus of 

"His head! He's coming! His head! You're doing it! He's almost here!" 

After that contraction ended the midwife answered a phone call and quietly exited the room.  On her way out she mentioned something about pushing.  We didn't really hear what she said, and another contraction was coming.  "

Can I push?!?" 

I asked.  The nurse said I could, so I did.  After a push or two she told me to stop.  "

You need to wait for the midwife to get back."  

I'm sorry.  But where did the midwife go?  Like.  My baby is COMING OUT OF ME RIGHT NOW.  

A couple minutes later she returned and she took one look at me 'down there' and instructed the nurses to prep for delivery.  (Because, yes, up until this point there was nothing prepared for him to actual come out.  No scissors to cut the cord.  No blanket. Nothing.)  They hustled about preparing the table, and dropping down that big light, and giving the midwife her outer-garment, and putting a blanket on my belly.   Caleb whispered to me 

"This is it, baby.  We're about to meet him.  You're about to hold him.  This is it.  You did it. I'm so proud of you.  You're incredible.  We're going to see him in just a second.  It's happening, baby."

Pushing was an incredible relief from the contraction pain.  I'm quite curious how God made it work, because all of that torture-of-a-contraction melted away when I pushed.  Pushing wasn't painful it was just 'hard.'  I think I said

"This is like pushing the Empire State Building through me!"

I felt calm again, though.  I could feel my body dropping and releasing my baby. The next contraction came and I pushed - trying to be steady, strong and patient.  The room was cheering and adrenaline began to pump.  Pushing felt similar to sitting on the floor, with your back against the wall, and legs pulled back and resting on a couch or bed you're trying to move alone.  Using alllll your might you try to push the furniture with your legs and it won't budge... and then! All of a sudden! It slides away like it's on ice!  A perfect, sweet head plopped out and in the same push his whole body came, too.  He. Was. OUT! NOT in me anymore! And... It felt dreamy and completely, completely wonderful: 

  He reached his long arms towards me, nuzzled into me when I wrapped myself around him, and looked right up at me as he took his first liquidy, panty breaths.  He was perfectly rosy, with flailing arms and legs.  He was smooth and had chubby cheeks made to be kissed.  

What had been the depths of the dark side, in truly a single

instant,

transformed like the Beast's Castle, into a high and bliss I've never experienced before.  I felt

amazing.  

My body felt

fantastic.  

My mind was clear and

completely

engaged.  I remember the details of those first few seconds brilliantly, in dazzling colors.  I can smell and feel and breathe it.  My heart was absolutely swelling.  Just being poured into with the warm water of brand new love.  I loved my son (I really did!) before I met him.  But here he was!  With us! Caleb was breathless and equally smitten right beside me, where he'd been the whole time.  I felt so strongly for him in that moment.  I adore my husband.  My mother was incredible.  My friends are bizarrely kind and amazing.  My dad is in the doorway, with tears in his eyes.  

I am SO proud of myself! Of us!  WE DID IT.  

Oh, I felt amazing.  No pain.  None.  No cloudiness.  No fog.  Just intense happy and true emotion.  I wouldn't trade those 60 seconds for the entire world.  I'd do the natural birth all over again, in a heart beat, just to have that first minute back.

While I was still laying there I told the people around me

"Oh, that was worth it.  That was so worth it."  

I'll never forget Rowdy's spindly, strong arms reaching

right

for me.  It was honestly a combination of all my favorite feelings: winning championship games, making hard-to-make-teams, scoring over 100%, people loving the food I made for them, falling in love, being in love, getting engaged, waiting to walk down the aisle, coming home after our honeymoon, making Rowdy, listening to my dad laugh, talking for hours with my mom, the times I've 'been filled with' the Holy Spirit, long nights of worship and conversation, laughing through childhood memories with my brothers and sisters.  All of it.  BOOM. In one moment.  A culmination of all the things that got me and my Caleb to the place where we were a part of a new soul, a mysterious, fresh person, being welcomed into his earthly life... it was absolute ecstasy.  An intoxicating felicity.  

I count it the highest privilege and honor to be able to feel and be a part of the labor and delivery we had.  I know so many women who either simply can't have this experience, or who choose not to, and I have only become more grateful for what our story was.  It was different than what I expected or certainly wanted, but it was marvelous all the same.  And nothing can replace the beauty of that intensity.  Something as 'simple' as Rowdy being given right to me, and him gurgling and grunting and grabbing our fingers and sucking his fists and rooting around on my chest, while we looked at each other, just would be foolish and impossible to describe with words.  Within a few minutes he was latched-on and learning how to nurse.  He was so alert and strong.  He knew me and responded to my voice, and daddy's too.  In a room mildly buzzed with people and machines, he was deeply focused on us.  Incredible.  I was so proud of him.  So... okay... I'm rambling now.  It was nothing short of the over-used word: amazing.

After we had been able to soak him in and bond, really, we were thrilled to be able to watch the room full of family and friends get to feel and snuggle him, too.  It was a worn and weary and teary group.  The whole of them had worked hard for this Nugget Boy and they were rejoicing.   Rejoicing over him and us with gladness.  It was another incredible (and un-planned! People just kept coming in, depsite the nurses wanting them to leave! Haha.  I'm glad they came and stayed anyway ;) The moment was too perfect) memory for me.

My little sisters had been at the hospital almost as long as I had.  They slept on awkwardly, uncomfortable love-seats and waited those grueling 36ish hours with us.  They weren't allowed to come back to see me, but I knew they were there.  And I kept getting reports from others about how sweet, concerned and eager Shannon and Lauren were.  I couldn't wait to let them meet their nephew.

 And when they did, they both burst into tears.  It was the first time I cried, too.  Salty, hot love and relief tears.

But TheLadies weren't the only ones waiting long and hard.  My "support parade," as the nurses called it, were there too.  We didn't even get pictures of everyone who came back (Jess, Kevin and Mikey... I loved that you were there!) 

while I was still in labor&delivery

, delivering a placenta, getting stitched up (a random skin tag/strip ripped off that needed to come off anyway, so it was handy to have it come out during labor... now I don't have to make an appointment to get it removed!), having my stomach mashed on to make my uterus contract, barely dressed... they with glowy-eyes and full hearts made their way into the room to join in the joy.

 My wiggly, vocal, peering, muscular, young son.  Oh I love you.

 Hahaha aaaand this is too "a part of it" not to post ;)  I didn't realize until I saw these pictures how... rough I was looking.  I told Caleb that at the time I felt like this triumphant war stallion, emerging from a foggy battleground, bloody and tattered, but strapping and formidable and victorious.  My flag waving in the background, while clouds parted over the scene.  And then... I saw these.  And.  Yeah.  I had more of a War Hippo thing going on.  Plopped over on a log.  What happened to my face? And Donald Trump Mullet hair? Why was my chin and neck connected with a frog-bubble? Gosh my eyes were tired ;)  I love this picture because I've never been more proud of myself, amazed at my guy, and impressed with my body.  My body... can do awesome things.  Wow.  And I won't be gracing the cover of any magazine anytime soon, or hash-tagging "fitmom" or be printing this one out to hang over the fireplace, but in my rough, swollen, disheveled, worn-out state, I love the story it tells, and what I was able to accomplish.  So I love these War Hippo shots.

(And! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU Janet and Lydia for taking all these pictures.  You. Both. Rule.)

 The minutes only grew better and better.

As my dad texted me on his way out

"Now you know what instant unconditional love is."

Yup. Amen. I do.

After finally getting cleaned and ready, we left the l&d ward and made that grand trek to the "Mommy & Baby" rooms.   We were in the wee hours of our third day in the hospital, and we had a baby to show for it.  Roughly four days of real labor, 36 hours of laboring in the hospital, four hours of transition, pitocin but no pain meds, and it was all done.  Labor was over and life with a child began.

 It was my favorite experience of my life.  And the adventure has only just begun!  God is good, and does what is good.  Our life is good, and we are so happy that God, many decades ago, before the earth was made and before time began, decided to love and make a Little Rowdy.  We truly are enchanted.

(Side note: Before labor started, I often prayed that I would have a good recovery.  I even said 'I don't mind if the labor is hard, I just don't want the recovery to be hard.'  I was worried about stitches and catheters and breast-feeding and bleeding and after-contractions and a slew of other things.  I really wanted to be able to fully enjoy my baby once he arrived and not be so physically hurting that I couldn't be 100% 'there' with him.

God completely answered that prayer - but next time I'm going to pray for an easy labor AND easy recovery.  Too greedy?  But really.  I'm stunned and grateful.  I've really felt marvelous ever since that last push.  Essentially zero pain.  Completely mobile.  The kid eats long and hard and easily.  Natural labors have the best odds at having a smooth recovery, but there is certainly NO guarantee and I easily could have had another long hard road ahead of me

after

he was born.  But God gave us that enjoyable and peaceful recovery we had prayed for.  I'm grateful grateful grateful.  Thank you, Lord.)

picture credit: Becca + Janet + Lydia

My Weird, Natural, Prodromal, 'Induced,' Pitocin, Drug-Free, Long, Beautiful Birth Story | Part 1

THE BIRTH STORY | PART ONE

the most dedicated, difficult, wonderful, supported experience i've ever lived through and accomplished

Preparation + Expectations 

Both Caleb and I come from families who really support and affirm natural childbirth.  His mom had many homebirths (including a set of twins! and carried another set of twins 42 weeks without induction!) and my mom took Bradley classes, labored

mostly

at home and then delivered at a now-closed area birth center.  The dads were always very and eagerly involved in the entire process.  Because this happened to be "normal" and "what we were used to" growing up, it just seemed natural (ha.) to investigate this option first, and was also what we both automatically desired - more out of familiarity than anything else.

Movies like "

The Business of Being Born

," friends who delivered naturally, our moms, Bradley classes and the book "

Husband-Coached Childbirth

" were all brilliantly helpful in educating us and helping us talk through what we hoped, wanted and expected out of "the birthing process."  

We learned more about the "domino effect" of medical intervention in healthy women and babies, the approach most hospitals take, what birthing has been like in history and in most places around the world, what l&d medicine has been in America the past 100 years (actually quite scary...

chloroform and twilight sleep

?!), the biology of the body, the details of natural and synthetic hormones used in labor, animal/mammal instinct in labor, benefits of laboring in a "home/home-like" environment, definitions of all things "birthing," etc.

"Comparing birthing to swimming, the doctor is the lifeguard.  Both swimming and birthing carry irreducible and minimal risk, and doctors and lifeguards are necessary, but only for complications.  Good swimmers and good birthers need them to be present, but just in case problems arise."
"Their happy chatter as they strolled together in the early stages of labor would be rhythmically interrupted by contractions... Whenever a contraction occurred, the same calm pattern of relaxation, abdominal breathing and affirming talk would be automatically repeated.  The couple performed their respective tasks calmly - observers were impressed by the obvious fact that here were two people, who knew each other well, happily working together.  The close relationship between husband and wife, the total trust and dependence on each other, was heartwarming to see... even seemingly trivial acts reduce the tasks of nurses, and instead direct the gratitude of a mother to the one she loves: her husband."

We really think mamas and couples need to make decisions for themselves, and we think being educated is the best way to make decisions.  The goal is healthy mama, healthy baby.  It really is.   And there are lots of ways to get there, and no matter what you "want" life seems to throw change-ups like a Hall of Famer.  There is no "right" or "wrong" and there is mostly no judgement.  Every story and birth and mama is so different.  As it should be.

We spent time figuring out what was best for us - and we really enjoyed the process!  I, personally, wanted not just Caleb's

help

, but for him to not be

helpless

.  I hated the idea of him standing there, watching me suffer, with no idea what to do and no idea what was going on or with nearly noway to practically help.   I would struggle being tossed into a traumatic situation I knew

nothing

about!  I didn't want him to feel like a bystander or observer.  I wanted to have

our

baby

together.  We both also wanted to do everything we could to let my body do what God made it able to do by itself.  We both WHOLEHEARTEDLY wanted medical help and intervention if my body wasn't able to do it on it's own.  We are so grateful for drugs, hormones, needles, surgeries and procedures that can protect, keep and save life.  But unless those were

necessary

we didn't want to take 'advantage' of them.  We felt like this was the healthiest and best 'plan' for me as a woman, and also for our little BorisMorrisBoy.

We learned in our Bradley Class about the reasons medical intervention should be used.  We talked about - to the best of our ability - "what if ______ happens?"  We knew it might not be possible for us to have a totally natural birth - heck, Dr. Bradley's own daughter had an emergency (life-saving!) c-section!  These things are not evil or something we were trying to avoid.  It was more of a mindset: we want to

pursue

these other things first, and go to those grace-of-God medical interventions if we

needed

to. 

I've heard/read/seen women say something along the lines of "I'm too wimpy for a natural birth/I have a low pain tolerance/I don't need to be the hero!/We have the drugs for a reason!" and truly: I'm too wimpy too

not

try a natural birth ;)  I'm a tough woman, I really am.  But I'm terrified of needles and drugs and "the works" (really, I get cavities drilled without novacaine... Because I'm more afraid of the shot than the drilling.  I'm weird.)   I'm more scared of epidurals and c-sections (and the recoveries after them) than I am of the pain of natural birth.  Again, proof that eeeevery mama is different! Haha! So as natural as possible was the plan :)

The Back Story

Most of the 20 Morris and Snyder children were late.  Caleb, a twin, was 14 days late and I was 11 days late.  My mom's last baby was 14 days late.  Basically, I was expecting to pass my due date with a baby inside me ;)

I shot a wedding on June 1, and made it to due date - June 6 - with very, very nothing exciting to report.  The "craziest" thing to happen was just so.much.mucus. Like. SO. much.  Enough that I was almost daily wondering if my water broke, but instead of the liquid being clear, unscented, and watery it was always slippery, yellow and smelly.  I called the office two different times to ask

"Should I come in? Not sure what's going on..."

but from my descriptions I was reassured: nope, just sounds like your body is getting ready - when your water breaks, you will know!  At my midwife appointment on June 6 I found out I was 3cm dilated and about 70% effaced.  Encouraging news - yes!  But not all that exciting - I know women can be 3-4 cm dilated for weeks before going into labor.  I carried on with my week, waiting for something to happen.  On June 10 I discovered two different super-leaks in bed.  But it was all slippery mucus, as usual, and not watery.  I felt no burst or pop, and it didn't keep "leaking" throughout the following hours or day.  

My body is just getting ready

, I told myself.

On June 12, around 1:00 pm I started having consistent, trackable, painful contractions.  They were about 8-10 minutes apart, with varying degrees of pain.  It felt like everyone said: bad menstrual cramps.  I went out with my mom to run some errands.  Maybe once an hour I had a "strong" contraction (had to stop and focus and breath through it).  Caleb started timing them around 4:30 pm and they were happening about every 2-3 minutes, lasting a minute each.  It was confusing because I couldn't usually tell when one contraction would start and another would end.  It kind of always felt tight and crampy and then it would just "peak" and I could say

"Oh! Okay! Yeah, something just happened!"

but I couldn't predict when it would happen.  The hard, churning was just sort of "there."  I texted a few friends to give them a heads-up.  Did some laundry.  Went to the grocery store with C to walk and get a few last minute hospital items.  After 7:00 pm things were still moving and grooving.  The painful peaks hurt more and more.  This seemed very likely to be "it."  And then all of a sudden, right after 8:00 pm, everything stopped.  EVERYTHING.  No more tightness.  No crampy-ness.  No peaks.  Nothing.  One good hard painful peak, and in a *snap* it was all gone.

I was confused and a little discouraged going to bed that night.  

What the frick

was

that?  That was not a few Braxton Hicks.  No way.  

I did some googling and came across the term "

prodromal labor

."  Not false labor, not pre-labor - no, no, prodromal labor is it's own animal.  REAL labor that takes place over days or weeks, not hours.  The analogy used was one of running a race.  Many labors have a distinct (ish) start.  Looking back a woman could say

"I started active labor contractions here, and ____ hours later the baby was born."

 Start, run, finish. 30 minutes. 8 hours. 36 hours.  Whatever the length of time, it is definitive "active" labor.

But prodromal labor is apparently more like a race that begins, and you have no idea how long the race is, mile-markers are prohibited, and you are forced by a race official to sprint for as long as he says so, and then forced to stop racing and sit and wait until he says so, and then to walk when he says so.  You're really "in the race" and can have genuine, intense, even transition-esque contractions for a full day, only to be told

"Okay, sit down and stop now."

and be left sitting on the side of the track for two full days, waiting all over again.

It's quite mentally, emotionally and physically grueling.

And I read all kinds of blog posts and testimonies of mom's who experienced this kind of labor, getting my mind around the idea that this was probably going to be me as well.  I was relieved to know I wasn't a dramatic or stupid first time mom: I was feeling something more than "false labor."  I fell asleep assuming I had a solid few days ahead of me before I'd be checking into the hospital to deliver.

The Curve Ball - Hospital Day 1

I had a pre-scheduled appointment with my midwife for June 13 - one week past my due date "just in case" I was late.  Caleb and I left for our 10:00 am appointment and on the ride over discussed where we wanted to stop for lunch on the way home.  Long story short, while I was there I told the midwife about the night before and I repeated the "SO MUCH MUCUS" story I always tell them when I'm there ;)  She seemed somewhat head-pat-y and polite, and not even slightly rushed or curious or "intrigued."  After chatting I laid down to hear baby's heart, be measured and see what dilation was looking like.  As soon as she "took a look" the midwife said, I quoth,

"Oh wow, there IS a lot of mucus down here."

 I trriiiied to tell you!  She ran over and grabbed one of those paper-strips to see if this was amniotic fluid (from a broken water bag) or just above-average-lady-part-scuzz.  

"If it turns blue, it's amniotic fluid,"

she said as the strip turned a brilliant shade of deep royal cobalt.  

"Hmmm. We're going to need to send you to the hospital to do another test.  I'll let the midwife on call there know you're coming.  And I can't check your dilation here because if this really *is* amniotic fluid, then we don't want to risk infection."

And with that, we were off to the hospital.  A few things were going through my head, but mostly that "24-hour-rule."  I knew that aside from the odd-case, most hospitals wanted babies out no later than 24 hours after broken water (because of, yes, infection and the chance of risking the baby's health.)  But

if this was

amniotic fluid, I was fairly sure it had started coming out three days ago... at least!  Maybe longer!  I was just praying that I wouldn't be rushed into an emergency c-section.  Interestingly enough, as we walked back to the car, contractions started up again.  They'd been ALL TOTALLY NOTHING since 8:00 pm the night before, but now they were rearing up, roaring in my nice-sized middle.  I breathed and counted and instructed Caleb to

"drive gently!"

We checked into the hospital a little before noon, scooted over to triage, had a more "official" test done and it was confirmed: this was amniotic fluid.  My water bag had broken or ripped enough to leak and I wasn't leaving without a baby.  It was weird laying there in my gold hoop earrings and cotton wrap dress trying to understand what was happening as they started strapping arm bands and stickers on us.

(one

very

excited daddy... precious thing.)

By the time we were in our room, the contractions had

totally

stopped again.  We sat there and kind of laughed - it felt like we were checking into a Holiday Inn Express or something.  It didn't feel like... well... what I was expecting to feel at this point: nearing transition, after laboring most of the time at home!  My mom and sisters met us and helped bring our bags (which have been in the car for weeks) into the room.  Katie braided my hair, the little girls took our order for Chipotle, oh... and a tornado hit.  In very movie-esque evening-medical-drama form, a blue summer day turned green and quiet in hot stillness.  And then *blam* a storm moved in.  Nurses were RUNNING up and down the halls, with beds of women moving them from "window rooms" to "middle rooms."  Lights flickered.  Computer systems shut down. "Code White, I repeat, Code White" was being monotonously spoken over the speakers.  And we just kept walking the halls... excited when contractions picked up, and then always bummed when they stopped for five... ten... fifteen... shoot... twenty...twenty-five... DARN... minutes.  At this point it was 4:00 pm and I had gotten an IV in which fed me a stinging, cold dose of antibiotics, to help protect BabyBorisMorris from infection.  My midwives had no problem with me laboring naturally - even though it appeared that the water had been broken for days - as long as my heart, his heart and my temperature remained healthy.  I even asked

"So, if I'm still here in 24 hours...would you feel like 'Okay, times up! We're getting the baby out!'?"  

The midwife - very helpfully - promised that there was no timeline.  As long as all my information and baby's information came back "healthy," they'd let me labor as long as I needed.  Loooooad of concern off my back with that answer!

(smiling is not a 'good sign' in natural labors ;) a clue that... i wasn't even *close* to the intense stuff yet. haha! it felt hard, but little did i know...)

So Caleb and I walked.  And walked.  And walked.  And squatted.  And walked.  And contracted sometimes.  And then stopped.  And then contracted! Yay!  This must stick around this time! Walk! Walk! Walk! DOH. WHY DID IT ALL STOP AGAIN? (Reminder: I'm not talking spaced out contractions, I'm talking contractions on a 7-9 on the pain scale, every 2-4 minutes, lasting a minute each, for 45 minutes... then nothing.  Not so much as a twingy cramp.)

At 9:00 pm I had "witnessed" quite a few mamas arrive, and deliver their young.  We heard the grunts and pushes and first yelps over and over.  I wanted to know how far along we were.  I had been 3cm for over a week,  and these contractions must be doing SOMETHING.  My midwife checked and said hesitantly

"Mmmm, thr... eh, maybe, yeah, I'd say four."

Four?  Double-You-Tee-Ateshe, body!  We kept walking and visiting the friends who had come to cheer me on in the waiting room (the were like a spring in the desert lands.  SO hopeful and motivating and happy to see them all.  Shared joy is addicting.) and snacking and eating ice and feeling

slightly

more confident because the contractions seemed to be getting harder and sticking around.

natural_birth_story_rowdy_caleb_kristen_morris_leigh_baby_photography+(29+of+69).jpg

(Becca was SO happy to see me in labor.  It was adorable. "KRISTEN.  You're having a BABY.  You're SWAYING!")

(remember? smiling = bad. waaaay too happy-go-lucky during my contraction breaks ;) but, hey, i'm glad i wasn't a total crab for my family and friends?)

At 10:00 pm I fell asleep briefly and the monitors showed that I was still contracting, but they weren't intensifying during my snooze.  I, I'm told, appeared much more tired and far less social at this point.  For the next few hours Caleb and I worked on the birth ball, walked SOME MORE, and the peaks in the contractions started becoming 10 on the 1-10 scale... every time. Intensity was actually building and

lasting

.  So we WORKED. HARD.  We buckled down, focused f'real and concentrated every part of ourselves on helping this baby work his way

out

.

(mama bear took over for a bit so daddy angel could re-group and refresh.  i needed him to have plenty of energy to last the long haul with me, and i

needed

mom to help me while he rested. i could not have done it without her. she's the best.)

(the time stamps on these photos are painful.  i scroll through and watch 10:00 go by... 10:30 go by... 11:00 go by... 11:30... midnight... 12:30... 1:00 in the morning... 1:30 in the morning... TWO O'CLOCK... TWO THIRTY...! Makes me tired just thinking about it!)

But when 2:30 am arrived and, once again, all signs of labor seemed to stop, we decided to take a break.  The friends had left to go home, mom and my sisters (who were still there, waiting and helping away!) were so sleepy.  Caleb was worn out.  I was frustrated. So we went to bed with a plan.  My midwife said we could either try castor oil or breast-pumping to get contractions

staying

and really going.  We decided on pumping.  

The Next Day - Hospital Day 2

After sleeping on and off until 6:30 am, Caleb and I embarked on the Great Pumping Adventure.  15 minutes on the machine, 15 minutes of walking, repeated four times.  This two-hour process finally wrapped up around 9:00 am.  I knew things weren't happening the way they should be.  I was also emotional because every four hours I had to get the antibiotic through the IV and I

hated

the way it felt.  So burn-y and uncomfortable.  I HATE needles.  And I hated being "hooked up" or having something stuck in me.  I couldn't grab or hold or move freely with an IV port in my hand.  And it hurt.  And I just didn't like it one bit.  I would always get a bit teary when that four-hour mark came again.  Every time I'd hope I'd be close to pushing - or maybe even with the baby! - by the time the next antibiotic shoot-up was scheduled.  But over and over I had to get it, sometimes right in the middle of a bratty contraction.

At 9:45 am, after all that pumping!, my midwife checked me: 5cm.  Almost 13 hours had gone by, and I had progressed one.tiny.centimeter.  And! To top it off, the midwife said

"I feel a bulging bag of forewaters."

 The nurse quickly asked

"Wait, I thought this was the patient who has had a broken water for three days?  That's why she's on the antibiotic...?

"

That's why I am HERE

, I thought ;)  The midwife talked about how a water can break, but then the baby's head can plug it up like a cork so it's "there" but open.  My mom and I were confused by that, but believed them.  Just.  Didn't quite know what to think.  5cm.  My water still needs to break (or needs to break again).  Okaaaay? 

In the meantime, the hospital was still going bonkers.  Babies babies babies.  The tornado babies.  The heavy, barometric pressure babies.  Firing off like a shooting squad.  The nurses and midwives were very, very busy.  And I was now on my third or fourth shift with a new midwife.  I rarely saw them because they had SO much going on (surprise twins! mother almost dying! baby getting stuck! crazy and scary.)  Meanwhile, I was the slow one over in Room 3, with an involved husband and doula-mama.

It wasn't until 11:00 am that my midwife kind of laid down the law for me, in a gracious, smart way.  She, for the first time in 24 hours, said the dreaded 'P' word: Pitocin.  I didn't want pitocin for a number of reasons.  If you don't particularly care why I didn't want pitocin, skip these bullet points and continue on with the story ;)  The best is yet to come.  But, if you are curious about what my train of thought was, have at it: 

1) I hate IV's and needles.  So enough said. 

2) Being on IV that drips would mean I couldn't be as mobile and free to do anything I wanted (like walk the halls, take a shower, etc).  I'd also have to be strapped into the continuous fetal monitors - another limiter for my positions and ability to move about.  My midwife did assure me I could move around the bed and my room as much as I was able and wanted.  But still.  I didn't like being limited in options ;)

3) I know that

most

women who use pitocin end up getting an epidural.  The pit contractions are a force working "outside" your body, as opposed to the "natural" oxytocin contractions that are triggered by baby's brain and mama's brain and working "with and within" your body.  I had been taught that pit contractions are harder, faster and more intense, with longer "peaks" and shorter breaks.  Overall it seemed to be a much more painful experience than natural labor, which seemed painful enough to me!  And I didn't know if I'd be able to do it without an epidural. (

4) The side effects of pitocin on mama was exactly what I was hoping to avoid (and why I did not plan on being induced to begin with).  Anything from mild to severe allergic reaction, nausea + vomiting (I was working hard to keep my body fueled and hydrated... I did not want to start losing my 'energy source'!), rupture of the uterus, premature separation of the placenta, dropped blood pressure and slow/fast/uneven heart beat, headaches, seizures, pelvic hematoma, increased swelling and engorgement (pitocin is an anti-diuretic so the body retains more fluids), etc.  Of course I could experience none of these side effects.  And, of course, these things could happen 'on their own' without pitocin!  But, like I had said before, I wanted to avoid adding risk and medical involvement

unless necessary

.  

5) Worse than potential effects of pitocin on me were the potential effects on my little boy.  Just a month before my due date, on May 7 2013, The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released the findings of a study specifically directed at pitocin and

the baby

.

 "

Induction and augmentation of labor with the hormone oxytocin may not be as safe for full-term newborns as previously believed. 'As a community of practitioners, we know the adverse effects of Pitocin from the maternal side,' Dr. Tsimis said, 'but much less so from the neonatal side.'"

In keeping with many past techniques used in hospitals for labor&delivery, the research showing harm to mother/baby doesn't come along until after they have been using said technique for years or even decades.  Slow/fast/un-even (dangerous) heart-rates, limp and poor muscle tone, low APGAR scores, increased likelihood of jaundice, bleeding in the eyes and/or brain, poor reflexes (including sucking), etc are the known potential side effects.  As a mom I did instantly become protective and careful/aware of my baby's well-being and safety when I found out I was pregnant.  No alcohol, or tuna, or processed deli meat, or soft cheese!  Take the prenatal vitamins!  Have prenatal care!  Hydrate hydrate hydrate!  No contact sports (aka: no scrimmaging with my basketball team)!  No sleeping flat on your back! No roller-coasters! All for the safety of the baby! That same protective mama-bear came out when "pitocin" was said.  I wanted to be

so careful

what I was exposing my little guy to.

6) I didn't want the pitocin to cause an 'emergency c-section' scenario because the BorisMorris' heart rate was dropping.  He had been remarkably stable and healthy, with a strong, dependable heartbeat, the entire labor.  And I was willing to work through labor longer if it kept him in a safer situation.  It was 'okay' with me if he and my body needed more time.  And if he simply wasn't ready, I didn't want to 'force' him out and exasperate his sweet little heart.

That being said, Caleb and I talked and we had a couple other choices: castor oil and breaking my water (again? or whatever.)  Our midwife affirmed and supported those other two options, but we ultimately decided based on our midwife saying:

"Castor oil

could

help contractions get consistent, breaking your water

could

help get things moving, but pitocin

will

make this happen.  Pitocin is really a great tool when used right, and we are not using it to try to start your labor.  You

are

in labor.  You are having active labor contractions.  Your body might just need an extra little nudge to fall of the edge, so to speak.  You've been in real labor for over 24 hours, and I want you to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and have enough energy to do this.  We would start you on the smallest does possible, and only increase it if we needed.  We're not about to pump you with pit."

 My midwife knew what we wanted for our birth, we had talked many times, and I trusted her.  She said she believed this would be best, and she was confident it would help, not hinder, us in having the birth we wanted.  So.  We went for it.

Interestingly enough, I had written on my birth plan that I didn't want any students present at the birth, but a nurse asked me while I was there if I would allow the student following her to come in and observe.  For some reason I said

"Sure! No problem!"

 God knew.  The student came in as they were hooking me up to those two bags full of clear fluid.  I was a bit teary.  She came right over, looked me in the eyes, and said "

You are

so

strong.  What you've done so far is incredible.  I

know

you can do this

."  I pathetically muttered "

I really don't want an epidural or a c-section

."  She got very serious and told me that she had two vaginal deliveries with pitocin and with

out

an epidural.  "

You'll be just fine.  Really.  You've got this.  I know you can do it

."  During contractions she would encourage me ("

GOOD Kristen! GOOD.  You are so relaxed.  GOODJOB.  Gooooood

.")  I didn't know this woman from Adam, and after this conversation I don't remember seeing her again, but wow: she was an angel from God sent into Room 3.

Around noon I was all hooked up, with the Powerful Synthetic Oxytocin dripping into me.  I tried to gear up mentally for what was impending.  Hopefully harder, faster, stronger, BETTER.  Hopefully closer to the end than the beginning.  Hopefully ready for... whatever it was that was about to happen.  Some "labor verses" came to mind - ones I'd written down, prayed through, and enjoyed before labor started, hoping they would help in my sure-to-come-time-of-need:

"Run with endurance the race set before you."

hebrews 12:1

"You will not labor in vain... How joyful we are! We

will

enjoy the fruit of our labor!"

psalm 128:1

"He increases the power of the weak!"

isaiah 40:29

"He enables me to negotiate the rugged terrain."

isaiah 59:1

"

The Lord is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved."

psalm 45:6

Funny story: on the playlist we had in iTunes there was a Johnny Cash rendition of "

I Shall Not Be Moved

."  We laughed that this was BorisMorris' anthem ;)  

"I shall, I shall, I shall NOT be moved!"

But when I think of the labor, almost immediately those lyrics come to mind.  From here on out this song will take me back to that dimly lit, beige, clean hospital room.

"Though all hell assail me, I shall not be moved

Jesus will not fail me

, I shall not be moved.

Just like the tree that's planted by the water

I shall not be moved.

Though the tempest [or uterus ;)] rages

, I shall not be moved

On the Rock of Ages, I shall not be moved.

Just like the tree that's planted by the water, 

I shall not be moved."

{Part Two to follow...}

picture credit: Becca + Janet + Lydia