I wrote this post the day after my friend Kristen had her baby. I wanted to remember everything that I could. I waited to post the story until Kristen had written her birth story so that my memories of the event didn’t taint her memories. So here is the post:
I got the opportunity of a lifetime yesterday, January 10, 2011. I was invited into a very private moment in a family’s life. I was allowed to attend my friend Kristen’s birth (you can read her story here). I got to try on the job of doula and pretend that I was one for a day. I loved it.
Now, I should say, that this whole account is from my perspective. I have no clue how Kristen was feeling internally. I just wanted to recount my tale of being a pretend doula for a day.
Kristen had an estimated due date of New Years Eve, 2010. However, her baby boy decided to make an appearance on the biggest snowstorm Tennessee has seen for a while. I was very thankful that baby E decided to wait. My family said a temporary goodbye to my brother while he is overseas serving in our military this past weekend. I prayed that while we were out-of-town, that baby Evan would stay inside of his mama.
At 4:30am on January 10th, after about 6 inches of snow had fallen, I received a phone call from Kristen. I pretended like I was wide awake and said “Good Morning,” very cheerfully. She said, “My water broke and of course baby Evan decided to come with all of this snow.” I was excited, I’m sure K was too, although she was nervous about the weather and getting to the midwives house. She was also worried about me driving but this ex-Alaskan wasn’t worried. I had 4WD and love snowy weather. After a shower and taking a few snow photos I was on my way to the midwives house.
The roads were covered in snow, but few people were out at 5:30 in the morning. I stayed on the main roads figuring that they might be plowed and that they would have seen a bit of road travel. I got there in just thirty minutes. Kristen’s husband Brandon greeted me with a big wave when I arrived. Kristen’s mother, younger sister and three-year old daughter Vivian were all at the midwives house too. They didn’t want to risk the weather in their own vehicle, so Kristen’s plans changed to having her entire family present for her entire birthing time.
Kristen was using Hypnobabies. She is one of my best friends in Chat-town and one of my past students. She practiced her Hypnobabies faithfully, at least it appeared that way during the birth. Kristen’s water had broken, but the pressure waves were far apart and she was still easily interacting with all of us. The sun rose and the snow was brilliant outside. Inside, the midwife and Brandon had worked on getting a nice fire going. Kristen was in the birthing room, trying to rest, listening to her Hypnobabies scripts.
Our hosts, the midwife and her husband were great. They made us all some great warm rice cereal and I gobbled it down. I neglected to bring enough food with me. We all enjoyed eating and chatting together. Kristen taking each pressure wave with what looked like ease, taking a deep breath, closing her eyes and just riding the wave.
Vivian, the three-year old was fantastic all day long. She took an early nap at around 7am. After that, she played with her Mimi, her Aunt Rachel and myself. I got to pretend I was a bear in a cave, we also pretended to disappear by spinning back and forth. Vivian was so much fun and it was great that she had so many people to keep her entertained throughout the day.
I brought my knitting with me, I figured it would be relaxing for those around to watch, not too distracting and it would keep me from staring at the beautiful pregnant mama during each of her pressure waves. I even helped teach Kristen’s sister Aunt Rachel how to knit. She ended up making a pot holder and started a scarf during the birth and I worked on a hat for baby Evan.
Around lunch time, I figured that the crew needed nourishment and so headed to the grocery store to get sandwich supplies and nachos for a possible dinner need. I brought back a chocolate birthday cake too. We all chowed down while Kristen rested in the birthing room.
I decided to take a cat nap on the futon, while the couple went through some pressure waves, the family was all downstairs with each other. The day progressed and the midwife had Kristen take some herbs to get things going since her energy level was up. Kristen walked the stairs, having a pressure wave almost every time she went up the stairs. Kristen then took a shower and her husband was there supporting her when she needed him. The rest of us just hung out playing with Vivian, knitting and sitting by the fire. When Kristen got done with her shower, the midwife checked her dilation progress. I heard from the living room, “2.” I was worried that the number would disappoint Kristen. She sounded bummed, but what could she do? She just kept on going with the waves.
I was in the living room, knitting and I started to hear Kristen moan a bit louder. I decided to put the knitting down and go in and help support her in any way that I could. Brandon had been doing a great job giving his wife the release and relax cues, putting his hand on her shoulder and just being present for her. I started to massage Kristen’s back gently, putting some counter pressure when needed. Her sister came in and looked a little scared and didn’t know what to do. I encouraged her to just touch her sister, petting her head. Her sister became a great support for Kristen as well. The three of us, surrounded Kristen, supporting her during each wave. They were becoming more frequent, Kristen needing to vocalize, but not loudly. Just a low moan. She moved around, changing positions from either the bed, to the birth ball, her husband a constant by her side, always encouraging her, being relaxed and calm.
Soon, Kristen said she had the urge to push. I called the midwife in. She checked her again and she was 5-6 cm dilated. We were all so proud of her. She smiled and laughed between waves. Before she was checked the second time, I joked that she needed to have a 9lb baby. She said, she would rather one around 7 lbs (Vivian was 8lbs 1 oz). I said “If you have a 7 lb baby, he will come flying out of you.” Little did I know. 🙂 The midwife started the fill the birth tub at this point after asking if Kristen would like to get in the water.
As I sat behind Kristen, her resting her head on my chest, her husband sitting to the left of her, watching her, stroking her arm, her hair, giving her her Hypnobabies cues, her sister standing to the right of her, also stroking her hair and running her hand down her arms, down to her legs. I put my hand on her forehead, stroking her face between waves, almost like she was getting a facial. In between waves, Kristen’s body started to shake involuntarily. We piled some blankets on top of her while we waited for the tub to fill. I placed my hands on her belly while she rested in my lap. Her shaking subsided. During the wave, I moved my hand back to her forehead and her husband’s hand was on her left shoulder. He would whisper into her ear, “Peace,” and “Relax”. I just said she was doing great, reminding her that she could make as many sounds that she needed. Her sister during one wave, tried to stroke her belly. Kristen asked her, “Please don’t do that.” After the wave was over, Kristen turned to her sister and apologized for being rude, she just didn’t like her belly being touched during a wave. I was laughing inside because she was so polite but thought otherwise.
Kristen was beautiful and strong. I kept looking around at Kristen’s birth team, Kristen looking like a goddess, I started to tear up. I was so thankful that I was able to be a part of this moment.
Kristen got into the birthing tub at this point. It was almost 8:20pm. I snapped a few photos. She was gorgeous. Her back was to us, on her knees. Breathing through her waves with her husband behind her and her sister to her side. She looked up at me and I knew she wanted to push. The midwife was out of the room and for whatever reason, I decided to say, “It’s okay to push,…. (but then wondered if I should have said that out loud so then said, ) but you don’t have to if you don’t want to.” Immediately, she started to try, making a short grunt, her eyes surprised as she said, “I think he is crowning.” I looked down and he was. I called to the midwife twice. She didn’t hear me, so Kristen’s sister went and got her. When the midwife came in, I picked up my camera and the midwife supported Kristen, asking her to slow down a moment and gently push. The baby was out so quickly. She had done it, it was 8:30pm. She had had her home water birth. She was in shock. I was astounded. It had all happened so fast. Baby E was quiet, moving gently but not making a sound. The midwife started to rub him, trying to get his lungs to take their first breath. I tried to find the bulb syringe, but couldn’t find it. As I left the room to find it, the midwife gave him a puff of breath. She later told me that the only reason why she wanted the bulb was so that she could suck out whatever it was before she gave a puff of air. He squeaked, then mewed. He was perfect and so little. Kristen looked high on endorphins. She looked amazed at what had just happened. Later she said, “I had a home birth. I did it.” Then she said something about being in the home birth club. We all laughed.
Later when the midwife weighed him, we found out that baby Evan was 6 lbs, 14 oz. No wonder he came so quickly. Within three hours of K being checked and being barely 2 cm, she had a baby in her arms. It is amazing what a woman can do with her body, especially with people around her that are supportive and know what she is capable of. Internally Kristen may have felt differently, but externally she was calm, peaceful, kind to her family members and very poised.
Watching the family come together after Evan was born was wonderful. The weighed him and tried to get him to latch on but he just kept looking around the room, enjoying the scenery. At about 10pm, I went out and tested the roads to make sure that they could get home okay. I took my truck and drove all the way to their house and back to make sure that we wouldn’t have any problems. The roads had snow on them and a little ice but I decided that I would stay around until they decided to go home and follow them there.
They packed up their minivan a little after midnight. It took a lot of shoveling by Brandon, a lot of cat litter, ice and pushing by me, the midwife and the midwife’s husband to get them out of the driveway. At times I was wondering why we were trying to get them out, but we weren’t sure how the roads would be in the morning and figured it would be best to get them home. We finally shoved them out of the driveway and I hopped in my truck to follow them home. The made it home in just a few minutes and I made sure they got home okay and then headed home to my babies.
Thank you Kristen for letting me pretend to be a doula for a day. I am very thankful that you allowed me to be apart of this day.