I’m sitting on the couch next to a swaddled bundle of pure beauty and I feel like the luckiest woman alive. Getting here was quite the experience, and worth every minute, and I need to try to document it. Even though it will take days and lots of help from Tom and Kendra.
Let me start by saying there is no way to imagine what labor and birth is like until you’ve experienced it. All the reading I did, the videos I watched, nothing could have prepared me for this. I want to go back and watch some videos because I don’t remember any of the women yelling like I did, before pushing even started.
This post is going to be hard to write. To be honest it’s mostly a hazy blur of pain and exhaustion.
Yes, birth is beautiful. Everything I had to go through to get this baby was so incredible. But part of it sucked. About 24 hours of it actually. I’m not going to tell you the contractions were “curious sensations that required all of my attention.” Contractions started easy enough. I was surprised by the feeling, they started like a strong period cramp, just sharper and stronger. Those started at 3:00 am Monday morning, and I spent most of Monday with those contractions around 15 minutes apart and 30 seconds long. There were a few strong ones that were closer together, especially during/after the short walk Tom and I took that afternoon, but most of the day was a breeze. The pattern didn’t really significantly change until 7:00 pm. Contractions were 5-6 minutes apart and probably averaged 45 seconds. That’s when I told Kendra to leave her house, and told Katherine I thought things were getting serious. Little did I know I had 24 more hours of “serious” ahead of me. At this point I can barely remember what that part of labor felt like. I know it was painful, because I wouldn’t have called Katherine if I didn’t really think we were getting close. But I know it was nothing compared to what it would be like 12 hours later. 5-6 minutes apart and lasting about 1 minute long is usually when women go to the hospital. I thought it meant I only had a few hours of labor left. So Katherine sent Kat and Jessica, her assistants who were also at my prenatal appointments, to come check my progress. I was less than thrilled when Kat told me I was 2cm. I was hoping for 4-5, and I could have handled being told 3 because that would have at least been a change (I had been 2 cm for weeks). But no, even after having contractions all day, I hadn’t dilated at all. My cervix had changed though, work had been done. It was stretchy and thin, so the contractions had definitely been doing something. But being 2 cm dilated, especially as a first time mom, usually means you still have a lot of labor ahead of you. So obviously I sent the girls home to sleep, and told Kendra I hoped she didn’t mind having a sleepover.
The girls left and I labored in the living room and watched shows and talked with Tom and Kendra. We used my contraction timer app to time them the whole night, Katherine wanted me to call her when they were 1 minute long and 4-5 minutes apart for at least an hour. For hours they stayed 45 seconds – 1 minute long about 5-6 minutes apart. They hurt, but like I said, at this point I can’t even remember what that part was like. I started getting really tired around 12:00 am so Kendra went to the nursery to use our guest bed, and Tom and I got in bed. I slept for the 5 minutes between contractions, and woke up during every contraction. Not your normal nap, but it was nice. Looking back, I wish I had done it longer while I could. Ladies, if it’s the middle of the night and you’re tired enough to doze off in between contractions, DO IT. For as long as possible. Laboring in bed is good, you can get in the most restful position possible and it makes it easier to let your body relax while your uterus works. Anyways, resting is important while you can. That’s probably when my uterus was able to do the most work that night. I started feeling restless at 1:30am and went to the living room where I moved back and forth from the couch and the floor where I was on all fours with the yoga mat and ball. Kendra saw that I was back up and joined me while Tom continued to sleep. I’m glad he got a good nap, and I wish Kendra had slept longer even though I obviously appreciated the company. Tom got up and things started to get a little harder. Instead of just deep breaths I started moaning some. They were getting stronger. This was about 2:30-3. At 4:30 we went ahead and called Katherine because they had been 1 minute long and 5 minutes apart since about 3. They were hard to talk through, and we all really thought they seemed to be changing. So the girls came back to check me again, and I was a 6-7!
My body had done some serious work through the night. We all felt optimistic about a baby coming soon. Katherine showed up maybe another hour later, and I remember being on the couch and just ignoring every one during the contractions. Tom sat next to me almost the entire time so I could hold/squeeze his hand. The small, physical show of support got me through the day. I forgot to mention through the night and some of the morning we watched The Office, 30 Rock, and Bob’s Burgers. Early on it made me laugh and I was glad to hear the girls and Tom enjoying themselves too. I don’t remember when the TV turned off, and the John Legend radio came on. So most of the morning was just waiting for the contractions to do their job and finish dilating me. Unfortunately every time they checked me I was still at a 7. I don’t remember how many times I was checked, or what time during the day. I remember them checking Charlotte’s heartbeat pretty often. Which was kind of annoying because they wanted to hear it during a contraction and I was usually squirming around so I had to try to hold still for them. But they were always really nice about it and would wait a few minutes if I felt like that current contraction was too strong.
(I had to look back at the texts between Kendra and my mom to remember the details of this.) When I was checked at first that morning they said Charlotte was completely on the right, and my cervix was still tilted as well, so they asked me to change sides on the couch. Ha! If only it was that simple. This was a problem the entire day. Every time they checked me they said the same thing, that everything was tilted to the right and we needed to work on getting everything in line. So throughout the morning (while I was having such strong contractions that I was moaning and writhing in pain for a minute straight) I was asked to labor different ways to open my hips up. On my side in bed with my knee up on pillows, on all fours with one leg up to one side, and I walked up and down the stairs in our building. At some point during the morning I started leaking amniotic fluid, so my membranes had ruptured. But there was never a gush or anything. I was absolutely fine with this, because that meant contractions were slightly easier for me, and baby was still nice and comfortable in her warm bath.
At some point during the day (texts say around 1:30) I was checked and looked like a 9.5. Honestly, I don’t even remember being told that. Kendra told me about it later, and also told me that after they did the Rebozo technique, I was back to a 7. I have no idea how that works, and I’m glad they didn’t tell me that happened. I was so focused on contractions I don’t remember them updating me, I just remember getting checked wasn’t fun. And up until the end my body wasn’t trying to push so I knew I wasn’t complete yet anyways. You would think me being 9.5 is when things finally started to happen, but it was actually after a little intervention from my wonderful midwife. I was almost completely dilated, but my cervix wasn’t lined up properly so I wouldn’t be able to push her down until that happened. The hip opening stuff I had been working on hadn’t done the job. I took a hot shower to try to relax and get some relief on my lower back, and then I got in to bed and we got to work.
Sometime between 4:00-5:00 pm Katherine put me on my side in bed and rocked my body during contractions, and THEN we tried the Rebozo technique. I laid flat on my back and they put a sheet long ways underneath my lower back. Katherine held both sides of the sheet, standing directly above me. Once a contraction started she rocked me back and forth, yanking hard on the left side. The first time she did this it was intense but not much worse than a normal contraction. The second time the contraction was worse, and she rocked harder. It was horrible. But at the same time it was amazing because my incredible midwife was standing above me with this look in her eyes like she was so excited to be trying this new technique and I could tell just how much she loves her job. They checked me right after and said it definitely worked. I can’t remember if I had already been feeling the urge to push a little, but after this I definitely did. I moved to the toilet because I wanted contractions to start moving her down more, and that’s what happened.
While trying not to push on the toilet, a strong contraction busted my water open. Seriously, BUSTED. It shot water all over the bathroom floor and door. I was sitting on the toilet! Kendra was in there with me and we were both shocked. We heard it too. It was like a water balloon. After that the toilet was uncomfortable because the urge to push was so strong, so I moved back to the bed to try to relax. Katherine checked me and said I still had a “lip” I think she called it, of cervix left, so I shouldn’t push yet. That little bit of cervix stuck around for at least another hour during which I had to deal with crazy painful contractions and try my hardest not to let my body push. I was trying so hard to focus on my cervix pulling back during the contractions, but I felt like I was failing miserably. Katherine said I did a great job, but while it was happening I didn’t believe a word she said. Now I realize that I really did hold back, and my cervix was able to complete before I started pushing the baby past it, which would have caused swelling. Katherine tried to hold the cervix with her finger while I had a contractions, to help it pull back, but it didn’t work so I kept contracting and trying to control my body. Her midwife friend came to assist, and tried to do the same thing and said that it worked. Katherine told me that’s because she came after I had already done the work. Again, I believe her now but didn’t really at the time.
So that meant it was time to really push! I was so happy I was finally allowed to really work at getting her out. I had a few pushes to get her down through the canal, and then every one came in and got set up to help me push her out. I was on the bed, Tom by my side, every one else at the business end. Including Kendra! Katherine and her friend Jen took turns helping me through contractions and supporting my bottom, while Kat and Kendra held both my legs back for me to help push. I never thought I would be on my back with people holding my legs, but it’s what felt right. I got SO hot and the cold washcloth on my head was a sweet relief but at the same time I wanted a bucket of water poured over me, and the stupid shirt I was wearing to come off. But I couldn’t move, all I could do was push when it was time. I started off yelling (maybe screaming is a better word), and Jen told me that while I could do whatever felt right, yelling releases energy out and I should try focusing that energy down into my pushes instead of out of my mouth. The next contraction I tried it and every one noticed a difference. Kendra and Tom both were amazed every time I pushed, I can only imagine what it looked like down there. It hurt so bad, the pushing, and in between. Pushing hurt because of the stretching, and once the contraction was over I could feel her against my bones, and I had to really focus on relaxing my body so that every thing would stretch and open. Plus I wouldn’t have been able to push if I didn’t let my body rest in between. But my impulse was to tense up against the pain. I was surprised at how much that part hurt, actually. I’ve read that pushing is a relief, and it was because I knew I was close and I could feel the progress with every contraction, but it’s a very painful relief. Crowning was a whole different thing. The “ring of fire” does exist. It felt like my skin was ripping apart. But once her head came out, I had two more pushes and she was in my arms. No waiting between head and body. All I heard was, “there is the shoulder, you can push again if you want” and then I pushed and felt the most amazing thing. Charlotte leaving my body. She slipped right out. After all the work on the head, it was crazy feeling her body just slide out after it.
The girls put her in a blanket and immediately handed her to me. I got to stare into my baby’s eyes as they changed out the blanket a couple times, and suctioned her nose and mouth a little bit. She had a full head of hair, big wide eyes, and is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Tom stared at her in awe. She cried a little bit and then calmed down and just looked around with her bright eyes. I held her as I pushed out the placenta. It took a few pushes before I got it out, but it didn’t really hurt. It was just hard to push because I wasn’t feeling any contractions. I immediately asked if I had torn and they said they hadn’t checked yet. I think I asked because everything was sore but I couldn’t really feel it well enough to tell. At some point during all this excitement, Tom cut the cord. You’ll have to ask him what that was like. They also took her and gave her an Apgar score of two “10”s! My perfect little baby.
I handed her over to Tom so he could meet her, which was such a special moment for all of us. He took off his shirt so they could have a little skin to skin bonding time. That first hour flew by. I tried to take everything in. This amazing baby had been living and growing inside me, and after the hardest work of my life I was holding her in my arms. She was healthy, she was beautiful, and she looked like me! Now I see Tom in her too, but all I could think when I first saw her was how much she looks like a Kurkjian. Katherine helped her latch in that first hour, and she had her first colostrum feeding. She stayed on for almost 30 minutes! She has been a champ at breast feeding from the beginning, which I am extremely thankful for. My first feeding unsupervised wasn’t quite as successful, but we figured it out with a little practice. Charlotte slept in the bed with us and we managed to get a great night of sleep, I think she only woke up twice. Waking up and seeing that face in the bed next to me was so incredible. I had been waiting my whole life for that moment.
Before I end this I want to talk about my birth team. Tom was my number one support the whole day, by my side with his hand to squeeze. He quietly reminded me to try to relax my body when I would tense up, and he rubbed my legs and back. Having him sitting next to me almost the entire time was a huge help. Knowing that he was there with me got me through each contraction. It reminded me of what I had to look forward to in a few hours, meeting our daughter and starting this new chapter in our lives together. Kendra was also there with words of encouragement the entire day. Not only was she positive, funny, and just there as my friend, but she texted my mom updates the entire day and was there to help with anything we needed. As I mentioned, she even held one of my legs back for me when I pushed. Having her there meant so much to me. Oh, and she took all of these pictures! After reading so many birth stories I really wanted pictures of my labor and delivery, and those precious moments right after. Even though some are blurry (I would be shaking with excitement too if I were her!) having those pictures is a big deal to me. Besides Tom obviously, there is no one else that I would have felt that comfortable sharing this experience with. Then there was Katherine. She is the BEST midwife. All I had known of her so far was our prenatal appointments. I loved her already because most of my questions were answered by telling me it was my choice and they were there to support me. She shared things about her life with me and we all got to know each other. But she was different during the birth. She was like midwife/nurturing mother. She rubbed my back, made noises of sympathy when she could tell it was a really rough contraction, and told me over and over again that I was doing a great job. She also helped move my cervix and baby into the right position. I’ve talked to a few people about my labor and we agree that if I had been in a hospital with an OB instead, I probably would have ended up with a C-section. Katherine did on the spot research to figure out how to make my unique situation work. I will be forever grateful for that. But if you say that to her, she’ll just say that I’m the one who did all the work and I’m the amazing one. Which is another thing I love about her. And then Kat and Jessica. First thing I have to say about Kat is the massages. There were a couple times that she massaged my back during contractions, and it was SO helpful. Part of me wanted to ask her to keep it up the entire day. I’m sure she gets a lot of practice, so she knew exactly where to apply pressure to get me through the contraction a little more relaxed. She also stayed so energetic, upbeat, and encouraging the entire time. Jessica also was there telling me how well I was doing, and was gentle and non-invasive during the many heartbeat checks. So yeah, my birth team definitely played a part in getting Charlotte here safely with both of us unmedicated. I couldn’t have done it without them. Thank you all!
Writing this feels crazy. Charlotte is 18 days old now, and as a routine has started to form and we’re getting used to having a baby run our lives this birth feels so far away.
Birthing this baby was the hardest work I’ve ever done, and the most rewarding. I would do it again and again. One of the main reasons I was able to get through that day was because before I even got pregnant I had decided on a natural birth at home. Research had been done, my mind was made up. During the pregnancy I never thought twice about my decision, I just prepared myself for the home birth. I read a few books, a million birth stories, and watched several home birth videos. This is the advice I would give a woman thinking about home birth. Don’t just think about it, make the decision and live it. Trust your midwife completely. Be realistic, there is always a chance something will happen and your midwife will recommend a hospital birth. But don’t go into the birth worrying about those situations. The majority of births can be done at home with the assistance of a midwife. My situation was a great example of this. Several factors would have led to recommendations for medication or surgery if I had been in a hospital. But my midwife and I trusted my body to do the work God created it to do. I had to experience some serious pain to achieve my goal, but the health and happiness of my baby and I were worth it. And now that long day is behind me and I have the sweetest little baby to cuddle with.
I’m not sure how to end such a big post. I have always looked forward to being a mom, having my own sweet baby to hold. The fact that I’ve reached that point in my life still doesn’t feel real. I’m trying to soak up every beautiful minute. Even the ones filled with a crying newborn, and extremely sore nipples. So don’t ask me yet what it’s like, being a mom. It’s such a big thing, I haven’t figured out how to put it into words yet.